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.