Tag Archives: spirituality

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.

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!).

 

 

The Gods are Amoral

I’ve been watching the anime Noragami Aragoto, and the basic premise of the anime is that there is a god Yato attempting to get his own shrine so he can become more powerful. There was one event that happened where Yato said that it is people that decide what is right and wrong, for gods can do no wrong. And yes, an anime did set me to thinking on philosophical/religious terms. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me, and it probably won’t be the last. I tend to take my inspiration from the world around me, so it isn’t weird to me that something in an anime struck me as interesting.

Anyway, I started thinking about how each of the Gods are different. Odin, Loki, and Tyr all have different personalities, and each of them want different things from the world. But the Gods never question their own morality. In the myths, there is no internal struggle faced by any of the Gods over whether the course of action they are taking is right or wrong. The Gods just act. It could be said that the Gods act in their own self-interest at all times, and I don’t think that statement would be inaccurate.

Before I get further into that, I’d like to clarify what amorality is. Most people are familiar with morality and immorality. Amorality is the lack of a sense of morality altogether. If an action can be considered neither positive nor negative, then that is an amoral action. Essentially, saying that the Gods are amoral is saying that they lack a conscience that tells them wrong from right.

I’m sure that a lot of people will disagree with me, and I imagine one of the criticisms this idea will receive is the question, “If the Gods are amoral, how can they act in loving ways?”

To answer that question, however, I need to explain the difference between amorality and sociopathy. Amorality simply means that you have no sense of right or wrong. There is no distinction. A sociopath has a sense of right and wrong but chooses to disregard it. There’s a very fine line of difference between the two, but understanding the difference is the key to understanding the answer to how Gods can still act lovingly even without possessing a sense of morality.

In my mind, picturing the Gods as amoral helps resolve some difficult contradictions. It explains why the Gods can embrace Loki as one of their own – no matter what he does, he is still a God. It explains why the actions of Odin can seem sometimes noble and sometimes ignoble – he breaks oaths without much thought.

The Gods are complex – much more complex than a human being, and, let’s face it, us humans are pretty complex beings. We project our humanity onto the Gods, forgetting along the way that the Gods aren’t human. They’re Other. We have a spark of divinity inside of us, thanks to Loki, and that spark is what allows us to relate somewhat to the Gods. But I think that we too often forget that the Gods aren’t human.

So we end up painting the Gods with our own sense of morality, then get upset when the actions of the Gods don’t add up to what we have grown to expect. As an example, a large portion of pagans view Loki as evil incarnate, but Loki isn’t inherently evil. In fact, he is morally ambiguous, which is really just another way to say that he is an amoral being. Of all the Gods, it is perhaps Loki and other trickster Gods who demonstrate the truth of the amorality of Gods the most clearly.

I think the most difficult part of this concept to grasp is how the Gods can function without a sense of morality. For us, as human beings, we need a conscience. We need to distinguish between right actions and wrong actions in order to understand our paths through our lives. The idea of a lack of morality, of a lack of a conscience, is immediately alien and difficult to imagine. This is, perhaps, the reason that the Gods defy human understanding.

How The Gods Found Me

When I came to Paganism back in 2002, I expected to find a pantheon immediately. That didn’t happen, and it was discouraging. I had finally found a spiritual framework that I could live within, and I set out to explore it as fully as I could.

As the majority of those who come to Paganism from a Christian background, the first path I explored was Wicca. I never felt comfortable with the extensive rituals, and, while I could agree with the duality of the God and Goddess, I was never able to accept the lack of balance. The favoring of the Goddess over the God went against my sense of necessary equality, and I was never able to connect with those deities.

I spent about a year trying to understand Paganism from the Wiccan perspective, but I never felt like Wicca was the right path for me. I gave up pursuing that path and turned to more esoteric paths. I was always fascinated with divination, so I learned about astrology, numerology, and the runes (the runes, are, of course, much more than a divinatory tool). I tried tarot, but I never connected with the cards. I have a lot of respect for those who are able to utilize tarot, but I have a feeling that the concept of “cards” is a very air-element type of ability, and I have no affinity whatsoever with the air element. Conversely, I have a very strong connection with the runes, especially those carved on gemstones, which combines fire, earth, and water – all elements that I can work with well.

In any case, I spent the next nine years learning about esoteric practices and researching different Pagan faiths. I found myself wondering, quite often, if I was ever going to find a pantheon to honor or if I was going to be godless for the rest of my life. The idea of being godless was incredibly upsetting to me, as I have never been an atheist. Even when I turned away from Christianity when I was a child, my claims of being “atheist” were more of a reaction against a God that turned out to be exclusive – I felt betrayed, and it’s impossible to feel betrayed by a God if you doubt that God’s existence.

I used the betrayal I felt to fuel the search for a new faith, a new God, per se, that would provide the direction and guidance I needed without the cruelty I’d experienced at the hands of the first one I ever believed in. There are a lot of pagans out there who discount Christianity and the Christian God, essentially saying that the Christian God doesn’t exist. I’ve never felt this way – to me, the Christian God has always been just as real as all of the other deities I’ve known, but I choose not to follow His path. It’s not the right one for me.

I’ve told people time and time again that I believe that all Gods that could exist do exist, even if that seems counter-intuitive. Today, I wouldn’t say that I separate from the Christian God because He is an exclusive God, the way I did when I was younger. Instead, I would say that I don’t follow His path because I see the extremes taken by His followers and the lack of thought they employ when dealing with those of other faiths. I believe that it is important for those who honor a God of any sort to honor that God by emulation, and I would never be able to emulate the Christian God and keep my moral conscience clear. On top of that, I don’t agree or believe in most of the teachings that makes Christianity what it is, so it doesn’t make sense for me to go down that path.

That may seem irrelevant, but I struggled a lot over the first ten years of being pagan because I didn’t have a pantheon to follow. I had people doing their best to pull me back into the folds of Christianity by inviting me to various churches. I went to those churches because I was looking for a way to understand my own spirituality, and there was no one to teach me what path I should take.

Every time I went to a church, I hoped I would hear something that would magically assuage the wounds I had received from the Christian God, but everything I heard just pushed those barbs deeper. The lack of inclusivity, the cruel gossip that the church members engaged in – I could never go back to that. I would see rare instances of support that would make me wonder if I could overlook the cruelties for the small kindnesses occasionally garnished, but I realized fairly quickly that overlooking even a small breach of hospitality is a far worse moral violation than the celebration of a small kindness could ever hope to overcome.

I don’t talk much about the struggle I faced to stay away from Christianity when it seemed the universe was conspiring to get me back into the folds of the religion I had purposefully turned away from. And the reason I don’t talk about it is that it was the darkest time in my life – I had no religious support from any corner, not from other people and not from any of the Gods I honor now.

It was the darkest time in my life because I had to struggle with concepts of faith on my own without anyone to guide me. I had people who tried to convince me that Christianity was the right path for me, but I already knew it wasn’t. I suppose it could be said that those people were counter-guides. They are the reason I hate the idea of ever trying to push any set of beliefs onto another human being.

I had to fight with every ounce of my soul against people who were determined to convince me to return to the Christian path. I had to fight against the small desire I had to be a part of a group that was supportive because I knew that I would end up engaging in immoral behavior and hating myself if I ever did go back. When you’re completely alone in the world like that, with no gods and no friends who understand that type of struggle, fighting against the people who seem desperate to enfold you within their own faith is so incredibly hard that I don’t even have the words to describe how difficult it was.

Perhaps this is where you’re expecting me to say that in my darkest hour is where I found the Norse Gods, but that isn’t what happened. No one rescued me from that struggle – I had to overcome the situation alone without help. Do I resent the fact that there was no one to help me? I don’t, but I do resent the fact there are people out there who are determined to destroy other people’s sense of spirituality by trying to force their faith on non-believers. They were the root of the problem, so it is towards them that my resentment stays directed.

I overcame the struggle on my own, however, as I did enough reading of enough spiritual texts (from many different faiths) that I realized that the path I walked didn’t matter as long as I stuck to my own principles. That realization wasn’t an easy one to come to, and I questioned it for a long time, but I eventually accepted it as the truth. I realized that it didn’t matter if I had a pantheon to follow or whether I decided to follow a monotheistic, polytheistic, or atheistic path. What mattered, in the long run, was the way I chose to live my life. What mattered was what I did rather than what I believed, and orthopraxy is the core of pagan belief. For those who are unaware of the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxy, it’s fairly simple – orthodoxy means “right belief” and orthopraxy means “right practice.” Most monotheistic faiths are orthodox in nature whereas most pagan faiths are orthopraxic.

Once I realized that I fell firmly into the orthopraxic camp, it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Breaking the orthodox thought pattern instilled by a Christian upbringing was what allowed me to win the battle I was fighting with myself on a daily basis. I stopped caring about what I believed and started focusing on how I behaved. I started focusing on my relationships with other people and I started to learn how to lead. I stopped worrying about whether or not I would ever find a pantheon to follow and started focusing on how I lived my life.  

It was during this period of my life – when I had stopped searching – that the Norse Gods came into my life. I didn’t approach Them – They came to me. This is why I can’t agree with those who say that the Gods don’t interact with individuals. My first experience with the Gods was a very individual interaction, and I had no knowledge of Them before-hand.

When I say no knowledge, I mean I had never read any of the Norse myths, I had never seen or heard of the Poetic Edda, and I had only the vaguest idea of Their existence. Yet I ended up meeting a heathen at my work, and he told me what heathenry was and what his oath-ring meant, but he never discussed the Gods in-depth with me. After a couple conversations with him, I started having very vivid dreams with the Valknut featured (I learned from that heathen what the symbol was). And, at first, I was absolutely terrified.

I mean, here I was, 22 years old, content to live my life without worrying too much about what I believed. And, instead of being allowed to continue to live that way, I found myself being pulled into heathenry by Odin Himself. I did some research into heathenry and was disquieted by how well it fit what I believed (minus the reconstructionist part). In fact, I purposefully ignored heathenry for a good six months because I was so unsettled by how well everything fit. It freaked me out, but I eventually felt compelled enough to return to doing research.

Keep in mind, when I came to heathenry, I had never read the myths. I knew nothing about the Gods, yet They were appearing to me anyway. This is the largest reason that I don’t look at the lore or the historical information as the only way to approach the Gods. It is why I believe in Gods that are living, evolving beings who have Their own agendas. None of the Gods fit within the boxes people use to try to contain Them, and I am aware that the interactions I share with the Gods aren’t going to be the same type of interactions the Gods share with others. Thinking about this logically, when I interact with my friends, I behave differently depending on which friend I am hanging out with – it’s like this with the Gods, too.

The Gods didn’t come to me until after I had struggled significantly with my own spirituality, and, when They did appear to me, it was after I had stopped searching for Them. Because of this, the way I interact with Them is much different than the way others interact with Them. Some heathens seek out the Gods and are answered because those people suit those Gods. Others are found by the Gods. The former is much more common than the latter, although it still makes me uncomfortable when the Gods tell me that I’m spiritually unique and that they want me to take up the mantle of priestess-hood. I am actually working on doing that, but I can’t say I’m going about it in a traditional way. Which, in retrospect, is no real surprise, when you consider which Gods it is whose paths I follow.

A Book Project

You know how sometimes one of the gods can become “louder” than the others? Loki has been doing that with me lately, which is why I have been posting about Him more often than I have the other gods. It seems He wants me to write a book about Him, as there is very little out there specifically about Him.

So, I figured I’d talk about what I’m planning to include in the book and see if anyone has suggestions for more material. I’d also love it if other people were willing to submit their own writing about their experiences with Loki, so that the book could be more of a collective work rather than a solitary pursuit, but of course, no one is obliged to do that.

While I might do a little bit of research, the book I intend to write is one based more on personal experience rather than academic reasoning. There’s not a lot out there, academically speaking, about Loki, and I think that while academic writing has its place, what is often lacking from heathenry, in general, is the more personal touch.

What I plan to include in the book thus far is a retelling of the myths that involve Loki from a more Lokean perspective and my interpretation of the role He plays in those myths. I’d love more material here from others who may have different interpretations of His actions in those myths, if anyone is willing to provide that type of material. In the second part of the book, I plan to include my own personal experiences with Him and what it has been like to follow His path. This is another area where I would love to include material from other people as well, so that the book could be more of a collaboration. And somewhere in the book – I’m not really sure where – I plan to do an in-depth study of Loki through His name as written in the Elder Futhark.

This project is going to take a good amount of time to complete, but I would like feedback from anyone who might be interested in adding their voice to the book. I’m considering calling it, “Understanding Loki,” and I think it’s a book that is desperately needed, considering how many misconceptions and misunderstandings exist.

Hospitality: My Interpretation

Here’s my sixth essay on the Nine Noble Virtues.

Hospitality

To be hospitable is to be respectful. Hospitality is the willingness to share what we can afford to share with others. In some ways, it’s a sacrifice of the self for the good of the whole. Since Asatru puts a very high value on community, acting in a way that benefits the community is necessary.

Some people assume that hospitality refers to just their immediate in-groups, but I think hospitality refers to people in general. If I meet someone new, then I am not going to make assumptions about them, not on any front. And I’m not going to judge them based on the choices they’ve chosen to take in life. I may ask about them, in order to learn what path they have walked, and, perhaps, learn something in the process. But I do my best to stay respectful.

I think, in a lot of ways, that American society has taught us to be cruel without realizing our cruelty. I’ve heard teachers laugh at certain students when they talk about certain types of dreams, and it saddens me. Because why laugh at someone else’s dream? There is no kindness in that, and there is no respect.

Hospitality means reserving judgment. If someone tells me that their dream is to become a famous athlete, politician, writer, or anything else, why should I laugh at their dreams? At their aspirations? Even if it’s a hard truth that few people ever aspire to their dreams, why should I actively seek to disparage dreamers? The truth is, none of us know who will and won’t achieve their dreams. Some of us aren’t even sure what it is we seek in life, and we wander down many paths, just waiting for something to click.

I think that’s part of the reason I follow Odin. He is the wanderer, after all. Restless in spirit, always moving around, always learning something new – I connect with him on an incredibly deep level, and I don’t always have the words I need to say the things I mean. I sometimes read the forums on Asatru Lore, just to see what’s going on there, and I came across a post the other day about a guy asking how to spell the word “Outsider” in runes for a tattoo. He got a lot of backlash from the community. A lot of people told him that to brand himself as an outsider was to reject community, and that if they ever saw him, they would instantly avoid him.

The response I saw made me incredibly sad because no one really tried to understand where he was coming from. No one really tried to discover the story he had to tell, or uncover the reason why he felt like such an outsider he wanted to brand himself as one. They just pointed out that it isn’t very “heathen” to be an outsider, since heathens are very community focused. None of what they were saying was technically wrong, but it wasn’t a very respectful way to act. The poster even commented on how he was being disrespected (and he was), but the reply to his comment was that he couldn’t come onto an internet board and expect respect, that respect is earned.

That is, frankly speaking, bullshit. Not the part about respect being earned – it is earned. But as the old saying goes, “Give respect to get respect.” Just because the method of communication was via an internet forum, it seems people think it gives them a license to act without considering the fact the person on the other side is human.

Hospitality has to extend to all realms, whether it’s in our own homes, in our communities, or over the internet. Respect should be given to everyone until they do or say something that warrants the loss of that respect. If a person comes into my home, then I am going to offer them drink and refreshment. If someone at my school asks me for help, then I am going to try to help them, if I am able to do so. And if someone asks for advice on an internet forum, I am going to be honest but tactful about how the phrasing comes out. Because we are all human, and we all view the world in different ways. And I, personally, feel that it is vital that we respect the differences that define us. To me, that is the soul of hospitality.

Truth: My Interpretation

Here’s my third essay on the Nine Noble Virtues, this time discussing Truth.

Truth

Truth is a relative concept, especially in matters of faith. What I believe to be true, others believe to be false, and vice versa. In this regard, I believe it’s better to accept everyone’s beliefs as valid, even if I don’t agree with them. When I was in high school, I had a conversation with a friend once, and I ended up telling her that I believed every path was valid. That every path leads to the same destination, so it doesn’t matter which faith you follow – nothing can be proven true or false, so everything might as well be true.

I’ve never been able to properly explain that belief because it’s incredibly complex, despite how simple it seems. I’ve had people ask me how it’s possible for every path to be true when certain faiths teach that only one path is correct. That isn’t a question I can really answer, but I still think all faiths are viable paths through life. I think that we all choose our own paths through life, though, and I feel it’s important to respect the decisions other people make.

I recognized a long time ago that my truth is not everyone else’s truth, and I have accepted that. There are billions of people in the world, and if we all walked the same path, life would be incredibly boring. And I don’t want to live in a boring world – I think we can all agree on that.

I’ve also learned, however, that my beliefs are rather unique. I’ve yet to meet another person who sees the world the way I do, and that’s actually pretty awesome. Because that means I have met a lot of people who see the world in ways I don’t, and I love seeing how other people see the world.

I follow Asatru, but I’m not a reconstructionist. A lot of people have jumped on me for daring to claim that faith when I don’t believe in Reconstructionism, but Asatru is so much more than just rebuilding a religion to me. I could easily say Norse Paganism, but that isn’t as accurate.

The main issue with reconstruction, for me, is that history and archaeology, despite how fascinating they are, require a lot of guesswork. Educated guesswork, sure, but guesswork all the same. I would personally prefer not to base my own practices on guesswork. In a way, I guess, I let intuition guide me.

And that’s probably because I spent ten years as an eclectic pagan before I ever discovered Asatru – well, I should say before it discovered me. I met a Heathen for the first time when I was 22, and we started discussing worldviews, and after that, I started having incredibly powerful dreams. Dreams that were directly linking me to Odin and the Norse Gods. It was the first time, in my entire pagan experience, that I’d felt the call of a particular pantheon so strongly.

Still, I wasn’t about to abandon everything I’d believed for ten years and embrace a completely new faith. I did research, and I learned that most of my beliefs fit within the Asatru framework. Everything except the reconstructionist part, but I’ve never believed in reconstruction. As I said, history and archaeology is just educated guesswork, and historical accounts can’t always be trusted – my experience with the school system has taught me that.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like learning about the history – it just means I take everything with a grain of salt, and if I agree with something, I adopt it. If I don’t, I do further research into it, and if I still don’t find it relevant for me, I discard it.

In any case, I believe our truths define us. When someone asks me what I believe and are looking for a more in-depth answer, I’m always forced to tell them that it’s complicated. Because to other people, my beliefs seem to contradict themselves. I’ll try to explain, but I have yet to find a way to properly articulate this, so bear with me.

I follow the Norse pantheon, but I believe that all Gods that could exist do exist – I just don’t follow all of them. I believe that the Gods are real entities, but I also believe they are the embodiment of different concepts, and each God embodies more than one concept. For example, Odin is the embodiment of wisdom, poetry, travel, etc. Loki is the embodiment of change, of catalysts, of fire, of laughter… etc. Tyr is the embodiment of balance, harmony, honor, courage…etc. And I could go on for each of the Gods and Goddesses, but that’s the general gist of it.

Then there’s the fact that I believe in one unifying cosmic source. That the Gods and Goddesses all spring from the cosmic source and are aspects of that source, split into many pieces in order to make it easier for people to comprehend that source. That’s probably the most difficult thing to explain to people because while I’m a polytheist, I’m also a pantheist and animist. The idea that the universe is everything in one and one in everything is a pantheistic idea, and a lot of people assume that pantheism and polytheism are incompatible. For others, I’m sure that’s true. For me, it works.

And that, to me, is what truth is. Truth is relative. Everyone views the world in a different light, and we all have our own truths. My truths are not going to be the same as someone else’s truths, and I’m okay with that. Truth is not only a singular concept but also a plural one. There can be one truth, but there can also be many truths. Otherwise it wouldn’t be possible for so many different faiths proclaiming so many different truths to exist in the world. Truth is relative to who each person is individually, to the way a person is raised, and to the culture that a person belongs to. We are a complex species. So, too, are our truths.