Question for the Day
This question popped up on one of the Asatru forums on Facebook. Many of the answers there were complete nonsense, so I thought I would take a shot here at answering it. The question was, “What would you older Heathens tell newcomers?” I’d be interested in people’s answers here too if anyone wants to chime in. The following are my top five thoughts on the matter.
- Keep the Gods central to your practice. All too often we fetishize the idea of community, to the point that we make the Gods and Their veneration secondary to the social fulfillment of “community.” There is no greater or quicker way to warp a tradition. Living community will come, but if it is not founded on principles of devotion and integrity of practice, what is its point? If community is all you’re looking for, leave our faith alone and go find a LARPing group.
- Read everything. Don’t let anyone tell you what not to read. You are a thinking, reasoning human being. You’re capable of curating your own intellectual world. Read everything you can on Heathenry, both the lore and modern sources. Some of those sources will be utter crap, so consider carefully before you incorporate what you read into your practice, but words won’t actually hurt you and useful information can be found in the most unexpected of places.
- Ignore the assholes. There are many within Heathenry. Usually they are busy attacking the work of people who are actually honoring the Gods and contributing to the sustainable future of our traditions. These people do nothing, are often deluded to the point of obsession, spiteful, hateful little trolls who suck the life out of any space they’re in. They couch their bullying with cries of “oh that person is a nazi” or “we should be concerned about their ethics” (when they have none themselves), or “that’s not Heathen” when in reality they are cowards who have done absolutely nothing of merit for their Gods or their communities. They’re garbage. Treat them as such and move on.
- Don’t forget your ancestors. It doesn’t matter where your ancestors were from. The important thing is that you have ancestors and should be honoring them. Veneration of one’s honored dead, while it can take time to really develop, is the thing that will benefit your devotional and spiritual lives the most. It provides a healthy foundation, a source of protection and strength, and will powerfully augment the venerative work you do with the Gods. It’s fundamental and crucial. It is NOT an excuse for racism and if you think it is, you’re doing it wrong.
- Don’t be afraid to get started. Perfection is the enemy of getting anything done. Don’t let naysayers stop you from throwing yourselves into loving and honoring the Gods. No one has the right to interfere in that relationship. Start where you start, be consistent, and it will work out in the end.
Getting started in a tradition can be exciting but also anxiety-producing and difficult. There are people in the community to whom you can reach out but they can be hard to find. If you are lucky enough to find someone, treat them like gold. Don’t assume that you are entitled to their time or energy. Don’t send long emails before introducing yourself and asking if they’re willing to chat with you. Be respectful. But at the same time, don’t let what someone says put you off honoring the Gods. We’re all coming from our own experience in the community and sometimes that experience can be pretty harrowing. Most of all, work on cultivating virtue and developing yourself as a man or woman of character rooted in devotion to the Gods, ancestors, and good helping spirits. That is what is truly important, not all the drama you may encounter in the so-called community.
Posted on July 31, 2020, in community, Heathenry, Uncategorized and tagged Asatru, Community, Heathenry, Newbies, Northern tradition, Q&A. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
Critical thinking and the direct experience of the divine are all to often seen as conflicting view points. But I find that thinking critically is a huge help in forming a vessel that can ease the transition between states, hold the energy when the experience comes and help direct the insights from that experience in the mundane realms…and that offers a pretty sound basis for developing rituals that are sustainable through one’s own lifetime and may even give the next generation a template to build a living tradition that actually serves them.
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Another piece of advice to newcomers: ignore naysayers who are not part of our Tradition. The general response of people outside our communities is confusion, bemusement, mockery, or outright anger that some people are once again worshiping the various ancient pantheons. Some people will do everything they can to convince us that practicing a “dead” religion is pointless or that modern Polytheists aren’t “legitimate”. Ignore them. We have nothing to prove to anyone outside our communities. The only opinions that matter are those of the Gods, our respected elders, and ourselves. If someone thinks you’re dumb for worshiping Thor, that’s their problem, not yours.
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YES. A Thousand times THIS.
that cat picture is AXEsome.
In all seriousness, the key items I wholeheartedly agree with. I’d also further add, and remember we have no books from the historic past that was meant to be used as a religious text. The lore is flawed. There are kernels of truth in it, but most of the sources were written centuries after conversion. So be careful not to be a lore thumper, our Gods and Goddesses are far more than just fictional characters that exist between the pages of a manuscript.
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Galina, I know you said elsewhere not to worry about asking stupid questions, and I agree with you in theory…but I still feel pretty silly. I’m probably drastically overthinking this, but is there a specific reason why you and others suggest using books for the physical raising parts of Ancestor elevations? I’ve never been thrilled with the idea for a variety of reasons. It’s probably either OCD or scrupulosity on my part, but I worry about the books picking up miasma if the elevation goes poorly or even good contagion if it goes well. I use my books regularly, so either of those things could cause problems. I also have visual processing problems galore, so admittedly the idea of having to figure out if several books are approximately the same size stresses me out a bit, lol. I’ve been thinking of buying several bricks and using them exclusively for Ancestor Work, especially specifically for elevations. I have several Ancestors who were bricklayers or related jobs, and one who was a stonemason but switched to bricklaying when he came to America because there wasn’t much call for stonework here. I have no experience with brickwork myself, but it struck me as way to help my Ancestors be more closely involved in the process by using a medium some of them are familiar with, and struck me as similar to the practice of giving the Ancestors tools or other items to help and work with. I also like the idea of the symbolism of bricks being used to build things, including strong foundations. But then, a lot of the nuts and bolts of religious practices seem innocuous, but in reality aren’t at all. Is there a reason why books are best?
Hi coastal Pagan, Ok. for those not familiar with what you’re asking about, ancestor elevations are an open rite that comes originally from spiritualism and that has been adopted wholesale by the afro-caribbean religious community but also by ancestor workers in general. l learned it at two separate times from Lukumi practitioners. It heals, strengthens, and “elevates” an ancestor, helping them to do the work they need to do to become better.
As part of the elevation, prayers are given for nine nights and each night, the picture or name of the ancestors being elevated is physically raised up a little bit more, usually by putting a book or brick under it, one more each day. Now, onto your question, which is actually a pretty good one. I might pull all this out as a separate post later.
I firmly believe that the raising up of the picture is there as a visual representation for both the dead and for us of what is happening in the elevation.
Your question about miasma is an important one. I handle that by cleansing everything afterwards. Because I usually use books, I will rekan them with mugwort (smoke them by lighting some mugwort or other cleansing incense and let the smoke run over the books). When I elevate, I use one book each night, usually one that’s about an inch thick. I think using bricks would be absolutely brilliant, not only bc that solves the problem of variant sizes, but most especially because you had ancestors who were bricklayers, and also because it is a perfect representation of a foundation that supports.
I use books because I learned this from two urban Lukumi practitioners and for years I lived in a small NYC apartment. ^_^ I had books. I actually really like the idea of using bricks. It doesn’t matter what you use, so long as the image is visually being elevated daily. Good question and I’m really glad you asked it!
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Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. For what it’s worth, I’ve really been enjoying this practicum series of posts you’ve been doing.
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I’m glad. I”m certainly enjoying writing it. 🙂 Let me know if you have any more questions — I’ll happily give a go answering them.
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