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Gods or Ancestors?

Gods or Ancestors?

Occasionally I get a comment from someone who’s convinced that the gods don’t talk to us mere mortals that often.  That most people who deal with the gods are actually dealing with the ancestors.  It’s an interesting part of Heathenry I think is worth addressing. Are Heathens receiving messages from gods or ancestors?

Actually, I think it’s both.

The Unknown Gods

Before I get into the supposition that the gods are with us, let me address the personal nature of the gods, themselves.  There are Heathens who believe that our gods really aren’t personal deities.  That the concept of a personal deity comes from Christianity and those concepts taint our modern day beliefs.  There is some truth to that.  The gods aren’t just the gods of humanity, but the gods of all things.  In fact, I suspect that there are gods we humans do not know.  We don’t know them not because our knowledge of them disappeared, but because we never knew them to begin with.  I suspect there are gods who do not deal with humans at all, who instead govern other things and animals other than ourselves.  They are never in contact with us, except maybe if we touch their realms.

Not the Gods I’m Talking About

These aforementioned gods that have very little to do with humanity are not the gods I am talking about. The gods I am talking about are the gods who have made themselves known to humans.  Who still make themselves known to humans. Odin, Thor, Freyja, Freyr, Tyr, Loki, Baldr, Skadi, Ullr, Heimdallr,…the list goes on.  We would not know them if we did not have contact with them. Sure, you could say that hearing thunder and calling it a god is the basis for Thor, but then, why bother to have positive connotations with a thunder god if he didn’t somehow look benevolently on humans?

So, we can assume that the gods we know have had interactions with humans.  Who still do have interactions with humans. When someone tells me that they’ve interacted with certain deities, I generally accept their word.  Not because I’m gullible, but because unless they give me a real reason to disbelieve them, who am I to say otherwise?  I’ve talked with gods and goddesses and I already knew some things that the people who had a UPG told me, so if something doesn’t sound right, I might have to ask further questions.

Is it a God?

I know that gods have taken other forms to get their message through to their recipients, so it would not surprise me if ancestors do the same thing.  Could an ancestor mimic a god?  Yes, I know of one case where it has happened, and not for the better. There are plenty of not so benevolent spirits out there looking to cause harm, but it’s pretty obvious when they do show up.

One way to tell if it is really a god is to consider the following:

  • Do they act like the gods/goddesses of our stories and of other people’s credible UPGs?  Yes, there have been interactions with gods/goddesses that all seem to have the same feeling.  Or are they different, and in what ways?
  • Does the deity ask you to do something harmful to yourself or others?  If they do, you may not be dealing with the entity you think you’re dealing with.  Chances are its malevolent and you need to get away from it.
  • Does the entity inform you who they are?  Some spirits do lie, but you have a better chance in deciding if you’re really dealing with the god just by research and talking to knowledgeable folks.
  • Does a Gothi/Gythia confirm your experience?
  • How does the god treat you?  Is it in line with what you know of the god?

My Own Experience with the Gods

The gods are an interesting bunch.  Some will just pop in to say hello or see what is going on, but most are reserved and only show up at times they deem is suitable. They seldom come when you call –remember, they’re not your bitches.  Even if you ask nicely, you can get complete crickets.  They may have more important things to pay attention to.  Like the entire universe.

Some landvaettir may also come into contact with you.  While you might not consider them gods, per se, they are tutelary spirits who have powers.  You may not find them as powerful as someone like Thor or Odin, but in many cases they may be able to help or harm you, depending on your relationship with them.  That being said, I am firmly agnostic when it comes to landvaettir.  I haven’t seen one, but I have had odd situations that maybe could suggest them.

The gods do occasionally mimic other gods in other pantheons.  Odin and Loki, in particular, will shape change to whatever god you believe in to give you information, if you believe in another deity and not them.  (Yes, I’ve had that happen.)  Tyr will do that too for those who he wants to be his followers.  (Again, that’s my experience and your mileage may vary.)  Depending on the person, they may do this in order to give you information you need and if you’re only open to Jesus or Yahweh, then that’s where they go.

 

Is it an Ancestor?

You could be contacted through an ancestor.  It’s not all that unusual.  If it is an ancestor who has benevolent intentions, you should definitely get a name or an understanding of who or what they are.  They shouldn’t be passing themselves off as a god. If they are, I wouldn’t want to deal with them simply because of the dishonesty.

Ancestors are pretty much what they were when they were alive.  If they were a son-of-a-bitch when they were alive, they’re still a son-of-a-bitch–maybe more so, because they’re cranky they’re dead.  Some ancestors you don’t want to deal with; others are just fine. Regardless, it should be pretty damn obvious if Uncle Milton makes a call.  He shouldn’t be saying he’s Loki or Odin or whomever–if he is, tell him to go the Hel away.

My Own Experience with Ancestors

I’ve spoken to my closest ancestors and have had feelings and intentions from them.  I’ve also had dreams with an ancestor in them, usually in the form of talking with them about certain things.  Not all dealings with those ancestors have been pleasant; I’ve annoyed them the same way I did back when they were alive. They were in shock when they went to Helheim instead of the Christian heaven or hell.  (Despite them being devout Catholics and not pagans.)  This along with other bits of knowledge has led me to conclude that the Christian beliefs aren’t real and our beliefs are more in line with reality.  Call it UPG or whatever, but I’m convinced that if there was a Jesus and if there is a Yahweh, it is a deceptive god.

Are ancestors more receptive than gods?  In most cases, yes, but you should be careful with them until you get to know who exactly is knocking on the door. Some ancestors you definitely don’t want.

So, the gods do talk to humans.  The landvaettir talk to humans.  The ancestors talk to humans.  They’re a rather chatty bunch — the lot of them.   It’s just up to you to listen.

 

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.

Modern Medicine or Why You Really Don’t Want to Go Back to Our Ancestors’ Time

Modern Medicine or Why You Really Don’t Want to Go Back to Our Ancestors’ Time

This spring I had a lesson on why the good old days weren’t that great. Having dealt with the realities of raising livestock, I’ve become far more appreciative of modern medicine, and science, in general.  Not that I wasn’t appreciative of science to begin with, but when you see it in action, it changes your worldview.  And you start to realize just how tough our ancestors had it then. You also realize how unlikely it was to see 50 years old back then.

You see, I raise goats.  This, in and of itself shouldn’t necessarily bring up modern medicine, but if you want to see how science can improve your life, try animal husbandry. And sadly, for the past several years I’ve had a 50 percent attrition rate (or worse) on the kids.  This year ended up being different.

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Arch Heathens and Arch Villains: Why Arch Heathens Make No Sense

Arch Heathens and Arch Villains: Why Arch Heathens Make No Sense

Once again, I’ve stumbled onto some really big bullshit about arch heathens, so I think it is time to make my opinions known on the subject.  Arch heathens, if you get the current vernacular, were an impressive, idealized version of the Heathen. Sort of an uber Heathen, as it were.  These purported arch heathens kept the faith pure and knew some sort of unwritten code of conduct across the ancient world that spanned from Greenland to Russia and south into Africa, and across several thousands of years ago, ending with the conversion to Christianity.  They were of one mindset and kept the faith pure.  (Ein volk! Ein reich! Ein führer!) <– That was sarcasm for those who don’t recognize it.

Did you just feel the urge to goosestep in your mom’s basement?  If not, then can you already see the flaws in the argument?  If you can’t or won’t, then read on, MacDuff!

What Heathenry Really Was

Before I talk about the fatal flaw in the arch heathen concept, I need to address Heathenry, in general.  Heathenry was born out of Proto-Indo-European Polytheism.  So, for argument sake, we can probably look at that form of polytheism being a proto form of Heathenry.  So, that would show up sometime around 3500 BCE.  For those not awesome at math, that’s more than 5500 years ago.  Germanic Heathenry appeared on the scene around 1700 BCE with related religions appearing around 300 years earlier.  Norse religions showed up maybe around 200 CE (AD).

So, when we look at Heathenry, we’re looking at a time period of about 4500 years.  Even if we go with German Heathenry at 1700 BCE, that still gives Heathenry a healthy 2700 years. When dealing with people whose lifespans were 40 years, if they were lucky, we’re looking at 20-year generations and turnover.  Assuming a 20-year generation, i.e., the time it takes to propagate and develop a new generation, we’re looking at either 135 generations or 175 generations of Heathens in total.

The Fatal Flaw in the Arch Heathen Concept

Now that we’re established the timeline for Heathenry, let’s talk about the concept of the arch heathen.  The arch heathen is the prototype Heathen.  He makes and knows the rules.  He’s the guy all many of the reconstructionists venerate and hold up for all to see.  Okaaay.  Which arch heathen are we talking about exactly?  Are we talking about the guy who was in Germany at 1700 BCE?  Are we talking about the guy back in 3500 BCE wherever the Hel he was?  Or are we talking about the Viking arch heathens?  And which Vikings?  Are we talking Iceland or Russia?  Maybe Sicily?  Or France?  How about North Africa?

And where, pray tell, is someone in ancient manuscripts pointing to a particular person and saying he or she is an arch heathen?  You can’t.  Because the concept and idea is made up.  The argument for an arch heathen has absolutely no supporting evidence.  Sure, there were gythias and gothis, but one over-arching mode of behavior and belief?  Nope, nope, nope.  We can’t even prove archaeologically that the Temple of Uppsala existed.  All we have is Adam of Bremen and Snorri’s documentation about it.  So, Uppsala may have been a Heathen Vatican, but chances are it wasn’t.  Too many Heathens in too many places.

No matter which group of Heathens you point to, you’re going to have variation in culture, thought, understanding, and yes, religion.  One group is going to value Freyr over Odin; another group is going to value Odin over Thor.  And so on.  It is bound to happen, because people are different.  Very different.  Saying that because you see arch heathen-like behavior in Germany means that there were arch heathens like that everywhere is absurd. That person was there at that time in that place.  We don’t know if they were common before or after.  All we have are writings of certain non heathens and works that were written down by Christians 200 years after the conversion to Christianity.

What Timeline are we Talking About?

So, we’ve established that our Heathen ancestors worshiped our gods or forms of our gods for 2700 to 4500 years and have worshiped our gods across the ancient world.  We know that religions change all the time, even in the past.  All we have to do is look at other forms of religion and see that this is so.  Christianity is an excellent example.  We can look at the 2000 years Christianity has been in existence and we see plenty of differences, even if we only look at the Catholic Church.  Originally Christianity was a conglomeration of ideas that came from Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Mithracism, and other religions.  Eventually, the Council of Nicaea got everyone on the same page, but there were future schisms.  The Catholic Church split into Eastern Orthodox and Western Roman Catholicism.  And that’s not even talking about the Protestant Reformation.

Okay, so you’re talking about a particular timeline, maybe, a few hundred years?  Really?  How much information do you have from that period?  And why do your so-called arch heathens rate above any other Heathens at any particular time?

A Lot Changes in 200 Years

Maybe the recons are only looking at 200 years.  Which 200 is anyone’s guess.  And we don’t have pinpoint accuracy with historical writings or archaeology.  A lot goes on in 200 years in cultures.  Don’t believe me?  Look back 200 years in our recent past.  In 1818, we had no car, no electricity, and the United States had only 20 states.  Too modern?  Okay, let’s compare 1818 with 1618.  Jamestown was founded in 1607 and by 1618 there were a handful of new settlements.  People still believed in persecuting witches then.  Ships were pretty much wind driven.  The Mauritius sailed in 1618.  In 1818, we were working on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution with steam engines and steamboats. In 1810, England had its first primitive railroad.  By 1827, we had the first railroad in the United States.  The 30 years war started in 1618 started by the Jesuits against the Protestants.  By 1818, the United States had freedom of religion in place in the Constitution.

Heathenry was Influenced by Other Religions

I’ve talked a lot about how Heathenry had been influenced by other cultures and religions.  Our ancestors traveled — a lot!  They had boats, they had horses, and yes, they had their own two feet.  Heathens traveled east into Russia, south into Africa, and west into North America.  They saw many different cultures and peoples — and they didn’t kill or conquer all of them.  Many they traded with.  We have found religious symbols from other cultures (such as the Buddha!) in gold hordes, and we know that Norsemen and Islam have had contact. Since Heathens were open to other forms of beliefs, even then, some aspects of other religions got adopted and incorporated as people from other cultures became assimilated into the Heathen culture.

Don’t believe me?  Tell me why we have the Vanir then, when we already have the Aesir? Tell me why Tyr was the top god, only to be replaced by Odin?  And why was the Christian god  worshiped along with the Heathen gods for a time in Iceland?  All these changes came about because of influences of other cultures and religions.

Arch Heathens or Archbishops?

The quest to follow these so-called arch heathens smacks of something very Christian, in my not so humble opinion.  Recons are constantly throwing the arch heathen around like they were the only ones who had insight into our gods and the way to do things.  We could argue that the arch heathen is the pagan archbishop.  Don’t believe me?  The Catholics use the archbishops along with the pope to create their church doctrine that they insist everyone who is Catholic must obey.  The recons use the arch heathens to create Heathen doctrine that they insist everyone who is Heathen must obey.  You see the difference?  No?  Neither can I.

Look, if I wanted to have a bunch of Asa-pope dilettantes order me around, I would’ve stayed in the Catholic Church.  No doubt you have your opinions on this.  Keep it civil and I’ll let you have your say.

How a God Inspired My Post

How a God Inspired My Post

Sometimes I’m at a total lost when it comes to what I should write for the Rational Heathen. I look over my past writings, peruse the pagan blogs, then the Christian and atheist blogs, and then end up playing Age of Empires. See? I really do work on this.

The past several days I was beating my head against the proverbial writing wall, so I just gave up and worked on some other things. Then, in the morning when I was waking up, I heard a god…

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Just Kidding (or How to Spend Your Days without Sleep)

Just Kidding (or How to Spend Your Days without Sleep)

Ah, the Heathen life.  The Rational Heathen has goats, which means spring kids, and the insanity that brings. If they all had lived, I would’ve had ten Kids on the Block. Yeah, bad pun, deal with it.  Right now, I’m down to seven and as bad as having a 30 percent attrition rate is, it beats out the really bad year when I lost all the kids due to various aliments.

I Hate Spring, and Here’s Why

Here in the Northern Rockies, the weather is typical spring.  In other words, the weather sucks to pull goat babies out of the butts of pregnant doe goats. Temperatures dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night and the days can soar as high as 40 or 50 degrees.  And it alternately rains and snows.  And melts.  And makes everything muddy. And I mean everything.  It sucks, especially for newborn goats who really have no defense against the weather.  So, even though it is Freyr’s season, it is a real pain in the ass for someone like me who has livestock.  I’ve been spending most of my time awake and going down to the barn every two to four hours to check on the does.  So, it means long nights.

Kid Train

Around here it’s been guess and by golly when they actually were bred.  That’s my own fault because I got a new goat buck who was just a kid.  So, I left him with the does so I could be sure they would be bred.  All this winter, I watched the does balloon with babies and waited.  One of my best goats had twins, only to have them succumb to pneumonia.  Then, the kid train started.  I had four does deliver in two days.  Eight kids total.

One didn’t survive despite my ministrations. It happens, but I take it personally every time.  No idea what killed him.  If we had decent goat vets out here, I’d consider a necropsy, but the last necropsy told me that I had a healthy, dead kid.  True story, that.

It’s Not Easy

Right now, I have seven kids with a couple being somewhat sketchy because they had bacteria infections.  I’m treating them will all the medication I can muster.  Kids born during mud season are just about guaranteed to have some illness.  What’s more, I have one who is a quarter of the size of the others and who has a birth defect that a kid last year had.  Same mom.

The mom doe goat in question is about as disappointing as they come. Her first kid was born with two long back legs and died within a day.  The second kid from last season had a fused toe joint that curled the hoof under the leg that made him very lame.  He survived only to die of bloat. The little doeling is a runt and has one leg where the toe joint has somewhat curled and is twisted a bit.  Two different unrelated bucks; same doe.  To make matters worse, I can’t milk that doe because she is wild in temperament despite the handling, and she drinks off herself.  She also drinks off her mom.

So today, we slaughtered the doe goat and butchered her for meat.  Not what I would prefer, but either you make it in my herd or you don’t.  I can’t afford another pet goat, especially one with a bad temperament.  Her kids, if they survive, won’t be bred.  Since their father was a cashmere buck, I’ll be keeping them for fiber (wool).

Spring and the Heathen

Despite my obvious dislike for the season, Heathens in the past looked forward to spring. Sure, it meant lambing, kidding, calving, and planting seeds, but what it really meant was the onslaught of winter was finally over.  I suspect that many people and livestock went into survival mode in the wintertime.  Even with winter grazing, livestock couldn’t really forage for food as they could in the spring and summer, so either had to be sold, slaughtered, or had to be fed. This meant that you could only keep the animals you could afford to feed or the land could support.  This also meant you had to keep your breeding stock and hope that the critters made it through the winter.

Spring was the return of life, and therefore the return of food for our ancestors’ livestock.  New kids, calves, and lambs meant an abundance of food for the next winter, if they survived the harsh realities of an early spring.  Livestock was typically smaller than modern day’s version, so they didn’t need near as much to eat as their modern counterparts,  but they didn’t produce as much either. I suspect the goats from the past were hardier than those we have today.  Those who didn’t survive didn’t pass on their genetic code.

Kids and the Modern Heathen

As a modern Heathen, I am slightly more self sufficient than city dwellers, living a semi-subsistence lifestyle. But even I must use modern technology to keep my animals alive during this topsy-turvey time of spring, here in a land with unpredictable weather.  We get warm and cold spells, rain and snow, and of course, wind that threatens any young creature’s life.  I look at the deer around the house and am amazed that they live as long as they do with the same weather, predators, and diseases we must endure.  It is a true testament to life that despite adversity, wildlife thrives.

I have three crates full of kids that need to be hand raised.  I have five goats who need to be milked.  I’ll get about two gallons of milk a day — enough to feed the little ones with some addition of cow juice.  I’ll also bring hay up to get them started.

A Lesson I’ve Learned

If there is a lesson to be learned by this, it is that our ancestors had hard lives.  They didn’t have the antibiotics and other medicines I have available.  They probably sweated over their livestock as much as I do, or even more, because they couldn’t just go to the store and buy a package of hamburger if it didn’t work out.  Each dead kid, each failed milker, and each failed crop put them one step closer to starvation.

It gives you an idea how far we’ve gone as a species.  Even our poorest people in first world countries fare better than that.  There are enough food pantries in my area that can prevent hunger for those who do not qualify for food stamps or SNAP benefits.  The Heathen then relied on their family and kindred to prevent starvation, but it could be a closely run thing.  So, even though I pay homage to the ancestors, quite frankly, I’ve had enough of a taste of their lifestyle to know that it’s harder than it appears.  At least I’m unlikely to starve if I lose any more kids.

 

 

Five Great Reasons for Becoming A Heathen

Five Great Reasons for Becoming A Heathen

Now that I’ve talked about five reasons for not becoming Heathen, the flip side is what are good reasons for becoming a Heathen. Naturally, there are people who may disagree with me, but I think there are good reasons for becoming a Heathen. Let’s get started… [READ THIS AND ALL PREMIUM POSTS FOR JUST $1.  SUBSCRIBE NOW!]

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

11.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

12.
Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

13.
A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

14.
Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?

Wiccatru — Or Should We Take Another Look at the Other Pagans?

Wiccatru — Or Should We Take Another Look at the Other Pagans?

I ran across this rather interesting post on Patheos entitled Wicca: A New Major Religion, and yeah, it got me thinking.  If Wicca could be considered a major religion, are we doing Heathenism a genuine disservice by not occasionally courting it?  Here are my thoughts and why we may want to consider a bigger tent when it comes to our religion.

The Article and Why the Numbers Might Be Important

If anything, the article reaffirmed my belief in the big tent model when it comes to Heathenism.  If the numbers are correct (and I suspect they might be), we need to treat our pagan brethren with a little more respect.  The tl;dr version is that Wicca may have, by low estimates, around 2 million practitioners in the United States, making it the third largest religion in the US, after Judaism.   (Atheists and agnostics make up a larger percentage than Judaism, but since they are not a religion, they aren’t factored in.)  Now granted, when compared to more that 300 million people, that may not seem like many, but the reality is that 2 million votes can sway an election quite handily.  Which brings us to Heathenism.

Heathenism by the Numbers

I’m not going to tell you that the numbers I give you are definitive. For one thing, no one has done a completely accurate census and counted every single Heathen on the planet.  The current census counts were done on a strictly volunteer basis and most required some sort of participation in social media.  That being said, the Norse Mythology Blog came up with a number 16,700 in 2013. This seems a little low to me, undoubtedly because I suspect that some Heathens, for whatever reasons, don’t bother answering polls.  I suspect the number is bigger because the piece I wrote, The Gods are Not Your Bitches, got a whopping 13,062 views.  Now, granted, some folks may have gone back and reread it, and some folks may have read it who were not Heathen, but the idea that one of my posts reached nearly all Heathens is ludicrous.

I’ve seen likes on various Heathen groups on the web, and have seen numbers in the 60K to 100K.  That to me seems more likely with a guessimation of maybe 150K to 200K total Heathens in the world at the top end, when you count crossovers from Wiccans and goosestepping moron Odinist Nazis.

Why We Need to Ally Ourselves with the Wiccans, or My Big Tent Belief

So, for argument sake, let’s say we have about 100K to 200K Heathens worldwide.  Personally, I think it is around 100,000, but let’s go with that bigger number, for argument sake.  That means that we maybe have a tenth of the numbers Wiccans have, if Wiccans have a conservative 2 million in the United States alone.  And our numbers are worldwide, not the United States, alone.  So, we have 2 million people who could easily be on our side because they’re polytheistic.  Granted, they worship all sorts of gods and goddesses, but the reality is that they could strengthen Heathenism if we let them.

I’ve proposed this big tent belief in an earlier post which has met with some derision from the recon segment. Wiccans are not our enemies here.  In fact, you’re likely to find allies from Wiccans who worship Freyja and Freyr, or any of our other gods and goddesses.  We can find more Heathens there who will help us politically when it comes to issues we have.  Plus, if we’re inclusive, we have a lot more Heathens who can help shape Heathenry.

To Those Who Want to Exclude Wiccans

Those who want to exclude Wiccans, even though they worship our gods, are being shortsighted.  Heathenry should be open to bringing in others, not just those who are willing to do the homework and speak the gibberish some Heathens do. We need the Lokeans, the Rokkatru, and yes, even the Wiccatru.

Why?  you may ask.

Do you really want Heathenry to stay small?  Do you really want it to be taken over by racists?  Do you really think it’s a good idea to stay exclusive and not inclusive?  Look at the Wiccans.  They really don’t have a lot of dogma, and thus have big numbers.  Maybe Heathenry could learn something from Wiccans.  And Hels bells, I don’t even believe in magic.

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

How Heathens can Celebrate Easter with Christians

If you’re like me, chances are you have Christian relatives who celebrate some form of the Christian holiday of Easter. If you’re the only Heathen in your family, you may get an earful about what is considered the most holy time that Christians celebrate.  Still, unless you’re looking to cut ties with your family–and I don’t recommend that–you may be looking for ways to enjoy the Easter celebrations.  If you’re a Heathen who loves to get into fights with family members over Christian holidays, or at least not willing to put aside your differences for one or two days, this post isn’t for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can get involved with minimal headaches.

Put Your Pride on the Back Burner (or Don’t be an Asshole)

Unless you have an extremely open-minded family/extended family, most of them are going to take a dim view of you not being Christian.  I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. They’ve been indoctrinated into the Christian belief system, and it’s unlikely you’re going to change their minds. You’re going to the Christian hell, and that’s all there is to it, (unless they can persuade you into the fold/back into the fold), and they really don’t get why you would worship pagan gods.  At this point, all you can do is grit your teeth and hope to get through the Christian talk without losing your cool.

That being said, understand that this is a Christian holiday, even if they took on the pagan trappings surrounding it.  Easter is considered to be more important to the Christian religions than Christmas, so realize that you are the outside here. It is you who is extended the olive branch, not them.  So, don’t expect for them to understand/accept you being Heathen in their most holy time.

Because this is their most holy time, mentioning the appropriation of Eostre’s holiday at the Easter dinner is probably not going to do you any favors. Yes, they eat ham, which honors Freyr, but let it slide. Yes, they decorate eggs.  Yes, they associate chicks and bunnies with Christ’s death and resurrection, but pointing out the incongruity of it all won’t cut it. If we want to maintain the peace in our celebrations, it is better to sit and listen rather than fight a foolish battle. This is their Easter–not ours, so let’s respect their religion, just like we’d want them to respect ours.

So, What Can You Enjoy?

At this point, you’re wondering what you can enjoy out of Easter.  There are a lot of cool things you can do and still be part of the Easter celebration.  Here are some of the things I recommend.

Egg Coloring

We color eggs for springtime, so there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy coloring eggs with your Christian family. Talking about spring and its renewal, as well as the cycle of life, is fairly safe.

Easter Egg Hunt

Why not hold an Easter egg hunt? Put together some of those plastic eggs and fill them with goodies. Hide them and watch as your family searches for them. You’ll all enjoy it.

Chicks and Bunnies

Whether live, toy, or simply drawings, the images of chicks and bunnies are pretty much safe territory.  You may want to talk about the Oschter Haws which was brought into Pennsylvania by German settlers. Avoiding the Urglaawe references, your Christian family may be delighted to learn that that’s where the Easter bunny who laid colorful eggs came from.

Easter Candy

Easter candy originates from clever marketing by candy makers in the 19th century to capitalize on an untapped market. There’s no reason for you to mention this, nor is there any reason why you can’t have some yummy candy in pagan symbols such as rabbits, chicks, and eggs.

Easter Brunch or Dinner

Never turn down a good feast, even if it’s in honor of a god you don’t follow.  All the trappings are Heathen, or at least, pagan, so enjoy spending time with family and friends. You may want to even bring some mead so your family may enjoy something a little different than the traditional grape wines. Toast to your family and to those family members who are no longer with you. You’ll be honoring the ancestors and still not offend your family.

Talk about Family, both Present and Past

Speaking of family, strike up a conversation about your family and your ancestors. Talk positively about them, or if someone in the family knows a particularly good story about an ancestor or a relative who is alive, encourage them to relay that story.  As the good Doctor says, “We’re all stories in the end. Just make it a good one.”

Listen to Your Family, Even if You Disagree with Them

If your family starts talking about Christianity, listen to them. You don’t have to agree with them, but when they tell you about their faith, they tell you about themselves. Ask questions. Ask why they believe what they believe, and don’t argue with them over their beliefs. You may discover that your mom believes in the Christian god because she finds comfort in a god who promises to care for her. Or your dad might actually not believe in the god but goes to church because the family does it. Or maybe your cousin is an atheist at heart.  You can learn a lot about your family just by listening.

Go to Church with them

This suggestion is somewhat dangerous when it comes to family, not because you’re likely to change your faith, but more likely because you may offend or get into an argument with a family member. Some Christians, most notably Catholics, have rules against participating in sacraments such as the Eucharist (the bread and wine) because they believe you must be of their denomination to participate. (It has to do with transmogrification, but that’s another long post.)

Why go to church with your family?  Well, first it puts you on the same page as your family members so if they discuss the sermon, you know what was said. Secondly, you can see Christianity with all its pagan influences.  Third, churches often have amazing artwork that is worth seeing.

Just sit and watch as they go through sitting, kneeling, and standing routines. Listen.  It may seem worthless, but in a way you are gathering intelligence about this religion. That way, you understand your family’s behavior a bit better.

Take Time Out for Our Gods, Wights, and Ancestors

I’ve given you ideas for keeping the peace with your Christian relatives.  But this isn’t about Heathenry, it’s about keeping the peace in your extended family. Before you join in the Easter festivities, make an offering to the gods, especially Frigga and Frau Holle, the wights, and your ancestors for a peaceful gathering. And thank them after the day for their help, especially if things went successfully.

Hopefully, I’ve given you ideas for staying sane around Christians during their holiday.  If, in the end, you do decide to try out some of these ideas, I’d be interested to learn how they worked out.

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