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Thread: Relationships between heathens and gods

  1. #11
    Sr. Member Wednesday's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    I hope you don't think I was making it *that* kind of conversation, where you have to "prove" why you feel the way you do. I just geek-out over theories, sometimes. Even if I weren't heathen, studying that era would be a passion of mine.

    My main point was that I think it makes more sense to do it your way than force a unified pantheon on yourself.

  2. #12
    Honorary Supporter Dez's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Hah....no, no...I was being tongue-in-cheek, I promise!

    I've been really enjoying this conversation, and it's been most enlightening, especially what you said about the issues with Snorri. I'm going to need to read up about that before I can comment intelligently at all. Lots of exciting stuff in there, and I thank you for it...my joke about homework was because I'd planned on reading more of it before bed tonight, but am burnt out at the moment.

    Viking and Germanic deities being influenced by the steppes in a new one for me. It would explain why so much is often shared with Slavic deities, but not with cultures like the Sammi. More reading...this is why so many heathens end up with an entire library, isn't it?

    Your comment about Native American beings also got me thinking. I wonder whether part of what makes this difficult sometimes, especially for Americans, is that disconnect with the land. So much about ancient religions was centered around the by specific local areas...we are completely orphaned from that today. It makes concepts that unify and smooth out the rough edges much more appealing, and also makes Ideas like Disr, land wights, etc, etc, much more distant and alien.


    I agree, though, very much that it's important to try to understand what evidence there is for the way different gods might have ebbed and flowed, adjusted roles as time went on...even if it raises more questions then provides answers about *what* exactly gods are. It's never, ever, clean cut.

    And rats...I was thinking of a whole other tangent, and lost it. It's definitely getting late for me.

    One thing that I struggle with, as sort of a side note on the more general concept of the way heathens interact with their gods, is how often I seem to run into very male-centric attitudes. There seem to be a lot of men on this path who never really feel a need for the goddesses...what is your take on that? It seems like so little in terms of actual information was kept about them, that they often seem rather one-dimensional compared to the male deities.

    Also, you have mentioned several times now Njord and Nerthus starting out as the same being. Can you point me towards a reference for that? I was under the impression that Nerthus was an earth goddess(and am familiar with the quote about her veiled statue, etc) while Njord dealt with the wealth of the ocean. I'd be very interested in your reasoning on that.

  3. #13
    Sr. Member Wednesday's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Quote Originally Posted by Dez View Post
    Your comment about Native American beings also got me thinking. I wonder whether part of what makes this difficult sometimes, especially for Americans, is that disconnect with the land. So much about ancient religions was centered around the by specific local areas...we are completely orphaned from that today. It makes concepts that unify and smooth out the rough edges much more appealing, and also makes Ideas like Disr, land wights, etc, etc, much more distant and alien.
    I agree. And the idea of incorporating local folklore can make some hesitant because they want to respect the local native spirituality, so maybe they don't develop any personal attachments to the land in that way. But, to use Christianity as an example, they would probably come to a new area and tell the locals that their ghosts and ghouls of nature were false and/or demons. The natives would then be encouraged to reject that spiritual landscape. Heathens and most other native religions don't reject it in the same way, but view it from their own worldview. So they would hear tales of the Canadian sasquatch and they would believe it existed, and it would also become part of their natural, spiritual landscape. I'm not saying they would adopt the same gods, or that they should, but that landwights and wild inhabitants of nature transcend religion.

    One thing that I struggle with, as sort of a side note on the more general concept of the way heathens interact with their gods, is how often I seem to run into very male-centric attitudes. There seem to be a lot of men on this path who never really feel a need for the goddesses...what is your take on that? It seems like so little in terms of actual information was kept about them, that they often seem rather one-dimensional compared to the male deities.
    Yeah...I went through, like, every other religion for years before settling on heathenry because I did have this image of "Rawr! Odin and Thor! Men!" about it, and I did find the gods intimidating and distant, and had the whole prison Asatru stereotype in my head. It goes without saying that the nazi philosophy isn't true to heathenry-- it's like the 2012'ers giving a bad name to those who are truly interested in reconstructing Mayan religions. I would say that there are a lot more men in heathenry than one sees in Wicca, and I'm sure there's a hundred and one sociological reasons for that. But there are women, too.

    As for the information we have on them, I think because Snorri was christian and because of the time that it was, that female deities weren't featured as much as they could have been in the lore. But then again, in that era men ruled the public sector and women worked in the private sector. The male deities would be showcased a bit more in that sense as they exemplified social mores and proper public behaviors, while women and their goddesses would probably be a more quiet and personal relationship inside the homestead. That's just how the times were. And I think a lot of the men, especially the recons, do worship the goddesses, but in the home and not so much in the public ritual where the tripartite is traditionally Odin, Thor and Freyr.

    If you take a careful look at the literature, though, you see this huge impact that the feminine had on heathenry. Let's start with Voluspa: Odin had to wake a dead woman to give him knowledge. Then we have the Norns, that both god and men are beholden to. They were given gifts at birth, men cursed them for their fate. There are the Valkyries; objects of men's affections, characters in their dreams, angels in their deaths, swans in their omens. The dsir, familial guardians in men's dreams, messengers, either sexual or matronly. Or female landwights enlisting help from a homesteader. There are women in heroic sagas who play just as much a part in shaping history as the men. There are the volvas who were honored in townships. Snorri says the Freyja was the most loved of the Aesir and that it took longest to root out her worship among the people. We have the matron stones, hundreds and hundreds of monuments erected by warrriors and militia as they moved across Southern Germany and Rome, honoring and thanking their "mothers". Tacitus said the the Germans recognized a divinity in their women, women went to the bttlefield to inspire their men because the men would see all that they would lose if bestd (women), and then there were the women worshipped as deities like Veleda the seeress. And so on....

    If we look closely at the myth and between the lines, you do see the personalities of the goddesses begin to take shape. What was the deal with Sif? She panics in Lokasenna, tries to kiss Loki's ass so he won't call her out, and then it comes out that she had an affair with him?! What's the story there! Or Skadi, who tried to take on the whole of the Aesir by herself after her father's death. She determinedly suited up, trekked over there, and was going to kick some major ass. Then she marries Njord but hates the relationship and they break up and she goes off the be independent and strong and ruler of her domain. And so on...


    Also, you have mentioned several times now Njord and Nerthus starting out as the same being. Can you point me towards a reference for that? I was under the impression that Nerthus was an earth goddess(and am familiar with the quote about her veiled statue, etc) while Njord dealt with the wealth of the ocean. I'd be very interested in your reasoning on that.
    There's quite a bit of discussion about this but I'll quote John Lindow from his Norse Mythology:

    "The name 'Njord' can be derived etymologically from that of Nerthus...(snip)...The etymological equivalence can suggest either that some time during the first millennium teh sex of the deity changed, that the deity was hermaphroditic, or, perhaps most likely, that there was once a male-femalepair, like Frey and Freyja, with identical or near identical names. (snip) However, place-names indicate worship of Njord (Nerthus?) in many parts of Scandinavia..."

    Njord and Nerthus are both connected to water and land. Nerthus going on her procession and then back to her sacred island, washed, her slaves sacrificed in the lake as well as maybe the idol itself. (Ward also mentions the similarities in drowned offerings to Njord and Nerthus). Njord, like Nerthus, also was said to bring riches to the land/fertility and also lived by the seaside (her lakeside).

    Edit: Just wanted to add that I know of a few kindreds that are reconstructing the procession of Nerthus, carving out her idol, taking her several miles across her communities so that other heathens can leave gifts and prayer. I shouldn't really say women deities aren't worshipped in public, that's the wrong impression, just that the tripartite is more traditionally known.
    Last edited by Wednesday; 22 Feb 2012 at 07:59.

  4. #14
    Sr. Member Gunnarr's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Wednesday,

    I agree with the aspect of heathenry you state but it is not complete or is very narrow in some aspects of their worldview through this thread and your explaination of innangard and utgard does not go far enough.

    In my opinion our world is comprised of places with a natural order of things, these are from the individual through to community. The boundaries of these places are set by the concept of innangard and utgard.

    A simplistic way of looking at this concept is along the lines of inside/outside community, but that does not do it justice, we should be trying to understand the worldview our ancestors used, not a translation of a word as if its a complete understanding. Their innangard did not just mean being safe and secure among one’s own folk, it was a acceptance of a hard and often unpredictable changing life. They also understood that other people and communities had their own Innangards, though their ways and traditions appeared different, it did not mean they were wrong. This robust nature and tough unpredictable life was common in Scandinavian society, a society that was localized and dependent on folk forfilling their role, their forfilling of this role was their worth to their community. Worth was important to each family in the community, your worth is how you were measured by your community, and contributed to your reputation.

    I think of small pool of water, if you throw a pebble in the water it ripples out these circles for represent innangard the first circle is self as in self worth, then the family, then community and then community that are near to you and so on. In a small pond the circles come back at you this is the outside worlds impact upon your recognized Innangard. These ripples are utgard there impacts can be any event outside the control of your various levels of innangard.

    When a heathen thinks of self it is as part of their family unit, quite correctly, I believe that the individuals worth is important to your feeling of self worth, this is the part I would like to explore. Self worth within innangard is kind of difficult to see at first. I will use an analogy of a modern Childs life, born into family unit, you grow and are guided daily in all manner of things, then comes first day at school. School is part of your community but you will be going there as an individual, a new community your being thrown in the deep end, you are expected to not let down your family, for the first time you are expected to make decisions for yourself, a bad one can affect your self worth affecting your innangard, a good one can enhance it. After a while you settle down your now an integral part of your school community. Time to change school into the big school you go from the oldest to the youngest from your previous safe and secure innangard to another community.

    If you apply this thinking to our ancestors they traveled far and wide, for fame, fortune and more often than not necessity, this was often as an individual or with another member of your family accepted innangard, but there innangard changed they were out on their own in the world where your reputation had to be earn't and your innangard effectively was mobile. Think to yourselves moving home, then apply that thought again to moving home to a different country, expand that thought again to moving to another country but no home. To me this is mind blowing, we view are ancestors often simplistically but that is not in my opinion the real truth.

    ---------- Post added at 08:38 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:27 PM ----------

    Also heres the link to the 2nd newsletter from the RMN. There are responses to Simek's Vanir obituary within the newsletter:

    http://www.helsinki.fi/folkloristiik...2_May_2011.pdf

    And heres there third,

    http://www.helsinki.fi/folkloristiik...3_Dec_2011.pdf
    Gunnarr Sandisson
    "A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be." Albert Einstein
    Five Boroughs Hearth

  5. #15
    Honorary Supporter Dez's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Gunnar, give what you've said about your Kinship, I can understand why you say what you do.

    That doesn't work for everyone, though, as a staple of their Heathen path. As you and I have discussed before, my spouse has very dramatically different views then I do. I also have no group to create that sort of unit with at this time...and my immediate blood kin have disowned me.

    It's very difficult to use such a concept as a religious cornerstone if you don't have it.

  6. #16
    Sr. Member Gunnarr's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    I understand that, I can also understand your isolation, it will not always be so Dez, and then maybe you will re-read my posts and find the same comraderie as I found.
    Gunnarr Sandisson
    "A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be." Albert Einstein
    Five Boroughs Hearth

  7. #17
    Honorary Supporter Dez's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    I do hope so, too...

  8. #18
    Sr. Member Wednesday's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnarr View Post
    Wednesday,

    I agree with the aspect of heathenry you state but it is not complete or is very narrow in some aspects of their worldview through this thread and your explaination of innangard and utgard does not go far enough.
    I know... There are so many intricate concepts that intertwine to creat a complex worldview that it's hard to know when to edit myself in discussing specific concepts and when to write a novella.

    That said, I'm really confused by your concepts of inneryard. I do agree that worth is a component, but it seems like you're blurring the lines between social status and utgard and what inneryard is.

    As I've always heard it explained, your inneryard is the group of people you have the closest bonds to and implicit trust in. Why this would change because you move to Australia is beyond me, other than the fact that you won't be a member (yet) of anyone else's inneryard there and that no one there will as yet be in yours. Inneryard includes the people you would leave the keys of your house to in absolute trust. Those outside of your inneryard are the people you may invite to dinner but that you don't trust to just have open access to your house. Kitj and kin are in your inneryard, the community is without and your enemies even further in Utgard.

    Why Dez would think that she can't have an inneryard at this time blows my mind. Unless she truly has no family or close friends???

    Worth was important to each family in the community, your worth is how you were measured by your community, and contributed to your reputation.
    You enter someone's inneryard by proving your worth, sure, but what you're describing is social standing/status and not inneryard.

    I think of small pool of water, if you throw a pebble in the water it ripples out these circles for represent innangard the first circle is self as in self worth, then the family, then community and then community that are near to you and so on. In a small pond the circles come back at you this is the outside worlds impact upon your recognized Innangard. These ripples are utgard there impacts can be any event outside the control of your various levels of innangard.

    When a heathen thinks of self it is as part of their family unit, quite correctly, I believe that the individuals worth is important to your feeling of self worth, this is the part I would like to explore. Self worth within innangard is kind of difficult to see at first. I will use an analogy of a modern Childs life, born into family unit, you grow and are guided daily in all manner of things, then comes first day at school. School is part of your community but you will be going there as an individual, a new community your being thrown in the deep end, you are expected to not let down your family, for the first time you are expected to make decisions for yourself, a bad one can affect your self worth affecting your innangard, a good one can enhance it. After a while you settle down your now an integral part of your school community. Time to change school into the big school you go from the oldest to the youngest from your previous safe and secure innangard to another community.

    If you apply this thinking to our ancestors they traveled far and wide, for fame, fortune and more often than not necessity, this was often as an individual or with another member of your family accepted innangard, but there innangard changed they were out on their own in the world where your reputation had to be earn't and your innangard effectively was mobile. Think to yourselves moving home, then apply that thought again to moving home to a different country, expand that thought again to moving to another country but no home. To me this is mind blowing, we view are ancestors often simplistically but that is not in my opinion the real truth.[COLOR="Silver"]
    What you're describing here sounds like the conceptions of Known World and Other. Midgard and Asgard are fixed places, Utgard (the land of the enemy) encircles this (Jormungand) on all sides and has no fixed postion. The best description I have ever heard is that the known world ends at the horizon, but take five steps forward and the boundaries of the Other world move five steps back. Because you have established familiarity, categorization and definition of what was previously unseen. This also occurs in trolls, who cease being trolls when they become known and are then named, individual beings. This is what I see you describing as your concept of inneryard and shifting perspectives, but I have to argue that you've added separate concepts.

    As to how relationships with the gods and inneryard connect: the gods are the center of the inneryard-- we trust them to have an influence on our lives and our loved ones. We give them the keys to the house, so to speak. But we are NOT in the gods inneryard. They do not, will not, give us the keys to Asgard.

    Do you feel I've msunderstood you or the information I've collected?

    Thank you for the links below.

  9. #19
    Sr. Member Gunnarr's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    I would like to understand your POV more, but to do that i need to understand your source related to the subject.

    What I do not understand is your wording to start with Inneryard and outeryard, where do you get this terminology as it is different, i prefer Innangard and Utgard as the etymology is more connected to our ancestors and the prefix of the words shows a simplistic meaning of inside/outside.

    John Lindow in 'Handbook of Norse Mythology' covers the aspect of Utgard and explains it as outer enclosure, 'Loki as Utgarda Loki' is a liminal figure as in outside of community, although to some he is still accepted.

    Innangard being, as Kirsten Hastrup explains in 'A Place Apart' as those which have a social impact on an individual and on which that individual has an impact on. Close knit community/family/ those who are tied to the same plot.

    This is opposite to your more exclusive Innangard, understanding that Innangard is a personal thing, so your measure is not wrong but in my opinion different to mine, our ancestors world and worldview.

    Behaviour within your community as I put it your "worth", this worth is your usefulness and your contribution, it is a contributing factor to the Innangards luck and strength, from this evolved the concept of thew.

    Looking forward to your response and sources.
    Gunnarr Sandisson
    "A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be." Albert Einstein
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  10. #20
    Honorary Supporter Dez's Avatar
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    Re: Relationships between heathens and gods

    Quote Originally Posted by Wednesday View Post
    Why Dez would think that she can't have an inneryard at this time blows my mind. Unless she truly has no family or close friends???

    Gunnarr and I have sort of gone around and around on this one before...partially due to me working to understand his stance.

    It's not that I don't want one, nor is it that I can see why it's important. It's that in the past couple of years I have walked away from a belief system with a strong sense of "insiders" vs. "outsiders". That choice has left me, even to my most intimate family members, as an outsider now. Other then my spouse and children, and long-distance friends I have made elsewhere, like this forum, I am literally starting from scratch. My entire network of real-life social interactions was based around my being a faithful member of said religion, and now that I'm not, it's gone.

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