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Commitment and Acceptance


This is an essay suggesting that it might be important to our future as a people to be more discriminating.  That has become rather a nasty word in our later history.  The word means nothing more than “to make a clear distinction”, or, simpler, to choose.  We might be better served if we were choosier of our company.

What makes a person a heathen?  More to the point, what makes a person a heathen amongst his or her fellows, out in the wider world?

Some would say that one’s declaration of purpose makes one a heathen. One dedicates himself or herself to the Æsir and Vanir, or to any one of their number, and presumably carries on a relationship with them or him or her, and they’re “in”.  Furthermore, there are those who speak of the Gods “calling” folks.  This is usually accompanied by an admonition not to second-guess whom the Gods call. 

Does self-designation make one a heathen?  Probably.  Does this self-declared spiritual dialogue make one a heathen?  Just as probably. Does one then have the responsibility to take that person seriously as a heathen?  Does their self-declaration bring with it the call of tribal duty to that person?  Does self-declaration require acceptance?  I think not.

If someone declares himself or herself a trout, don’t go running for the butter.

Our people are advised by Old Har, as that advice has come down to us, to be wary.  One should accept a guest with hospitality, but accepting them as family is something else.  In the end, isn’t being a member of a household, clan or tribe being a member of a family?

Taking such a self-description at face value is rather like loaning money on a handshake…to a stranger. 

How can one verify or quantify another person’s spiritual experience?  What proof is there of someone else’s commitment, either to the Gods or to anything or anyone else?  Proof only exists in watching a person’s actions and assessing the luck which that person accrues and experiences as the result of meeting that commitment.

So, self-declaration might certainly clarify where one stands for oneself, but is hardly an introduction to anyone else.

A self-described heathen may very well be a heathen, in his or her own mind or in fact.  They may well have a strong and committed relationship with the Gods of Our People, and their word on this and many other things may be worth more than gold.  Only time and a wary and careful eye to that person’s actions can reveal this…and some people need more time than others to arrive at an estimation of a person.

Some folks believe that belief is all.  A stated belief, best when frequently repeated, is the proof of the thing.  It is a rather Lutheran worldview.  Belief in God or divinity or some such else takes the place of action and the consequence of that action.  One can say and say, again and again, and saying a thing proves a thing to some people.

That is simply not enough.

The Folkway isn’t and must not be permitted to degenerate to being a “congregation”.  It is not a community of believers.

By the same token, the Folkway is the birthright of a particular people in the world.  Northern European people are born to it, and it is a product of ages of the genius of that people.  That said, it must be recognized that it is a decided minority worldview in Iceland, where the Folkway is best rooted and strongest.  The overwhelming majority of Icelanders are Christians.  The overwhelming majority of Vinlanders – Americans of Northern European stock – are either Christian of some measure or are secular, cleaving to some transitory social or political ethic (e.g., socialism) or to nothing at all.

Having a birthright is a token to having a thing.  It isn’t having that thing.  One must step up and earn one’s place among the Folk.

The Folkway must require commitment.  Accepting people as kinsmen in the Folkway is necessary for the community building which must accompany the flourishing of our people.  Accepting people as they arrive back from the foreign faith or from a life without faith is our way of building strength through numbers, and of broadening our pool of talent. 

Accepting strangers is a troublesome thing, however, and we are best advised to do it slowly and cautiously.  No one should ever tell a household whom they should or should not accept.  No one should ever tell a clan which household is or is not acceptable.  That should be a matter for the household or clan having the decision to make.  Finally, no one should try to force the issue of acceptance.  No one likes uninvited guests.

Much is made of – and much is said about – the beliefs or spiritual experience of a person.  Spiritual experience is, however, a slippery thing, and talk is cheap because amongst our people it is abundant.  We often think out loud. 

That is why it is wise to put a premium on commitment and acceptance.  One doesn’t simply commit to a God, to our people, to a task or action.  One commits and then acts, and then that act or those actions arising from that commitment is examined.  One is then accepted or one is not. 

In short, one may declare oneself a heathen, but that doesn’t require other heathens to owe you so much as the time of day.  Freedom of association is key.  One might well be confronted, as one puts one’s shoulder to another man’s door, with “You may be a heathen, but you’re not MY kind of heathen, so be gone.”

This wary and unwelcoming attitude isn’t modern.  In fact, it is quite ancient, and has deep roots.  When offering or accepting hospitality, one is, again, advised to be careful of one’s back, and have one’s weapons ready.

Today, we are (thankfully) less likely to encounter axe-wielding skull-splitters at a blot or sumbel.  That is, I’d hope all would agree, a good thing.  Still, in a less demonstrative world, we’re just as apt to encounter treachery, if of a more subtle kind.  We’re apt to find chieftains without kinsmen, priests without portfolio, and thinkers whose only thought is to divide and ridicule. 

We are a people whose Folkway is burgeoning, slowly.  It is, truth be told, on the mend.  We today are the custodians not only of our Folkway, but also of the honor of our people, just as our chieftains are the custodians of the honor of their households and clans.  We would be wise to be careful and build slowly.  There is strength in numbers, but it is a strength that carries a price. 

One would hope that we’re not merely building a Folkway and worldview to pass along to the next generation which is made up of form alone.  Ours is not, and should not be, a “mystery religion”, all runes and rituals and shamans in pointy hats and star-bedecked gowns.  Harry Potter might well be a heathen, but I don’t think he’s MY kind of heathen.  It should be what it once was:  the expression of the genius of a particular people, a genuine people in the world.

For that, we need value commitment – Asa-Tru, a troth, and a commitment to the Æsir – and turn our eyes toward the actions and consequences arising from that commitment.  We should value people who do, not merely talk.  We should look to accepting those who pose a challenge and meet the challenge.  

Being a heathen should be more than saying that one is a heathen.  It should be something other people recognize.  It should be coming home.