I have long said that it is not the Troth’s place to tell the AFA how to run their house. We go our own way and have our own understanding of Heathenry, what it meant to our ancestors, and what it means to us today. I have said that, and I meant it. I don’t run their house, nor would I be welcome in it.
They don’t own Heathenry, neither does the Troth. However, Heathenry is my community, its peoples, all of them, are my peoples, and they are now under attack, and it is mine to defend them. The Troth does not own Heathenry, but we are sons and daughters of the Heathen community, we are listening to the AFA tell our brothers and sisters they are not welcome , that they have no right to be here, to follow our gods, or to raise the horn with us as symble and be part of our holy folk.
I have had enough. They do not have the right, and to be honest, they are not even correct. The AFA official body has spelled out in black and white in the recent release that if you are not white, or you are gay, you are not welcome. If your understanding of how to be a good and worthy Heathen man does not fit their definition of strong masculine man, you are not welcome. If your understanding of being a good and worthy Heathen woman is not to be a skirt wearing home caring mother, you are not welcome.
They are wrong, badly wrong. On one level I weep for their failures, and their failure to understand the words of our ancestors, the teachings of our holy gods, but to be honest, my first and strongest reaction is anger. How dare they usurp the place of our holy gods, and arrogant to themselves the right to decide who may and may not raise a horn to them, who may or may not feel the call to join with their folk in community and worship. How dare they attack my folk, my people, out of a failure to understand how living true to your heart, living honestly, openly and honourably as the teaching of your ancestors and your own best judgement teaches you, do not fit their own preconceived poster of what a Heathen should look like?
Genetic diversity in Viking Age grave sites was higher than modern, the maternal mitochondrial DNA studies have shown that among those women buried with grave goods consistent with full citizenship in their community, genetic diversity showed many tribal markings, some from as far away as Turkey or North American native. You did not have to be white then, or now to be a member of our community. These women were buried as women of the folk because that is how they lived. Then and now, we judge you by your deeds, your proven worth to us. Thus it was, thus it is, and while the Troth survives, thus it will be.
I am no universalist preacher, Heathenry is not for everyone. Our ways are harsh in many respects, you are expected to answer for your words and deeds. Our gods will not wave a magic wand and fix what you break, we have to deal with the consequences of our own actions. This is a hard sell for much of humanity who really want someone to tell them that a word without a deed is somehow enough.
You can be a strong masculine man, the very image of a Viking warrior, the poster boy for any army recruiter, and be a member of our community. We have lots of them. I am one. Of course in all honesty among those proven warriors you will find many who are not white, and many who are not men. Yes, strong men and women have chosen to understand their duty to the community requires a service that risks their lives. That is a common, understanding of how to meet your challenges and responsibilities.
There are many ways to live true as a good and worthy man, and good and worthy woman. Some fill traditional gender roles to the stereotypical T. Others follow their own talents and nature, their own responsibilities and roles to become strong and worthy Heathens in many other ways. Teachers, artists, builders, traders, lawyers, healers; in every art in every science, in every trade you will find us. There is no one right way to be Heathen, we were in ancient times a whole folk, a whole community of great and vital diversity of form, of nature, of opinion and expression. This richness was the endless source of the vigor and flexibility, of the cheerful boldness that allowed us to thrive when so many other peoples failed.
Our gods are harsh; they do not hold with those who are false, who stand as oathbreakers. In that stance we see from them not cruelty, but wisdom. It does you no good to pretend what is false, it does you no good and much ill to pretend to be what you are not. You build little worth attempting to be what you are not, when instead you can build much worth succeeding in being what you are. If our gods are harsh teachers, it is that we have only one life, and the sooner we realize the importance of living true to ourselves, the greater benefit we can be to ourselves, and to our communities.
Who you love is not important. How you love is. We do not care if you are straight, gay, or trans. We do care how you love; we care deeply about how you treat the ones you love, as we care deeply about how you treat those you work with, and for, and those who work for you. How your hold your oaths, care for those who depend on you. We care about your words and your deeds. Do you honour your relationships? If so we praise you and hold you in high esteem. If not then yes, you will have little worth in our eyes.
I have married several people, and hope to continue this practice in future. I did not care then if I was marrying man and woman, or two of the same. I cared that they were openly and honestly plighting their troth to each other, that their union would be loving, honest, and healthy.
The AFA care that you are white, straight, and fit neatly on their poster.
I believe they have gone badly wrong, while I will allow them to run their own house any way they see fit, including burning the roof above their own heads, I draw the line at their telling the Heathen community who may or may not be a member.
The Troth will not tell you who may or may not join any other organization than our own. That is not our place. The Troth ABSOLUTELY will tell you that we are open to all good and worthy heathens who understand and accept that the colour of your skin, your understanding of your gender, and who it is that you love do not in any way shape or form affect your membership in this community. If you are drawn to our gods, to honour the wights and ancestors, if you find the teachings themselves to be powerful and worthy guides to your life, and you can respect those who feel the same, even if their understandings may be different than yours, then you are welcome.
Ancient Heathens built strong inclusive communities. So do we. You will find those who are white and straight in our ranks, and you will find those that are not. We honestly don’t divide along those lines. You will find so many different ways to be a good and worthy Heathen under our banner, so many good examples of men and women who are living true, not to a stereotype, but to who they need to be to face the challenges given them. Diversity is strength, and the frith of a diverse community that loves and values that diversity knows no equal on earth. That is what we seek to build. The AFA have chosen their way. It is their right, but it is not, in my opinion, a Heathen one.
John T Mainer
Freyr of the Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia
Redeman of The Troth