Practically Tru: Heathen Etchings on Empty Brass
Stories, questions, and musings about Asatru, and one man's effort to see the modern world through an old lens.
Asatru and the Art of Nuclear Physics
Let's talk about zeal.
Though I am a member of several online forums, I rarely post to them- more frequently I use them to shamelessly raid the knowledge others have worked so hard to amass and then posted for the world to see. I am not an archeologist, but I love reading the recent reviews of newfound Viking era settlements. I am no theologian (despite short forays into the field), but the people with advanced degrees in religious study who can break down the Eddas and Sagas from both a historal and spiritual way are of endless fascination to me, as are their conclusions. Like an Average Joe reading Psychology Today or Popular Mechanics, it is a great chance to get a wee bit smarter and maybe even find something applicable to my daily life.
For every windshield there is a bug. In this case, the horsefly getting smeared across the glass by my unforgiving wiper is the overzealous "seeker of the path".
(See, I told you we were talking about zeal. You never believe me.)
What follows are a list of fabricated questions and statements in the vein of the common ones that grate on me. I do not preface comments or observations with disclaimers as a general rule, but please note that at the end of this list there will be a mitigating statement. Without further delay:
"I'm looking for info on runic Mixed Martial Arts forms. Anybody got some?"
"Which rune will help me do nuclear physics better?"
"What I hate about Xtians is..."
"Can anyone recommend a hidden saga about God X that will help me win an online argument with people who don't like God X, or that will validate my Unverified Personal Gnostic?"
"I hate racism in all it's forms. What's your bloodline? What's your tribe?"
"Heathenry is (insert almost any follow-on statement here).
Now for my unqualified opinion about this crowd. When I was observing other pagan faith expansions, it seemed that many new seekers were looking for an Inside Club. They wanted a handshake, a key symbol, and motto, a place to belong where they are not judged and accepted. People have used religion to do this since the dawn of time- we see it in the correctional system with the rapid explosion of Islam, and the recent pagan focus of some groups. We saw it motivate people to war throughout history, and our legends are littered with secret societies that made membership a key to acceptance and success.
Once they choose Faith X as The Way and believe they are In The Club, they attempt to saturate their life with the trappings of their newfound connection- tee shirts, Coexist bumper stickers, archaic words in common conversation, changing their style of dress, and joining fractured sub-camps of the faith to further refine their standing or pecking order or identity. The next step is to artificially layer Faith X into places is has no natural root. Spells to start their cars. Questions about which god to pray to about stock market trends. Putting runes on golf clubs to improve their game.
I make these observations from the outside, because I freely admit to not being In The Club. I let my faith ebb and flow as the gods and my ancestors direct it to. Sometimes I will crest a hill and be overcome by the nature in the view I see in front of me, and wights feel very real and meaningful to me. When I am walking the concrete jungle of a pseudo-city, I don't feel them as much and so don't focus on them as much. When I would value my mother's advice, I take a quiet moment to ask her for it. When I think a situation is a test of my individual strength or wit, I do it my damn self.
Now for my mitigating statement, as promised. None of the questions I list are, "unheathen," or, "wrong," in any way. They represent an approach that I don't understand, and one I find as irritating as I do confusing, but that is one person's view of a reasonably common occurance within the faith. I mention it here in the hopes that it will give members of any faith a moment's pause to consider their approach to religion. I hope people look at it through the lens of being true to themselves, true to what they believe their diety wants from them, and from the perspective of outside observers. All are valid and should be considered. I do this every week.
If you feel like you are doing everything right, keep going. The world has a way of telling you when you have wandered from the path, if you keep your eyes open enough to see it. If some of this makes you a little uncomfortable or if you get a little defensive about it, that's one of those signs that you may want to relook your approach. Heathenry is beautiful, there are a lot of ways to integrate it into your life, and I wish you all the best on your path.
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