There is no denying the fact that we here in the west are growing up in a society that is Christian in its fundamental assumptions, and when newcomers to Heathenry seek to embrace the ways of their ancestors, the assumptions they bring across, unknowing, skew and distort the heathenry they practice.
Christianity is a dualistic system, good and evil, god and the devil, us and them. There are only ever two possibilities, and very much you are either orthodox (same as me) or enemy. This is consistent with their belief system, and the Obedience model in general. This is not a part of pre-syncretic heathenry, any more than misogyny or racism was. The belief and importance of orthodoxy/orthopraxy (ie the One True Faith) carried quietly over into heathenry, and took poisonous and divisive root. With the One True Faith came the one definition of male and female, for if there is only one way to practice heathenry, there is only one way to live heathen, to love as a heathen. These are all worthy discussions for another day, but I wish now to turn to the last, and most publicly damaging mistake of post-Christian heathenry; racism.
Part and parcel of Christianity is the One True Faith, and God’s Chosen People. Oddly, you won’t find this in our lore. Our gods supported individual families and tribes haphazardly across the ancient Heathen world, with saga’s like the Lombards pointing out how the gods themselves bickered over the support of one tribe or another in their contention . Ours is a faith that celebrates community by birth, by marriage, by fosterage, and by oath. Our gods spring from no one race, for among our mighty gods and peerless goddesses are Aesir, Vanir, and Jottun. We have precious few “pure bred” anything in our pantheon, as from our highest to our lowest it is ever and always your dedication to the community, your oaths, your service, the bonds of love and responsibility that determine your place, not your blood.
Freyr and Freja are Vanir by birth, Aesir only by fosterage and hostage bond that grew through reciprocal gifting of siedr and galdor into an alliance of two formerly warring peoples. Freja receives half the valliant dead, yet is not wed to any Aesir, her dedication is one of oath and action, not blood or marriage. Freyr won a wife from far Jottunheim, as the fair Gerd was won through trial and trickery as depicted in Skirnirmal . Sif was Jottun herself until won in marriage by Thor, to become Aesir through her marriage, mother of Magni and Modi who will take Thor’s place after Ragnarok. . Skadi is pure bred Jottun, yet honoured as Aesir for her oaths, as she demanded and received a husband for the suffering price of her Thor-slain father. Although the marriage did not last; the mountains and oceans being to alien to each other, frith was kept on both sides, and the bonds between Skadi and the Aesir survived the failure of the marriage of Njord and Skadi . Born in, fostered in, married in, sworn in; all held in equal esteem. Our gods are the community of intention, of dedication and duty, not simply a blood grouping. So is our heathen community today.
Our ancestors were a tribal people. They were one of the only tribal peoples to be able to work together in confederation without empire or absorption. During the migration periods, including the push down into Celtic lands ( and subsequent clash with Rome), and later waves of migration ending in the “Viking Age”, members of multiple tribes were able to cooperate, and even create joint settlements, because they accepted and respected the differences between each people. Theirs was a pride that was a root that connected them to hearth and home, no matter how far or how long away. Theirs was a pride that was internal, a root to anchor the self, not a whip to beat others. To be proud of who you are does not require looking down on those who are different; that is the quiet poison of Christian dualism, where if something is different it must be wrong, and/or a threat.
Our ancestors intermarries where they traded, settled jointly the Orkeny islands with the Celts, became important parts of societies as far away as Byzantium by virtue of their cosmopolitan outlook, and Heathen belief that their oaths were as binding to those outside their tribe or nation as inside. Theirs was a community building, community bridging way of life. Great cities and nations they founded with this concept of citizenship by oath, by deed, as well as by birth, that the nations they founded and built last today, where the feeble scraps of Rome, the God Emperors of Persia, of Alexander, and the Crusader kingdoms that enforced an impossible and unnatural uniformity lasted only as long as the boot was held firmly in place. The whip builds nothing that lasts, but the root does.
Many people react negatively to folkish heathens, because they see in their pride of heritage the shadow of racism. Many racists look to the concept of the folk as one group of hate filled Christians corrupted it in the Fascist Christian nations of Western Europe post WWI, and try to stretch it to cover their own racial hatreds. In fact, folkish heathenry is about celebrating their own roots, something that Native Canadian and American Aboriginals are learning to do as well. It is not about hating others, it is about discovering and honouring your connections to your ancestors. The poisons of Christianity and its insidious dualistic approach to all questions has tainted the statements of pride in heritage with the assumption of hatred or superiority towards and over others. For true heathens this is not true, for we are based on relationship (blood, oath, or adoption/foster, marriage, friendship, joint service), and as such know that the gods look not to the purity of your blood, but the purity of your commitment to those you owe duty towards. Those who call themselves Heathens, but seek only a welcome place to practice the hatred that stole and stained our holy symbols in my Grandfather’s generation are not part of our community, but we do hold a responsibility to educate those who can be taught the difference between pride as a healthy root of identity (community building), and pride as a whip to scourge others (community destroying).