Theodish Thoughts

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

Month: December 2014

Asatru Prisoner News: Webb v. California Dept. of Corrections

From California comes Webb v. California Dept. of Corrections that was recently (December 23rd) dismissed with leave to amend. The plaintiff, one Jack Webb, alleged that his rights were infringed in numerous ways and on various occasions, including (but not limited to) being denied time and facilities to worship (indoors and outdoors), books relating to Asatru and/or Odinism, herbs and sacred oils, and that one of the guards, while observing a blot being held in the prison yard, called the ritual nonsense and said he was going to end such practices.

The complaint also says the defendant had a hammer taken away from him, and the judge sided with the prison, saying such a thing was a safety violation, but it’s not at all clear whether the hammer in question was a full-sized ritual hammer (which in fairness probably would be unsafe to allow in a prison) or a hammer pendant, which would seem to be okay.

Due to various flaws with the complaint, it was dismissed, but the plaintiff has the right to file an amended complaint.

Crow government brags about rejecting its ancestral folkway

There’s a new sign on the Crow Indian Reservation along I-90 in Montana.

Back in March of 2013, the Crow government (an independent Amerindian nation) passed a resolution proclaiming that “Jesus Christ is the Lord on the Crow Indian Reservation.” In that resolution, they acknowledged that Christianity was a foreign religion imported by missionaries during the 19th century, and also that many of the Crow tribe “still practice traditional spiritual customs”, which they claim “are compatible with Christian principles”.

Now, they certainly have the right to make any proclamation that they want to, just as I have a right to bemoan that decision, even though I am not a Crow or Amerindian in any sense (at least so 23andme.com assures me).

I might disagree with the notion that traditional Amerindian spiritual practices are compatible with Christianity, which embraces doctrines such as that of John 14:6 “No man shall come to the Father except through me”, which would seem to contradict the traditional Crow religion that embraced a world of many spirits, including Old Man Coyote and Raven Face.

Now the Crow have gone a step further and erected a huge sign that reflects the tribe’s official embrace of Christianity. So that every time someone who does still embrace the traditional Crow religion drives by, they’re reminded that their faith has been officially overthrown. But that’s okay, because it’s not meant as a put-down to those who still follow the old ways of the tribe:

“[Tribal legislator Conrad] Stewart said that, while the tribe’s public profession of faith could be seen as controversial, it isn’t intended to make non-Christians, including those who observe traditional Native American spiritual practices, uncomfortable.”

Because a big, honkin’ sign put up by the government saying “our religion, not yours, rules here” couldn’t possibly make anyone uncomfortable.

I cannot imagine that Thomas Yellowtail would have approved.

Now, even though I don’t have any connection to the Crow myself, I do feel strongly about this because it reflects precisely the same sort of surrender to a foreign god that my own ancestors undertook a thousand years ago. It reflects the convert-or-die attitude that figures such as Charles the First, Harold Bluetooth, and Olaf the First. First they come in quietly and meekly, and only convert those who wish to be converted. Then, once they have gathered their strength, they impose their faith on everyone.

It was an enormous shame on our Folk a thousand years ago that they abandoned their Gods for a foreign deity. I hope the Crow can shake off this yoke and return to the ways of their ancestors.

It’s okay to doubt

I have been plagued by doubts about the existence of the gods since I first came to Asatru in 1989. When these doubts overwhelmed me, I would walk away from Heathenry, slap a Darwin fish on my car, and proudly bear the label of Atheist. But always, invariably, I would come back.

I’m not going to go into my reasons for coming back – they should be obvious to anyone who cleaves to a Heathen faith (or really any faith). But it’s worth exploring the reasons for my doubts.

My most recent crisis of faith happened this past summer, when Dan Halloran, my friend of more than twenty years, former New York City Councilman, and leader of the Normannii Thiud, to which I belonged at the time, was convicted of masterminding a bribery scheme in New York City. Not only was this a black stain on his own honor, and the final jolt to see him thrown out of the Troth in disgrace, but it had a profound impact on my own spirituality.

The reason is simple; years ago I asked Dan, in his capacity of leader of our tribe, to ask the gods to speak to me, so that I would know they were real. And they started to do so. And then, when he was revealed to be a common criminal, a disgrace to his faith and his men, I wondered if he had really done anything, or if it was all in my head.

And the gods had stopped speaking to me. It was, I thought, my imagination. Just my wish-fulfillment to finally have the certainty that I craved for nearly 30 years. Dan didn’t do anything except play into my own hopes and insecurities, and lied to me, as he had so many other people, including those who had voted for him.

So I decided that if the gods weren’t real, and once more I “went into the woods” as the Theodish are wont to say.

But now that I’ve had a few months to process everything that happened, I realize that I had made a serious mistake. Just as I had hung my hopes for proof on Dan’s ability to get the gods to listen to him, so too had I hung my disappointment on his personal failings. Nowhere did I take into account the simple fact that just because Dan was a failure, that did not make the gods he (and I) believed in any less real. My decision to believe had to come not from Dan Halloran’s good offices, but from within myself.

And you know what? I still have doubts. And I’m okay with that. Priests and popes have doubts, swamis and rabbis have doubts. Faith is not a matter of certainty; if it were, we would all share a single one, just as we all share a single mathematics. I will continue my search on my own, rather than looking for someone outside myself to give me the certitude my intellect craves, but which cannot, by its very nature, happen in any objective sense. Faith and belief is inherently subjective.

And I’m okay with that.

Asatru Prisoner News: Pickering v. California Dept. of Corrections

From California comes Pickering v. California Dept. of Corrections that was recently (Dec 18) dismissed. The plaintiff had said that his religious rights were denied regarding a wide variety of issues from access to the prison chapel to access to religious books to oils to access to outdoor worship space, dating back to 2008.
The judge said that while the specific instances did indeed happen, they did not constitute a valid complaint according to the law, but the defendant could resubmit his case at a later date, provided it was amended appropriately.

Glad Yule!

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful Yuletide on this night before the Solstice.

Apologies for my long absence… there’s a tale to tell about that.

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