One-Eyed Cat: Heathenry / Slavic Paganism
Exploring the wider Eurasian influences on central and northern European religion, including Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Baltic, Siberian, Mediterranean and ancient Indo-European beliefs and applying them to contemporary practice.
GUEST POST: An Open Letter from a Mixed Ugric and Black Heathen
An Open Letter from a Mixed Ugric and Black Heathen:
by Lanaya Winterly
Lanaya's letter first appeared on a Heathen board I frequent and touched me deeply as someone who has experienced similar prejudices and a frustration with a lack of source material for Polish Paganism in the US. Despite stereotypes, Lanaya's story is not an outlier for Heathenry. Nor is she the only black Heathen I have met.
I wanted to share this post with you for several reasons. The neighboring Ugric Siberian peoples (often called 'Finns' in the lore) have had a profound influence on Heathenry, including sharing myths and likely giving us several of our Gods-- from the understanding of thundering Thor as a redhead to the huntress Skadi. The Norse understanding of the shamanic art of seið is also credited as originating with the Saami by multiple scholars, as well as galdr (song-magic), of which they were said to be masters.
Thank you, Lanaya, for letting me share this.
I wonder when the time will come where Heathen groups actively discuss the wrongs that have been done to other neighboring cultures, instead of glorifying raids, thus perpetuating stereotypes. I also wonder when we as Heathens will start letting others incorporate their practices from other northern European branches of religion into ceremony, prayer and other aspects of daily life without being shunned for it.
As a woman who's Ugric as well and black, I would love to incorporate my heritage and shamanism into my practice without being torn into for not being strictly western Scandinavian. To be fair I'm one of the few people who can actually say they're native to northern Europe. Not that blood matters, though. On a personal level I find it very disheartening that because of imperialism I can't find a solid language resource center with Uralic language families in it
I would like the right to use drums and not be called New Age as well as the right to read the Kalevala and call myself a Heathen. I would really love to not be accused of dying my hair, because the pigmentation I have was inherited through southern Finland and southwestern Baltic territory.
Using my name as it was given should be allowed in a digital space without others assuming I’m a wannabe anime character. My name ‘Mika’, is catholic Finnish, because my parents like me could not find a solid translation for the name Michaela in Hebrew and mistakenly gave me the northern European variation of the name.
On another more serious note would people please make an effort to not exotify Finnish or African American women within our community? We’re not unicorns or sex dolls. We're not exotic, we just happen to be more Asiatic looking, and we've been here longer than most. Could we Finns and Ugric people have our land back, so I might have a chance at raising children without having to worry about a school and government system that passive aggressively still punishes Uralic and Ugric minorities for complaining when their children stop speaking the native language?
I would like to live in a world where I could in the near future go to a country with a population that can claim it has a modern revival of Asatru and not be cursed at for having slanted eyes, or (as I’ve heard) denied bus passes because my facial features might be too Uralic or Western Siberian for a prejudiced bus driver to stomach. Sadly enough, in some countries like Sweden and Russia some of the older generations view minorities in the same light that Americans view Romani families.
My wanting to celebrate my tribal heritage and roots should be no reason for someone to call me ‘Wicca-tru’— a term which I find offensive because it hits a wound so deep seated in the cultural banishment that Finnish, Slavic and Baltic Heathens often face for being open about their roots. We need to end passive cultural supremacy, and stop separating each other on a basis of language source, interest or celebration of ancestry, because it's disrespectful, it's ignorant and erases sources from existence through adaptation without representation
The issue of the mistreatment of minority groups stems beyond Heathenry and dips into historically rooted governmental issues in countries where people looking for land rights are labeled environmental terrorists. I am no terrorist, I am no neo pagan…. I’m an Ugric , Celtic, Slavic, Black, Nordic, Baltic, and native American Heathen who has grown up not being treated equally by her peers because of her appearance and religious affiliation. It needs to end, and I hope it starts with me.
~Lanaya Winterly, 2014.
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