The first topic of the #Heathenry50 Challenge is to ask the question and explore – “Why Heathenry?” With the myriad ways one can express spirituality and religion, what is it about heathenry (heathenism, heidhrinn) that connects with me?
The road to where I am is not unlike many others. I was raised in the United States during what I thought was the end of an era dominated by Christianity (now it appears there is a movement within the government to implement a state religion of a certain variety of Christian “values” – tossing out the separation of church and state once again). I was raised in a Christian culture, Latter Day Saints (LDS), which was actually not too bad as a child. The importance of family, helping others, and spiritual/religious practices were all good things to learn.
Bronze Age Imagination
At the awakening age of 10 years, I met some kids at school who introduced me to the wonderful world of comic books. I had already been a fan of science fiction and fantasy books and television (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Space 1999, Star Trek, etc. were all favorites), but this medium opened up a new world of imagination and characters that I fell in love with. And I have not abandoned these characters now 40 years later – they are still fond in my memory and I love to revisit those stories. This era of comics (roughly 1968-1985) is known as the “Bronze Age” in the comics-world and it is my favorite era.
Among those characters were several who kept my mind open to possibilities. Wonder Woman, Thor, Hercules, and Superman (among others) all had mythologies associated with them that were a part of their everyday lives. Granted, Thor and Hercules were themselves gods; but they were still associated with the pantheons that existed along with them.
I loved reading about Thor being sent to Earth to teach him a lesson of humility by Odin. How Princess Diana (Wonder Woman), always sought the guidance of the Greek Gods and Goddesses for wisdom, strength, and advice. Although I know now that these are not the exact representations of the deities that were worshipped in our world, these characters still represented the basics of who They are and kept Them alive to readers in a way that allows that spark of interest and faith.
The interaction with the Gods by Wonder Woman and others always kept that door in mind from being completely closed, locked and sealed from the possibility that the Gods were still alive and wanting to connect with humans. Although it was another 18 years or so before I fully explored that possibility, it was still always there in some way.
The Gods Move in Subtle Ways
Forward over the years of full Christian immersion (including a period of King James only conservatism) to a point in life where spiritual choices were being made.
These choices led to dropping Christianity and pursuing a more animistic approach to life. My philosophy/theology simplified to the following:
- I believed that those who went before me were important and deserved to be remembered, talked to, and appreciated for where I am now.
- I believed that there are spirits in nature and we need to honor, respect and cohabitate with them.
- Finally, I still believed the Gods exist, live, and want to interact again with humans. My question was – whom do I connect to and how?
Looking for people to connect with who had similar questions, I found a group of witches and began doing things in tangible ways again (ritual). In 2006, I found Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) at Pantheacon (a west coast pagan convention). Since I was involved with the local Irish community, I began learning about the Irish Gods and opening relationships with Them. What a joy to have those doors that were kept ajar by my childhood heroes and their connections to the Gods flung wide open!
Through ADF, I learned a lot about ritual, study, knowing the Gods and developing relationships and practices that work for me today. Although ADF is known as a “Druid” organization, it is not limited to Celtic spirituality. ADF is an inclusive organization that focuses practices on Indo-European spirituality. Among the members is a very large heathen group which includes Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Vanic, continental Germanic, and other practices of the northern regions and pantheons.
But . . . Why Heathenry?
Indeed, why Heathenry? One would think that with the connection and immersion of Irish culture (I do have Irish ancestors), why would I spiritually migrate? As noted above, the Gods move in subtle ways. Although I do have some Irish ancestry, most of my ancestors are Dutch and Danish.
It was during a time of meditation that Brigid took me by the “hand” and said we were going for a walk. Before I knew it, I was standing before Freya and Odin. Brigid gently nudged me forward towards Freya saying to me that They (the Irish) had fostered me until I was ready to be passed on. From that point forward, the relationships have grown and become strong.
For me, relating to nature spirits, ancestors, and the Gods of the Northern lands connects with me on many levels. I found early in my journey that the Vanir were very interested in a friendship and we connected quite well.
I also appreciate the cosmology within the stories, the variety of personalities of the Gods and Goddesses, as well as the interest in working with and remembering the ancestors (be they blood, historical, or chosen influence) and nature spirits (wights).
These are all key to my practice and it is wonderful to find this within the various practices under the umbrella of heathenry. There are many ways to learn about Heathenry and the wonderful practices within it: Anglo-Saxon, Asatrú, Continental German, Heidhrinn, Icelandic, Norse, Norse Paganism, Rokkatrú, Vanatrú and possibly others. I will post some recommendations that I have found helpful shortly.
Important note! One does NOT need to be of a certain heritage to get to know any pantheon. I absolutely deny that premise used by racists to justify excluding people of color from any Heathen, Celtic, or other path! The Gods will connect with whom they choose to regardless of heritage, skin color, gender, identity etc.
Artwork for Norse Witch by Connla Freyjason.