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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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The Gods are Not Your Bitches

The Gods are Not Your Bitches

It’s nice to see someone in the pagan community agree with me, even though they said it nicer than I did.  The gods, whether you think of them as people or metaphors, don’t necessarily jump when you ask them to jump.  They don’t necessarily do things because you whined at them.  And they certainly aren’t our bitches who show up because we called to them.

Connecting with Gods

Connecting with the gods is a personal thing, In My Not So Humble Opinion (IMNSHO), and each connection is as different as it is for each individual to be different.  How you related to one god isn’t necessarily how I relate to him.  I think it has to do with who we are and how we got to this point. Tyr, for example, doesn’t really pop in, raid the refrigerator, and open up a bottle of mead on the counter at my house.   If he does at your house, please tell me.  I’d be mighty curious about that.  I’d be surprised.  (Now, if it were Loki, I’d expect that.) Some folks claim to have real life experiences.  I’ve only had one, and that made me question my sanity.  (Meeting Odin on the street — seriously.)

It’s not my place to tell you how to connect with gods, but I might offer some advice: They aren’t your bitches, and most aren’t interested in you unless you bring something to the table.  Occasionally, a few of us hear the call and say “what the fuck?” That happened to me, but I realize that having such experiences can be uncommon, not the rule when it comes to the gods.

My Own (Limited) Experience

I think the gods tend to be a bit more mindful about our pasts when we “connect” with them. As a follower of Tyr, he’s my main go-to god for just about everything.  That being said, sometimes I realize that other gods are more suitable to my petitions, but I really don’t know them that well.

Tyr knows I have a lot of baggage from religion and childhood. If I have a fault, it is I lean pretty heavily on him from time to time. It’s mostly just moral support, but occasionally it’s a “I need this” kind of request.  Yeah, it comes from growing up Roman Catholic and being shoved into the “pray to god to help you” mentality.  Realistically, I know that Tyr is not the god for that sort of thing, but when I have shit raining down, he gets an earful.  Because I look at him like a friend.  Sometimes I just get a sympathetic ear and not much more. Sometimes I get help.  Sometimes another god pops into my life because he or she is better at helping me.  If anything, I now have five gods/goddesses that I offer blots and talk to.

That’s how I relate to the gods.  I wasn’t looking to go back to being a theist, so I kind of have the opinion that because they found me, they knew what kind of package they were picking up.  Lately, when I bemoaned not being able to talk to the wights with someone who actually does a fair amount of work with them, I learned some things and actually got some positive things happen.  Okay, so I’m a bit agnostic on them still, but they’re included.  And I get a more positive feeling from them.

Why We Demand Help

I often talk about Christianity, mainly because I can’t get away from my Christian upbringing.  If you were raised Heathen, Pagan, or with another religion that wasn’t derived from the Abrahamic religions, you probably don’t have the same reliance that many who have left those faiths have to their gods. We’ve been spoon fed a pack of lies since we could understand words. It’s not our parents’ faults, per se, they’ve been as brainwashed as we have since their childhood. There’s a good reason for them to teach us Christianity’s teachings, too. The fear of their hell and eternal torment makes even the toughest guy in the room quake.

So, we’re taught very early on that god will provide. That god will care for us. That everything will work out to god’s plan.  And when stuff goes our way, we praise god.  When shit happens — and it does happen to good people, and even the best followers of the Christian god — we tell ourselves that it was god’s plan, or maybe they weren’t really that good.  Because a kind and just god wouldn’t allow that to happen, would he?

So, we beg for good things to happen to us.  That we get that raise, get accepted to that school, get a job, find a significant other, heal someone or ourselves, or win the lottery. The reality is that unless we get off our butts and do something, it’s unlikely we’re going to see positive results.  That’s where that old saying “god helps those who help themselves” most likely got started.  Well, whether you should maybe claim it as a god’s victory is questionable.  I’d argue that every victory is your own, and if the gods help you out, you should be thankful for their aid, but you’re the one who really made it happen.

The Gods are Not Our Bitches

If we look at the gods as strictly archetypes or metaphors for the universe that surrounds us, we can pretty much deduce they don’t need us, although we’re already heavily reliant on them.  We rely on Sif and Freyr for growing things, Thor for our thunderstorms (i.e. rain), Sunna for our light, Mani for more than just a shining orb above us at night, but may have had to do with actual life, Tyr for our laws, both human made and natural, Odin for our creation, and so forth.  My point is we rely on them for a lot already, so calling them down to aid us, especially when we have no rapport with them, seems a little self centered.  If we consider them entities, so much more so.

If you have a relationship with a god or gods, chances are you already know your boundaries. If you’re looking for help and you only have relationship with one or two gods, maybe they’re the first should hear your plea and then see what they say.  Other gods most likely need some type of introduction and probably a pretty decent relationship before one can ask for things from them.

When we understand that they’re entities (or at least metaphors) with their own agendas, we can see that our gods aren’t the Christian vending machine that our society has come to expect.

Some Recommendations to Those Starting Out in Heathenry

Some Recommendations to Those Starting Out in Heathenry

I had a nice chat with a young man who has felt the pull of heathenry.  He’s an interesting person who isn’t of the traditional northern ethnicity and some things I said on this blog he felt that he could relate to.  I heard this from another reader, which suggests maybe the gods are looking for some folks with a little more brains–who are willing to question things and apply logic and deductive reasoning to it as well.

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