I fell upon the article on this site quite by accident and have found it to be thought provoking. As I have said before, much about being Heathen is listening to or reading the thoughts of others. It is a learning process, one that Odin instilled in all of us and which is, I believe, our duty to fulfil and to pass on to the next generation.
So, I have pondered on this, the thoughts of the author who follows the Old Ways and I believe I have learnt much from him.
Firstly, it made me reflect on what being heathen actually means for me. There are many who follow the Old Ways by way of reconstructing what they believe are its roots – the Viking life. Whilst this has had an enormous impact on our view of things, my personal belief runs much deeper. I do not immerse myself in weekend reconstructions, listen to Norse / pagan inspired music (except Wardruna) or attend festivals. For me, being heathen is more Primal. Primitive. Hard. Dark. It runs to the very core of mankind. And from that I believe that we must look to nature, to the ebb and flow of life in the natural world, to truly understand what being Heathen is. Through this we learn our place in the cosmos and start to understand it through the cycles of the seasons.
Secondly, it has made me look at where we get our information. Specifically, the Eddas. We are aware that these were written by a Christian who, whether intentionally or not, influenced the works with his monotheistic perspective. All the scholars note that his interest lay with preserving the history of the Scandinavian peoples, their lore and their land. However much someone intends to do that, they will (as with human nature) write from “their perspective”. When you look through and sift out those influences wherever possible, and look upon them as stories that have been passed down for generations with bits added or omitted depending on the scald telling them, it gives a clearer understanding of the messages that lie beneath. To each it will be different, but ultimately they run true with much of how we already live – honour, truth, respect and honesty. There was no comparison of good and evil – the gods are neither good nor are they evil – there is right and wrong and the onus lies on us to know the difference, and to rectify our wrongdoings.
Part of living in an Abrahamic influenced world is to grow up with their understanding of Chaos – something that is evil, misunderstood, misshapen, haphazard, without control, something to fear, frenzied – there are a myriad of words that can describe the inferences laid on that single word. It has taken me a long time to truly understand what Chaos is from a Heathen perspective – a part of life and it is welcomed with open arms. It is all about life, death and rebirth whether it be through nature and the changing seasons, a life that is torn from us filled with many memories or taken too early, I have learnt to embrace chaos and every unknown that it brings with it, to harness the energy it exerts to assist in growth of wisdom and knowledge.
Perhaps the author’s perspective I have had the most time pondering is this
Paganism is not about one specific truth and answer. It is about your quest for truth and your own journey. Paganism is your consciousness evolving and growing with time and experience. It is your attempt to become a free, open and empty mind. Open and ready to receive your answers from nature and its powers itself.
Not from anyone or anything else. Then you may understand that this is exactly what Odin did.
The realisation that in order to truly understand what made our Elders strong was their connection with nature, with the way of the universe and that is a message I get clearly from the quote above and from the remarks made in the essay. Through letting go, opening up to what is around us, is when we truly know our spirituality. This is not something that can be learnt but something that needs to be experienced. To understand the reasons behind the festivals that form a great part of our lives, not from what we are told in books, but to understand them from a perspective of birth, life, death and rebirth. In essence, to open ourselves up and to allow the gods to show us the true meaning of being heathen, to communicate with what is going on around us, to understand that reality is not concrete. By doing this, perhaps we will see what was, what is and what will be.