Hi- I don't know if this is the right place to ask this, but it seems like most if not all Norse pagans on tumblr feel as though they have a personal connection to the gods, or at least one of the gods. I've seen it said elsewhere that the Norse gods don't really interact much with humanity, and that we should focus on our ancestors and the landvættir first, since asking the gods for help with small things would be like calling the president when you have a flat tire. What's going on here?
I feel like this needs a bit of historical context in order to understand. So, when the Heathen revival became a thing in North America, people didn’t really know where to start, and some folks were looking at what was available and were like “I don’t like all this German nationalism” since a lot of people at the time were coming from Wicca, there’s a bit of a Wiccan influence in some of those early rituals (there’s a reason the Hammer Rite looks so similar to a circle casting). Let’s call these people “revivalists“.
You can still find references to the Hammer Rite today, but over the last couple decades people start being like “So let’s actually look at what the lore says” and they start getting really into the studying and they’re like “You know, I don’t see many instances of regular people dealing with the deities” and they look at the major Heathen organizations and they’re like “Yeah I don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.” They’re more interested in cultivating what they see as a Heathen mindset, and acting accordingly. Let’s call them “reconstructionists”.
I should back up for a moment and explain that Heathenry in North America tends to be more conservative than Heathenry in Europe, and definitely more conservative than (Neo-)Wicca in North America. This is important, I just need to get it out before I forget.
So there are these two camps, the more revivalist Heathens and Asatruar (I personally would see the Troth as more of a revivalist organization) and the more reconstructionist groups that tend to be more to the right politically. For the record, I identify more as a revivalist, but I think certain people would consider me a bit more recon, I don’t like the recon label for reasons. BTW this is really oversimplified.
Now, what I’ve noticed over the past twenty years is this trend in Heathenry towards “hardcore” reconstructionism. By which I mean the kind of school of thought that says “everyone should do Heathenry like I do or they are Not! Heathen!” There are also a ton of white dycishet dudes who are attracted to Heathenry because they see it as a manly religion for warriors. These people have very particular ways of reading the lore and have formed communities based around reading the lore in that particular way. The problem is not with reconstruction in and of itself, but in the way they aggressively assert that their interpretation is correct (and use that interpretation as a way to exclude people from Heathenry) even when it’s flatly contradicted by the lore and the historical record. For instance, the way innangard is used by many Heathen groups is bullshit and Heathens did absolutely kneel before their deities.
Now, tumblr Heathenry is its own thing. Tumblr has a reputation for being more left-wing and more, I don’t want to say diverse, but it’s managed to attract a bunch of communities that might not have as much of a voice on other platforms. Basically, tumblr manages to attract people who are not white dycishet dudes, who may be, say, disabled, and not able to find a Heathen religious community that they like.
I also feel like the tumblr Pagan and occult communities in general are more open to devotional or more mystical expressions of religion, whereas many “mainstream” Heathen groups see things like magic as “gravy” (with ancestor worship as the meat) at best and “woo bullshit” at worst. Many Heathens, especially of the hardcore recon variety, also emphasize the need for a community (some even saying that you *need* a community in order to be a true Heathen) whereas tumblr tends to attract the sort of people who are like “I’m disabled and I can’t find a community to fit my needs.”
Sorry for rambling on about politics and such but I feel like it’s necessary to understand the apparent contradictions in Heathen thought. Put simply, more politically conservative Heathenries tend to be awful, awful, at accommodating people who aren’t white, cis, straight, dyadic, men, and the people who feel most excluded by these versions of Heathenry tend to find tumblr Heathenry to be more receptive to their needs. So basically what you’re seeing are two ways of being Heathen, one that emphasizes ancestor worship and interacting with the local spirits over the deities (which is something Heathens absolutely did) and one focused more on personal devotion to one or more deities.
Which one is correct? Well since you’re asking me, there’s evidence for both having relationships with deities and not bothering the deities, and I think asserting that deities only have time for powerful people contradicts what we know of the deities. Like, why call Thor “god of the common people” if he doesn’t actually give a fuck about the common people? But honestly, if it works for you, do what works for you. Heathenry isn’t a single tradition, it’s a family of loosely connected traditions, and there were things that were important to someone during the Viking Age that aren’t that important to modern Heathens.