The Real Truth About Folkish Heathenism
My comments in blue.
Anyone familiar with that bastion of watered down, perverted versions of traditions world wide, Llewellyn, will be familiar with the series of similar name to that of the title of this article, so it is with tongue firmly implanted in cheek that I chose this title for this article. Although you can expect little truth about genuine ancestral traditions from that particular publisher, you will however find the truth about what Folkish Heathenism is in this article. What I would like to do in this article is address some of the common misconceptions that those opposed to the Folkish Ideal almost invariably trot out in any discussion concerning the matter. I would also like to make an attempt to explain just what the Folkish ideal is a little more clearly. As to whether or not I am successful in this attempt, I will leave that to the reader to decide.
There are factors that contribute to the misunderstanding of what the Folkish ideal is. Some factors are nothing more than genuine ignorance of the ideal. Other factors are more deliberate. I think that the majority of people do not truly understand what Folkism is. This stems, I think, in large part, from the efforts of certain fanatically anti-Folkish individuals who work to misrepresent what Folkism is. There tactics are the tactics of all extremists, that is, demonize that which you disagree with. Because of this, a large majority of people who might otherwise consider themselves Folkish to one degree or another are turned away from the idea, being influenced by the misinformation being spread about by these extremists. Others may spread misinformation about Folkism because they don't truly understand just what Folkism is.
It is not my intent to try to "convert" those who are Universalist to the Folkish ideal. I do not believe that a person can be persuaded to be Folkish. They either hear the calling of their blood and their ancestors or they do not. So while I am not out to convince anyone to be Folkish I am out to inform everyone, that would take a moment to read these words, just what Folkish Heathenism really is. So while I don't expect Universalists to accept our ideals as their own, I do expect that they would allow that our beliefs, that is Folkism, are just as valid as their own and accept that we have a right to believe as we do and not be demonized for it.
Of course you have a right to believe as you wish. And I have a right to disagree and not be demonized for it as well.
"I refuse to tell the gods who they can call and not call." If I were to make a top 10 list of the most used "arguments" against Folkism, this one would be the one that was on top, with no competition. The first point that I would like to make is that Folkish Heathens are not trying to keep anyone from honoring the Regin (Aesir and Vanir). No one is saying that the Asian, the Black, the Hispanic, the whoever, cannot worship the Regin. But we are saying they can never connect with our gods and goddesses to the level that someone for who the Regin are ancestral gods could. The reason for this is that we believe that we have a direct ancestral connection with our deities. In the same way that one who is not of Northern European descent could connect with our gods to the level that I, as someone who is of Northern European descent, could; neither could I connect with the deities of Native American Indians like someone who was of that ethnicity. This does not imply in any way that other ancestral deities are some how less valid than our own. Having pride in our own ancestry and our deities does not imply that we demonize the ancestral gods of another race. All tribes of deities are valid.
Well and good. However, when you say that "the whoever" can "never connect with our gods and goddesses to the level that someone for who the Regin are ancestral gods could" you are actually saying that the GODS cannot connect with "the whoever" as well as they can with you. This is placing a limitation on the ability of the gods, which I personally do not believe is valid. It may be that they usually donít connect with "the whoever" in that way, but it is awfully extreme to say that the gods even if they want to.
Here I would like to make a personal point about this idea that the gods "calling" on people. I personally believe that very rarely do the gods "call" on anyone. It seems to me to be approaching the absurd to think that the gods and goddesses spend most of their time "calling" on us. As I said, I do not discount the possibility but I do think it is a rare thing. What I think those who "hear the call" hear, is the calling of their blood, of their ancestors.
You may be right 9 times out of 10, but I believe that the gods CAN call someone if they want to, for their own reasons. And it is awfully hard to ascertain from the outside that someone is or isnít someone whom the gods have in fact called.
So if I could describe what the Folkish ideal is one sentence it would be the following. "The Folkish ideal is that each person should honor their own ancestral deities and that no one can connect with a tribe of gods like those for who those gods are their own Ancestral deities."
Othinn Lothur and Hoenir (or Othinn, Vili and Ve depending on which version you read) came to Mithgarthr and each gave of their essence to the first man and woman, Askr and Embla. The passage specifically states that Othinn gave of his othr, that is, his spirit. So in an even much more profound way than blood alone could make us, the Regin are our ancestors. For we carry that part of Othinn within us. Part of his very being resides in each and every one of us who have descended down the line for those who are of Northern European descent.
One might say, that since Askr and Embla were the first man and woman then that means that everyone is descended from the Regin. But that is not the case. They were the first man and woman of our people, not of the whole human race.
Buzz! Wrong! Illogical! Exactly how far back are you going in history? Be careful now, go back too far, and you encompass a very large group as your "people," donít go back far enough, and youíll have to explain what we did for gods before that. Seems to me that the gods have been around as long as people have.
The Fokish ideal allows that all ancestral gods and goddesses are valid. As such it is very probable, in my mind, that many other tribes of gods did the same thing as Othinn, Lothurr and Hoenir. That is, they came to Mithgarthr and gave a part of themselves to the progenitors of the races who came to worship each of them. Each culture has it's own lore about how mankind came to be. The Folkish ideal allows that each of those cultures are describing how that particular race came about.
Another point I personally subscribe to is that if one reads the description given in our lore of what those two progenitors of our race were like one could very well be seeing pre-homo-sapien man being described. In Voluspa Strophe 18 they are described in this way:
18. Soul they had not, sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, sense gave Hönir,
Heat gave Lothur and goodly hue.
There is clear evidence that the Neanderthals had some sort of religious belief system, in that they buried their dead with flowers and created cave paintings.
But even ignoring that fact, it is simply wrong to say that the "northern European people" sprang forth simultaneously with homo sapiens sapiens showing up on the scene. People moved around too much.
There is also the fact that more than a few of the family lines we know of in Northern Europe claim to trace their lineage directly to one or the other of the Regin, Freyr and Othinn being two of the more prominent. Most Folkish see the our gods and goddesses as real individuals, not some kind of thought form or ancestral archetype. As real individuals it is very likely that they may have incarnated on Mithgarthr and fathered ancestral lines. This would only serve to further connect us to our gods and goddesses.
What does seeing the gods as real individuals have to do with believing the idea that Charlemange was descended from Frigga and Julius Caesar was descended from Venus?
Then there is the concept of hamingja which is passed down from ancestor to ancestor and which, ultimately, came from the Regin themselves. Hamingja is sometimes translated as luck and that does describe it partially, but it is more than that. It is an accumulation of the results of our ancestors actions. Our ancestors believed that it was passed along family lines. The tradition of naming a child after a deceased relative comes, in part, from the beliefs concerning hamingja because it was believed that if you named a child after a deceased relative, then that child would receive the hamingja of that relative or in some cases even be the reincarnation of that relative. Where does this hamingja originate from then? Originally it would be traced back to Askr and Embla and from there to the Othinn, Lothurr and Hoenir. So with each person of Northern European descent there is some shred of that original hamingja from the gods. Your hamingja, that is, your luck comes from your ancestors and with Northern Europeans that hamingja can be traced "SPIRITUALLY" all the way back to the Regin. So no I do not think that someone who is not of Northern European descent will be able to connect with my gods as well as I can.
Of course, the lore also says that it is possible to adopt someone into your family line, bringing their luck into the family. Furthermore, there is a big difference between "ancestor worship" and worship of the gods. Sounds to me like you just think the gods are "big ancestors." Seems logical, but my heart tells me that isnít quite right.
Neither do I have the gall to say that I would be able to connect with the gods and ways of Native American Indians as well as someone who was a Native American Indian by birth. Some take this and try to portray the Folkish ideal as one that is racist and xenophobic which is completely ridiculous and nothing more than a Universalist misinformation.
Wait, now you are saying that "Universalist" Asatruar are non-Native American Indians who have failed at adopting Native American Indian spirituality?
Donít know about racist, but you sound a little xenophobic to me when you throw around words like "contamination."
Many religions carry the same ideal. The Lakota Sioux are very Folkish as well and have penned a "Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Sprituality" which can be found at, http://puffin.creighton.edu/lakota/war.html . After reading this it is easy to see how they feel about their tradition being used and abused by whites. While I am not in favor of taking the actions they indorse, other than speaking out against and shunning those who would abuse our ancestral tradition, I can understand fully where they are coming from and agree with them, that ancestral traditions need to remain uncontaminated as much as possible from other cultures.
The religion of one particular American Indian tribe should be the model for our religious practice?
And when you openly encourage anyone to come into an ancestral tradition, no matter what their ancestry, you run a much greater risk of just that kind of contamination. I have used the analogy of Bourbon before. You can take a glass of bourbon and drink it straight and there is no mistaking what it is. You can add a little sweet and sour mix and you get a good bourbon sour. Not completely bourbon but still you tell there is bourbon there. But the more you add sweet and sour mix the less the bourbon can be tasted until the point that it becomes some unidentifiable foul tasting mixture.
Weíve been through this stupid analogy many, many times before. Religious systems arenít Bourbon or sweet & sour mix. If all are equally good and valid as you stated earlier, then why in your analogy when you get to the "mostly not-Bourbon" end of the spectrum do you have something that tastes nasty? Why canít you do this analogy with equally tasty beverages that taste good alone and mixed together? How about the analogy of Amaretto and hot chocolate? Each is good on its own, but even better when mixed together . . .
So the Folkish tradition, I believe allows for the occasional outsider to be grafted into our ways. It happened then and it can happen now but it is the exception, not the rule. It seems that universalists want it to be the rule in instead of the exception.
Actually, I donít think that many people would say that it should be the rule. I just say that it is possible, and that you canít judge people out of hand.
That person of non-Northern European descent could prove they live by the Heathen ideal, and be accepted into the tribe but still there would be a part of them that would remain an outsider. It would be the same for me if I tried to follow the tradition of the Lakota. No matter what I did, there would be part of me that was an outsider. Again I want to stress that this does not make my tradition better or worse than the tradition of the Lakota or any other valid tradition. Honoring ones own tradition and wishing to keep it uncontaminated does not imply hatred of another tradition.
So you say. I donít think that Asatru is the same as the Lakota religion. Have you made a really close study of it that you can say that the reason that "outsiders" cannot become followers of that religious system is the same as that of Asatru? Iíd really like you to tell me what the similarities are.
Anyone that would preaches the need to hate another tradition in order to be proud of your own is unbalanced and should be steered clear of.
Another point that should be made is that for Folkish Heathens, Folkish Heathenism is what we are. It is not a matter of choosing this path or any other path. We are simply being what we are. For us, trying to be anything else other than Heathen would be like a bear trying to be an eagle. Just as a bear must be a bear, so for us it is a matter of being what we are. For a significant portion of universalists being a Heathen is no more than a matter of choosing a path that happens to appeal to them for one reason or another. For Folkish Heathens it is a matter of being who we are. Heathenism informs every aspect of our lives. It is not something we do on Holy Days or at blots, it is a part of every aspect of our lives.
Actually, I think this is the real deciding factor. Most "folkish" people say that they have no choice but to be Asatru. Many "non-folkish" also donít think that they have a choice (that may be what they mean when they talk about being called by the gods), but either (1) they think that some people do have a choice, OR (2) they donít attribute their lack of choice to ancestry as folkish people do.
Another argument against Folkism that is sometimes used is reincarnation. How do we know where we are reincarnated from? We could just as easily be reincarnated from another race. Luckily our lore tells us different. Reincarnation was believed in by our ancestors though one did not necessarily have to reincarnate. One could if he or she wanted or they could stay in the otherworlds, the destinations of which were varied. As I mentioned above the naming of a child after a deceased ancestor was one way to pass on the hamingja and some cases to reincarnate the ancestor. Our ancestors believed that if one did reincarnate, not only would they seek to do so in their own race but in their own family line. So according to our own ancestors beliefs a soul would always seek to be reborn in its own family line.
Fine. But count the number of people in the world. Everyone canít be a reincarnation of an ancestor.
Another argument I have heard is one where the person against the Folkish ideal demands to know what gene (i.e. what DNA strand) is the Folkish gene. I will say straight out, this kind of argument is ridiculous. Trying to use a scientific argument to disprove a spiritual idea is the height of absurdity. What I find interesting is that the same people who are so against the idea of Folkism have no problem accepting the idea that things like ones temper or ones propensity for drink are passed down through ancestral lines. How many times have you heard someone say, He or she is Irish, you have to watch out for her temper. Or because someone is Latin, they are more romantic, or because someone is black they have better rhythm, or because someone is white they are stiff and have no rhythm when dancing.
Um, Alfta, these are what we call *stereotypes.* All Irish people donít have a temper, all Latin people arenít more romantic, all black people donít have better rhythm, and all white people arenít stiff when dancing. Do you get out much?
I was always told my artistic ability came from my mother. Or you might here someone say, she is just like her grandmother even though that child may have never met that grandmother.
Yes, these people are your immediate blood kin, close family members. No one denies that you inherit traits from your mother, or have similarities to your sister. I do deny that you inherit as many traits from the "people" you came from, unless you are a recent immigrant from a very small, backward, and inbred village.
I could go on but I am sure the reader gets the point I am trying to make. We are all to ready to ascribe any number of non-physical traits, such a temper, artisitic ability, etc. to ancestry but when it comes to spiritual traits some of us are, for some reason, opposed to it. I do not understand it but it is there none the less. I consider that the blood is the carrier of the spirit or the soul. It is the physical medium of the soul and as such the two are connected in ways perhaps that we do not quite understand.
Well, there you go. I am not ready to ascribe an non-physical traits to ancestry, *if you are talking about "a people" rather than close blood relatives.*
I would like to relate one more personal observation on what Folkism is. It is my observation that Folkish Heathens are normally more apt to keep the Heathen Tradition, Heathen. What I mean by that is that they are less apt to contaminate it with foreign ideologies as universalists are. I would ask before I continue that the reader keep in mind that I am talking about the larger part of universalists. Not ALL universalists. So if my words apply to you and they anger you, that is how it shall have to be but do not take what I saw here as applying to all Universalist Heathens. While I do think it applies to large percentage it by no means applies to all. Now that I have that disclaimer out of the way let me continue. It seems to me that most universalists have no interest in preserving the our ancestral ways at all. They easily infuse our ancestral way with Neo-Pagan beliefs and beliefs from other cultures as well. They, in fact, see nothing wrong at all with doing this. They freely and easily tear out the very foundation of what it is to be Heathen.
Actually, it sounds like you are describing Wiccans, or possibly Unitarian Universalists. That kind of thing is okay in their religious system, but I donít think they run around calling it Asatru. Many of the books published by Llewellyn that you object to are intended for Wiccans.
They don't like the idea of an oath. An oath is so intrinsic to our tradition that it boggles my mind that the word "oath" would be viewed as a four letter word to them.
Huh? What , by Tyrís stump, are you talking about!!!
I have heard it said by some that they do not like giving an oath because their word should be good enough. What then is the problem with giving an oath if ones word is good enough? This is only one example but it shows the trend of these groups and individuals. Some are more open about it than others, not making any secret that they are incorporating foreign ideals into Heathenism until what they are practicing is no longer Heathenism but some Norse Flavor of Wicca or some Norse Neo-Paganism. As much as these call themselves Heathen, they are really nothing of the sort.
Actually, I would say that they might be "heathens" but not Asatru. If you look at what was going on with the pre-Christian religions in Europe as well as the Mediterranean, there was a lot of mixing of ideas. Also, if you make an anthropological comparison of heathen (meaning pre-Christian, pre-Buddhist, etc.) ideas worldwide, you will see a number of interesting similarities, as with beliefs about land spirits and so forth. Perhaps they are just a different kind of "heathen" than you are. But Iíll agree that they arenít Asatru, or possibly not Germanic Heathen-- these require a specific belief system.
Most Folkish Heathens I have met, on the other hand, make an honest effort to preserve our ancestral traditions, to keep Heathenism, Heathen. This does not mean I believe that there is no room for innovation in Heathenism because I most surely do believe there is room. But that innovation must have a solid base in the lore and traditions we know our ancestors observed, not on anything that happens to "feel" right. For when there are enough outside additions to our ways they will cease to be Heathen and instead be some bland, gray mish mash of ideas. The very thing that makes all ancestral traditions so beautiful is their difference. To take away those things takes away that which makes them unique.
So you are objecting to people "making things up" because they "feel right" or are you objecting to people borrowing folk traditions from other cultures that seem to fit, to fill in gaps of lost lore? When you say difference, you mean difference from each other? I wouldnít worry about things becoming overly uniform too soon. Take a look at Christianity. A nice universal religion has been practiced for about 2000 years. And yet, the way people practice it in different parts of the world, or even the same parts of the world, is different. Somehow, I think Asatru is even more resistant to that kind of thing.
Last, I would like to address the extremists. When using that word, most think of Neo-Nazis but less known or considered is the other face of extremism. I refer to them both as "the Two Faces of Extremism." The well known face of Neo-Nazi's and Racists are the one face. Their mirror image are the extreme Left Wing who wish to depict anything other than their Ultra-Universalist ideals as racist. Unfortunately there are a few groups of people masquerading as Heathens who are so fanatically opposed to Folkish Heathenism that they will do anything they can to demonize it. Their favorite method is to represent us as racists and Nazi's at the very worst and xenophobes at best. When you demonize a group of people you can then feel free to take away what ever liberties you wish from them because they are some how less than human. It makes it easy because you are not working against real people, you are working against some kind of faceless evil and that is much easier to do. It is a common tactic used by Hitler against the jews, used by the KKK against blacks, and on and on. It is a tactic of hate. So when those who disagree with the Folkish ideal step over the line and begin to demonize it they are doing the same thing. "Why those Folkish are racists! They are xenophobes!" Anyone who has taken the time to get to know someone who is Folkish will find that they are anything but racists or xenophobes. Of course there may be fringe elements out there that want to twist the Folkish ideal into some kind of racist philosophy but I would compare it to the KKK. Does one, because the KKK claim to follow Christianity then say that Christians are racist? Of course not. There are two faces of extremism but they use the same tactics and are mirror images of each other. There are the National Socialists, who are racists and of course demonize groups of peoples because of their ethnicity. Then on the other side of the coin are the ultra-unversalists who demonize a group of people according to their beliefs, that is, the Folkish. They are, in my opinion two sides of the same coin. They both, in my opoinion, harm Heathenism.
And lastly those few who really are racists and attempt to use Heathenism to advance their agenda I can only say these people are not acting in any way, in the tradition of true Heathenism. When a person is confident in who they are, their ancestry, their ancestral gods they have not reason to hate another race simply because that race is different. Irrational hatred of another race, in my opinion comes from being insecure about ones own ancestry and ones own person. Someone who is totally secure in who they are, in their own ancestry has no need to hate another race irrationally. The True Heathen is confident in who he or she is.