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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Heathenry

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Title: Loki's Wager (Vikingverse Book Two)

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Heathen Ancestral Wisdom to Cope With Quarantine

From mundane to woo, here’s some simple advice on what to do.

#1: Honor Your Ancestors

We’re all here because our ancestors pulled through much worse times than this.Their strength, pragmatism and a good deal of mystical knowledge are all still available to us. At this time, it’s a good idea to thank them and ask for their support. Honoring the ancestors is a core part of many polytheist paths, but it may be new to you. It doesn’t take much: raise a glass to them, say a prayer, talk to an old family photo. Keep them in your thoughts. b2ap3_thumbnail_othala_20200318-204744_1.jpg

The rune Othala (pictured at left) can really help with this,
through meditation or burning a candle inscribed with it, dedicated to the ancestors. Family is important right now. Even if you haven’t always seen eye to eye, rise above it: these aren’t ordinary times, and you need each other, but don’t tolerate—or inadvertently cause— abuse. Check in with your relatives, especially more vulnerable older folk you may not have seen for awhile. It’s also a good time to sit down and listen to those oft-ignored elders, learning the family stories, and hearing how they learned to cope.

Do this now, because you may not get another chance. While this is always true, current events just underscore this.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

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For some reason, when you work alongside certain deities, outside folks loooooove to come and chat you up about Them. Only, rather than asking questions out of genuine desire to learn, more often than not, it seems to turn into a smug confessional. I’ve even gotten the literal elbow poke to the ribs from folks who’ve never met a Norse God. Wink, wink. Toothy grin. “You know what he’s like right, riiiight?”

It really makes me feel like I’m talking about Geralt of Rivia.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Hospitality

A question that comes up periodically in the heathen community is how to apply the virtue of hospitality in the modern world. Many heathens try too hard to make the square peg of ancient stories about kings fit into the round hole of an average modern city dweller's life.

The modern list of religious virtues called the Nine Noble Virtues that some heathen groups preach dates to the 1970s, but was based on historical literature. This literature was largely stories of interest to the patrons of poets, and those patrons were kings. In attempting to live how these stories say is an honorable way to live, many heathens are unintentionally trying to replicate a lifestyle that only applied to those at the very top of the social hierarchy in historical heathen times.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru FAQ: Beards

Recently, a heathen US soldier was granted permission to wear a religious beard. This has sparked controversy in the heathen community.

The religious beard exemption in the US army was created for the benefit of Sikhs. Many Asatruars and other heathens think it's wrong for heathens to use this exemption because heathens don't have the kind of religion in which our gods require all their followers to follow commandments in order to achieve a proper afterlife. (In heathen lore, there is only one way into Valhalla, and that is to die in battle. Most of us are going to Hel. And that is not a bad place.) Asatru has no central authority, and so different groups and individuals vary in their practices. One group may wear beards while another group does not. Individuals may be given personal taboos not practiced by the rest of their community. The soldier in question is a member of Norskk, which is an organization within the Forn Sidr sect of heathenry, not Asatru. However, many Asatruars are asking in heathen forums whether they can also get religious beard exemptions, so I am attempting to address that here.

As it happens, I've been working on a new edition of my book Asatru For Beginners, in which I am rewriting a lot of the sections dealing with folkways such as wearing beards to account for the rise of modernism in the generation which passed since I first wrote my book in 2001. During the early part of the revival of heathenry, it was the heathen's task to reconstruct what was, to determine what the actual practices of ancient heathens were, based on "the lore" (written literature), archeology, surviving folk practices, etc. Many heathens went so far as to practice a living-history lifestyle. Some still do, but in recent years modernists have arisen whose task as a heathen is to fit what we already know of heathenry into modern life.

Wearing religious beards, clothing, weapons, and so forth are part of what we call the folkway. The folkway is a way of life based not on holy scriptures but on how our ancestors lived, and the folkway is just as important to traditionalist Asatruars as is the worship of our gods. The folkway is a combination of traditional practices that survived Christianity and were passed down continuously, such as maypole dancing, plus revived practices based on pre-Christian cultures, such as wearing beards. Lore-based folkways were reconstructed as part of the early reconstruction of Asatru. Different sects of heathenry were based on different cultures and time periods, so, the folkways of an Asatruar are different from the folkways of a Theodsman. Different groups within Asatru developed different folkways from each other. In the 20th century, most American Asatruars practiced both the religion and some sort of folkway. Recently, modernist sects have arisen which practice the religion without the folkway.

Because the question of beards in the military is being framed as a question of how similar Asatruars are to Sikhs, let's talk about that. Sikhs grew from Indo-European roots, as did Asatruars. If one goes back far enough into history, there are some shared cultural tropes. Adult male Sikhs wear blades as part of their Sikh ways. Asatruars (regardless of gender) who practice the folkway wear weapons, typically blade weapons but other types are acceptable, to symbolize their free status in the community.

Another part of the folkway which is ancient and similar to Sikh practice is the prohibition against cutting the hair.  Sikhs of both genders do not cut their hair, and male Sikhs wear religious beards. In some traditionalist sects of Asatru, men wear religious beards, and women do not cut their hair. Unlike the Sikhs, in Asatru this is not a religious dictate in that it is not required to achieve a proper afterlife, because Asatru does not have that kind of religious dictate (the word of Odin in the Havamal is advice to humanity, not commandments.) Rather, in Asatru beards are a cultural tradition. While traditionalists might or might not practice that part of the folkway, modernists don't practice any part of the folkway.

There are exceptions to the no-cutting rule even among the most traditional groups in Asatru. Women can remove their facial hair and body hair. Professional warriors, including military, police, mercenaries, etc. retain warriors’ honor even if they cut their hair and shave their beards. The reason for this exception is because of Germanic mercenaries who served the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Germanic tribesmen who served Rome or Byzantium conformed to the standards of Roman soldiers and shaved their beards. They were considered to retain warrior's honor. The Germanic mercenaries had great admiration for the Roman Janissaries. Janissaries were slaves but had warriors’ honor. So there are both practical (they shaved their own beards) and theoretical (they counted warrior slaves as warriors rather than slaves) historical precedent for warriors shaving beards. Even in very traditionalist Asatru sects warriors are allowed to shave their beards. The soldier in question is a member of a heathen sect that looks to Norse sources only, not to Germanic sources, so his group does not acknowledge that exception.

The wearing of weapons, uncut hair, and religious beards in traditionalist Asatru all signify free status. Like most other ancient societies, the ancient heathens had a slave class. Short hair was a social signal of being a thrall or prostitute (this is the reason the cutting of Sif's hair in the lore story was told as a wrong that had to be made right); an iron collar signified the same. In modern society, slavery is illegal, and no one is actually a thrall, even among the Theodish where that word is used for a novice. However, there are people even in modern society who do not have free status. Prisoners of various kinds, including criminals in prison, prisoners of war, and the involuntarily hospitalized, are not required by religious obligations to wear weapons or religious beards or to refrain from cutting or shaving the hair, if they are required to be weaponless or beardless by those in power over them. Even among the most traditionalist, those who do not have free status are neither required nor entitled to have the markers of free status. This is not relevant to the case of the soldier, but has come up before when heathen prisoners request a religious accommodation to wear a beard.

Modernist sects do not practice the folkway, and some traditionalist sects do not practice this part of the folkway either. For those who do, wearing religious hair and beards is just as important as it is for members of other religions who wear religious hair and beards for cultural reasons. The majority of heathens would not say a soldier must have a beard, but that doesn't matter for purposes of determining if the soldier in question has a sincerely held belief, which is the standard that employers in the US adhere to for determining religious exemptions. There is no Asa-Pope, there is no one heathen organization that determines how all heathens must live, and there is not majority rule either. Each Asatru organization, kindred, or individual determines for themselves whether to adopt folkways and if so, which ones.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Revising My Successful Book

I'm nervous about messing with success. Nonetheless, it's time for a new edition of Asatru For Beginners. Modernism has arisen in Asatru since I wrote my book, and a beginner's book needs to describe that. Also, on some topics in heathenry, we know more than we did around the turn of the millenium. I'm tempted to subtitle the new edition, "New and improved! Now with more gods!" 

One thing that won't be changing in my book: in my intro, I mention that my father was Native American. That information is right up front for three reasons. 1. to tell racists that my book isn't for them, unless they stop being racists. 2. To tell other mixed-race people like me that if they are called to this path, that is OK. There are a lot of mixed-race people in American Asatru, reflecting the wider American society of which we are a part. 3. Because my father's advice, "listen to the wind, listen to the corn, listen to your heart" was one of the major spiritual influences on my life which started me down the path that led to Asatru. 

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  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Awesome!
Seidhr: Real Life Examples of Norse Oracular Trance Magic

There are many ways of performing seidhr-- Norse trance magic, mediumship and fate weaving. Here are two real-life examples of the results, drawn from several sessions I witnessed or participated in, illustrating the pitfalls, challenges, divine connection and deep lessons that come with this amazing work.

Seidhr For the Hel of It

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