Finding Heathen Ways


Earlier this year I was working on some genealogy stuff; filling out my family tree on a couple of genealogy sites.  Something that struck me soon into it was how much German ancestry I have. I came across it early on the family tree. I started thinking about how I knew it all along, but I guess I chose to ignore it… when I was a girl I heard my mom ask my grandmother where our family was originally from. She said Germany first then added England and possibly Native American when pressed for more info. I didn’t like hearing that I had German ancestors; Nazis came immediately to mind. So I chose instead to pursue the Irish/Scottish heritage hinted at from my dad’s side of the family. (I still haven’t found the Irish/Scottish ancestor, by the way. The closest hint is my grandfather’s middle name, which could have been a surname of one of his predecessors: MacAdow.) I chose to believe that I was mostly Celtic, and that the German that my grandmother spoke of was a small part of my heritage, a distant ancestor. I found out I was wrong and the opposite was the truth.

So, with this realization, I decided  that perhaps I would find some way to honor my German ancestry through customs, or foods, or something. I didn’t really consider becoming Asatru or Heathen or whatever. I already had my Celtic deities! Besides, whenever I would read about Asatru, I would inevitably find the prevalence of a macho men attitude and tacky Viking art. Worse, I would come across references to racism being strong in their ranks. So I put Norse Paganism on the back burner, thinking I’d find some non-religious way to honor my German heritage.

Now, those of you who are regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve been (some brand of) a Celtic Reconstructionist, off and on, for years. I know it backwards and front. It’s part of my identity. Never the less, I often feel agnostic. I felt more solid in my belief in deity/deities when I was Wiccan (in my pre-“realization that Gardner made it up” days). My post-disillusionment Pagan years have had their ups and downs. I often feel agnostic, especially in that liminal time when waking in the morning. It’s a feeling that all is not right in the world. Because of this, and because of my feelings of isolation in my minority Pagan denomination, I often take forays into similar, but different, traditions: I’ve had several Hinduism phases, New Thought, Gnostism, a dip back into the Wiccan way, and at one point I even contemplated becoming a Quaker. My kids think I’m crazy.

I ponder things like the nature of the gods, soft polytheism vs. hard polytheism vs. pantheism. Truth be told, sometimes I wonder if it’s not all pointless. John Michael Greer’s book “A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism” gave me a lot to think about and enough reason to be agnostic instead of atheist. He does give quite a good argument for hard polytheism, but opens up a big nasty can of more questions, as I stated in my article “my kind of polytheism”.

So remember that “not-right-feeling” I spoke of before? I got a really bad case of that a couple of weeks ago. I awoke during the morning from a nightmare. I dreamt that my baby son had died and I was mourning him, looking at all his things he would not be using anymore. When I awoke a little and realized it was just a dream, I automatically uttered this whispered prayer; “Please, God, never take my son from me.” After becoming fully awake I wondered at the meaning of my prayer. I said “God” with a capital “G”. Exactly who was I addressing? Deep down do I still hold to the monotheistic beliefs of my Christian childhood, or was this a manifestation of Wiccan monism?  Since I was Wiccan for most of my adult life and teen years (longer that I was a Christian), I decided that my true subconscious beliefs must be more in line with a monist or soft polytheist worldview in order for me to have such a prayer as my knee jerk reaction to a harrowing dream.

It put me in mind of Hindu philosophy and I comforted myself by listening to Hindu chants for a while. In my daily devotions to my Celtic deities, I asked for clarity, for answers. Later, I was looking for Celtic deity art on an internet image search- something I often do for fun and comfort, when I saw, totally out of place from the search criteria, a picture of Odin. It wasn’t a cheesy Viking comic book picture, nor a faded woodcut. It was a realistic painting by Georg von Rosen titled “Odin, the Wanderer”. He was plain and timeless, with a depth of character and emotion in his face. For some reason I can’t fully explain, I was moved beyond words. The soulful old man looking out from the picture at me was real. He was my kin and my god. This was a true experience of darshan; seeing and being seen by god.

So every since then guess you could say I’ve been on a Norse kick. Every new thing I find out about it feeds me like nectar from the gods. Is this the answer I asked my deities for? I don’t really know yet if this is just one of those things, a passing distraction, or if Heathenry/Asatru is going to be something that I will be integrating into my life. Its all brand new and I’m just soaking it up.

Never fear, followers of my Celtic blog posts, my Celtishness isn’t going away any time soon, it’s just probably going to be “supplemented” by what I’m learning now. I have a ton of Celtic-themed blog entries scheduled to post once a week for weeks on end.


2 responses »

  1. This is quite the most beautiful blog entry I have ever seen, anywhere. Thank you so much for this. I have shared your ambivalence about belief in deity and have gradually come to an awareness of a conscious and committed polytheism, which my family and I pursue in the context of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry. I know the power of those early-morning thoughts! I too have a strong interest in the ADF. I find your website inspiring; we’re always looking for ways to engage our children with our folk culture. I came across your blog when looking for information on the Matronae, whose cultus I am trying to revive. What a beautiful statue on you altar! I am especially alive to the possibility of Celto-Germanic religion and find it interesting that you are pursuing this from a more grounded reconstructionist perspective. I shall follow your blog from now on.

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