When I joined the Witan of the Heathen Freehold Society of British Coumbia, we were ruled by Mikhail Heimdallson, who would go on to become one of my closest friends, and remains one of the worthiest Heathens I know. Not a man of many words he gave me just seven words to judge whether I was doing my job right as host of an event, and eventually his successor as Freyr of the Freehold
“Do you feel welcome in this hall?”
If I can ask that of my any of my guests without fear, then I have done my job right. If I can’t, then I have failed. It really is that simple; and unbelievably hard.
There is a lot of talk about race going around Heathenry these days. This is nothing new. The broader pagan community, and indeed the Christian community always seemed to be waiting for Heathens to break out the jackboots and begin a rousing course of “Deutschland Uber Alles”. After a couple of decades we at last began to be marginally accepted, largely by the multifaith groups that had quietly come to rely on us to get things actually done, without trying to take over. That is fine, we can wait for outsiders to learn to judge us by our deeds, not by how they feel about the fact we disagree with them on some matters, and are uninterested in following their ways.
Heathens were once forced to be accepting of our differences, because we were few in number, and to be able to come together as a community and celebrate, we had to accept that this person was Anglo Saxon (ASH) Heathen, that one was Theodish, this one was Asatru, and that one was Baltic-Germanic. We came together and learned from each other (and argued) built a community (and argued) hosted events (and argued), guested in each others homes (and argued), and worked always to further the good name of heathenry. We didn’t argue about that point. We do now.
The Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia is a KAP Troth Kindred, because we found in them a matching organization that enshrined the universalist approach of our own Freehold, and the acceptance of Roof Beam Thew; that is we set rules to govern how we practice together, but we DO NOT TELL YOU HOW TO RUN YOUR OWN HALL, or who you can or cannot associate with. You are not thralls, you are not slaves, nor neophytes; whether you are journeyman or Trothed Freeholder, whether you are guest or celebrating officiant, you are a free thinking human being who has both the right and the responsibility for making your own choices and accepting their consequences.
In our Heathen Freehold you can hail Loki, but you can’t at the events hosted as The Troth. This is a difference in thew. At our Heathen Freehold events, our thew holds. If we host at The Troth, Troth thew holds. If our Freeholders host their own event under their household thew, as the host, their thew or custom holds sovereign.
The Heathen Freehold has a zero tolerance policy towards hatred. You can stand in our hall black, white, turbaned or tonsured, you can come gay or straight, You can be a social justice warrior, a protestor of every single ill you perceive in our society, or you can be a cadpat wearing soldier, sailor, or airman on leave from service to Queen and country. We do not permit people in our halls to be harassed, shamed, or attacked on the basis of any of the labels that others seem so fond of.
There are people who are guests at our events who are not so welcoming in their own. There are guests who come to our events who don’t like The Troth in theory much at all, but who come to our events because they respect us as people and as Heathens based on how we act, and how we speak. Indeed you will sometimes see these people either laughing an joking in fellowship, or arguing passionately (because we are heathen) about some point of doctrine or evidence. What you will not see is them behaving disrespectfully toward any of our guests, nor any of our guests behaving disrespectfully towards them.
Zero tolerance means just that. The army trained me to peace keep. Think on that for a moment. We understand the duty of the hall is to see the peace is kept, that all within the hall feel safe and welcome in it. If I disagree with what another’s organization allows or does not allow, I can feel free to yell at my guest, as long as I have no intent to change their mind, and no problem with shaming my hall and organization by my breach of hospitality; or I could show them a frithful hall in which people they would not allow as fluffy-bunnies, as not-as-folk-as-us, or who have sexual preferences that they might not understand or share. I could tell them they are wrong, or I could show them. One has a point, the other is initiating unnecessary conflict which actually is not something a trained peace keeper seeks to do.
To keep the peace of the hall, of an event or of an organization means that you absolutely come down like the Hammer of Thor on those who would harass any man, woman, or child in that hall. You should feel safe and welcome in our hall, and you should find that you are always treated with respect, and in turn you always treat others with that same respect. Argue. We mean it. We are a meeting place, a hall that seeks to rebuild traditions that are fragmented and themselves never one homogenous thing to begin with. Much of what we once accepted, we now cheerfully acknowledge was wrong, so do not simply accept what you are told, but be prepared to back up what you claim, because those you argue against probably can back up their own.
We can and we will speak out against racism which seeks to divide our land, and our Heathen community. We can and will speak out against the sexism that is becoming more and more subtle and vile in the political and legal arena. We can and we will speak out about unrequal treatment of gays and lesbians. We can and we will advocate loudly and publically to make sure our service men and women have the same access to clergy, community, and support as the Judeo-Christian troops receive. We can and we will fight to make sure our faith is portrayed in a realistic and balanced manner by the media, understanding that our own members are affected by the opinion of the general populace.
We will not tell you who you can and can’t be friends with, and will not punish you for being a respectful guest at anothers hall.
I have had ENOUGH of the baying hounds seeking to turn Heathenry into some sort of idealized radical monoculture. The oath of the witan, or the elected leadership of the Freehold calls upon us to work to preserve the good name of the Freehold and by extension, of all Heathenry. The good name of heathenry was hard earned by those who came before, and fought hard to get us the acceptance that we have now. To shame those who sacrificed so much that we could enjoy this freedom to act, by choosing to tear our community apart, to hold it up to scorn, derision, and infamy through needless attacks on those whose only crime is that they failed to agree with you is to defecate on the memory of all those who fought so long and so hard to build this community.
I will not tolerate racism, sexism, homophobia, nor will I permit witch hunts and inquisitional McCarthy style attacks (House of Unheathen Activity?) on good and worthy heathens for the crime of not agreeing with someone elses definition of what a “proper heathen” should believe.
Those who stand in my hall, or guest at my events should know that as long as they keep the peace, they will know they are welcome in the hall. All will KNOW themselves to be safe and welcomed.
People seem to be asking for a line in the sand. Fine. Mine is drawn.