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I've always considered myself, within heathenry, to be a heathen--just a heathen, nothing more specific, nothing more defined. (I've heard that some heathens have an issue with multifaith folks who count heathenry among their practices; maybe I am just fortunate in the people I have met, but this hasn't been my experience so I'm not going to address it here, apart from mentioning that I decided years ago not to use the word "Asatru" to describe myself and that was one of the reasons.)

I tend to prefer an Icelandic model and I tend to relate best (within the heathen context) the gods in their Scandinavian form--Thor, Odin, Freyja and Frey and so forth. (I'm a pretty hard polytheist but the Thunor/Thor et al. line is one I find a bit hazy.) I have a greater comfort level with the Vans and those of the Aesir who don't mind a less structured approach, and am particularly fond of Sif and Skadhi; I grew up surrounded by woods and fields and gardens and I think that sort of thing affects a person. And although I think the heathen gods are pretty approachable on the whole, I do tend to be a bit more formal with gods like Tyr and Heimdall and Forseti and Frigg. (I am seeing a theme. Are you seeing a theme?)

Anyway, for my own use would I sat down and came up with this little list, where I put myself on various scales:

Formality: Low to Moderate
Ritual structure: Moderate
Woo level: Low
UPG level: Low to Moderate
Lore level: Moderate to Moderately High
God focus: Moderately High to High
Community focus: Moderate to High
Nature focus: Moderately Low

Is there anything I left out?
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I finally got around to ordering the statues of Frey and Tyr from Sacred Source, and they arrived today, and they're really quite nice! I don't know that I'll want to put anything else on the altar although I'd certainly like another couple of representations. Of course since I'd have to make them myself that's probably a moot point; on the other hand, the Frey and Tyr are a bit primitive but still gorgeous so perhaps I would have a chance of doing so. I've got a couple of boxes of air-dry clay in the other room...
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So obviously I need to practice this, but late last night I got out the dremel and set to work on one of our drinking horns (one with a crack but fairly thick). Wow, that's fun! I just wrote "Odin Thor Frey" in runes, but it looks pretty cool. Rustic but cool :).
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So anyway. I've started catching up on some of my email lists for the last week or so (longer in some cases :)) and came across some discussion on one list about oaths, and the idea that just how binding an oath actually is can depend on who the oath is made to. It's not the first time--although it's likely the most glaringly weird example--I've seen some heathens use the innangardh/utgardh (sorry for any misspellings there) thing to justify treating non-heathens differently.

And obviously it's not something I agree with--I can't imagine that your Wyrd would suffer any less because of who you behaved dishonorably toward--but I'm wondering whether there are any stronger sources for this. The main lore-based precedent I've seen cited is the dealings of the Aesir and the giants, specifically the tale where the Aesir contracted with a builder to build a giant-proof wall around Asgard, agreeing to pay him the sun, moon and Freyja if he could complete it within the time limit because they thought he couldn't, turned out he could, Loki got them out of it, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, I'm looking in Snorri's Edda now, and here's what he says specifically about how that all ended:

And when the builder realized that the work was not going to be completed, then the builder got into a giant rage. But when the Aesir saw for certain that that it was a mountain-giant that they had there, then the oaths were disregarded and they called upon Thor and he came in a trice and the next thing was that Mjollnir was raised aloft.

So that before they knew he was a giant, they had stuck to the letter of the agreement and their efforts to escape giving him payment amounted to going between the lines (probably fair enough since the builder himself had an advantage in his mighty horse that he did not let on to the Aesir about, so that neither party was totally open to start with), but when they found out that he was a giant, all bets were off.

But I don't think that's strictly a matter of one of us/not one of us, and doesn't really indicate that it's acceptable to cheat those who are not in the innangardh. The relationship between the gods and the giants was explicitly one of enmity, not simply of being different tribes--the giants were working toward specifically different, in fact opposing, goals.

So what I'm curious about is whether there is anything else in the lore that might support the us-vs.-them thing that you sometimes see. I mean, it's got to be based on more than just the story I mention above, right?
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Someone told me I should pick up the latest New Witch magazine, so I did (actually I had Dan do it, they sell it where he works) and there is indeed an article on Asatru in it, by Galina Krasskova. It's actually pretty good--slanted toward the magazine's audience, of course, but nothing that I could see was wrong in it, and there were links to more detailed resources in the reference section at the end.

So, cool! A whole article on heathenry in a relatively-mainstream pagan publication? That ain't bad!

Oh, and elder daughter is feeling much better today. I'm still keeping an eye on her, of course, but she has been just fine so far.


Jul. 13th, 2004 01:29 am
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One of the heathen mailing lists I mostly-lurk on is going through the old folkish-universalist debate again. Made me think of something I've always wondered, but am not about to ask on list because it could only be perceived as argumentative, and that's really not how I mean it.

I'm not folkish, but I think I have a reasonable grasp of what it means--the idea of the folk soul, the concept of the religion as a folkway (in fact, some folkish Asatruar quite resent the use of the word "religion" because to them it implies that the faith is separable from the rest of one's identity), the relationship to the gods as "elder kin." It may not be my own point of view nor one I find particularly persuasive, but I think it's a legitimate one and often a well-reasoned one.

My question is this: okay, like most reconstructionists, heathens look back to the past for inspiration. If one wants to honor the gods of the ancient Germanic people, that's where one draws that inspiration from. That makes good sense in terms of developing practices and theology. But the idea of a folk soul, that's deeper--why would that only date from that point? Why aren't one's ancestors beyond that point considered part of this? Why stop there--why not go further back? It can't be because of a lack of information, that may make it more convenient but certainly not more meaningful. (It's kind of like saying that your greatX10-grandpa is part of your family, but your greatX30-grandpa is not. Okay, you might say, but greatX10-grandpa shares more of your DNA--well, that's true, but greatX2-grandpa shares even more and he was Lutheran! :))

Most heathens seem to feel that Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and continental Germanic people worshipped pretty much the same gods under slightly-different names (not everyone thinks this, but enough do that an Odin-worshipper can mix with a Woden-worshipper without too much trouble). So that one can consider Thor and Thunor to be, for all intents and purposes, the same being. But not Perkunos. And not Taranis. And certainly not Zeus.

Okay, now I'm a hard polytheist and I definitely don't think that Perkunos and Taranis and Zeus and Thor are the same being. I'm not even sure about Thor and Thunor, quite frankly :). My point is that those who honor Thor and those who honor Thunor are considered to be part of the same Folkway, while those who honor Perkunos or Taranis are not. But, at some point, they were the same people. What changed with the coming of ancient heathenry to make that point the cut-off, the place after which we are all one people, and before which we are not? Is it in the lore somewhere? Is it just the passing of time? The development of a particular set of relatively stable deities (and any further changes that might have occurred stopped when Christianity took over)? It has to be something that makes sense in terms of tying the group together, beyond the existence of the gods.

I hope I'm making the sense I mean to make--I had gone to bed and was lying there thinking about this, and figured I had better write it down before it escaped. Back to bed now! :)
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