So…

I’m either overly ambitious or completely crazy, but I found a way to create an online school. Since it has always bothered me that there has never been a truly free platform for Heathen learning, I decided to create one myself.

I have named the school “Diverse Heathens University” because I follow an eclectic path, and the main purpose of the school will be to teach people enough about Heathenry to create their own unique style of Heathenry.

I only have one “Challenge” up so far – the way that the platform is set up, a class is considered a group of challenges, and a lesson is a challenge – but I wanted to go ahead and announce this because one of the really cool things about the platform I’m using is that it allows me to have an unlimited number of instructors.

I can’t access premium features without paying to use the platform, but the free package comes with space for an unlimited number of teachers and 250 students (called peers on the platform). There is also space for 750 total lessons on the basic (free) plan.

The reason that the lessons are set up as challenges is because students can earn points towards any items placed in the school store. I’m not personally planning on selling any items, but I know I have a few people who read my blog who do sell items of their own.

If you’re reading this and you’re a craftsy type who sells your own art, then I ask you to consider joining the school as an instructor. You would be able to choose to sell it for real world money or for points earned via the lessons you decide to teach. That invitation also applies to anyone who reads this and would simply like to teach, not just those with crafts to sell.

Also, if you are interested but afraid that you don’t know enough to contribute as an instructor, I’ll tell you right now that you’re not giving yourself enough credit. It would be nice to see a school of Heathenry that is centered around celebrating the independence and diversity we each bring to the path – for that reason, I believe everyone has something to offer.

If this sounds like an interesting concept to you, at least check out the website, which I linked above and you can also access here. Sign up for an account and review the first challenge/lesson I’ve posted.

If you decide you are interested, send me an email or leave your email in the comments so that I can give you admin status on the site. I don’t know where this particular path will lead, but I think it’s worth finding out!

Quick Note

I’ve added a few pages to this blog to make things easier to navigate. For a quick run-down:

Edda Page – links to direct English translations of both the Poetic and Prose Edda, as well as links to Old Norse versions

Runes Page – currently only has a diagram of the runes, linked directly to the site where I found it. I plan to add meanings for each of the runes.

Paths Page – I’ve separated out the paths I follow and linked directly to the articles I’ve written that discuss each path.

Perspectives Page – Here is where you can find the articles I’ve written about the more controversial topics in Paganism and Heathenry, as well as the articles on my more general outlook.

Sagas Page – links to direct English translations (Icelandic versions when I couldn’t find an English translation). Bear in mind that there are more Sagas than the ones listed.

Virtues Page – links to articles I’ve written pertaining to the Nine Noble Virtues.

I’ll probably end up going back through some of these pages and adding links to articles written by other bloggers that fit within the categories. If there is anything that you would like to see me add or you have a particular article you wish to have linked on one of the pages, just let me know. You can do that in the comments or you can use the email address listed on the contact page.

 

Hearing the Gods

I see a lot of posts from people who desperately struggle to make contact with the Gods, and I’ve seen people completely turn away from Pagan paths out of frustration.

I understand that frustration because I spent ten years unable to properly connect with a pantheon. When the Norse Gods came into my life, it was a disruptive storm. Which makes sense, considering the Norse pantheon is pretty violent overall.

I think that a lot of people have been contacted by the Gods, but that those people don’t realize that the Gods are communicating with them.

A lot of people will dismiss dreams where the Gods are featured, assuming that it’s just their imagination or extreme desire to connect with the Gods creating those dreams.

To be fair, sometimes, that may be true. In my experience, dreams are where the Gods can communicate most clearly. And a dream featuring a true connection with a deity tends to leave me exhausted upon waking.

The dreams from the Gods almost never make sense. I have witnessed Odin and Loki communicating with each other as birds. Most of the dreams where Odin is featured tend to be Him revealing past lives to me. I once witnessed Thor nearly break down Loki’s door to drag Him giant hunting.

While the dreams are interesting, they aren’t the only way the Gods communicate. Each God embodies a certain type of energy. Loki is the easiest example – His energy is fiery, mischievous, and fun. He tends to delight in throwing signs of His presence out at people.

As an example, I was doodling in my notebook during class, and I was writing Loki’s name in word art, and I looked up at my teacher’s hat and the hat had the joker on the bill.

Now, it could be easy to write that off as coincidence, but the Gods love to communicate in subtle, unmistakable ways. Words are too easy to wrongly attribute.

A problem I see people have is that they attempt to approach a God thinking He or She is the one they need to work with. There are tons of people who approach Odin who are unsuited to His path due to temperament incompatibility.

It’s better to approach a God that you can easily see parts of yourself within, as They will be the easiest for you to hear. And you may be surprised at who you end up being most compatible with.

Part of the problem is that there is this desire to be patroned by the most powerful Gods, and some people aren’t suited to those paths.

Nearly every Heathen works with Thor to some degree, but the most interaction I have really had with Him is the conversation where we agreed to respect each other. I’m not suited to His path, and it would be disrespectful for me to force my way onto His path.

The thing that people forget is that a God is a God, and even the most minor Gods are far more powerful than we tend to assume. Look at Ullr, an ancient God of winter that kept Himself relevant by becoming the patron of skiers. Most people would consider Him a minor God, as there is next to no lore about Him, but He is one of the eldest Gods of the Norse pantheon.

A person doesn’t need a patron God, but most Pagans desire one and eventually end up with one. I’m in a unique situation where Odin is my patron, but He doesn’t spend much time talking to me. When He does communicate with me, it’s always important. I’m sworn to Odin, but I’m not close to Him. That’s the role He requires of me.

That’s the other mistake people make. Patrons aren’t necessarily going to be your friend – They choose you because you can fulfill a role They need filled. It’s more like a business partnership.

Now, I have relationships with other Gods, but none of Them are patrons. Loki and Sigyn take on more of a familial role, while Tyr is the one who gives me advice from time to time. Freyja helps me learn magic, and Ullr acts as a guide between worlds.

Each of the Gods I mentioned communicate with me in different ways, but I have to be willing to be open to those communications. Since there is a spark of divinity within humanity, the Gods can communicate with us, but like any spark, that connection must be nursed to life.

Hospitality

Generally, when we think of hospitality, we think of the reciprocal relationship between host and guest, which occurs when we open our homes to others.

Of all the Old Ways, hospitality is perhaps the most depreciated and the most undervalued in today’s age of selfish convenience. That is a fact I find sadly ironic, as hospitality is the most sacred virtue to the Gods.

That can be seen heavily throughout the Eddas and Sagas, where a breach of hospitality was considered the worst offense someone could make. The Lokasenna shows the aftermath of a violated hospitality – Loki crashes the party because the Gods didn’t invite Him, and the fact He wasn’t invited was a breach in hospitality.

The truth is, that is a breach in hospitality that most of us have committed at some point in our lives. If you’ve ever purposefully excluded someone from a group outing, despite the fact that person belongs to the group in question, then that is a breach in hospitality.

That raises the question about whether it’s appropriate to invite someone that you know will violate the unwritten laws of hospitality, and my answer is yes. I say this because every person must be given the opportunity to show that they know what the rules of hospitality are. As the host, if that person violates those rules, it then becomes your responsibility to see that person out.

To make this clearer, let me give a more solid example.

I’m the organizer for a local writing group, and when there are events, I always announce them on our facebook page, provide directions to the event if directions are needed, and greet people when they arrive at the event.

Now, if I were to message only certain members of the group rather than announce the meeting to the entire group, I would be violating the rules of hospitality. Someone would find out, and then I would be dealing with the backlash of someone’s resentment because they weren’t invited to an event they had every right to attend.

At the event, if someone starts acting inappropriately towards the other guests, then it is the host’s responsibility to ask that person to leave, and to explain why they are being asked to leave. But the person must first be granted the opportunity to act properly.

In today’s world, it is far more common to simply not invite someone, and that causes a great deal of resentment in the person who wasn’t invited. Because someone who hasn’t been invited always discovers that they weren’t invited, and they are hurt by it because they don’t understand why they weren’t issued an invitation.

If, instead, you offer someone an invitation (even though you are afraid that they will act inappropriately), you stave off that hurt, and if the person then chooses to engage in inappropriate behavior, you can ask that person to leave and explain why they are being asked to leave. While that might still anger them (that risk is always there), at least they will have a reason to cling to. And, hopefully, the next time they are invited to an event, they will remember why they were asked to leave at the previous event, and behave more appropriately.

Now, to turn this towards what it means to be hospitable in someone else’s home, there are different sets of etiquette for the host and the guest. Some of them can be gleaned from the Havamal, but most of them are common sense.

If you invite someone over to your house, then, as the host, you should expect to adhere to the following:

  • Offer food and drink
  • Offer place to sleep (if hosting overnight)
  • Accept any help a guest offers
  • Accept gifts offered by guests (this can be the help offered)
  • Be attentive to guests

If you find yourself at someone else’s house, then, as the guest, you should expect to adhere to the following:

  • Graciously accept food and drink offered to you
  • Offer gratitude for having a place to sleep (if staying overnight)
  • Offer help where it is needed
  • Offer gifts (this can be in the form of help and doesn’t have to be a physical item)
  • Be attentive to the host and respectful of house rules

These all seem like common sense, but a lot of people fail to adhere to them. If you go to someone’s house and you have a strict dietary regimen, it’s important to check with the host first to make sure that the host will not find offense to you bringing your own food. You should never expect the host to adjust their meals to suit your diet as the guest. As a host, you should always be willing to allow guests to bring their own meals if they need to stay on strict diets.

Now, there are people who will argue with this and say that a host should be willing to provide any type of food a guest desires, but that’s a selfish motivation fueled by today’s world of convenience. I don’t go to a Mexican restaurant expecting to be served Japanese food, so I don’t go to other people’s houses expecting their cuisine to meet any special dietary needs. Any dietary needs a guest has is the responsibility of the guest. While a host should always offer food, a host shouldn’t be expected to offer food that they don’t normally keep on hand. That’s just common sense.

I mentioned being attentive for both the host and the guest – that means that entertainment should be agreed upon between both parties. For example, a host shouldn’t play video games without including the guest in the activity, and a guest shouldn’t be playing games on their phone when the host is attempting to have a conversation with them.

While I wanted to touch on those two examples of hospitality – events and homes – I also wanted to discuss larger group settings, like classrooms. A lot of people, especially students, assume that a classroom is a place to goof off and do whatever you want. There is little respect between teacher and students, and respect is the spring hospitality flows from.

In a classroom, especially a college classroom, where the students pay to attend, it amazes me how disrespectful other students can be towards teachers. A lot of students will speak up and tell a teacher he or she is wrong without any discernible reason (except, perhaps, to be disagreeable), and I find that to be crass behavior. If a teacher has asked students to point out flaws in their logic (which they do sometimes, especially in math classes), then it’s okay – the teacher is essentially “the host,” while the students are “the guests.”

If more people viewed classes as events with hosts and guests, then perhaps there would be more respect, but I doubt it. Respect and hospitality seems to be a thing of the past, for the most part, and it’s sad that our world has turned into a culture of selfishness in the name of convenience.

There is a ton of disrespect in the world at large, and most of it started with my generation – the one where smartphones, computers, and technology became the main source of communication. I see it in my peers all the time, and it deeply offends me when it happens to me because I believe that respect should be given in order to be obtained, and when someone fails to offer that respect to me, then I have no reason to offer it back.

At a very basic level, if I go to lunch with a friend, I shouldn’t have to worry about my friend constantly checking his phone. The conversation should be occurring between the two of us, unless we are both in agreement and trying to get in contact with a third person to invite. Or if one of us is dealing with a crisis and makes the other person aware of it – respect is very easy to give, but very few people make the effort.

A lack of respect can also be seen in the way people go about disagreeing with one another. If your first response to someone who has a dissenting view from yours is to call them names or tell them how wrong and stupid they are, then you are violating the rules of hospitality. It is possible to disagree with someone and still treat them with respect. According to the lore, it is even possible to go to war with someone and still treat them with respect.

Respect and hospitality go hand-in-hand, and until we reinstate respect as a mandatory way of life, then hospitality may continue to fall by the wayside. As Heathens, we are called to act with hospitality, as the Gods consider hospitality the most sacred of all the natural laws. Our faith is founded on goodwill between us and the Gods, and that goodwill is found through the sacrifices we offer the Gods – the very act of sacrifice is hospitality in its purest form, and it is vital that we remember that in everything we do.

Loki’s Courage

Most of the time, when Pagans/Heathens discuss Loki, they end up calling Him a coward or accuse Him from running away from a fight. The lore doesn’t support that, but it does show Loki’s cunning. Gnosis also fails to support the idea of a cowardly Loki.

In the aftermath of the Aesir-Vanir war, when the wall around Asgard had to be rebuilt, it was Loki who lured the horse away from the wall to prevent the giant from completing the wall and claiming Freyja as his bride.

Loki could have chosen a different approach. He could have killed the horse or lamed it, but instead He chose to assume the form of a mare and lead the horse away through temptation. Granted, considering the way Loki thinks, He may not have even considered laming the horse or killing it, as He doesn’t naturally go out of his way to injure or harm other living beings.

Instead, Loki assumed the shape of a mare and ended up mating with the horse and giving birth to Sleipnir, Odin’s 8-legged horse. It’s easy to see Loki working as a catalyst here because there is no greater catalyst than the womb. To put that in perspective – a woman can house an infant in her womb for nine months, but that woman will not be able to control, in full, the person that child becomes after it is born.

When Loki kidnaps Idun because the giant Thjazi traps him on a rocky island, Loki agrees. Some people view this as desperation, as a “Loki will do anything to save His own skin,” type of scenario. While that may be true to a point, Loki also bears very strong grudges against those who wrong Him or force Him into corners.

The way I’ve always viewed Loki’s kidnapping of Idun is as the fulfillment of His word – He agrees to Thjazi’s request. But after Loki is free of the island, He does what He needs to do in order to get Idun back and also manages to kill the giant in the process – the debt is paid and Loki gets His revenge.

While Loki is often seen as a God lacking honor, He is, perhaps, one of the most honorable (despite being the most mischievous). He never breaks His oaths, and He always admits to the actions He takes and He always sets things right again. A lot of Loki’s mistakes end up being to the benefit of the other Gods, as some of the most powerful tools the Gods possess wouldn’t be within Their possession without Loki. Those tools include Sleipnir, Gungnir, Draupnir, Skidbladnir, and Mjollnir, amongst others.

Where Loki’s courage is seen most clearly is perhaps in the way He acts as a catalyst for Balder’s death. It would be easy to see Loki as the villain here because Balder is the God of the Sun and is a peaceful deity. This story is the #1 reason that Loki is often painted as the Norse “devil,” even though that is far from the role He actually plays.

I’ve seen multiple interpretations of the story of Balder’s death, and it’s not a subject Loki seems to be willing to talk too much about. There is no real animosity between Loki and Balder, but there is a lot of sorrow in Loki regarding that incident.

The only stories I’ve seen that could perhaps explain the sorrow I sense from Loki about Balder’s death include the interpretation that shows Loki acting to kill Balder in order to keep Him safe from the other Gods who are constantly throwing weapons at Him as a source of entertainment (in short, Loki acts to put Balder out of His misery). The other interpretation I’ve seen is Loki acting to kill Balder because Balder has a dangerous duality that, if unleashed, could destroy the world and bring about Ragnarok.

There are so many interpretations of Balder’s death that it’s hard to know which one is the most accurate, and, like I said, Loki doesn’t seem to be too keen on sharing. I do, however, get the sense that there’s a lot more to that story than the lore portrays.

Now, you might be wondering how exactly Loki can be seen as courageous, but Loki is one of the most courageous of all the Gods – I won’t say most courageous, as that title belongs to Tyr (for good reason). But Loki is definitely high on that scale.

The reason I say that is because Loki always admits when He’s done something wrong or when He’s played a prank (I’m not sure Loki considers any of His actions “wrong”). He always owns up. That’s a type of courage that we can all learn from.

What I see most frequently in the world around me is that people are afraid to be wrong. People are afraid to make mistakes, or, when those mistakes are made, they are afraid to own their mistakes. But if we live our lives in the fear of making mistakes, then we stop truly living. Life is all about embracing our fear of doing things wrong, but doing them anyway.

I’ll never forget when I first learned to play the viola, my orchestra director explained to my class that the top mistake string musicians make is to try to hide their mistakes. He told us that if we made mistakes, to make them proudly and loudly, as if the mistake was an intentional sound. That’s the type of courage Loki has, and that’s the type of courage we all need.

Of all the Gods, it is perhaps Loki, in all of His facets, that is the closest to humanity. Loki is, in my experience, the easiest God to connect to, and I think that has a lot to do with how human He can seem. It is, often, far too easy to forget that He is, in fact, a God, and thus worthy of respect and admiration.

Controversy: Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by another culture, and it is generally viewed in a negative light. There’s usually a pretty strong overtone of the minority whose culture is being adopted in some fashion having problems with the oppression of the majority delighting in those customs.

Now, there are a lot of Pagans out there who will shout out loud with a lot of other minority groups that cultural appropriation is bad. The quickest reference that comes to mind is the Thor movies – practically none of the mythology in those movies is accurate.

It would be easy to see the Thor movies as cultural appropriation – there goes Marvel, borrowing from an ancient people’s faith and twisting the identity of the Gods to suit their purposes. Yeah, let’s get mad at Marvel for creating the Thor movies when Loki’s personality is pretty spot-on. So Marvel changed the background a bit, making Loki and Thor brothers – the personality of the Gods is still pretty accurate (at least as far as Loki is concerned. I’m honestly not comfortable saying that about Thor, as I’m not close to Him).

Now, I could get up in arms about how inaccurate the mythology that they are using is, but I honestly don’t care. You could say that Marvel is using the Gods for their gain, but it would be just as easy to say that the Gods are using Marvel in order to get the exposure They need in order to gain more followers. It can work both ways, and people tend to forget how powerful the Gods are.

Anyway, that’s the easiest case. Now, for a different case I’ve heard of recently: Someone wrote an email to an instructor at Ottawa University complaining about how teaching yoga at a school is cultural appropriation. In response to this email, the school decided to stop offering yoga classes.

Now, my question about this case is – if the culture from whence yoga came is completely fine with the way yoga has spread from the East to the West, is it truly cultural appropriation?

Some people will say yes, and I will call them morons. If a culture doesn’t feel that their way of life is being threatened, then it’s not cultural appropriation. Yoga is Hindu in origin, and, in general, Hindus are okay with Westerners practicing Yoga.

Using images of the Gods of other faiths, unless you are doing it in bad faith and in an attempt to discredit or undermine the validity of the source of that faith, is not cultural appropriation. As an immediate example, if a Jungian Pagan wants to use the faces of certain Gods from different pantheons to represent his or her “Archetype Gods,” then he or she is free to do so, as long as there is a modicum of respect in the way those images are used.

Cultural appropriation has started to replace cultural exchange in everyday language, and the next thing we know, the cultural appropriation movement (if it can be called that) will be getting so out of hand that it will be considered cultural appropriation for a citizen of the United States to drive a Japanese-made car.

Like, there’s a limit to how ridiculous people can be. And if someone wears a Halloween costume to a party that offends someone, then the person who takes offense is the idiot. I mean, seriously, it’s a costume. Let’s draw a line in the sand somewhere.

The real problem with cultural appropriation, when it isn’t truly damaging (there are some cases where it is damaging, such as the problem the Indians are having with the name of the Redskins – that’s damaging, and it needs to be addressed), is that it’s divisive. Damaging incidents, like the one I mentioned, aren’t the kinds of cultural appropriation I’m talking about – issues like that are serious, have potential to cause extreme emotional trauma, and need to be fixed.

The type of cultural appropriation I’m discrediting is the kind that says that teaching yoga is inappropriate even though the culture where it originates encourages the spread of yoga. That’s not cultural appropriation, and it shouldn’t be treated that way.

When a person engages in an activity favored by another culture out of respect and admiration, that isn’t cultural appropriation, but it gets viewed that way. Those are the incidents that could allow for connection but cause division instead. Those are the incidents where the bridges are burnt before they ever get a chance to be laid down.

As an example for myself, I watch tons of anime – I watch almost no other type of television. Because I’m a citizen of the United States, does that mean it’s cultural appropriation for me to enjoy Japanese anime? No, absolutely not. I’m watching the anime because I respect and admire the Japanese people, not because I somehow want to steal their culture.

Humans, as a whole, typically only emulate others when we admire them. And if we are mistreated because we admire someone else, told that we are thieves of the worst order because of our admiration, that causes resentment to build and division to grow. On the other hand, if the people we admire find it respectable for us to admire them, we can build common ground.

If I need to talk more in-depth about what I meant about incidents of cultural appropriation that do need to be dealt with, let me know in the comments. I didn’t discuss them here because I felt they should be obvious, but I could be wrong  (Also, let me know if you need me to discuss why it is I disagree with the very concept of being politically correct and policing my speech. I’m willing to do either).

Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy

Many definitions exist for both the term “Orthopraxy” and the term “Orthodoxy.”

Orthopraxy can be defined as “right living, right practice, right action, right path.”

Orthodoxy can be defined as “right doctrine, right thought, right worship, right honor, right knowledge, right belief.”

The two are generally seen as being opposites of one another, and these are words that get people of all faiths – polytheistic and monotheistic – arguing amongst one another.

I’ve been reading about Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy through various sources, some Pagan, some Christian, some Jewish – there is the same debate in every religion: which is more important? Right thought or right practice?

Most Pagans (but not all) will say Orthopraxy is more important than Orthodoxy, making them more stubborn than the monotheists out there, which is kind of an ironic twist to me.

The Jews and Christians seem to have come to the conclusion that Orthopraxy without Orthodoxy is a hollow practice, and that to perform rituals without understanding the underlying beliefs or reasons for those rituals is to fail to connect with the Divine, and thus that turns the Othropraxic behavior into sinful behavior.

There was one long definition of Orthopraxy I found here that I found interesting: “The application of orthodox beliefs in the form of rituals and customs.”

There are some Pagans out there who seem to take offense with anything a Christian says, on the principle that anything a Christian says must be invalid simply because that person is Christian.

To be honest, I dislike Christianity as a religion as a whole – I dislike all monotheistic faiths because I think their doctrine is poisonous to the world – but I can still see the value in the points that are made and I can translate those points across faiths.

There are also some Pagans, some Heathens especially, who think that anything that echoes Christianity in some way is anti-Heathen or anti-Pagan, which is, frankly speaking, ridiculous. I’ll get on my soapbox about cultural and religious appropriation in a later post.

To get back on topic, I found this statement on a Jewish blog, here: “The Orthoprax will do good works, but those are socially useful and divorced from any sense of divine worship.” The author goes on to discuss how going through the motions doesn’t allow a person to connect to the divine, and there is a hollowness to the faith when a person only engages in correct practices.

In another blog, this time a Pagan one, I found this statement: “If religion is only concerned with correct practice, an outward form, without concern for some kind of belief or understanding, using ordinary logic one can see that such a religion would be based on a shell, a façade. It is what is concealed within the outside that must be important, the very heart of it, for there to be intrinsic value in a religion.”

In a Methodist blog, I found this: ” What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them ,end up changing your consciousness.”

Here, I found this: “Orthopraxis was identified as a key component in Indian religions, the character of which is not proclaim a system of knowledge but rather a precise system of salvific ritual acts embracing the whole of life. Modern understandings of orthopraxis, on the other hand, tend to exclude from their understanding the authentic Indian concept of religious ritual, reducing it to a matter of ethics or political criticism.”

In other words, there tends to be an agreement between all faiths that Orthopraxy without Orthodoxy is hollow. Unlike monotheistic faiths, however, Pagan faiths do have to contend with the fact that there is very little doctrine for us to use to base our practices upon.

Because of that, there is an increased focus on reconstruction, and to me, it seems almost a desperate struggle to revive the practices of an ancient faith where the framework of thought for the ancient peoples isn’t really understood.

No matter how many artifacts we unearth and how much educated guesswork we do, the fact remains that we will never understand the thought patterns of the ancient peoples whose religion we attempt to reconstruct.

For monotheistic faiths, the argument will always be which is more important – adhering to the doctrine laid down in their holy books, or doing the work of their God in the way He asks, even when what He asks violates what their doctrine says.

For Pagans, the truth is, we don’t have a doctrine. None of our Gods have books that we can consult when we feel lost. Many Heathens will contest this and say that we have the Poetic and Prose Eddas, but those books aren’t doctrines.

At best, the Eddas are stories. Histories and myths that have been preserved, and preserved through the eyes of the monotheistic man who recorded them. The Eddas and the Sagas are stories. They show us hints of what life was like for the ancient Norse, but they don’t give us a solid framework for their thoughts and beliefs.

The closest we have to the doctrine of one of our Gods is the Havamal, the words of Odin. At best, that book is a book of proverbs, of advice, of suggestions.

The truth is, we do not have the tools we need to be an Orthodox-focused religion, and we never will. Each Heathen, each Pagan, is tasked with the formidable challenge of developing their own Orthodoxy through their use of Orthopraxy.

While monotheists can focus on what is more important in their religion, we do not have that luxury. Because of the Catholic conquest of the ancient world, most – if not all – of the doctrines of our Gods have been destroyed and are forever lost to us.

That is why we must be willing to look to other polytheistic faiths whose doctrines are still in-tact in order to learn what a polytheistic framework of thought actually looks like.

While we can base our practices on the archaeological evidence that has been found and on the practices we find in the Eddas and Sagas, the truth is that those practices may never feel as fulfilling as we wish because we don’t have an understanding of the underpinning beliefs of the ancient peoples whose religions we keep trying to reconstruct.

What we need to do is study religions like Hinduism and Shinto to understand the way the oldest polytheistic religions in the world view the relationship between humans and Gods. I’m not saying that we need to adopt their practices, but if we can research those faiths so that we can understand more fully what it means to be polytheists, that will give us a firmer ground to stand on as we work on discovering the doctrines of our Gods.

The truth is, each of the Gods has a different perspective on how things should be done and what is expected. That can be discovered through ritual practice, but it takes time, and it takes patience, and a lot of people don’t have the type of patience it takes. On top of that, a lot of people don’t understand how to interpret the messages the Gods send them.

Until you are open to seeing the influences of each of the Gods in the realms they inhabit, connecting ritual practice (orthopraxy) to belief (orthodoxy) may forever be out of your reach. Orthopraxy flows into Orthodoxy and Orthodoxy flows back into Orthopraxy, and when you can see the beauty of the way that works, what you are really seeing is the influence of the God of balance and harmony, which, in the Norse pantheon, is Tyr.

In my next post, I’ll discuss cultural appropriation and stir up some real controversy (and if you can’t see Loki in that statement, you’re really not paying attention!).