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Thread: Norse Heathenry (aka Asatru, Odinism, Theodism, Forn Sed...)

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    Norse Heathenry (aka Asatru, Odinism, Theodism, Forn Sed...)

    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, 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!

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    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?
    For what was given to everyone for the use of all, you have taken for your exclusive use. The earth belongs not to the rich, but to everyone. - Ambrose, 4th century AD

    All cruelty springs from weakness. - Seneca the Younger

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    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.

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    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.
    Last edited by Adrift; 12-15-2014 at 03:15 PM.

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Thanks for the interest, Adrift!

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    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.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

  6. Amen Adrift amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    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.
    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.

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    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.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

  9. Amen Adrift amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    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.

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

    Thanks again!

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    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.
    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.
    "[Mathematics] is the revealer of every hidden truth, for it knows every hidden secret, and bears the key to every subtlety of letters; whoever, then, has the effrontery to pursue physics while neglecting mathematics should know from the start he will never make his entry through the portals of wisdom."
    --Thomas Bradwardine, De Continuo (c. 1325)

  12. Amen Adrift amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    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?

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