Saturday, 23 April 2011

What am I?


Am I a Heathen?
I've been quite happily describing myself as a animistic heathen, even put that on the census,  but a few conversations on web chat boards I go on have lead me to doubt how the term applies to myself.

Heathen as a term is almost identical to that of Pagan, which came from the original Latin name for rustic or country dweller, Heathen just being the term for a similar person who lived on the heath. It was thought that people outside of the towns were the ones that hold on longest to the old religions, so it became to mean someone who didn't follow one of the Abrahamic religions but one of the many indigenous one that were traditional to them. Over the last couple of decades thought the name of Heathen has been overtaken as a general term to now mean someone who follows one of the northern religions and their gods.

Well it is the gods of the northern hemisphere that inspire me, to be more precise it's the gods of the Norse, Odin, Frigg, Tyr, Freya, Lofn and all. While I might have an interest in learning, in an educational way about other gods and religions, non calls to me in the way those do. As religions go it's a very pragmatic one and it makes sense  to my sometimes muddled brain on so many levels. I see all the gods of this religion as individuals, even as gods, they are themselves subject to fate and non are infallible or perfect but they all have valuable lessons to teach. I say Norse gods because they are names I seem to naturally use, but it these gods have slight variation in names depending on the geographical area. Odin / Woden, Frigg/Frigga/Frige etc. Some may say they are of Germanic origin or Saxon but they are the gods of Northern Europe. I always wonder if it's right to assign a country to a gods. God's don't need passports is a sentence that sticks in my mind from somewhere and it's true. Religions and gods, traveled in the hearts and minds of people to distant lands and then in turn became part of that land and it's people.

The world view and both the values and ethics of the heathen religion, though a relatively recent invention still seem to me a good starting point for anyone and helps to make one think about the choices we make. Many religions have some sort of code of conduct, it gives structure to the society of it's followers. The northern one at least makes much more sense to me than the christian ten commandments did. The Nine Noble Virtues as they are called, are all attributes that help the cohesion of a community while also giving a strength of purpose to an individual. The ten commandments always seem to be about the power of one giving orders, not about taking responsibility to both self and your community. I never understood the part of not coveting your neighbours possessions, to me there is no harm of wishing you had something, the sin or crime comes in stealing or hurting another to fulfill that wish. If wanting something, makes you work hard and make good choices, to help you to achieve what you seek by your own hand, is that not a good thing? I do struggle with these virtues, since finishing work, I hate the fact that I am more dependent than self reliant at the moment. I have always thought of myself lacking in the courage department, being more one of life's cowards, yet there are different sorts of courage, I guess we must all just learn to fine that which is true for us.

Now though some doubts have crept in. The heathen religions set great store by their community and the coming together of that community and family, to celebrate shared values and faith. Some of the chat was that if you didn't attend given the option to, then you could not really be a heathen as the community was the glue that held the faith together. I do not attend any of these gatherings, other than on line I've never met another heathen, (the few pagan's I have met have followed the Wicca faith) there are three reasons for this;

1) There are not to my knowledge any Heathen gatherings close to where I live.
2) It there were, health and practical issues would make getting there difficult
3) I would not want to go.

It is this last one that is making me doubt my calling myself a heathen. I love my family and my community but I've always been someone who is happier working in the background. I do not like crowds, events in my life have made me very wary of people in general. Yet reading the thoughts of others it would seem like being a solitary heathen is not an option. So what am I?

1 comment:

  1. Left a post here before but lost it!

    We are a lot alike in our beliefs. It's good to make a statement of belief once in a while. I find it empowering.

    As for "coveting," I do understand that one. I think this comes from the Celtic practice of "hiding your light under a bushel" or keeping your good fortune to yourself. This was done, not because they were modest, but because they didn't want to be the target of the Evil Eye. The Evil Eye is the negative energy formed by jealousy. If someone was envious, the energy created and directed could cause harm to the fortunate person. So the commandment regarding coveting was a warning to the jealous that being envious of others good fortune is a negative act (as in "sin.")

    I think when people are jealous of what other's have it is because they believe there is a limited amount of (fill in blank) in the universe. Since this is not so, the fact that Jane has a new car and you don't doesn't mean that you won't be able to buy one too, because Jane's purchase did NOT effect your odds of being able to purchase your own (obviously)

    Because my ancestors are Celtic, and because I have not always had friends who were happy for me, I totally hide my light under a bushel and intend to keep doing so, unless I happen to find a community of supportive friends. (fingers crossed!)

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