Faith, Hearth, and Home
This morning I was having a rather lively email discussion with a student about what constitutes tradition, the many ways in which we use that term, and what is absolutely essential to create a healthy, lasting religious tradition (1). It was a good conversation and I want to recap some of the main points here, because in one way or another, this question comes up again and again. The answer is actually embedded in the etymology of the word ‘tradition’ itself, which comes from trado, tradere, tradidi, traditum meaning ‘to hand over, transmit, deliver, pass on.’ A tradition is something that is carefully preserved and passed on. For any long lasting, sustainable tradition, that happens first and foremost within a family structure.
The family is the fundamental building block of a healthy community, and absolutely necessary to a healthy, sustainable tradition, a family rooted in tradition, piety, and faith. How one’s family is organized, what constitutes a family is up to those people involved. A lot of us have issues with our biological families, or for whatever reason, including the press of our religious Work, don’t fit into the conventional family model. That’s perfectly fine. We have to find different, equally legitimate ways of ordering our households, developing relationships with people, and creating a container for the transmission of healthy Polytheism, in my case Heathenry which is the context in which this conversation initially began.
This doesn’t mean one needs necessarily to have a passel of children. I also want to say loudly and clearly, that LGBTQIA+ families are likewise just as valid as their conventional counterpart –I don’t want this to be read as in any way saying that they aren’t. Family is the people you have bonds with and with whom you are creating a home. What I mean in positioning the family as central to our traditions and to society as a whole, is that it encourages you to value something beyond your basic needs: the happiness, health, and success of other people is as important if not more so than your own. This mindset inculcates the essential values that make you a human being, a functional, healthy, pious human being. The key to sustainable traditions and a healthy, functional society, is piety rooted deeply in hearth cultus. It’s not enough for it to be performative at the occasional public blot.
When someone rails against the idea of home and hearth as an essential part of our traditions, not only do they have no full comprehension of what pre-Christian polytheisms were like or even of how they functioned, but they are cutting our own contemporary traditions off at the roots, and they’re likely doing so because their own relationship with their biological family, with the very concept of family, is dysfunctional. We need to rise above that – and I say that, having been there. It took me decades to deal with my birth family. This doesn’t mean we are shaming people who don’t have families or good families for whatever reason. In fact, it means we should encourage them to find the people and create the structures that work for them, or, if they wish to remain single, to find the healing they need so that they can contribute fully to the community. Even a household of one person can be a functional household.
They don’t teach us anymore in schools how to keep a home, balance a checkbook, maintain a budget, cook proper foods – which are essential building blocks to maintaining a family – and society is all but collapsing because of it. How much more damaging is the effect of this on our traditions? This is stuff men and women both need to know, whether your family is one or twenty plus. This is basic functionality even before we get to piety and religion. There is also always, and must always be space for (and I use this as a very neutral term) aberrant individuals who won’t fit, and that’s especially the case if they are spiritual specialists. Spiritual vocations often contribute to that solitary othering. A healthy community has those productive loopholes. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should dismiss family as the healthy norm.
This is why it’s so important to raise children as polytheists, and to involve them in our traditions. Piety doesn’t just happen. Like virtue, it must be consciously and actively cultivated. This is why it’s equally important that those of us who don’t have or want children, support those who do.
There is no healthy society and there is no healthy tradition without healthy, pious households. It really does come down to faith, folk, and family and people who think that’s a dog whistle for anything else, need to deal with themselves (2).
- I often find when this term comes up, that it’s very easy to speak at cross purposes. A tradition can mean many things. It can be a habitual custom, a sentimental practice within a household, or a living container for the Mysteries of a God. When I use the term, it’s that latter definition to which I refer and I talk about that here.
- By folk, I do not ascribe any racial imperative to this term. It is those who are part of one’s religious community, possibly one’s civic community, and one’s relatives outside of the immediate family. I could not possibly give a flying fuck as to what racial make up that entails. Love whom you love. Fuck on with your bad selves but be responsible.
Posted on July 15, 2020, in community, Heathenry, Lived Polytheism, Uncategorized and tagged Asatru, Family, hearth cultus, Heathenry, Northern tradition, practicum, tradition. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.