Heathen Ethics, Part 9: Accountability

Talking about how things went down at HUAR, as well as how things are going forward with HfSJ, made me reflective about something that’s a cornerstone of Heathen ethics, but rarely gets brought up as such.   You see, there are many important keystones in Heathen ethics, and many of us have a great degree of familiarity with a vast assortment of them; we know about how upholding your word is important, how one needs to have a strong understanding of honor, “we are our deeds”, and so forth.

Critical to these, however, is accountability; the ability to be responsible to and for the consequences of your actions.

That it’s rarely talked about in Heathen circles is rather bizarre, because it ends up being the philosophical cement that holds many of our other ethical bricks together.  It’s within the sentiment behind the “Cattle Die, Kinsmen Die” stanza, because how well can our triumphs be remember after our death if we couldn’t also take responsibility for our mistakes in life?  It drips from the “Lay of Loddfafnir”*, for every piece of advice that directly speaks to consequence is indirectly speaking about accountability as well.  It can be found in the margins of the Nine Noble Virtues (both versions), the Nine Charges, the Six Fold Goal, and in the Ten Guiding Tempers that I wrote myself.

Of course, one way to not need to have to account for yourself is to not be a jackass in the first place.

Of course, one way to not need to have to account for yourself is to not be a jackass in the first place.

Did I intend it to be there?  Honestly, no…but that’s sort of a demonstration of how fundamental it is; an ethical perspective which does not, by accident or design, consider accounting for one’s self simply cannot function.  At such a point, it can no longer even be considered ethics; it’s just long-winded braggadocio with a pretension towards moralizing.

Now, accountability is one of those things that’s pretty easy to explain, but understanding it isn’t the problem or how it’s determined; it’s having the strength of character to act upon it that’s key.  In many ways it is the shadow that is cast by the light of honor, and it is just as ineffable as it’s counterpart.  Perhaps more so: while it can be hard to figure out the right action is in a given situation, figuring out how to repair things after you’ve already messed up can feel absolutely impossible.

Surprisingly, accountability can be hard for us, as Heathens, to deal with.  While we have strong, ethical obligations in matters regarding honor and frith, we also regard the recognition of an individual and their accomplishments as a healthy thing.  Additionally, many of us have an excessive amount of Christian baggage, which can lead to some very dour ideas about how shame interacts with consequence.  All of this is to the side of simple lapses in judgement, and incorrect assumptions about who or what is to blame.

Regardless of what gets in the way, however, there are times where the onus will be on us to make amends for the actions we have taken.  It’s about as certain as death and taxes.

Accountability is, by it’s nature, a personal thing, and how each person goes about it needs to be something they determine for themselves.  The only thing that I will say I feel is ironclad, from a Heathen perspective, is that accountability cannot be practiced exclusively towards other Heathens.  If one gives only Heathens the respect afforded by accountability, then we are not truly accounting for ourselves; we are accounting for the perceptions of others and making sure our little club stays well attended to.  It becomes a situation devoid of meaningful morality, turning instead into a game of perception and public relations.

That’s not laying the foundation for good ethics, and it’s certain not honorable.

Again, this is a personal thing; it is up to each individual person, Heathen or otherwise, to decide how they account for themselves in social situations.**


*Stanzas 111 to 137 of the Havamal.
**I’m intending to revisit this topic again later; for the moment, I’m putting this out there in the hope of encouraging discussion.

Heathens for Social Justice

HfSJAs some of you may or may not know, I used to be an administrator over at Heathens United Against Racism.  I am no longer there, because the powers that remain there have decided to stop practicing what they preach.

On the fan page, they’re terming it a “internal restructuring“.  This is an understatement akin to calling a raging inferno a “sudden reaction to molecular agitation”.

You all know me; I’m not prone to name calling, but I don’t shy away from demanding accountability either.  On that note, the people who are currently running HUAR are people who are refusing any sort of meaningful accountability or transparency when it comes to their actions.  Not to the bylaws they helped write and voted in.  Not to the communities that they claimed to care about.  Not to the religion that claim to practice.  Nothing.

What you, the reader, do with my opinion regarding HUAR is completely up to you.  For those curious?  It is my strong and firm suggestion that anyone who believes in social justice in any meaningful way, shape, or form shoukd have nothing to do with HUAR whatsoever.  They’re not interested in fighting the good fight; they just interested in talking about how racists are bad, without actually having to involve themselves in any meaningful way.

HUAR has gone from being a force trying to make positive, social change within the broader Heathen community as well as the world at large…to a social club for people who wish to voice toothless complaints about bigotry.

The truth is they aren’t what they say they are.  Not anymore, at least.  I was the only cisgendered, heterosexual, white male removed from my position.  Of the nine people kicked out, eight of them were either apart of the GLBTQ+ community, ethnically non-white, or both.  Make of that what you will…but I will tell you that I find it incredibly telling of HUAR’s current motivations and priorities.

If that sounds like something you want to deal with?  More power to you.  However, it’s important that everyone gets a fully informed perspective about the organizations they’re looking to align themselves with…and you’re not going to get an honest discussion about HUAR from the people who currently run it*.

The administrators kicked to the curb over this ordeal have started new projects, to pick up and continue to carry the torch that HUAR once held.  Loosing HUAR hasn’t destroyed us; it is out belief that the lack of us has destroyed HUAR.  In either case, look us up under “Heathens for Social Justice” and “The Yggdrasil Assembly“.

In either case, that’s it for HUAR.  Feel free to ask any (constructive) questions below that you may have regarding the matter; I’ll answer anything asked to the best of my ability.


*But don’t take my word for it!  If you want to know why HUAR does not deserve your trust, look to documentation that showcases the words of the current administration for yourself!

Semi-Public Conversations: The Bar Exam

I find myself at a familiar bar.  If the bar has a name, I don’t particularly need to know it.  The address and part of town the bar is in are, similarly, inconsequential.  All I know is I’m not drinking anything with a kick; I don’t avoid alcohol all together, but it doesn’t always agree with me…so I usually don’t drink unless it is a special occasion.

Wait, is this a special occasion?  I doubt it somehow.

Well, anything is a special occasion if you want it to be.” he says, reading my mind as he hops up onto the stool beside me.  “Haven’t seen you here for a while.

“I would think you haven’t seen me much of anywhere at all.” I reply, somewhat gloomily, into my coffee.  Coffee, as a term, could be used loosely in this instance; the liquid in my cup was probably more milk than coffee.

Feh,” he says dismissively, with a gesture to match, “You don’t need to see me for me to see you.  That’s not particularly complicated and you know better…so why submit to guilt that you don’t need?

“Does anyone need guilt?”

He shrugs, “I’m not sure Catholics would be able to operate without it.”  A grin crosses his face as the words escape his lips.  He look at me as he takes a sip from a wine glass filled with an amber color liquid.

“With or without the ‘U’?” I ask with a smirk that I don’t quite feel, but I can’t quite stop.

Both!” he says, and the chuckle bleeds into his words a bit.

“So you’re trying to tell me that my lack of spirituality isn’t a problem?”

When did I say that?  Of course it’s a problem!” he retorts, his tone now a bit more acidic, “Shame and guilt aren’t going to get a lick of anything done however.  Pondering is all well and good, but an excess is just putting a boat on dry land and wondering why you aren’t getting anywhere.” A hand that edges between gentle and firm slaps the back of my head.  “You know that…but you aren’t acting on it.  That is a problem.

I pause.  “So you aren’t offended?”

A bit, just not by any ‘attendance’ issues.”  he says, in a tone that suggests irritation, but doesn’t quite commit.

“Okay, than by what?”

He turns on his stool after setting the cup down.  The look is firm, though not unkind.  “You’re back tracking.  You’re writing less.  Your praying less.  You center is, ironically, anywhere but you actual center.  You can do better than this…and you’re not.  Ennui isn’t the problem…it’s when you roll over to it and accept it.  That is…that’s offensive.  That’s distasteful.” he faces forward.  “Pray or do not pray…your heart and soul cast that nature of your devotion even when your thoughts do not.  It bothers you far more when you fail; when you do nothing about that is when it begins to bother me.

“Seems like an easy system to abuse.” I quip.  He gives me a look.

Try it.” he replies, in an extremely even tone.

I clear my throat a bit.  “I’m not intending to…I just.” I pause, collecting my words.  He sips at the mead absently.  The sentiment is hard to even put to thought, much less to language.

This…is still new territory to you.  I get that.  You’re learning how to sort your thoughts, your heart, and your soul in entirely new directions.  Your entire being, for that matter.  The discoveries aren’t exclusively spiritual; they’re coming from every corner of your identity.” he swirls the drink in its glass absently as he speaks. “There is nothing wrong with that.  Any of that.  There isn’t even anything truly wrong with being unable to understand it all of the time…especially at this point.  However…what is wrong is being satisfied with how unsatisfied you feel.

I nod, absently.  I sip my coffee, and then look at the ceiling.  “It’s just hard balancing out everything…coming to a proper understanding of things…”

He shrugs.  “Let me help with that.” he says, casually, “What are the issues?

“Well, where does working for a better more inclusive Heathenry stop being spiritual and start being selfish?”

He looks at me.  “When you start doing it for yourself and your own reputation you idiot.

I pause.  “That was a dumb question.”, I concede.

It won’t make my top ten, but it’s closer than you’d probably be happy with” he says with a thin smile.

“Okay…what happens if I write too much about subjects of social justice?”

He sighs.  “Why on Earth are you pretending you’d give a shit about any of their stupid opinions…anyone who would actually be bothered by that isn’t someone you’re apt to care about.”

I pause again.  “Top ten?”

His expression is blank, but his eyes are dancing at some private joke. “Stop taking yourself so damn seriously…it’s preventing you from doing anything worth being serious about.

I nod to myself.  It’s the best advice I’ve gotten in quite a while, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at that.

He finishes the glass and stands up to leave. “I’ve got work to do…and so do you.” he says simply.

I pause.  “Then…where are you going?” I ask.

He turns around to look back at me.  My smile is still rough around the edges, but it’s not so forced as it was before.  He grins. “See…now was that so difficult to grasp?”

Why I Am Not an Heathen (Though I Kind of Wish That I Could Be)

Harrison K. Hall:

Truth be told, I feel quite the same way about the Heathen spectrum of faiths as the author does…and I have for some time. Interested to see where Part 2 goes.

Originally posted on Pagan Church Lady:

This (long) post has been a long time coming.  I’ve referenced my feelings about personal background and development in some other articles and have been spending a lot of time trying to explore myself in relation to the modern Pagan movement and Heathenry.  Although the title was inspired by Bertrand Russel’s piece “Why I am Not A Christian” I won’t, as he does, seek to deconstruct the idea of a particular deity.  I will, as he does, explain why the values expressed in the religion in question do not fit mine, and why that leaves me in a difficult place.

Let me begin by explaining that I’ve had a love for the Aesir and Vanir since childhood.  I first read of them in children’s fiction when I was four or five and rapidly advanced to reading more adult storybooks about them.  Later on I discovered source material like the Eddas…

View original 3,296 more words

I have a face, and Vice.com has an article.

I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is the bigger mess.

Self deprecating humor aside, a Vlog has been something I’ve want to do for quite some time.  I didn’t have some of the right equipment and software however, and my real life has been busy as all get out….so it hadn’t been a high priority for quite some time.

Then Vice.com published an article so hideously poor in quality, that all denominations seem to be in agreement of how absolutely unprofessional the piece is.  The author, Rick Paulus*, has apparently made some really douchey tweets in response to the suggestion that maybe he should have a vague clue about a topic before writing an article about it**.

In short, the whole thing is just a wreck.

The problem is that some of this stuff has happened so fast and so quickly, it may be hard to decipher what’s going on.  So, here is a 15 minute overview that should cover the basics.  I don’t know how often I’ll use this, but it’s certainly possible that it’ll be easier to find time to record video and crop off the garbage then it is for me to sit down and write when my work schedule is what it is.


*He has a twitter…but I don’t want to give him the traffic.  You can Google him if you really want, but you’re not missing much.
**Mr. Paulus is apparently not a regular contributor to Vice.com and is a freelance writer.  Let me say that this makes it difficult to criticize him to a degree…because I’ve done freelance writing and it’s a freaking miserable job.  It sucks, and I’m usually VERY apt to take the author’s side in any sort of matter, because it’s a rough and thankless sort of gig.  So imagine how bad the quality has to be to say that I find it appalling both as a writer and as a Heathen….then realize it’s even worse than that.

White Pride, White Shame

TMIMITW - Click Bait
TMIMITW - Click Bait

This one is going to be a serious one; buckle up. (I’ll try to be funnier next time)

There is a talking point that says being Anti-Racist is just a phrase to indicate that someone is, actually, Anti-White.  The conceit hidden within that statement is that White Pride must obviously be this super healthy thing to have.  It’s time we take this conceit head on, because there is a lot wrong with White Pride and how it functions in today’s society.  Usually, this is where someone opens up the connections with the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and other White Supremacists groups.  They talk about the evil, violence, and terrorism these groups have committed (and continue to commit) against others, and how these are bad things.  They are of course, bad things, but that’s pretty well trodden ground; at this point, you’re either on board with how history has recorded these groups or you have some pet conspiracy theory in order to explain why these groups are just hateful sacks of malevolence.

Let us, however, take up the road less traveled in regards to this dialogue.  When it comes to the damage that White Pride has done to other cultures and races, opinions are already firmly entrenched.  How many have asked truly hard pressing questions about how good White Pride is for White People themselves?  I have seen very few good, hard, looks at this central conceit, divorced from the question of whom it hurts within other communities.  Some will address it, but usually as an afterthought or a post script to some greater issue.

Let’s take a moment to change that, shall we?  I think there are some very troubling thoughts with White Pride, with extremely negative implications for the people upholding the belief themselves, so it is high time we give this issue some air.  After all, Heathenry has no shortage of adherents who are proud of their “White Heritage”, and will loudly and angrily contest being any other way in regards to the topic.   This is where we have to dig a bit because, if you are proud of your “White Heritage”, I have to point out that you are wearing a form of shame on your sleeve.

There is no Whiteania, Whiteany, or Whiteland…and therein lies the problem.  So many people commit to apologia over “being proud of their ancestry”, yet they perch that precarious pride under a homogenous mass that cares nothing for the infinite diversity in infinite combinations of European ancestry that they so lauded mere moments before.

It doesn’t work; it is a flawed perspective from it’s very core.

European pride is a phrase that is…well, it is better….but it still suffers from that same homogenization of the infinitely separate.  It also makes no damn sense.  When France does something awesome, you can better be sure that Britain, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Sweden…probably don’t give much of a damn.  The favor, I suspect, is returned.  Europe, despite what some modern day pride-mongers would like to assert, is not “as One”.  It has never been one!  There have been hundreds of years of wars dotting every decade of European history, except those periods of time where they needed to stop killing each other so they could get back to making food and babies before they starved and depopulated themselves into oblivion.

For the sake of the Gods it’s not even one in a geographical sense!  The British Isles, as the name suggests, are islands.  You know, those things which are separate land masses by definition?  Sarcasm aside, it’s just another reason that this entire line of thinking is completely without substance or structure; anyone who wants to tell you that European pride is a thing is either trying to sell you something or has already been sold.

I am against White Pride, and I am thoroughly Anti-White…because I love my ancestors.  I have no hatred for my origins.  Quote the opposite, honestly.  I love my German heritage, and I love my Polish heritage, and I love my British Isles heritage…and whatever has been missed by record keepers?  I love that too.  I don’t love them because they are white, but because they are legitimately amazing irregardless of some superficial features.  I love my grandfather, the craftsmen and World War II veteran.   I love my grandmother who was a nurse, and her mother before her that taught loving kindness and acceptance even in the lowest lows of the depression.  I love my Great-Grandfather Sylvester, and my Great-Granduncle Ambrose…either/both of whom may have been spiritual workers themselves.  I love them, and all that came before them…even though I might not know the names or the deeds.

They aren’t worthy of that adoration because they’re white…and every time someone talks about being “proud of their White Ancestors”, they are putting a toxic and acidic graffiti on their heritage.  Suddenly the details that make our fore-bearers great are white washed (pun intended) into a hazy stew of bland uniformity.

Annoy A Liberal

You can’t possibly be annoying me enough with this nonsense to cover for the amount of damage you have to do to your own self esteem…

As I’ve been pondering this, I’ve been thinking of stories of my friends who talked about their European Grandfathers and Grandmothers….who tried not to speak their native languages, and tried not to teach the next generation as much about the land they were born in.  Why?  It, usually, is the same reason; cultural pressures to fit in with the dominant, American, culture.  White culture.  How many myths, practices, and traditions were sandblasted into dust by this “Whiteness”?   How many linguistic idiosyncrasies, ancestral triumphs, and familial holidays were lost forever because of “Whiteness”?  Because of this uniforming beast which demanded so much and gave nothing in return.

Too many.  I am not proud of that monster, and I will not celebrate my honored dead in it’s name.

Folkists are gonna read this and be pissed; good.  Think about what makes you angry.  Ask yourselves some damn hard questions, because I want you to explain to yourself how you can be proud of your ancestors for the color of their skin before you are proud of them as people.  There is little good that can be said for your self-esteem and self-worth when Whiteness is the preface to all other things, indicating that your identity is based on nothing you could have controlled, nothing you’ve ever done, and nothing that has any true meaning in any objective sense.

There are plenty of external racist connections of course; I have YET to see a group that loudly “celebrates” White Pride who also doesn’t engage in copious amounts of “criticism” in regards to People of Color.  You see, all that “I’m not a racist” talk is just bullshit the moment you have to shove that damnable “but” in as part of the preface.  It is never a disclaimer, but an alibi…one only accepted by others who deal in the same illogical refuse.  However…before we get into how nasty, vile, and hateful all of that stuff is, you need to realized that you are being vile and hateful against yourself first and foremost.  Your ancestry should matter to you regardless of the pigmentation of it’s members.

If anything I’ve said here bothers you…then you’ve only shown your own doubts.  No one who truly believes the philosophy is going to be shaken by my words here; they have found their truth and they are riding it as we speak.  If you are angry, however, it can only be because I’ve shaken your resolve some how.

Why do you think that is?