One-Eyed Cat: Slavic Paganism / Heathenry

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.

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GUEST POST: An Open Letter from a Mixed Ugric and Black Heathen

Lanaya 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.

You can follow Lanaya further on her Heathen Tumbler and Facebook page, Black Sheep Goddess.

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Shirl Sazynski was trained by the Gods and has been practicing the Norse shamanic art of seidhr for over a decade. A wife of Odin, oracle, icon painter and author, her work has appeared in several popular and pagan media outlets for the last fifteen years.

She teaches workshops in core spiritual practices and seidhr, and performs divination, consulting the Gods at staffandcup.com.

Comments

  • David Carron
    David Carron Saturday, 19 July 2014

    "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."

    Ok so, what are you suggesting?

    "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.

    Folks can do what they like. Personal practice is just that. But if you call it Asatru, then that supposes a set of understanding and practice that should apply.

    But otherwise, I hear the point that is being articulated here.

  • Lanaya Winterly
    Lanaya Winterly Saturday, 19 July 2014

    Dear David Carron

    The suggestion I would make is that young men and women in our community stop taking on the roles of shield maidens or valkyries, or warriors and bards so often and instead explore other aspects of heathenry that lean more towards the reconstructive side rather than the romanticized parts that have those on the outside looking in making assumptions about us.

  • Lynn Sharp
    Lynn Sharp Sunday, 20 July 2014

    I don't often interact with other heathens. My ideas on heathenry are wildly unpopular. I believe in the Gods and Goddesses as kin. And that their influences can guide, perturb, enliven, or annoy. Like any other family or "kin". I am centered in the runes. Much of my practice is embedded in communing with their energies. They go so much deeper than divination. And it doesn't seem to me if that is a popular stance among the heathens I have met. If the runes are anything more than a letter system then solely to tell the future. Which is like saying water is only used for drinking.
    Not only that. I don't want to go to Valhalla. There. I said it. That doesn't sound like heaven to me. Fight all day to be resurrected so you can party all night. Ok. So the all night long party sounds great. But the rest not so much. I'm not sure where I want to end up. But undead warrior princess (has a nice ring to it) doesn't work for me personally. I would fight, if I had to. But I do not thirst for it.
    I am many things, racially. And I get flack for that as well. I am very Caucasian in appearance. But my roots are Native American, Scottish, Irish, Scandinavian, and Germanic. I don't fit in any single genre. A true mutt, I carry signs of each of these heritages. I've been told I'm "Wicca-tru" and a "New Age Heathen" as well. It's disheartening. I hope your honesty and strength starts something here, as Heathens have a well earned title of elitist.

  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski Monday, 21 July 2014

    Thank you for your comment, Lynn. If you can connect with some IRL groups, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find Heathens who are like you. The internet's anonymity tends to skew things; caustic opinions are loud. Sometimes the IRL groups with kindred spirits are not in your immediate area, so be patient.

    Most people, in Norse lore, go to Hel, which is the Underworld - a concept that includes both what people would traditionally think of as "paradise", places of purification, and simply a collective resting place for souls who need time before being reborn or changing into another form of spirit.

    I use runes (sparingly) for magic and healing, as I am guided. For divination, I use visual forms that were made for that purpose, like tarot and oracle cards, and let the Gods and spirits speak through that medium as they wish.

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