One of the things I suspect that many writers might enjoy (or dread) is watching others react to what you have written and, if you are very lucky, discuss it. For the most part, I’ve been truly fortunate to see some extremely good discussion follow some of the postings of my work.**. My first venture in opening some dialogue on how we handle conversion to Heathenry didn’t disappoint in this respect, but I feel that consideration that it catalyzed produced more questions than answers.
Let me back up a bit.
The conversations around the previous post seemed to gravitate towards two points of view; either people had no idea what I was talking about and felt that I was coming to false conclusions, or they knew exactly what I was talking about and provided a story about their own experiences. At first, I responded to the former group somewhat apologetically thinking that perhaps I had falsely characterized a local issue as something more widely spread. As the number of people with upsetting stories began to grow and follow a very troublesome pattern, however, it quickly became clear that it wasn’t just me. Essentially, they were given a homework assignment that consisted of a rather large amounted of dusty tomes, an apathetic suggestion about developing a thick skin, and than put to the side and largely ignored.
Where did that come from?
Unified concepts of belief are hard to come by in Heathenry, but we have a handful that everyone seems to agree upon the relevance of. One of those is the social and spiritual responsibilities of proper hospitality. Just about any two Heathens will agree that this concept is incredibly important, and even wildly dissimilar view points tend to have little difficulty in arriving at a similar definition of how to properly practice it.
It was validated countless time throughout sources ranging from the historical, to the anthropological, to the literary. Hospitality was legion, being one of the building blocks of society. It was to be given to kinsmen and strangers alike, and all evidence indicates that this was a philosophy that was in deed as well as in mind. The Havamal, a book of the Poetic Edda that many consider an primer on the ethics of the culture, weighs in on hospitality often and at length. So color me confused as to why a large portion of our number seem to feel justified in being hideously inhospitable to those who seek out our faith and the Gods that attend to it. I see no evidence that the Heathens of pre-conversion Scandinavia and Germania saw themselves as the gatekeepers to Asgard.
There is no reason for this. Our ancestors were proud warriors, unyielding farmers, and devoted kinsmen who stood strong in the face of adversity. They were also engaging merchants, hospitable hosts, and were imbued with a fundamental dignity. While they were unyielding to the winter, to the unknown, and to those who sought to harm them, they were not the uncompromisingly stoic muscle knots that some pretend them to be. When someone asked them about their Gods, they did not put up locks and barricades upon the doors of the Hof.
They were proud of their Gods, and I cannot imagine it was not a pride born of the exclusivity afforded to those who hold a secret. It was the joy of a full harvest, brought in by kinship and aided by divinity and communal wyrd. It was the pride of brothers, sisters, and cousins who could stand against a common foe, and stand as one. It was strength born of commitment to generosity, communal good, and hospitality regardless of what that might have cost the individual in the short term
It was a pride that did had no use for the “pearls before swine” philosophy. The Gods they worship did not need mortal gatekeepers than, and I do not suspect they need them now. These are the methods and techniques born of other faiths, and we do not need them
I do understand where some of this comes from. I understand why we want to be better than the religious people some of us have grown up with and all of us have seen. In reality, we are no better; our mistakes are different, but of equal value. We strove to keep ourselves and our faith free from the damning and demeaning mentalities that come with proselytizing. Perhaps in an effort to avoid some of the mixed blessings and pitfalls of the Wiccan influx of the 1990s and 2000s, some of us tried to firmly and quantifiable define what Heathenry was and was not. Some of us plunged academic depths, in an desperate effort to bring scholarly credibility to our faith. We tried to stay far away from dogmatically interpreting the lore for others, as to avoid the worst of the hive mentality that such practices usher in.
I won’t say that all of it was for naught, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that almost none of that worked out in the way that we had hoped. Where we were trying to foster respect, self-reliance, and unity we have instead harvested scorn, cliquishness, and division. The scholars still laugh at our efforts as they always have, and we have forsaken proselytizing to the unconverted only to take up proselytizing amongst ourselves.
Our deeds, while noble in intent, have not yielded the results we had hoped for. The range of Norse worshiping faiths has suffered for it, and I believe we are all the poorer for it
Now that I have the problems (as I see them) out of the way, let’s take a look at what we can do to fix some of this. In a few days***, I’m going to take a good hard look at where some meaningful changes can start, and what we can do to make them stick.
*I swear to you that the title was not intended as a pun! Had I thought of it before I started writing the post I might have made it that way mind you, but that’s neither here nor there!
**At least, the conversations that I see; if people are calling each other horse fuckers somewhere else, I haven’t caught wind of it.
*** Give or take a few years.
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