This is probably going to be my last post of the Year. I want everyone to please focus on what I have to say, because it’s important. It wasn’t easy to write, it won’t be easy to read, but it’s something that has to be said.
I started out as a solo practitioner.
Heathenism has grown over the years. It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this stuff for almost fifteen years now (Gods does that make me feel old, lol), and back when I started, there really wasn’t much of anything in my area. Now, I meet another Heathen every couple months, pagans every week, and I see temples and kindreds starting to pop up everywhere.
While there was some stuff online, I can’t say there was as much as there is now. Most of how I learned to be a Heathen came from reading about the Gods, and some history books. It was my birth heritage, my grandparents came over straight from Scandinavia. The myths were amazing, the Gods so relatable, and it didn’t judge me for all the violence, anger, and pain I felt at the time.
Of course, I didn’t have any other heathens to hang out with, or even really talk to. That’s part of why I started blogging back in about ’08 I think. The Heathenism I learned, that I knew, was about brotherhood, family, honor, integrity, hospitality, and so forth.
But the heathenism I knew, sadly, is not really the heathenism that is.
Especially not now adays. I think this post on an Asatru group I’m nominally a part of says it best, what’s been pushing me away for a long time.
The highlighted portions are what I’m talking about. “We’re not your kin.” “Don’t practice these forms of our faith.” “Don’t like it, we ban you.”
Heathenism to me, always had an underlying essence of kinship. The best feeling in the world was when you came onto a site or joined a ritual and the cries of “brother!” resounded through the area. There was a sense of joy, of family coming back together, of respect and honor.
And maybe I’m a bit odd for liking the whole “Brosatru” thing that was, but shit man. Most of us dealt with families that hated our Heathen religion with a passion. Sure, try to have a loving relationship with your kin who look at you with disgust and shame every time you do something that could be even remotely related to Heathenism. That’s why we built that “broship,” so we could have a place and “kin” that accepted us.
Indeed, we’ve all heard the phrase “blood is thicker than water.” Everyone likes to think it means blood family, but it didn’t. It originated with the Heathen Norse and the full expression was “the blood of the oath is thicker than the water of the womb.”
The kin you made by faith and oaths was far more important than who you were born too. So this whole idea of “we’re not your kin” spits in the face of the original Heathens and their philosophy. But it is the idea that most modern Heathenism seems to be turning to.
Now? Every place I go plays out like a Tarrance and Philip skit.
And then there’s the constant fight between devotional people, lore people, and frankly everyone has their heads so far up their asses about how right they are and how much they constantly want to fight over it that…well.
This isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t what was on the packaging. I just wanted a religion that accepted me (which it did), where I could live a simply life with people who stood up for what they believed but could balance the spiritual with the historical.
Instead, it’s a constant infighting of faith vs lore, purging racists, and beating up anyone who dared to want to be family with you, because damn it you have your own family at home and fuck you wanting a family inside your own faith. And on and on, issue after issue.
Honestly, the only reason I’m still a heathen is because I spent so long as a devotional practitioner. I made friends among the Gods, heck, I married Hela. She is my life, my world, and my afterlife. With her I could not be happier.
Until I step outside of Helheim and watch all these Heathens fighting and hating each other. And I used to think that was a good thing. It was training for the real world and the struggles we would have together against those who didn’t like us. But the unification never came, the solidarity never built, and more and more it’s Heathen vs Heathen rather than Heathen vs World. And honestly, I think that makes the Gods sad.
Having gone over Swain’s response to Krasskova and his belief that the Gods just sit back and don’t bother with us, I can understand why he thinks that. Baring a few people who end up going into devotional practice…most of Heathenism is filled with people who have turned out to be rather anti-mystical, and generally fairly shitty towards one another. And maybe they don’t mean to be shitty, maybe they do, but in the end…it’s not a lack of devotional practice, or holding to tightly to the lore that is the problem in Heathenry. It’s not even racism. It’s people being shitty about what other people believe and beating the shit out of them for it, and being shitty for people wanting to actually build a community and kin, and then being shitty because no one wants to recognize how smart and knowledgeable they are.
If it wasn’t for Hel, I’d have dumped Heathenism a long time ago. As it is, I’ve pretty much dumped most heathens. Sure, in person they’re not always as bad as they are online…but they can still be pretty damn bad.
People who have been following me for a while have noticed I’ve started talking more about the Cultus Deorum and such. Well, there’s a reason. I knew such things existed, but I didn’t know there were groups for it. But after a while, I found some, and you know what I found?
People who show just how shitty Heathens have gotten.
The Cultus places I’ve gone have been universally welcoming. They have balanced their lore, their history, and their devotion. Every Cultor has a shrine. They honor the Gods at least twice a month, they study the holy texts to better practice their pietus, not to disprove it. They accept innovation in their practices while still respecting the traditional. It isn’t an “Either/Or” battle with them. Some are more devotional than others, but no one mocks the devotional people or the academic people.
I found in the Cultus everything I had hoped Heathenry would be. Everything I hoped Heathenism would one day become. But after following facebook groups for a year and the blogs for longer…I have lost my faith in Heathens.
Oh, we can wrap our Heathenism in traditions, ancestor worship, and everything else we say it is, but the truth is Heathens have fundamentally betrayed what Heathenism is about. Family. Hospitality. Honor. Piety. Heathens have been so busy insisting people aren’t their family, slamming the door in the face of those who disagree with them rather than being hospitable, and stripping everyone who disagrees with them of honor or respect that our ancestors would and should be ashamed, and it is little wonder that the Gods do not speak to more heathens.
I want my fellow heathens to think about that.
Now, maybe there are reasons why the Cultus Deorum has managed to so far exist better than Heathenism. Maybe it’s that Piety to the Gods is a foundation for them, where as with Heathenism it isn’t’ as much. I know some of my fellow Heathens are going to protest it, but it’s true. The Gods are our ancestors, and sure we have stuff about ancestral veneration, but everywhere you go it’s all about how “the gods don’t ask me to kneel” and “I can do anything even without the Gods help” and on and on. Most heathens treat the Gods, even when they acknowledge them as living beings, as that distant relative you go see maybe once or twice a year, send a card on birthdays, and then don’t worry about it.
“Who’s that? Oh, that’s just old Grandpa Odin, don’t mind him. He just frenzies about from time to time. Oh our Gods, aren’t they so unique. Bless them.”
One of the things I’ve talked about in the past is that we fundamentally do not practice Heathenry. We’ve allowed history to get in the way, modern ideas to get in the way, and even people to get in the way. And I’m not talking about things like going out and killing for our honor, but more fundamental things.
If I had to say what Heathenism is really about, I’d say four things. Gods, Kin, Blood, and Soil. But we do not make Heathenism about these things. We allow people who are not Heathens, who as a rule typically hate everything that Heathenism stands for, to determine what is our “orthopraxy.”
Atheists have so mocked everything divine that now most Heathens, even devote ones, come across as Atheists.
Anyone who starts talking about our Kin, our People, in too positive or exclusive a light that transgresses present politically correct ideologies..is a Racist.
We have sanitized our rituals. the fundamental ritual of Heathenism is the Blot, which means blood. But we never use blood. We use mead, or juice, or something else in some sort of Christianist transubstantiation bull where “the mead becomes the blood.” And then people wonder why our rituals lack beauty, because we’ve so stripped them of the blood and frenzy. It says something that I can get a more authentic religious experience watching the History channel’s Vikings than I can in any kindred in existence.
Sanatize, strip, remove. Make it clean, make it pretty, make it so the non-Heathens don’t get freaked out. And the instant anyone “Crosses” the line we beat them up and then turn around to those outside our religion, put our hands above our heads, and cower like beaten dogs praying they won’t paint us with the same brush as “Those racists.”
But some how we’re the people who aren’t afraid of anything.
There is a symbol in our past that I think, based on personal experience and historical research, should be the image of heathenism as much, if not more so, than Mjolnir or the Valknut.
The Swastika. The Sun Wheel, the universal symbol of hope, good luck, light, and joy. A symbol that was used by our ancestors and our kin from Vinland to India. That should be the symbol of Heathenism. That’s what heathens of old wore, it’s what they celebrated, it’s what defined them far more than Mjolnir, which many academics state didn’t really start getting used until Heathens had to find an answer to the Christian Cross.
But no, we allow one of our most sacred symbols to languish in poison and misery, spat upon by its own people, and for what? Because of Nazis? The Nazi’s believed in Socialism, but I haven’t seen that stop anyone from being a Socialist. Hell, Bernie Sanders, Democratic Hopeful for President is a Socialist. The Nazis believed in Germany, but I don’t see anyone saying we should kill all the Germans. No, we let it sit there because we allow Non-Heathens to dictate what it means. We allow them to do to our symbol what the Nazis did to the Star of David, make it a curse and a humiliation, rather than a mark of pride. But the Jews took back their star. Why should we not take back our Sun, I ask you?
Because we will be called racists? We’re called that anyways. Because it’s a symbol of hate? Only if we let it be. Because people will be mean to us if we wear it?
I thought we were the people who told the storms how big our gods were, and that we feared nothing, not even Ragnarok. But you’ll fear the weak words of a person trying to deny you something because he or she thinks its bad, evil, or morally repugnant.
Just like worshiping polytheistic gods is bad, evil, and morally repugnant.
So many lions, who turn into sheep.
Everything Heathenism is supposed to stand for, it no longer does. We mock the Gods and those who devote themselves to them. We wash away all the blood and dirt. We kick people down and insist they aren’t our kin. At ever turn heathen men and women pound their chests and roar about their great power and piety, and as soon as a light turns on they scuttle like roaches before a broom, praying that society not them them odd, evil, racist, or strange. Heathens want to build a people and religion as we once had, but they’re too damn scared to let go of society’s approval to really do it.
Why do I want to leave Heathenism sometimes? Because what we have isn’t Heathenism. It’s not what I went in search of, it’s not what I found, and at the end of the day, it’s not what the Gods or our Ancestors gave us. Heathenism as it is now is a religion of the power hungry scholar and the cowardly post-modernist. Our religions lacks power and beauty and truth because we have cut away all the things it was for the sake of public approval.
So I might just end up leaving Heathenism. In the Cultus I see the reality of the Promise that is a reconstructed Pagan religion. Of an ancient practice handed down by Gods and Ancestors. No, it’s not Heathenism. No, it’s not of the Gods and Goddesses I’ve worshiped for half my life. But it is the religion I wanted my religion to be like, and I’d rather help it grow stronger in its promise, than waste my efforts on a people too proud to see they are slaves to other peoples.
I wish you all a Happy New Year.
Jön Upsal's Gardener said:
You must be looking at a different side of the Religio Romana than I am. In Nova Roma, at least (which you used to tag this post), the Religio is nothing but an afterthought, seen as an active embarrassment by those who want to impress academia. It’s a viper pit of politics, factions, infighting, insults, and the fiercest warring imaginable over who gets to control a website and a few email lists.
Just recently, a coup took place, followed by purges of the membership and leadership, and now real-world lawsuits are being initiated because of it. It’s a hundred times worse than even the worst of the Heathen community, at least in my experience.
But I would also say I don’t know the Heathenry you’re talking about, either. Sure, there may be some email lists, websites, or Facebook groups that act that way, but that’s not what I consider Heathenry. I consider it to be the face-to-face contacts, the tribal gatherings that happen on a constant basis. At least in my neck of the woods (the region where PA/NJ/NY meet) there are a half-dozen thriving Heathen groups, and everyone gets along pretty well. We all show up to each others’ events, and things are thriving.
The mystical side? Sure, some folks are skeptical. But the number of groups and individuals practicing rune-magic and seidr, and the quality of their work, is greater than at any time since I’ve been a Heathen.
The Gods? As I explained in the comments in your reaction to Swain’s post, his attitude is largely a product of his Theodish thew, which emphasizes a tribal approach to the Gods, rather than an individual one. It’s one reason I’m no longer Theodish. But from what I see “on the ground”, there’s actually *too much* emphasis on the Gods, and not enough on the land-wights, the ancestors, the house-wights, and the alfs. It’s Gods, Gods, Gods everywhere you look, with a perfunctory plate of food given to the landvaettir if folks remember. Don’t mistake folks not “marrying” Gods for folks not caring about them.
And as for the group-as-family, you won’t find tighter bonds along those lines than in a Theodish tribe like Swain’s. Each group handles those things differently, but the oath for our tribe includes the line “[I will] recognize the members of this tribe as my folk and kin and treat them thus.”
Maybe I’m just fortunate to live in a bubble of a good and strong Heathen community (or group of communities), but my perception is that even elsewhere, the good stuff happens when people get offline and get stuff done in the real-world. It’s the online stuff that’s lacking, in my experience.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
Yeah, I haven’t been looking at the Nova Roma (didn’t even know that tag was on this post). Just at regular Cultii. I got that lesson pretty quick from the other Cultii, that the Nova Roma started as something good and got co-opted by a bunch of role players. I hadn’t heard about all the legal trouble, but then I haven’t kept up with them once I found actual practitioner groups rather than a highjacked organization.
And I’m happy your experience with Heathenry has been different from mine. Maybe it’s a different area, which makes a difference. I know the AFA built a hof in cali, so clearly their group is pretty close. Frankly, both those things sound really nice. Sadly, I can only really come at this from my knowledge and experience.
I’m not saying the cultus is perfect (nothing is). I’m not saying all of heathenism is bad (it’s not). But I’ve seen too much of the bad that I talked about lately in Heathenism. And my mini rant on the sanitation of our Heathen Religions still stands.
Like I said, I’m not officially leaving Heathenism. Not yet anyways. But, and I know this is selfish of me, I really would like to see more Heathens take back the things we’ve given up and be more true to our ancestors. Which, I suppose is something that’s attracted me to the Cultus, they’re not shy about their stuff. Sure some of it’s different focuses, and some of it is a bit more “civilized” but at the end of the day, more of them show the courage to take back more of their religion than most Heathens do. At least, that’s my impression.
Jön Upsal's Gardener said:
Well if you ever make it out to New Jersey, let me know, and you’ll be welcome in our hall and vé. Sounds like you might like the way we do things.
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You aren’t the only one who sees all the infighting. All the infighting is the reason I have stayed a solitary practitioner. The few times I’ve tried to engage in group conversation – especially on social media sites – the negative blowback in response has been ridiculous. I’ve been told by many people in many groups that I’m not allowed to use the term heathen because I fall outside the mold of “normal” heathens.
I incorporate magic from different traditions because I began my religious journey as an eclectic pagan (after breaking away from Christianity, that is) and didn’t come to heathenry until I’d spent 10 years as a pure eclectic. I was also raised and trained as an empath, which comes with its own unique practices and ethics, not all of which fall into the “proper” heathen worldview.
I also agree that a lot of heathen groups have forgotten what hospitality means and what ties of kinship are about. That’s one of the biggest reasons I stay away from groups. I grew up in the South and I have Scottish ancestry, and the ways of hospitality and kinship have soaked into who I am and how I was raised. While my family and I don’t see eye-to-eye on religious matters, we know how to be respectful enough to keep the topic out of conversation and focus on other things. When I go to the houses of my aunts for special occasions and they say the blessing over a meal, I participate because it keeps the peace – causing dissent for something as small as a prayer offered to a God I don’t follow isn’t worth the disharmony – and, in fact, it’s childish.
But I have seen numerous posts on heathen groups that discuss how “proper” heathens should never bow their heads to Gods from other pantheons or to the Christian God especially, and I struggled for a long time with some of my beliefs because of that. Because the truth is, we all want to be the “proper” type of person when it comes to the groups we belong to, and being told we don’t fit, our first instinct is to try and make ourselves fit. Even when we know doing so isn’t the best course of action, a lot of us still fall into the trap of trying.
Also, most heathen groups, like you were saying, harp on about how you need to be close to your family and forget trying to find kin within the community, and I dislike that attitude as well. There are different types of family out there, different types of kin. Blood kin isn’t the only type of family that exists, and sometimes a person’s relatives are the worst kin they can have.
As for the rites you mentioned, I personally don’t have a problem with blood sacrifice – I just don’t have the skills necessary to properly craft a rite of that sort. I have never gone hunting, and I have never killed an animal with my own hands. To offer a sacrifice like that, I wouldn’t want to waste any of the animal in terms of the skin, etc. So, in my mind, it’s better to offer something that doesn’t require waste because to waste any part of an animal is to dishonor the life given.
But anyone who understands anything about magic knows that the strongest magics are wrought with blood, bone, and bodily fluids. There’s a reason that magics worked with those components are often considered dark magics – the power from using them can become an addiction.
I think there are too many people today who are afraid of what dark magic actually is – they are afraid of the shadow side of life, even though it is all around us all the time. Understanding a tool before you use it in a working is of incredible importance, but there are a lot of pagans today that leap into working magic without ever being taught that there is a price to pay for every spell wrought.
So, even though there is a lot about heathen groups that leaves much to be desired, I still use the heathen label because it is more accurate of my solitary practices than simply calling myself an eclectic pagan. But the truth is, the labels are more for those around me, so that they can at least glean a partial understanding of my faith. But if I had to choose a label for myself to use for everything I do and everything I am, it would be shaman, as it most accurate. I don’t call myself that to others, in general, however, because there is so much debate about the use of the word, and the dispute isn’t one necessary to have. No matter how much people argue about what is or isn’t appropriate to do, say, or call oneself, the truth is that I will always be who I am, and arguing about it isn’t the way I wish to spend my time.
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Hellenismos is fairly much like the Religio: piety to the Gods is first. I do believe that we have different pantheons even though there are some surface similarities (and there are a few well known adoptions, ie. Rhea (Magna Mater) and Dionysos in particular). Our major split amongst us occurred many years ago (more than 10 yrs.). Of course, it was through misunderstanding (the topic was magic, something I don’t practice anyway). There were a number of folks who were much more Hellenistic (with all the orientalism that implies) than Hellenic (pre-Alexander). Many people are now on both lists, anyway. Some of the Demoi are very active because they do have members. It is really hard to find co-religionists because of neo-pagan attitudes. However, you do not need to give up your wonderful relationship with Hela or any other Northern deity to be a cultor.
I just shake my head. Found out how nasty some Heathens are when I showed a shot of a bobble head Loki. Hay, I like having fun and it’s not like I put him on my altar. Sorry that this happened to you and I am a member of Cultus Deorum.
Silver Wolf said:
Yea, I’ve noticed a lot of the bullshit fighting. Example.
I was on a Heathen page on a Facebook. They had posted some drawings of the Gods. One they had labeled as a Freya/Frigga, as in they are one in the same. I obviously don’t ascribe to this belief but I have seen it float around. Some commented that they believed the two to be completely separate entities. The admin of the page commented. He is apparently Scandinavian and basically told the commenter they were idiots and that them being two different Goddesses comes from the Germans stealing their religion and that anyone who says they are two separate Goddesses haven’t read the lore and don’t understand their culture. Saying the only way to understand why they are one in the same is two read the lore in it’s original language and to have a good understanding of their culture. What the fuck is that? Forgive my language but that is some elitist bullshit.
And for Heathens to say to not consider their fellow Heathens as kin is really shocking for me to see. Especially considering a lot of us don’t have that connection with our blood family because they think we are going to “Hell” for our beliefs. The new kindred I have found constantly refer to the other members as their folk and their kin. They seem to be a bit more woo friendly (so far anyway) but do still refuse to let Loki be honored (which doesn’t really effect me).
To be honest I’m not a big fan of “wiccatru” but I normally just keep my mouth shut about it and move on.
I feel your issues but personally I really can’t see myself moving to a different group.
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