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Thread: Relationships between heathens and gods

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    Sr. Member Wednesday's Avatar
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    Relationships between heathens and gods

    ( Dez allowed me to start a new thread off of a comment she made elsewhere

    In reference to your post, I revere Norse/Germanic gods, but find that the Aesir have no interest in me, unlike my spouse. So I would likely not fit your search specifically for Asatruar and Odinists, but am interested in seeing where this goes.
    Dez, this post isn't necessarily in reply to you. I have no idea what you've experienced or contemplated so I wouldn't want to presume. But, I do often see a variant of this remark coming from people new to heathenry and the dynamic of the relationship can require some explaining.

    The relationship between god and man tends to be a lot different than people are used to, especially if they're coming from a Christian or Christian influenced background. With God we expect to have a personal relationship--the faith is pretty much founded on the need of a personal salvation. God is said to be aware of every individual soul and concerned with every individual soul.

    Personal salvation is a foreign concept in heathenry. According to Rudolf Simek in the DoNM, heathen salvation amounts to good harvest, plenty of fish and peace. Heathens aren't very concerned with enlightenment, or transcendence, or personal spiritual lessons. Those things tend to be world-rejecting rather than world-embracing. Gods in heathenry are appealed to to achieve the heathen idea of salvation (or the three "f"s), but not so much for personal matters.

    An egg might be a good analogy. Imagine you are the chick, and within your shell you hear bugs scraping on the outside of the shell and rocks knocking and other external noises. To someone else, those external noises are the gods and out there is "heaven". The shell is what you have to break out of and it inhibits you. To a heathen, the shell is the gods. They are the order of nature and what keeps the yolk and embryo sheltered and organized. They are the center of your inneryard. The outside noises are the dead( like the mother hen resting on the nest) in the afterlife, or the Other in the outeryard trying to influence you/meddle with midgard, etc.

    Gods in heathenry worry about the world and the community. They worry about the bigger picture. Your ancestors and your dead? They worry about your personal life, your growth or your home specifically. Because they have a vested interest in you, and also because they aren't busy maintaining the world and community.

    That's not to say that one cant have a relationship with the gods. But its one you build. They have to get to know you as much as you need tto learn of them. And this is done through the gifting process. You gift them and in turn they'll gift you back. It becomes a reciprocal relationship and the concept is actually quite beautiful. Another example of this is in sacred land. A space wasn't automatically sacred; for whatever a reason a grove (for example) was chosen and then through a history of worship and honor the sacredness soaked into the soil. This is why the very earth was gathered and taken along when a people migrated. Otherwise, they'd have to start over.

    Back to the shell: the gods surround us constantly. The sun beating on you is Sunna. The clouds moving across the sky is Frigga. Freyr is in what sprouts beneath your feet. They are the shell, and because they've always been with us we don't notice them. We've forgotten about our here in the quest for there. It's not that they aren't interested, or don't speak, they are the world around you and they'll notice you as you begin to build them into your life through honoring and gifting. You'll notice that the world improves a bit more, bringing you more "fish", "harvest", and peace.

    One has to remember that gods aren't a superior species or being. "God" is only a title of position, like President or Mayor. Gods are wights, the land wights are wights, man is a wight. The gods are just wights with a bigger role of responsibility. Its the same as you and Obama. You're both human but you run your home and he runs the country. That, again, is why we have ancestors and wights to turn to.

    Anyway...its hard to get all the complexities into one post. I hope that made some sense.
    Last edited by Wednesday; 20 Feb 2012 at 16:45.

  2. #2
    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    I am very glad to see this information,as my personal understanding about heathenry is a bit lacking. I do try to at least have a basic understanding of other paths.

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    Sr. Member Wednesday's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Thanks, Anunitu. The only problem with the egg analogy is that it gives off the impression that the chick hasn't grown or emerged into a more developed being. I couldn't think of anything else really, other than the world being our shell and the afterlife the "out there". Maybe someone has a better example?

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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Quote Originally Posted by Wednesday View Post
    Back to the shell: the gods surround us constantly. The sun beating on you is Sunna. The clouds moving across the sky is Frigga. Freyr is in what sprouts beneath your feet. They are the shell, and because they've always been with us we don't notice them. We've forgotten about our here in the quest for there. It's not that they aren't interested, or don't speak, they are the world around you and they'll notice you as you begin to build them into your life through honoring and gifting. You'll notice that the world improves a bit more, bringing you more "fish", "harvest", and peace.

    One has to remember that gods aren't a superior species or being. "God" is only a title of position, like President or Mayor. Gods are wights, the land wights are wights, man is a wight. The gods are just wights with a bigger role of responsibility. Its the same as you and Obama. You're both human but you run your home and he runs the country. That, again, is why we have ancestors and wights to turn to.
    I am absolutely and utterly not Heathen...but this pretty damn close to what I believe.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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    Honorary Supporter Dez's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    That was an amazing post, Wednesday, and I'm very glad you went ahead and started a new thread instead of letting it get buried in the middle of a thread somewhere.

    For me, personally, there are some key differences, at least at this point in my path...who's to say what will happen in the future?

    For the moment, I'm going to skip the whole personal salvation thing, as I agree, it can be hard to get out of that mindset.

    From my perspective, there is a distinct impression of peeling back layers of civilization. The Aesir have a great deal to do with non-tangibles: concepts like honor, valor, strategy, wisdom, and hospitality. These are all values, ideals. Indeed, if one is less literally minded, a god like Tyr can be valued and understood almost entirely on the basis of being a persinificatn of a fairly specific set of moral guidelines. Saying that they have no interest in me doesn't mean I don't know that they're there...or that they couldn't, say, ask me for something someday, which has happened before. As is, I pay them my respects as I feel is needed, participate if my spouse does something for them, and go about my business. I don't feel as though that is a failing in any way...but an issue of temperament and needs. Mostly, I've started to explain it here and there on the board because I'm reaching a point where it can be a source of confusion. For me, though, it's not different from having a Kemetic say that they "hear" Sekhmet but not Bast.

    The Vanir, on the other hand. Were adopted into the Aesir pantheon. Frey, Freya, Njord/Nerthus...fertility and fecundity in the land and sea. I feel them in the way you describe, particularly Frey and his giantess bride, Gerd. I think there is also some gray area...for example, speaking of Thor as the bringer of thunder and summer rains with his wheat-golden wife Sif is much more nature oriented then his tales as a personification of strength and valor. The archeological evidence that leads to suggestions that the vannic cults were a sepperate religious group, brought into the mythos and explained by the stories about war with the Vanir makes a lot of sense to me.

    As for the Jotun...I personally see them as more ancient, primal entities, not too dissimilar to the Greek Titans. I know that is not for everyone, and can be a source of a great deal of contention. However, some of the most powerful religious experiences I have ever had have been due to being open-minded about this--a concept I found dubious at best at first glance. I think that the stance of treating them as one-dimensional enemies is short-sighted, especially given the very complex relationship the more traditional deities have with them in the myths we have. As a group, they help as often as hinder, and are the source of a plethora of intermarriages: Frey and Gerda, Scadi and Njord, Thor's mother, etc, etc, etc...

    I hope that explains where I'm coming from on this a little bit better...the reason why I say that the Aesir don't speak to me, is because ...they don't. Whether in some mystical sense of having a personal relationship (which does not need to be fuled by a concept of salvation, etc), feelings of understanding and empathy causing one to favor a particular deity, symbolism that makes that deity a source of personal meaning and dreams, etc.

    I realize that at this point, I'm probably sounding more then a little defensive, and if that's the case, I'm sorry. This is the first time after many years of pain, 2-3 of peeling away old beliefs, and another 1 1/2 of intense study and change that I have said anything this strongly worded about just what I, personally, believe. No generalities...hopefully little softening to make it more palatable to those who might potentially disagree. Because of that, I feel nude, and hope the intentions of my post outweigh my writing failings.

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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Quote Originally Posted by Wednesday View Post
    One has to remember that gods aren't a superior species or being. "God" is only a title of position, like President or Mayor. Gods are wights, the land wights are wights, man is a wight. The gods are just wights with a bigger role of responsibility. Its the same as you and Obama. You're both human but you run your home and he runs the country. That, again, is why we have ancestors and wights to turn to.
    In practice (don't ask about theory), I have a tendency to treat divinities this way. If I'm making requests on behalf of others, I tend to take the request to that individual's gods instead of working through my personal framework. Since this generally means contacting entities that I have only limited ties to at most, I end up treating divinities as something akin to foreign royalty. They have a significant degree of power and responsibility but once business is concluded, I'm going one way and they're going another.
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    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    yeah my god told me it's just hard for him to get attached to humans at all anymore, because our lives are like little gnat-lives to him. go by so quickly.
    "The Bird of Hermes is my name, eating my wings to make me tame."
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    Sr. Member Wednesday's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    I didn't find your post very defensive, Dez, and if it was I think you have good reason to feel that way. There's a lot of tension in the heathen/pagan community concerning some of the topics here that are often the subject of many heated debate. (I know, I've been in a few myself.)


    Quote Originally Posted by Dez View Post
    From my perspective, there is a distinct impression of peeling back layers of civilization. The Aesir have a great deal to do with non-tangibles: concepts like honor, valor, strategy, wisdom, and hospitality. These are all values, ideals. Indeed, if one is less literally minded, a god like Tyr can be valued and understood almost entirely on the basis of being a persinificatn of a fairly specific set of moral guidelines. Saying that they have no interest in me doesn't mean I don't know that they're there...or that they couldn't, say, ask me for something someday, which has happened before. As is, I pay them my respects as I feel is needed, participate if my spouse does something for them, and go about my business. I don't feel as though that is a failing in any way...but an issue of temperament and needs. Mostly, I've started to explain it here and there on the board because I'm reaching a point where it can be a source of confusion. For me, though, it's not different from having a Kemetic say that they "hear" Sekhmet but not Bast.

    The Vanir, on the other hand. Were adopted into the Aesir pantheon. Frey, Freya, Njord/Nerthus...fertility and fecundity in the land and sea. I feel them in the way you describe, particularly Frey and his giantess bride, Gerd. I think there is also some gray area...for example, speaking of Thor as the bringer of thunder and summer rains with his wheat-golden wife Sif is much more nature oriented then his tales as a personification of strength and valor. The archeological evidence that leads to suggestions that the vannic cults were a sepperate religious group, brought into the mythos and explained by the stories about war with the Vanir makes a lot of sense to me.
    Have you read Simek's "The Vanir: An Obituary"? (It can be read here) He makes a good case for "Vanir" being an invention of Snorri's, especially considering how concerned the poet was with euhemerizing the deities; Vanir came from Vana-heimer in much the same way that the Aesir came from Asia-gard. The first war that he 'records' is most likely the war between the Franks and the Alans.

    Another interesting criticism of Snorri's invention of the Aesir, in Simek's article, is this idea that the Vanir were fertility/earth gods. As the Lotte Mots points out, Odin can be connected with sexual fertility and agricultural moreso than Freyr. And Freyr also functions in the governmental sector, ruling over royalty, sacral kingship, right laws, etc. He's as conceptual as the Aesir, as well as having a hand in fertility.

    One final possibility on this is the matter of the differences in how the gods were worshipped. Wane (cart) was a method of transport for the idols of Freyr, and we see this also with Nerthus who may have become Njord for the Swedish. Wane and Vanir have some etymological connections. As does As (ans) with 'pole', which was another form of idol seen in the Irminsul. There's a strong possibility that this is the difference understood between the Vanir and the As and not different tribes or races as Snorri tries to assert.

    In the long run, what it really looks like is an attempt by Snorri to create a unified, pan-germanic mythology out of all the folklore he had heard. Modern scholars probably know more about Germanic heathenry than he did, and what they recognize is varied local deities and customs. That Freyr was in Sweden and the chief god there doesn't make him a god from another race, it makes him a localized deity. Vanir is really no different than the term reginn, or god, or As.

    As for the Jotun...I personally see them as more ancient, primal entities, not too dissimilar to the Greek Titans. I know that is not for everyone, and can be a source of a great deal of contention. However, some of the most powerful religious experiences I have ever had have been due to being open-minded about this--a concept I found dubious at best at first glance. I think that the stance of treating them as one-dimensional enemies is short-sighted, especially given the very complex relationship the more traditional deities have with them in the myths we have. As a group, they help as often as hinder, and are the source of a plethora of intermarriages: Frey and Gerda, Scadi and Njord, Thor's mother, etc, etc, etc...
    Well, as you mention, not all Jotun are bad. In Lokasenna the gods are in the hall of a giant that they are friendly with before Loki comes in. I wrote what I did about the Vanir above, not to discourage anyone, but to get to this point here: I don't see any indication that there was an opposing race of giant deities in anything other than Snorri's writings. Again, we go back to the localized deities of the people-- goddesses, like the matronae, that we're of a particular landmark like a river or a grove. Or Freyr, who was cultural property of the Swedes, and even how Odin was not the chief god of Scandinavia, despite all that Snorri writes.

    I just don't see there being an opposing tribe of giants in competition with the Aesir, much the same way as I don't see there being a separate tribe of Vanir. If we look at Grendel in Beowulf, we see a monstrous being of the land-- much like the deities-- only in this instance she isn't beneficial and becomes other. This, I think, is much closer to the conception of 'evil' in heathenry than the idea of deified giants. When we see malevolent forces mentioned, it's in the form of elf-shot or trolls in the woods. Unnamed, local beings of nature that aren't in a positive relationship with civilization. It isn't Jotun-shot or Angroboda-shot, you know?

    So that's how I perceive things in my life: I don't worry about Jotuns, or attribute bad luck to the giants. Around my home, spiritual bad luck or whatever is the influence of mischeivious wights that are local. The only "jotun" type beings are the localized monsters of Native American folklore: The Arizona Sasquatch, or Banshee-type hags. Does that make sense? I do think that this is how my ancestors would have seen in if they had explored here and heard the native ghost stories. They participated with their environment and cultural gods that were real to them.


    Now, one last thing that does match up with Snorri's version of things; there's a new book out, "Iron Age Myth and Materiality: An Archaeology of Scandinavia AD 400-1000" by Lotte Hedeager in which she theorizes that the mythology of the Norse is actually from the Huns. The idea is that they invaded, conquered and as the ruling elite introduced a new social and cultural order to the Germanic peoples. Or: Thor's warrior function is to protect society, not indicidual people, and what threatens society more than invading tribes? Would the gods of those idols in invading tribes be the jotuns to the east that he's always off slaying? The thing about the Other concept in heathenry is that the Other isn't other to themselves. The jotuns wouldn't view themselves as outlaws or Other. It's very possible that if there are beneficial Jotun's, that they could be the deities of the Huns or the Sammi or other invading tribes.


    I hope that explains where I'm coming from on this a little bit better...the reason why I say that the Aesir don't speak to me, is because ...they don't. Whether in some mystical sense of having a personal relationship (which does not need to be fuled by a concept of salvation, etc), feelings of understanding and empathy causing one to favor a particular deity, symbolism that makes that deity a source of personal meaning and dreams, etc.

    I realize that at this point, I'm probably sounding more then a little defensive, and if that's the case, I'm sorry. This is the first time after many years of pain, 2-3 of peeling away old beliefs, and another 1 1/2 of intense study and change that I have said anything this strongly worded about just what I, personally, believe. No generalities...hopefully little softening to make it more palatable to those who might potentially disagree. Because of that, I feel nude, and hope the intentions of my post outweigh my writing failings.
    I know I just rambled a ton. To cap it all off into something that makes a little bit of sense, I don't think that there's anything wrong with a personal and homegrown understanding of heathenry rather than a full acceptance of this organized pantheon and mythology of Asatru. Asatru works, but it's very Icelandic, and just sticking to the Eddas and Snorri doesn't really seem to reflect the more regional and land specific culture of the rest of Northern Europe. As someone interested in mainland heathenry, I don't even know if I worship Freyja! But I just try to build something that makes sense to me and that seem realistic of the original intent of Germanic worship.

  9. #9
    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    As my personal path tends to be very eclectic,taking a little from here,a little from there,I find if it works for me,then it seems to all fit together at least in my personal world view.

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    Honorary Supporter Dez's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Oh, wow...so much to say...I'm supposed to be contacting a realtor, though, instead of reading PF right now >.<

    Will be back tonight, homework in tow

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