My Neighbor’s Altar

I couldn't think of any Heathen Memes, so here is a picture of a Wookie riding a battle squirrel.  (Artist unknown)

I couldn’t think of any Heathen Memes, so here is a picture of a Wookie riding a war squirrel into battle against Nazis.  You’re welcome. (Artist unknown)

I’ve seen a lot of grumbling, and arguing as to what defines “proper” Heathen religious practice and worship, and I’ve found the trend a bit concerning  These are not conversations directed from a Godhi to his Kindred, but rather from a random person making random observation about how the body of Heathen worshipers should behave within their sacred spaces.  These, when constructive, are a good thing; I love seeing involved and well constructed discussion!  Often times, they are considerably less helpful, and come down to people weighing in on what makes “proper” Heathen practice.  Putting aside that this discussion point is pretty worthless unless we are looking to develop a centralized authority for our religion, I always walk away with one question…

Why is this such an important point?

Let us say you have a friend at the hospital, and that you visit them every day.  Let us say that, one day, you pop in to find a stranger visiting your friend.  You don’t know this person, and he’s talking to your friend in a completely different language.  You do not understand this language, but your friend seems to.  As far as you can tell, your friend is not bothered by this exchange.   Now, would you be offended at this visitor and his ways, if your friend does not have an issue with it?  I would suspect not.  I regard the religious praxis of others in a similar manor.

If our practice is devotional, we have no room to care about what is performed at our neighbor’s altar.  There is no reason to take time out of our day to give massive concern to the worship methods of another, when I should be worried about how I conduct myself.  My neighbor’s methods will either draw him ire or (most likely in my opinion) apathy if they are truly wrong; and if they are right I have nothing to concern myself with.  My gods are strong, wise, and as close to infinite as I can perceive. If I believe this, I believe in beings that can handle their worshipers  themselves.

I hear and see a lot of bemoaning and antipathy towards “Wiccatru” and “Pan-Pagan” perspective.  Why?  I respect my Gods, and wish others to respect them in turn.  I have a general feeling that someone coming up to any of these Gods and, well, treating them like Gods is a good thing!  For those who wish to see the cultus of our faith(s) be reborn and enter a true revival, other people considering our deities is exclusively a good thing.  These practices are ones we might not agree with, but these are still people we should be welcoming as long as our worship is sincere and truly devotional.

To those who still malign the welcoming of the eclectic perspective, I have a question for you: Who would you rather see provide information to non-Heathens who worship Heathen Gods….an actual Heathen/Asatruar/Norse Polythiest, or a book by Llewellyn publications?  Norse Magic by D.J. Conway anyone?   Oh, I know!  Let’s give them copies of one of the books by Silver Ravenwolf that calls the entirety of Asatru a denomination of Wicca!  Any takers?  That’s what I thought.

We talk about non-Heathen, Neo-Pagan perspectives as if they are forged by hubris and misinformation, but in truth our own pride and ignorance can be equally damaging.  Why are we pushing people away who have interest in the Odin, Thor, and the sagas in which they have been recorded?  Indeed, we have every reason to bring them in closer.  We are a small faith, and every issue we collectively turn our attention to must be vital and filled with import.  “Those people are worshipping Thor simply as a God of thunder, and not as the protector of Midgard” doesn’t really come across as vital, considering what else is on our agenda.  At the very least, it’s not my place to have an issue; it’s Thor’s.  At worst, they’re showing him veneration and praise.  At best, we have a place to start dialogue and help the person in question and give them a launch pad to a better understanding.

What I find most troubling is that, when the subject of racists within Heathenry/Asatru/Norse Polytheism comes up?  There is a sizable number of people claiming we should be educating these people.  Yet, with Wiccans and Neo-Pagan ecclectics, I rarely see the same assertion produced with any conviciotion, if I see it presented at all.  Do you realize how crazy that sounds?

Yes, let’s try and speak logic with the paramilitary neo-nazis, , some of whom completely reject science and have no desire to learn of anything that doesn’t confirm their hateful beliefs.  A Wiccan who has the belief that Zeus and Odin are the same thing?  Oh man, that shit it just not worth addressing! That soft-polytheism shit is the deal breaker…let’s go back to talking with the skinhead that rejects US currency, and thinks the holocaust was faked!  We’ll get somewhere with that guy!

I’m not opposed to trying to educate racists, because I most certainly do want to see that perspective addressed.  It is, however, an exclusively uphill battle and not one which is known for huge leaps of progress.  Dealing with the more eclectic pan-Pagan elements is just as important and is much more likely to yield reasonable discourse.  At the very least, it’s going to be a more positive result than conversations with people who have low self control, large stockpiles of firearms, and a superficial grasp on the laws surrounding “stand-your-ground” protections.

There are many arguments for trying to get along and even embrace the various polytheistic paths that might be lighting candles and putting out offering for the Norse Gods.  We don’t have to mimic or like their devotional methodology.  At the end of they day though, their praxis isn’t for us.  It’s for our Gods.  I don’t really see an argument in the lore that favors having conflict over ideological differences, nor do we have a truly definitive grasp on the praxis of our ancestors.

Let us be the Heathen faith we wish to see, and the rest will take care of itself.

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4 thoughts on “My Neighbor’s Altar

  1. As a Heathapagan, I heartily agree with this. When Loki first showed up in my life, I was under the (mistaken) impression that He wanted me to get all Heathen, but “No, not actually,” He said. He is a liminal God, and He means for me to straddle the line between Pagan and Heathen, not all one, nor all the other either. So my mixed practice has nothing to do with being set in my previous ways or with intellectual laziness, it has to do with experiencing Loki’s liminality in the way that He has asked me to do it. That said, I actually do read quite a lot of historical research, for a couple reasons – one being very practical – the ancestors had more experience in things like seidhr and if you want do it right, you do it like them – and the other reason is because often I find that They do really like some of the old ways. The words, acts, and offerings that our ancestors gave them have the power of many generations behind them, and its a healing thing to renew our connections with Them in that manner. All of that said, sometimes it’s better to let people work with Gods and come to those conclusions on their own.

  2. I actually get criticism from a lot of heathens, generally over the fact that my worship is Anglo-Saxon and not Norse, when they see Norse as the “true” heathenry, or because I think there were some shared Norse-Scottish beliefs along with the intermarriage, but ZOMG Scots are Celts, you wanna hang with the “Druids” you go over there.

    • I’m find myself increasingly as odds with the reasons that most people use the lore. A vast majority of the Norse-spectrum perspectives are populated by those who left Christianity. One of the reasons most commonly cited is how some Christians use the bible only to confirm their biases.

      Than they convert…and do the same thing with the various sources of Norse lore and it baffles me. It’s not like we have anything approaching a perfectly understand of the material in question, much less a mandate for a solo scriptura approach.

      Anglo-Saxon culture and language have had demonstrative impact on Heathenry, but try telling that to some people and…ugh

  3. Doug Freyburger says:

    On honoring other pantheons – On the one hand we need to be careful. The last time that was tried it introduced a fatal virus that killed the patient and the conversion era ran to completion. On the other hand the Aesir are not jealous god(desse)s so as long as there is no exclusivity clause on their end and no long standing feud I’m okay with it. I think nothing of attending a Hellenic or Wiccan ceremony.

    On lore – Thor did not actually go fishing. It’s okay to analyze the bleep out of story lines and linguistic trivia but it should never be allowed to move towards literalism. Consider the current battle between the anti-Loki folks who rule US Folkish organizations and who are no invading the Troth. They don’t want plays that feature Loki at Troth Moot. In other words they need to delete half the lore to be able to justify their stance. I out lived the racists; I’ll outlive this more subtle phase.

    On honoring the Aesir in other ceremonial styles – I spent a long time asking Thor if he was okay with Norse Wiccan ceremonial styles. It took a ton of bugging before he shrugged and said he likes followers. My UPG. If you want your own UPG you go bug Thor until he answers you on the topic, please. Thor didn’t say I was supposed to push the answer on anyone else but me.

    The other side of the ceremonial style – Some eclectic and Wiccan ask like the Borg of pagan faiths. I have no interest in treating every pantheon as one pantheon. There is strength in unity, okay. There is also strength in diversity. To me it’s one thing to honor Thor in the Wiccan style, but it is very much another thing to call Thor just another name for the one male deity. Folks get to do that and I get to call it creepy and disrespectful of Thor. They in turn get to call my practices however they want to. Shrug.

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