Heathen Revival: Tribal Integrity in a Cultural Swamp

First off, let me say I love my friend, Coloradocelt and his blog. His thoughts fire me up either in sympathy or in opposition, either way he gets me thinking and I appreciate him for that.

 

I was reading his blog today http://coloradocelt.wordpress.com and was inspired to write the following post, partially as a response to the musings found there, and partially as a systemization of my own thoughts.

 

He brings up a wonderful point in Head Knowledge, Heart Knowledge and Pagan Reconstructionism, which I will refer to as the “geographical argument”. It could be states thus: We live in a world and society so far removed from our ancestors’, why attempt to reconstruct the belief systems of the past when many are outdated or irrelevant?

 

I think this is a valid concern, and one that needs to be addressed by all the philosophers and thinkers that make up the Recon/Traditionalist community. I began to address Reconstructionism in a previous blog and I think I explained well enough there how Reconstructionism came about, so I will not reiterate it here. This blog will be devoted to exploring the question of: “Where do we go from here?”.

 

So, here we are, we have read the Havamal and Poetic Edda a thousand times, we have discussed the importance of this runestone or that brooch, we have debated how a viking helm ended up in a bog in Wales and exhausted all the new archaeological findings. . .now what do we do? Well, if debating anthropology and history has ceased to water your spirit, and you begin to look deeper into the Well of Urdh and thirst for the mysteries of the Gods how do you apply the majik? Does a fifteen-hundred year old grimoire address the problems of today? I doubt the Goetia or the Cyprianusbok really tells you what you should do ritually when your rent is late, or you are struggling with an unfaithful lover. Knowing the four Fylgja of Iceland will probably not help your tap into the unique energy of your homeland, especially if you live in Vinland (America).  Where can we turn for inspiration for building a culturally correct yet modern folk-majik tradition? Well, we needn’t look very far.

 

In New England, specifically Pennsylvania, there is a thriving folk-majik tradition called Powow, Braucherie, or Hexcraft. It is the indigenous witchcraft traditions of the German immigrants, consisting of old Heathen lore, Lutheran Christianity and Cherokee medicine practices. While many of it’s spells are far too Christianized to be of any use to a Heathen, they can serve as a guide and inspiration, showing us the way to creating a syncretic system that doesn’t try to ignore the manifold cultural elements of Americana, but absorbs them and re-translates them into a Heathen worldview.

 

Let’s face it, as much as we would like to say that we are pure descendants of the Scandi, Jutes, Angles, or Saxons. . .we aren’t. Most of us in America are a wonderful mix of peoples and ethnicities. Many of Irish descent also share First Nations blood, I know that my family is a European Heinz 57 with bloodlines hailing from Switzerland, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland and Germany. . .and these are only the ones I know about. There is a family story of one of our ancestors, a trapper and fur-trader in the late 1800’s who went missing and was found years later living with a First Nations tribe! They had offically adopted him into their tribe and when he was offered a ride back to “civilization” he demurred. What I am getting at is simply this: we cannot ignore the fact that we do not live in Germany, Sweden or Norway. We live in America, for better or for worse, so let’s stop pandering to escapism and seek to unite in sacred marriage our Blood and the Land.

 

The Landspirits are very important in Heathenism, and when the Land we live on is peopled by the spirit-races of the Native Americans’ Gods, we must take this into account. Instead of ordering majikal supplies from half-way across the world, let’s begin taking inventory of what our Americana offers us and mold it into an American Heathen syncretism.

 

For another example, I would like to take a look at Louisiana Voodoo and Southern Hoodoo. These folk traditions have had to adjust and reform according to cultural climate and society the African slaves found themselves in. Despite the outward appearances (Saints, Mass, Holy Water, etc.) Voodoo is still a very powerful way to work with the Haitian Loa. This tradition absorbed the extant cultural elements and put them to use to serve their Gods. . .something we as Heathens can do if we aren’t afraid of being called a fluff-bunny.

 

An example of this is my Runic Rosary. I personally love the aesthetics of the Rosary, and am absolutely in love with the use of beads as prayer and mediation aids, so I went to the craft store, bought some pony beads, chain and spacers and created a rosary. For a medallion I placed a Metal  Spiral and on each bead I burned a rune. I now have the entire futhark to utiseta with and do my chants. The imagery is thus: The spiral represents the unformed Chaos of the Guningagap, then Fehu – the Cosmic Mother Cow, Audhumla, then Uruz the Wild Male principle that culminates in Thurisaz – Ymir. And it continues on, teaching the entire cycle of the world in all it’s Ages even unto Ragnarok symbolized by Dagaz – the Dissolution. The beads then return to the Spiral and the world is remade with Fehu again.

 

We can build a strong and thriving folk tradition here in America, utilizing and re-orienting all the aspects of our culture into a Heathen perspective. Perhaps Red Chili Powder could be a good and useful herb to combine with Kaun, which we know from the Norwegian Rune Poem is a sore and a sickness in children. Perhaps Woden enjoys the scent of Orange Oil (I believe he does). How do we know that Idhunna wouldn’t like an Apple Martini?

 

My point is, that all the historical research in the world will not give you a hands-on up-close-and-personal experience with the Holy Powers. You cannot expect to live an empowered life if the Past is dictating what to do. The Past is very important, and history is our guide, but it should not be our slave-master. Let’s apply our vast knowledge of the Gods and the Lore and begin to build a religion that speaks to our cultural realities as American Heathens.

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3 Responses to “Heathen Revival: Tribal Integrity in a Cultural Swamp”

  1. Very nice, seems we are all getting a little fire in our heads lately. well done.

  2. bigredcelt Says:

    Excellent perspective. Being labled as a fluff-bunny is not something you have to worry about. That group, in my veiw, are the people in it for the fancy names and the surface happenings of rituals. I see you and Kayla both being much deeper than that. Our veiws of this world will vary quite a bit mostly due to age and experience differences. We’ll just have to agree…that I’m right…LOL However, from a spiritual standpoint not so much. I’ve always believed ones true spirituality is dirived from a combination of your heritage and the land you inhabit. In fact you will find that in my Bio. Colorado is very powerful land.

    I’ve said this before..you have to understand the history of the people you shape your spiritualtiy around. Understand why they believed what they did. What was it about their lives that drove these beliefs. Once that is understood you can directly apply those practics in your own life as it pertains to todays world. Praying or meditating to your guide, Bridghid being mine, will not solve your problems. Nor is it proper to ask. When I am in a tough situation I as for guidence and clarity of mind and soul to channel a solution for myself. Ultimately we are all attempting to tap into the same “Ultimate Source” and there are a multitude of paths to achieve that. Be it Hindu, Celt, Norse or yeah even Christian. In my view our Gods and Godesses are guides to get there.

    I just remade the meditaion beads I lost a while back also. They help me focus. Anyway, I realy enjoyed your blog post.

  3. nakedwoadwarrior Says:

    Thanks for your review Don! I am glad you liked it, and thanks for your thoughts regarding these things. You are right about the titles, people in the Pagan community often are too obsessed with titles as if being High Priest of something will solve all of their problems. I can understand wanted to be trained in the priestly sciences. . .if you want to help people. . .if you are just in it for the power trip then go home lol. The title-seekers forget that being a Priest or Priestess is hard work, it means sacrificing your life to better the community, to be the counsellor, the administrator and the janitor of a spiritual temple. It is hard work and not for the weak of spirit 😉 Thanks again, I really enjoyed hearing your perspective!

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