Post Heathenry and the Children of Yggdrasil

I regularly meet and interact with more and more folks who worship the Gods of Yggdrasil and yet don’t feel comfortable in Heathenry.  There are a lot of reasons; the rampant bigotry (and denial of the same), the mockery of spiritual experiences, the attempts to enforce ancient morality on us (if I had a dollar for every person who threatened to throw me in the bog for being “ergi” I could get at least a couple of coffees, and that’s saying something with today’s prices.  I’m especially amused given my relationship with swamps)*  You have to face the fact that Heathen culture is quite hostile to a lot of folks who would otherwise want to join in.*  There simply need to be spaces and discussions for those who don’t fit.

A problem that I and others have run into is that it’s hard to set a space for these discussions without people coming in, expecting Heathenry to be the default, and whatever they conceive as being the Proper Pan-Germanic Pre-Christian Arch-Heathen Mindset (TM) at the moment being the only acceptable discourse.  I’ve worked to make a couple of spaces free of that, and working on this and having discussions with other folks in similar boats has helped to jell some thoughts.

(Vanic boar in trans pride colors, created by Xander Folmer of Hugin’s Heathen Hof)

A couple of years ago I thought of the term “Children of Yggdrasil” to describe those of us who honor the Powers of Yggdrasil (basically any of the beings associated with the mythologies the Tree is in; Aesir, Vanir, Jotnar, Alfar, Dveger, Disir, Whathaveyou) who don’t fit into the Heathen mold.  Again, there are quite a few of us.  However, it’s a clunky term and I haven’t found anything else complimentary to fill the spot (though I’m sure there’ll be folks with plenty of unfriendly labels for us).

There are other subgroups.  Northern Tradition Paganism was a reaction to Asatru/Heathenry, and for a while it seemed like a good one, but now its founders are as tight with the actual Nazis and fascists as a lot of the old guard Heathens are, so if you’re a member of a minority population it might be wise to steer clear.  Norse Wicca is great if you like Norse Gods and Wicca; I appreciate both but the combination doesn’t work so well for me as a spiritual path though it may well be for many others.  You can just be an eclectic polytheist or Pagan who loves these Gods.

We do need to craft alternatives though, that much is clear.  If those of us who don’t fit or aren’t safe in Heathenry don’t create spaces, traditions, or identities then we will forever be outside of their hall and have none of our own.  Remember, we don’t need to be in their hall to work with the Gods or wights.  I honestly don’t think they care so much what we call ourselves.

So this is one set of cohesive traits that I’ve put together.  They describe my thoughts and what what I’ve fostered in my spaces.  I invite you to use them and the accompanying terminology if you want.  Alternately, I invite you to take what I’ve written and expand, change, or make something radically different from it.  I definitely encourage you to come up with something on your own.  This isn’t an end to this conversation, it’s a start, but it’s a conversation that needs to be had for growth to occur, and one I will return to semi-regularly in my writings.

I am a Child of Yggdrasil.  Or at least, that’s what I’m calling myself at the moment.  To me, what that means is:

  • I honor or work with beings who are Powers of Yggdrasil, which includes Aesir, Vanir, Jotnar, Alfar, Dveger, and the many wights of the Nine Worlds and the tree.
  • I do not place the lore above lived experience of the Powers.  I see our Gods and spirits as living, vital beings capable of evolution and change, and acknowledge that the relationships that they seek with humanity now may not always be reflective of their historic relationships.
  • I try to center the voices of the outsiders in the communities I manage as well in my investigation of lore, those who because of their ancestry, history, identity, or experiences fall outside of mainstream Heathenry and mainstream society.
  • I welcome those who come in good faith and will try to provide access to knowledge and education on subjects related to the Powers of Yggdrasil when possible.
  • I encourage interaction with spiritual experiences and encourage innovation and experimentation in spiritual practice within culturally appropriate bounds.
  • I take a firm stance against racism, transphobia, homophobia, Anti-Semitism, ableism, and all forms of bigotry; those who hold those views are not welcome in my religious spaces.  I stand with those who have been victimized and abused and seek to keep my communities free from predators.

So yeah, I don’t have the Nine Noble Virtues in there, I didn’t quote Havamal, and it’s not based on archaeological record.  That’s okay, I don’t live in the Iron Age, and I’m not Heathen.  Heathenry is a hostile climate for many and I’m dubious about that ever changing; it’s good to create new spaces and models within which to grow new structures. If Heathenry becomes more accepting of the marginalized and the mystic then we won’t have lost anything from doing so, and if it doesn’t then we will have done the work already.

Are you also post-Heathen?  What does that look like for you?  What’s important to you?  What virtues or values do you have?  What do you want your communities to look like?  What would you like shared spiritual practice to be like?  Who are your Gods?  Share and talk about it, and don’t let them shame you.  If they’ve already told you that you’re not good enough, not authentic enough, not white/European enough, not straight enough, not cis enough, not able enough, not well-read enough, not manly enough… you get the picture.  If they’ve already said that then you have nothing left to lose by having these conversations, and what you may gain is positive community with others who feel the same.  I know that I have.

There are fires lit in Utgard where you will be welcome, and if you’re hard pressed to find one, light one and others will come.

 

 

*As a note, I’m aware that many of the named problems with Heathenry are very specific to the Heathens in the US.  I’m aware that many of the communities abroad are very progressive in regards to both minority folks and spiritual exploration.  Sadly that’s extremely rare in the US.

8 Comments

  1. This is a major bone of contention in the Kindred currently. There seems to be a very rigid idea of what it means to be heathen. For example, the dragons I work with are not welcome. I can’t even mention them in company. And “the voices” of the gods are not considered a thing. So, If I were to mention I was having a conversation with Freya the other day about childhood trauma and learning self-love, crickets and eye rolls. I’ve got 25 years of paganism under my belt. If the Kindred fails, I’m totally creating my own tradition. Trying to fix things from within is very limited. I’m sad but adaptable.

    1. Just like with Christians, if it’s not in the dusty old book it’s not real. And if it is in the dusty old book and it’s happening to you and you’re a woman or a member of a minority or they just plain don’t like you, all of a sudden it’s just a dusty old book again and Post-Conversion so nobody believes it.

      If that’s Heathenry they can keep it. I’d rather honor the Gods and dance with the wights than go to boring mead hall meetings where talk of the Gods is forbidden (as I’ve heard it is in one of the Midwestern Heathen gatherings)

    2. And I honestly believe at this point that the only way to move forward is to create these new traditions and identities themselves. And you’re not the only person who works with the Norse Gods and dragons, so know that you aren’t alone. 😉

  2. This is wonderful and encouraging. Thank you for writing it. I don’t think I’d call myself “post-Heathen,” but I’m definitely on the fringes of Heathenry, since I’m a queer-identified feminist, polytheist, mystic, and monastic-in-training who is a devotee of Skaði and Móðguðr. Over the years I’ve gone back and forth between Norse Pagan, Northern Tradition, Heathen, and/or polytheist to describe my Norse-centered religious practice. The #HavamalWitches movement – aka Heathen feminism – gives me more hope for the future of Heathenry than I’ve felt in quite awhile (and I’ve been involved with Heathenry since 2004). What you’ve written here gives me even more hope that one day there will be a mature and diverse modern religious movement centered around the Powers of Yggdrasil.

    I’ve been working for years to make The Black Stone Hermitage (my live/work space, in which I host contemplative retreats and study groups for other would-be monastics) the kind of space you describe. It’s so important to have designated places for these conversations where it’s clear that all forms of bigotry are unwelcome. Part of my work is outreach; I write publicly about what I do so that others with similar devotional and contemplative practices will know they aren’t alone.

    Can’t thank you enough for writing this!

  3. What do you think of the Troth community? They seem to be at least anti-racist, anti-fascist but I have no experience of dealing with them directly. I have received wonderful guidance from a distant ancestor who uses runes to communicate with me- but I cringe at the horrific racism, etc. As for the racists, it seems like there is a lot of unresolved grief and anger from the ancestors in the racist streak that isn’t getting healed with their spiritual practices.

  4. Thank you so much for this. I have been struggling for close to a year with the realization that these really are my gods, and that they have been since I was a child, but having a hard time seeing how I fit into what I understand of modern American heathenry. I am unabashedly , proudly, and queerly femme. My spirit is one of nurturance, growth, connectivity, and love. I fear that spirit would not be honored for the power I know it is. It has taken a long time (and some serious bolstering from Freyja) for me to see the immense strength of that, and I don’t really want to be trying to fit into a new religion that feels hostile to who I am.

    Discovering I seem to actually have a connection with named deities is already disconcerting and frankly a little terrifying. (I always thought I just didn’t have the belief gene. Turns out I just hadn’t turned to the right gods.) Worrying about if I will be accepted for who I am on top of that is just too much. But I still feel I need a group of folks with similar beliefs who I can learn from and share with, because it’s also too much to hold on my own…

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