• Jess

Godless Heathen? I Don't Think So

Updated: May 13

As you may have noticed, I've been exploring new terrain in my spiritual practice. Specifically, the folklore, mythology and religious practices of the Northern European gods. It began last year with my study of the Elder Futhark runes and has deepened into study of the Aesir and the Vanir, how to build relationship with land and house spirits and different methods of journeying to the Nine Realms which dance around Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

In the coming months, I'll be sharing more about my path. I continue to practice my path of Irish Paganism and I'm exploring weaving Norse Paganism into my practice. If you have questions you'd like me to answer or specific topics which you'd like me to cover, send an email my way: jess@soulfiresessions.ca.

Before we go much further, I want to clarify something. There are white supremacists who have co-opted Heathen symbols such as the runes, the Valknut, Mjollnir (Thor's hammer) or Yggdrasil (the Norse Tree of Life). The same thing has happened to the Christian cross-- it's been co-opted by the KKK, and yet, I'd venture to say that if most people were to see someone wearing a cross, they wouldn't automatically assume that person is bigoted and dangerous.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre is a good resource to check out to get an understanding of which symbols to pay attention to. Just because you see someone wearing runes or a mjollnir doesn't mean that they are racist. Declaration 17 is a declaration put together by Heathens and signed by many community leaders, taking a stand against hate and bigotry in the Heathen community.

It's important to know that nothing in the lore or ancient practices of Norse Paganism says anything about who is allowed to worship the gods, nor is there anything which promotes the idea that race has anything to do with worshiping the gods. There are Heathen organizations such as The Troth and Heathens Against Hate which are doing work to combat white supremacy in our religious communities and in our cities and towns.

Heathenry, also called Norse Paganism or Asatru, feels very right to me with its centering of ancestor reverence, simple home and community based rituals and relationships with the chaotic forces of nature, the Norns (the weavers of our fate) and respect for the spirits we share our life with, namely the landvaettir (land spirits) and the hausvaettir (house spirits). Though I've been walking a Pagan path for many years, Heathenry is quite different than the practices I started with all those years ago.

Practitioners jokingly refer to it as "the religion with homework" and while it may be said lightly, it's absolutely true. To develop a better understanding of how this religion was practiced originally, we rely on the lore ( the sagas, the Poetic and Prose eddas) as well as historical and archaelogical findings and second person accounts of those who interacted with the Vikings.

I've been incredibly blessed to be welcomed into Heathen community by folks who are kind, knowledgeable and generous. In Heathenry, it's said that we are our deeds. Not our beliefs, but our deeds. Our deeds are meant to display hospitality, care for and connect to community, generosity, aid to the vulnerable, respect for the Earth, courage and integrity, along with a deep commitment to justice.

In the Havamal ("Sayings of the High One", who we understand to be Odin), we see a strong call to action:

hvars þú böl kannt kveðu þat bölvi at ok gefat þínum fjándum frið “When you see misdeeds, speak out against them, and give your enemies no frið” Hávamál 127

"Frith involves owning our responsibility to others: those for whom we are directly responsible, and those in our communities with whom we build our worth... Frith is a part of that statement, for it requires active and mindful thought about those closest to us. It is reflected in our actions. Frith is part of ensuring the welfare of the real-world associations that we have consciously constructed or joined and that we maintain accountability for" (Heather O' Brien).

Frith could best be described as peace, goodwill and cooperation with the people in our community. As Heathens, we're explicitly told that we cannot remain silent or passive in the face of injustice or that which disrupts peace. I'm a firm believer that magick is and always has been political and that if we're going to devote our energy to causing change to improve our lives, we need to devote just as much energy to improving the lives of others. What do you think about the role of activism in magick?

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