Casting Aside the Cross

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So Mainer74 wrote a post I reblogged about “there’s no right way to be a heathen,” in which he promptly called out a couple groups as not doing heathenism “the right way.” Namely “brosatru,” the “AFA,” and threw a few shots at “conservative heathens.”

As he puts it:

We, as in Asatru/Heathenry in North America largely sprung from white Protestant Christian roots. We sneer at Wiccans a whole lot, and boy can you hear the Protestant come out. Wow did we keep the single gender identity, single gender role. Oh don’t get me wrong, we love and revere Frigg as a fertile Mother Mary, but boy do our conservatives get twitchy when Freya’s sexuality or Skadi’s independence enters the discussion.

Now, I like to consider myself modestly well traveled in terms of the Heathen internet, toxic though it has long been, as well as the wider Pagan internet, even if I have nominally retired these last few years. Still, I don’t think I can ever recall heathens, “conservative” or otherwise, getting “twitchy” when Skadi’s independence “enters the discussion.”

Mostly because I have no idea what the hell Mainer74 is referring to? The Saga of Skadi is a simple one. Her father is killed, she seeks recompense, and receives it. One of these is a husband, Njordr, though she was trying to get Baldr because everyone wants a man with no hair.*1

They end up falling in love, but Skadi is a Goddess of the mountains, snow, skiing, and hunting, while Njordr is the God of seas and ships. So while they loved each other very much, Skadi could not stand the seas, and Njordr could not stand the mountains, so they agreed to go their separate ways. And…that’s it. No grand “independence” to send “conservatives” twitching. Just two people who agreed to walk away rather than hate each other. Skadi didn’t “dump” Njordr because she was an independent goddess who didn’t need no man.

As for Freya’s “sexuality” well, I know exactly what Mainer74 is referring to: Brisingamen. The necklace she came to possess by the act of fucking four dwarves. And sure, that story might have “conservatives” twitching.

It also had the Gods pretty pissed too, according to the original lore. Many of them gave Freya shit over it. Let us be entirely honest, despite how many people like to be “sex positive” and “sex work is real work” these days, the act of trading sex for goods is prostitution by definition. View it as morally acceptable, view it as noble even, it is still prostitution and Freya prostituted herself.

Moreover, they gave her shit over whom she prostituted herself too. While we all have an image of dwarves in our minds, largely influenced by Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings, in Norse Mythology dwarves are creatures who were born/evolved from maggots. They are greedy creatures, mighty craftsmen to be sure, but they are creatures known in the myths for their terrible lusts. Lust for gold, lust for gems, lust for anything beautiful, including women. Dwarves have lusted in their greed so heavily that they have even become dragons.

Now, I am aware that there are schools of thought that believe “if a God did it, then it is moral.” That is a theological debate that has raged across countless years and across almost every religion that bothered to stop and think about itself. Much like the ancient debate of “is something good because it pleases the Gods, or are the Gods pleased by something because it is inherently good.”

If Mainer74 is of this school, that’s fine and his choice, however I would then point to the Birth of Sleipnir, in which Loki transformed himself from a male god to a female horse, got fucked, and came back after having given birth. In which case I would ask if Mainer then believes that bestiality is an acceptable practice in our faiths, and if “conservatives” are bad people because they might get a bit twitchy over people fucking animals?

Then, to bring it around, I would then have to ask him if he would be alright with his hypothetical daughter going down to the local car lot and fuck four guard dogs in order come home with some car that happened to catch her eye. Because in the context of the myth…that’s pretty much what Freya did, except she fucked four maggots. Basically.

I mean, I get it. In an age of OnlyFans, where a woman can make more in a week than many a man can make in a year, for a fraction of the effort just by showing some titties, no woman wants to be shamed for using her body to make ends meet. And of course many a simp out there will die on the hill of “all women are queens.” Plus, the natural reaction to someone thinking different from you, or “looking down” on you is to vilify them. As Billy’s inner frat boy put it:

But as “sex positive” as our ancestors were, they and the Gods did not find great value in a woman who prostituted herself. They found value in a woman who could run a house, manage a budget, keep a pantry. A woman who could fight, raise strong children, and kept her oaths, especially those made towards her husband.

Was there any “one right way” to be a woman? No. But there were some wrong ones. Being an adulterer, an oath breaker, was one. Being disloyal was another. And, offensive though it might be, can one trust the loyalty of a woman who gives herself to others, especially for money, as if she were a slave girl at market? Odin himself said “praise not a maiden until she is wed.”

Even the Gods “twitched” at that, when it came to their own. After all, had they not fought time and again to protect Freya and her virtue? How many Jotun lie dead from Mjolnir, because some giant wanted her for a bride? Yet, despite all the blood, all the honor, she sold herself to the sons of maggots for a glittering necklace.

Then again, when we look at how Mainer looks to men…

The reality. There was never one true anything. Frey is a model of manhood, so is Tyr, Thor, Odin (more wizard than warrior, sorry AFA), and even Loki are all models of how to be a man, a strong and successful, sane and complete one.

I mean, any man that claims Odin is more “wizard than warrior” clearly knows little of wizards, warriors, or Odin. Putting that aside though, he holds up Loki as a model of a strong, successful, sane man. Loki.

I’m of Helheim. I am married to Hel. Loki is my family, as are Fenris and Jormungandr. I have a far more positive view of Loki and his actions than many, if not most, in heathenism.

But I would never, ever, hold him up as an example of a strong, successful, sane man. Even the most cursory of readings of the Lore would tell you how utterly wrong that perspective is. Loki isn’t sane, he has a pathological need to trick people. Like beer is for Homer, Loki is the cause of, and solution to, all the Aesir’s problems. He ends up tied up to a rock with the intestines of his own sons, while venom drips down onto his face. One kid got thrown into the sea, the other is bound up in chains. The only “success” out of his life is Hel who is the Goddess of the Dead and ruler of her own realm, and even that can be debated by how hard everyone tried not to get sent to Helheim!

If that is Mainer’s definition of success, I’m personally terrified to discover his definition of failure.

Mainer’s entire post is basically how we need to “throw of the cross” and drop the “white protestant elements” that “poison our faith” with the belief there is “one right way to do X,Y, and Z.” This is a common outcry I’ve seen over the years. Hel, it’s one I’ve probably championed myself. But there is an issue.

Mainer doesn’t understand what he is trying to cast aside. This automatically dooms him to failure in his endeavor. Just as it has so many before.

To start with he states that, “...the One True Faith, one true path, one true everything is a toxic and poisonous leaving of the lie that was foisted on the Jewish people by a priesthood who saw consolidation of the pantheon and consolidation of their power as a nifty idea. They collapsed their pantheon into Jehova’s merry misogyny circus, and the disease of the One True Faith was born.

Which is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the fuck happened with Judaism. The idea of a “one true god with one true faith” was not foisted upon them. Their ancestors chose it, when Abraham, Issac, and Jacob made a bargain with YHVH, namely, land and power for worship. If Mainer cannot even grasp this simplest of realities, then how is he supposed to exorcise the Cross from the Hammer?

Further, the way he puts it is in the terms of an Atheist. “The priesthood” saw “consolidation of their power” so “they collapsed their pantheon.” No mention of the Hebrew God. No mention of his actions or part in the story. “God” does not exist. Only “the priesthood” does.

So how can a man, who denies the agency of the divine in that deity’s own religion, possibly grasp the nature of said religion and its offspring well enough to pull it out of his own practice, much less that of anyone else’s? For that matter, can a man who denies the divine be trusted to understand, much less follow, the Divine in his own path?

He can’t.

After all, he’s proven willing to ignore the God’s distaste for Freya’s prostitution. He’s applied values to the parting of Skadi and Njordr that do not exist. He holds up Loki as an example of sanity and success.

He insists that “brosatru” is a false path, for reasons he doesn’t make clear, but that are easy enough to guess. They are loud, boisterous men, who value the warrior’s path, who seek Valhalla. Who drink, and fight, and refuse to bow their heads. Who will share a beer and a brawl. They are men like Thor.

He insists that the AFA is an evil path, on the level of the nazis. Why? Because they insist their faith is their own, indigenous to their people and theirs by right of blood and birth. Because they like their men to be masculine, and their women to be feminine. Because they value the birth of children, over the expression of some alternative gender or sexual identity or racial inclusivity.

Mainer believes that Heathenism is a religion that should be open to all, regardless of race, gender, sex, etc. Yet, for a man who sneers at “white Christianity” he espouses their most cherished idea. That their religion is for everyone. That their religion is the true religion.

No where in the ancient lore is it put that Heathenism is for everyone. No where is it even hinted at that the ideas behind it are there either. Asgard was not an open place for all. It was a guarded place, kept safe by bloody violence. Jotuns, Dwarves, Vanir, Alves, all who sought to live there as if it was their place were met with death, not “inclusion.” When his daughter sought to marry a dwarf, Thor himself played games so that the sun would rise and kill said dwarf. No where did Odin state “take this religion that I have taught you and spread it to the world, so that all may worship me.”

If anything, the Lore supports an isolationist, exclusive view of tribe, nation, and faith. The Aesir are the Aesir, and they defend themselves. Yes, sometimes the occasional stranger is allowed in. Skadi, for her strength. Freya and Freyr, as hostages who later become kin. Loki, for his initial brotherhood with Odin. But these are the exception, not the rule. The rule is written in Jotun blood, and it says clearly, “stay the fuck out.”*2

But you know who did say “take this faith and share it with everyone?” Christ did. Mohammad did. YHVH did.

For a man wishing to cast away the cross, he bears its like as a cudgel against those who do not practice the idea that Heathenism is a “universal” religion meant for all people. Like the Christian priests of old, he attacks them, labels them evil, demonizes them. How dare they not accept the Universal Truth! The One Truth!

His Truth.

He denounces certain attitudes as “conservative,” ignoring when these attitudes appear in the Lore. The simple fact is, from my studies in both history, faith, and politics, there is more “heathenism” in your average christian redneck’s views than in much of Mainer’s own. Yet in his eagerness, and ignorance, to remove the cross from around his neck, Mainer ignores much of what was believed, in favor of what he wishes to believe.

He denounces his fellow practitioners, because they do not believe as he does. He sneers at them, for valuing family, or tradition, or gender roles. He sneers at them for valuing honor and a fighting, manly spirit that seeks a noble end to a life well lived. He’s even sneered at me and my practice, different from those aforementioned paths. He claims there is no one true path, but then insists that paths that are not “inclusive” but that are instead “racist” or “misogynistic” or “patriarchal” or some other problematic thing are foul, evil things. That they are not true, valid paths. That only his is.

Mainer is like a man who insists a cancerous tumor be removed from the body, and that he is qualified to do it because he’s logged in four hundred hours on WebM.D. Yet he has little idea of what the tumor looks like, or what the surrounding organs looks like, or where to cut. So he would hack away, thoughtless and careless, till the flesh fits what he thinks looks healthy, regardless of what the natural state of the body was, is, or should be.

He has no understanding of Christianity except that he hated it. He left it behind, either as a former practitioner, or an atheist, determined to find something else. He found Heathenism, because, presumably, he heard the call of his Gods and Ancestors. The same call we all heard, that brought us back here. Now, in his hatred, he sees the thing he left behind, not as it is, or was, but as he has been told what it is and was by people just as ignorant and angry as himself. They have convinced him there is a tumor, and it must be removed. But like the blind men touching an elephant, none of them know the true shape of the thing, so they label it whatever they please, and they label anything that “feels” bad to them as part of that tumor.

Even when what is informing them about what feels bad is born of the very thing they hate and seek to remove. The ideals behind “universalism” and “inclusivity” may have their births in Marx to an extent, but they come fundamentally from the teachings of Jesus Christ himself. Just as many “christian” ideals and beliefs these days can be traced back to Heathen norms as well.

In the end, it is like those little Mjolnirs that have been found that look like crosses. The ones that could be worn either way, to make dealing with one side or the other easier. The cross and the hammer look much the same, it just depends on which direction it is pointed.

A man, might, in ignorance look upon the hammer and swear “this is that damn cross! Away with it!” Just as he might look upon the cross and say “ah, now this is the true hammer!” In the end, he has failed himself and his quest. Removing that which was right, and supplanting it with the wrong thing, because it pleased his eye to do so.

It is not wrong to desire the removal of “christian” elements of our religion. To return to the old ways is right, and why we are here. But one should be fully aware of what is Christian, and what is the Old Way, before one starts ripping things apart, and be to be sure that returning to the old ways is truly what you desire. After all, they might not be what you think they are, and you may find that you lose something you valued more than the faith you claimed to uphold.

Hel Bless

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*1 Sadly I don’t have the image I wanted to post here, which is from a Marvel comic where everyone is roasting the Thing. Thor claims to have a friend who is Balder, but has more hair than the Thing. When Thing demands he prove it, Baldr pops up and says hello.

*2 The truth is that the very idea of “Racism” and that “racism is bad” are entirely Christian concepts. “All are equal in the body of Christ,” is the foundation that everyone, regardless of race or sex is equal. If we go with a pure interpretation of Norse Lore, there are three/four classes of people. Rulers, freemen, and slaves. And that’s just socially, never mind “racially.” The universal attitude of every ethnic group around the world and throughout history is that they, in particular, are the superior people.

Frankly, I am all for the equality of man. I find it a pleasing, beneficial idea. But I do not deny that it is a Christian ideal, one perhaps mixed with older Heathen attitudes to be sure, but Christian none the less. If Mainer truly wishes to reject the cross, then not only must he give up this idea of racial/ethnic/gender equality, he must make recompense with the Folkish who he has slandered so often, for they “cast off” this cross when they stated “we as an indigenous people, have the same right as every other indigenous people, to the ownership of our faith/culture and to exclude any we so desire from it.”