There’s so much of my life I’ve been willing to share about—anxiety, c-sections, parenthood, military life, entrepreneurship—but, one thing that has always filled me with dread, is letting the whole wide world know we’re pagan (gasp!). Well, this year, I’ve decided I’ve had enough of hiding this side of our crazy life.
This post is a bit of an FAQ that I’ve compiled over the years. Here you’ll find the answers to the questions we typically get when we reveal our Heathen ways. I would love to know if you have any additional questions, so please feel free to leave a comment below. Okay, here we go!
What, exactly is Heathenism?
A heathen is defined as someone who doesn’t follow a mainstream religion, such as Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Today, followers of the Nordic gods have claimed the term as a description of their religion. Heathenism is the belief in and worship of the Norse gods, the Aesir and Vanir. There are a couple branches of Heathenism, most notably Odinism and Asatru, but we (Nick & I) go with the title of Heathen because we pray to and evoke all the gods, as well as our ancestors.
Are “Heathen” and “Pagan” the same thing?
No. Pagan essentially means “not Christian”, so our Islamic, Hindi and Buddhist friends are technically pagan too (yay!). Being Heathen is a specific sect of paganism, like Catholicism or LDS are specific sects of Christianity. Same building, different rooms. Other commonly known branches of paganism include Wicca and Druidism.
Aren’t Asatru those Skinhead guys?
Unfortunately, there are those out there who have bigoted views, just like in all religions and areas of the world. Some believe that if you’re not of Scandinavian decent, you aren’t “truly” Heathen. Those, are not our kind of Heathens. Others think that all Heathens should live on homesteads and “keep the old ways” (i.e. do everything by hand). Those are also, not our particular brand of Heathen. Also, many Heathen symbols have be co-opted through the centuries to spread hate and fear. The majority of Heathens though are open-minded and have big, open hearts, which is why The Asatru Community has created Shieldwall, a call-to-action against hate and intolerance in the Heathen community. We are proud to support, live and teach this message of unity.
So, what holidays do you celebrate?
The truth is, we’re not much different from most other American families. We celebrate what we call the “Americanized versions” of major holidays; we hunt for Easter eggs and Santa visits each Christmas. We do have a few extra holidays we observe for our faith, including Disting, Ostara, May Day, Midsummer, Freysblot, Fall Fest, Winter Nights and Yule. These holy days are evenly spaced throughout the year, representing the beginning and middle of each season. Some are tied to specific gods (Thorrablot for Thor, Freysblot for Frey), while others celebrate our ancestors (Disting). Some are one day, while other span multiple days and have specific meaning for each day.
So it’s like the show Vikings, right?
Yes, but a big resounding no. While we believe in and worship the Norse gods, there are many inaccuracies and outdated practices in the tv show. Our family’s personal belief is that Gods are our ultimate ancestors, our creators. We strive to have a relationship with them that’s respectful and intimate. We do not sacrifice animals, practice dark magic or curse people. While there are…severe…practices recorded in historical and religious accounts, our family believes those are last resorts and should not be taken lightly. We do use a fire, mead and drinking horns for religious ceremonies called blots, but meat and mead are typically used as replacements for sacrifices.
How does your family feel about this?
Some of our family is supportive, abet somewhat confused at times, but unfortunately, some are not and our relationships with those people have dwindled over the years. Years ago I had an ill family member and one of my aunts asked for us to keep them in our prayers. When I said we would pray for them, I received the response that our prayers where not welcome due to our beliefs. I was devastated and felt beyond hurt that my aunt felt my beliefs made my love and prayers subpar. Since then, I’ve had to toughen my skin and create boundaries around how I allow people to talk to me.
Both Nick & I where raised Catholic and, at some point, decided the Catholic faith was not our calling. We each spent years studying and exploring other faiths until we found Heathenism. To us, faith is individual and should be cultivated as such. We decided years are that, while we’ll teach our children about our religion, ultimately it’s up to each of them to find what feels right to them. We do our best to explain that everyone has their own faith and that acceptance of these differences is paramount. We are so honored to have friends who are willing to share their faith with us and include us in their celebrations, traditions and rituals. From Diwali to Passover, Christmas to Ramadan we strive to teach our girls that all religions have a place and deserve respect.