Tag Archives: faith

Polytheistic Theology: Avenue of Avenues

When we think of theology, we typically think of monotheistic theology, especially the structures found within Abrahamic faiths. But theology itself is not inherently monotheistic – in fact, theology is simply the study of deity. Because most polytheistic faiths are inherently pluralistic, it is safe to say that it is impossible to identify a single theology that unifies polytheistic belief. That’s part of what makes polytheistic faiths so beautiful.

It’s easy to prove how impossible it is to identify a single theology for polytheistic faiths. Take Hinduism, for example, and examine the way many sects of Hinduism base their faith around the idea of a unified plurality – there are multiple deities, but those deities are all aspects of the greater whole. Then take another polytheistic faith, like Asatru, that bases faith around the concept of multiple distinct deities, all separate and completely unique from one another. While there are certainly connections between polytheistic faiths like Hinduism and Asatru, the way that deity is approached is distinct between them.

Because of that distinction, a singular approach to theology – the study of deity – is impossible. However, I do think that it is possible, within each polytheistic faith, to approach deity through multiple strands of exploration. That is what I propose is the best way to approach the study of deity through polytheistic faiths, and I am proposing a framework for a polytheist to use in their own study of deity within their own religions, rather than proposing that deity can be understood the same way through all polytheistic faiths.

Note: When I say deity, I mean the essence of deity or what makes a god a god (what makes gods gods).

I believe the following components can be explored through all polytheistic faiths:

  • Cosmogony
  • Cosmology
  • Theogony
  • Sacred Calendars, Rites, and Practices
  • Eschatology
  • Axiology
  • Pneumatology
  • Psychology
  • Semiotics & Symbology
  • Sexology
  • Sophology
  • Occultology

Cosmogony is the study of the creation of the universe (or multiverse). Studying how the cosmos originated in accordance with a particular polytheistic tradition through myths and legends allows us to begin to develop a framework with which to approach deity through our respective faiths.

Cosmology is the study of the universe (or multiverse). Different faiths propose different models of the world. For example, in many shamanistic traditions, there are three worlds while in the Norse view, there are nine worlds. Understanding the cosmos is a necessary foundation before exploring what deity actually is can really get underway.

Theogony refers to the lineage of the gods. Every pantheon has a unique structure and hierarchy (though it can be argued that some pantheons aren’t hierarchal). It seems self-evident that the pursuit of theology requires the understanding of theogony.

Sacred Calendars, Rites, and Practices. This particular component is really three-in-one, but every polytheistic faith has a calendar of sacred rites and practices. Since most (if not all) polytheistic faiths are orthopraxic (focused on right practice), this is the most direct route of exploring theology – again, when I say theology here, I mean the pursuit of the understanding of deity.

Eschatology is the study of death, judgment, and final destination. In essence, it is the study of the afterlife. Every faith has an idea of what happens to a person after they pass from this world. Not all polytheistic faiths believe in a final judgment, but some do. This is an area where the greatest discrepancies between faiths exist, and it may also be an area where the greatest insights into the nature of deity can be found.

Axiology is the study of values and ethics. In other words, the study of morality. At first glance, it may not be obvious what this has to do with theology. However, the myths and legends of each tradition shape the morality of the people who follow those traditions. Understanding the ethics held by a particular culture can enhance the pursuit of theology.

Pneumatology is the study of spiritual beings and phenomena. Beliefs about mythical creatures like dragons, sirens, mermaids, brownies, kelpies, the Fae, ghosts, landvaettir, etc. This is where understanding the cosmology of a polytheistic faith comes into play as well, as some traditions have worlds set aside specifically for certain types of entities.

Psychology is the study of the soul, and it is the closest term I could find to describe what I actually mean. When I say psychology here, I don’t mean the traditional Western version of the study of the human psyche. I wish there were a better term (so if someone has an idea for one, I’m all for suggestions). What I mean is the study of the constructs of the soul-the parts of the soul. Many polytheistic traditions propose that the soul is not a singularity but a plurality, constructed of a myriad of parts that are meant for particular purposes. Understanding the way in which the soul is viewed is vital in the pursuit of theology, as the soul is the expression of the most inherent divinity a living being has in its possession.

Semiotics & Symbology is the study of signs, symbols, and their interpretations and uses. This includes things like the study of divination and omens. While some symbols are fairly universal – like the serpent that represents wisdom – others are not as clear-cut. Understanding the way that a particular tradition utilizes semiotics & symbology helps create a clearer path towards the understanding of deity.

Sexology is the study of sex. Each religion approaches sex in different ways, and in many traditions, the act of sex is one the most powerful ways to experience divinity. There aren’t many polytheistic faiths that view sex in a negative light, and I say that simply because there may be a few that do – I do not proclaim to be an expert on all the polytheistic faiths that exist, and I do not wish to potentially exclude even one.

Sophology is the study of wisdom. Defining wisdom is a very difficult thing to do, as it is a very abstract concept. Generally speaking, it is the ability to take acquired knowledge and put it to good use. In many polytheistic traditions, the study of wisdom is equated with the study of the myths and the cultures with which the traditions started. But because wisdom relies on application, it assumes that a person will take the myths and cultural learning they have developed and will incorporate it into their own practices. Applying the knowledge gained of deity through the myths is, perhaps, one of the most direct ways to approach theology, although it is by no means the only way.

Occultology is the study of the occult, meaning mystery or secret. It is generally associated with magic, and there are several polytheistic traditions that incorporate magic into their practice. There are many different types of magic, but the one that deals most directly with deity is Theurgy, which is magic done with the aid of deity.

Many of these components, on their own, require extensive research, and many of them weave in and out of one another. These are the strands that I see throughout every polytheistic faith – though each faith has its own unique set of these strands.

I’ve read multiple books on polytheistic theology, and every time, I see the same problem arise – there is no unified set of principles that underlie every polytheistic tradition. Some polytheistic traditions venerate ancestors, others don’t. Some believe in pluralistic deities, others in unified plurality.

So this is my attempt to address that issue – rather than looking for underlying principles that exist in all polytheistic traditions, I decided to look for the categories of principles that weave through all polytheistic traditions. Sometimes, to simplify, you have to complicate, and looking at categories instead of principles isn’t an obvious thing to do. The stark truth is that we still live in a predominantly monotheistic culture, and we all often fall into the trap of trying to collapse things down into smaller parts.

As polytheists, we need to work on expanding outward, breaking things into larger pieces rather than collapsing things down into smaller ones. So what I have done here is propose a framework, an avenue of avenues of exploration for those who are interested in the pursuit of theology from a polytheistic perspective.

An Eclectic Type of Courage

Like anyone who walks an eclectic path, I have my own worries and anxieties to contend with. But the greatest fear I deal with is the fear of never finding a place where I fit or a place that fits me. Being eclectic is terrifying because it means that you are constantly rejecting what other people are telling you, discarding certain things that others insist are true because you realize that those things aren’t true for you. It means you are constantly picking things up that others are rejecting as false, realizing that what others see as false sometimes rings true for you. Walking an eclectic path becomes an art of pulling truths from many different paths and discarding some and retaining others until you have created a mosaic of truth for yourself.

As you look at other paths, however, you can’t help asking yourself if you’re doing the right thing. Can’t help wondering if it’s somehow wrong or unnatural to pull from so many different traditions. Can’t help thinking that maybe other people are right about sticking to one tradition. That maybe there is one path better than another. That voice is always there. Maybe that voice comes from growing up in a culture that is largely influenced by monotheistic faiths, or maybe it is an intrinsic human quality. Whether culture-derived or inherently human, all of us wonder occasionally if what we are doing is right.

And, if you’re like me, you often find yourself wondering if you’ll ever be able to find a place where other people will truly accept you as you are. You wonder if you’ll ever find a place where you feel safe. Where no one is going to single you out as the one exception to the norm. And, for me, it doesn’t just happen in my spiritual life. I’ve been singled out for a lot of things in my life. Some of them good, all of them awkward. Because every time someone singles me out for something, whether it’s done with good intentions or ill ones, I am made aware, yet again, of how different I am from the people around me.

There’s a type of despair that comes with that. An exasperation for people who are blinded by their own abilities to recognize and celebrate difference. But that exasperation is one born from fear. Fear that the people around me are right. Fear that maybe there is no place for me here. No place for me to forge my own path. Fear that I may have to cave and follow someone else’s rules just for a chance at companionship.

There are many people out there, of many different faiths, who reject eclecticism out of hand, and, so, reject anyone who follows an eclectic path. Many faiths, many traditions teach that religion isn’t something you can scrapbook together, that there are defining concepts of a particular spiritual path that absolutely cannot be laid to the side in favor of another concept. And most people who follow those faiths are entirely agreeable with the major concepts of those paths. But some of us – some of us aren’t.

Some of us attend the rituals of our chosen path with trepidation, wondering if the people we are chanting with would accept us if they knew that we didn’t agree with everything. In the case of other eclectic heathens, wondering what the group will do if it comes out that we honor Loki. That one little discrepancy among a group can get a person thrown out of it. People who are supposed to be kin turn on each other because the paths look a little different. Perhaps it doesn’t always happen that way – in fact, it probably rarely does. But that doesn’t diminish the fear. The terror of being found out.

And it doesn’t diminish the truth that we have, yet again, found something that makes us different. Something that keeps us separate. Because even as we crave companionship and kinship with those that walk similar paths to ours, we understand, as eclectics, one of the hardest truths of all. That the only person who can walk a spiritual path, even when following the teachings and guidance of others, is the person themselves. We are all solitaries when it comes to our pursuit of truth. It’s just that, as eclectics, we tend to spend more time walking the solitary road than our friends who walk the more well-worn paths.

That doesn’t, however, diminish the fear of walking a path completely of our own making. As an eclectic, the decisions made about the spiritual path you walk are completely your own. Being able to look at multiple concepts presented as spiritual truths, all of them conflicting, and say “This one is right for me,” requires an extreme amount of trust in yourself, the world around you, and the presence of the divine in your life. To walk an eclectic path requires some of the greatest courage to be found, as an eclectic must, every day, look into the abyss of the unknown and decide what route to take.

On Being an Eclectic Heathen

I’ve been thinking for a while about what umbrella my faith really falls under. My beliefs are pretty unique, and I’m highly aware that I don’t fit within any particular Pagan mold. Ever since I started researching Paganism, over 16 years ago now, I realized that to be true. Every path I’ve ever tried has been interesting and intriguing in some ways, and in others, I’ve felt a complete disconnect.

A big reason for that disconnect, however, is that I grew up learning how to channel energy as an Empath. I grew up learning proper energy-work techniques that I never saw replicated in the Pagan traditions I tried out.

When I first started researching Paganism, the first path I came across was Wicca. When I started reading about Wicca and learning about the rituals used, especially all the tools required, I knew Wicca wasn’t for me. Energy-work (or magic, whichever term you prefer) doesn’t require the rigorous tool-based ritual format that Wicca seems to prefer. I also hated spelling magic with a k because you either believe in magic or you don’t. Adding a k to the end of the word does not make it any easier to suspend disbelief if disbelief exists.

In any case, I realized that what I enjoyed about Wicca were the older arts sometimes in use. Astrology and Numerology both fascinated me. I started researching those on my own, and I have a decent amount of understanding of both. I know enough to use those arts to understand myself a little better, and that’s really all I need.

But those were the only things I enjoyed about Wicca, and astrology and numerology are far older than Wicca is. The extreme focus on having two deities, one Goddess and one God, known via multiple names, didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t mind the idea of two deities, but I hated the extreme focus that was put on the Goddess over the God. For a religion that was supposed to promote a balanced world between feminine and masculine energy, Wicca fell far short of that mark.

So, I spent a few years learning more about astrology, numerology, gemstones, and many different pantheons of gods. I also spent time researching other religions, including the Abrahamic faiths. It was in this period of time that I read the Bible all the way through, and I even experimented with going to different denominations of Christian churches to see the differences. No matter where my research took me, however, what I found was that I loved Paganism. Even though no pantheon was speaking to me, even though I had never been approached by a single deity, I was in love with a religion that allowed me to not only choose, but design, my own path through life.

Once I became comfortable and adamant about sticking to a Pagan path, the Norse deities began to appear to me. I started dreaming about Odin, and he called me to him. I wear the Valknut in his honor, as I am sworn to him. I can’t say that it was an easy decision to make – at first, him approaching me terrified me. I tried to ignore him for almost six months before he got so insistent about being in my life that I could no longer shut him out. Once I stopped running and started to get to know him, I started to see that his path was one that I could walk with ease, as I had already been on it without knowing it.

After Odin appeared in my life, it wasn’t long before Loki came along as well. While there are many, many people out there who offer hatred to anyone who worships Loki, they are the people who do not understand what Loki’s path entails. Odin’s path is hard enough, as it is full of sacrifice and pain in the pursuit of wisdom. Loki’s path, in a way, is harder, as it entails facing yourself, dealing with your demons, and learning to laugh despite the pain. Sigyn came along with Loki, and her path is one of compassion, loyalty, and, most importantly, self-love.

Then came Tyr, the cosmic balancer, the one who keeps the nine worlds from spinning off their axes. Balance, exchange, comprise – all of these are Tyrian traits. Freyja also showed up, and she has taught me a lot about facing up to who I am as a woman. I have a lot of masculine energy, so she, in essence, helped me learn about my own femininity and sensitivity.  Freyr also came along, and he has taught me what nobility truly means – what it means to take pride in the smallest detail of the work you do, and how to accept that there is no one and nothing beneath you when you possess true nobility.

Most recently, Mani and Ullr have begun to feature in my life. Ullr plays a pretty significant role in my life, and he has taught me much. He prizes his secrets, and he is right to do so. Mani is ethereal and elusive, and I think that he, like Ullr, doesn’t wish to be known by everyone.

With all that being said, when Odin first came into my life, I started doing research into Asatru. What I found there, originally, was interesting. I learned about the Eddas, and I read them. The lays within are beautiful, even if somewhat distorted due to having a Christian author. I also found the Nine Noble Virtues, a guideline for ethical behavior that everyone can aspire to emulate. I also found the runes, which pulled to me as nothing else ever had. All of these things were positive, and I fell in love with them.

But in Asatru, I also found things I despised. I found people who adhered so strictly to the Eddas that anything outside of them were automatically labeled “wrong.” I found reconstructionists so passionate about rebuilding old religions that they had become blind to the possibility of a living faith, a living spirituality. I found people so full of self-righteousness that I might as well have been sitting in the pew of a Southern Baptist church listening to a preacher spew sermons about hellfire and brimstone. I found intolerance, bigotry, and ignorance. I found hatred.

However, the Gods I honor are the Norse Gods. Asatru is one of the Heathen faiths dedicated to the Norse pantheon. And, although there are other Heathen traditions, all of them suffer from the same pitfalls. So, what was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to reconcile myself to being part of a religious movement that was full of hatred and self-righteous anger because certain people didn’t worship their gods in the “right” ways?

These questions are questions I have been asking myself for a long time. For years, in fact. And they are the reason that I typically stick to myself, even on the internet. Because, the truth is, my beliefs don’t fit neatly into a box. They never have, and they never will.

The closest I can come to fitting a label to myself is to call myself an Eclectic Heathen. But, when I say Eclectic, I mean that I draw from multiple faiths across the Pagan spectrum rather than strictly across the Heathen spectrum. When I say Heathen, I mean that I honor the Norse deities first, and other deities second. I’m willing to honor other pantheons, if I am called to do so, but the call of the Norse pantheon will always be the one I listen for first.

I’ve heard multiple times that my beliefs in certain things aren’t “Heathen.” I’ve been told that there is no place for the elemental powers within Heathenry, which I find ridiculous. The elements are as old as the earth, so to say there is no place for the elements is to say that there is no place for the earth (which is, quite frankly, ridiculous). I have also always been drawn to magic, and I have finally found a path of magic that makes sense to me. A path that I have already started walking.

I intend to do a lot of things with my faith, as I refuse to let it stagnate. I will not be someone who insists that there is a right way of belief or only one correct way to perform a ritual. While I am a priestess of the Norse gods, I am not a priestess of Asatru or any tradition in particular. To call myself an Eclectic Heathen Priestess seems incredibly weird, even though that is technically what I am. One day, perhaps, I will have a name for what to call my path. Perhaps, when that day comes, I will be ready to share it fully with the world around me.

To be Eclectic is to choose to walk away from the other paths that are out there. It is to be brave enough to say, “These ways don’t work for me. I need to create my own,” and realize that need isn’t borne out of arrogance but out of necessity. Most people can find the faith they need already realized in one that already exists, but some of us – some of us need to construct it out of bits and pieces of the other faiths we find around us.

The Problem with Life-Denying Faiths

A woman came up to me at work the other day and started going on and on about how all of the terrible things happening around us had been predicted by the book of revelations and how the second coming was nigh. Even when I told her that her faith wasn’t my faith (and she said that was fine, to each their own and all that), she continued to go on about the book of revelations.

When I mentioned that we were destroying our planet, she dismissed that concern, essentially saying that it didn’t matter because we wouldn’t be on the planet much longer due to the second coming. That arrogance and ignorance about the world, about the planet, incensed me. I wanted to respond to her, but I was at work. And I pride myself on my professionalism, so I said nothing. Partially because of my professionalism and partially because I knew that no matter what I said, she wouldn’t listen.

And this is one of the reasons I can’t stand Christianity or other Abrahamic faiths that preach about the second coming of the messiah who will come to the earth and take everyone off of it in some glorious moment. This ridiculous illusion is what allows people to damage the earth to the extent it has become damaged.

I watched a video the other day that put the damage we, as a species, have done to the earth into a horrifyingly clear picture. According to that video, if you condensed the age of the earth down to a 24-hour day, then, proportionally, human beings have been alive for a grand total of 3 seconds. In 3 seconds, we have decimated the beauty of this world.

Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths give their followers permission to do whatever they want to the planet around them because, after all, if the messiah comes to save them in a blazing flash of glory, then it doesn’t matter what the world around them looks like. It doesn’t matter if they destroy the planet – after all, to them, heaven is the only place worth going.

There is an ugliness in a person’s willingness to destroy the beauty of the world around them, an ugliness that cannot be erased. And yet, millions of people casually destroy the world around them without a thought. Not all of them are Christians or followers of Abrahamic faiths – some of them are atheists, and some of them are just ignorant of the amazing life of the planet that surrounds them.

I went on a hiking trip earlier this year, and I have trouble with steep hikes as I have metal rods in my leg. I mentioned that I should have thought to bring a walking stick with me, as it would have helped immensely. In response, one of my companions turned to the nearest tree and started to break off part of a limb. I physically felt the pain the tree went through, and I turned around and confronted him about it. He left the limb half-broken off of the tree, and I told him if he was going to break it, then to break it cleanly. After all, a half-detached limb can’t grow back properly. I was upset for the rest of the day because of his ignorance.

While he thought he was being kind by trying to find me a walking stick, he was actually causing a tree unnecessary pain. And yes, trees can feel pain. They are living creatures, just like we are. Every living creature can feel pain. Most people go through life ignorant of this fact, so, of course, they find it easy to cut down forests or trample flowers without a single thought to the harm they are doing.

We live in an interconnected world – all living beings are part of this immense web of life, in this biosphere. To forget that, to forsake that, is to blind yourself to the beauty of the world around you.

Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths teach an ignorance of this. They teach that humans are meant to hold dominion over the earth, over the other animals that reside here. That we are supposedly the masters of the planet.

That is a load of crap. We are masters of nothing except our own beings. So many people fail to respect the earth and the lives that reside within the earth, it is no wonder so many animals are going extinct, hunted for their fur or their tusks or their meat. It is no wonder our oceans are being filled to the brim with plastic garbage. Until we start taking responsibility, each and every one of us, for the harm we have been doing to the planet, and taking steps to correct that harm, then the earth will continue to slowly strangle under the weight of our presence.

If I had to choose one thing that ties me to Paganism, one thing that will always tie me to Paganism, it is the love I hold for the earth we live on. The earth is ancient, and it thrives with life. To ignore the wisdom of the earth is ignorance in its highest iteration. I refuse to be ignorant. I refuse to live a life waiting for some messiah to come and save me. Instead, I embrace the Old Ways, the ways that honor and cherish the life of the earth and all of the life found within it. For my faith is a life-affirming faith, and I will not deny it.

Loki’s Stave and Facebook Group

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Loki’s Stave 

Dagulf Loptson

*

Listen to the words of the closer, the blazing one,

I who have borne witness to human evolution

since man first claimed my power.

 *

You have no cause to fear me, for I am already within you.

I speak to you from the depths of your intellect,

I call to you from your secret desires,

I sleep within the blood in your veins.

 *

My voice is in the crackle of the flame,

and the laughter of the innocent,

and the hiss of the serpent.

 *

I am the bright companion of thunder,

and I strike with inspiration.

I am the spark of genius that drives you towards greatness;

To abandon me is to embrace the darkness of ignorance.

 *

I am an all-consuming pleasure

that reddens your flesh with my embrace;

I give you the color of gods

so you’ll remember that you are divine.

 *

I excite your nerves and heighten your senses,

Driving you toward divine madness and the bliss of chaos.

To love me is to be consumed by me on a holy pyre,

where I devour your repose, to give you rebirth.

 *

I am the vulture who strips away that which is putrid

and makes bones white and new.

I am the dark brother who illuminates,

I am the wise fool who knows all and believes nothing.

 *

I am the rising star Sirius

who walks upon the bridge of heaven:

The harbinger of life and the harbinger of death.

I am the space between boundaries

who belongs everywhere and nowhere.

I am the spider in the web

and master of my own fate.

 *

I am the battler of gatekeepers,

for I know that all boundaries are illusions.

I end the world to prove there are no endings.

There can be no lies if there is no truth.

 *

I am the father of the broken.

I am the mother of the monstrous.

I comfort my children with the warmth

and avenge them with my flames;

for I know what it means to suffer.

 *

I am the primordial serpent

Who writhes in the abyss.

To conquer me is to win the wyrm’s hoard:

gleaming gold, which is the fire of knowledge.

 *

I am the father of witches

and the master of molding and shaping;

place crude metal in my forge

and I will give you treasure in return.

 *

If you understand nothing else,

remember this secret:

To know me is to know yourself

And to know yourself is to know my ecstasy.

 


I’ve created a  facebook group for those who are interested in discussing Loki and the Lokean path. It is also meant for Pagans/Heathens who are on the fringes of the mainstream community. Feel free to join and download your own copy of the “Loki’s Stave” poem with some nifty formatting.

Loki apparently wants more publicity, so we might as well give it to Him. 😉

As for the formatting of this page, it’s either WordPress being a pain or Loki just having some fun.

Doubts and Limits

I have this awareness that people see me as more confident and assured than I actually am, and I often wonder how it is that I can be so anxious internally and yet seem so confident to the people around me.

The truth is, I’m plagued by doubt. If there was a doubting disorder, I would have it. Yet, I don’t consider myself to be skeptical (I feel that falls more in the domain of atheism). I don’t have trouble believing that the gods exist – I can feel Them. No, my doubts center around whether I’m honoring the gods correctly and if I’m imparting the right messages to the right people.

Part of that worry – the “is it okay to do this in order to honor the gods?” is, admittedly, leftover from growing up in a Southern Baptist household. Part of it, therefore, is the remnant of fear of punishment for getting things wrong. That fear, however, is compounded by the fact that I grew up in a home with an alcoholic parent and have to fight a daily battle not to succumb to the double-bind type of thinking that I never knew I was doing until I was in my 20s.

A double-bind, for those who don’t know, is a situation where the only choices you can make are bad ones (both outcomes are terrible) and having to still choose one of them. Double-bind thinking is always seeing things from the perspective of having to choose the lesser of two evils. Because of the way I grew up, I learned that no matter what choice I made – even when the choice, in a typical household, would be a good choice with a good outcome – I never won.

An example that comes to mind is my mother’s reactions to my grades. In general, I’m a straight A student because I love learning, so doing well in classes reflects one of my passions more than it does anything else (I could go on about how I think grades are incredibly limiting, but I digress). Anyway, I came home one day (I was in 4th or 5th grade) and I had an A- in a subject. Instead of being happy that I had an A of any type, my mom thought it was better to lecture me for two hours so that she could tell me how disappointed she was that I didn’t make an A+.

Most people can see how harmful that would be to a child – I took it at face value, and I’m sure it will come as no surprise to anyone that I have maladaptive perfectionism. I also have ADHD, and with the combination of the two, my frustration level is incredibly low. I have to work incredibly hard to keep myself from being irritated by the little imperfections that are part and parcel of everyday life.

Because of that, I love structured systems. I love grammar and I love math because the structure is always there. Sure, both of those structures are complex, but both systems are very, very efficient. In everyday life, an appreciation of systems is fine. When it comes to religion, however, it is much more difficult to find a system that is both adaptive and rigid the way that the systems of math and grammar are both adaptive and rigid.

That’s one of the largest reasons that I’m a polytheist, although to describe it that way makes me sound like a nerd (which, okay, I readily admit to  – I’m currently wearing a Hogwarts shirt with the logos of all four houses because it’s awesome). But monotheism is too rigid for me – one god with all these rules that have to be obeyed or be punished forever more in an eternal hell of fire and damnation (I’d like to point out to any Christians who read my blog that I live in a Southern Baptist bible belt, so that’s not an exaggeration of the attitudes of the Christians around here). Aside from the rigidity, the system is tyrannical – do it my way or else – and I’ve no need to return to the mental anguish that my mother’s insane expectations inflicted upon me.

Generic Paganism, on the other hand, is far too flexible. Anything goes, and there’s only one rule (generally pulled from Wicca, as most mainstream Pagans are Wiccans) – harm no one. Okay, how would you like me to go about making sure I don’t hurt anyone? What about situations where I have to hurt someone in order to help them? Doesn’t that invalidate the rule? If you say there are exceptions, then it’s not a rule – it’s a guideline. And guidelines are great, but using only “harm none” and “the threefold law” as guidelines isn’t rigid enough. There are too many questions those guidelines don’t answer.

Also, generic Paganism embraces all pantheons of Gods, and there are plenty of Pagans out there who mix pantheons and worship the Greek Gods alongside the Norse Gods. And that’s fine – there’s nothing wrong with that. But say something happens where it’s obvious that a harvest god/goddess has intervened – how do you know for sure whether it’s Demeter or Freyr? If it isn’t the one that you have assumed it to be, will they get offended? Will the one that actually helped stop stepping in because they are offended that you didn’t recognize their hand?

Yes, these are the kinds of things that I worry about. That’s why I primarily stick to the Norse Gods. I’m not adverse to gods from other pantheons; I would just really need to be able to distinguish their auras in order to feel comfortable honoring them. For example, Thor has a very particular energy that I could never confuse with, say, the aura of Hercules even though they are both gods of strength.

However, I am fully comfortable with the aura of Hercules because I grew up watching tons of shows about him. Still, I don’t honor him the same way I do Thor – Thor is the protector of the Norse Gods; in that sense, He deserves my loyalty, as the Norse Gods are my Gods. Perhaps making that distinction is unnecessary, but I am a fiercely loyal person.

We all have friends that we share everything with and friends that we just sorta talk to when they are around (and don’t really hang out with). I am fiercely loyal to the people I share everything with, but I can’t offer the same strength of loyalty to those people who are my friends but not my confidants. For me, that is the major difference between the Norse pantheon and other pantheons. Gods from other pantheons are interesting, but the Norse Gods have my undivided loyalty.

And, of course, the reason for that loyalty I have mentioned before – the Norse Gods came to me and essentially pulled me onto their path. When I discovered that Asatru existed, I was fascinated by two things – the Nine Noble Virtues and the creed “We are our deeds.” Asatru was my first exposure to Heathenry, but I don’t think I can claim to be a proper Asatruar because I’m not a reconstructionist.

With my love of systems, I’m sure there are those who find it ironic that I’m not a reconstructionist, but I find the reconstructionist system seriously flawed. For many, many reasons, of course, but the major ones are that 1) Truly recreating an ancient faith is impossible without having the exact environment that existed in the time period when it was practiced, and 2) Reconstructionism ignores the evolution of spirituality because practices like prayer, meditation, and anything that falls out of the blot/sumbel format is often rejected as inadequate forms of worship. Essentially, reconstructionism is too rigid a system.

I will call myself Asatru and Heathen as I see fit, however, because Asatru literally means, “true to the Aesir.” And that is true of me – I am loyal to the Aesir. I am also loyal to the Vanir. As a note, Loki is part of the Aesir, although there are a lot of Heathens who would argue that point. Odin and Loki are brothers-by-blood-oath – there is no stronger bond than that.

What I like about Heathenry are the two things I first discovered in Asatru – the Nine Noble Virtues and the creed “We are our deeds.” The Nine Noble Virtues are guidelines that create a solid foundation of living. Instead of being told “if it harm none, do what ye will,” there is a code of honor. To act with courage, to preserve through the hard times, to be hospitable even when it hurts, to be disciplined in action, etc. These are guidelines that work. They aren’t easy to adhere to, but there is no punishment for failing to meet them (except self-flagellation, which we all engage in from time-to-time, despite how terrible it makes us feel when we beat ourselves up). On top of that, we are defined by what we do; we are held accountable for our actions.

In Heathenry, I found a medium between rigidity and adaptability that is beautiful. There are consequences to my actions, and the only person responsible for those actions is the one living inside my skin. But there is no external torment waiting for me should I fail – I can recover from my failures and come back stronger than I was before. I can change without feeling like I’m doing something wrong because I’m not behaving perfectly according to some set of commandments. I don’t feel like I’m floundering because I have the virtues to guide me when I find myself confused.

So, even though I still have doubts sometimes when I go to make offerings – the type of doubts that ask “Am I doing this right? Will this God be mad that I’m not offering something better? Will this offering even be accepted?” – I know that my doubts aren’t about whether the Gods exist. That hasn’t been a question in my mind in many, many years. My doubts are about whether or not the path I’m walking is the right one and whether what I’m doing for the Gods is good enough. Perhaps I’ll always be plagued by doubts about not being perfect, and that’s okay. I don’t need to be perfect, and I’ve started to accept that.

That’s why I have such a hard time with Heathen traditions that insist the only correct path is reconstructionism or, conversely, that only hard polytheists should be allowed within certain traditions. Where does the lore say that believers must conform to certain practices? Where in the Nine Noble Virtues or in the creed “We are our deeds,” can you find a guideline that says only reconstructionists or hard polytheists should be allowed to worship the Gods? Don’t you guys get it yet? The Gods don’t care about the shit we make up to fight about. They’re too busy with their own problems.

I read an interesting article a few weeks ago about how Heathenry is Godless in some ways because there are many Heathens who have never even felt the presence of one of the Gods. The point being made in that article (I wish I had saved it to share the link) was that Heathenry is Godless because Heathens make it more about research than devotion. Heathens make it more about scholarly pursuits and academia and science than about the Gods themselves. And, because of that, it was no wonder that Heathens had trouble connecting to the Gods.

The author had a good point, and, to add to that: if you want to connect with a God, you have to connect with a God. You can’t just do research and hope to understand the ideas behind a God. The Gods aren’t just ideas and concepts on paper. They are real, breathing entities with emotions and desires of Their own, each more complex than a human being (and we’re pretty damn complicated). Trying to convey the essence of a God on paper – no, trying to understand the essence of a God through the written word – is impossible. Why do you think so many Christians have such a limited understanding of their own God? The answer is simple – they rely too heavily on the written word and too little on the spiritual connection.

So work on connecting more and worry about the how less. The best way to connect to the Gods is to learn to see them as people. Read the stories as if the Gods you are reading about are standing beside you telling you Their own version of things. Use your imagination. The Gods can connect to us through any path we choose to receive them. They are limitless. And, as learned earlier today in Calculus, it’s impossible to limit the unlimitless.

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.