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.