Theodish Thoughts

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

Month: January 2014

Well preserved Iron Age village uncovered in Denmark

From Past Horizons:

During evaluation of land prior to the construction of a new hospital in Aalborg, Northern Denmark, archaeologists uncovered an Iron Age village dating back around 2000 years. The settlement differs from other sites of this period because of its well preserved condition, including a number of houses complete with fireplaces, chalk floors and cobbled paving. … A surprise discovery was the skeletal remains of a cat – which has caused some excitement – as this domestic variety was first introduced to Denmark from the Roman Empire during the Iron Age – making this a very early example. Previously, the earliest known domestic cat came from a cremation grave in Kastrup, Jutland dating to c. AD 200.

Much more at the link.

Asatru Prisoner News: Sessing v. Beard

On January 2, 2014, the California U.S. District Court dismissed the case of Sessing v. Beard. The case involved an Asatru inmate, Nathan Sessing, who alleged that:

Asatru faith mandates regular outdoor ceremonies on sanctified plots with specific facilities similar to the outdoor worship area available to American Indian religious adherents at CSATF. Defendants denied Plaintiff’s request that such facilities be constructed. On October 19, 2012, the CDCR — Division of Adult Institutions, issued a memorandum that created a policy against new outdoor worship areas. Plaintiff’s grievance regarding the foregoing was denied.

The complaint can be amended by Mr. Sessing within thirty days.

What do we have to offer?

Say what you will about Christianity, but the Christians have a compelling narrative, which works on both fear and guilt. They then position themselves as the only outlet for assuaging that fear and that guilt that they themselves created. For two millennia, this has been a potent combination that has enabled them to gradually displace native faiths across the planet.

Fear, in the sense that they claim that their Jehovah has the power to condemn the souls of every human to everlasting torment after death, and will readily do so if one does not believe in Jesus:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16, KJV)

Guilt, in the sense that they claim that their Jehovah made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of mankind, and that to do anything less than acknowledging that sacrifice and acting upon it would be the height of ingratitude:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, KJV)

That, in a nutshell, is Christianity’s “elevator pitch”. Believe in Jesus or be damned, and an ingrate to boot.

Back in the days before the coming of the White Christ, Heathens didn’t need to counter these sorts of arguments. There was no real competition from rapacious foreign religions seeking converts. The Danes and Swedes had their gods, the Romans and Greeks had their gods, and there was little attempt to force one’s own gods on others. Indeed, the reverse was true in some cases; the Pagan Romans actually had a formal ritual (evocatio) designed to invite the gods of an enemy city into Rome, thus depriving the enemy of the protection of their gods, making them easier to conquer.

Naturally, not being a Christian myself, I don’t buy into the Christian narrative. I don’t believe their Jehovah has the powers ascribed to him, and I certainly don’t feel any guilt about the death of Jesus (I’m not even convinced there was a historical Jesus, but that’s another story). And, I happen to think that we Heathens have something just as compelling to offer – kith and kin.

Heathens, particularly those of a tribalist bent, offer the promise of community to the Folk. Not just the community of a wide number of acquaintances that meet in a church once or twice a week to convince themselves that they shouldn’t feel afraid or guilty. Ours is a community in the sense of an extended family, quite literally. Odin and Heimdall are not just our gods, they are our ancestors. Members of a tribe or a kindred have a bond that is closer than any in a church or temple; they are literally becoming members of the same extended family, and can be relied on to come to each other’s aid without hesitation. Where the answer to a problem is not “I’ll pray for you”, but “what can I do to help?”

This is one reason the Germanic gift-cycle is so important – by the act of giving and giving back, repeated over and over, we strengthen those bonds which bring us together.

Therein lies one of the chief differences between the community experience of an Asatru kindred, as opposed to a Christian church. We don’t have any ulterior motives for forming our communities. We just want to welcome people home and enjoy their company for who they are. Our communities are truly extended families, with all that goes with that, not just associations of like-minded people.

The communities formed by Heathens are, in many ways, a balm for those in our modern society who feel alienated and alone. Modern society tends to pull us apart from one another, whether by work, by replacing face to face interactions with email and television, substituting wolfing down fast food with sharing a long meal with close friends and family, or pulling up roots and moving away from family for the sake of school or career.

The loss of “home” in our modern, atomized society is keenly felt, even if only on a subconscious level. By emphasizing that a return to the religion of one’s ancestors is, in fact, a return home, and that a kindred or tribe is, in no uncertain terms, a family, we can present the case for Asatru. A case made without guilt and without fear. A positive case, made of hope and belonging.

Young was I once, I walked alone, 
and bewildered seemed in the way; 
then I found me another and rich I thought me, 
for man is the joy of man. (Hávamál 47)

You are Surrounded by Heathens

Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried, proprietor of the Norse Mythology Blog, has published the full results of his 2013 Heathen Census, along with some analysis. I thought I might take a few minutes to examine some of the results, and crunch some numbers (recalling my days as an election pollster).

First, it should be pointed out that the census only asked one question of the Heathens who responded; their country of residence. It is thus a straight-out count, rather than what we in the United States think of the Census, which collates a lot of extra data on income, education, etc. It would be very interesting to see the results if Dr. Seigfried included some demographic questions in the next iteration of the census.

I’m going to focus on the United States, since that’s where I live. The census yields the following information:

  • The United States had 7878 respondents, or 47% of the total respondents
  • That represents 0.0025% of the total population of the US

However, Dr. Seigfried then introduces an interesting corrective measure, based on the data from Iceland. Since Iceland (uniquely) has an exact official record of just how many Heathens are in the country, he discovered that the census under-reported the number of Heathens in that country by a factor of 2.173. So, multiply the census results by that number to get the corrected numbers.

That methodology, while ingenious, does have a few drawbacks. First and foremost, it assumes that Iceland is representative of the Heathen community worldwide. I personally think it might be a little over-represented. However, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it’s a valid corrective factor. That gives us:

  • The United States has 17,119 Heathens
  • That represents 0.0054% of the total population of the US
Let’s stretch the demographic possibilities even further. If roughly one person out of every 18,000, or 54 people out of every million, are Heathen, there should be (roughly) 450 Heathens in New York City alone. That’s the equivalent of almost the entire membership of the Troth, an international organization, in one city! The largest Heathen gatherings don’t even come close to that number.

Here’s the breakdown by state (based purely on population):

 California 2,070
 Texas 1,428
 New York 1,061
 Florida 1,056
 Illinois 696
 Pennsylvania 690
 Ohio 625
 Georgia 540
 Michigan 534
 North Carolina 532
 New Jersey 481
 Virginia 446
 Washington 376
 Massachusetts 361
 Arizona 358
 Indiana 355
 Tennessee 351
 Missouri 326
 Maryland 320
 Wisconsin 310
 Minnesota 293
 Colorado 284
 Alabama 261
 South Carolina 258
 Louisiana 250
 Kentucky 237
 Oregon 212
 Oklahoma 208
 Puerto Rico 195
 Connecticut 194
 Iowa 167
 Mississippi 162
 Arkansas 160
 Utah 157
 Kansas 156
 Nevada 151
 New Mexico 113
 Nebraska 101
 West Virginia 100
 Idaho 87
 Hawaii 76
 Maine 72
 New Hampshire 71
 Rhode Island 57
 Montana 55
 Delaware 50
 South Dakota 46
 Alaska 40
 North Dakota 39
 District of Columbia 35
 Vermont 34
 Wyoming 31
Roll those numbers around in your mind for a minute. If you’re a “solitary”, and are convinced that there just aren’t any Heathens around you, look again. Unless you’re in Wyoming or North Dakota (in which case the odds are that there isn’t anyone around you, period), you are surrounded by Heathens
To put this in perspective, in the area immediately surrounding my house (within a 30 minute drive), in rural northwestern New Jersey, there should be nearly fifty Heathens. I personally know of 7, including my family. There should be more than 400 more in my state.
Tell me again why there’s not a kindred in your area? 
It’s not because there aren’t any Heathens. There are! It’s because we’re not connected. We’re not aware of each other, even though we might pass each other in the grocery store every week and never realize it. 
Hel, if we could get all 480 Heathens in New Jersey to each chip in $10 a month, we’d have enough money to buy land in less than a year. In two there’d be a hof. And in three… You get the idea. The Heathens in NYC, Los Angeles, and Chicago could each rent terrific spaces full-time tomorrow if they would all get together and DO it. California? I get angry when I think of the opportunities that are being wasted by two thousand Heathens all going off on their own, squandering the gifts of fellowship and potential that are right there all around them. 
Get together! Now! You are not alone. Go out and find those other Heathens. Look in the obvious places. Online – Witchvox, the big Heathen message boards, Facebook pages, G+ communities, and Meetup.com. Offline – put up flyers in pagan bookstores, Scandinavian gift shops and fairs. But beat the bushes in the less-than-obvious places too. Try putting up a flyer in your supermarket, local library, Starbucks, or wherever people congregate. Start up a Scandinavian mythology discussion group. Do you have a chapter of the Vasa Order of America nearby? Join it!

And for goodness’ sake, wear your hammer, or valknut, where folks can see it. And don’t be afraid to ask someone you see wearing one, if they’re Heathen. Swap contact info. Don’t let the moment pass by.

Find those Heathens around you. Get together. Blot to the Gods. Study together. Grow together. Form a kindred. Form a tribe. We’re out there. All we need to do is find each other.

How to Tweet from Another Century

Pretty interesting talk about how the modern Twitter phenomenon has its antecedents in Medieval Scandinanvian rune-sticks, which were used to jot down little bits of information such as:

  • “Gyða says you should go home.”
  • “They are both living together, Clumsy-Kari and and Vilhjalm’s wife.”
  • “Ingebjorg loved me when I was in Stavanger.”
  • “Arni the priest wants Inga.”
  • “I love another man’s wife so much that fire seems cold to me.And I am that woman’s lover.”
  • “I would rather visit the mead-houses more often!”

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