Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Month: August 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the first human being to walk on the surface of the moon, died today at the age of 82. He had served in both the Gemini and Apollo space programs, and was an inspiration to an entire generation of young Americans who would be fascinated with the idea of space travel and the colonization of other worlds.

Farewell.

UPDATE: From the family’s announcement: “For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

Left, Right… A Bigot is Still a Bigot

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. has posted a piece over at the Progressive Christian section of Patheos that I think everyone who complains about the “Religious Right” needs to read.

The piece specifically addresses the efforts of American Atheists to have a piece of the ruins of the World Trade Center that coincidentally happens to have two beams welded together orthogonally (gee, how many times would that have happened in the steel infrastructure of a building?) because their inclusion is at the insistence of Christians who think that it’s somehow “proof” that their god was there, protecting them, etc.

Pity their god didn’t get there a few minutes earlier to actually stop the planes from hitting the buildings and killing three thousand people, but I digress.

Whether or not one agrees with the AA position that the cross is inappropriate in the memorial museum or not is immaterial to my argument. What I’m most incensed by is the position taken by Dr. Schmidt that (quote):

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

Really?

It’s not “I think your lawsuit will fail the legal test”. It’s not “I think you’re doing your own side harm in the court of public opinion by pursuing such an unpopular lawsuit.” It’s not “the law doesn’t support your argument”.

It’s “you are not entitled to argue”. To hell with the point you want to make; you don’t even have the right to make the point in the first place. You should preemptively be prevented from even opening your non-Christian gob and complaining that Christians are expressing their point of view, no matter how you personally feel about it. In fact, you should shut your non-Christian gob even if you think you have a legal point.

“You are not entitled to argue” your point. Period.

It is the ultimate expression of Christian hubris. It’s stating, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who thinks that Christianity is anything but beneficial, in the public good, and especially “for your own good” if your one of those benighted non-Christians, you should just shut up. And it’s not aimed at Atheists exclusively; anyone who doesn’t like Christians pushing their religion in our faces needs to wake up to this fact. Including, especially, Pagans, Heathens, and Witches.

The wonderful folks at the Lady Liberty League, run by Circle Sanctuary, might have something to say about this assertion.

You think you’ve been hurt by the fact that a public school district hands out Bibles to students, but then turns around and rejects Wiccan and Pagan books that are supplied for the same purpose?

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

You think you’ve been hurt by the fact that your child, in a public school, has been told that “paganism is not a religion”, had your 11 year old’s faith questioned in front of the class by a teacher, harassed by teachers and fellow students alike because of his faith, and told that school assignments on cultural and historical topics must contain only accounts relating to a particular religion? (And guess what… it just happens to be Christianity…)

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

You think you’ve been hurt by the fact that certain businesses, which are otherwise deemed public accommodations, close their doors specifically to shut out those in attendance at a Pagan festival, and state their bigoted reasons publicly and proudly?

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

The list could go on and on, but you get the point.

Bigotry against non-Christians is not the exclusive province of the Right, and anyone who believes so is simply deluded. Christians by definition think that theirs is the only path to salvation (John 14:6) and feel that this gives them the exclusive right to walk over and obliterate any other faith “for your own good”.

The next time someone starts whining about “The Religious Right”, remind them it’s not a right/left issue. It’s a Christian/non-Christian issue.

“Vikings” Historical Drama Series to Debut April 2013

Medievalists.net has a great article on the upcoming “Vikings” historical drama series, to be produced and written by Michael Hirst, who gave us both The Tudors and The Borgias. I’m a huge fan of those series, and have very high hopes that Vikings will live up to its predecessors.

The series will center around Ragnar Lothbrok (known to us from the Ragnarssona þáttr and other sources), who raided France quite successfully but met his end in England at the hands of the Anglo-Saxon king Aella. He is probably most famous for dying in Aella’s snake pit, playing a song ona  harp with his feet (his hands were bound) before expiring. This led to his sons invading England with the Great Heathen Army, which is a tale in and of itself.

Some modern Heathens celebrate March 28th as his day of remembrance, as it is the anniversary of Ragnar’s sacking of Paris. Ah, good times. 

Post-Christian America

Over at the Catholic Thing, Fr. C. John McCloskey III frets that America is currently in a post-Christian phase of its history, but offers hope (as he sees it) that a revival of Catholicism could give us a Catholic America where a Protestant America has lost its grip on the culture:

With the passage of time, homegrown American Protestant sects sprang up so profusely that they now can be counted in the thousands. Despite this variety, almost all shared a biblical moral philosophy not far removed from Catholics. The loosening of divorce laws and the propagation of the birth control pill in the Sixties, however, precipitated further retreat mere decades later by mainstream and traditional Protestant denominations on other moral fronts, including abortion, homosexual activity, and most recently same-sex marriage.

The primary reason is the lack of dogmatic authority in Protestantism and the reliance on the principle of private judgment. Leaving people to rely on only their opinions or feelings as moral guide is not enough to sustain a country that was once Christian and now is increasingly pagan.

Now, in this passage he doesn’t mean “pagan” in the sense that I do when I use the term. He’s referring here to a vaguely non-Christian set of cultural norms and choices, rather than to contemporary polytheistic religions such as Wicca, Asatru, and the like.

Fr. McCloskey’s argument is undermined by his own Catholic myopia, however. Anyone reading the byline should have known that the answer in the article was inevitably going to be the Catholic Church; it’s impossible to trust his arguments or analysis because it’s obvious that the end-point was clearly in sight for him before he ever undertook them.

That said, if we set aside his foregone conclusion, we can see that these sour grapes can produce a passable wine. McCloskey is dismayed that the freedom of religious choice guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution has allowed people to (gasp!) choose something other than Christianity. I, on the other hand, find that a strength, and believe that a post-Christian America doesn’t have to replace the Christian cultural hegemony that is now in the process of passing into history (albeit not without its gasps of desperation to cling on) with a single religiously-based hegemony.

Rather, I think that the Founding Fathers were wiser than we give them credit for. Distrustful as they were of strong central authorities (given their experience with George III), they set up a system wherein law and culture is not dictated by the “dogmatic authority” that McCloskey seems to yearn for. Rather, the First Amendment itself guarantees against just such a thing, setting in its place a system of legal understanding and cultural evolution that flows from the ground up in a true marketplace of ideas where the strongest, most capable, and ultimately most valuable ideas rise to the top while those that are found wanting sink into obscurity.

Thus, the collective Christian idea (expressed sub-rosa in some cases, loudly and proudly in others) that sex should be for procreation only, has largely eroded away and replaced with a much more life-affirming sentiment that sex is fun, the human body is nothing to be ashamed of, and decisions regarding sex and procreation should reside in the conscience of the individual rather than being mandated by “dogmatic authority”. This has led us, over the last few decades, to the understanding that depictions of sex are okay and should not be illegal, providing contraception for people who choose to use it is okay and should not be illegal, sex between consenting adults who don’t happen to have undergone the marriage ritual of a specific religious tradition is okay and should not be illegal, sex between individuals of the same gender is okay and should not be illegal, etc. etc. etc.

I find nothing wrong with that whatsoever. The toppling of McCloskey’s “dogmatic authority” is nothing to be feared, and certainly nothing to be replaced with yet another such authority. It is the ultimate promise of the First Amendment, and should be cheered loudly and proudly by all lovers of individual liberty.

Runa-Raven Press Closing their Doors

Well this is something of a surprise. Venerable publisher Runa-Raven Press, outlet for many works by the Rune Gild and its members, will be closing its doors on September 20, 2012:

Unfortunately Runa-Raven will be going out of business as of September 20, 2012. We will honor all orders that have already been made and we still encourage everyone to buy the books still available before September 20. They are bound to be collectors items in the future.

Definitely take advantage of this last opportunity to pick up any titles that look interesting. I’ll be plugging any gaps in my own collection, to be sure. I most highly recommend:

  • A Book of Troth (one of the best “beginners books” ever, and remains so today)
  • Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic (Edred’s first, and best, book on runes)
  • Grave and Gallows (a collection of Latin and Greek sources relating to early Germanic religion)
  • True Hearth (a companion to A Book of Troth dealing with household rites and family worship)
I’d avoid the titles relating to Third Reich occultism and Satanism unless you have a special interest in those topics. But the catalog is certainly worth going through in its entirety, at least for the next month or so!

Name Borrowing Among The Vikings

Medievalists.net today points us to a paper from The Proceedings of the Fourteenth Viking Congress in 2001 by Henrik Williams entitled Name Borrowing Among the Vikings. The author says of the subject at hand:

“…I take the term Name borrowing to denote two … phenomena. The first relates to certain names in runic inscriptions that are assumed to be borrowed from fictitious persons in contemporary or older literature. … The second kind of name borrowing deals with perfectly normal names in one Scandinavian country that some scholars believe have been imported from another.”

This is of interest to those of us who follow the pre-Christian Nordic religion for two reasons. First, because many contemporary Nordic pagans take “faith names” to honor their heritage, whether genetic or spiritual. Second, because modern pagans do have children, and the question of naming children is thus of primary import to those of us who have and raise children, and are (almost without exception) inordinately proud of that fact. 

UK Announces Religious Child Abuse Action Plan

The United Kingdom recently announced an effort to combat religiously-based child abuse. While the plan is mostly couched in neutral language, it’s being implemented in response to various high-profile cases of children and others being tortured and/or killed in the course of “exorcisms”. One of the “key messages” in the program states:

The number of cases of child abuse linked to faith or belief in spirits, possession and witchcraft is believed to be small, but where it occurs it causes much distress and suffering to the child. It is likely that a proportion of this type of abuse remains unreported.

The Wild Hunt blog has a lot of information on the whole subject. Particularly this, though.

There’s a lot going on here. None of it good.

Much of the problem (and it is a horrific, abhorrent, problem) is that Pentecostal church members in Africa are bringing their beliefs about witchcraft with them when they emigrate. Back in their homeland, one of the very successful strategies they’ve employed to further their own evangelistic endeavors is to use the indigenous animistic belief as a Satanic enemy. By having such an external enemy, they’re able to create an atmosphere of fear very conducive to their own growth.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear. Freedom of religion does not, ever, under any circumstances, justify the abuse, torture (physical or emotional), or discrimination against anyone, especially children. Period.

I don’t think we’re seeing native British Pentecostals engaging in this. I don’t even think that they’re encouraging it; it seems to be something the immigrants are bringing with them.

That said, it goes without saying that this sort of thing must be squashed, instantly and forcefully, so that no one even THINKS of acting on these sorts of beliefs. Eradicating it in the homeland is the best, most long-term solution, but the shoots of this belief must be destroyed wherever they sprout.

One wonders why they don’t apply these same beliefs to British witches who are proud of the title and are able to use it legally and openly. Do they make a distinction between the native witches and the British version? Do they fear to do so because discovery would be easier (and more catastrophic in terms of publicity)? I have no idea, but it would be interesting to learn the answer.

In the meantime, those responsible should be punished in the most degrading and public way imaginable, and then shipped back to their home country ignominiously. 

Cemetery – First Presbyterian Church, New Vernon, NJ

The weather yesterday was absolutely fantastic, so I was out enjoying a drive with my wife in the countryside of north-central New Jersey this afternoon. For those who aren’t familiar with it, New Jersey has some wonderful rural areas once you get away from the highways and larger cities. We were passing through the small town of New Vernon when we happened on a terrific cemetery attached to the First Presbyterian Church there.

The cemetery is in use (some of the tombstones were marked within the last year or two), but also has a lot of graves that go back to the Revolutionary War. Many of them were remarkably well preserved (some were definitely restored within recent memory), but some were old, crumbling, and faded. It’s a place with tremendous character. I took these during our excursion today (click to enlarge).

Violence, Christianity, and the Anglo-Saxon Charms

Medievalists.net today points us to a Master’s thesis by Laurajan G. Gallardo of Eastern Illinois University entitled Violence, Christianity, and the Anglo-Saxon Charms. From the abstract:

The thesis focuses on violence reinterpreted through the Anglo-Saxon charms that exhibit a fusion of Christian and pagan elements. … I provide a brief introduction on magical practices and beliefs that applied to the charms, shedding light on how they were expected to work. In the third chapter of the thesis, I include seven Old English charms of my own translation, categorizing them into three groups:

  1. Charms that require violent acts for their efficacy; 
  2. Charms that remedy a violent act; 
  3. Charms that protect against violence. 

I analyze each of the charms, providing a Christian and pagan understanding for each one. Each section concludes with a statement about how violence was reinterpreted in the charms. Based on the chronology of the manuscripts in which the charms were found, I argue that the charms increasingly become more prayer-like, moving from being pagan chants superimposed with Christian references to incantations more like prayers.

The last part is the most interesting to those of us who practice a reconstruction of pre-Christian Germanic religion. Sifting through the Christian veneer (often very thick, sometimes merely a thin patina) of such charms and incantations is an incredibly valuable tool not only to reviving the beliefs and practices of the ancients, but also their mindset.

What Vikings Really Looked Like

From ScienceNordic comes a nice piece on Viking-era Norse fashion and grooming. They debunk the following myths:

  1. Vikings were dirty and unkempt
  2. Vikings wore horned helmets
  3. Vikings looked like we do today (consider this one “half busted”)
  4. Vikings’ clothing style was admired around the world (honestly I hadn’t really heard that myth before)
  5. Vikings’ appearance was marked by battle wounds
All in all a pretty neat piece.

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