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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    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.
    "[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)

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    Smile Late to the party but just my 2 cents....

    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.

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Thanks for your input, London! Are you also Heathen? It'd be nice to have another on these boards.
    "[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)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    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

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by London View Post
    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.

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    tWebber Boxing Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    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.
    "[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)

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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrift View Post
    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.
    "[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)

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    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, heišni .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.

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    tWebber Adrift's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boxing Pythagoras View Post
    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?
    Last edited by Adrift; 02-23-2015 at 02:35 AM.

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