devotional practice, faith, Heathen, krasskova, Pagan, polytheism, Religion, swain
So picking up from where we left off with Swain’s response to Krasskova. So far, if Krasskova was dismissive of non-devotist pagans, Swain has proven to be just as dismissive of devotional practitioners. Also, Swain is obsessed with the idea of devotional practice, regardless of how often it is done, as an attempt to use the concept of “gift for gift” to gain boons from the Gods as the only motive for devotional practice.
There are other very valid reasons for not practicing the sort of devotion Krasskova thinks we should. There are the ones I mentioned above about not giving overmuch, and our gods not being like the Christian god. The other reasons may revolve around the very way one views the gods and the way they interact with Mankind. I for one believe the gods worry more about communities than individuals…
Halstead you idiot.
Oh wait, this isn’t Halstead. Sorry about that, I got caught up in the Halsteadian “collectivism” of the comment and forgot we were talking about a gentleman named Swain. Now, anyone who has read me for any period of time knows that I’m a staunch Individualist and that is primarily because my experiences with the Gods is that they are Individualists as well.
But we need not base the incorrectness of Swain’s position here on my personal experiences with various Gods. Oh no, we need only look at the Lore to disprove him about this. When Odin chooses those he takes to Valhalla, does he go by community? Is it only men from one tribe, and not an other that he takes, or does he pick each person individually to go?
The answer, of course, is that Odin and the Valkyries pick individuals based on their honor, performance in combat, and a few other things. This implies that they have an interest in at least Warriors as individuals.
When Hel judges the dead, does she judge them by which community they’re from? Or does she judge them by their own individual deeds and honor? Tyr, does his law judge by man or by community? Etc, etc, etc.
Now, if Swain finds it more comfortable to think that because he got passed over by Odin that means that Odin is only interested in the group, and not the individual, that’s his business. However, it is not his business to insist that is Theological Law and the Gods do not, can not, and will not take interest in particular individuals as they so choose. Especially when there is both present and historical evidence to prove him factually wrong.
…Oh, they may be there for a person when he or she gets a new job, gives birth to a child, gets married, or have some sort of life threatening illness, but for the most part they leave the day to day going ons of our lives to us and our ancestors. The gods are not, in my opinion going to micromanage our lives…
And…here he goes contradicting himself again. “The Gods have no interest in the individual” but “the Gods may be there for events in the individuals lives.”
Also, did a man claiming to be a Heathen just profess that our lives are not micromanaged by the Gods? Swain, hast thou nay heard of the Norns? The weavers of fate who predetermine events in our lives and what will happen in them? Good grief, how much double think do you have to do to come up with this position in Heathenism, Swain> It’s a fatalistic religion whose entire foundation is predestination of fates for both Gods and Mortals. It’s all about the micromanagement of lives (and the rebellion against that micromanagement).
They are not going to make sure we get a raise if we have not worked towards it. They are not going to make sure we get the best parking place at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. They are not going to find us a significant other if we are not trying to find one on our own.
Well, no, of course they aren’t Swain. They are Norse Gods, who insist you fight for what you want. But if you do fight, they will help you in the fighting. Insisting that devotional relationships are meaningless because “oh my god, I’m not going to get all this free stuff” is, well, bullshit.
But from my own experience, I did get several raises and performed quite well in various jobs thanks to my working with the Gods to obtain those ends. Not by expecting the Gods to just give them to me. If that is how you went into a devotional relationship with Odin, no wonder he didn’t want anything to do with you.
Frankly, I wouldn’t want anything to do with you either if that was your attitude.
…I simply believe the gods do not work that way. That does not mean I do not believe in them. I do believe the gods and goddesses are quite real. It is to say I do not believe they concern themselves with whether Swain gets the cheapest price on drinking horns…
Now look, I am not going to be one of those people who insists that Swain doesn’t believe in the Gods. I’m sure he does. But he is very much laity at this point, in terms of deific practices. And frankly, I am sure he is absolutely right that the Gods do not concern themselves with Swain getting the cheapest price on a drinking horn.
But just because they don’t care if Swain gets a good deal, doesn’t mean that a God isn’t going to be concerned that their devotee isn’t going to get the best price on that drinking horn. Swain’s treating it like it does prove that, though. If Swain doesn’t get it, then obviously no one is going to get it, and if they claim to get it then they’re just delusional people who believe they have a “buddy god.”
I think instead they concern themselves with our communities, in ensuring there is peace and prosperity for the community, ensuring all is well is between us. If someone wants his or her life micromanaged I think he or she best turn to his or her ancestors who have a vested interest. Whether we succeed or fails reflects on our ancestors. They therefore want to see us succeed. Even then, I am not sure even the least of my ancient Heathen ancestors is going to make sure there is no traffic when I decide to take a trip to Saint Louis. They do not work that way either.
Peace and Prosperity in the community is the concern of the Gods, and that all is well between us…
-cue a solid five minutes of maniacal laughter-
The Gods concern themselves with Peace? Are we sure Swain is a Heathen here, because last time I checked half the Pantheon was involved in war! Bloody Hela, Heathens fight worse internally than Pagans, and Pagans fight worse internally than Jews, whose entire religions is about fighting internally over the Torah.
We are, bar none, the most internally divisive religion on this planet. Heathens fight over everything. EVERYTHING. My gods, we’re having a fight now over how we should worship gods of war. Peace and prosperity of the community? I might give fore the latter if everyone was still going aViking, but there is not peace, there has never been peace, and if the primary goal of the Gods is peace within the Heathen community, then they have so royally failed as to be unworthy of godhood.
And if you think we’re bad now about the infighting, our ancestor used to do theological debates with axes and shields!
Look, I’m not doubting Swain’s faith in the Gods. But I am seriously doubting his examination of his own faith and what he believes in vs objective facts about Heathenry past and present, the Gods, and actual religious practice.
As for the micromanagement thing: The Norn work that way.
The Gods are our ancestors. Hel, some people have been born directly from the Gods and have passed down children through the ages. I’m a pretty good example of a God adopting someone as their child as another path to divine ancestry.
But Swain keeps insisting “they don’t want to micromanage our lives” and “they don’t work that way.” To which I have to ask…evidence? I mean, I’ve been reading devotional blogs for a while and yeah, there’s a bit of micromanagement there. Or as some might put it, “educational activities” or “training.”
I mean, look at my own practice. Hel doesn’t micromanage my life, but she’s there for 90% of it either offering advice, helping to deal with problems, hanging out cause it’s something to do, or making sure I don’t kill anyone (myself included). That’s called being supportive, not micromanaging. And yes, Hel does ask a lot of me in return sometimes (part of the reason I have health issues like I do), but I do not begrudge or feel intruded upon for these things.
Honestly, as Swain is putting all this down, I’m seeing less “reason for not having a devotional practice in heathenism” and more “this is why Swain didn’t get a god buddy.” I mean, he gives only with thought to getting back (and justifies not giving by saying that “well, then they don’t have to give back”) feels that the activities of a God in his life would be micromanaging (sure, he’s talking about all the good things but you know the bad things would be there too) as if it’s only about getting good things from the Gods (best parking, lower prices, etc). And he keeps insisting that because he didn’t get such things, that of course the Gods would never give such things, and even the Ancestors probably wouldn’t, even though they ” have a vested interest.” And that the God are more interested in the collective internal peace of a religious community known for its internal conflicts than they would be in the respectful devotions of individuals showing them hospitality.
In closing, I think Krasskova is either trying to purposefully lead folks to believe those that do not practice devotion to the gods the way she does do not believe in the gods, or perhaps for some reason she actually believes this…
Given my interactions with Krasskova, and what I’ve heard outside, I don’t think she’s trying to mislead folk. I think she honestly does believe that those who do not at least believe in devotional practice do not believe in the Gods. At least based on the stuff I’ve read. And yes, perhaps she even goes as far as saying that if you believe in the Gods you must have a devotional practice. That does seem like a position she would take.
But if Krasskova is the Zealot demanding all worship the Gods deeply, the Swain is the guy insisting we just close every temple and shrine as meaningless frivolity and that all priests should be sacked, because the Gods don’t give a crap about religious devotion outside a few holidays. Which…is demonstrably bullshit both historically and presently.
…Either way makes no difference to me as I feel Krasskova has put little to no thought into why we should practice such devotion, just that we should…
If it makes no difference, then why did you respond? Why did you create five super dense paragraphs of a response. Yeah, in case people hadn’t realized, all those “…” bits were where I was splitting his paragraph. I had to break them down like this to make it sensible to respond to. The man fire-hosed his response, put it on full power and let pour.
And maybe Krasskova didn’t put as much thought into that one article about “why” as much as “should” but she’s got a whole history of “why” articles on her blog. And frankly, Swain’s “why” is about as weak and self serving as he claims hers are.
…And I feel all evidence points to her the ideas of such devotion as coming from Christian ideology. There are far too many similarities…
Oh bloody Hela.
Swain, I’m going to let you in on a secret. Faith, and Gods, tend to work the same way. Gods may stand for different things, but the functional energy of “faith” works pretty much the same way regardless of religion. Doesn’t matter if it’s Christian, or Norse, or Buddhist, prayer is prayer, faith is faith. How it is done, what position your body is in, how your hands are open or closed, this varies, but divine power is divine power, mortal faith is mortal faith.
In any devotional practice, there are of course going to be similarities between religions. But claiming that “oh, well, that looks the same as the Christians” is about as reasonable, rational, and correct as saying “well, the Brit’s pay their taxes by writing a check and mailing it in, the insistence by these American’s of paying their taxes the same way means they’re not really Americans!”
Or heck, another example. Brits drive on the opposite side of the road as Americans. But they both steer left and right, both have a break pedal and a gas pedal. Both have chairs for you to sit in, a metal body to surround you. Often enough, the same model of car is in both countries, just with the steering switched. By Swain’s logic, that means there is no difference between driving an American Car and an British Car, so therefor you should ride a horse or you’re a dirty Brit (even though Americans developed the car first).
Does the fact that I breath like a Muslim make me a Muslim? Does the fact that I have an altar make me a Catholic? Does the fact that I don’t wanna work, I want to bang on the drum all day make me Todd Rundgren? No. So the fact that I, or Krasskova, or thousands of other people have devotional practices in our Heathenism doesn’t make us Christians or mean we’re importing Christian ideology.
…If she can come up with a well thought out, reasoned piece drawing on the lore on why we should practice such devotion, then I might be able to understand. but to simply say we must have such devotion, or we are non-believers will not do. Simply, because many do not do as she does, does not mean we believe in the gods any less
The woman had 14 citations damn it!
She presented a well researched, well thought out piece which she presented pretty damn rationally. Could she have been a bit less absolutist? Sure, I’ll give that.
But Swain, if you cannot understand her position when it is presented in fourteen paragraphs, with a seven point bullet notes, and 14 decently sized citations from respectable works showing the f actuality of her talking points, then there is no argument she can present to you which will ever make you agree with her. Why?
Because you’re being as dogmatic about your position as she is about hers. Except that your position is not well thought out or presented in this post, has no citations, no presentation of evidence, actively contradicts itself, and relies on “well, I don’t believe the gods are like that” and “you’re just importing Christianity” as the foundations of your counter argument to her.
Look, I don’t believe every heathen has to have a devotional practice in order to be a Heathen. I don’t even believe that you can’t really believe in the gods if you don’t have a devotional practice.
But let’s look honestly at the two positions here.
Krasskova: Devotional relationships are practically a must because the Gods are real and we should repay them for all that is good in our lives and world with as much faith and devotion as we can.
Swain: The Gods are real, but we really don’t have to do anything except on a couple holidays cause they’re just gonna keep doing all these nice things for us and the world regardless of if we really give them a lot.
Or in even simpler terms.
Krasskova: “Give thanks to the sun because it rises.”
Swain: “Sun is gonna rise, why do I have to thank it?”
Both believe in the Sun, possibly to the same extent. But which one do you think Sunna is gonna like better. The person who spends the time to give some appreciation for what she does? Or the one who is just going “it’s your job, you’re supposed to do it even without thanks, maybe I’ll send you a Yule card. If I feel like it. I don’t wanna give to much.”
And lastly, look at what each one is being a “dick “about. Krasskova is being a bit of a dick because she’s insisting Heathens start to seriously thank the Gods for all they do for us and if you don’t, maybe you’re not a real heathen. Kinda a dick move. Swain is being a dick about thanking them “too much” because he thinks “shit, I expect to get something for all my thank yous and I might not, so no one should say thank you too much.” Which, to me, is an even Bigger Dick Move.
But here’s the thing. Let’s say it is about gift for gift with devotional practice. All about getting something for giving something. Well…the Gods have already given us a lot. Life, a home, a planet, writing, wisdom, law, justice, warfare, hospitality, literature, etc, etc, etc. Maybe Swain’s got it turned around. Maybe devotional practice isn’t about “what can I get from the gods with all that I give” and more about “what can I give the Gods for all they have given.”
Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
I particularly like the last line of Helson’s awesome analysis of Swain’s response to my piece on Heathen Theology: “Maybe devotional practice isn’t about “what can I get from the gods with all that I give” and more about “what can I give the Gods for all they have given.”
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Bear in mind that Swain Wodening is Theodish, and Theodism is explicitly tribal in its approach. One element of Theodism is that the Gods are more likely to respond to us when we approach Them as a group (i.e., a tribe), rather than individually. That’s not to say They *cannot* hear us individually, but it’s akin to getting more attention from a chorus than from a lone singer. I’m not Theodish myself, but I do know that is their thew.
As for the Norns, if you read the lore carefully they are generally held apart from the Gods. They are… Norns. Even the Gods Themselves are said to have Their own destinies laid out by their own Norns. So on that specific score I think your analysis might be unfair.
I’ll probably be writing on this whole issue myself sometime soon.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
Thanks for the info on Theodism!
And I know the Norns are apart from the Gods, but sometimes reading it they also seem to be treated as the same level as the gods, just with an entirely different domain. I will admit perhaps I was unclear/unfair in that I was thinking of the norn along “theistic” lines (being fundamentally tied in power to fundamental forces) rather than “racial” lines (gott, jotun, norn, alf, etc). So…my bad, maybe. I think my point stands, but yeah…could have been clearer.
Looking forwards to what you write. Send me a link when you do.
Jön Upsal's Gardener said:
I’ve ordered Galina’s book on the subject. If I’m going to be writing about it, I want to make sure I’m not making any unwarranted assumptions. She’s not the only person who researches her writing. 😉
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I find this distinction between devotional and non-devotional heathenry obnoxious. Mostly because even those who claim to be non-devotional still do rites, although a lot of them prefer to honor their ancestors and the wights of the land rather than the Gods Themselves. There is still some type of devotional practice going on, even if that devotion isn’t aimed towards the Gods.
And there is a lot of argument from that particular group that heathenry is a collective religion and that the Gods can’t hear individual voices. I actually touched on this for a bit here: https://heathenwoman.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/why-im-solitary/ but I may need to write more in-depth about devotional practices.
I think a lot of the dissonance comes from the insistence some heathens have that our Gods cannot be companions or confidants to us or otherwise we are somehow imitating Christianity. I think you made a really good point – even though there are many different Gods, divinity is divinity, and there is going to be overlap between faiths.
What I have found is that the majority of those who are anti-devotional heathens are unable to hear the Gods, so they feel embittered and perhaps jealous of those who can hear Them. And I can understand that embitterment to a point…if, for example, a person does a thousand rites for one of the Gods and never gets a response or doesn’t know how to see the response being sent, then I can see that causing some resentment.
Granted, those who seem the most embittered are the ones who have performed maybe two or three rites and got no response, then gave it up because the Gods didn’t come to their calls. In our culture of convenience, I can see where the impatience stems from, but people don’t realize that patience is a much needed factor when it comes to dealing with the Gods, who live on a plane much higher than ours where time passes at a much slower rate.
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Virginia Carper said:
I am glad you unpacked Swain’s posting. I read the same writing of Galina’s, and couldn’t figure out what he had read or reacted to. I do know as readers, that we have a duty to lay aside any biases, etc we have when reading someone’s writings. As readers, we read the words, and not place what we think the words should be or want to be or think are.
Anyway, I commented elsewhere that in my limited experience in interviewing various polytheists, that there are a handful of Gods who recruit people to the religion. Odin is one of Them. Often what happens is He introduces the person to the religion, and then drops them. That happened to me.
I couldn’t form any kind of relationship with any of the Norse Gods except for Frigga. As it happened, I struggled with this lack of nothingness, non-connections. I actually felt the way that Swain wrote. Then I went to a Roman ritual, and had an up close and personal experience with Neptune.
What I pieced together is that some Pantheons of Gods do not directly come to people, but instead wait for the person to get comfortable with the idea of polytheism. The Roman Ones, in my experience, are one of those groups. I rarely met a person who had a first experience with a Roman God. Plenty with Greek, Norse, and Egyptians. The others come later.
Perhaps another Pantheon of Gods were waiting for Swain, but for whatever reason, he chose differently.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
That is an interesting way of looking at it. I will agree that in most of the pantheons, there do seem to be “Recruiters” who get you in and then the other gods come along after you’ve been “Tested” for whatever jobs.
I didn’t know that the Roman’s hadn’t been recruiting like the others, but I have to admit the cultus is pretty new on the scene (even if it does seem to be growing faster and healthier than a lot of others). Perhaps it’s because the Olypians have been so much a part of popular culture for so long they haven’t needed to, or the military style of Rome just lends itself more to picking and going with more experienced, more stable people than some of the others do. Something to look into.
As far as Swain goes…I don’t think going to another pantheon would really have mattered or would matter. He seems so bitter, and entitled, that he just doesn’t seem to have the ability to grow anything a God might find useful. But that’s just a theory. 🙂
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So many modern people want to deny the Fates. What a useless battle that is. Oedipus and his Mother found that out to their sorrow. I am sure there are stories in the Lore which illustrate this. The only thing we can do is live honourably and with piety (our duty to the Gods). I am so amazed at this vociferous disagreement within Asatru/The Troth. Why would you be doing this if not for the Gods?
I read Galina’s article pretty thoroughly, stopped several times to ponder, read all the links, consulted memory and books, and I have to say I don’t see where Galina was being a dick. I think she made a really good point.
BTW an example: We put up our tree last weekend. For whatever reason only the middle section was blinking though the lights are pre-installed and on one line. I mentioned (several times) that it was setting off my OCD but I never asked anyone to fix it. Just kept doing my devotions as usual, being thankful for having a tree and a window to put it in. Tonight the entire tree is blinking. Random chance? Maybe. Ancestors or wights? Maybe. Gods? Maybe too. Does it matter? I’m thankful that someone cares enough about my OCD to fix my tree. Beer on the altars for everyone!
Maybe Swain was being tested to see if he was truly devoted? I mean, dedicating yourself to a deity is a big commitment. Not one to take lightly. I can see the Gods casting a skeptical eye on a new devotee for doing so without knowing fully the possible consequences. Dark night of the soul and all that. I feel a little sorry for him. He didn’t pass the test, if that was indeed the game.
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