Well that is an interesting topic. Well I would say the first and most compelling issue confronting Heathenry is the hypocritical attitude towards leadership.
What is this conflict you ask? We are loudly at war along territory that used to be called the Folkish/Universalist line, but honestly has strayed off that course onto the question of race in heathenry. We are quietly at war along the Recon front, with the outer reaches of the dusty tome sect wishing to remove any experiential element or mention of magic from not only the practice of modern Heathenry, but to ignore or expunge it from the lore. Against them rage the rainbow unicorn brigades that want Heathenry to be whatever they feel, reguardless of what was actually part of ancestral practice as best described by archeology and literature study. Shots ranging from effective and persistent sniper fire to whole scale forward directed brigade level artillery exchanges range along the Loki frontier, with Lokian special forces in full BDSM gear, and Loki Deniers in full Crusader cross and armour, out to stamp out Heathen-Satan.
Oh gods, I couldn’t even get through the description of the major fault lines without my soul deep sense of the absurdity of it all not only creeping in, but taking over.
These are all side campaigns, serious enough for those on the front lines, but only sideshows. No, the real conflict is so vast, so massive, so awesome in scope that almost no one involved at any of the points of contact has really any idea how vast the forces that are involved are, or that each of their actions, however desperate and hard fought, are at best, only tangentially important in the Great Struggle.
Ah yes, the Great Struggle. The Great Struggle is born out of the Great Truth of Heathenry. All know the Great Truth, and accept it. What they don’t do is think about its logical ramifications, and this leads to the Great Struggle.
In the beginning was the Great Truth: “You are not the boss of me, and you are doing it wrong!”
This is the Great Truth of Heathenry. If the Great Rite of Wicca can be crudely summed up, whether symbolically with chalice and blade, or more completely in the so named “Great Rite” as sticking it in, the Great Truth of Heathenry can likewise crudely be summed up as sticking it to ourselves.
That is right ladies and gentlemen, it is a truly heathen art to piss off everyone equally, and I intend to master it before I die. Never the less, I have a point. Let us be moving on to looking at it.
The acceptance of personal responsibility for our actions, for our moral choices, for our consequences that is the core of heathen practice is indeed one of the finest and most wonderful thing about our way of life. We don’t have a rule book to slavishly obey, we have a set of guidelines for what relationships are important, how to go about keeping them healthy, and how to judge where your responsibilities lie. It is up to you to figure out how to meet them best. The gods are not telling you what to do, they are telling you that it is up to you, and they, like your ancestors, are there to support you as you deal with your own challenges.
It is up to us.
Great Truth first clause: You are not the boss of me.
Decoded: I do not give up responsibility for my choices to a higher power. I do not play Abraham and sacrifice my first born son because Odin told me to. I do not go rape a Philistine because Thor wanted an excuse to go to war. That isn’t our book, and it is not our way. For good or for ill, our choices are our own. What I do for my family, for my employer, for my community (more truthfully communities, as we define ourselves as members of several communities ), for my nation, and for my world I do because I think it the right thing for me to do, and I feel that I need to do it. Now people will have all kinds of opinions about the worth of every single aspect of that, few of them will agree with me on everything, and some will agree with me on nothing.
It is not up to Steve Abell, my boss as the Steer of the Troth, how I meet those challenges in any aspect of my life that do not relate to my duties as a Rede member of the Troth. As the Freyr of the Heathen Freehold (cool title hey? Functionally it means elected chief, but sacrally I am the luck holder of the Freehold, technically the sacral king), I absolutely do not tell the Freeholders (note the word free in the name) how to meet their challenges in any aspect outside their function within the Freehold, towards our fellow members, or in the name of the organization.
I can look at Steve and say “You are not the boss of me” for 99% of my functions, and my own Freeholders can and do look me in the eye and say the same. That being said, both organizations have rules that we all have agreed and sworn to uphold, and do so. We are free to leave, and many do, when they cannot abide by those rules, or when they simply disagree with what they feel is the consensus of the hall.
Great Truth second clause: You are doing it wrong
The great Heathen community, that great mewing herd of cats, that rousing, ranting roaring congress of anarchists absolutely unites in one demand.
“Make them (variously defined as someone other than the person shouting) stop doing that (defined as whatever it is that you personally don’t do at this point in time)!”
Here is the thing. The people demanding the big organizations DO SOMETHING are usually not members of the organization in question, and here is the absolutely hilarious part of it……..
THEY WOULD NEVER EVER EVEN CONSIDER OBEYING ANY ORDER THAT ORGANIZATION GAVE THEM!!!!!
Many people reading this still don’t get the joke, and somehow, that doesn’t just make it the greatest tragedy in Heathenry, but the saddest truth I have ever realized. I laugh when I write this, with tears streaming down my face because the irony is not lost on me. This is gallows humour of the basest sort, this is the humour you almost have to be a soldier to understand. This is a tragedy that means our community does not even realize that is screaming for an action it will never, and can never permit.
The great conflict in Heathenry?
We demand the big organizations stop everyone we don’t agree with from doing everything we don’t like while butting the hel out of our business because they have no right telling other heathens what to do.
Do I see a solution. Yes. Grow up. We don’t have a central authority, and don’t want one. We have an ancestral tradition that never had, nor needed one in the first place. We are not looking to establish an Asa-Pope, nor an Inquisition. We have the ability to stand up for what we believe, both as individuals and as groups.
Rival groups compete not by screaming at each other and holding all of heathenry up to ridicule, but by providing an alternative. We can state our position, but honestly it is more constructive to define yourself by what you are, and what you do, not by what makes you different from the other guy. Not my circus, not my monkeys. If you believe the way you are doing things is right, then show the world what you can do as Heathens joining together in frithful community.
Do great things, and hope that either other worthy heathens join you, or at least are inspired to match you in doing things equally as great. If other groups are doing things you don’t like then respectfully show where you think they are in error, in the hopes that good and worthy people will take a good look at the organization they are a part of, and if they too see these things as wrong, will either work to change that organization into something better, or move to a more worthy organization.
Attacking each other sure is fun. Gosh knows, it makes for great sagas. Note that the society that gave us those sagas also developed the finest legal codes, and a whole bunch of dispute resolution techniques to prevent things from degenerating that far, because it seldom ended well or productively, even then.
I expect this to change no one’s mind, to amuse some who have been around long enough to see it themselves, and anger a whole lot of poo throwing monkeys who see their sacred crusade no longer in terms of a Wagner Epic, but more as a Monty Python skit.
Cry Havoc! And release the Monkeys of Righteous Indignation!