Modern Ancestors

Those who I know who walk these paths and ones parallel will receive appropriate treatment.  Fellow Pagans and Polytheists who I have a connection to or respect will have their names recited at rites, offerings poured to them, blessings given to them, aid asked for from them.  They will be introduced to those I meet, and their words relayed, whenever possible and with care and context.  They will be fed and celebrated and remembered, prayed for and reached out to.  Death will not separate us from them.

I have seen the Dead empowered, and it is a wondeful thing.  I don’t know if I will formalize this with an oath, and I don’t know if we can or should create a roll of the dead from among our communities, but this is a commitment I want to make.  If we want our traditions to continue and have meaning, we have to offer their roots.

I will consider making it or similar words an oath, based on the Lady’s guidance and that of the Ancestors.  All of us should be honored after death in a way that strengthens our spirits and helps us find the guidance to the realms we belong in.

Fear of Freyja

Due to recent experiences of mine and other people that I know I’ve been thinking about this. I posted this to my Tumblr and the Facebook group for Freyja devotees (Virtual Sessrumnir).  Let me know your thoughts if you know the Lady (or maybe if you don’t and there’s a reason for that).  Also, as a special tip to Freyjasfolk, check out the amazing devotional necklace for Freyja, named Rose Warrior, that Seb Lokason has made. Get it quick, and if you really like me get it for me, my birthday is coming up 😉

After I was drawn into Her embrace more directly this year and while I was still bright-eyed and bedazzled, I had a series of experiences that felt like the Lady showing me aspects of Herself that I wasn’t so comfortable with. Lady of the Slain, a Goddess of Death, a Goddess who values tears regardless of their reason (though She may weep alongside you), a Goddess of passion and all that entails, even the bloody and terrifying.

As a Goddess of death, she’s helped me to deal with my fear of speaking to the dead and honoring the Ancestors. As a Goddess of conflict she’s taught me to be proud of the battles that I fight every day. As a Goddess of passion, she’s taught me to fan the flames of my own passions and not reject them, even if they make me uncomfortable (though I suspect I’m a work in progress there – it’s those things that get me in the most arguments with Her).

So many people just see the brightness, and how can you not? She’s the desire of the Nine Worlds and bears the brightest jewel. She is Power and Passion and Beauty and Strength and Magic (and cats, of course, always cats). So bedazzled are folks by her most obvious aspects that they often fail to see what some might call her darker side. I don’t like that kind of false binary distinction, so I simply consider those parts of her the aspects that I am less comfortable with because of the cultures that I was raised in.

They are there nevertheless, and She would not be as powerful and complex and admirable a Goddess were She without them. They are part and parcel of the whole of Her, discomfiting and frightening though they may be even (or perhaps especially) to those who love Her.

So I’ll ask you: what are the aspects of Freyja that make you uncomfortable? What things does she embody that make you step back or shy away? What parts make you nervous? (They won’t all be the same aspects; for instance I know people who are very uncomfortable with Her uncompromising sexuality, and anti-capitalists that are put off by her role as a Goddess of wealth and gold). Has She ever frightened you? Has She forced you to face and deal with those parts of Her? If so, how did you react and what did you learn from the experience?

Apologies

My post from the other day struck a lot of chords for people.  Some people responded well and identified with it.  Some folks disagreed with it vehemently.  Some folks (and there were a few of them) called me out on the hypocrisy of writing a post talking poorly of a person I didn’t know because of me calling out bully culture and shame culture in the first place.  They were right, of course.

I’m sorry that I let old scars get in the way of better judgement.  I’m sorry that I used my voice to harm someone who didn’t deserve it.  You can disagree with someone’s ideas without speaking ill of them, and you can stand up for yourself without knocking other people down, and I’ve failed on both counts tonight.

I’m posting here his response to me, for my readers to see.  I don’t agree with a lot of it, but that doesn’t mean that I should have spoken ill of this person.  The only point that I want to address here for the record is that I have not referred the the Troth as racist – I said that I was conflicted about joining because it is an organization that does a lot of good, but while it has an anti-racist stance they do nothing to disavow Folkishness, and my readers know my opinion of that.  (I’m also including Isa’s invitation to Nebraska Heathens United below as well; check them out it you’re interested).

Here in it’s entirety is Naf’s response to me:

Let me counter, paragraph by paragraph, your rant and attack upon me without credible evidence or logic. If you do not share this, relax, I will share it on my own sites with the original and a link to your blog post here.
Paragraph One: I am by far the least xenophobic, paranoid outsider you will ever meet, if you ever meet me. My reasons for feeling uncomfortable there had nothing to do with being around Pagans – some of my best and closest friends were there with me at their own tent, and joined me often to talk. I met a lady who practiced Romanov and we discussed Slavic and Baltic variations of reconstructionism. In general, Galina Krasskova is disliked because she presents ideas not found in the lore, and injects her own unconfirmed gnosis and bias into Heathenry. One of my closest friends feels drawn to some of the ideas presented in her books, but is immediately turned off by her ramblings and other ideas. Raven Kaldera and his ‘Northern Tradition Paganism’ is, in my opinion, as Heathen as ‘50 Shades of Grey’ is BDSM. Reconstructionist Heathens – my only issue with them is outsiders mistake them for us, and us for them. Otherwise, no real issue on who they choose to honor. The issue is, they are not Heathen by definition, have not been, nor will they ever be with their ideas and practices. It is collaborated personal gnosis based on ideas from Heathenry, and nothing more. They are not the first to do this and, I am certain, not the last.
For the first 10 years of my Heathenry, I was stuck on following the CPG (collaborated personal gnosis) of another person and the group he created. Of course, you would only know this if you had the right copy of the specific book, with a certain essay, that was printed for only a limited time. To his credit, he doesn’t claim he, or his group, is Heathen, but rather he “exists on the outside nurturing its growth.” I can respect him still, even though, spiritually, he left me confused and frustrated before I discovered what Heathenry is really about (clue: it is not in a book or online but you will find it my conclusion).
Paragraph 2: I have shared horns with Heathens, Wiccans, Druids, Native Americans, Buddhist, Christians, Jews – should I go on? That is fine if you wish to go Rokkatru, I have a close friend who help us start our organization who finds comfort in the Jotuns. Though for their own reasons, still doesn’t follow Raven and Galina’s ideas beyond that!
Paragraph 3:We have no hate for you. There is no trademark on the gods, as much as some of my fellow Heathens seem to want to think there is. I believe the unreasoning fear, distrust and paranoia is coming from your end.
Paragraph 4: Never heard of the site. Aside from new research and exchange of ideas, I do not much look too deeply at Heathen things online, as Heathenry doesn’t exist there. Some of my Wiccan friends feel the same about their religion. I also argue that we are not a true ‘shame culture,’ as the context of that term was written to describe the difference between Japanese and American culture after World War 2 (source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chrysanthemum_and_the_Sword). The application of Japanese Shame Culture without the application of Japanese Etiquette is is completely counterproductive to the idea. If you had read my whole article, you would understand I know quite a bit about Japanese culture as well. We are more of a “reputation and worth” culture. Something I push every now and then, as I will not take shame from anyone outside my kin, and I know my actions and words reflect upon them as well. We are currently within the Heathen world, seeing the results of a bad reputation leading to a possible outcome (in many ways a perfect example of Wyrd and Orlog).
“Fuck your bully culture.”
Online, Heathenry appears to have a bully culture for sure. However, if you find my words to be ‘aggressive’ and that of a bully, then I am sorry to say you have no means of comprehending the real world. My talk was based on facts – nothing more. I believe, in reality, you are doing what you say you do not care for.
Paragraph 5: Did not feel out of place at all, I felt welcomed and had a good time. It was the rage of the keyboard vikings I didn’t want to deal with, as well as my personal emphasis on doing things right and my own conduct as a diplomat for my worldview, extended tribe and Kindred. Under normal circumstances, I care little for the vitriol of some random 0’s and 1’s projecting through a light emitting diode, but sadly the mob mentality seems to get a hold of people, and, as a favorite author and podcaster is titling his new book, we have become ‘Civilized to Death’. Not sure what the other items you are trying to imply mean. In actuality, I defend UPG constantly. We all have it, regardless of how staunch of a reconstructionist you are. It isn’t just spiritual practices that makes UPG, but life experiences in general. We are a culmination of our deeds, and the trials and tribulations we go through in life. However, as to the rest of your feelings, that is your UPG; you can have it. It is not rooted in the Lore. Struluson is at best a * when it comes to the sources, as he was not Heathen himself at the time he wrote the Eddas and attempted to tie them to Homer’s Odyssey.
“Maybe I’ll just have to be all right with that. Maybe I’m okay with being a bad Heathen.”
The only bad Heathens, to my mind, are those who use the gods and symbols of our ancestors to promote hate and violence. Otherwise, the concept of good and bad are not inherent in my opinion of the Heathen worldview.
Paragraph 7 and 8 – Your sarcasm was nearly missed, until I reached the 8th – the reason I do attempt to avoid using sarcasm when writing online, as subtext and context is often missed. In person, I sound and act a lot different. Context is clear. Wit is witnessable, and laughs can be shared. As far as a holy text, you are correct; we don’t have a holy text. We have a source of information based on academic research, cultural observation, and attempts to preserve stories written of the gods and folk heros. These works collectively make up the lore, and are where we get our information on how our ancestors interacted, how they viewed our gods in their specific way, in their specific land. That is what we are trying to reconstruct – the lens through which our ancestors looked upon the world. The sun will always rise in the east, and the sun will always set in the west. The lore is the lore, and only through extensive research and review does it change. However with that statement, I too at times, am tired of seeing the same book slapped up someone’s head as if it was scripture, and witnessed how some in the Heathen worldview have not given up their need for some sort of scripture to cite.
Paragraph 9 – Again, you show no comprehension for the words I wrote; I am starting to believe you will not understand these. I was not there to convert. I was not there feeling out of place at all. I was actually requested to speak of Heathenry by hosts and have many times for other groups, such as the Order of the Red Grail. I think I went over that already and I would rather not beat a dead horse until it is a grease stain and tufts of fur (that is what is called a joke, as it is an exaggeration on a common American Idiom). I am fine with Pagans and Heathens being together – my point was to show there is so much variation to Heathenry that to stuff us into an already large umbrella is inappropriate at best and confusing at worst. Though we are very similar, we deal with the same issues more often than not (our reactions are often different it seems). Therefore, instead of it being JUST Paganism and JUST Heathenry, the two work together and should be referred to as Paganism and Heathenry, as again, American culture loves to drop everything to categories. My hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, must be very lucky to have several Heathens and Pagans who understand this, appreciate our unique differences and get along. I wish this could be the case everywhere; sadly, it is often not.
Paragraph 10 – I am not Folkish, but I know those who are. They are not racist at all. Just prefer to keep things ‘Nordic’. There does seem to be various levels of this attitude and at a certain point, like any idea, goes too far and enters into the realm of racism. However, if you prefer to keep things Folkish for yourself, that is fine. For me, the Gods and ancestors have been neglected so long, any worship, honoring or praising they receive would be welcomed by anyone. Otherwise, the rest of your words there seem to come off as a tangent I cannot make sense of. I believe you are referring my fiance – a love you will never understand – who is often my jest to counter what others say of Heathens being racists. I have defended this view the whole time I worked in a prison, where the FBI listed us a security threat group, and, though amended later by Heathens, it was up to various departments to update their training. Being in the second notch of the bible belt (that is a metaphor), they conveniently forget to update this. My miscegenation makes me the #1 target of the radical Wotansvolk types. If you do not know what the above word means, here is a wikipedia for you:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscegenation
Paragraph 11 – Again you seem to be going on a tangent that does not make sense, and I cannot tell if it is sarcasm as I cannot hear your actual voice and the inflection of your words. This is why only data is appropriate to exchange while online, at least typed. We do have audio and video, I suppose, but what good is that for documentation? We only maintain average of 8% to 15% of what we see and hear on video or audio. I know this, as I have been trained in my careers to teach other people skills, knowledges and methods to save their own lives, keep themselves safe, and protect themselves.
Paragraph 12 – Again you make assumptions that truly show zero comprehension of my words. I am sounding like a broken record. The only real approach I advocate to the Heathen worldview is the reconstructionist world view while online. We all have our own UPG, or Woo-woo, but the sources of information and facts should remain verifiable. That way, any deviation can be recognized as what is: not from the Lore. Our local regional group encourages everyone to share their experiences and their opinions. However, to do so online is very tacky. It is like filming yourself having sex – you will find it great, you partner will find it great, others will may like it too, but many may find it disturbing or gross.
Paragraph 13 – I honestly got nothing.
Paragraph 14 – Possibly, possibly not; my words still stand. I may think I should have covered this more or that more, or gone into this subject. Otherwise, I doubt it.
“Hail Loki! (Sorry, Lady, I had to).”
“Loki then enters the hall of Ægir after trading insults and threats with Eldir. A hush falls. Loki calls upon the rules of hospitality, demanding a seat and ale. Bragi then responds that he is unwelcome. Loki demands fulfillment of an ancient oath sworn with Odin that they should drink together. Odin asked his son Vidar to make a space for Loki.” Lokasenna – Stanza 10
So, Hail Óðinn!

You have given a perfect example of why a verifiable source is required for Heathenry to grow from (think: seed), and also why many Heathens have utter disregard and contempt for Pagans, Wiccans and Norse Pagans. I do not know if you are Heathen, and, honestly, I do not care. You are not in my tribe; you are not of the people I see in my daily life; you are not from my area; you are not a contributor to the worldview. You’re just some person with a spot on the freckled ass of the world wide web™. You took nothing from my article but what you wished to take for your own vitriol towards a person standing up and trying to build a bridge between two different groups of people who have been lumped into the same category together and fight like cats and dogs. I am a bit taken aback, as the backlash of my statements is coming from the Pagan side and not the Heathen side, which tends to be more of a tough crowd to please, and even the vicarious have nothing much to say other than “I would have said this instead”. If you wish to have an actual dialog, my tribe and group have a site – you can contact me there; you can add me on Facebook. I have added many others who have strongly disagreed with me and have had many exchanges of ideas. My tribe has Heathens, Norse Pagans, and people who stand over the line between the two, and I know the vicious hardliner Heathens elsewhere would scoff at our inclusion of them. YetI have Frith with them, and they of me. I have learned and grown more in my worldview with other Heathens, and, yes, Wiccans and Pagans have helped tremendously too. I have helped them, as well – I would raise a shield to their back and ward off the entire world if I had to, and, later, raise a horn of mead to honor them and boast their deeds. I would hope you would have those who would do the same for you. If you come into a room and tell me you’re the godspouse of Loki and have an open relationship with Skadi, I will not laugh at you, but I will not defend you either. You will just isolate yourself without any worth to give weight to your words. You will also make me, and other Heathens, look like fools and I cannot abide by that other than to say, you are not one of us. Hence, the reconstruction method is the seed from which all Heathenry grows, and is the best way to understand our ancestral ways and why they did what they did.
To ladyimbrium she witnessed nothing, as she was not there.
To caelesti I am sorry you saw that, I agree many of the groups seem to forget our ancestors said little to nothing of those we identify as LBGT, or of ‘other tribes’ as race is a construct of modernization.
“He expresses a hatred for members of Northern Tradition Paganism, claims that reconstruction method is the only proper way to Heathen, and makes some pretty big claims about folks. “
I do not hate them, they are just not Heathen. Period. Just as a house cat is not a species of canine but are also considered domesticated. Reconstruction method is the only way to define and solidify Heathenry and protect it from exploitation of radical groups. Some of their ideas expressed can be harmful to vulnerable adults as well. The young lady with their book said she wanted to learn more of Heathenry, and had those books, so I politely corrected the misinterpretation.
“I’m part of a growing body of people who are getting tired of having people tell us that we’re bad Heathens or not Heathens at all for disagreeing with their interpretations of Lore and material or having different social values. You can dislike us all you want to, but we’re not going away. Germanic culture and worship was not uniform, and Heathenry isn’t either.”
If you follow Northern Tradition Paganism, then by your own admission, you are not Heathen. That is ok. We Heathens enjoy arguing the lore and sources. Sometimes it goes too far and, lately, it has a bit. Your last line there is the most correct and accurate statement I have seen you write, and it is why we at Nebraska Heathens United work on regional version of Heathenry based on the seasons and agriculture of our area, much like our ancestors did. The way Thor is viewed here is much different than in California, Sweden, Norway, etc. Make your own voice in NTP stronger and distinct from Heathenry and other Pagans, but not so loud you drown out all others who are not of a like mind.
“I do admit that I have problems assuming goodwill in some cases, and I may have done so here. My words were harsh and vitriolic. It comes of years of being told that I’m not Heathen enough for one reason or another by people who claim to have the cornerstone on this identity. The only person who I’m apologizing here to is Molly, but I did discuss this and share it with her ahead of time, and she encouraged me to post it despite my own misgivings.”
I am working very, very, very hard on being diplomatic and polite with others – something the Keyboard vikings have forgotten. They seem to think snark = smart, and end up sounding and looking like nerds making fun of dorks. Now, I may have had some bite in my reply to you, but you did attack my character, so I felt it was my place to defend myself.
“In a lot of cases a person’s words online do not well reflect how they behave in person, but not having met him in person all I have to go on is what he’s said in the article, and I’m not going to apologize for my genuine reaction to it.”
Which is preciously why I do not care for blogs or blogging on this topic, but I do enjoy a well-written and well-cited essay. I am new to this whole “writing a blog on this subject.” I do not plan on doing it often and, as you can tell by just a reply, I do not think I would be good at the daily grind of making sure I had content to share, as it takes a lot of time to make sure my words are chosen well and my message is clear.
I saw elsewhere you calling the Troth ‘racist’ but I no longer see it posted, or do not care enough to look much deeper. If you truly feel that just because some members of the Troth have Grith with those of the AFA or other groups, I am sorry you do not understand the point of community, dialogue and making the temporary peace to ‘agree to disagree’.
Good luck to you, and your Northern Tradition Paganism. Perhaps, once taken on by level-headed, reasonable folks, it will be taken more seriously.

And Isa’s message:

I’m really glad this all got straightened out. Neff may be an ass but he’s our own unique ass.

My name is Isa. I’m a cofounder of NHU and oathed to Hel herself. I wanted to invite everyone here to come check out Nebraska Heathens United FB page. In order to judge something we must know the thing we are staring down. Frith starts here, in these conversations.

It may not be much, but our door is open to the wider Heathen community. Including you Ladyimbrium cause I heart you and you are awesome.

Why I Am Not An Heathen 2: What Can You Do?

I was surprised by the volume and quality of response to my previous post.  I was truly not expecting it.  Many people both on WordPress and Facebook came forward, often in agreement with some of the points I raised.  Molly Khan wrote an excellent response on Patheos Pagan.  There were no vicious comments, though there was a lot of missing the point in a lot of places, and thus there are some things that I wanted to clarify.

I’m not not calling myself a Heathen as some sort of form of rebellion.  I want to respect the doctrinal guidelines and suggestions provided by the Heathens that I’ve spoken to, both on line and in person.  Some of those guidelines for what is considered Heathen versus what is not include several of the points I raised and more: Havamal must be the origin of your morality or at least considered in every situation, UPG is not to be trusted or given voice or attention, honoring the Gods outside of community functions and community rites runs counter to the spirit of Heathenry, innovation in ritual (i.e. performing religious practices that we are not sure were performed by the ancestors), honoring beings that are considered questionable (including Loki), in some cases honoring the Gods at all rather than the wights and Ancestors as some believe the Gods to be distant, troublesome and non-traditional focuses for veneration, etc.

These are things that Heathens who I’ve interacted with since the early 2000’s (again, both in person and online) have included among the boundaries of Heathen practice, in other words, if you want to call yourself Heathen you can not stray outside of them.  Call yourself Pagan if you wish, but according to some you cannot claim the mantle of Heathenry without adhering to the above and further strictures.

Obviously, not everyone agrees.  I do feel that Heathens have a right to define Heathenry, though.  Of course, it gets sticky when there are self-identified Heathens who don’t agree with all or most of these principles, but by and large the Heathens that I’ve met and discussed it with agree with some of the above.  I’m personally not going to try and join a faith and then tell people that are already practicing it that they’re doing it incorrectly when they have already established guidelines and boundaries for it.

The misogyny, racism, and multiple ‘phobias are things that are definitely worth working against in modern Heathenry.  I’m glad that there are more and more voices speaking up against them, because whether I wear the label or not I’m still going to be coming to your rites and share in mead and offerings for as long as I’m welcome, and would like not to have to deal with that.  Those are the things that I spoke of that “insulted my soul” the most.

So at the end of my last post I said that I would discuss the options that I’ve found, considered, and in some cases embraced.   What’s a wooey, non-doctrinarian, solitary, non-racist, lover of the Norse Gods call them selves?  Under what banners can they come together?  How can they reconcile their beliefs and practices with larger Heathen culture?

Being Heathen Anyway

This by far seems to be most people’s answer.  Unswayed by the insistence that their practice, beliefs, ancestry, virtues, or favorite brand of toothpaste renders them mere pagans or heathens rather than actual Heathens(tm), these bold individuals choose to identify as Heathens, and to Jotunheim with anyone who disagrees.  I’ve heard a lot of people express some variation of this sentiment, including Molly Khan in her response to my original post (linked above).

I appreciate this approach because the culture of a faith can’t change without people who feel differently standing up and speaking out.  The main reason that I haven’t embraced this path myself is that I feel Heathens have a right to decide the boundaries of their identity, faith, and doctrine, and I honestly respect it enough not to appropriate the name if it’s not… appropriate.

Is it?  Who decides who can use that title?  As many are fond of saying, there is no Asapope.  As of now there’s been no High Moot of All Heathens that’s decided what the exact boundaries of that term are.  If this movement lasts more than a few hundred years, there will be.  There might even be one sooner than that.  It might be good for all those to whom it matters to make sure that their voices are heard at yonder hypothetical HMAH.

Just “Polytheist”, Thank You

The other day I was thinking while I was out on a walk.  “Huh.  I wonder if there’s a word for being specifically devoted to multiple Gods.  Kind of like polyamory but for devotional worship.  What would you call it though… poly..theistry?…wait…”

I hate it when what I think is a stroke of brilliance ends in a facepalm.

A fair number of responses to my posts included folks who identified that way.  There’s a growing movement of polytheists who eschew (or at least de-emphasize) a particular cultural focus and respond to the Powers that call to them.  To be fair, I fit that well myself.  I try to commune with the Powers that I do through rites that have some of the appropriate cultural trappings sometimes (I’m generally speaking about European or Egyptian deities here; part of the reason that I rarely work with Gods of living cultures is a desire to try and avoid blatant appropriation when I don’t have proper cultural immersion) – but was there ever a culture where folks simply didn’t call out to their Gods in times of need or thanksgiving?  I know that there are few cultures and faiths where there are no forms of offerings or sacrifice.  Often my prayers and offerings are less umpty-ump alliterative poetry and a mead horn than they are simple gestures of adoration, pleas for help, or offering of gifts.  I don’t don an apron dress every time I want to honor Freyja and Freyr (I don’t even own one, sadly) and in ancient Rome I would not have any right to offer to Jove (as I understand their practices).  That doesn’t mean that I don’t do it anyway.  A lot of these trappings are artifacts of the time and culture that they were in, and the materials and concepts were more accessible to the people who used them.

The Gods seem to appreciate it when you do try to recreate the old stuff, or maybe that just puts us into a better framework to interact with them, or maybe they’re waxing nostalgic (“It’s been over a millennium since I’ve seen a Volva with a proper staff and catskin gloves.  Good girl!”).  Whatever the reason, those touches do seem to help on some level with signal clarity and reception.  However, if our devotion to communion with the Powers is going to be part of our day-to-day life, we need to either wear apron dresses all the time (Which would be totally fine by me.  Yes, I’ve been obsessing over them lately.  Hush.) or we need to adapt our polytheism to fit our culture.  At least for Pagans in the US, that means a culture that accepts that there are many kinds of people with many kinds of Gods and thus no one pantheon (in theory, at least).  For Pagans in the modern world in general, if you’re not part of the dominant cultural faith anyway (which is likely some brand of Christianity or Islam, depending on your neck of the woods) there’s no reason that you should be limited to one pantheon or one form of cultural expression.  There, I’ve said it.  I warned you that I could be pretty darned eclectic.

So just Polytheist works for quite a few folks, many of whom accompany it with “Pagan”.

Other Groups

For purposes of community (and I’m a pretty social person; even when I’m solitary in practice I like having community) I’ve found a couple of groups that work well, and heard of others that I haven’t approached.

I’m a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin or ADF.  ADF was started in the distant mists of the past probably around the time I still thought that the Goonies was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  It’s been a good community for a Norsey non-Heathen like me.  Individual members and Groves are encouraged to embrace “Hearth Cultures” which are cultural applications to the general framework of ADF rite and practice.  The community for the Norse Health Culture is large, diverse, and well-educated, while generally taking what I’d consider a pragmatic stance towards UPG.   Lore is emphasized as the basis of understanding but no there are no official rules or restrictions on UPG other than it’s not usable for the reading material for coursework.

It’s great for a heretic like myself because there is no policing of private practice, either: official ADF rites have to be public, but what you do outside of official ADF rites has no bearing on whether or not you can perform or participate in them.  It tries hard to emphasize orthopraxy (we all perform the same rites or in a similar fashion) over orthodoxy (we all believe the same thing) and while I don’t feel that it’s possible to be entirely one without the other it does a good job at keeping the policing of belief to a minimum.  ADF does have its own brand of sacred tech that I’ve incorporated into my own work, and its focus on scholarship and excellence make it an organization that I’m proud to be a part of.  Plus, I can be in it, worship the Vanir and Aesir, and not have to conform to Heathen culture.

Pardon me while I put on these goggles and duck behind this blast shield.  Can you still hear me?  Ahem…

Northern Tradition Paganism is what seems to be a loose affiliation of solitary practitioners and a few Kindreds of Norsey Pagan people.  They make the distinction of being “reconstruction derived” rather than strictly reconstructionist, meaning that they start with what they can find and work from there rather than sticking with the basics of what can be reconstructed, which pretty well matches what I’ve seen in ADF Norse Hearth culture, too.  They have an emphasis on personal devotion, shamanism and spirit working.  They also don’t restrict which Gods people worship – they are fine with people worshiping the Jotnar and their kin (though that’s not a requirement – it’s been explained to me that there are NTP people who don’t, but anyone who calls themselves NTP is required to drink when they’re honored at someone elses’ rite, which is just good hospitality/ghosti as far as I’m concerned.)

Throw in that they have a pretty queer membership overall, that their founders/leaders are super-controversial in the Heathen community primarily because of Jotun worship, wild rumors, and not putting up with Havamalier-Than-Thou talk from Heathen Elders, and they make the perfect Heathen boogeyman.  There is no better way to throw a monkey wrench into an Asatru conversation than to bring up Raven Kaldera or Galina Krasskova!

So no one should be surprised that I consider myself Northern Tradtion as well.  Although the idea of making offering to Fenris or Surt or Thrym or Jormugandr gives me the altogether willies, they’re Powers too, and even if they don’t particularly care about humanity, there are humans who care about them, and if I’m at someone’s table and they drink to them I will too to honor my host and be a good guest.  I’ve felt very comfortable with the NTP folks that I’ve met and interacted with and hope that I hear more NTP voices in the future.

Norse Wicca is a thing, also.  I don’t have a lot of exposure to it or a history with it, except insofar as I honored the Norse Gods while still considering myself Wiccan.  If there is an organized tradition of it in any way I’m unaware of it, although I’d be happy to learn and share more.  I don’t connect well to some aspects of Wicca anymore (especially the painful – to me – emphasis on binary gender) so I haven’t considered it an option myself, but I’m sure that there are people who find fulfillment in it.

I don’t know what else is out here, but I’d love it if in the comments here or on Facebook, or on your own blogs or articles discuss the paths that you’ve taken to negotiate this quandary.  The conversation has begun, and I’d like to encourage it to continue, because from the responses that I’ve had it feels like there is a real need.

 Why is all of this even important?  Why put so much thought into it?  Well, I’ve been trying to find community that I resonate with, that I can join, that I can be a part of and that I can be a voice in.  As I’ve mentioned, I’ve found a couple of labels that stick after a few days’ wear-and-tear.  I do feel that Heathenry is often a bit exclusionary, but again, I’m in favor of people setting their own boundaries.  I want to know where I fit in, and it seems now like a lot of other people feel the same.

We need the community builders.  We need the legalists.  We need the loremasters.  We need the Godhis and Gydhjas.  We need the craftspeople.  We need the seidhkon, the volvas, the vitkis, the mad and the touched and the inspired.  We need the people that just want to go to the rites, connect with the Powers, and go home and not think about it.  We need the poets and taletellers.  We need the passionate speakers and activists.  We need the people sitting outside the ring around the fire, occasionally getting passed the mead and acting as the peanut gallery (which is kind of where I’m sitting right now).  When I refer to “we” I don’t just mean self-identified Heathens and their many subsects – I mean all of us who honor the Norse and Germanic powers and/or embrace the richness of Northern European Paganism in all of its contexts and aspects.  If “Heathen” doesn’t apply to all of us, we need a term that does form a proper umbrella, because there are things that we all share, and things that we can all teach each other and it will help us remember that on some level we’re all in this together, Heathen and heretic alike.

That’s that for now.  I’m going to Brushwood Folklore Center for Wellspring tomorrow, one of ADF’s primary annual gatherings.  The inimitable Patricia Lafayllve will be there with her ve to Freya and performing a seidh rite, and the Norse kin have a lunch at some point when the schedule settles.  I also hope to explore my conflicts regarding queer space vs. gendered space, and come back with more answers and questions on that and many other things.  If there’s wifi there I’ll be trying to make blog updates and report on location.  I’m excited – I’ve never been to Wellspring before!