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Soft Polytheism versus Hard Polytheism in Heathenry

Soft Polytheism versus Hard Polytheism in Heathenry

Apparently, I  struck a chord with some of my readers when talking about soft polytheism versus hard polytheism.  I assumed many of my readers were soft polytheistic, that is, looking at the gods as archetypes and forces of nature, and not necessarily physical beings. Apparently, I was wrong. Many of my readers do indeed look at the gods as physical beings.

Some Caveats About Beliefs

Before I get into the whole soft polytheism versus hard polytheism arguments, I need to reiterate my beliefs here.  As I’ve said previously, I tend toward a soft polytheistic belief of archetypes. However, given that I have dealt with the gods directly, I believe that the gods can take human-like forms.  (They are, after all, gods.) I also believe that our gods go by many names and manifestations, but they are the same gods. At least, in this Universe.

How Far Down the Rabbit Hole Do You Want to Go?

Having said that, I don’t necessarily have an issue with your beliefs if you want to go the hard pagan route. It’s just I know that proving the stories we tell in the face of science gets to be difficult at best. Unless you really believe that our world hangs off of a physical tree and humans were carved from wood, I don’t think you and I will have much to argue about. If you want to go down that rabbit hole and believe everything in our stories is 100 percent true, despite science proving it isn’t, I suggest you go in your corner and maybe find some Christian fundamentalist friends to argue with.  What you believe isn’t logical and I won’t be able to convince you to the contrary.

Hard Polytheism

If you’re a hard polytheist in the strictest sense, you tend to accept our stories at face value.  That the Moon and the Sun move across our sky, rather than the Earth revolving around the Sun and the Moon revolving around the Earth. That there really was a cow that licked the brine from Ymir and the gods, thus creating the first pantheons. That Odin along with his brothers slew Ymir and fashioned our Earth from Ymir’s bones. This is more fundamentalist than anything, and again, since you really believe that, nothing I’m going to tell you is going to make a difference.

I would bet, however, that most hard polytheistic Heathens are a mix of this hard polytheism and soft polytheism. You like the creation tales, but you at least accept the current explanation of how the Universe came into being. Maybe you’ve resolved that in your minds, and maybe you haven’t.  Maybe you just don’t know what to believe.

Blending Myth and Fact

Now, if you believe our gods manifest themselves in physical forms, that’s fine. I’m good with that. I believe that they can and do, but I also don’t believe that Asgard exists in our dimension.  I tend to accept string theory as well, which if our gods exist in physical forms, they possibly occupy more than the three dimensions we live in.  In this case, we may have a tough time seeing them.  It could just be that our wights may also inhabit those dimensions, affecting our existence without necessarily seeing them in their full forms.

With the exception of some clueless wankers, most people believe the Earth is round, that it revolves around the Sun, and that stars are simply other suns, some very much like our own sun.  Our sun is a relatively ordinary star, too, with the exception that it is the only solar system we know of that has life.   That may change because not only are there are trillions of stars, but there are galaxies with trillions of stars in them.  The Earth formed some 4.54 billion years ago and not 6000 years like the new Earth creationists would have you believe. I’m pretty sure that the formation of Earth wasn’t from a frost giant named Ymir, unless you’re willing to believe that Ymir’s bones were some primordial matter that came from the death of another star. Given that our star is a second or even third generation star, we can look at the stories and deduce that maybe our creation stories are one big metaphor.  Or maybe they’re just a way for people to explain how things came into being.

Whence Our Religion Came

Heathenry is a product of our ancestors combined with communication with our gods and curiosity about our world. It came from a more ancient religion that our Proto-Indo-European ancestors worshiped. Those ancestors’ predecessors practiced a form of animism. The interesting question is when our gods revealed themselves to our ancestors.

I would argue that given the overall similarities of certain religions, we have to assume a Jungian collective unconscious was passed down throughout history.  No matter how different other ethnicities seem, they have similar stories that run throughout their folklore.  To a certain degree, one could argue that it is because our brains are wired the same, and I’m not going to dispute that.  But I do suspect that all our ancestors had a shared experience at one time.  Think about it.  We know that humans nearly went extinct at least twice. Could this be the time when our gods stepped in to help us?

That, of course, is purely speculation on my part.  I have no clue if that really did happen, but it does make for some interesting ideas.

But I digress…

Getting Back on Track

Soft polytheism tends to look more at the concepts of the gods as archetypes.  In it’s extreme form, it’s  closer to atheism than a religion. I would not consider most soft polytheists in that group.  Many are pantheists, which allows the worship of other gods, and it equates the universe with the gods. I sit more comfortably in the pantheistic version of Heathenry, because I believe that the universe and the gods are the same. My belief is our gods go by other names in other religions. I chose our gods not only because I am most comfortable with them, but because I have had interactions with them by those names.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about.  Let me know your beliefs in the comments.

Walking a Razor’s Edge: Folkish Beliefs

Walking a Razor’s Edge: Folkish Beliefs

A fan of mine and supposedly long time reader took umbrage on my statements about folkish beliefs in Heathenry.  Never mind that I’ve been stating what I have been stating as long as I’ve had this blog, which puts me in direct opposition of folkish beliefs.  Why?  Because scientifically, archaeologically, anthropologically, and historically, none of the folkish beliefs have any basis in fact. Unless you count the past 100 years as a reason to be folkish, i.e. Nazi beliefs, there is no record of exclusion from Heathenry.

Anyway, the fan deleted our conversation, left in a huff, and unliked my page (There!  That showed me!), giving me plenty to think about why folkish beliefs are a bad idea.  So, without further ado, let’s get talking about what folkism is, why it’s racist, and ultimately in league with white supremacists.

What Folkish Beliefs Are

Let’s talk about the root of folkish beliefs.  People who believe in folkish beliefs hold that Heathenry is only for those who are of Northern European descent.  That our gods can only be worshiped by those whose ancestors lived in the Northern European lands.  That our gods do not call to those who are not from those lands.

In other words, they do not believe in a multicultural religion.  They believe that people should worship the gods of their ancestors, whichever those are.

Now, let’s talk about the fallacy of their arguments.

First, Some Evolutionary Facts

Let’s look at the human race, that is Homo sapiens.  Our race came out of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, according to scientists, although latest findings suggest that our species came from there before that.  I don’t want to quibble over time frame.  The point is that we all came from a small group of humans.  Those who eventually made their way up north eventually became Norse.

It’s not like humans beamed in there. It took a fair amount of time, walking, and generations of living in one place for a while before pushing on.  We know that many of them were most likely black (even though there isn’t a specific gene for being black) due to the genetic material that we have found.  Our species is black in Africa to provide some protection against the sun’s rays.  As humans moved up north, our skin lightened to adjust to the lack of sunlight so that our bodies could make Vitamin D.

Genetics also shows that humans, as a species, nearly went extinct at least twice.  We’re inbred apes, pure and simple, because of bullshit patriarchy and polygamy as well as sticking with kindreds.  Yeah, I get that kindreds were needed back then to survive, but our genetic diversity as a species is sorely lacking because of it.

Racism as We Know it Today Was Nonexistent

Racism–that is, judging people on their physical appearance and skin color–was virtually nonexistent in Viking and Early Medieval times.  People were judged according to their belief system and their allegiances, not their skin color.  We know this because Marco Polo seldom mentioned skin color unless it added something to the story.  Race was considered as religion.  You were considered a different “race” if you were Heathen, Jewish, Christian, or some other religion.  That gave people the excuse for barbaric acts (like they seldom needed an excuse?).

Not All Vikings Were White

We know that there was at least one “black” Viking, and yes, there are people who have Mongolian genetics in Iceland from him. We know that our Viking ancestors explored, traded, raided, raped, and pillaged all the way south to Africa, east well into Asia, north to Greenland, and west to North America.  They found wives and husbands among indigenous folk and settled in those lands.

Some of our northern ancestors added the gods and religions to our pagan practices.  Some fully adopted the other religions.  We have Viking hoards with Buddha statues and other religious objects.

Heathen Religion in the Grand Scheme of Things

Now, given the facts I’ve presented (and if you have the doubts as to the veracity of my statements, I back them up in the links provided above), Heathens were pretty willing to take in others who swore allegiance to their leaders and their gods.  It made a kindred stronger.

Our northern ancestors practiced a religion that came from an offshoot of a Proto Indo-European religion.  That evolved from a much earlier Nostratic pantheon. The further back we go, the fewer religions we have.  The fact that there are so many similarities in the Indo-European religions suggests that the ideas and gods came from a central source going back tens of thousands of years.

So, Let’s Talk Folkish

So, how does folkishness fit here?  If you say it doesn’t, you get a star.  Our northern ancestors didn’t differentiate where you came from.  What they did care about was your religion and your loyalties.  What was your kindred and whether you were a friend or foe.  Given the overall dissemination of Nordic genes, we can assume that everyone had ancestors that lived in the overall Viking sphere of influence, including African tribes and Mongols.  Even if this weren’t so, if someone who joined up with the Vikings, raided with them, and worshiped their gods, you can bet they would’ve had status in a kindred.

Segregation or Apartheid, Anyone?

If you take a chapter from history, what the folkish people are doing is the “separate but equal” bullshit that we saw in the United States in the form of segregation.  Or the South African Apartheid.  They’re saying, “Our religion is for white Europeans, but you have your own traditions.  Go do those.”  They  shut out people just because of the random chance that they were born with different colored skin.

You are on the Razor’s Edge with this if You’re Folkish

Folkish people, you may not be Nazis, but you are so on a razor’s edge with this.  What you are doing is racism, pure and simple.  If a black person hears the call of Thor, shouldn’t he or she be allowed to practice Heathenry?  If the answer is “no, because of their ethnicity” then yes, I am calling you a bigot.  Why can’t a black person be a Heathen?  Don’t give me that’s not their religion — they should stick to African religions.  That is complete and utter bullshit.  Separate is NOT equal.  We know this from history.  People fought hard to end segregation, and you’re dragging Heathenry down with your bigoted beliefs.

Furthermore, separate but equal is bullshit because we’re all the same race.  We’re the same people with minor genetic variations.  We are Homo sapiens, people. Most of us have a small amount of Neanderthal and Denisovian genes in our DNA, making us not even pure Homo sapiens but a mutt of different races.  Hel, that makes Neanderthals more enlightened than you.

Okay, I’ve railed enough on this.  If you’re folkish, I hope I’ve enlightened you why you’re racist even if you think you’re not.  If you are looking at anyone’s ethnicity and determining whether someone can do something based on it or not, you are a fucking racist.  Period.

 

Has Heathenism Beaten Christianity?

Has Heathenism Beaten Christianity?

I got in a conversation with another pagan on Huginn’s Heathen Hof, and he had a different outlook on the whole Christianity versus Paganism argument.  It hit me as having some merit, so I’d thought I’d explore it more in depth.

The Argument

The person who put forth this argument to me was a Heathen and a Gnostic. (Let that sink in a bit before dismissing it outright.)  His basic argument was that Christianity at its beginning had nothing — no holidays, no formal sacraments, etc, — so it took from other religions.  In fact, it took so much from pagan religions that the pagan religions actually triumphed.  I’ve been mulling it over for some days and while I don’t think it’s entirely correct, I think it has some merit to at least think about.

Christianity at its Core

Christianity is, at its core, a death cult. It focuses not on rewards in the here and now, but after one dies. It even focuses on the gruesome torture and death of their god. While I think that knowing where you’re going when you die is important, I think that this life is just as important on how we live.  Yes, Christians do focus on how well behaved they should be because they will receive a reward in “heaven,” but honestly, it takes a fear of eternal punishment to behave correctly?  Think about that for a bit.

The major holiday that Christians have recognized since its inception would be Easter, that is the day when Christ allegedly rose from the dead.  We know that Easter arose from the Passover festival, around which Christ was allegedly crucified.  Easter follows Passover.   But we know that it took the name Eostre, and it may have borrowed the pagan trappings of festivals during that time, presumably to make it more palatable to the audience.

Yule and Christmas

We do know that Christmas was pretty much taken from pagan midwinter festivals, celebrating the celebrating the god of agriculture for a full month starting a week before the solstice.  We know that Christmas wasn’t instituted until the fourth century CE when the Church thought to take those midwinter festivals and sanction them.

return of the sun.  While us Heathens can lay claim to Yule, we aren’t the only ones that had midwinter celebrations.  The Romans had Saturnalia, which was spent

The Puritans actually banned Christmas (and the saints) because they recognized the pagan origins. For about 25 years England under Oliver Cromwell made Christmas illegal.  That joy was brought over with the Puritans who made Christmas illegal.  Such was the control of the Puritans that anyone found in Boston exhibiting the Christmas spirit during the years 1659 to 1681 could be fined. What a great bunch.

Incidentally, the Christmas tree came into vogue with Queen Victoria, taking the customs of her husband’s homeland.  The Christmas tree popped up around the 17th century in Germany have its, …ahem, roots in paganism.

Plenty of pagans have pointed to Odin’s ride, Slepnir’s eight legs changing into eight reindeer, and other similarities, that suggest Odin is Santa Claus, so I don’t need to go through that argument.

Harvest and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, itself, is more of an American holiday that was celebrated in New England for some time before Abraham Lincoln made it a national holiday in 1863.  George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789, thus putting it on the table, so to speak, when it came to having a national day of thanks.  A quote from History.com:

Autumn Comments & Graphics
Image by Magickal Graphics

“As an annual celebration of the harvest and its bounty, moreover, Thanksgiving falls under a category of festivals that spans cultures, continents and millennia. In ancient times, the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans feasted and paid tribute to their gods after the fall harvest. Thanksgiving also bears a resemblance to the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot. Finally, historians have noted that Native Americans had a rich tradition of commemorating the fall harvest with feasting and merrymaking long before Europeans set foot on their shores.”

We have our own celebration of Harvest Home, so saying that Americans “invented” a harvest festival like Thanksgiving isn’t truthful.  Now, we did put our own spin on it, but in the end, it is the celebration of family and home, as well as harvest.

The Days of the Week

The months are named after Roman months (gods, Caesars, and numbers), but the days of the week were Roman names changed to our gods, with the exception of Saturday because people probably thought Ymirday might not catch on.  (Yeah, I know the story is that there’s no German equivalent to Saturn who was an agricultural god slain by Jupiter, but that’s another story for another time.) So, when we say we’re meeting someone on Thursday, we’re meeting them on Thor’s-day.

Saints versus Polytheism

Becoming Polytheistic was easy after being Catholic for me. Any religion that allows veneration of saints actually lost to the polytheism.  Even the Episcopalians have the saints and the time I went to an Episcopalian mass proved to me that they’re Catholics without a pope who allow divorces. We know that some saints were actually gods that got incorporated into the ranks of saints to make the religion more popular (such as Saint Bridget).  So, yeah, in some Christian religions, we got some of the gods and goddesses in.

Catholics will tell you that they do not worship saints. That is true at the highest level, but the line gets mighty blurred with the veneration of Mary and other saints.

So Did Heathenism Win?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I would argue yes and no.  In the long run, we still have the Christian god, complete with all the stupidity that has subjugated women, condoned slavery, and given us plenty of hangups due to the “do this or you go to hell” mentality.  I’m not saying that heathens were morally superior as we had slavery and human sacrifice, but most of us are willing to make the change in the right direction.

By the same token, we got our holidays and other pieces infiltrated into Christianity. People who celebrate the holidays are often celebrating the secular holidays rather than what their church would like them to celebrate.  Sure, they keep Jesus in Christmas, but seeing as the whole nativity scene is pretty much made up, and seeing we really don’t know much about the historical Jesus, or even if there was one, we can call it a myth and be done with it.

What it does say to me is that Heathens can celebrate those so-called Christian holidays and feel good about putting their own spin on things. At least, that’s how I look at it.

Added for Clarity:

The point the person made was that arguing whether or not to worship Christ was irrelevant because basically Christianity took all the trappings from pagans anyway. We can argue semantics, but that was his point. I was willing to consider his belief and came up with a yes and no observation. I rushed the conclusion, which perhaps I shouldn’t have done, but I wanted to get the piece out, late as it was.

That being said, I think he does have a point. Is it Heathenism under another flavor? No. Our gods are not revered, although one might be able to point out some obscure saints the Church may have created to appease Heathens. Is Christianity the same as it was when it was conceived? No. It is mostly pagan with the foundation of the Abrahamic faith. Depending on your beliefs in Asatru and Heathenism, you can argue that what parts of paganism was added is superficial. Maybe so, maybe not. I just found it an interesting opinion, and one I couldn’t completely dismiss.