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I am an Anglo-Saxon Heathen. Tribes of Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes came to Britain in the 4th and 5th Centuries. This is often perceived as an invasion, a concept derived largely from the writings of a monk named Gildas. However archaeological evidence indicates that the Germanic immigrants often lived peacefully among the indigenous Celtic population. The average Anglo-Saxon immigrant spent much more time pushing a plough than wielding a sword.
These immigrants developed unique relationships with their gods. To quote Branston, “The Woden of the Old English never became the warrior-king…such as Snorri depicted in his Edda” (The Lost Gods of England, p.104). Some deities who are prominent in Norse myth have lesser roles in the Anglo-Saxon pantheon, while others such as Loki are absent altogether. On the other hand, the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre isn’t found in the Scandinavian pantheon.
The Anglo-Saxons revered the magician-god Woden, his consort Frige and son Thunor, a goddess of the spring called Eostre and other deities. Additionally, the Anglo-Saxon world was populated with a multitude of spirit beings; elves, dwarves, ettins, idesa.
Anglo-Saxon Heathens today are distinguished not only by our perceptions of the gods, but on what constitutes “lore”. We rely on English documents such as the writings of Bede and the tale of Beowulf to help us understand the culture and traditions of the Anglo-Saxon people. The Eddas and Norse sagas aren’t dismissed by any means, indeed they’re essential for filling in huge gaps in our knowledge of the Anglo-Saxons, but they do take a back seat to English literature and archaeology.
Some Anglo-Saxon Heathens follow Theodisc Geleafa, a movement that started in 1976. Theodisc tribes believe in sacral kingship and a highly structured social organization. There are other Anglo-Saxon Heathens who agree with Theodisc ideas in principle but have no affiliation with any tribe. Still others reject Theodisc Geleafa entirely, often forming less structured kindreds similar to those of Ásatrú.
by Alaric Terrason
What does it mean to be Folkish heathen in a modern day setting? This is a question that is often asked from other heathens who are new to Heathenry; sometimes the question comes from a heathen who has chosen to follow a different branch of the greater heathen tree. To answer the question involves looking at who we are and where did we come from.
Who am I? This sounds like a simple question to answer, however often when a person tries to answer such a question they quickly find out that what should have been a simple task has evolved into a complicated thought process. To a folkish heathen the question who am I as a person will involve looking at their moral and value beliefs as well as the beliefs in the lifestyle they have chosen. Who am I has now become an examination of the morals, values and religious / cultural beliefs of the individual. In many folkish people the morals and values often revolve around personal honour and the accomplishment of deeds with a strong tie to family and to the ancestors. All of these play an important role when it is tied together with the religious and cultural beliefs.
For a folkish heathen the belief in the gods and goddesses of the Germanic / Scandinavian pantheon is bred into the very genetic makeup of who they are; folkish heathens believe they are the descendents of the gods and goddesses, that there is still some percentage of the sacred blood flowing through their veins today. This is why it is important to the folkish heathen that when an individual claims to be a heathen the individual is from European stock. Heathenry is not a religion of broad spectrum in the sense that it existed all over the world at its height, it is the social and cultural beliefs of the Germanic peoples that spread throughout Europe and Scandinavia; as such modern heathenry is the native religion of northern Europeans and not other ethnic groups. It is this belief that is commonly abused by racists and neo-Nazi groups by twisting a requirement in ethnicity turning it to an excuse to hate; there is no excuse that can ever be forged to hate another human being based upon their gender or race.
Another part of folkish Heathenry involves the deeds one has done to set themselves apart from others. There are those who would seek leadership while others would simply be content with insuring the survival of heathen beliefs and assisting in the recreation of the Heathen Folkway. What a person chooses as their deeds is based upon the role the person feels they need to take on. Part of one’s deeds can be measured through his family, having children and raising them with heathen beliefs is seen today as a great accomplishment by many.
Once a person has answered the question of who am I; the second part which is the question where did I come from can be answered. Folkish heathenry is very strong on ancestral ties that insure that the past is kept alive today; through ancestral worship at blots and sumbels; rites of passage; and the need to continue on the bloodlines through having children and protecting heathenry from those who do not have northern European blood ties. Folkish heathens can trace their blood back to northern Europe and in many cases back to a particular segment of the Germanic peoples. This allows for pride in heritage and culture that in the 20th Century received a huge black mark with the Nazi movement in Germany, post WWII Neo-Nazi movement and the most recent Zionists’ and fundamentalist Christians’ insistent oppression of Germanic culture and beliefs through the banning of ancient symbols and practices. Who we are depends upon which segment of the Germanic people we are descendents of. Interestingly many people are lured to the Nordic view point of heathenry even though they may not be from Nordic descent; this in part is due to the larger amounts of information available on the Nordic beliefs and pantheon. There are folkish heathens in Nordic heathenry and Anglo-Saxon heathenry, covering the two main areas of where modern heathens are descended from.
Meta-genetics is a belief by some folkish that a person can not follow the beliefs of German and Scandinavian ancient peoples because the modern day person has no blood to tie them to these people. The same segment of people will argue that the purity of a person’s blood will dictate whether or not the person should be accepted or rejected from heathenry. The blood line ties are important, else why would you want to call upon people who were not your ancestors? It is better for people to stay within their own traditions and heritage then trying to wedge themselves into a culture and heritage where they should not be. An extreme example of this is some one who is 100% Chinese saying that the old German and Norse gods are their gods because they are cool. Because this person is Chinese they have no blood ties to the ancestors or the gods and as such a large segment of folkish heathenry would say they should not be in heathenry, unless they were born and raised in a Germanic culture and therefore have already been adopted into our folkway in some sense. The folkway is not a religion it is a lifestyle the religion and way of life can not be separated and as such both should be indistinguishable from the other. The living heathens today have been awakened from their slumber and returned home back to their roots with pride in their heritage and culture and proud to be from Northern European descent.
Just as the Jewish and Shinto lifestyles and religions are ethnically based so is Heathenry in the folkish view it should be reserved for the people of Northern Europe of Germanic descent.
This is not meant to be regarded as a complete guide to folkish heathenry; but rather a small insight to the complexity of maintaining ones identity, being proud of heritage, culture and lifestyle in a modern Fundamentalist Christian / Zionist ruled world. Remember being selective of whom you let in is not racism it is simply being selective, it is time for the vast majority of Heathens to leave behind the century of political correctness otherwise referred to as the PC`ness of Heathenry.
Irminist / Armanist Heathenry
The fólkish/völkisch movements have grown up quite a bit over the past century. Where once the focus was on people of Aryan heritage or speaking Indo-European languages, today this diasporic attitude is waning. We have come to realize that many Europeans do recognize a certain sense of heritage based on national origin rather than the somewhat nebulous concepts of race and language. Hedenskap, a Norwegian-based Heathenry led the way in this movement. The Anglo-Saxon Heathenry of the English soon followed and, more recently, the German-based Irminenschaft has come to be increasingly recognized.
Each nation or nation-group has its own resources to offer Heathenry as a whole. Perhaps the most frequently recognized is the Scandinavian/Icelandic group offering the Eddas and sagas. Germany is no exception to this rule, however. Our German forebears left us ancient sources as well such as Die Beiden Merseburger Zaubersprüche (“The Merseburg charms”), the Abecedarium Nordmanicum, and, of course, the epic of Sîvrit (MoHG Siegfried), known as Nibelungenlied. Our tradition is also well documented by outsiders, most notably by Cornelius Tacitus in his Germania. In addition the German tradition offers more modern sources ranging from the various Heathen revival movements of the late eighteenth century (Die Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft, Die Deutsch-religiöse Gemeinschaft, &c.) to the Armanenschaft and Ariosophy of the early nineteenth century. Perhaps our greatest fortune, though, is the hoard of folklore that has been handed down for generations. And where would Heathenry be today without the scholarship of the Brothers Grimm or that romantic vision of Richard Wagner?
Today’s Irminenschaft takes a little bit of something from all these sources. It also has rolled together much of what has been learnt from the various Heathen revivals of the 1970s, being influenced by Odinism, Tribal Belief, and others.
Perhaps Irminenschaft may best be described through the principles by which we endeavour to live:
Old High German terminology is most frequently used as a liturgical language demonstrating the timelessness of our triuwa (“faith,” “loyalty”). But our focus on an evolving Heathenry is plainly apparent, as we have absorbed Armanenschaft as our esoteric focus. Irminenschaft is also known for its use of unique ritual items such as the Julleuchter, reflective of our German heritage. It is our opinion that a variety of national-based Heathenrys can better contribute to the whole of our community than a slew of competing pan-Germanic schools of thought; and we are uncompromisingly leading the way for this to become manifest.
Most Irminen today have come to this expression of our faith from other Heathenrys. For too many years we have settled for Scandinavian- or English-based Heathenrys because this was the closest thing we could find to the ways of our ancestors. Whilst we had found much of worth in these other ways there was always something missing–the connection to our OWN ancestors, our OWN language, and our OWN ceremonies was still lacking. A certain “authenticity” and resonance was missing. Practicing our faith in a way more attuned to the way our own ancestors did fills a certain void that is very difficult to describe in words. In finding a means to fill this void–both in ourselves and in our community–we believe that we are better suited to be able to contribute in a healthy manner to all of Greater Heathenry.
Irminenschaft leaves the door open for a variety of expressions. Some Irminen will emphasize the thoughts of certain scholars, for example, whilst others may focus on their private ceremonies at home, customized to fit their own needs. The “orthodoxy” of Irminenschaft, however, has been made publicly available in a book entitled Germanic Heathenry: A Practical Guide by James Hjuka Coulter, which is widely available. This openness offers individuals and groups to develop the customs that speak to them in their own personal ways while still maintaining a sense of tradition and offering a community of similarly minded people.
by Steve Anthonijsz
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I am a universalist heathen. That is to say, I believe anyone has the right to be a heathen.
I believe that in some cases at least, people are called by the gods to be heathen. The ancient heathens had no need for this call; they grew up in heathen families, in a heathen or partly heathen society. Very few of us today do, and those of us who do not have this advantage undergo a change of religion. We are converts, as are people who become Buddhists or wiccans, or who change the Christian denomination with which they identify. “Religion” is etymologically a “re-linking,” and that implies a link exists. To me, the essential part of that link is to deity–to the gods–and so in at least some cases, especially where a person has to overcome self-doubt, ridicule, and/or censure to follow the urge to be a heathen, it makes sense to me to see that urge as originating with the gods, as the gods establishing that link with that person. Some are aware of it as a call; some are not; some come to realize without any perception of call that they are heathen, or that they need to be heathen. I respect all such reasons for identifying as a heathen in the same way I respect other religious callings and religious choices, and use the same word–religion–as I do for other faiths and commitments to ideas of deity.
Insofar as some people are called to be heathen, it would in my view be an insult to the gods to seek to override their preferences by turning someone away as somehow not a good candidate for heathenry. In the days of the ancient heathens, heathens were not converts; but by virtue of that very fact, they included every member of the tribe or society, including the less virtuous and the less intelligent. Heathenry today should not seek to be an exclusive club; it was not then. And the gods are far wiser than us and more able to decide whose worship to accept and how to value it. In particular, I would rather waste effort and be disappointed by welcoming someone as a fellow heathen than risk insulting the gods by rejecting someone they welcome.
The ancient heathens valued the ties of blood; they were bound to the gods by those ties in a manner that a modern convert can only envy. We should cherish any Germanic ancestry we have and remember our heathen forefathers and foremothers with respect. We should honor and respect what some of them endured in the conversion period. Almost all of us also have non-Germanic heritage, and we should also honor our non-Germanic ancestors. But our religious choices are ours to make. Our ancestors did not lay a curse on us to emulate them in every way; they gave us the gift of a life and it is our duty to live it well and responsibly, to make our choices and follow through on them. As heathens, we also owe to the Sons of Bor the gift of independent thought and action. We are not trees rooted in place; we are thinking, mobile human beings. We can–and must–respect our ancestors by living by our own lights. Those of us–the majority–who convert from the religion in which our parents and other living kin raised us express that in that action. We have a choice of gods to bind ourselves to, and choosing heathenry shows no disrespect to our non-heathen ancestors, just as we should not see it as mere defiance of our more recent non-heathen kin. Doing what is right is the best expression of our heritage as members of honorable families and descendants of honorable people, whoever they may have been and whatever might have been or still be right for them.
Similarly, we should respect others’ religious choices, including those of our living kin. Accordingly, I do not see proselytizing–seeking to change others’ religion–as justifiable. Heathenry is the best religion for me, but not the best religion for everyone. Other people–and the gods–should be left to decide what religion they will follow. So although I call myself a “universalist,” it is not in the sense of a universal duty to be heathen, or a universal dissemination of heathenry, but simply in the sense of a universal right to be heathen.
As a universalist, I accept all forms of heathenry as valid, and see the common reverence for the gods as the essential thing, whether or not the other person, like me, regards heathenry as a religion and uses words we in our modern society associate with other religions, such as “worship.” The gods can understand all our modern languages, so they can also understand all ways of being heathen and of revering them. In my view, love of the gods entails certain values and standards of behavior; I recognize these in my fellow heathens without assuming that I am unusually well equipped to judge them or to decide how they should be described.
by Marion Ingham
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Theodism, Rokkatru, and Norse wicca are not explained here because they are not heathen and do not claim to be.