Aesir, Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Pagan, Uncategorized

The Road Home

 

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A thousand years ago, our ancestors understood the traditions we try to embrace today.  They lived in a world where they walked with their ancestors, knew the wights of the lands and waters, made peace with the jotnar of the high mountains and raging rivers, learned the alfs of the wild places.   The gods and goddesses held a place for them that was something we can only imagine, for they learned how everything fit together from their first breath, first step. There was no word for what they did, for it was no more possible to separate their practice from their life, than it was to separate their breath from their body and continue to live.

 
A foreign smoke stole that breath from the body of our ancestors, and the living faith died a long time ago.  The path they walked we cannot.  What they knew, we can only guess at; speculate from scattered puzzle pieces half understood.  That is fine.  We have chosen to walk out of the smoke, and breath again the living air.  We have chosen to once again learn to listen to the whispers of the ancestors, to look at the lands and waters, fields and forests as important relationships, as sacred trusts, and not simply a catalog of resources to be stripped and utilized until fully expended.
The ways our ancestors took for granted are half remembered dreams to us.  The relationships they held are matters of speculation and argument for scholars to whom the points are of only academic interest.  That is fine.  I am a soldier, son and grandson of soldiers.  The truths that historians argue over the battlefields of the past contain a hundred facts, and very few truths.  Those that come away from such fields may have been aware of only a few of those facts that brushed against them most intimately, but they carry away truths the historians cannot understand.  Some truths are found only by living, by walking the road, not by studying the map from a safe distance.

 

So it is with the road home.

I will admit from the beginning, I am one of Odin’s.  He found me in basic training, and pointed me towards the community in the dark days when it was long odds you would ever find another Heathen, let alone a community of them.  It is so much easier now.  Partly due to technology, and for that I give full praise to our society for its advances.  Partly that is due to the communities of people coming together in that metaphorical wilderness and struggling to build something.  Let’s be honest, something new.  We are rebuilding the alters, recreating the tradition.  We may study the latest developments for any scrap they can give us that advances our understanding of the road our ancestors walked before us, but that road we lost in the smoke centuries ago.  We build a new road that began when we first came together as groups and chose to bring the practice of honouring our gods, wights, and ancestors back into our lives.

We could not do it alone.  We lost the way.  We are not alone.  The truth is, we may have lost our way, but the land was still the land, our dead were no farther from us, and the gods never left us.  We lost the knack of listening, we lost the habits of valuing, we lost our way, but our guides awaited us.

The gods are forgiving, or at least have enough of a sense of humour to put up with the ten thousand things we get wrong, the minutiae we obsess over.  We get a lot of it wrong.  I know that.  We do it differently in a large number of ways, and I would say that they are not all wrong.  We are not following the road of our ancestors.  That was lost to us.  We struggle to build a new road.  Who is with us on that road is important.

 

Odin stands first among the holy kin in this generation, and it is right that it is so.  I do not believe that this was his place in peace time for the bulk of our people, but it is the reality today for one reason alone.  Odin is the greatest recruiter, the guide that has lead the most of our folks home.  I have seen Odin as the gateway drug for so many future Freyrsmen, Thorsmen, Tyrsmen, Frigga’s women, Freyaswomen.  His place is earned a thousand times over for bringing so many of us to where we could share a community together and begin to connect again to all the holy tribe, to begin to rebuild the relationship with the wights, the alfs, the ancestors.

There is only one god that I have seen do as much to bring to our halls, to our hearths as many folk who were lost, hurt, and in danger.  Loki.
I will leave aside the argument about whether his worship was ever a part of our ancestral tradition.  That is an argument for scholars about what was.  Our ancestors did not have antibiotics, toilet paper, or defibrillators; I am not looking to ape what was.  I am trying to bring the sacred back into the lives we live today, and of all the gods doing the work to guide us on the road we are trying to build together, the one who shines second in his work to bring the scattered folk home is Loki.

 

Loki is a part of our road forward.  Our folk are largely not given the chance to be born into Heathen households and raised in Heathen communities.  Our folk still grow up largely in Christian communities whose “truths” are at odds with our own, whose fundamental assumptions are diametrically opposed to our own.   For those who have in their heart the call of our gods, these foreign ideas and those that would enforce them as morality are deeply damaging.   For so many, the toxins of these foreign beliefs are enough to seriously harm, and in a very real sense, kill.   Enter Loki.  Trickster, breaker of stasis, flyter of the sacred, mocker of the righteous.  Loki has saved so many who saw no way out, and brought them by a thousand twisted paths to join us on the road home.

Odin may well not have been the highest in the time before, and Loki may or may not have been a god to be honoured inside the hearth and Frithstead, but in our generation we must give honour where it is due, must return a gift for a gift and acknowledge that not only does Loki deserve to be honoured as one of our gods, but in this generation, we must accept that he should be held high among them.

When I came to the Pagan community, I was told not to let anyone know that I was Heathen.  Like it was a dirty secret.  Don’t let anyone know you are Heathen until they know you well.  Once they did, then you got this token acceptance (you are all right, you aren’t like them-them being all your spiritual kin).

Now in the Heathen community, I hear the same song, slightly altered.  Don’t let anyone know you honour Loki, until they know you well.  I have to call it.  This was bullshit twenty years ago when Pagans held a view of all Heathens that actually matched none of the Heathens they actually knew and worked with for years, yet they accepted as true for every Heathen except their own token exceptions.  Its bullshit now.

 

There are going to be those pointing to individual idiots in the community and screaming “Look that is a Lokean!”  To which we can all point to five Odinsmen, Two Thorsman and a Tyrsman at least as objectionable.  Those are the exceptions.  Turn and look at the ones making your community work.  Look at the hard working people putting on the events, sacrificing to make our scattered organizations stumble along, and so often, these are the Lokeans we are working so hard to demonize.

Enough already.

We are coming together to build a road.  A road home.  Our guides are the holy gods that walked with our ancestors as they walk with us.

We are Heathens, we are supposed to follow the gifting cycle, we are supposed to repay a gift with a gift, and honour our obligations.  Loki has earned a place in our community in our lifetimes, he has done so in the coin of the blood of our own folk; the blood of the folk he saved from loss, and helped make whole again.  He has done so by bringing so many of them to us, to our community, where they can find fellowship and learn, as I learned, more than just the god that lead us home.

 

Thor is the symbol we wear to show each other who we are.  Tyr sanctifies our coming together, Frigg weaves us together as Freya teaches us to dare to live again.  Odin broods over our feasts, plotting and planning the advance of our scattered kindreds in building our road home to a more frithful and balanced future, and Loki?  He is by the fire, laughing at all of us.  Make him welcome, for he has offered his gifts right generously already.

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Asatru, Heathen, Heathentry, Uncategorized

Heathen Inspiration

 

 

There are a number of expressions that come to mind.  Reconstructionist, that is seeking to properly understand and grasp within its original cultural context, our ancestral practice.  Rebuilding our altars, once only a metaphor, and now actual construction.  We seek to return to something that was taken from our ancestors years ago, and through the efforts of our later ancestors, something we have regained the right to return to.

 

Heathenry as a religion, as a community, has gotten both mature enough, and large enough that we have not only the luxury of thinking about where we draw our inspiration, but perhaps we have a requirement to do so.  Where do Heathens look for inspiration?

Ravens

To be a Heathen is to be a paradox.  We are the simplest of people, yet how we come to be so is complex.  Ours is perhaps the simplest path to walk, yet it is the one that requires the most work, and will cost you the most comfortable assumptions.  Once you have lived this way for a while, it is as hard to think about living any other way as it would be for a raven to remember life before it could fly. We didn’t start that way, and maybe its as valuable for the eldest soaring high above us as for those perched uneasily at the side of the nest contemplating that first dive.

 

Our worldview accepts that we stand in the middle of nine worlds, in a place shared by the living and the dead.  It should be no surprise that we ourselves stand with eyes looking into two different worlds, while standing firmly rooted in a third.

Forward and Back

We look to the past with one eye.  We seek to learn the lessons our ancestors understood, truths that sometimes cannot even be contained in the languages we retain in this generation.  We seek to understand how our ancestors viewed their world, their challenges, their responsibilities, and their relationships.  We know that we have wandered far from what our ancestors would have viewed as a proper balance in our lives and wish to more fully understand their own understanding of themselves.

We stand in the present, both feet firmly planted in this world, not the past that was, nor yet on any path of the yet to be.  We stand in the now, wholly and fully creatures of our age, but if half of our vision is fixed in the past, where is the rest?
We look to the future with our other eye.  Where we looked to the past to find our responsibilities, to find our reasons to make choices, we look ahead to find our duties.  We stand in the present, but we understand and accept that our duties to those who came before us cannot be paid to the dead, but must instead be paid to the living, or the yet to be born.  We stand in the present with both feet, and we cast our eye towards the future, so that when our hands are turned to the tasks of today, we do so ever mindful of the requirements of the future.

 

We are not peoples of the book, we have no Bible like the Abrahamatic faiths, for our ancestors never found one right way to live.  They lived in a world that embraced change, that accepted that right answer for tomorrow might well be different than the right answer for yesterday.  They understood that what could be taught was how to ask the right question, what they sought to preserve was the way to see where you stood, the price that was paid that you could stand here with the choices that you have, so that you could decide for yourself which choice would make it better for those who followed after.

 

We are products of all that went before us, but we add to that all the choices that we make, all the challenges we face, and all the ties that bind us to each other.

Above all else, this is what we look to the past to remember; we do not ever stand alone.  We are all tied together, from the most distant sacred ancestor to the last of the descendants yet unborn.  We are woven together by the ties we forge in this life, ties of blood, ties of shared struggle, ties of shared friendship, ties of shared obligation.  We are tied to the land and waters whose life sustains us, we are tied to the spirits that arise from that life.  We are tied as well to the greatest of the wights, the holy gods whose opinion on our efforts at reconstructing a healthy practice in our time I trust is as filled with humour and tolerance as anything else.

I have no doubt that we do much that our ancestors would consider wrong, much else they would not have enough understanding of the world we face today to understand, but perhaps it is good to remember that much we do, they would both understand and approve.  We do not live in the world that they did, and the break between their time and ours is to great to simply reach back and carry on.
We do not seek, as the radicals of Christianity and Islam do, to turn back the clock, to deny the gains we have made as people and nations.  We seek to go forward, but to go forward sustainably, sanely, and most of all, frithfully.  Our ancestors lived in a time of great change, and changed with it.  We seek to learn to embrace the change as they did, while retaining the sense of who we are, and what is important.

We look to the past to learn how our ancestors asked the right questions.  We stand without fear in the present, accepting our responsibilities to the future.  One eye cast to the past, so that they eye we cast to the future may hope to see the right questions, that our hands in this present time can help to weave a future our ancestors would be proud to see, and our descendants would be pleased to inherit.

Like the raven trying to explain flight, it sounds terribly complicated.  Like the ravens in flight, once experienced, it is hard to imagine ever living any other way.

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