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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
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
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
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
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
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.