Tell us about a place that holds special spiritual significance for you.
I don’t honestly have too many places that I see as spiritually sacred, however my trip to Europe in 2001 comes pretty close to mind, as I felt a HUGE spiritual significance there. More specifically, I feel that my days spent in the Austrian and Swiss Alps were amazing, no other place has led me to a feeling of sheer euphoria the entire time we were there. The beauty and majesty of climbing the trails onto a snowy path on a hot summer day was awesome, and some of the wildlife we saw such as goats and various birds was great for someone not used to seeing anything this side of squirrels and cows.
Perhaps, one day, I’ll get to go back, assuming we EVER get to travel again after Covid-19 has ripped that from our chests, and the cost isn’t too insane. Here are some pictures to show how awesome it was:
Any thoughts on Tumblr in relation to your heathen path? Do you document your practice in other ways?
I am altering this a bit because otherwise it would be VERY short – I don’t really use Tumblr. I honestly find the community fairly toxic, or at least it was in the past. Most of the Pagan content I found appeared to directly stem from everyone being enamored with Tom Hiddleston from the Marvel Avengers movies, and thus creating like 1001 “I am the Godwife of Loki” pages, as well as weird devotionals that appear to be worshipping the fictional Marvel versions of the Aesir. It didn’t seem serious, and it wasn’t for me. Note: I’m not against those that take up the whole “God-wife” thing, I just felt that Tumblr presented a disingenuous version of it, much like their takes on intersectionalism and LGBT issues – immature folks not knowing what they are talking about muddying the waters. I technically have an account for this sites sister-blog that I started after I left blogging for a videogame website, but I honestly don’t update it. So, now the question is – what social media do I use for my Heathen path?
WordPress: WordPress is probably my primary Social media thing I used for my Pagan stuff, seeing that this very page is a WordPress publication. So far, the content is pretty good, and I rarely see too many overt hate sites or similar issues that I do on other sites such as Facebook. Perhaps the only issue I have is that you often get attacked or have tags hijacked by Christians and hardcore atheists alike, so that’s fun to deal with. although it seems to rarely happen as much as it used to. I only wish that commenting was a tad better on WordPress, as it seems like a number of creators don’t actually interact much with the rest of the community.
Facebook: Facebook has a more talkative community for sure, but that comes with a cost. If you have any sort of Norse Pagan or Heathen community on there, you better explicitly state your values on a gatekeeping page, otherwise it will soon be overrun by racists. I have watched a handful of pages get utterly destroyed by this, fault lying on both the general lack of moderation on a lot of these pages, or the utter impotence of Facebook’s reporting mechanisms. It seems that with any sort of Social Networking, racists aren’t content with just having their own place to sling bad ideas, they want to take over everyone else’s.
As you can see, my experience with these communities is fairly small at this point, but I may attempt to branch out at some point, perhaps the “conservative” exodus to Parler will help clean some of these pages up on Facebook, and I can enjoy it a bit more, or I can try to fins a dedicated Pagan community online. Either way, that might be a good topic for another day. If any of you have a better idea of a place I should seek out, let me know.
What are your favorite books in your heathen library?
I do a lot of my reading on my Kindle, but I have collected a few solid Heathen books in physical format (which is what I suppose the spirit of this question is). I could post a number of cool books that I purchased, but have yet to read, but I figure I will use this as a way to recommend some books rather than to simply show-off. Here are three that really stand out:
Deutsche Sagen a.k.a. The German Legends of The Brother’s Grimm by Donald Ward
This was my white whale for a while. I listened to a podcast about the Pied Piper of Hameln sometime last year, and was excited by the hosts description of a book by The Brother’s Grimm on German Folklore – not the Fairy Tales, but crazy folk tales. They used parts of the book in order to try to pinpoint whether or not the story was based on a true story in any way, and surprisingly discovered that there were multiple versions of the account (Not just in this book), and that it was likely a real event. Later that week, I jumped online and tried to get an E-Book of it – NOTHING. Okay, maybe I can find a used copy on Amazon – NOTHING. Maybe an illicit scan? NOPE!! this book appeared to only be released in English once in 1979 and vanished from Earth. If I knew German at all, I’d be set, but no such luck.
I was FINALLY able to find both volumes of this for around $100.00 in fairly decent quality at a vintage books website called AbeBooks– I now know why this is likely a rare book – there are a handful of folk tales that are explicitly anti-Semitic, so I can imagine re-publishing this book could be an issue. That said, this book is pretty awesome despite the issues, and I am glad to finally own it.
Who would have thought that a small Canadian occult book publisher would publish perhaps one of the most interesting books on Ancient Scandinavian religion and customs this year? This is exactly what has happened with Anathema Publishing’s newest book – The Hanged God: Óðinn Grímnir by Shani Oates.
I assume this not the best bit of Germanic scholarship out there, but this monograph takes an interesting look at the topic of Odin and why he did some of the bizarre stuff he did (like hang himself) and expands that to discuss possible shamanic practices that may have occurred in Scandinavian countries during the migration and Viking eras. She does this by using accounts of neighboring areas (Like Russia) by people like Ibn Fadlan, and how we can assume Norsemen could have practiced the same way.
I love Anathema Publishing due to their low-Print run gorgeous leather-bound books that they produce. Some are insanely dense like most occult books, but they are entertaining none-the-less. Shani Oates actually recently released a sequel to this book that I do own, but have yet to start reading.
The Complete Sagas of Icelanders edited by Vidar Hreinsson
Not much to say here other than, I wanted a hardcover version of some Icelandic Sagas and these definitely fit the bill. I do not have all of the volumes, as this near 25 year old set has a few that are rare and cost-prohibitive, but I occasionally scroll Ebay or Amazon to see if copy pops up. I enjoy these due to inclusions of maps and other materials when talking about specific areas such as the norm for many of these stories.
Have you read the lore? What do you feel its place is in the context of your practice/Heathenry as a whole?
Yes I do, though I wish I had more time to read more. Most heathens agree that the most important lore texts are the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda – I have read both as well as parts of the Codex Regius such as the Havamal. I do however need to read more of the insane trove of Icelandic Sagas that I have. Granted, I know these are not necessarily heathen texts, but I feel they are important. I have read a handful such as Njal’s Saga, Egil’s Saga, and Eyrbyggja saga. I also need to get a source for some Skaldic poetry and dive more into that.
Also, I would say that you can add a few modern books considered as Lore simply due to the insane scholarship they contain. The Brothers Grimm’s Teutonic Mythology and Deutsche Sagen are very important books, and helped paved the way for many modern scholars. Another is Vilhelm Grønbech’s The Culture of the Teutons and Paul C. Bauschatz’s The Well and the Tree has been greatly recommended to me, but I have yet to read it.
I feel that having a firm grasp of The Lore not only enriches on spiritually, especially if one is used to having a more codified set of religious texts handy. Granted, most historical Heathens likely did not read or care about such works, its the closest way we will ever have to be able to take part in the oral traditions that they had, as skewed as they may be now. I also feel its important to help get away from people that take The Lore and mangle it into a narrative to push an agenda such as racism or politics. Most people that due that have likely never read any of this, and fall like a house of cards if you make it obvious you know what you are talking about.
Are there any animals you connect with as part of your practice?
I have always had a connection to cats in one way or another. I grew up on a farm when I was a child, and we had something like 30-40 cats at any given time. They lived in the barn, wandered around the house, and basically ensured that the ol’ farmhouse in rural Kansas was absolutely pest free. Some of my fondest memories of this time are ones with my cats, and leaving them when my Grandfather died was entirely heartbreaking. It didn’t take too long before we got some more cats, usually strays, all living long healthy lives. I currently have two pet cats, one of which I’ve had for 16 years and counting.
So what is it about cats that I love so much? Short answer -I trust them. I honestly am not a dog fan as I nearly lost an eye to my childhood pet dog biting me on the face when I was 4 years old. Ever since then, I’m not big on having large dogs jump on me, no matter how nice they are. I honestly don’t have affection for them anymore, to me they are just some animal – almost like seeing one at the zoo. Cats, on the flip-side help me take my stress away and gave me that sense of family that I craved when I was alone at various times. To me, my current pets are basically included in my children, and I love them as such.
Another animal that I have recently seen some affinity to are Corvids like crows and ravens – it seems like when I am speaking with The Gods, they generally show up the next day as if to say “hey buddy, we got you!” I need to keep an eye out for them more at my house, as I’d love to build a relationship. I do put out a birdfeeder at times, so maybe that will help.
With my affinity to cats, I often wonder if I should try to speak to Freiya more often. Perhaps that is the avenue I will look into for my continuing quest for my “Patron God” of sorts.
Five items you feel are sacred. Go! (These could be on your altar, items from your ancestors, texts by you or someone else, etc)
Family pictures: I spoke in an earlier prompt on my loss and eventuall rediscovery of some of my precious family pictures – long story short, there was a flood that destroyed my Mom’s photo albums, but I found some film negatives in her belongings after her death – I was able to recover about 150 images from my past, in rural Kansas, including pictures of my Grandparents and me as a child. My plan eventually will be to have an ancestor place where I pray to some of these, but that have not gone much further than a simple idea.
My Grandfather’s Military briefcase: Somewhat like the above, I am in possession of my Grandfather’s military briefcase including his Army yearbook and some of his miscellaneous paperwork, as well as knives, watches and other knick-knacks. yeah, some of it is obviously junk that he threw into the trunk, and other pieces seem to be things my grandmother tossed in after his death (like old checkbooks) but even the smallest thing like a book of Korean words (He was a vet of the Korean War) is an awesome glimpse into the past.
My Music: I am an avid music fan, and a big part of what brought me into paganism, in the first place, is music. Some of my favorite memories from last year were the concerts I attended – those more than a lot, felt like “church” to me. Seeing Bands like Arkona and Metsatoll live were amazing experiences in 2019. I no longer buy a whole lot of physical media due to alack of space, but what I do have, tangible or ephemeral digital items, are sacred to me. I have music for any occasion, any emotion, and any problem I might be having.
My Books: As above, I have a book collection, some rare books, mostly not. As Odin strived to gain as much knowledge as he could, I try that myself to varying degrees of success. Yes, I sometimes buy more books than I’ll likely ever read, but it feels good to have a big healthy library to meet any occasion. Some of my faves are books from Anathema Publishing – rare limited edition occult books like The Hanged God, especially. another was a copy of a Grimm Brothers folklore set that has only been released once in English over 40 years ago and never since.
My altar goods: I don’t have much of this stuff yet, but what I do have is awesome. things like pieces of reindeer horn or runes, oils, and types of sage are always things I enjoy having. I have some statues, and other art pieces as well, all things that truly help me communicate with The Gods.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given about the Heathen path? Your biggest influences?
To me, some of the best advice I’ve been given is to be selective on what sort of information one reads, and do research on authors before you get into them. One of the members of the group I’m interacting with a lot, said this to me. They had a lot of knowledge of some of the most prominent authors in the Heathen movement – both good and bad. With Heathenry being infiltrated, and sadly built on the views of racist people from the past, its hard to keep yourself “pure” from running into these ideas. I’ve run into many many many books that look promising only to find out that the author is either overtly racist or leans heavily that direction.
Take, for example, a Journal that was recommended to me from a Facebook group that I generally trusted not to be a hive of this sort of thought – it turned out to be written by Carolyn Emmerich – an avid racist that pushes that agenda into pretty much all of her writings. It started innocently enough – a book on Germanic Folklore, “cool that’s right up my alley!” I thought! Then the red flags started popping. She talked about foreigners a few times, then outright decried Jewish people at a later point when talking about Grimm’s more troubling bits of folklore (The wrote ones that fueled Nazi propaganda a tad). I then ran Google to look into my concerns and BOOM – huge Neo-Nazi leanings.
From that point on, I am careful to vet all of my prospective book choices. yeah, its easy to fall into the “everyone’s a racist!” idea, and yes some authors hide it more than others. You see this in metal music a lot – bands getting accused of having Nazi ties left and right – its gets tiresome, but its usually easy to spot the legit idiots out there. You also have to avoid blogs entirely founded on the idea of cancel culture for authors that they see as problematic for various reasons aside from their work – sometimes you DO have to separate the art from the artist, and honestly the real shitheads out there are exactly trying to hide it.
As for biggest influences, I’d have to say that YouTube personalities do great work, and I take a lot from them currently. People like Survive the Jive, and Jackson Crawford are weekly watches for me, and give me the sort of information I crave most of the time. Yeah, their stuff is far less practical than scholarly, and they have clear biases at time, but it gives me a great jumping off point to run with.
What’s the best thing about being heathen? The worst?
I think the answer to both is sadly “other Heathens”. At their best, heathens are some of the nicest, most sharing people and really know how to have fun. I have had a great sense of community with other Pagans that I have lacked for many many years. its great to feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself, and its hard if you have no way to scratch that itch otherwise. At their worst, there are many that call themselves Heathens that are insane sociopaths, racists (or both) with little to no care for the actual religious movement as a whole. Sadly I have seen my fair share of both sides, and I’m still a relative novice. I mentioned my previous Kindred, and the stuff that was going on there that led everyone to basically quit – it would have been easy to allow that to cloud my judgement of everything.
Around my area, at least, there seems to be a slight issue with tribalism. Some groups have more power than others and try to become the local Heathen Popes, whilst others try to kick the whole “community” thing to the curb, and ignore any sort of rules or actively antagonize other groups. both are VERY tiresome, and reek of people that have no matured past High School suddenly finding themselves in a leadership position they should not be in.
Its easy to allow people like this to make you turn into something very similar, but its important to try to be the change you want to see in others – those hate-filled terrible groups have a way of self-destructing after a while on their own. There’s no reason to go down with them.
What’s on your agenda to learn more about? What topics are interesting you lately?
This is actually something I try to do a lot, Ever since I left school, I have vowed to never stop learning – to gather as much information and experiences that I can to better myself, and hopefully help enrich the lives of others as I impart some of my knowledge to them. I need to organize this better TBH, but I can come up with a rough list of five topics I am currently into and am actively trying to find out more on…
I am trying to learn Norwegian – I am truthfully not certain where my Scandinavian portion of my ancestry is from – I did not know my father, but I know he was from Wisconsin at one time, so he likely was either part Swedish or Norwegian. This largely wasn’t why I started this, but I felt like it helped me along the path to choosing a new language to try to learn. I could have done German, but it seemed too hard LOL! A few months ago, I decided to dive into Duolingo’s Norwegian class, and it has been pretty fun. I’ve heard its one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn, and can help with understanding Danish and Swedish as well, so I figured it would be beneficial.
I had, at one point, wanted to get back into Spanish as I had taken two years of it in High School, but honestly its really hard, and its been too long so I would have to start from scratch more-or-less. My ultimate goal for this is to read some Historical books from Scandinavia that may not be translated over here, and perhaps travel there one day.
I am currently really into learning about the Neolithic and Bronze Age – I chalk this up to me seeing a Stonehenge exhibit last year in Kansas City, reading a book about it, and playing Farcry Primal on PS4 all at around the same time.
Once I have time to re-arrange my books (currently dealing with repairs due to water damage) I want to create a nice reading area in my downstairs area. Perhaps I can get back into my 1 book a week reading schedule that I once had. Some books I plan to read soon are above.
I am trying to study some lesser-known Gods –This one is tough if you want to read well-researched books and monographs that go in-depth with some of these figures. Sure you can jump on Amazon and find books on Deities like Hel, for example, but you have like a 50/50 chance that the book is a cheap, poorly researched mess by a racist.
I want to learn more practical Magical work – One thing I also need to implement more is magical work. This will come along as I start working more on my altar, and my goal is ultimately to have a daily practice that I do – something to focus energy on, and hopefully help sway the Gods towards me. Its hard to find things that have been settled on as “official” Norse Pagan rituals, as a lot of the magick we do is honestly Wiccan magic due to the almost complete loss of source material on what actually was practiced, but its a start.
and finally –
I am trying to seek out more Viking and Pagan comic books – One of my hobbies is comic books and graphic novels, so I have been trying my hardest to find ones that deal with the themes of ancient Pagan Europe or Paganism in General. Luckily with a renewed interest in Vikings (for better or worse) this has lead to more choices. I am trying to get to where I have a pretty good idea of Vikings in sequential art, maybe start blogging more about it – who knows.
So there we have it, that’s what I’m currently trying to learn and work on – what are some things my readers are learning about or working on? Please let me know in the comments!