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Choosing a God or Goddess: Why the Gods You’ve Chosen Might Not be Right

Choosing a God or Goddess: Why the Gods You’ve Chosen Might Not be Right

Choosing a god

or goddess isn’t as easy as people sometimes make it. What’s the big deal, you say? You worship or honor Odin. Or maybe Freyja. Or Thor. But what if I told you that the god(s) or goddess(es) you’ve latched onto might not be the right gods or goddesses for you? This is especially true for the newcomers to Heathenry, but even us “old timers” can make the mistake. Let me explain.

Choosing a God in Heathenry

One of the great things about being a Heathen is that you don’t have to gravitate toward a particular god or goddess. Because we’re polytheistic, we have many different gods, ancestors, and wights we can choose from. Unlike other religions, you don’t have to choose a god or goddess. You can honor or worship them all. Nobody—at least not me—is telling you who calls to you.  (Never mind those recon wankers; they’re not the Asa-popes they think they are.) At the same time, you can choose one or two whom your venerate more, while still maintaining good relations with the others. Or you can pick and choose from different pantheons, if you desire. There’s a historical precedence for that.

Some Heathens in history incorporated other gods and goddesses into their worship as they learned of them from other tribes, kindreds, and even other ethnicities. The Vanir are probably the best known for this. Some scholars believe that our ancestors added another tribe’s gods and goddesses that became the Vanir. Even when Christianity came to our northern ancestors, many tried to incorporate Jesus as another god in the pantheon. Of course, that didn’t really work too well, but we can see by the Icelandic Cross, jewelry makers were catering to both sides for a while.

Newbie Choices in Gods and Goddesses

A lot of newbie Heathens tend to go with Odin, Thor, Freyja, or Loki, largely because of popular media. This is fine, and those gods are good within their own rights (although people might argue about Loki), however, that’s pretty much how far those new Heathens take it. They look at Odin as the All-Father in the same way that Christians look at Yahweh as “God the Father.” This comparison is laughable—or, maybe not, given the mercurial temperaments of both deities—when they are different in a number of ways. There are more gods and goddesses that may be far more influential and far more relevant in one’s life than the All-Father.

Odin isn’t all-mighty. Sure, he’s a god to be reckoned with if he’s angry at you, but if he hasn’t taken specific interest in you, he probably won’t care if you worship him or not. Same goes with our other gods. Most don’t bother when it comes to mortals. They have more godly things to deal with than our day-to-day whining and supplication. That being said, there are gods and goddesses who may take interest in you, but you may miss their calls if you’re always thinking about the more popular gods from modern media. Which is why, if you’re a newbie, you need to do your research about the other gods and goddesses.

Don’t Forget the Wights and Ancestors

Choosing a god is important, but so is recognizing that the gods aren’t the only supernatural creatures in our beliefs. The wights and ancestors tend to take more notice in us, because they’re often more local and/or personal than gods and goddesses are. Because they are closer to us than many of the gods, by making friends with them and honoring them we can often receive both aid and advice from them.

Who are your Ancestors?

Your ancestors are not only your parents and grandparents, but their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. They are the people whose blood runs through your veins. Without them, you would not be alive today.

Ancestor veneration or ancestor worship (if you want to call it that) is a big part of Heathenry. Many Heathens gain strength from those who came before us.  Some Heathens go through the whole genealogy thing too.

Now, granted, some of your ancestors were probably not people whom you should show respect to. If you come from an abusive home, for example, there’s probably no love loss there. You don’t have to respect or honor them. Look to your grandparents or some other ancestor in your line for help. At the same time, if you were adopted, don’t worry about who your ancestors are, especially if you don’t know your birth parents. Look at the ancestors of the people who adopted you and their family. You are part of that family now and you may find an ancestor among them who will be your mentor and helper in times of need.

Who are the Wights?

I’ve written about Wights recently, so I don’t need to go there. That being said, the local Wights are often the tutelary spirits of the land that are often familiar with you and your situation. Some will live in your house; many prefer being outdoors. They consist of many different types including Elves, Hidden Folk, and other spirits.

The Wights can be very helpful or harmful, depending on their nature and how you treat them. There are rules to make the Nisse happy, for example. Nisse or Tomte like having porridge with milk and a pat of butter on either Winter Solstice or Christmas, depending on which lore you follow. If you skimp (no butter) or don’t leave the offering, they can cause havoc.

Part of being a Heathen is making friends with these spirits and helping them, just as they might help you.

So, Where am I Going with This?

I am not telling you to abandon your worship of the popular gods and goddesses. Instead, I’m suggesting—especially if you’re a newcomer to Heathenry—to consider opening yourself to other gods as well as the ancestors and the Wights. At the very least, you will have a deeper understanding of your faith and what your ancestors believed in.  And who knows? Maybe there are gods and goddesses you haven’t considered honoring who are actually closer to you than you knew. Choosing a god or goddess that is lesser known, or even a wight or ancestor, to honor or worship with your more popular gods may encourage a deeper and more profound relationship.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments.

 

4 Things to Consider in Heathenry

4 Things to Consider in Heathenry

It’s been about six years since Tyr and Thor first entered my life as Norse gods and I’ve entered Heathenry.  (Tyr has been in my life for years, only I didn’t recognize him.)  I’ve been thankful they’ve done so because they’ve offered a a new perspective on my life that I had not gotten any other way. I still deal with a number of really stupid issues due to Christianity that I brought with me, but I can feel a certain amount of healing going on that I just didn’t have with the other religions, and lack of religion.

This piece is a reflective piece, but it is also some advice I have for new Heathens and those who are still on the path after a number of years.  This is my perspective, as always, and as I often say, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV) or, as a professor once tried to guess the acronym, Your Mouse Might Vomit.

Moving into Heathenry from Christianity

Heathenry, and in fact, Paganism, isn’t really about rebelling from Christianity (or another religion), though you may go through a period of comparison and outright hostility toward your previous religion.  I know I did.  It’s that part of your bruised ego when you finally realize that everything you were told as a child was a lie and there is no Christian god. (Even if you believe there might be a Christian god, you can’t possibly believe it is as powerful as the Christians claim.)

Now that you have your newfound beliefs, it may be tough to not stick them in other people’s faces. But what exactly are you hoping to accomplish?  Are you looking to alienate your friends and family, because you’re sure not going to convince them to convert?  It’s better to not say anything and keep the peace than it is to rile everyone up.  Of my family, only my husband knows I’m a Heathen, and as far as I can tell, he’s good with it.  Of course I don’t rub it in his face, either.  If he wants to remain an atheist agnostic, that’s his choice, and I respect that.

Heathenry isn’t Christianity with Many Gods

Heathenry isn’t Christianity with many gods instead of one god.  While Christianity had adopted many pagan beliefs into their doctrine, it still isn’t what a Heathen believes.  Christian states that man was given mastery over the world and all animals.  This is clearly hubris, in my not so humble opinion.  Heathens look at ourselves and our gods as being part of the natural world.  We are just one species in a realm of natural and supernatural creatures.  We recognize where we are in the world and how we need to be mindful of those creatures, both seen and unseen.

Whether you are agnostic on the supernatural critters like me, or whether you believe in them is irrelevant. It is part of our lore and deserves at least some attention, if not outright acknowledgment.  If anything, our ancestors’ beliefs and stories make for some fascinating reading.

No One Has the Right Answers

I’ll say it right up front that those who claim to “know” how Heathenry should be is full of shit.  Sure, we have some good ideas how some of our ancestors practiced Heathenry, but overall, we don’t have a perfect picture how to reconstruct it.  The problem is that Heathenry covers at least a thousand years, if not more, and the ways our ancestors practiced Heathenry varied from generation to generation and from region to region.

Although there were gothis and gythias, there were no Asa-popes telling people how to behave, and if there were one or two, they wouldn’t have affected all of Heathendom.  While there may have been a major temple in Uppsala, the archaeological evidence for it is scarce.  (Even if a Christian church were to be built on top of it, you would think there would be some evidence.)

Moving Forward Instead of Looking Back

Heathenry is an ancient religion with deep traditions.  I won’t argue with you there.  We don’t know all the traditions, and those that we do know about were written down by people of other religions, who may or may not have had their own agendas.  Ancient historians are not infallible.

Even if we somehow magically figured out everything about Heathenry in the ancient times, would we really want to mimic it?  If you say “yes” then apparently you want to bring back human sacrifice, and that makes you a total loony tune, crazy person that I want nothing to do with.  And yeah, that’s one of my rules: no human sacrifices.  There are other behaviors we should not mimic — not if we follow our own version of the ethics of reciprocity.

Heathens need to look forward, not back.  Our past can give us guidelines for our future, but they’re just that: guidelines.  The past was not only a different time, but humanity saw things differently.  We didn’t have the technological advancements, longevity, medical treatment, and overall knowledge about the world then that we do now.  It would be foolhardy to live in the past without accounting for the future.

Well, I’ve rambled enough.  Let me know what you think.