Practically Tru: Heathen Etchings on Empty Brass
Stories, questions, and musings about Asatru, and one man's effort to see the modern world through an old lens.
Heathenry in Afghanistan
I arrived in Afghanistan in the last week of August, just as many other members of the American armed forces do- a long flight, a refueling stop, a processing station in the former Soviet bloc, and then to one of the main airbases from which we are all parsed out to our respective assignments. I ended up in the city of Kabul, with the mountains a short trip from the city and a lot of unpleasant flatlands in every direction.
Before I left for Afghanistan, I knew that I would want to connect with the pagan/heathen minority when I arrived- as I have said, I am not much for ceremony and ritual, but it is good to have someone to talk to when you're staring down the barrel of several months in a foreign land. I began by reaching out to a great organization called Open Halls Project, a Facebook group owned and operated by Josh and Cat Heath with the goal of supporting heathens in the military. The result was connection with one heathen on the exact camp I was going to- a relatively unlikely event given the size of our faith and the number of possible camps across Afghanistan.
By pure serendipity, I ran across another heathen assigned to the same location, who introduced me to a third. For the first few weeks, even with our intense work schedules and commitments to the lives we suspended back home, we managed to cross paths twice and converse.
There is something about being deployed that opens the hearts of warriors to religion. The line, "There are no aetheists in foxholes" have been repeated to the point of cliche, but there is a grain of truth to it- far from the familiar and faced with potential danger, the mystique of religion becomes more real for many. This was demonstrated in the strangest phenomenon- one or another of our tiny group would say "So-and-so is intrigued and wants to see what it's all about", and bring them to the next planned link-up for coffee. Slowly, our group gathered "regulars"- not heathens, but people curious about it.
From my perspective, I wonder if the experience was anticlimatic. We didn't talk about religion all that much. There has been no Oaths or Hails or drinking horns or rune casting... it's Afghanistan. We talked about our days, the challenges ahead. Every so often we would stray philosophical and blend in a reference to this saga or that god, but for the most part it sounded like any other group of friends comiserating about long hours and less than ideal conditions. We answered their questions when they came up, usually caveating that this is a faith without central dogma or scripture so every person would answer their questions a little differently, and fun was had by all.
Bottom Line Thoughts:
* It's surprising where you'll run across our faith, but it is apparently there if you look
* Heathen friends are just like any other group of friends who happen to be the same religion
And now a plug for Open Halls Project: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.532378816776744.134606.288947337786561&type=3#!/groups/210819098975046/
"About" Section from the homepage: The Open Halls Project is designed to provide military Heathens connections to others when the move to a new duty statio...n. We also provide advocacy for military issues that Heathens might encounter. Care package programs are also usually organized on this group and by email.
Photo from Nordic Gods, www.facebook.com; origins unknown
Open Halls Project, www.facebook.com; posted with permission from Josh Heath, 18 September 2013
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