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And now the Apostate has defenders.

I suppose it’s indicative of Heathenry that a wife-beating apostate has defenders, because way too many Heathens respect neither women nor the Gods. This misguided person is doggedly defending Swain Wodening on both counts, blaming his ex wife for her own abuse, excusing Swain’s apostasy as though it were nothing but a momentary error. He dismisses any criticism of this piece of garbage by asserting that those of us criticizing him are acting on hearsay.

Actually, those of us criticizing him knew Swain and his ex wife, we worked with him when we were Theodish, and saw first hand what a mewling, characterless cretin he was –and obviously remains (constantly blaming everyone else for his own missteps is just the beginning). We’re not acting on hearsay at all. Nor is his mental illness an excuse. There are PLENTY of people in the world diagnosed with General Anxiety disorder who don’t behave in the fashion swain did.

Do I blame his wife for anything? Maybe for not shooting the son of a bitch the first time he attacked her. But then the laws in this country don’t always support women who do the right thing in such situations, and she had children to care for. She made choices congruent with keeping her children safe. Brava to her. She survived and I am glad to know that she is living a good and happy life now– far away from Swain. It disgusts me that in every case I have seen in our communities, where a well-known male figure is guilty of some sort of assault, those he assaulted get blamed (I saw the same thing happen in the Wiccan community with pedophile and wife beater Kenny Klein, may he rot in hell).

Even putting aside the spousal abuse, Swain says his “conversion to Christianity was a mistake.” no shit. A leader, as Swain was within Theodish Heathenry, who turns his back on his Gods and *publicly excoriates Them* has no right to expect return. He is garbage, living garbage. He committed apostasy of the highest order. A “mistake?” Yes it was and mistakes have consequences. In a proper community he’d be driven out, not defended. But then a proper community would care about the quality of its leaders, and integrity before the Gods. Swain has neither quality nor integrity and yet these fools defend him. His personal integrity – – if he came back, why would he be seeking public position in stead of just worshipping quietly? If he’s coming back to try to reclaim his public position — oh hell no. There is no excuse for what Swain did. He apostatized and wants to come back as though that never happened and didn’t matter AND as on every other fault, not only blames everyone but his own lack of character and poor judgement, but apparently has other men doing the same. Grow the fuck up, Heathens. This man is polluted garbage, poison. There’s no place amongst decent, devout people for his kind. This man’s deeds are to beat his wife and publicly turn his back on his Gods. He and his family popularized the maxim “we are our deeds.” Well, to quote another maxim, “it is by one’s deeds that we shall know them.”

As I said before, it’s one thing for laity to apostatize. They struggle with our spirituality and it can be very hard. There’s going to be movement and sometimes even syncretic practice. That’s fine. That’s not Swain. Swain was one of the most well known of Theodish leaders and, might I point out, according to the interview linked above, he’s not taking responsibility for his apostasy either. He says, ‘I never fully accepted the [Christian] doctrine.’ Great. So you’re an apostate twice over. (Nor, might I add, did Swain ever criticize Theodism as the article asserts. If he did, he was awfully quiet about it). Also, his belief “But the core of my beliefs, that good deeds not faith get you into Heaven are what I truly believe” is heresy both in most Christian denominations and Heathenry. It’s one fucking step away from prosperity gospel bullshit.

Swain didn’t just hold Christian views, but wrote a book on it trying to capitalize on being a covert from Heathenry. They finally see through your Bullshit, Swain? Is that why you’re back? Hoping a new generation of Heathens won’t know what a piece of shit you truly are? Did you get kicked out by Christians AND Heathens? wow. Maybe try Wicca next. Their standards might be more flexible. After all, many of them defended Kenny Klein and Isaac Bonewits and probably Marian Zimmer Bradley too so you’ll be in good company. But fuck off out of Heathenry. You have no place here and every time your name comes up, we should spit that foulness out of our mouths, and speak aloud your unending list of transgressions against your family, your tribe, and your Gods. None of us who knew you during that time, will ever forget. And forgiveness without recompense is not part of our tradition.

After all as the Havamal says, “When you see evil speak out against it and give no truce to your enemy.” A man who beats his wife, terrorizes his children, abandons his faith and publicly apostatizes will always be my enemy.

Apostasy in our Communities

I hate having to make this post. The subject is one, however, that needs to be addressed by those of us who have been in the community long enough to know the history of the person in question. I really hate having to write this. 


Apparently Swain Wodening is back, after having apostatized, broken faith with our Gods, after he returned to Christianity, and after he’s written at least one book “Letting Go to Live with Christ” (and this is not going into detail about what an execrable human being he is on a personal level). He’s lurking in multiple Facebook Heathen groups under his legal name Berry Canote. 


So far, there has been no explanation of his apostasy, no contrition, no humility. Is he coming back in troth or coming back to proselytize? Or is he coming back because he didn’t get enough attention after his apostasy (after all, Christian groups might pet and fawn over the converted Pagan for a year or two but eventually that fame fades). Why should we ever trust the word of a man with so little honor?


Swain was not just  regular laity. He was in positions of authority and leadership within Heathenry. He broke his word and turned his back on the Gods. We need to hold our leaders and elders to a higher standard or what’s the point? If someone is going to constantly swing back and forth between Heathenry, Christianity, Heathenry, Christianity, etc. they are unreliable and having broken their word, having broken troth to the degree that he did, we should not easily allow such a person to return to our communities without censure. Nor should he ever be given any position of leadership again ever. 


It’s not even that he went Christian…a polytheist can honor the Christian Gods if he or she wants. No, Swain fully turned his back on the Gods and became a monotheist. This isn’t the same as syncretic practice, adding more Deities to your family shrine; this is a renunciation of our Holy Powers and once you do that, there should not be an easy way back. Personally, I don’t think there should be a way back at all, but if we’re being generous, the fucker should have to prove himself for a very long time. 


At some point, we need to establish strict standards in dealing with garbage like this. There is no place in our community for atheists and there’s certainly no place for those who abandon the Gods in the way that he did to traipse back in expecting to be welcomed with open arms. This is a religion not a fucking social club. 

EDIT: I would add if it were a lay person struggling with his or her faith, we could work with that and probably should work with that, but this was someone who was a leader in the heathen community for years, who influenced many people, and who behaved abominably. and, moreover, who has evinced no contrition or explanation upon his return and who is sneaking back in under his legal name, not the one he used before as if to hide. no. no. and no

Apostasy – We are our Deeds

So I woke today to news that a prominent leader in Anglo-Saxon Heathenry and Theodism had converted back to Christianity.(1) Knowing what a completely vile and unethical human being this particular person is, part of me was relieved (good riddance to rubbish) and part of me disgusted. It’s not enough that a generation of our ancestors committed apostasy and spat upon our Gods, this asshole has to do it too? Why? Not getting enough pats on the head recently from the community? I think something like this just shows that one was involved in Heathenry not for the Gods but for the indulgence of one’s own ego – nice to be a big fish in a small pond, isn’t it?

Here’s the thing, if one loves the Gods and has a devotional commitment to Them, if one is committed to restoring our traditions, if one is in alignment with one’s ancestors, then abandoning them for the faith of those that conquered our ancestors and crushed our traditions is unthinkable. (2) Devotional work, faith, even praxis can be really difficult, particularly when our communities are spread out across the country, contentious, and often problematic. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to prioritize the Gods and ancestors first and foremost over any reified, fetishized idea of ‘community.’ If one’s faith is based on human concerns then it will crumble eventually, as soon as one isn’t getting one’s ego stroked, or as soon as one encounters the problems that every human group (probably from time immemorial) has had to face. Yes, it’s necessary to build community, but not at the expense of devotional integrity. (And don’t tell me this has anything to do with theology, because there is nothing inherent in Heathenry or any polytheism that says one can’t also venerate Jesus, Mary, etc. while keeping true to our Gods. This is someone who found it too tough and like a coward ran).

Granted, our communities as they are really need to do better. I’ve run across several people who nominally converted (though not in the depth of their hearts) to Christianity so they could have support as they aged. Think about that. This says that our communities aren’t doing anything to help their people, support their people, tend their aging and that is a violation of every ethical standard our ancestors held.

Any Heathenry that isn’t founded on reverence for the Gods, honoring the dead, and respect for our elders is utter shit and isn’t something that will or even should survive. I hope many more in the community follow this guy’s example because if you’re not willing to help, get the fuck out of the way while the rest of us work to restore and perpetuate these traditions. It’s time to choose sides and I know where I stand.

 

Notes:

 

  1. No, I won’t say whom as I don’t know if this person has gone public yet to the community.
  2. I read today’s wild hunt article with some concern. Apparently honoring the ancestors is viewed by some Heathens (particularly in the Troth) as a stepping off point for racism. One of the comments mentioned that it was even banned in Heathen groups in Austria. What the fuck is wrong with you people? Ancestor veneration is a core component of every polytheism I can name and if you allow contemporary politics to strip that from your devotional world than you’re a fool and Heathenry is better off without you. If you take it into a racist place, then you’re also a fool. Why is it so difficult for people to get basic concepts through their heads, like you know, maybe honoring (as one commenter also said) those without whom one would not actually BE? I’d like to say this is just more of the Troth making an issue where there isn’t one, but apparently, this is a thing in various groups. Gegen Dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens.