PDA

View Full Version : Norse Heathenry (aka Asatru, Odinism, Theodism, Forn Sed...)



Boxing Pythagoras
08-23-2014, 01:04 PM
Norse Heathenry is a modern religion which attempts to reconstruct the faith, rituals, and beliefs of pre-Christian Germanic peoples. It is alternately titled Germanic neopaganism, Asatru, Odinism, Theodism, Forn Sed, or a host of other names. Heathenry is a polytheistic religion which focuses on the value of ancestry, family, and kindred. Initial attempts to reconstruct Norse religions with a mind toward their practice can date back to the late 19th Century. Due to a heavy reliance on historical documentation and scholarly research in aid of this reconstruction, Heathens often joke that it is "the religion with homework."

The Texts of Heathenry

The primary sources upon which Heathens rely for the discernment and practice of their faith are historical records which document the lives and legends of Germanic peoples. Foremost among these are the Eddas-- divided into the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda-- which are accounts of the mythology of Norse Heathenry, and descriptions of the gods and their lives. The Poetic Edda is older, and consists of a number of poems of unknown attribution. The Prose Edda represents the attempt of a 13th Century Christian historian from Iceland, Snorri Sturluson, at collecting the mythology of his ancestry together. The Eddas provide invaluable information regarding the theology and philosophy of the Scandinavian peoples. Other historical records which are often appealed to include the Germania by Roman historian Tacitus and the Sagas (assorted tales of heroes and adventurers), as well as records and letters from the people with whom the Germanic tribes interacted.

In general, most Heathens do not treat these documents as Scripture or as Divinely Inspired. A possible exception can be found with some of the poems related in the Poetic Edda-- for example, the Hávamál ("Sayings of the High One") which a minority of Heathens still maintain to be the words of Odin, himself. A great emphasis is placed on the scholarly fields of linguistics and historical criticism in interpreting the meaning of these texts, and their relevance towards the reconstructed religion.

Theology & Cosmology

In general, Heathenry is a polytheistic faith which also incorporates aspects of animism and ancestor reverence. However, the manner in which these beliefs are observed varies widely. There are certainly Heathens who believe that the gods are actual, personal beings that interact in our lives. Others, however, take an Archetypal perspective, believing that the gods are representative of certain concepts, actions, or attitudes, rather than being individual embodied entities. Still others (like myself) are entirely atheistic, and view the stories of the gods as moral fables and tribal philosophy.

For those who believe that the gods are real, personal entities, they are not generally viewed in the manner of Classical Theism. The gods are not omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, eternal, or immortal. The gods did not pre-exist the primordial cosmos, but coalesced from it (though, the myths do tell of Odin, Vili, and Ve creating the Earth and humanity). Gods have a full spectrum of emotions and faults, they can bear children and they can die.

Even those who do believe that the gods are personal beings do not generally hold that the mythology is historically factual. There is an active differentiation between mythological truth and historical truth. When the Eddas tell us that Odin, Vili, and Ve carved the Earth from the corpse of the great frost giant, Ymir, Heathens do not generally contend that the history of Earth painted by astrophysics and geology is therefore wrong; nor that this myth should be taught alongside the Big Bang theory in science classrooms. Similarly, when Odin carved the first two humans from an Ash tree and an Elm, Heathens do no usually contend that this should be taught in place of biological evolution. There is, instead, a focus on the relation between the gods and man, rather than an insistence upon historical verity.

Rites & Practices

Heathens tend to pray and give offerings to the gods, ancestors, and the spirits of the land. These offerings can range from physical things, like food or sculptures or money, to more abstract concepts, like an offering of work, or of time, or of attitude. Such offerings are considered a sacrifice of something valued, and should not be things which are therefore given without care. The idea is that you are giving something precious to the reverenced being. Such an offering is usually referred to as a Blót, from the Old Norse word meaning "blood."

A common communal rite is called the Sumbel. The Sumbel is a ritual drinking ceremony in which the participants take turns giving toasts to the gods, heroes, ancestors, or kindred. This is often followed by oaths of fellowship or loyalty, as well as a round of boasting, wherein a person proclaims an action or event he has undertaken which has espoused great pride. In contrast to Christian morality, boastfulness and pride are not considered to be sinful or actions to be avoided; rather, it is to be commended when one is proud of his own works-- though boasting should not be confused with condescension, nor with vainglorious lies. The Sumbel ritual concentrates on the kindred relationship between everyone involved, participants, gods, and ancestors, alike.

Many Heathens appeal to personal revelation from the gods or spirits. This can manifest in many different ways, from a simple feeling that indicates something is right or wrong, to prophetic dreams or visions, and even to divination practices like rune casting. Such revelation is often referred to as Unverified Personal Gnosis, or UPG, and while it can be viewed strongly by the individual who experienced it, or that person's kindred, it is generally not accorded much weight by other Heathens, as UPG tends to be somewhat common, and it often occurs that one person's UPG directly contradicts that of another.

Morality

While there are no hard-and-fast proscriptions, in Heathenry, as one might find in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, there are some points of morality which tend to remain common throughout. Kinship is a main focus, and treating one's kindred (whether they are direct family members or just close members of one's community) with respect and dignity is fairly paramount in the eyes of most Heathens. Outside of kindred, hospitality is strongly valued and encouraged; while people who are not members of your direct community might not deserve the service you would offer kindred, neither should you turn them away if they ask for some simple favor or help.

Courage, loyalty, truthfulness, discipline, industriousness, and perseverance are all, also, generally held in high regard by practicing Heathens, though each of these virtues has its own exceptions. There are greatly varying views, within Heathenry, regarding many specific issues of morality which are relevant to the modern world. For example, you can certainly find Heathens on both sides of the fence, as regards homosexual marriage. As in any other faith, these debates are usually argued on the basis of traditions and the texts, and can often remain unresolved.

I would be remiss to mention Heathen morality without at least commenting upon racism. Unfortunately, while most practitioners of Norse Heathenry condemn racism as vehemently as possible, there remains a not-insignificant portion of Heathenry that do hold to such racist ideals. For some, it is less pronounced-- given that Heathenry is a reconstruction of Germanic folk religions with a significant focus on ancestry, these Heathens feel that the modern practice should be reserved for those with Germanic heritage. For others, it is far more vitriolic, as numerous neo-Nazis have picked up on the interest that the Third Reich had in Germanic tradition and thereby justify their own racism. Those Heathens that promote racism are a minority as compared to the whole of Norse Heathenry, and most of us view them as an embarrassing minority, at that.

Further Reading

If you are more interested in Heathenry, here are a few suggestions which might help to continue your understanding:

A Practical Heathen's Guide to Asatru, by Patricia M. Lafayllve
The Poetic Edda, particularly either the Carolyne Larrington or the Lee M. Hollander translations
The Prose Edda, by Snorri Sturluson
The Norse Mythology Blog (http://www.norsemyth.org/), by Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried (which maintains a large library of free resources)

And, of course, I'll endeavor to answer any questions as best as I can!

KingsGambit
08-26-2014, 02:09 PM
Thanks for the write-up. I don't have much to add at this point in time beyond just sponging up what I read, but I'm curious, was there some specific catalyst for this "reconstruction" to begin in the 19th century?

Boxing Pythagoras
08-26-2014, 02:19 PM
Thanks for the write-up. I don't have much to add at this point in time beyond just sponging up what I read, but I'm curious, was there some specific catalyst for this "reconstruction" to begin in the 19th century?Partly a greater dissemination of scholarship on Norse mythology, and partly the general fad towards the occult and spiritualism which was common to the late 19th Century.

Adrift
12-15-2014, 02:51 PM
Following this thread from your post in the screwballs thread.

I have a passing interest in Heathenry. Actually, cultic religions in general interest me, probably because of past personal experience. I also listen to a bit of Neofolk and neoClassical/Medieval bands that attempt to replicate historical music of the era. I dig bands like Gae Bolg and the Church of Fand, Corvus Corax, Death in June, The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud, and the like. I also recently got into the terrific podcast Saga Thing which is hosted by a couple of professors of Medieval Literature, and focuses on the Icelandic Sagas and Eddas. On top of that, I've recently started watching the comedy Almighty Johnsons which deals with Norse Gods living in New Zealand, and am a huge fan of the show Vikings and viking films in general. So the passing interest is sort of at full tilt lately.

I'm also interested in the historical aspects of the religion, especially as it relates to my own ancestry. Trying to hammer down exactly who my ancestors were and what they believed isn't exactly easy. I know thanks to DNA tests I'm mostly German (and a bit Scandinavian) on my dad's side, British/Irish on my mom's and a little Native American and Ashkenazi thrown in there someplace. I lived in Germany for 3 years, been to the village my family originated from (Ernsthofen in Hesse), and know that the native inhabitants were probably the Chatti. But because of the great migrations throughout Europe, nailing down exactly who my ancestors may have been seems near impossible.

Outside of the Sagas and the Eddas, which are very late, and mostly derive from Christian sources, there seems to be very little historical data on what the Germanic people's believed. Yeah, we have bits and pieces from Tacitus and Julius Ceasar, but not nearly enough to paint anything near a complete picture. What we do know about their beliefs seem pretty fluid and evolving. The devotion that later tribes gave to Thor, and Odin, might have initially been given to Tyr. We know they practiced animal and human sacrifice, and that the Romans ascribed Roman names to the Gods they worshipped (Mars, Mercury, Hercules, but the chief apparently being Mercury). We know a few other things, but not a whole lot.

I realize that many (if not most) people who are into neopaganism (Heathenry, Asatru, Neo-Druidry, Nova Roma, etc) are either agnostic about the existence of divine beings, or are, in fact, atheists. I'm curious, why someone who is an atheist would go about ascribing themselves as "Heathen" or "Asatru", or what have you. I understand that some agree with the ideology more than the actual religion, but Germanic religion was so broad, and so couched in mystery that it seems impossible that anyone could know with any certainty what the ideology was, or that we could get it right today. Most neopaganism seems to me to be more about late 19th early 20th century fascination with the occult and later the new age movement than about actual historical religious beliefs. Also, I've had a number of neopagan friends and acquaintances over the years, and I can't help but feel that part of the reason they're into it is because its a little rebellious (which kind of goes with the scenes I've been in). Others seem to be into it because of peer influence (which may be true for a lot of religions, occult or otherwise). I know one couple who are sort of neopagan mutts. They're into a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Some Norse, some Wiccan, some Native American, some Roman Catholic, an unhealthy dose of Angelology, Astrology, and New Age, etc. Some people seem to only be into it because they were D&D/LARP geeks and Neopaganism is just a geeky extension of that. Its hard for me to take them seriously. I also know that some people are into it because of neo-fascism. As you pointed out, that's a minority view, but I'm curious to know how minor that view is within Heathenry in general. There probably aren't that many people in the world who would claim to be Heathens, but I imagine that a good portion of those who do would identify with the neo-fascism. I mean, even if it represents a quarter of all Heathens, that's still a pretty big slice of the pie.

Anyways, I'm sorta rambling. So, yeah. Interesting topic.

Boxing Pythagoras
12-15-2014, 03:36 PM
Thanks for the interest, Adrift!


Also, outside of the Sagas and the Eddas, which are very late, and mostly derive from Christian sources, there seems to be very little historical data on what the Germanic people's believed. Yeah, we have bits and pieces from Tacitus and Julius Ceasar, but not nearly enough to paint anything near a complete picture. What we do know about their beliefs seem pretty fluid and evolving.There's also quite a bit which can be picked up from archaeology, in addition to the sources which come to us through Christian scribes. Runestones, carvings, and other artwork help us greatly in identifying parts of myths and beliefs which were certainly held prior to Christianization. Ritual sites help us to determine the practices involved in offerings and burials. Talismans, statuary, and other trinkets point towards those things which people held to be sacred and worthy of worship.

While the beliefs of the Germanic peoples were certainly fluid and evolving, over the centuries, that's not generally an issue to most Norse Heathens, today. Quite the contrary, most Heathens would view their practice as just the latest shape taken by the ever-shifting religion. Neopaganism, in generally, is far less focused on orthodoxy and correct beliefs than it is on orthopraxy and right practices.


I'm curious, why someone who is an atheist would go about ascribing themselves as "Heathen" or "Asatru", or what have you.Personally, I identify with Heathenry mostly on the basis of ideology, ethics, and certain aspects of metaphysics. Even given many of the problems which you correctly cite, there is a good bit about the beliefs of Germanic peoples which can be faithfully reconstructed from the evidence which we have. Furthermore, regardless of whether or not they represent the religion of these earlier groups with perfect accuracy, the commonalities of Heathenry as it is generally practiced today accord with my personal beliefs. I'm fairly certain, for example, that Egil Skallagrimsson's understanding of the specifics of Wyrd and Orlog would have been vastly different from my own; however, this does not trouble me any more than Christians are troubled by the fact that a mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds.

I will note that, given my atheism, I tend to intentionally avoid self-identifying as an 'Asatruar' or referring to my religion as 'Asatru,' since that word explicitly means "true/loyal/faithful to the Aesir/gods." That's why I prefer the term "Heathen."


...I've had a number of neopagan friends and acquaintances over the years... Some Norse, some Wiccan, some Native American, some Roman Catholic, an unhealthy dose of Angelology, Astrology, and New Age, etc. Some people seem to only be into it because they were D&D/LARP geeks and Neopaganism is just a geeky extension of that. Its hard for me to take them seriously.I know quite a number of people like this, myself. Honestly, even within the Heathen community, it's often difficult to take such people seriously. It's something akin to an extremely liberal, postmodernist, spiritual-but-not-religious Christian, as opposed to a Christian who spends a great deal of their time researching the history and philosophy behind their faith. Yes, there are tons of neopagans who took to the religion just so that they could be a part of something different and cool-sounding. However, there are quite a number of us who are absolutely infatuated with the scholarship and more academic side of the religion.

Incidentally, one of the Facebook groups to which I belong, Heathen Scholarship, has over 350 members and offers discussion of several scholarly papers, every day.


I also know that some people are into it because of neo-fascism. As you pointed out, that's a minority view, but I'm curious to know how minor that view is within Heathenry in general. There probably aren't that many people in the world who would claim to be Heathens, but I imagine that a good portion of those who do would identify with the neo-fascism. I mean, even if it represents a quarter of all Heathens, that's still a pretty big slice of the pie.Honestly, I would also be interested in learning how many identify with neo-fascism, as a percentage of the whole. It is, unfortunately, quite difficult to ascertain such information. I will say that all of the larger organizations of Heathens of which I am aware explicitly denounce racism, and reject the idea that Heathenry is to be quarantined solely to those of a certain ethnic heritage. However, just as it doesn't take a great deal of searching to find a Christian Church that thinks all homosexual people should be jailed or put to death, you don't have to look too far to find Heathens who also espouse racist and neo-fascist beliefs.

Adrift
12-15-2014, 04:23 PM
There's also quite a bit which can be picked up from archaeology, in addition to the sources which come to us through Christian scribes. Runestones, carvings, and other artwork help us greatly in identifying parts of myths and beliefs which were certainly held prior to Christianization. Ritual sites help us to determine the practices involved in offerings and burials. Talismans, statuary, and other trinkets point towards those things which people held to be sacred and worthy of worship.

While the beliefs of the Germanic peoples were certainly fluid and evolving, over the centuries, that's not generally an issue to most Norse Heathens, today. Quite the contrary, most Heathens would view their practice as just the latest shape taken by the ever-shifting religion. Neopaganism, in generally, is far less focused on orthodoxy and correct beliefs than it is on orthopraxy and right practices.

It seems to me that we know less about right neopagan practice than we know right neopagan doctrine. Are there any Heathens who practice ritual sacrifice? Obviously not human (hopefully) but maybe animal sacrifice? Most neopagans I know seem extremely earth/animal friendly, and a good number of them are vegetarians or vegans, so that particular pagan practice seems pretty off limits.



Personally, I identify with Heathenry mostly on the basis of ideology, ethics, and certain aspects of metaphysics. Even given many of the problems which you correctly cite, there is a good bit about the beliefs of Germanic peoples which can be faithfully reconstructed from the evidence which we have. Furthermore, regardless of whether or not they represent the religion of these earlier groups with perfect accuracy, the commonalities of Heathenry as it is generally practiced today accord with my personal beliefs. I'm fairly certain, for example, that Egil Skallagrimsson's understanding of the specifics of Wyrd and Orlog would have been vastly different from my own; however, this does not trouble me any more than Christians are troubled by the fact that a mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds.

Okay. That's fair. How much would you say that modern Heathenry is a faithful reconstruction of pre-Christian belief? What pre-Christian Heathen ideologies and ethics do you embrace, and what are your thoughts about the Norse pantheon? Do you sometimes wish that they were real, and/or is there any room at all in your worldview for their existence? Do you hold any sort of divine or supernatural beliefs?


I will note that, given my atheism, I tend to intentionally avoid self-identifying as an 'Asatruar' or referring to my religion as 'Asatru,' since that word explicitly means "true/loyal/faithful to the Aesir/gods." That's why I prefer the term "Heathen."

That's understandable.


I know quite a number of people like this, myself. Honestly, even within the Heathen community, it's often difficult to take such people seriously. It's something akin to an extremely liberal, postmodernist, spiritual-but-not-religious Christian, as opposed to a Christian who spends a great deal of their time researching the history and philosophy behind their faith. Yes, there are tons of neopagans who took to the religion just so that they could be a part of something different and cool-sounding. However, there are quite a number of us who are absolutely infatuated with the scholarship and more academic side of the religion.

:yes: Fascinating.


Incidentally, one of the Facebook groups to which I belong, Heathen Scholarship, has over 350 members and offers discussion of several scholarly papers, every day.

Wow!


Honestly, I would also be interested in learning how many identify with neo-fascism, as a percentage of the whole. It is, unfortunately, quite difficult to ascertain such information. I will say that all of the larger organizations of Heathens of which I am aware explicitly denounce racism, and reject the idea that Heathenry is to be quarantined solely to those of a certain ethnic heritage. However, just as it doesn't take a great deal of searching to find a Christian Church that thinks all homosexual people should be jailed or put to death, you don't have to look too far to find Heathens who also espouse racist and neo-fascist beliefs.

Yeah.

From a purely historical perspective, are you curious at all about the neopaganism practiced by the Nazis, and their interest in the occult?

Other questions I'm curious about. Do you relate to other pagan groups? Are there multi-pagan conferences someplace where those who believe in pre-Christian religions all meet up some place? Are you interested in traditional Germanic music or in neofolk, or even Metal bands into that whole period and religion (not usually my cup of tea, but I know its popular with some neopagans). A lot of neopagans I know are very intolerant of Christianity, which they feel somehow robbed the world of a rich, powerful, and environmental friendly worldview. What are your thoughts on that?

Okay. I think I have more questions, but can't think of them right now.

Boxing Pythagoras
12-15-2014, 05:50 PM
It seems to me that we know less about right neopagan practice than we know right neopagan doctrine.In terms of the specifics of rituals, I'd tend to agree. But the idea of orthopraxy isn't so much about the specifics of the rituals. "Right practice" is more about living correctly. Obviously, there's going to be some overlap, since "right beliefs" about morality tend to influence and inform "right practice" of morality; but putting it into more familiar Christian terminology, Heathens tend to value the Works more highly than the Faith. For example, it matters less if one truly thinks it is right and good to be hospitable to strangers than if one practices that hospitality.


Are there any Heathens who practice ritual sacrifice? Obviously not human (hopefully) but maybe animal sacrifice? Most neopagans I know seem extremely earth/animal friendly, and a good number of them are vegetarians or vegans, so that particular pagan practice seems pretty off limits.I haven't personally witnessed any animal sacrifices, but I do know that there are several Kindreds which have performed them in the past and some which still do. In my experience, Heathens tend to be a little less hippy-environmentalist and a little more mountain-man in their respect for the Earth, as compared to a number of other neopagans.


How much would you say that modern Heathenry is a faithful reconstruction of pre-Christian belief? What pre-Christian Heathen ideologies and ethics do you embrace?I'd say that the overview and direction of modern Heathen ethics is quite faithful, but many of the specifics-- both of ritual and of belief-- have been thoroughly modernized. In terms of ethics, I strongly embrace views on the respect due to ancestors, Kindred, strangers, and Uttagarth (loosely, "Outsiders" or "enemies"). I completely accord with Heathen views on pride and accomplishment, and any religious ceremony which involves merrily drinking with my loved ones certainly appeals to me. In general, I tend to find a great deal of wisdom for right-living in the Havamal, a poem which is something akin to the Book of Proverbs.

Insofar as metaphysics is concerned, the concepts of Wyrd and Orlog (related to ideas of "destiny" and "making one's way in the world") mesh extremely well with my understanding of the Philosophy of Time. Honestly, it was this connection, even more than morality, which led me to finally make the leap into claiming Heathenry as my religion.


and what are your thoughts about the Norse pantheon? Do you sometimes wish that they were real, and/or is there any room at all in your worldview for their existence? Do you hold any sort of divine or supernatural beliefs?Do I wish that they were real? Absolutely! Who wouldn't want a friend like the Allfather or Frigga or Thor or Freyja? However, my wishes (sadly) do not inform reality.

I am a philosophical naturalist, and do not hold any belief in things "divine" or "supernatural."


From a purely historical perspective, are you curious at all about the neopaganism practiced by the Nazis, and their interest in the occult?Sure, from a historical perspective; though, I'll admit that I haven't spent much time researching it. I honestly don't know much more about the Nazi fascination with the occult and with Norse mythology than the average person.


Do you relate to other pagan groups? Are there multi-pagan conferences someplace where those who believe in pre-Christian religions all meet up some place?For my own part, I really haven't spent much time looking into too many other neopagan faiths.

There are a number of little interfaith pagan conferences and festivals which occur all around, though. Because neopagans are such a minority, it is sometimes necessary to get together in support of common causes, or to help each other spread awareness of our very existence.


Are you interested in traditional Germanic music or in neofolk, or even Metal bands into that whole period and religion (not usually my cup of tea, but I know its popular with some neopagans).I love traditional music of all sorts, but I definitely enjoy finding traditional music directly related to Norse Heathenry. I love Wardruna (and they've gotten a big push, lately, thanks to their music being used in the Vikings TV show), and I've been really enjoying a small group on YouTube called Hrafnagaldur.

I also loves me some metal, and that certainly includes Viking Metal. I really love listening to bands like Amon Amarth, Tyr, Corvus Corax, and even cheesier metal like Manowar.


A lot of neopagans I know are very intolerant of Christianity, which they feel somehow robbed the world of a rich, powerful, and environmental friendly worldview. What are your thoughts on that?I certainly lament after the immensity of culture and knowledge which was lost to the world due, either in whole or in part, to Christianization. However, I don't pretend that I can hold modern Christians accountable for these tragic losses. I try to judge people by what they do, rather than what they believe. If someone gives me respect and treats me well, I don't care if he believes I'm a totally depraved sinner; I will show that person respect.

Adrift
12-15-2014, 06:14 PM
Thanks for answering all of my dumb questions. I think I still have a hard time getting my mind around accepting a religion in which faith plays little role, and belief in the divine or supernatural is non-existent. If you're a philosophical naturalist, wouldn't Heathenry be more an ideology rather than a religion to you? Do you make a distinction between ideology and religion? Do you practice any Heathen rituals, and if so, why? Most people who practice rituals do so because they think there is some metaphysical significance, or because...they were inculcated into the practice.

I guess... it seems to me that, for all intents and purposes, as a philosophical naturalist, you could live with or without Heathenry. It may play a part in your overall worldview, but there isn't any deep spiritual connection to it. And, what I'm sensing from you is that there really isn't any intrinsic truth element to it that you couldn't find someplace else, or that you couldn't invent. I hope this doesn't come off condescending, but it almost sounds like more of a hobby for you, than what I would consider a foundational worldview like what you'd find with other religions. Does that make sense? Maybe I'm not putting my thoughts into the best words. :sigh:

If you have the time, tell me more about the concepts of Wyrd and Orlog, and what you find attractive about them.

Thanks again!

Boxing Pythagoras
12-16-2014, 01:06 AM
Thanks for answering all of my dumb questions. I think I still have a hard time getting my mind around accepting a religion in which faith plays little role, and belief in the divine or supernatural is non-existent. If you're a philosophical naturalist, wouldn't Heathenry be more an ideology rather than a religion to you? Do you make a distinction between ideology and religion?It can certainly be difficult, sometimes, to find the dividing line between religion and ideology, but I feel like "ideology" simply boils out the philosophical and ethical aspects. There's more to my Heathenry than that. There's a distinct cultural aspect, in the stories, sagas, and mythology, the poetry and prose and artwork which are really integral parts of Heathenry. There's a communal aspect, building Kindred with other Heathens in much the same way that congregations of Christians become almost as close as family. While I certainly understand that it can be tough to wrap one's head around a religion without the supernatural (or some "natural" analog involving strange events or powers, as one finds in Raelianism or Scientology), and even though many atheists tend to treat "religion" like a four-letter word, I really feel that it is the best descriptor for my particular brand of Heathenry.


Do you practice any Heathen rituals, and if so, why? Most people who practice rituals do so because they think there is some metaphysical significance, or because...they were inculcated into the practice.I don't engage in prayer or blots (offerings), but I do participate in Sumbel (communal toasting, drinking, oathing, and boasting). I don't ascribe any metaphysical significance to them, but they build strong communal bonds between Kindred. They help to foster trust and build a familial pride amongst those gathered.


I guess... it seems to me that, for all intents and purposes, as a philosophical naturalist, you could live with or without Heathenry. It may play a part in your overall worldview, but there isn't any deep spiritual connection to it. And, what I'm sensing from you is that there really isn't any intrinsic truth element to it that you couldn't find someplace else, or that you couldn't invent. I hope this doesn't come off condescending, but it almost sounds like more of a hobby for you, than what I would consider a foundational worldview like what you'd find with other religions. Does that make sense? Maybe I'm not putting my thoughts into the best words. :sigh:I completely understand, and I would agree that I don't have any "spiritual" connection to it (assuming "spiritual" means something stronger than "emotional"), and that I don't find in it some intrinsic truth not available to me elsewhere. However, I would say that it's less of a "hobby" and more of a "cultural" thing, though. It's not all that different from a number of Secular Jews, that I know. Philosophically, they are atheists and don't really find any necessary truth in the religion; but they still participate in seder, and wear a yarmulke at weddings, and light a menora, because it ties them to a larger community and culture.


If you have the time, tell me more about the concepts of Wyrd and Orlog, and what you find attractive about them.My particular fascination with Wyrd and Orlog can get a bit complex, as it relates to my position on the Philosophy of Time. I'll do my best to break it down, though.

In the general view of Heathenry, Wyrd is representative of a person's free will. Wyrd is the choices that we make, and the actions that we take, while living our lives. Every single decision which we settle upon is like weaving another thread into the pattern of our lives-- indeed, the sagas and Eddas portray the Norns as weaving fate, and Wyrd is the name of one of the three Norns. On the other hand, Orlog is the weight of destiny. It is the direction in which our Wyrd is set. One decent analogy is to think of a boat on a strongly flowing river: the way in which we weave our Wyrd allows us to steer around the rocks and obstacles, lest we crash, but it is useless to try to paddle against the river's flow, Orlog. So, Orlog carries us inexorably toward our destiny, while Wyrd helps us to shape the quality of that destiny.

Now, putting that into my personal view, when discussing the Nature of Time, I'm known as a B-Theorist. If you're not familiar, there are two main views in philosophy as to how Time works. On the A-Theory (or Tensed Theory), the future is only a potentiality until it becomes actualized by the present. The actions we take in the present are actually constructing the future, on this view. On the B-Theory (or Tenseless Theory), the past, present, and future are all equally actual, though we are only aware of the present and have memories of the past. The whole of the future exists, on the B-Theory, even though we are not yet aware of it.

I'm a B-Theorist, and I tend to think of "time" and "events" in a very mathematical way. Take a normal Cartesian graph, for example, with two axes-- one for time, one for space (it's a lot easier to visualize than a full 3+1 dimensional manifold). Every single point in that spacetime is coextant. The time t=5 is no more or less "real" than the time t=8 or t=155,270. Actors or entities within that spacetime can be visualized as mathematical Functions of time. The solution set to that function carves out a set of points which comprise the entire lifetime of that actor. Linking this back to Heathenry, on my view, Orlog is akin to the whole of space-time, while Wyrd is the particular function which defines each actor.

I held my mathematical view of Time before I came to learn about Wyrd and Orlog. The fact that they fit so perfectly into my own understanding of Time is what really pushed me over from just considering myself an admirer of Heathenry to claiming it as my religion.

Adrift
12-16-2014, 01:20 AM
It can certainly be difficult, sometimes, to find the dividing line between religion and ideology, but I feel like "ideology" simply boils out the philosophical and ethical aspects. There's more to my Heathenry than that. There's a distinct cultural aspect, in the stories, sagas, and mythology, the poetry and prose and artwork which are really integral parts of Heathenry. There's a communal aspect, building Kindred with other Heathens in much the same way that congregations of Christians become almost as close as family. While I certainly understand that it can be tough to wrap one's head around a religion without the supernatural (or some "natural" analog involving strange events or powers, as one finds in Raelianism or Scientology), and even though many atheists tend to treat "religion" like a four-letter word, I really feel that it is the best descriptor for my particular brand of Heathenry.

I don't engage in prayer or blots (offerings), but I do participate in Sumbel (communal toasting, drinking, oathing, and boasting). I don't ascribe any metaphysical significance to them, but they build strong communal bonds between Kindred. They help to foster trust and build a familial pride amongst those gathered.

I completely understand, and I would agree that I don't have any "spiritual" connection to it (assuming "spiritual" means something stronger than "emotional"), and that I don't find in it some intrinsic truth not available to me elsewhere. However, I would say that it's less of a "hobby" and more of a "cultural" thing, though. It's not all that different from a number of Secular Jews, that I know. Philosophically, they are atheists and don't really find any necessary truth in the religion; but they still participate in seder, and wear a yarmulke at weddings, and light a menora, because it ties them to a larger community and culture.

My particular fascination with Wyrd and Orlog can get a bit complex, as it relates to my position on the Philosophy of Time. I'll do my best to break it down, though.

In the general view of Heathenry, Wyrd is representative of a person's free will. Wyrd is the choices that we make, and the actions that we take, while living our lives. Every single decision which we settle upon is like weaving another thread into the pattern of our lives-- indeed, the sagas and Eddas portray the Norns as weaving fate, and Wyrd is the name of one of the three Norns. On the other hand, Orlog is the weight of destiny. It is the direction in which our Wyrd is set. One decent analogy is to think of a boat on a strongly flowing river: the way in which we weave our Wyrd allows us to steer around the rocks and obstacles, lest we crash, but it is useless to try to paddle against the river's flow, Orlog. So, Orlog carries us inexorably toward our destiny, while Wyrd helps us to shape the quality of that destiny.

Now, putting that into my personal view, when discussing the Nature of Time, I'm known as a B-Theorist. If you're not familiar, there are two main views in philosophy as to how Time works. On the A-Theory (or Tensed Theory), the future is only a potentiality until it becomes actualized by the present. The actions we take in the present are actually constructing the future, on this view. On the B-Theory (or Tenseless Theory), the past, present, and future are all equally actual, though we are only aware of the present and have memories of the past. The whole of the future exists, on the B-Theory, even though we are not yet aware of it.

I'm a B-Theorist, and I tend to think of "time" and "events" in a very mathematical way. Take a normal Cartesian graph, for example, with two axes-- one for time, one for space (it's a lot easier to visualize than a full 3+1 dimensional manifold). Every single point in that spacetime is coextant. The time t=5 is no more or less "real" than the time t=8 or t=155,270. Actors or entities within that spacetime can be visualized as mathematical Functions of time. The solution set to that function carves out a set of points which comprise the entire lifetime of that actor. Linking this back to Heathenry, on my view, Orlog is akin to the whole of space-time, while Wyrd is the particular function which defines each actor.

I held my mathematical view of Time before I came to learn about Wyrd and Orlog. The fact that they fit so perfectly into my own understanding of Time is what really pushed me over from just considering myself an admirer of Heathenry to claiming it as my religion.

Thank you for all of that. And yes, I'm familiar with A and B theory of time. If I'm understanding Wyrd and Orlog correctly, and your view that they correlate with the B-theory of time, would you say that, in a sense, you believe in destiny, or just dumb determinism, or are they the same to you?

Boxing Pythagoras
12-16-2014, 11:08 AM
Thank you for all of that.My pleasure, of course!

And yes, I'm familiar with A and B theory of time. If I'm understanding Wyrd and Orlog correctly, and your view that they correlate with the B-theory of time, would you say that, in a sense, you believe in destiny, or just dumb determinism, or are they the same to you?I am a Determinist, but I am a Compatibilist. I don't believe that there is an inherent contradiction between the concepts of Determinism and Free Will.

London
02-22-2015, 07:31 PM
Asatru vs Forn Sidhr vs Odinism vs any other group. In general, 'Heathenry' is an umbrella term for the reconstructionist groups who work with the deities of the North (Germanic, Frankish, Norse, Scandinavian, Danish, Anglo Saxon etc). Nordic traditionalists would be those who dont try to reconstruct. But even then Some Heathens wont agree with me here, because this is still a controversial point and there is some disagreement within the community at large. As a generalization the followers of asatru are the publicly acceptable pagans of the Nordic traditions.The followers of Odinism and even more so in wotanism or irminism tend to be but are not always white national socialist racists aka neo-Nazis. You will find much deeper theology from the odinist sects.

There is more than most people realize and each group (denomination) has some differences based on area of origin and area of focus. Some of them are culturally specific to the country in which they are based (Swedish vs Danish for example).

One of the first things to understand is the difference between reconstructionst traditions and those that aren't reconstructionist, because that is fundamental to the practices and values of a group. It is also probably the one thing that will most define whether a person fits into any of the individual groups or not, and whether the use of the name is appropriate or appropriation. Reconstructionists aim to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of our Northern ancestors as faithfully as possible, though there is some variation as to how strict some groups are and what acceptable sources to base one's practices on are. Non reconstructionists create a modern path that may have foundations in the practices of our ancestors, but which is not limited to them (or even to typically Northern practices).

It should also be noted that many now dismiss snorris retellings as he was a christian, I guess it would be akin to the literal, dynamic, free, paraphrase debate that happens in christian circles. Many heathens now look for other sources to substantiate and extract some new knowledge about how Vikings behaved in the East, their Rituals etc but not limited to the manuscripts from Ahmad ibn Fadlan, in a christian context this would be like quoting Josephus.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-22-2015, 07:46 PM
Thanks for your input, London! Are you also Heathen? It'd be nice to have another on these boards.

London
02-22-2015, 08:30 PM
Thanks for your input, London! Are you also Heathen? It'd be nice to have another on these boards.

Yes Boxing Py I would be "one of them" :0

Adrift
02-22-2015, 08:57 PM
Asatru vs Forn Sidhr vs Odinism vs any other group. In general, 'Heathenry' is an umbrella term for the reconstructionist groups who work with the deities of the North (Germanic, Frankish, Norse, Scandinavian, Danish, Anglo Saxon etc). Nordic traditionalists would be those who dont try to reconstruct. But even then Some Heathens wont agree with me here, because this is still a controversial point and there is some disagreement within the community at large. As a generalization the followers of asatru are the publicly acceptable pagans of the Nordic traditions.The followers of Odinism and even more so in wotanism or irminism tend to be but are not always white national socialist racists aka neo-Nazis. You will find much deeper theology from the odinist sects.

There is more than most people realize and each group (denomination) has some differences based on area of origin and area of focus. Some of them are culturally specific to the country in which they are based (Swedish vs Danish for example).

One of the first things to understand is the difference between reconstructionst traditions and those that aren't reconstructionist, because that is fundamental to the practices and values of a group. It is also probably the one thing that will most define whether a person fits into any of the individual groups or not, and whether the use of the name is appropriate or appropriation. Reconstructionists aim to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of our Northern ancestors as faithfully as possible, though there is some variation as to how strict some groups are and what acceptable sources to base one's practices on are. Non reconstructionists create a modern path that may have foundations in the practices of our ancestors, but which is not limited to them (or even to typically Northern practices).

It should also be noted that many now dismiss snorris retellings as he was a christian, I guess it would be akin to the literal, dynamic, free, paraphrase debate that happens in christian circles. Many heathens now look for other sources to substantiate and extract some new knowledge about how Vikings behaved in the East, their Rituals etc but not limited to the manuscripts from Ahmad ibn Fadlan, in a christian context this would be like quoting Josephus.

How many heathens are actual theists, vs those who accept it as merely an honor-based philosophical worldview? There isn't much data on Nordic/Germanic beliefs even with Snorri Sturluson's writings, how are reconstructionists able to reconstruct anything resembling the actual beliefs of their ancestors with no support from non-Nordic sources? And to what end exactly? Why devote oneself to a religion that's been dead and forgotten about for nearly a 1,000 years? One gets a sense that there's more a playing around with the concepts of religion, religious belief, and spirituality than that this springs from any form of actual deep religious conviction or a reason-oriented systematic theology based on any serious metaphysical considerations. Kind of reminds me of spiritualists hanging out in the pyramids at Giza imagining that they're drawing in some sort of mystic power, to which the ancient Egyptians would have likely found extremely peculiar, and nothing at all to do with their own beliefs.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-22-2015, 09:19 PM
How many heathens are actual theists, vs those who accept it as merely an honor-based philosophical worldview?It's rather difficult to say for certain, as I'm not aware of any good studies on the subject, but in my personal experience, there are more Heathens who are actually polytheistic than those of us who (like myself) are entirely atheistic. We're not entirely uncommon, but we are certainly a minority in the religion.


There isn't much data on Nordic/Germanic beliefs even with Snorri Sturluson's writings, how are reconstructionists able to reconstruct anything resembling the actual beliefs of their ancestors with no support from non-Nordic sources?I think you'd actually be rather surprised. The literary sources for the religion are almost entirely from Christian scribes, but there is a great deal which can be learned about pre-Christian religious practice from archaeology, artwork, and runic inscriptions, as well. There is a great deal of scholarship on the subject of pre-Christian Germanic peoples, and this scholarship plays a primary role in reconstructing the religion practiced by those peoples.


And to what end exactly? Why devote oneself to a religion that's been dead and forgotten about for nearly a 1,000 years?Different people have different reasons. Some feel a personal connection to and relationship with the gods. Some are looking to build links with their ancestry and their kindred. Some are enamored with the philosophy and metaphysics of the religion. Some really enjoy the mythology and the rituals. There are numerous different reasons, and lots of people fall into more than one of the above categories.


One gets a sense that there's more a playing around with the concepts of religion, religious belief, and spirituality than that this springs from any form of actual deep religious conviction or a reason-oriented systematic theology based on any serious metaphysical considerations. Kind of reminds me of spiritualists hanging out in the pyramids at Giza imagining that they're drawing in some sort of mystic power, to which the ancient Egyptians would have likely found extremely peculiar, and nothing at all to do with their own beliefs.Just as in any religion, you'll find some people who have a more mature view of the material than others. Yes, there are some Heathens who just want to be "spiritual" and to play at being vikings; just as there are some Christians who just want to feel good in worship services. However, there are others of us who take our religion quite a bit more seriously, and have actively explored the philosophy, metaphysics, and theology implied by our beliefs.

Adrift
02-22-2015, 09:45 PM
It's rather difficult to say for certain, as I'm not aware of any good studies on the subject, but in my personal experience, there are more Heathens who are actually polytheistic than those of us who (like myself) are entirely atheistic. We're not entirely uncommon, but we are certainly a minority in the religion.

Would you consider the atheistic approach a relatively large minority?


I think you'd actually be rather surprised. The literary sources for the religion are almost entirely from Christian scribes, but there is a great deal which can be learned about pre-Christian religious practice from archaeology, artwork, and runic inscriptions, as well. There is a great deal of scholarship on the subject of pre-Christian Germanic peoples, and this scholarship plays a primary role in reconstructing the religion practiced by those peoples.

But that scholarship, and those archaeological finds are still very much filtered through the writings of those not directly associated with the religion (whether that be Roman or Christian). Why remove so much of the foundation of our knowledge? Ignoring outsider's writings on the matter doesn't seem like a very healthy method of recovering the past.


Different people have different reasons. Some feel a personal connection to and relationship with the gods.

What does that mean exactly? In religions that are based on some sort of religious text, or that have an unbroken line of devotion, one might reason that the faithful have some understanding of the divine beings they worship, but the modern neo-pagan is so far removed from anything resembling the actual Norse faith that it seems they're chasing after shadows. Is this personal connection then some sort of mystical experience? Do the god/s speak to them in some way?


Some are looking to build links with their ancestry and their kindred.

I think this seems more reasonable, and it just seems more intuitively true about the modern neo-pagans that I know of. There's a sort of romance in yearning for some pre-Christian primitive period that makes them feel close to their ancestors, but this focus on ancestry and religion is also the reason why there is such a strong racialist and white national socialist attraction to Heathenry. Isn't that problematic? Are the Norse gods only for those who are white Germanics? Are there any black neo-pagan Heathens?


Some are enamored with the philosophy and metaphysics of the religion.

What about the metaphysics of the religion draw people to it? And can't the philosophical concepts found in Heathenry be found outside the trappings of religion?


Just as in any religion, you'll find some people who have a more mature view of the material than others. Yes, there are some Heathens who just want to be "spiritual" and to play at being vikings; just as there are some Christians who just want to feel good in worship services. However, there are others of us who take our religion quite a bit more seriously, and have actively explored the philosophy, metaphysics, and theology implied by our beliefs.

But, as an atheist, you've put aside any serious considerations about the spirituality of the faith. Surely, you do so because you realize that any systematic approach to belief in the Nordic supernaturalism is empty.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-22-2015, 10:47 PM
Would you consider the atheistic approach a relatively large minority?I'd say we're a significant minority, yes. Perhaps one in every five Heathens that I've known self-identifies as atheist, at a rough guess.


But that scholarship, and those archaeological finds are still very much filtered through the writings of those not directly associated with the religion (whether that be Roman or Christian). Why remove so much of the foundation of our knowledge? Ignoring outsider's writings on the matter doesn't seem like a very healthy method of recovering the past.I'd agree that we cannot ignore the literary sources from Romans, Muslims, and Christians. Quite the contrary, they are absolutely necessary to the reconstruction process. No one pretends that reconstructed Heathenry is going to be exactly the same as pre-Christian Germanic religion. We simply do the best with the data which we have.


What does that mean exactly? In religions that are based on some sort of religious text, or that have an unbroken line of devotion, one might reason that the faithful have some understanding of the divine beings they worship, but the modern neo-pagan is so far removed from anything resembling the actual Norse faith that it seems they're chasing after shadows. Is this personal connection then some sort of mystical experience? Do the god/s speak to them in some way?For those Heathens that do believe in personal gods, they generally do believe that the gods communicate with humanity through special revelation. The neopagan community refers to such special revelation as UPG-- Unverified Personal Gnosis. Some UPG can be as innocuous as just being a "sense" or "feeling." Other UPG can present in dreams and visions, in manners very similar to Charismatic Christianity. Still other UPG is sometimes found in divination practices, like bone- or rune-casting.

For many of us who do not hold to the idea that personal gods exist, philosophy and metaphysics take the fore. This can be difficult for a lot of Christians to understand, because the process is very much the reverse of what they are used to. For us, Heathenry is a conclusion, not a presupposition. I've been enthralled by Norse mythology and the Eddas since long before I left Christianity. However, even after I left Christianity, I didn't begin calling myself a Heathen until I realized just how closely my personal views on philosophy, ethics, and metaphysics accorded with Heathenry. I had already come to the same beliefs that Germanic neopagans held about these topics, I just knew them by different names.


I think this seems more reasonable, and it just seems more intuitively true about the modern neo-pagans that I know of. There's a sort of romance in yearning for some pre-Christian primitive period that makes them feel close to their ancestors, but this focus on ancestry and religion is also the reason why there is such a strong racialist and white national socialist attraction to Heathenry. Isn't that problematic? Are the Norse gods only for those who are white Germanics? Are there any black neo-pagan Heathens?Yes, some extremists justify their racism by making note of Heathenry's focus on ancestry; and, yes, we generally view this as problematic. However, it's no different than extremists from any other religion. Just as it would be wrong to denigrate all Christians because of the behavior of Fred Phelps or Steven Anderson, it would be wrong to denigrate all Heathens based on the behavior of white-supremacist Heathens.


What about the metaphysics of the religion draw people to it? And can't the philosophical concepts found in Heathenry be found outside the trappings of religion?This, again, depends on who you ask. For my part, the concepts of Wyrd and Orlog and their implications for the nature of time are what drew me over the edge into Heathenry. I know others who enjoy the cosmology of Heathenry, and others who are drawn to the animist aspects of the religion, and still others who were thoroughly convinced of archetypal polytheism even before they became Heathens.

Yes, it is possible to find these things outside the trappings of religion, but why reinvent the wheel if it's already there for you?


But, as an atheist, you've put aside any serious considerations about the spirituality of the faith. Surely, you do so because you realize that any systematic approach to belief in the Nordic supernaturalism is empty.I find the foundational belief in supernaturalism to be weak, but if one grants that particular presupposition, I have not found Heathen theology to be any more "empty" than Christian theology. Quite the contrary, as I have engaged with more and more Heathens over the last couple of years, I've found myself pleasantly surprised at the sophistication of their faith. I had expected the sort of stereotypical, post-modernist, nobody's-wrong-about-anything sort of discourse that people always imagine neopagans to utilize. What I found, instead, were thoughtful and nuanced dialectics on theology backed by scholarship on the archeaology and primary literary sources which have informed modern Norse Heathenry.

London
02-22-2015, 11:59 PM
I'll concede that the ancient version of heathenism was officially declared outlaw when St. Olaf became the first Christian King of Norway, in the 11th century, but outlawed and dead are not synonymous. the knowledge of them never died out completely and today the preponderance is for reconstructed versions. Are some atheists ... maybe, do some seek a "spiritual experiance" ...possibly .. do some literally believe... sure . Heathenry is no different to any other organised religion.

Iceland was a democracy for centuries, that is where most of the surviving lore was written down. There is also the oral tradition , you will find that families in Scandinavian countries often passed down traditions. It went in to hiding, but it never died. There have always been people that worshiped the old gods and they are making a comeback in modern times. The Old Norse word, heiðni .is an ancient term used by the peoples of Scandinavia to refer to their religion before the coming of Christianity. Granted the historic viking faith and Asatru are NOT one and the same but the "vikings" did have a religion and it was very much intertwined and one with their culture.

The first missionaries started to convert the Teutons around 580AD, and the church was still doing mass killings as late as 1200's because some refused to convert. They executed those that would not convert, most notabley in Sweden and Norway. There was the legislation in places like Iceland where, between 1000 and 1100 it was made a law the every citizen MUST be a Christian. Also there were economic factors. During the last years of the Viking age the law in most places was that it was forbidden to trade or do business with anyone that was NOT a Christian, or preparing for the act of conversion. Again doesnt mean it is dead just harder to practice openly.

Asatru, if it's in the Lore anywhere, it's in the folkway. This is the name given to the revival/reconstruction of Norse pre-xian religion in Iceland, America, and Scandinavia

Odinism, a variation of modern Folkish heathenry which was revived in England at about the same time as American and Icelandic Asatru. It's a modern expression of the Elder religion that seems a bit archetype prone.

Theodism, an oathbound, hierarchical, and usually culturally/geographically specific version of heathenry. The first theods were specifically Anglo-Saxon; Other theods have sprung up since.

There is also Irminenschaft, which is a continental Germanic approach to heathenry, based on a somewhat different body of folklore and custom.

Finally, there is tribalism/neotribalism, which is theodism without the sacral kingship element, essentially . . . tribalist kindreds tend to focus on developing local custom and local thew appropriate to their groups. Are they atheists, not necessarily.

Adrift
02-23-2015, 01:31 AM
I'd say we're a significant minority, yes. Perhaps one in every five Heathens that I've known self-identifies as atheist, at a rough guess.

Doesn't that seem rather high for such a small religion? Why do you think so many Heathens are atheists?


I'd agree that we cannot ignore the literary sources from Romans, Muslims, and Christians. Quite the contrary, they are absolutely necessary to the reconstruction process. No one pretends that reconstructed Heathenry is going to be exactly the same as pre-Christian Germanic religion. We simply do the best with the data which we have.

Ok. London had pointed out that some Heathens reject Snorri's sagas because he was a Christian, and I guess I thought it strange, and probably impossible to attempt to reconstruct Heathenism without the input of those who were not themselves Heathen.


For those Heathens that do believe in personal gods, they generally do believe that the gods communicate with humanity through special revelation. The neopagan community refers to such special revelation as UPG-- Unverified Personal Gnosis. Some UPG can be as innocuous as just being a "sense" or "feeling." Other UPG can present in dreams and visions, in manners very similar to Charismatic Christianity. Still other UPG is sometimes found in divination practices, like bone- or rune-casting.

I see. What do you think it is they are experiencing?


For many of us who do not hold to the idea that personal gods exist, philosophy and metaphysics take the fore. This can be difficult for a lot of Christians to understand, because the process is very much the reverse of what they are used to. For us, Heathenry is a conclusion, not a presupposition.

I'm not sure I get your point. I'd say that for most Christians on this forum, Christianity is a conclusion, not a presupposition.


Yes, some extremists justify their racism by making note of Heathenry's focus on ancestry; and, yes, we generally view this as problematic. However, it's no different than extremists from any other religion. Just as it would be wrong to denigrate all Christians because of the behavior of Fred Phelps or Steven Anderson, it would be wrong to denigrate all Heathens based on the behavior of white-supremacist Heathens.

So, should Heathens distance themselves from that focus, or do you think that as long as they're moderate about it, they should be fine?


This, again, depends on who you ask. For my part, the concepts of Wyrd and Orlog and their implications for the nature of time are what drew me over the edge into Heathenry. I know others who enjoy the cosmology of Heathenry, and others who are drawn to the animist aspects of the religion, and still others who were thoroughly convinced of archetypal polytheism even before they became Heathens.

Yes, it is possible to find these things outside the trappings of religion, but why reinvent the wheel if it's already there for you?

Why carry spares that you don't need? Why not strip away the religious trappings that aren't at all necessary and may actually get in the way, and get to what's really underneath? I suppose its hard for me to get my mind around this, because in Christianity, faith is based on reason. It has a starting point, and an ending point. We start by asking ourselves things like "why is there something rather than nothing?", "why am I here?" "Does life have intrinsic worth?" "Is morality objective, and if so, where does it derive?", "Is the mind distinct from the body?", and we investigate the answers to these questions, and for some of us these questions drive us to belief that the divine exists. And then we ask ontological questions about the divine, and through the process of natural theology, some of us arrive at the conclusion that the divine must needs have certain characteristics, and then some of us may find that these certain characteristics remarkably align with a the characteristics of the Judeo/Christian God. And so then we examine that faith. We examine its historical, philosophical, moral, prophetical and doctrinal claims, and we find those claims overwhelmingly convincing. And we've arrived at our faith through a logical pathway of reason. But from what you're telling me about your acceptance of Heathenry, you already believed in something like Wyrd and Orlog in the B theory of time, realized that the religion that you were already interested in sorta kinda aligned with your thoughts on that subject, and decided to accept the faith minus (what some would consider) the most important trappings: the belief in divine beings, unbodied souls, an afterlife, etc. This isn't meant to come off offensive, but for someone whose very life has become based in their faith, it seems like you're playing at religion. Do you know what I mean?


I find the foundational belief in supernaturalism to be weak, but if one grants that particular presupposition, I have not found Heathen theology to be any more "empty" than Christian theology. Quite the contrary, as I have engaged with more and more Heathens over the last couple of years, I've found myself pleasantly surprised at the sophistication of their faith. I had expected the sort of stereotypical, post-modernist, nobody's-wrong-about-anything sort of discourse that people always imagine neopagans to utilize. What I found, instead, were thoughtful and nuanced dialectics on theology backed by scholarship on the archeaology and primary literary sources which have informed modern Norse Heathenry.

What are some of the strongest arguments for Heathen supernaturalism?

Adrift
02-23-2015, 01:50 AM
the church was still doing mass killings as late as 1200's because some refused to convert. They executed those that would not convert, most notabley in Sweden and Norway.

Not that I doubt that killings happened in the name of Christ (I've read of a few in the sagas), but do you have any scholarly resources that specify exactly when and where the church was doing these mass killings? Again, not that I doubt the claim, necessarily, but I've often heard claims like these, that, when you actually investigate them, aren't exactly accurate. For instance, we had a great board member here, a Wiccan named Technomage, who did his best to dispel a lot the burning times mythology that crept into his faith thanks to inaccurate research, mostly done by non-academics at the turn of the 20th century. Most of the current scholarly work on the subject suggested that the numbers were far far fewer than had previously been suggested, that it happened over a very great expanse of time, with certain periods of increased persecution, and that it almost always involved local governments and not the church, and in fact, the church often went to great pains to stop the persecution.


Asatru, if it's in the Lore anywhere, it's in the folkway. This is the name given to the revival/reconstruction of Norse pre-xian religion in Iceland, America, and Scandinavia

Odinism, a variation of modern Folkish heathenry which was revived in England at about the same time as American and Icelandic Asatru. It's a modern expression of the Elder religion that seems a bit archetype prone.

Theodism, an oathbound, hierarchical, and usually culturally/geographically specific version of heathenry. The first theods were specifically Anglo-Saxon; Other theods have sprung up since.

There is also Irminenschaft, which is a continental Germanic approach to heathenry, based on a somewhat different body of folklore and custom.

Finally, there is tribalism/neotribalism, which is theodism without the sacral kingship element, essentially . . . tribalist kindreds tend to focus on developing local custom and local thew appropriate to their groups. Are they atheists, not necessarily.

Thanks for the breakdown. I have and have had a few friends and acquaintances who are neo-pagans, and as mentioned previously, I do enjoy some Neofolk, and a lot of bands in that genre lean towards Heathenry, so its nice to get an understanding on the different denominations.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-23-2015, 02:30 AM
Doesn't that seem rather high for such a small religion? Why do you think so many Heathens are atheists?"High" according to what standard?

But I think the best answer that I can give you is that theism is not essential to the religion, as it is in the Abrahamic faiths.


Ok. London had pointed out that some Heathens reject Snorri's sagas because he was a Christian, and I guess I thought it strange, and probably impossible to attempt to reconstruct Heathenism without the input of those who were not themselves Heathen.Ahh, I see. I think London spoke a bit too strongly when she said that people "dismiss" Snorri's work. It would have been more appropriate to say that Snorri's work is regarded through a lens of historical criticism, rather than being taken at face value.


I see. What do you think it is they are experiencing?I don't know. Obviously, I don't believe any claims to the supernatural, but I haven't attempted to dissect any of these claims any further.


I'm not sure I get your point. I'd say that for most Christians on this forum, Christianity is a conclusion, not a presupposition.I didn't mean to imply that all Christians take their religion presuppositionally. Only that many of the Christians with whom I've discussed my Heathenry find it odd that I chose my religion based on my philosophy rather than choosing my philosophy based upon my religion.


So, should Heathens distance themselves from that focus, or do you think that as long as they're moderate about it, they should be fine?I believe that we should distance ourselves from it, quite a bit. Honoring and respecting our ancestors does not require racism. In fact, racism is fairly antithetical to the principles of hospitality which most Heathens value highly.

Also, I just realized that I missed an earlier question of yours: yes, there are black Heathens.


Why carry spares that you don't need? Why not strip away the religious trappings that aren't at all necessary and may actually get in the way, and get to what's really underneath? I suppose its hard for me to get my mind around this, because in Christianity, faith is based on reason. It has a starting point, and an ending point. We start by asking ourselves things like "why is there something rather than nothing?", "why am I here?" "Does life have intrinsic worth?" "Is morality objective, and if so, where does it derive?", "Is the mind distinct from the body?", and we investigate the answers to these questions, and for some of us these questions drive us to belief that the divine exists. And then we ask ontological questions about the divine, and through the process of natural theology, some of us arrive at the conclusion that the divine must needs have certain characteristics, and then some of us may find that these certain characteristics remarkably align with a the characteristics of the Judeo/Christian God. And so then we examine that faith. We examine its historical, philosophical, moral, prophetical and doctrinal claims, and we find those claims overwhelmingly convincing. And we've arrived at our faith through a logical pathway of reason. But from what you're telling me about your acceptance of Heathenry, you already believed in something like Wyrd and Orlog in the B theory of time, realized that the religion that you were already interested in sorta kinda aligned with your thoughts on that subject, and decided to accept the faith minus (what some would consider) the most important trappings: the belief in divine beings, unbodied souls, an afterlife, etc. This isn't meant to come off offensive, but for someone whose very life has become based in their faith, it seems like you're playing at religion. Do you know what I mean?I understand. The reason that it's confusing to you is that you view the theism and supernaturalism as the most important trappings of a religion. Heathens do not-- even those who are theists and supernaturalists. For us, behavior is far more important than belief in the supernatural or the gods. If a person is courageous and hospitable and good, it does not matter if he gives the proper worship to Freyja or if he is according proper importance to Ragnarok.

However, I'm not sure I understand the rest of your objection, as it seems very similar to what I experienced. You say that a natural inquisitiveness and study into philosophy and metaphysics brought people to conclusions remarkably similar to those of Christianity, therefore they became Christian. My natural inquisitiveness and study into philosophy and metaphysics brought me to conclusions remarkably similar to those of Heathenry, therefore I name myself a Heathen.


What are some of the strongest arguments for Heathen supernaturalism?The same as the strongest arguments for Christian supernaturalism, in my opinion: argument from personal experience.

Adrift
02-23-2015, 03:00 AM
"High" according to what standard?

I was thinking, compared to the standard of similarly minor religious beliefs.


But I think the best answer that I can give you is that theism is not essential to the religion, as it is in the Abrahamic faiths.

Is there any evidence that this has always been the case, or is this primarily the case with modern Heathenry?


Ahh, I see. I think London spoke a bit too strongly when she said that people "dismiss" Snorri's work. It would have been more appropriate to say that Snorri's work is regarded through a lens of historical criticism, rather than being taken at face value.

Ok, I see.


I don't know. Obviously, I don't believe any claims to the supernatural, but I haven't attempted to dissect any of these claims any further.


Ok.


I didn't mean to imply that all Christians take their religion presuppositionally. Only that many of the Christians with whom I've discussed my Heathenry find it odd that I chose my religion based on my philosophy rather than choosing my philosophy based upon my religion.

It seems to me that basing one's philosophy upon their religion is a bit backwards.


I believe that we should distance ourselves from it, quite a bit. Honoring and respecting our ancestors does not require racism. In fact, racism is fairly antithetical to the principles of hospitality which most Heathens value highly.

Got it.


Also, I just realized that I missed an earlier question of yours: yes, there are black Heathens.


Ok, I figured there must have been.


I understand. The reason that it's confusing to you is that you view the theism and supernaturalism as the most important trappings of a religion. Heathens do not-- even those who are theists and supernaturalists. For us, behavior is far more important than belief in the supernatural or the gods. If a person is courageous and hospitable and good, it does not matter if he gives the proper worship to Freyja or if he is according proper importance to Ragnarok.

Well its more than that I believe theism and supernaturalism are the most important trappings of a religion, but that our understanding of morality and behavior (not just the Christian, but anyone's) cannot be reconciled without a basis in theism. You seem to see aspect of a faith in segments, but I think for those whose faith is foundational to their lives, its a continuation. You can't have one without the other.

Again, I wonder about the pre-Christian Nords and Germans and if they would accept the lessening of importance of belief in the divine, or if they would reject it as blasphemy. I would think that Floki from the show Vikings would reject it :smile:

Then again, maybe they did put less importance on the divine, and that is why they eventually adopted a faith that did.


However, I'm not sure I understand the rest of your objection, as it seems very similar to what I experienced. You say that a natural inquisitiveness and study into philosophy and metaphysics brought people to conclusions remarkably similar to those of Christianity, therefore they became Christian. My natural inquisitiveness and study into philosophy and metaphysics brought me to conclusions remarkably similar to those of Heathenry, therefore I name myself a Heathen.

As I say though, you reject primary aspects of that faith that one would consider integral to most religions, and so, I suppose it just seems like a half-hearted devotion (again, I mean no offence here, just a perspective issue I suppose).


The same as the strongest arguments for Christian supernaturalism, in my opinion: argument from personal experience.

I wouldn't consider that a particularly strong argument for Christian supernaturalism. In fact, some on this forum like Nick Peters reject that as any sort of argument altogether.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-23-2015, 04:08 AM
I was thinking, compared to the standard of similarly minor religious beliefs.I'm not familiar with the prevalence of atheism in other minor religions. It's very possible that Heathenry is "high" in comparison to those.


Is there any evidence that this has always been the case, or is this primarily the case with modern Heathenry?There is certainly evidence that it has always been the case that behavior was more important than belief for Heathens. And there are no known proscriptions against atheism in the surviving wisdom literature. Now, that is not to say that I know for certain that pre-Christian Germanic peoples would have found atheism to be palatable, but modern Heathenry's acceptance of atheists does not seem to be in direct contradiction to any of our sources.


It seems to me that basing one's philosophy upon their religion is a bit backwards.To me, as well! However, there are quite a number of Christians who have never investigated philosophy, metaphysics, or natural theology. They were Christians, first, and they adopted philosophy based on their Christianity. I've known far more Christians like this than Christians who only adopted their faith after a dispassionate study of philosophy. It is these Christians who have had a difficult time understanding how I could identify with a religion based upon my philosophy. For them, philosophy should be subservient to religion, and I am accused of Post-Modernism for adopting a religion which fits my beliefs rather than adopting beliefs which fit my religion.


Well its more than that I believe theism and supernaturalism are the most important trappings of a religion, but that our understanding of morality and behavior (not just the Christian, but anyone's) cannot be reconciled without a basis in theism. You seem to see aspect of a faith in segments, but I think for those whose faith is foundational to their lives, its a continuation. You can't have one without the other.This is another major difference between Heathenry and the Abrahamic faiths. The gods are not the source and standard of morality and ethics, not even for theistic Heathens. The gods can act morally or immorally, just as humans do. The Moral Argument for the Existence of God is just one of the usual Christian arguments which does not carry over for Heathenry.

Deity does not carry the same implications in Heathenry as in Christianity. The Norse gods are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, changeless, eternal, or perfect beings. They are not the source of all that exists, nor are they they standard which defines objective morality. This is why belief in their literal existence is far less essential to the religion than theism is to Christianity.


As I say though, you reject primary aspects of that faith that one would consider integral to most religions, and so, I suppose it just seems like a half-hearted devotion (again, I mean no offence here, just a perspective issue I suppose).Again, theism and supernaturalism really aren't primary aspects of Heathenry. Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, deity is not the basis upon which the rest of the religion is built.


I wouldn't consider that a particularly strong argument for Christian supernaturalism. In fact, some on this forum like Nick Peters reject that as any sort of argument altogether.That's cool. I didn't say that they were very convincing, only that they are stronger than other arguments for supernaturalism, in my opinion. If someone truly believes that he has communicated personally with his deity, that's not something I can really dispute.

Adrift
02-23-2015, 04:45 AM
There is certainly evidence that it has always been the case that behavior was more important than belief for Heathens.

Do you happen to have any scholarly resources in mind that I could check out on this?


To me, as well! However, there are quite a number of Christians who have never investigated philosophy, metaphysics, or natural theology. They were Christians, first, and they adopted philosophy based on their Christianity. I've known far more Christians like this than Christians who only adopted their faith after a dispassionate study of philosophy. It is these Christians who have had a difficult time understanding how I could identify with a religion based upon my philosophy. For them, philosophy should be subservient to religion, and I am accused of Post-Modernism for adopting a religion which fits my beliefs rather than adopting beliefs which fit my religion.

I don't see where they're getting the post-modernism thing from. Not unless they're suggesting that you pick and choose your own truths, which, as far as I can tell, doesn't appear to be the case. Seeing as you're an atheist and not an agnostic, it would seem that you've committed to the idea (to a greater degree than not) that there is only one truth, and that truth is found in non-theism.


This is another major difference between Heathenry and the Abrahamic faiths. The gods are not the source and standard of morality and ethics, not even for theistic Heathens. The gods can act morally or immorally, just as humans do. The Moral Argument for the Existence of God is just one of the usual Christian arguments which does not carry over for Heathenry.

Where did pre-Christian Heathens suggest the source and standard of morality and ethics come from then?

Also, I should point out that when I say that in foundational faiths like Christianity, one's faith is not segmented, but is a continuation, I mean that in all respects, and not just to do with morality.


Deity does not carry the same implications in Heathenry as in Christianity. The Norse gods are not omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, changeless, eternal, or perfect beings. They are not the source of all that exists, nor are they they standard which defines objective morality. This is why belief in their literal existence is far less essential to the religion than theism is to Christianity.

Interesting. Is there any evidence to suggest (as far you're aware) that pre-Christian Heathens accepted Christianity because it expressed a belief in a divinity that was greater than the gods that they believed in?


Again, theism and supernaturalism really aren't primary aspects of Heathenry. Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, deity is not the basis upon which the rest of the religion is built.

Where would supernaturalism rank for the average pre-Christian Heathen do you think? Were they not overly superstitious? We know that they sacrificed to their gods, and that on at least some occasions these sacrifices were human. They also believed in the existence of elves, giants, dwarfs, giant sea serpents, monster wolves, an afterlife, an apocalypse, magical weapons, trees, and the like.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-23-2015, 01:00 PM
Do you happen to have any scholarly resources in mind that I could check out on this?The first one that comes to mind would be an article by Dr. Terry Gunnell, a folklorist at the University of Iceland, on the fluidity and variety of belief in the pre-Christian Norse, entitled "Viking religion: Old Norse mythology."
https://www.academia.edu/5864888/Viking_Religion_Old_Norse_Mythology

I'll try to pull up some more, though.


I don't see where they're getting the post-modernism thing from. Not unless they're suggesting that you pick and choose your own truths, which, as far as I can tell, doesn't appear to be the case. Seeing as you're an atheist and not an agnostic, it would seem that you've committed to the idea (to a greater degree than not) that there is only one truth, and that truth is found in non-theism.Yep, they're accusing me of picking and choosing truth. For them, religion defines that which is true; so for me to choose my religion based on my explorations of philosophy seems like I am arbitrarily determining the truth, in their eyes.


Where did pre-Christian Heathens suggest the source and standard of morality and ethics come from then?In the Abrahamic faiths, God interceded in the lives of Man to provide human beings with moral laws to explicitly delineate that which is right and that which is wrong. Nothing similar exists in the sources for pre-Christian Germanic peoples. There are no divine commandments or proscriptions in the Eddas or the Sagas, nor is it ever suggested that there exists some transcendental source of morality. It would seem that morality was a very much a social construct based around the priority of kindred, community, and tribe, in that order.


Interesting. Is there any evidence to suggest (as far you're aware) that pre-Christian Heathens accepted Christianity because it expressed a belief in a divinity that was greater than the gods that they believed in?Not so far as I am aware, though it would not surprise me if that had been the case in some instances. However, the Heimskringla, a notoriously Christianised account, suggests that politics, legal coercion, and violence were the major driving forces behind the Christianisation of Norway.


Where would supernaturalism rank for the average pre-Christian Heathen do you think? Were they not overly superstitious? We know that they sacrificed to their gods, and that on at least some occasions these sacrifices were human. They also believed in the existence of elves, giants, dwarfs, giant sea serpents, monster wolves, an afterlife, an apocalypse, magical weapons, trees, and the like.This is a more nuanced question than you might think. While the average pre-Christian Heathen likely believed in the gods and elves and afterlives, the concept of the "supernatural" would have been somewhat alien to them. For these people, the gods did not transcend nature, but were just as much a part of the natural cosmos as human beings.

It is also unclear just how literally the average Heathen would have understood the mythology. The language of the Scandinavian peoples is replete with poetic metaphor and skaldic imagery. For example, in the mythology, the rivers and seas of the Earth are the result of the giant Ymir's blood flowing across the world after he was slain. That does not imply that the average person truly believed that river and sea-water was physically blood.

So, I would speculate that the average pre-Christian Heathen did believe in personal gods, and did practice superstitious rituals such as sacrifices and prayer. I cannot say for certain that all Heathens practiced in this manner, and I do acknowledge that my personal expression of Heathenry is certainly a departure from the pre-Christian expression. However, I maintain that these practices and beliefs are non-essential to the religion despite their traditional acceptance. Again, unlike Christianity, deity does not provide the foundation for the morality, metaphysics, and philosophy of Heathenry, and it is those things which I would consider essential to the religion.

Adrift
02-23-2015, 04:03 PM
The first one that comes to mind would be an article by Dr. Terry Gunnell, a folklorist at the University of Iceland, on the fluidity and variety of belief in the pre-Christian Norse, entitled "Viking religion: Old Norse mythology."
https://www.academia.edu/5864888/Viking_Religion_Old_Norse_Mythology

I'll try to pull up some more, though.

Okay, thank you.


Yep, they're accusing me of picking and choosing truth. For them, religion defines that which is true; so for me to choose my religion based on my explorations of philosophy seems like I am arbitrarily determining the truth, in their eyes.

Odd. I'm not sure how else one would come to find their faith. Surely they asked philosophical questions, even if unknowingly, when they accepted Christianity.


In the Abrahamic faiths, God interceded in the lives of Man to provide human beings with moral laws to explicitly delineate that which is right and that which is wrong.

I'm not sure that's quite accurate. In the Christian tradition, moral law is written upon humanity's heart because we are made in God's spiritual image. The moral commandments, then, confirm and clarify (and at times, enforce) what is already found in the spirit of man. I suppose either way though morality finds its source in God.


Nothing similar exists in the sources for pre-Christian Germanic peoples. There are no divine commandments or proscriptions in the Eddas or the Sagas, nor is it ever suggested that there exists some transcendental source of morality. It would seem that morality was a very much a social construct based around the priority of kindred, community, and tribe, in that order.

I was curious about this claim when I came upon a website by an amateur mythologist named Dan McCoy called Norse Mythology for Smart People. On the website he has an article called Polytheistic Theology and Ethics. Most of it isn't based on any sort of substantial historical methodology. He spends large chunks of the article comparing pagan morality to his rather unique take on monotheistic concepts of morality (forgetting that at least some of those concepts derive from pagan Hellenistic philosophy), and instead of citing historians, he's partial to Nietzsche and other modern philosophers. Not very academic stuff really, but at one point he does cite an honest to goodness historian named Thomas Dubois who is a professor of the department of Scandinavian Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin. The following is what McCoy pulls from Dubois' book Nordic Religions in the Viking Age (1999).

It was customary for pre-Christian Germanic men and women to have a fulltruí, a patron god or goddess, literally “one to whom one is fully true,” from among the vast array of divine figures who populate Germanic mythology, and to adhere to the values associated with that god or goddess...

In traditional Germanic society, a person who occupied a particular social role and was a devotee of that role’s corresponding god or goddess could rightly be held to the standard of conduct appropriate for that role and its divinity.

To give a few examples, many Viking Age men looked to the gods Tyr, Thor, Freyr, or Odin as their fulltruí. Devotees of Tyr were ruling-class men who ordered their lives according to upholding and administering the law and societal standards of justice. Those of Thor were predominantly warriors (the second of the three Indo-European classes or “functions”) whose codes of conduct emphasized strength and bravery in the defense of one’s people and way of life, and a meticulous adherence to standards of honor and manliness (which, as the sagas demonstrate, often ran afoul of the law and justice). Freyr’s men were mostly farmers (the third class or function) whose lives were much more hedonistic and centered around fertility, fecundity, and production. Those who held Odin in especially high regard were, like Tyr’s favorites, of the first function, but followed a path of ecstatic and creative self-actualization that often seemed fickle, ruthless, irresponsible, and even shameful by the standards of a man of Thor, arbitrary by the standards of a man of Tyr, and unnecessarily harsh and demanding by a man of Freyr. And this is to say nothing of women’s roles and values, which were just as diverse.

I'll be ordering the book later this week, but what are your thoughts? It would seem that there is at least some transcendental concepts of morality and ethics in pre-Christian Heathenism, and that they were not entirely social constructs (at least from the point of view of the practitioner of the faith).


This is a more nuanced question than you might think. While the average pre-Christian Heathen likely believed in the gods and elves and afterlives, the concept of the "supernatural" would have been somewhat alien to them. For these people, the gods did not transcend nature, but were just as much a part of the natural cosmos as human beings.

Hmm. This seems like maybe a bit of semantics. Though the view you're talking about here is probably a sort of panentheism, the concept of supernaturalism is more of a modern view, I think, than an ancient scriptural one. Defining the supernatural allows us moderns to distinguish between events found in the expected laws of physics from those that are directly enacted upon by the divine. I doubt the ancient Hebrews, and probably the early Christians had any concept of the "supernatural" either. God worked within nature, though he was separate from it. Heathens probably differed in that they didn't think the gods were separate from nature, but they did believe that the gods enacted upon it when called upon.


It is also unclear just how literally the average Heathen would have understood the mythology. The language of the Scandinavian peoples is replete with poetic metaphor and skaldic imagery. For example, in the mythology, the rivers and seas of the Earth are the result of the giant Ymir's blood flowing across the world after he was slain. That does not imply that the average person truly believed that river and sea-water was physically blood.

So, I would speculate that the average pre-Christian Heathen did believe in personal gods, and did practice superstitious rituals such as sacrifices and prayer. I cannot say for certain that all Heathens practiced in this manner, and I do acknowledge that my personal expression of Heathenry is certainly a departure from the pre-Christian expression.

Ok.


However, I maintain that these practices and beliefs are non-essential to the religion despite their traditional acceptance.

Based on what, exactly, though? Personal preference, or inference or...what? Would a pre-Christian Heathen consider you a Heathen even though you did not believe in or worship the gods? I guess that's what I'm trying to find out.

Boxing Pythagoras
02-23-2015, 05:42 PM
Odd. I'm not sure how else one would come to find their faith. Surely they asked philosophical questions, even if unknowingly, when they accepted Christianity.In my experience, the testimonies of Christians like these have nothing to do with studying philosophy, nor even with asking the "big questions." Rather, the most common testimony for those who converted into Christianity amongst these types of people falls along the lines of "I was a bad person, and not truly happy, then I came to a crossroads and asked God to reveal himself to me, then I got saved." No pondering of "why are we here?" or "what happens when I die?" or other such big-questions. It wasn't until after they became Christians that they really started trying to understand what philosophy was therefore implied.


I was curious about this claim when I came upon a website by an amateur mythologist named Dan McCoy called Norse Mythology for Smart People. On the website he has an article called Polytheistic Theology and Ethics. Most of it isn't based on any sort of substantial historical methodology. He spends large chunks of the article comparing pagan morality to his rather unique take on monotheistic concepts of morality (forgetting that at least some of those concepts derive from pagan Hellenistic philosophy), and instead of citing historians, he's partial to Nietzsche and other modern philosophers. Not very academic stuff really, but at one point he does cite an honest to goodness historian named Thomas Dubois who is a professor of the department of Scandinavian Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin. The following is what McCoy pulls from Dubois' book Nordic Religions in the Viking Age (1999).

It was customary for pre-Christian Germanic men and women to have a fulltruí, a patron god or goddess, literally “one to whom one is fully true,” from among the vast array of divine figures who populate Germanic mythology, and to adhere to the values associated with that god or goddess...

In traditional Germanic society, a person who occupied a particular social role and was a devotee of that role’s corresponding god or goddess could rightly be held to the standard of conduct appropriate for that role and its divinity.

To give a few examples, many Viking Age men looked to the gods Tyr, Thor, Freyr, or Odin as their fulltruí. Devotees of Tyr were ruling-class men who ordered their lives according to upholding and administering the law and societal standards of justice. Those of Thor were predominantly warriors (the second of the three Indo-European classes or “functions”) whose codes of conduct emphasized strength and bravery in the defense of one’s people and way of life, and a meticulous adherence to standards of honor and manliness (which, as the sagas demonstrate, often ran afoul of the law and justice). Freyr’s men were mostly farmers (the third class or function) whose lives were much more hedonistic and centered around fertility, fecundity, and production. Those who held Odin in especially high regard were, like Tyr’s favorites, of the first function, but followed a path of ecstatic and creative self-actualization that often seemed fickle, ruthless, irresponsible, and even shameful by the standards of a man of Thor, arbitrary by the standards of a man of Tyr, and unnecessarily harsh and demanding by a man of Freyr. And this is to say nothing of women’s roles and values, which were just as diverse.

I'll be ordering the book later this week, but what are your thoughts? It would seem that there is at least some transcendental concepts of morality and ethics in pre-Christian Heathenism, and that they were not entirely social constructs (at least from the point of view of the practitioner of the faith).I'll have to look more into the DuBois piece-- I'm aware of the concept of fulltrui relationships between men and gods, but I've never seen them considered quite as commonplace as that excerpt would make them seem. Insofar as I am aware, the norm was for people to worship all of the gods, while fulltrui relationships were only employed by those especially dedicated to a single god.

Even so, the fact that a god also exemplifies a particular set of traits does not imply that those traits emanate from deity. Odin was wise and clever, but wisdom and cleverness did not exist because of Odin. Balder was faithful and loyal, but faith and loyalty would have existed even if Balder had not. Tyr was courageous and just, but he was not the source of all courage and justice.


Hmm. This seems like maybe a bit of semantics. Though the view you're talking about here is probably a sort of panentheism, the concept of supernaturalism is more of a modern view, I think, than an ancient scriptural one. Defining the supernatural allows us moderns to distinguish between events found in the expected laws of physics from those that are directly enacted upon by the divine. I doubt the ancient Hebrews, and probably the early Christians had any concept of the "supernatural" either. God worked within nature, though he was separate from it. Heathens probably differed in that they didn't think the gods were separate from nature, but they did believe that the gods enacted upon it when called upon.I can largely agree with all of this.


Based on what, exactly, though? Personal preference, or inference or...what? Would a pre-Christian Heathen consider you a Heathen even though you did not believe in or worship the gods? I guess that's what I'm trying to find out.The question "would a pre-Christian Heathen consider you a Heathen?" is a bit anachronistic. Pre-Christian peoples would likely have found the concept of "a religion" to be strange and confusing. The idea that religion could be an exclusive thing was likely introduced to them by Christians. The pre-Christian Germanic peoples would not have likely made delineations about who was a "true believer" and who was not, as occurred in Christianity. They did not have fights over orthodoxy and heresy, "right religion" and "wrong religion." The Danes worshiped the gods in one way, while the Norwegians worshiped in another way, and the Icelanders were still different from both. No one had given their religion a name or a label, let alone arguing over who was truly Heathen and who was not.

That said, if I lived amongst a community, did my duty, and acted with honor and hospitality, that community would likely have considered me Innangarth (an "insider"), regardless of whether I personally prayed or offered sacrifices. On the other hand, if I shirked my duties or isolated myself or acted contentiously against others in the community, I would likely have been viewed as Utangarth (an "outsider"), regardless of whether I had performed appropriate rituals. That's about as close to answering your question as I can get, unfortunately.

Adrift
02-23-2015, 05:51 PM
That said, if I lived amongst a community, did my duty, and acted with honor and hospitality, that community would likely have considered me Innangarth (an "insider"), regardless of whether I personally prayed or offered sacrifices. On the other hand, if I shirked my duties or isolated myself or acted contentiously against others in the community, I would likely have been viewed as Utangarth (an "outsider"), regardless of whether I had performed appropriate rituals. That's about as close to answering your question as I can get, unfortunately.

In my study of ancient Mediterranean religions, sacrifice, ritual, and worship were tied into duty and honor as part of the patron-client model. Was that not true of the Heathen tribes? Duty and honor were entirely distinct from sacrifice and worship?

Boxing Pythagoras
02-23-2015, 06:29 PM
In my study of ancient Mediterranean religions, sacrifice, ritual, and worship were tied into duty and honor as part of the patron-client model. Was that not true of the Heathen tribes? Duty and honor were entirely distinct from sacrifice and worship?Sacrifice and worship were largely considered personal matters. So, using your Mediterranean model for a moment, if you visited Alexandria around 250 BCE, it was quite likely that you would be expected to pay due obeisance at the temple of Serapis, since that god was the patron deity of the city. It was considered to be a duty, since that god's favor could direct the fortunes of the entire city.

The Norse gods were not viewed in such a manner. If a man chose not to honor some certain god, it was expected that he would deal with the consequences. Individuals had different relationships with different gods, and those relationships were their business.

The only counter-example of which I am aware, depicting a scenario more closely aligned with what one might expect from the Mediterranean religions, is from Adam of Bremen's discussion of the Temple at Uppsala. He reports that, every nine years, all the provinces of Sweden gather at Uppsala during the vernal equinox for a ritual festival. According to Adam, those who have already converted to Christianity have to pay some sort of fee in order to be excused from the ceremony. Of course, it should be noted that many scholars find Adam of Bremen's account to be dubious, citing lack of archaeological support and his rather obvious religious bias (the book containing the account was largely written to encourage missionary work in Scandinavia). It's not entirely beyond the pale to think that there may have been some civic aspect to worship and sacrifice; I just don't see much evidence for it.

London
02-24-2015, 12:20 AM
Not that I doubt that killings happened in the name of Christ (I've read of a few in the sagas), but do you have any scholarly resources that specify exactly when and where the church was doing these mass killings? Again, not that I doubt the claim, necessarily, but I've often heard claims like these, that, when you actually investigate them, aren't exactly accurate. For instance, we had a great board member here, a Wiccan named Technomage, who did his best to dispel a lot the burning times mythology that crept into his faith thanks to inaccurate research, mostly done by non-academics at the turn of the 20th century. Most of the current scholarly work on the subject suggested that the numbers were far far fewer than had previously been suggested, that it happened over a very great expanse of time, with certain periods of increased persecution, and that it almost always involved local governments and not the church, and in fact, the church often went to great pains to stop the persecution.

I know of Technomage and his discussions. :teeth:

Not sure how pernickety we want to be about whether we attribute the killings to "The Church" or an individual who performs the atrocities in the name of Christ but here are a couple of references for starters

Ramsay MacMullen notes that in 681 a council of bishops at Toledo called on civil authorities to "seize and behead all those guilty of non-Christian practices of whatever sort."

Bernard Walter Scholz Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories. Charlmagne Massacre of Verden

Wilhelm Teudt mentions the site of the massacre in his 1929 book Germanische Heiligtümer ('Germanic Shrines')

Landscape architect Wilhelm Hübotter designed a memorial that was built at a possible site for the massacre.

Alessandro Barbero says that, regarding Charlemagne and the Massacre of Verden. The massacre "produced perhaps the greatest stain on his reputation".

Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (Latin "Ordinances concerning Saxony") is the Legal Code issued by Charlemagne and imposed upon the Saxon during the Saxon Wars in 785. The laws of the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae prescribe death for various Saxon infringements, including refusing to convert from their native Germanic Elder Ways to Christianity, and fines for actions deemed lesser violations. Despite the laws, the Saxons continued to reject Charlemagne's rule and attempts at Christianization, continuing to rebel even after Charlemagne's death (such as the Stellinga uprising).


the conversion of the Vikings took place over centuries. Even when a Danish or Swedish king became Christian and proclaimed his people were Christian, many still practiced their pagan ways and held to the old gods. If you look at the respective countries Histories (Norway, Denmark, Sweeden, Iceland) you will find accounts of different kings and their conversions and how it filtered down to the people or not as the case may be.

Nordic Religions in the Viking Age by Thomas A. DuBois points out the conflict between pagan and christian religions in the Nordic regions which include the Baltic states and Finland. It is noted in this work that archaeological evidence as well as other written records bring into question the literal accuracy of portions of the sagas. In essence, parts of the sagas could be read as religious and/or political propaganda.


Birgit and Peter Sawyer "Why Trust the White Christ?" are considered experts on the Viking world, especially when it comes to its encounter with Christianity.
Richard Fletcher's The Barbarian Conversion ,"Converting by the Sword" is being hailed as a landmark book on the subject
James Marchand "Althings Work to the Good" is a well-respected translator of primary source material, like the Islendingabók
Michael Scott Rohan and Allan Scott "Dead Man Converting", have written the only book for a popular audience completely about Scandinavia's conversion.
James Reston, Jr. "'Be Christian or Die'"

https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/conversion-of-scandinavia-timeline/


Thanks for the breakdown. you're welcome :smile:

I'll chirp in on the other posts when I get some time ...

thanks to you both for this discussion always good to refine and throw out assumptions. Good Job the pair of you :ale:

Adrift
02-24-2015, 12:56 AM
I know of Technomage and his discussions. :teeth:

:thumb:


Not sure how pernickety we want to be about whether we attribute the killings to "The Church" or an individual who performs the atrocities in the name of Christ but here are a couple of references for starters

I think its a pretty important distinction. There were plenty of people killing in the name of Christ who had little formal knowledge about Christ or his teachings. Most of the times these murders were done for political or financial gain.


Ramsay MacMullen notes that in 681 a council of bishops at Toledo called on civil authorities to "seize and behead all those guilty of non-Christian practices of whatever sort."

What's the context here? Do you have the source? How many were eventually killed?


Bernard Walter Scholz Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard's Histories. Charlmagne Massacre of Verden

Ah, yes. This is an example of what I was talking about above. This wasn't church sanctioned (as far as I know). It was a revenge killing due to a revolt. What does Scholz say about the subject? Can you quote him?


Wilhelm Teudt mentions the site of the massacre in his 1929 book Germanische Heiligtümer ('Germanic Shrines')

Ah. I see you've copied that right from the Wikipedia article. Have you read his work in the subject?


Landscape architect Wilhelm Hübotter designed a memorial that was built at a possible site for the massacre.

Alessandro Barbero says that, regarding Charlemagne and the Massacre of Verden. The massacre "produced perhaps the greatest stain on his reputation".

I see that these are both from the same wikipedia article as the previous one. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Verden

I was really hoping you had something more substantial than Wikipedia quotes to back your claim.


Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae (Latin "Ordinances concerning Saxony") is the Legal Code issued by Charlemagne and imposed upon the Saxon during the Saxon Wars in 785. The laws of the Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae prescribe death for various Saxon infringements, including refusing to convert from their native Germanic Elder Ways to Christianity, and fines for actions deemed lesser violations. Despite the laws, the Saxons continued to reject Charlemagne's rule and attempts at Christianization, continuing to rebel even after Charlemagne's death (such as the Stellinga uprising).

I see you've cited word-for-word this Wikipedia article for that bit of knowledge: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitulatio_de_partibus_Saxoniae

Do you have anything substantial. Preferably something not based on Wikipedia articles? Something directly sanctioned by the church? If this is the best you have, I can see now why you felt the distinction between government sanctioned and Church sanctioned "pernickety".


the conversion of the Vikings took place over centuries. Even when a Danish or Swedish king became Christian and proclaimed his people were Christian, many still practiced their pagan ways and held to the old gods. If you look at the respective countries Histories (Norway, Denmark, Sweeden, Iceland) you will find accounts of different kings and their conversions and how it filtered down to the people or not as the case may be.

Yes. I'm relatively familiar with Nordic history. I've been studying the sagas a bit this year.


Nordic Religions in the Viking Age by Thomas A. DuBois points out the conflict between pagan and christian religions in the Nordic regions which include the Baltic states and Finland. It is noted in this work that archaeological evidence as well as other written records bring into question the literal accuracy of portions of the sagas. In essence, parts of the sagas could be read as religious and/or political propaganda.

I have no doubt that the sagas have been exaggerated. I'll hopefully receive a copy of his book by the end of this week. Now that I see that you have a habit of googling and then copying your sources without citation, I notice that the above quote is a direct lift from a review by a guy named Bruce from this website http://www.indiabookstore.net/isbn/9780812217148. So I take it you haven't actually read the book yourself.


Birgit and Peter Sawyer "Why Trust the White Christ?" are considered experts on the Viking world, especially when it comes to its encounter with Christianity.
Richard Fletcher's The Barbarian Conversion ,"Converting by the Sword" is being hailed as a landmark book on the subject
James Marchand "Althings Work to the Good" is a well-respected translator of primary source material, like the Islendingabók
Michael Scott Rohan and Allan Scott "Dead Man Converting", have written the only book for a popular audience completely about Scandinavia's conversion.
James Reston, Jr. "'Be Christian or Die'"

https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/conversion-of-scandinavia-timeline/

Have you read any of these works?


you're welcome :smile:

I'll chirp in on the other posts when I get some time ...

thanks to you both for this discussion always good to refine and throw out assumptions. Good Job the pair of you :ale:

Thank you.

London
02-25-2015, 10:23 PM
I was really hoping you had something more substantial than Wikipedia quotes to back your claim.

sure my sources and citations in that post were poorly chosen although there's nothing wrong with those sources perse, read them and see :wink: Yep I googled them, I wanted to start with mainstream and easy because I was being lazy and because I wanted to see how serious you were in your quest for information regarding this topic, apologies for testing :blush: No hard feelings I hope.




Do you have anything substantial. Preferably something not based on Wikipedia articles? Something directly sanctioned by the church? If this is the best you have, I can see now why you felt the distinction between government sanctioned and Church sanctioned "pernickety".

Any good book on the history of the church will give you ample sources , if they are a) good b) truthful.

Two books I can personally recommend are James Russell's Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, it covers the conversion topic pretty succinctly, Can't remember if he gives citations regarding the slaughters but what he does do well is look at what conversion actually meant back then. There is also Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation, circa 800-1500 (The Nordic Series) by Birgit Sawyer which gives some information, I'm not 100% sold on either but they might whet your appetite. How substantial and scholarly would you like?

Anyhow as I actually like to be persnickety I will concede that some of these forced conversions were done by the Gauls, of whom Charles Martel was the leader. Admittedly he used mainly Muslim invaders to procure the lands. But where the church gets its fingers in the pie is that, through no fault of his own, he was born out of wedlock. His father being a high ranking duke, and his mother also a noble, as they were not married when he was conceived this hindered him to fully claim his father's title, or pass himself as noble.

So of course the Bishop of Rome offered him a workaround. Well he actually offered it to Martel's grandson Charlemagne. As the Bishop of Rome was considered at that time leader of the church the buck stops there, Vis a Vis the church did it! The deal was that the bishop of Rome would ordain him (chalemagne) in the name of "god" as king of all of Europe if he would embrace Christianity and impose it upon all of his subjects. He could then claim by "divine right" that which he could not claim by blood. And thereby Charlemagne found himself in a symbiotic relationship with the church. Everywhere he conquered, he had to force everyone to convert or he couldn't establish his rule effectively.

article (www.ldysinger.com/@books/Logan_Med_Ch/Hist_Middle_Ages.doc) web doc here (https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ldysinger.com%2F%40 books%2FLogan_Med_Ch%2FHist_Middle_Ages.doc)

If you read Ch 5 it specifically talks about this and yes the author cites all his sources. Is that better?



Yes. I'm relatively familiar with Nordic history. I've been studying the sagas a bit this year.

you might find this helpful then, as I'm not sure that snorri is necessarily the best source for heathen traditions

https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm/sources_of_skaldskaparmal.pdf


Cheers :ale:

Carrikature
02-25-2015, 10:26 PM
Odd. I'm not sure how else one would come to find their faith. Surely they asked philosophical questions, even if unknowingly, when they accepted Christianity.

I find it more odd that you find this odd. The vast majority of Christians I have known did not start by asking philosophical questions, even if unknowingly. Instead, those converts I have known most often match BP's description. The rest have predominantly been raised within the tenets of Christianity and may or may not ever reach a point where they can move past presuppositionalism. It's far rarer, in my experience, for a person to pursue philosophy and end up in Christianity. Most follow something close to my own story, where investigation of science, history and philosophy pushes them out of Christianity and into non-theism or some unique flavor of supernaturalism.

Adrift
02-25-2015, 11:03 PM
I find it more odd that you find this odd. The vast majority of Christians I have known did not start by asking philosophical questions, even if unknowingly. Instead, those converts I have known most often match BP's description. The rest have predominantly been raised within the tenets of Christianity and may or may not ever reach a point where they can move past presuppositionalism. It's far rarer, in my experience, for a person to pursue philosophy and end up in Christianity. Most follow something close to my own story, where investigation of science, history and philosophy pushes them out of Christianity and into non-theism or some unique flavor of supernaturalism.

Hmm. I don't know. I had an unorthodox upbringing, and was raised to not accept pat answers to tough theological questions. Many of my Christian friends and acquaintances also have a more nuanced and intellectual view of faith. Blind faith is structurally weak, and its surprising to me that anyone could maintain that structure for very long without asking some big questions.

Carrikature
02-26-2015, 12:04 AM
Hmm. I don't know. I had an unorthodox upbringing, and was raised to not accept pat answers to tough theological questions. Many of my Christian friends and acquaintances also have a more nuanced and intellectual view of faith. Blind faith is structurally weak, and its surprising to me that anyone could maintain that structure for very long without asking some big questions.

At the risk of derailing this thread further, I don't disagree with you about blind faith. I have seen people ask some big questions (and often this happens at an early age). The responses tend to shut down those sorts of questions, though. We're told (and I can say we since this includes my background) that we don't need all the answers, and that we shouldn't be doubting. We're told that the Bible answers the important questions, and anything else we can just ask God someday. We're told to pray that God will help us trust him more instead of doubting. I've even heard it said that such questions are tools of the devil meant to make us stumble, but that they're tests to help us trust more completely.

I've known people who literally believe that fossils are things God put in the ground because he knew that humans are curious, effectively turning fossils into some sort of neat toy for us to play with. I've led a bible study (when I was still a Christian) addressing how Christians spend money in terms of how the early church used their assets, watched people follow their own logical conclusions to a social welfare state then stop dead when they realize it contradicts their own worldview regarding money. They don't know how to resolve the problem, so they decide their logical conclusion must be mistaken somehow and carry on as they were before. It's a pretty simple problem to solve even from within the Bible itself, but not one of them could figure it out. "I must have been mistaken" was all the answer they needed.

Suffice to say that it's not necessarily that big questions won't be raised, but that they are swiftly and summarily dismissed without requiring any sort of serious treatment, let alone a real answer.

London
02-26-2015, 01:37 PM
The Saga of Olaf the Holy :sh:

Adrift
02-26-2015, 08:42 PM
sure my sources and citations in that post were poorly chosen although there's nothing wrong with those sources perse, read them and see :wink: Yep I googled them, I wanted to start with mainstream and easy because I was being lazy and because I wanted to see how serious you were in your quest for information regarding this topic, apologies for testing :blush: No hard feelings I hope.





Any good book on the history of the church will give you ample sources , if they are a) good b) truthful.

Two books I can personally recommend are James Russell's Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, it covers the conversion topic pretty succinctly, Can't remember if he gives citations regarding the slaughters but what he does do well is look at what conversion actually meant back then. There is also Medieval Scandinavia: From Conversion to Reformation, circa 800-1500 (The Nordic Series) by Birgit Sawyer which gives some information, I'm not 100% sold on either but they might whet your appetite. How substantial and scholarly would you like?

Anyhow as I actually like to be persnickety I will concede that some of these forced conversions were done by the Gauls, of whom Charles Martel was the leader. Admittedly he used mainly Muslim invaders to procure the lands. But where the church gets its fingers in the pie is that, through no fault of his own, he was born out of wedlock. His father being a high ranking duke, and his mother also a noble, as they were not married when he was conceived this hindered him to fully claim his father's title, or pass himself as noble.

So of course the Bishop of Rome offered him a workaround. Well he actually offered it to Martel's grandson Charlemagne. As the Bishop of Rome was considered at that time leader of the church the buck stops there, Vis a Vis the church did it! The deal was that the bishop of Rome would ordain him (chalemagne) in the name of "god" as king of all of Europe if he would embrace Christianity and impose it upon all of his subjects. He could then claim by "divine right" that which he could not claim by blood. And thereby Charlemagne found himself in a symbiotic relationship with the church. Everywhere he conquered, he had to force everyone to convert or he couldn't establish his rule effectively.

article (www.ldysinger.com/@books/Logan_Med_Ch/Hist_Middle_Ages.doc) web doc here (https://view.officeapps.live.com/op/view.aspx?src=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ldysinger.com%2F%40 books%2FLogan_Med_Ch%2FHist_Middle_Ages.doc)

If you read Ch 5 it specifically talks about this and yes the author cites all his sources. Is that better?




you might find this helpful then, as I'm not sure that snorri is necessarily the best source for heathen traditions

https://notendur.hi.is//~eybjorn/ugm/sources_of_skaldskaparmal.pdf


Cheers :ale:

On most message boards I visit (and especially here on Theologyweb), its typically considered bad form to cite material without providing the source you referenced. It strikes of plagiarism and (as you admit) laziness. Generally speaking, Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source, especially when someone specifically asks for "scholarly resources". The random book review citation was probably the oddest of the bunch. Might be understandable if it were a blog post. But it was literally a paragraph long book review.

But yeah, I know how to google, so none of that was really that helpful, and didn't show me anything I didn't already know for the most part. What I meant by my question: "do you have any scholarly resources that specify exactly when and where the church was doing these mass killings?" was, can you provide books or peer reviewed papers, that you have read or are familiar with, by reputable historians who's qualifications and primary field of research covers the period and people under discussion? Preferably work that doesn't stray too far outside the mainstream scholarly consensus.

Per the two books you recommend here, have you actually read these books, and do they directly support your claim that: "the church was still doing mass killings as late as 1200's because some refused to convert. They executed those that would not convert, most notabley in Sweden and Norway"?

As for Snorri, again, I'm aware of the issues with his work, but you do agree that he's an important resource for historians, right? At any rate, when I said that I've been studying the sagas this year, I wasn't referring only to Snorri's works.

Darth Executor
04-21-2015, 12:53 AM
Doesn't that seem rather high for such a small religion? Why do you think so many Heathens are atheists?


It's fairly low for an implicitly ethnocentric religion. Just look at Judaism.