Tag Archives: Odin

Confronting Racism in Heathenry

In a Facebook thread, I came across someone asking who the gods reject and how we know that the gods reject them. He also asked if the gods accept offerings from those with white supremacist ideologies and whether those people can be considered Heathen given Heathen literature, mythology, and history. Basically, he wanted to know who determines this since we don’t have a supreme Heathen authority the way that Catholics have the Pope.

Honestly, I think he answered his own question – given our literature, mythology, and history, as Heathens, we are obligated to stand against racism. The history of Heathenry in the United States is not a pretty one, and it is something we must fight against so that we can improve it going forward.

The first Heathen organization in the United States was created in 1974 by Stephen McNallen, who headed the Asatru Folk Assembly until 2016 when it was taken over by Flavel. The Asatru Folk Assembly is listed as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center. Rightfully so – it is due to McNallen, Flavel, and their volk’s rampant racism that Declaration 127 emerged.

Declaration 127 (http://www.declaration127.com/) is a firm stance taken against those who would use Heathenry to promote racism and other forms of hatred. It has led to groups like Heathens Against Hate being formed, and the most inclusive Heathen organization (and the only large inclusive one), the Troth, often issues statements against violence committed by white supremacists and raises funds to donate to charities that combat hatred.

The reality is that there is a history of racism in Heathenry, and, as Heathens, we are obligated to face that fact unflinchingly and then do something to fix it. We cannot prevent what has already happened, but we can definitely do something in the present to combat white supremacy.

As to the question of literature and mythology, many white supremacists have tried to use our lore to justify race-based hatred. That has always been warped and twisted logic, however, as nothing in the lore justifies racism.

White supremacists will look at the tribes of the gods and say that because the Aesir and Vanir so often fight against the Jotnar that it indicates a race-based problem. They forget that Odin, the chief of the Norse gods, is half-Jotun. Loki, who is included among the Aesir, is full-blooded Jotunn. The Aesir and Vanir gods intermarry with the Jotnar at a fairly frequent rate.

On top of that, the tribes of the gods are like familial clans – they aren’t races. The gods are gods, and gods can all take on whatever shape they need to for the purposes they serve; the very idea of racist gods is an extreme perversion of theology.

The question as to whether the gods take offerings from white supremacists is a harder one to answer – or rather, one with an answer that any anti-racist would find difficult to handle. The gods themselves are not human; they are not necessarily going to involve themselves in the politics of humans. They are not here to solve our problems for us; they are not here to get involved in human problems. It is very possible and probable that the gods take offerings from people of all sorts of violent ideologies – that, however, can be said of all gods.

There are white supremacists in all religions; white supremacy is a rising global threat; it is most prominently seen in the United States because the U.S. was founded on the tenets of white supremacy. That said, however, white supremacist terrorism is the most concerning rising global threat; it is on par with the threat of Islamic radicalism.

What makes terrorism so terrifying is the understanding that yes, there are Islamic radicals but that doesn’t make all Muslims terrorists. And yes, there are white supremacist terrorists, but that doesn’t make all white people terrorists either. The terrifying thing, though, is that terrorist acts serve to induce fear in targeted populations of those who *might* be a terrorist.

Turning back to Heathen lore, none of the gods I honor are ones that I can readily associate with supremacist ideology. This is, of course, just the way I see the gods, and people can and will see the gods in different ways. I always speak only from my own experience and vantage point, and I do not ever claim to speak for the gods. I just want to make that clear.

Odin is a god that wanders the world, seeking knowledge wherever it can be found. Racists often stop seeking knowledge and turn a blind eye to new truths. Odin never does that- he always seeks to know more. Would he accept an offering from a white supremacist? Probably, if he feels that the person can offer him knowledge he doesn’t already have or if doing so aids him in his quest to prevent the end of the world. Odin does what he does for self-gain that is meant to serve the world as a whole, and he has done and will continue to do things that humans find grievously offensive in order to prevent Ragnarok. He is very much an ends justify the means type of god, and that can be hard to digest.

That said, Odin is also a god that enjoys inciting war for the sake of war. It may very well be part of his intention to have the anti-racist Heathens fighting against the racist Heathens. I know that the war I feel called to fight against white supremacy is one that Odin issued to me – I am confident that the aspect of Odin I honor is firmly against any type of ideology that promotes hatred and thereby reduces the chance at gaining knowledge that can then be transmuted into wisdom. I will personally only associate with Odins-people who view Odin this way because I strongly advocate against hatred. To me, hatred for the sake of hatred is the most vile expression of humanity’s penchant for depravity.

The next god I honor is Loki, and I feel like I can say with a large degree of confidence that Loki abhors those who hate others without cause. His devotees, Lokeans, are very often comprised of social minorities and misunderstood individuals. To hate someone for an identity they hold is anathema to who Loki has shown himself to be. In my experience with Loki, he gets upset when people judge other people for arbitrary reasons. In fact, I would say Loki is probably one of the *best* gods among the Norse gods to invite to the fight against white supremacy. He understands what it is like to be hated without cause, and it is difficult to imagine Loki ever standing on the side of white supremacists due to his own backstory.

Freyr is a god of frith and peace, but he is also known as the field marshal of the gods. He is the god who will fight to ensure that peace happens. White supremacists threaten frith; they work to undermine peace in society, and they bring weapons into spaces where innocent people are just trying to live their lives. In the lore that we have about Freyr, he is one of the gods most easily riled to anger when peace is shattered – bringing weapons into his temples tended to result in an explosion of anger towards those who threatened his sacred spaces. Freyr is a god of sacral kingship, and he embodies everything good that is possible for a ruler to hold within them. He will protect his people even from himself. When it comes to the fight against white supremacists, Freyr is a powerful ally to have.

Tyr is a god of justice and honor, and he will sacrifice even himself to maintain the order of the world. When Fenrir threatened the gods, it was only Tyr who had the courage to step forward and do what needed to be done, even though Fenrir was his best friend. Tyr understands better than some of the other gods how hard it is to severe a relationship with a close friend due to the danger they pose to the world. It is hard to imagine Tyr willing to back white supremacists in this fight, as he is the god who allowed his relationship with his best friend to be severed for the good of the whole. He is a god that will easily sacrifice one for the sake of the many and place the good of all over the good of a few. White supremacists are a minority, threatened by the rising reality of a multicultural world – this is and has been true of most terrorist groups. They are comprised of the few fighting against the many. Tyr, then, is also a powerful ally to have in the fight against white supremacists.

There are many more gods and many more ways to interpret the stories, though most of the interpretations will demonstrate that the gods themselves have no reason to be found on the side of white supremacists.

Heathen lore and mythology is firmly opposed to the ideologies espoused by white supremacists – it doesn’t take much reading to figure that out.

The unfortunate and painful reality, however, is that people are notoriously bad at interpreting myth in an accurate way and incredibly good at twisting lore to suit their own purposes. No matter the religion at hand, that has always held true – Christians twist things they read in the Bible to suit their own political purposes. They aren’t the only ones – there are religious adherents in all faiths that do that, and Heathenry is no exception.

Heathenry also seems like it is filled with more racists than other religions because inclusive Heathens confront racism and speak and act against it. The truth is that all religions are packed to the brim with racist individuals, some of whom are radical enough in their views to support or become terrorists. The only reason Heathenry seems to hold more is because inclusive Heathens confront racism head-on. The history of Heathenry’s emergence in the United States requires we confront it, change it, and make the world a better place.

It is an issue that we can’t ignore and don’t ignore the way many other religions do. So far, the white supremacists who have committed terrorist acts have not been Heathen. If they have had religious ties, it has been to radical forms of Christianity. Many of them, however, have been secular or non-religious. This is not surprising, as terrorist ideology tends to replace and crowd out all other forms of ideology. Hatred becomes the driving force; the religion of hatred consumes those who come into contact with it if they are not already shored up against such hatred through strong ideologies of their own.

I will not fall into the trap of hatred because my personal ideology is one that promotes the interconnected nature of all people and the importance of life itself. If I am ever forced into a position where I must take someone else’s life to save my own or to save the lives of others – which is the only reason I would ever act in such a way – then I will do so but I will mourn the loss and the terrible situation which forced my hand. Life itself is far too precious to throw away or steal on a whim. In sum, then, life is my ideology. Hatred is anathema to life. Thus I will stand, forever, on the side of life.

The Threat of White Supremacy

The biggest threat that the U.S. is facing today is the threat of white supremacists turned terrorists. The attack on El Paso is a reminder that we are dealing with heinous crimes against humanity, spurred by violent rhetoric and white supremacy sympathizers.

We are dealing with the after-effects of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, which are reminiscent of the Charlottesville incident and the white pride rallies that have emerged since the current administration came into power.

Because I am a historian especially versed in media impact, I am going to try and find the articles that discuss the dangers of white supremacy to hopefully help bring home how urgent this matter really is in today’s society.

I’m adding a page to this blog where you can find links to those articles. I am compiling the articles for two reasons – to demonstrate the urgency of the threat and to measure the threat as it escalates.

We are not living in safe times.

For white people who read this blog, educate yourselves. Learn more about anti-racism and how you can help in the fight against white supremacy.

To the people of color reading this blog, I stand with you. I will do everything in my power to help you in the ways that you feel are most needed. I will work to elevate the voices of those who have too often been silenced. I will stand on the front lines, where I am able, and act as a buffer against those who would harm you.

This hatred has gone on long enough. We need to stop hating each other for our differences and start looking for common ground where we can grow together in community.

I am tired of hatred, and I will stand as a bulwark against it.

This is the war Odin has called me to fight, and I will fight this war until it ends or until I am gone from this world. I do nothing in half measures, and this is the side on which I choose to stand.

The Lokean Stigma

The last time I gave an offering to Odin, I asked him for some advice on my path. I used the runes to divine the answer to that question, as Odin is one of the gods I have a harder time hearing through a godphone. I pulled Ansuz and Perthro, a rune I associate with Odin followed by one I associate with Loki. Through that, I got the message – the work I do for Odin is the work I do for Loki. Or, put another way, the work I do for Loki is the work Odin has set before me – set before us both, perhaps.

The other work I do for Odin mostly comes from people asking me about him and informing those people of his path. Most of that happens in the form of emails that I receive. I don’t receive many emails from people who visit this blog, yet those who email me almost always ask me about Odin. It only took a few emails of that sort to realize that communication was the work that Odin had set before me.

The work I do for Loki comes through the communities I have helped build, including the Loki’s Wyrdlings Facebook page, the creation of Loki University, and the publication of Loki’s Torch. Since I started my work for Loki, I have seen the Lokean community expand ever outward, with more and more Lokean communities forming and Lokeans in general gaining more acceptance among other Heathens. I have seen the Troth lift the ban against hailing Loki at Troth-sponsored events, and I have witnessed the defense of Lokeans in many organizations.

For all the growth, however, there is still more work to do. Not all Heathen organizations are accepting of Lokeans, nor are all kindreds or all Heathens. Even though we all practice the same religion, the fact that we worship Loki serves to set us apart from our communities. We are still forced to live on the fringes of Heathenry, as if Loki himself was never considered part of the Aesir (despite evidence to the contrary).

In the wider American Heathen world, especially in communities where Lokeans are barely heard of or discussed, there are several dominant beliefs that hurt Lokeans – some of which are based in truth, though that truth is often distorted. Some of those distorted beliefs include the following:

  1. Lokeans are just Marvel fan-girls looking for attention
  2. People just worship Loki so they can have an excuse to become a god-spouse
  3. Lokeans worship an evil god so they must also be evil
  4. Lokeans are naïve because they only see the “good” face of Loki and never deal with his darker aspects

With the exception of #3, the Lokean community itself contributes to the wide spread of these misinformed, distorted beliefs. The 3rd one disproves itself, as anyone with an understanding of Norse religion would understand that Loki was never viewed as evil, and that the Norse didn’t actually have a concept of good vs. evil.

The other three, however, are perpetuated because many people in the wider Heathen world generally end up interacting with Lokeans who fit into one of the other three categories – Marvel Lokeans, godspouses, and Lokeans who refuse to deal with the harsher aspects of our god.

From what I’ve seen over the last few years, as the Lokean community has grown, there are two types of Marvel Lokeans. There are the ones who view Marvel Loki as another guise of Loki, another tool he uses to get his message across to the world. These are the Lokeans who willfully and dutifully engage with the lore and learn more about Loki and expand their understanding of the god they follow. These are the Lokeans who see Marvel Loki as a potential form Loki assumes rather than seeing Tom Hiddleston as Loki. These are the Lokeans I respect.

The other set of Marvel Lokeans are exactly what they are accused of being – fans of Marvel who are attracted to Tom Hiddleston and have warped their understanding of religion to make it work. These are the ones who refuse to engage with the myths, who refuse to see past the character of a comic book to the truth underneath it. I cannot stand this type of Lokean because their practice is anathema to everything Loki represents – dispelling illusions, grasping deeper truths, illuminating the reality behind the falsehoods presented.

So many people talk about how everyone has a right to their own path to deity, their own path to their religious truth – and yes, that is true. There are millions of right ways to reach the gods, ways I cannot even pretend to understand. But if there are millions of right ways, there are also millions of wrong ways. This idea that there is no wrong way that has been perpetuated in Pagan circles for the last decade is ridiculous. More right ways mean more wrong ways, not fewer.

I’m sure that, eventually, some of the second types of Lokeans find their ways to the myths and become the first type of Lokeans – if they really are dedicated to Loki and not the comic universe, Loki will get them there himself if he feels the need to do so. I have no doubt that Loki will find the followers he needs, and that he will do what he needs to in order to procure them.

It is, however, not Loki I am worried about. I do not need to worry about the gods – they have their own agendas, their own methods. They do what they need to.

No, what I worry about is the state of Lokeans and their acceptance in the wider American Heathen community. Because we will always be fighting a battle against prejudice to be accepted into it, especially when we live in a world where so many people rely on text rather than experiences to find their truths. And so many of those texts paint Loki as evil, so Lokeans get the same label.

There are actual obstacles to being accepted by the larger Heathen community, and one of those is the fact that we have Marvel Lokeans of the second variety. That creates a stigma about the Lokean community, and it isn’t one we can get rid of because so many Lokeans of that variety seem determined to prove that their religion is as valid as everyone else’s.

It’s also interesting that we live in a world where we proclaim so much acceptance for each individual’s interpretation, despite the fact that most religious understanding is communal, historically speaking. Old Norse society was communal, and many Heathen organizations have tried to imitate that. That’s one of the reasons that Loki and Lokeans gaining acceptance has taken so long – beliefs don’t exist in a vacuum. How a community believes affects what that community experiences.

When I talk about how Marvel Lokeans – and I mean only the second variety – hurt the Lokean community, I’m not talking about a couple of people who hold delusional beliefs. That is easier to handle; those people tend to be pushed out of societies altogether. No, I’m talking about a sizeable portion of the community –what seems like maybe a 5th – that truly believes Tom Hiddleston and Loki are one and the same. People who refuse to deal with myth, who refuse to learn to see Loki through any other lens than that of the MCU version. These people are hurting our community, and yet so many people leap to their defense that it’s almost impossible to say anything against them.

Well, here I am, speaking out against them. Because they are one of the reasons that Lokeans have a harder time gaining acceptance in the wider Heathen community. I’m sick of being asked, every time someone learns that I’m Loki’s priest, the same question: “Do you mean Marvel Loki?” I’m sick of that being the first question that someone asks about the work I do for the multi-faceted god Loki truly is. It makes me feel heart-sick, that question.

I’m tired of having to correct people and explain the difference between Loki and MCU Loki. Every time someone meets a 2nd-variety Marvel Lokean, and then meet me, I have to untangle everything that person has heard about Lokeans and explain what it really means to work for Loki, all over again. It’s a lot of work, and I do it, because I am devoted to Loki and the work he asks of me, but it is a ridiculous amount of effort. The community damages itself, and then I have to work even harder to undo some of that damage.

Moving on to the second reason that Lokeans struggle to find acceptance, many Heathens assume that Lokeans are only Lokeans because that allows them to be god-spouses. That is a faulty assumption, of course, and god-spousery is 100% a valid relationship to hold with a god.

That said, it’s clear to see where that assumption comes from because there are more Lokean god-spouses than non-Lokean god-spouses. It’s hard to know if that is because Loki just really likes having god-spouses, if it’s because people lack discernment and think they have a relationship they don’t, or if Lokeans are more willing to engage in personal relationships with deities that other Heathens aren’t. The only thing I can do there is speculate, so there’s no real answer to give.

The most problematic thing about Lokean god-spouses is all the damned in-fighting I’ve seen. I’ve seen god-spouses say that Loki prefers a particular body type to another, that Loki likes one person better than another, and all other sorts of insidious jealousy. It’s the in-fighting that makes the god-spousery within the Lokean community seem so toxic and unhealthy to the wider Heathen community. The Lokean community is also the only one I’ve seen where god-spouses will make their own smaller community, which seems unwise to me considering the level of jealousy we’re capable of towards other people. It takes a special type of person to be comfortable in polyamorous/polygamous relationships, and very few people have that mindset. Honestly, if we could get rid of the in-fighting among god-spouses, the Lokean community would probably have an easier time in the wider Heathen community.

Anyway, moving on to the last distorted belief – the one about Lokeans refusing to deal with the darker aspects of Loki – is one that is true and false at the same time. Because there are a handful of Lokeans, myself included, willing and able to engage with the darkest sides of Loki.

There are other Lokeans who refuse to see him as anything but a fun prankster or a friend to joke with. That is understandable – there are also people who refuse to see Odin as anything but a grandfather-like figure. Some people cannot handle the darker aspects of their gods. I can respect that.

That said, however, Loki is a lord of the liminal, a god that resides in the in-between spaces. He is light and dark, order and chaos, all the opposites commingled. It is not possible to grasp a deeper relationship with Loki without engaging with the harsher aspects. His light is only possible because of his darkness. The order he brings comes from the chaos he wreaks. His kindness comes from the pain he’s experienced. His cruelty comes from the love he holds. These are things that can only be understood by engaging with the myths and reflecting upon them, meditating about his complexities.

That is why Lokeans need to do a better job at engaging with the myths. That is why we need to work on shifting the 2nd-variety Marvel Lokeans to the 1st type – the ones who read the myths. Because Loki is a complex god, and Lokeans are complex people. When we speak to people in the wider Heathen community, we must speak both of Loki and his followers. Because, at the end of the day, a Lokean is a representative of Loki. We are his eyes, his ears, and his voice – though we must never claim to speak as Him, never claim our interests or causes as His. We may ask Him to bless our events, to champion our causes, but we must never assume that He has done these things. To do so is to speak for a god, and our gods speak for themselves. They speak through us in our actions, and we do not need to claim they do so for it to be so.

That is the Old Way – to live in imitation of the gods you follow. So, let us imitate Loki in dispelling the illusions around our communities about what it means to be a Lokean. Let us dispel the falsehoods that we find in our lives every day. Let us offer healing to those who think themselves broken, and harm to those who think to break others. As Lokeans, let us walk through life the way we believe Loki would and never dare to say that we speak for Him. We can never speak for the gods – but we can live for them.

 

 

 

Personal Gnosis: How Humans Came to Be

I asked Loki, in his guise of Lodurr, about the day that the gods made humans. He indulged me, and he told me the following story.

Note: This is 100% my own personal gnosis, so please take it as you will. 


Walking along the coast one day, Odin, Hoenir, and Lodurr came across two pieces of driftwood moored upon the sand. The shape of the wood reminded Odin of the monkeys he had just seen while visiting Tehuti in Egypt. “Perhaps we should create a being to inhabit our world the way the Egyptians have,” he said.

“We cannot recreate the monkeys from Egypt,” Hoenir said, ever practical. “They would not survive the harsh winters of our world.”

Lodurr, always keen to solve problems when they presented themselves, offered a suggestion. “Perhaps instead of recreating the monkeys, we can combine the idea of them with the trees the wood came from. That way, they will not struggle with the climate here.”

“If we do that, we will have trees that look like monkeys stuck forever in one place. What kind of life would that be to give them?” Hoenir asked.

“Then let us give them the ability to move, so that they are not rooted,” Lodurr said.

“It would be good to have intelligent life in our world,” Odin said. “I think Lodurr is right. We should combine the two. By doing that, they will be as mobile as monkeys but as adaptable to the climate as the trees are.”

Saying that, he pulled the pieces of driftwood from their moorings and set about shaping the wood. Lodurr and Hoenir helped and, soon, they had crafted two remarkable beings that looked similar to the monkeys Odin had referenced. Because those monkeys had two sexes, the gods crafted the driftwood into two distinct sexes. If life were to flourish, then the beings would need a way to procreate so that the gods did not have to continuously shape new pieces of driftwood they stumbled across.

Once the beings were crafted, Odin laid his hands on each of their shoulders in turn and blew a note that turned into breath and entered the creatures. Soon, both of them began breathing on their own. Next, Hoenir stepped forward and laid a finger on each head. He traced an ancient symbol across their foreheads and pushed the capacity to think into their heads.

Once that was done, Lodurr placed his palm over each creature’s heart. He sent fire racing down his arms, igniting passion in the hearts that beat within each breath. Inadvertently, however, he also singed away half of the hair that had covered the creatures. Once he had burnt something, it could not be recovered, so the creatures were stuck with a fine layer of hair rather than the coarse layer the gods had originally intended. In apology for destroying the work of the other gods, Lodurr blew color into their cheeks, giving them a rosy hue. He also set blood flowing in their limbs, giving them strength to move on their own.

Hoenir noticed that, when Lodurr had singed the hair off the creatures, he had completely removed it from their palms and the soles of their feet. That uncovered the lines of the wood that the gods had worked so hard to remove. Hoenir started to smooth out the flesh there, but Odin stopped him.

“Let the lines stay,” Odin said. “It will serve as a reminder for them that they came from the trees. As long as it remains with them, this knowledge will keep them in awe of the trees and prevent them from burning down the forest. They have minds of their own, free will, and the ability to use tools. We do not know what they will do, so let us give them as much knowledge as is safe to provide.”

Hoenir, unhappy that he could not ply his craft to the extent that he wanted, removed his hands from the creatures and walked away from the other gods.

Lodurr and Odin stood in silence until Lodurr spoke. “Did you mean that?” he asked. “About providing them knowledge?”

“I did.”

“They will grow to hate us,” Lodurr said. “They will know that they were a curiosity we made on a whim. That doesn’t distress you?”

“No,” Odin said. “Because even though many of them may grow to hate us, some will grow to love us without measure. It is that love that will sustain us, as we sustain them.”

Lodurr snorted. “Now you sound like Freyja.”

“She is wiser than you give her credit for,” Odin said. “Without her teachings, I could not have done what I did today. She is the one who taught me how to use the breath of life and how to both give and take it away.”

“I know she is wise,” Lodurr said. “It is her wisdom that makes it difficult for me to be who I am. She too often looks through me.”

Odin looked at the humans they had just crafted. “Perhaps you should focus on making friends elsewhere,” he said.

“Amongst the humans?” Lodurr asked, surprised by the suggestion.

“You hold more knowledge than the other gods give you credit for, old friend,” Odin said. “It is you who can teach them how to survive in this world. I know of no one better suited.”

Lodurr smiled. “Thank you, brother. I may just do that.”

 

 

Analysis of “Óðinn: A Queer týr?”

Analysis of “Óðinn: A Queer týr? A Study of Óðinn’s Function as a Queer Deity in Iron Age Scandinavia,” a Master’s Thesis by Amy Franks

First Chapter Analysis
Her comparison between mana and hamingja is a pretty big stretch, considering they are vastly different concepts from two very different cultures. The way she tries to tie mana into the spectrum between gods and humans makes no sense, especially when mana has nothing to do with Scandinavian religion. Here, she really should have worked harder to understand the concepts of wyrd and hamingja.

Second Chapter Analysis
She is using queer theory, which is a particular theoretical lens. This, by itself, is not problematic. She is also correct in stating that queer theory is “inherently distrustful of categories.” It is well-known within sociology that gender is a social and historical construct, so this argument on its own is fine. Her citing Ghisleni’s argument to say that studying third genders/sexes someone ignores the nature of personhood is a huge stretch, and it also makes me question how well she vetted her own sources. That argument is logically fallacious from the beginning.

I’ll agree that analyzing Odin through his semantic center is a good methodology, and I can buy that Odin’s semantic center is that of knowledge and its acquisition. Her conclusion is that gender was never a key part of his semantic center, which is an accurate statement. The insertion of her personal belief that he has elements of queerness does not really belong in an academic paper.

Third Chapter Analysis
One of her arguments in the conclusion of this chapter, that warrior groups don’t exist in a male vacuum, is a solid argument. But the evidence she offers is incredibly weak and reaching. As for her main argument, that battle-oriented spirits like the einherjar/valkyrjur are linked to Odin’s presence and gender is problematic only because of the “and gender.” Obviously, battle-oriented spirits are linked to Odin’s presence. His gender has nothing to do with his orientation to battle or anything else, generally speaking.

Overall Analysis
I mean, I honestly feel like this entire thesis rests on a very shaky assumption that gods have a gender to begin with rather than being ascribed a gender. Considering that the gods themselves are not beholden to human concepts like morality, it makes no sense to make an argument based on the concept that a god has a gender in the first place. In addition to that, stating that a god’s perceived gender puts that deity into a particular gender/sexual category is another fundamental misunderstanding about the separation that exists between the nature of the gods and the nature of human beings.

In conclusion? This is an atrocious paper founded on, at best, a very flimsy argument.

For those interested in doing their own analysis, here’s the link to the paper:
Óðinn: A Queer týr

Who Goes to Valhalla? Or, Odin is a God of War AND Wisdom, not War Alone

It seems to me that every Heathen group eventually has a conversation about who is worthy to go to Valhalla. Someone inevitably insists that only warriors who fall in battle can enter Valhalla, and they decide it’s disrespectful to believe otherwise.

Perhaps the reason that conversation comes up so frequently is that warriors falling in battle and ending up in Valhalla is frequently mentioned by the lore left to us. Once a warrior falls in battle, Freya and Odin split the fallen between them.

There are a couple of considerations the people who posit the argument that Odin only accepts fallen warriors into Valhalla fail to make.

The first of those is that the lore we have available to us in the Eddas and Sagas contain myths that have been rewritten in the hands of Christian writers. It is very possible that the reason Snorri mentioned Valhalla as the heaven for those who die in battle was due to the Christian ideal of fighting for the kingdom of god, which was a prevalent ideal at the time he recorded the stories. Snorri may have simply excluded information from the Eddas because he was writing for a Christian audience – we have no way of knowing with any certainty that Valhalla was restricted to only warriors who fell in battle.

The second of those considerations is that Odin is a god of war and wisdom. It is hard to imagine a god of both qualities stacking his army with a single type of soldier. The best armies, in the human world, are comprised of a vast array of professionals alongside combatants. In American armies, there are professionals that focus on mechanics, engineering, technology, scientific research, historical research, and the list continues. Not everyone who enlists in the military will face combat – there are plenty of units that are noncombatant. That does not mean they are irrelevant to the functioning of the military; it just means they are best suited to working behind the front lines. If human intelligence has taught us that the best militaries are comprised of multiple units with a great number of professionals, who are we to say that Odin would only take combatants in Valhalla?

To try and determine who Odin would or would not take is arrogance at its finest. It’s like people forget, when arguing anything slightly theological, that we are not gods and we cannot speak for them. The only one capable of deciding who can be accepted into Valhalla is Odin himself.

To those who believe only warriors can enter those halls, I wonder what would happen if they entered the hall and found themselves face-to-face with noncombatants. At that point, would the fighters find themselves angry with Odin for daring to accept noncombatants into his hall?  Isn’t this far more disrespectful than the people who believe that Odin can and will accept whoever he wants?

I think there are questions that people fail to ask themselves, and they get caught up in Odin’s aspect as a deity of war and all too often forget that he is also a deity of wisdom. There isn’t a single military on earth comprised of just fighters. Why in the nine realms would Odin exhibit less wisdom than humanity in putting together his own?

Odin’s Path: Connection

I read somewhere that Odin’s wisdom is found in the ability to make plans that are successful – in other words, his wisdom is found in strategy. I don’t dispute this, as he is a war god and therefore needs the ability to think strategically, but I don’t think it fully captures his wisdom (and I’m not sure it’s possible to do so).

Strategy and making plans – those are both very important skills, but I think there’s more to wisdom than that. To make good plans, you have to understand people at a very deep level, and to understand other people requires a lot of patience and the ability to listen. It also requires the ability to trust in a person’s own experience of the world without feeling the need to negate it based on the experiences you’ve had yourself.

In my experience, understanding another person necessitates the suspension of disbelief. Each person we meet, no matter how crazy or far-fetched the story may sound to us, has their own story to tell, and we all believe in our own stories. They are, after all, what we are comprised of. They are the world we are made of – our stories define us in a way nothing else can.

To deny another person their story is to deny them their identity – it isn’t simply a case of whether or not we believe that the story that they tell us is a true one. That’s where understanding gets lost. People are worlds in themselves, and each world has its own unique set of rules. What those rules are vary from world to world, from person to person, and there is nothing more wrong or right about any particular set of rules that govern these worlds, these people.

This is the type of thinking that shamans must master in order to find the connections that link worlds, that link people, together. It is in these connections that we find the commonalities, the threads that tie us to one another and to the gods. If someone asked me for a definition of shaman, I don’t know if I would have had a proper answer even a year ago – it took me awhile to realize that the work I’ve always done as an empath has always been the work of a shaman. In some ways, they are the same, as the shamanism I practice is inherently empathic in nature (this is, of course, not true of all shamans nor is it true of all empaths).

Now, I would define my shamanism as the empathy required to forge links between worlds – knowing as I do now that every person is their own world. What people don’t understand – or at least don’t like to believe – is that I connect with gods as easily as I do people, and I have ever since I started to comprehend them as having agency in their own right, as having their own type of personhood. The links between gods and humans are a little bit different, a little more slippery, but they do exist – they always have.

It is because of these links that I tell people, when they ask me which deities they should try to work with (and believe me, I get this question quite often), that the deities they need to look towards first are those that most resemble them in personality. Not the deities they admire the most or the ones they think will be most beneficial – the deities with personalities that echo the personalities of the humans who ask me this question.

Because those are the deities that we can connect with most easily – those threads are most accessible to us. Odin is my patron, I am sworn to his path, and yet he is not a deity I converse with easily. Nor is he a deity whom I consult often – the relationship I have with Odin is a very complex one, and it is in the complexity of his personality and the complexity of my own that we meet. It is not a relationship I could ever hope to properly explain to someone else, but I trust in the relationship we share despite the oddness of its shape.

Loki is also my patron, and I am one of his priests. Unlike Odin, however, I converse easily with Loki. Among the gods I work with, he is one of my best friends. On the surface, he can seem irresponsible and whimsical, but there is a depth of emotional maturity to him that most don’t see in him because they don’t look past the surface. I understand on a very real level what it is like to be seen by others without truly being seen by them, and it is on this understanding that the link between me and Loki is founded.

I honor and work with many other deities, and all of those relationships are founded on different commonalities, different threads that link the world of who I am to the world of that particular deity. With Tyr, it is the understanding of stepping forward into responsibility when no one else will. With Freyja, it is the understanding that female and weak aren’t equal terms, that there is a depth of strength in femininity that is vastly different than the strength found in masculinity. With Sigyn, it is the understanding of the depth of love a person must feel for another to stand loyally by them despite the pain they endure. With Mani, it is a depth of compassion. With Ullr, it is a love of competition. With Freyr, it is an understanding of what nobility truly means. With Bragi, it is a love of words.

With all the gods – with all humans as well – there are links of understanding. It is upon those links that relationships may be best forged. Think about the friends you cherish – what first made you friends? What link of understanding does that friendship center around? And how many of your friends are your friends for the same reason? Because I know the relationships I share with my friends are defined very differently from person to person, from god to god. No relationship is the same as another – for good reason, as that would teach us nothing and also be incredibly boring.

I started writing this because I wanted to talk about how Odin’s wisdom encompasses so much more than simply the ability to make plans – he is the penultimate shaman. He sacrificed his eye to gain wisdom, and he sacrificed himself to gain the knowledge of the runes. His path is a path of sacrifice, and one of the biggest sacrifices I’ve found myself making is setting aside my own sight to pick up the sight of another.

That means suspending disbelief, keeping your own prejudices and default biases under wraps as you listen to the stories of the people around you. I have heard stories that most would view as beyond the realm of belief because I have taken the time to set aside my doubts and trust that a person’s story, when they tell it to me, is true enough for them.