Thoughts on heritage
re: that “heritage” thing. Somehow I read something about that tonight and it made me think and sent me on that tangent of thinking about folkishness versus place-specific components of Asatrú.
I should say first: I live in Germany, born to a German family, I am white. So I neither had that thing of practicing a tradition that had not originated on the same continent, nor do I have any experience of being denied Asatrú because of non-whiteness. In fact, no one ever told me that I belong to this or that tradition.
Among my ancestors was a slave trader - a thing I find difficult to deal with, but still, he’s my ancestor. I don’t have to agree with what he did. Then there is that landowner who set his serfs free. Another is rumored to have been involved in an attempted assassination of Hitler. There’s a Huguenot woman from Southern France. There are all the influences I got from my maternal grandmother and grandfather (Northern German and Bohemian-Bavarian). There are, supposedly, a bunch of Danes. From my father’s side, there’s Swabians.
My heritage is a lot of migration, travelling and adventure. My heritage is curiosity, open-mindedness and generosity, but also stubbornness and a penchant toward workaholism. My heritage is that of respectable merchants as well as that of engineers (although I’m not in a technical profession), travellers and craftspeople who take pride in the good work of their own hands (even if my crafts are mostly less tangible).
My heritage is being politically left. (I laughed out loud when I learnt that my well-off, factory-owning great-grandfather on my maternal grandma’s side was a communist.) I literally cut my teeth on feminism: inherited it from my mom, and in practice and attitude also from my grandma. My heritage is fempowerment, because that was one of the potentials of the professions of my mom and grandma (both working, among other things, as beauty specialists). My heritage from them is also working with and honoring the body in a lot of different ways.
My heritage is not a specific culture. Much less a nation. My heritage is all the stories, skills and knowledge I got from my family, it is in that wild and wonderful mix of people from whom I have inherited some trait or the other.
And how does that play with my spirituality? Deciding to follow my curiosity about Asatrú was not a thing I did because of any “roots” or so. Nationalism was one of the things that deterred me. I detest nationalism fervently.
If there was one factor that made this easier to me, it was that Asatrú seems to fit nicely in the landscapes I lived in. And vice versa, Asatrú made my connection to landscapes even stronger. But it was never about blood: it was about trees and rivers, stones and weather, not about people; and about a certain wildness and roughness in the mythology that still appeals to me, and seems to resonate there from the outdoors.
I could have decided to focus on Celtic paganism - maybe, following the Germanic/Norse path was a matter of more accessible sources and more people I already knew and trusted on that path. But no way was it a matter of genetics, or the culture I was raised in, or that I felt any obligation to be a Heathen because I was white and german.
Strictly speaking, if I wanted to “do something from here”, I shouldn’t be practicing late iron age Scandinavian heathenism, but continental European Germanic polytheism or gallo-roman religion. But then, my polytheism is not “pure” and reconstructionist, anyway. Rather than carefully reconstructing an accurate image of what once might have been, it is looking at that image, diving into that mode of thinking and looking at the world and from there synthesizing with the modern world, connecting with deities and spirits to build a living, creative and inclusive cultus.
On top of that, I say that my tradition is just 20 years old. (My beloved group was founded in 1995.) Twenty years might seem ridiculous compared to glorious claims of millennia-old traditons, but those twenty years are filled with stories, knowledge, both orally transmitted and written down; for those twenty years, we - as a collective - can account and say what we did Back When Thing X happened.
Honoring my ancestors (including spiritual ancestors and extended family) is important to me, but there is absolutely no ethnic component to why I Asatrú happened to me.
tl;dr: spirituality is not in the genes, and blood is always red, no matter to which human it belongs.