I’m going to start this off in a way I never do. Namely, that I do not speak officially for any Cultus Deorum group (not yet, anyways). These are my own reflections as a Cultor Deorum. I ask that they be treated as such.
As most of you know, I got my start in Heathenism. Heathen Gods are my Gods, Hela is my Patroness, my wife, my queen, and if she is not everything in my world (though she feels like she is) then she is the God’s Share of it. But I am friends with many Gods, and work with more beyond that.
In my time in Heathenism, there are many divides that I have seen, theologically. Of these, perhaps the most publicly divisive is the Folkish vs Universalist one. Ironically, this is not a divide that has any part of my honestly looking to leave Heathenism behind and live under the Cultus Deorum Germanica (that would be the faith vs lore divide, a more private divide among heathens, but no less divisive in its nature).
The truth is, that as a Heathen, I am very much folkish in nature. There are the Gods and Customs of the Norse and Germanic peoples. They are theirs by right both Divine and Hereditary. In the same way that the native traditions of Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and so forth, are theirs by right. IT makes sense to me that these Gods and this culture, would and should belong to those of that heritage before anyone else, and perhaps even to the exclusion of anyone else if needed.
On the other hand, I find I am also a bit Universalist. I am a rationalist as a person, who believes that no idea can belong to anyone person or group. Once an idea, a concept is out there, it is out there and cannot and should not be made secret again (well, except maybe atomic bombs, I could do with those being secret knowledge). So if a man from Africa wanted to become a Heathen, join a Heathen Kindred, etc, I would not have a problem with this.
Under a single condition. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
This dualistic nature of my views is why I can look at say McNallen of the AFA and that organizations beliefs and say “I like this, I find this good, let it live in peace.” It’s also why I can look at Abell and the Troth and say…pretty much the exact same thing. The universalists have a point, and the folkish have a point, and for me both points and arguments are so incredibly strong as to be undeniable.
But for most people, it’s a zero sum, game. You have to be one, or the other.
The Cultus Deorum, however, isn’t like that.
The Cultus Deorum is both Folkish and Universalist.
I suspect jaws are no doubt hitting the ground. “How can this be, Lucius!” some people are no doubt asking. “Exclusionary and Inclusionary at the same time! Impossible!!”
It’s something I cam to realize during a discussion which really started me upon the idea, and the path, of the Cultus Deorum Germanica. See, up until this discussion, there was only the Cultus in my mind. Roman Gods, Roman ways, for Romans (or we who would become Roman through our adoption of these ways, these gods, and these lifestyles). The Cultus is incredibly “Folkish” in nature. Rome for Romans.
But one discussion started up about how some people worshiped the Norse Gods, or the Celtic Gods, or the African Gods, and how while we loved all that was the Cultus Deorum…we had often spent years, decades, and we didn’t want to leave behind our present Gods and the relationships we made, simply for a chance at a new religion that, at least in the early stages on paper, looked like everything we ever wanted. Devotional and Historical? Theological and Rational? So many contradictions that are Rome, yet so much glory. Here, the Lorehounds are the devotionalists, because so much lore is about how to do proper devotional practices…and validates them! Admittedly, we’re all wearing rose glasses, but it’s the rose glasses of the Triumph, the dream of what we all wanted Paganism to be. A fusion of ideals and beliefs, something truly Western, truly Pius, and grand. People could mock the druids as tree luggers, the Heathens as racists, the Wiccans as fluffy bunnies, but the Cultus?
The Cultus was Rome, greatest of all empires, with the Gods of the greatest empire. None shall mock us, for our art, our architecture, our philosophy, our power (even if in heritage and not yet being fully recreated by us) was the very bedrock of Western Civilization!
But still, we have our old gods, our none Roman gods, who we love and wish to keep giving Piety to. So what could we do?
The answer lay in Rome itself.
For you see, Rome was for Romans. Rome conquered other lands for the glory and wealth of Rome. But Rome did something no other empire had done in history, or even would really be done in later history. It allowed the peoples it laid under its power to keep their original gods and original religion. “Worship whom you please!” came down the command of Olympus, “But respect the Peace of Rome and give offerings unto us as well.”
And even more than that, a non-Roman could become a Roman. Merely assimilate into Roman culture, leave behind their old culture and ways, and become a Roman. Anyone, man or woman, old or young, there was a path to citizenship (if a hard one) and at the end you were Roman, regardless of where you were born or the color of your skin.
And so their could be the Cultus Deorum Germanica, the Cultus Deorum Celitica, the Cultus Deorum Slavica, Cultus Deorum Africa, etc, etc, etc.
Rome was Universalist.
The key words though are “Supremacy” and”Assimilation.” Worship whatever gods you please, but Rome’s Gods have supremacy if you wish them included. The Olympii are to be privileged above all other pantheons in the worship. Make your offerings to Odin, if you want, but remember that it is Jupiter who is King, and Olympus whose people have conquered. Praise the Morrigan if you so desire, but remember that on the field of battle, it was Bellona who was victorious and triumphant. You can be of any people by birth, but remember, you must be Roman if you wish the privileges and rights of Rome.
Folkism and Unversalism, living together in harmony.
No doubt people like Ryan Smith of HUAR would say this is horribly racist. Maybe even more racist than the AFA. But that is because Smith is not of Rome, not of the Cultus. He does not see the shining beacon that is the hope to rise above, to gain privileges, powers, and glory. A beacon that is open to anyone, so long as they become Roman, live by Roman standards. Put aside their ideals like “you are privileged, you should be sorry” and “just because this is exclusively for one people makes it racist.”
This is because in its fusion of things like Folkism and Universalism, of Lore and Piety, of embracing Privileges rather than deriding them, Rome and the Cultus seeks to build up, not to tear down.
And while Rome was not built in a day, by following in the foundations and traditions, the beliefs and culture of Rome, I hope to help one day rebuild it again. And so I am becoming Cultus Deorum. But I have walked the winding road of Heathenism for a long time, and cannot fully give it up. So even if it means that I, and perhaps the Gods I know so long, so well, must take a place of lesser privileges in the Cultus Deorum, it is still something I am willing to do, and to raise Olympus just a little bit higher than Asgard, if it means something better coming to be. That, then, is a foundation stone of the Cultus Deorum Germanica. And that is how I found the solution to Folkism and Universalism.
Ave Bellona. Ave Hela