Here’s my eighth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.
Perseverance is interesting because it’s the “get up no matter how many times you get knocked down” attitude towards life. That isn’t easy to do, and Asatru isn’t an easy path to follow. The Norse Gods, I’ve learned, aren’t easy to follow, and it can be tempting to give into the world around me, the world that screams oppression from almost every corner. It’s a lot of pressure to deal with, but perseverance is what carries me through it. Because even though the Norse Gods are hard to follow, they are worth following.
There are a lot of heathens out there who swear by reconstructionist philosophies, and I’ve been told by a few people that I can’t be a true Asatruar because I’m not a reconstructionist. The idea that there is one right way to be heathen doesn’t sit well with me, and I feel like a lot of Christian ideology has snuck into Asatru that doesn’t belong there. The idea that a person has to believe a certain way to be considered a “true” heathen disturbs me – pagan faiths are supposed to be inclusive. Not exclusive. But here, it is the people of the faith acting exclusive, and not the Gods themselves.
I have issues with reconstructionism because I feel that it’s not really possible to reconstruct a religion. I think you can take the basis of what is left and build something new, expand upon that foundation, but I don’t think that it’s wise to go backwards. From my experiences with heathens, it seems that a lot of Asatruar want to focus solely on the historical aspects of our faith. And I see nothing wrong with that, not until someone tells me I’m not a “true” heathen because I happen to disagree with the reconstructionist model. I don’t enjoy the idea of a static faith, one stuck in the past.
Honor the past, yes. We should definitely do that. As my mom was fond of saying, “Those who don’t know the past are doomed to repeat it.” So the knowledge is important, but the paths we derive from that knowledge don’t need to be the same ones taken by our ancestors. Sometimes, the best thing we can do to honor our ancestors is to derive from the path they took during their lifetime. Here, I speak from personal experience because my mother was an alcoholic – an extreme one. So extreme, actually, that she passed away when I was fifteen because of her lifestyle choices. If I chose her path, that would dishonor her memory.
Now, I’m not saying reconstructionist is a bad path. I don’t think it is. I think it’s one path among many, and I think people tend to forget that Asatru and pagan faiths in general aren’t about who’s more right than someone else – that’s the Christian ideology that seems to cling to every pagan faith. Erasing it will take time, and the stain may never wash out. Because Christianity is ingrained into American culture – seriously, it’s impossible to escape dealing with a reference to the Christian God for even a single day. I’ve tried, and it’s just not possible. Someone or something always points it out, even if it’s in a subtle way.
And it’s understandable, since Christianity is America’s most followed religion, that we see it everywhere. Following a minority religion when there is so much pressure from that faith to convert requires a strong heart, a strong mind, unshakeable belief in the Norse Gods, and a great deal of perseverance. A lot of pagans don’t like to talk about the fact that Christianity is so prevalent, or even voice the fact that they struggle with the pressure that faith exerts, but honesty is necessary between us all if we are ever going to find a way to crawl out from underneath the oppressive hand of the Christian faith.