anonymous asked:

Hi! I'm not sure if anyone has ever asked you this before, and I'm sorry if that's the case, but what are your thoughts on the idea that people should inovate as in creating modern, new content to heathendom, therefore being less 'overly-attached' to reconstructionism? And how can we bring it to reality?

I have a really long answer for this because I have lots of Strong Opinions, so that’s why this response has taken longer to write (sorry about that!).

There are a few different ways of thinking about modern Paganism. A very common one, particularly for Heathenism, is spiritual Reconstructionism. The idea is that you’re trying to learn as much about the ancient religion practiced by the ancient Norse, and then to recreate it as faithfully as possible.

Reconstructionism has a lot of benefits: it promotes a greater understanding of the old ways and what those meant to the originating culture. In many ways, it feels more ‘pure’ because we want to feel like what is old is more true to the old gods.

However, I personally don’t consider myself a reconstructionist. This is because I think it’s important to my spiritual development to incorporate aspects of my daily lived experiences with the gods. This practice, of marrying the ancient with the modern, is sometimes called revivalism. It goes by other names too, but this is the term I tend to use.

Camilla Laurentine has an excellent video on revivalist polytheism which I highly recommend:

Being a revivalist means that I incorporate new technologies, cultural ideas, and ideologies into my practice, while being aware of the old ways as much as I can. I might learn about how cattle represented wealth, but am also conscious that for me, a dollar bill/pound note is more representative for this generation.

An example that comes to mind is how many Heathens, particularly trans* Heathens, have reframed Odin’s shamanistic work to fit into their experiences.

Odin practiced a magic known as seidr (pronounced SAY-thur), which was almost exclusively practiced by women. At the time, a man practicing seidr was associated with emasculation and being passive sexually, although there were also male practitioners. The fact that Odin was able to practice it without losing his status in the Aesir community speaks volumes to his power and reverence among them.

However, using a revivalist approach (whether they think of it that way or not), many modern Heathens have begun to look at this as Odin’s way of reaching beyond the gender binary. In this context, Odin doesn’t have to be only and solely masculine; he can also be feminine, or be neither. Odin therefore becomes a god who can cross gender boundaries while retaining his spiritual and magical powers.

This theory of working with Odin is very likely informed by modern LGBT+ campaigns and a growing cultural knowledge about different gender expressions. It’s doubtful that ancient Scandinavians would have had the complex language for romantic/gender/sexual orientations we now have. Regardless, it’s a powerful tool for modern practitioners to enhance their spiritual and magical practice while incorporating their gender identities into it.

So that’s one part of the equation, that our Pagan practices can incorporate our new technologies, cultural ideas, and personal identities as much as knowledge of ancient Scandinavian culture.

The other part is how to bring that into reality, as you’ve so rightly said. Modern Heathen revivalism is about finding a way to marry (1) the things you learn about with (2) the things you experience in your own way.

(1) The things you learn are what you read the Eddas and other source material written in the 9th - 13th centurites (for the most part), books about ancient Scandinavian culture and religion, and different interpretations of these texts. Here are some Heathen sources you can read:

  • The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson
  • The Poetic Edda by various authors (orally passed down, most likely)
  • Myth and Religion of the North: The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia by E.O.G. Turville-Petre.
  • The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
  • Trickster Makes This World by Lewis Hyde

This should be enough to get you started; there are plenty of other sources you’ll find in the bibliographies of these works if you want to find out more about one subject or another.

(2) The things you experience are what you see, hear, and feel in your spiritual practice. This can be trial and error with any of the following:

  • Building altar
  • Experimenting with daily practices
  • Writing prayers for repetition
  • Learning how to do spells, sigils, bindrunes, and other magic craft
  • Writing a Book of Shadows/Book of Mirrors/Grimoire if you want to use them
  • Meditation and prayers with the gods

An important thing to remember is that you can get other peoples’ input to hear what they do and if you want to do the same. Some suggestions for that are:

  • Read other blogs (I’ve posted about some good ones here, and you can find another list here). Also watch vlogs on YouTube by Pagans (including those who work with different gods than you).
  • Attend Pagan Pride events if they’re in your area
  • Join Facebook groups that discuss Asatru/Vanatru/Rokkatru/Heathenry
  • Read devotionals to the gods you’re interested in working with; this is a growing genre that blends essays, poems, sacred fiction, and spells together all in a single source dedicated to one or a few gods.
  • Meet other Pagans who work with the same gods you do at local moots
  • Journaling about your spiritual experience so that you have a record of what you’ve been thinkin about and experiencing. 

Doing this will likely give end up with a spiritual practice that is uniquely your own. You will know how you build your altar, and you will know what works for you and your gods. This may not be true of other practitioners, but you will still have knowledge to offer others the more you learn about yourself.

I know this was a long post, but I hope it was helpful.

Many blessings!

- Dagny