Monday, September 30, 2013
Nine Worthy Steps to Advance Heathenry
The Nine Worthy Steps described below represent our approach to advancing our native Folkway. As modern Heathens we face a daunting task. How do we reconstruct what was taken from our People? How do we return members of our Folk to the ways and world-view of our pre-conversion Ancestors? How do we transition from the mainstream culture within which we were raised, to the culture and values that are natural and appropriate to who we really are? What steps are necessary for building something lasting for both ourselves and the generations to come?
These nine steps are not the only deeds that can advance our Folkway forward. This list and the brief descriptions of each step are simply a method of outlining the work that many tribal Heathens are doing at this very moment. Much more could be said about each deed and, with time and experience, we will of course learn more about what needs to be done and how to do it. But, these nine worthy steps are the focus of the work being done by Jotun's Bane Kindred and many other good Heathen individuals, families, and kindreds among our People.
FIRST WORTHY STEP - We must bring positive attention to our Folkway, making it easier for members of our Folk to find Heathenry, learn more about it, and become actively involved.
The vast majority of our Folk do not even know that Heathenry exists, let along what it is, what we do, and for what we stand. They are in the thrall of the foreign religion or, being dissatisfied with it, have run to another foreign religion, or become agnostic or atheist. These members of our Folk are lost in darkness, whether they realize it or not. It is up to us to shine a light into that darkness, and serve as a beacon so that our People can find their way home. But, how do we do this?
It is not difficult to share resources and information on-line and through other forms of communication. Outreach can take many forms. As a heathen individual, family, or kindred we can make ourselves available to new Heathens in our local area giving them some guidance and advice by phone or in person. We can start study groups or hold local Heathen events that allow those that are curious or new to Heathenry a way to actually meet other Heathens and learn more. We can schedule classes and workshops on Heathen topics at a local bookstore, coffee shop, or community college. We can share links to existing resource websites, assist with the improvement of these websites, or start our own. We can even blog or post about our own beliefs and practices, and what they mean for us in our lives.
When we encounter someone curious or new to Heathenry, we can give them a good first impression. Be understanding of the fact they are new, and give them information and advice without attempting to demean or alienate them. If we live honorable lives of worth, when new Heathens contact or encounter us they will see by our example that living by the values and beliefs of our Folkway makes our lives more natural, fulfilling, and successful. Bringing more members of our People home to their native ways and world-view takes a lot of time and effort. But, it is the first step in advancing our Folkway forward.
SECOND WORTHY STEP - We must encourage our families to become involved in our Folkway, and structure all of our efforts to encourage other families to become involved.
This step can be difficult for some depending on their situation. Many individuals find Heathenry later in life, and while they embrace our native Folkway - their spouse may not. It is not advisable or healthy to attempt to force or coerce your spouse to convert. Even if your spouse never converts, always make sure they know they are welcome at Heathen activities or gatherings you attend. Many kindreds have non-Heathen spouses that attend all the events and truly enjoy interacting with everyone there. Heathenry is more than just a set of religious beliefs and practices. Heathenry is a world-view, or a way of looking at things. It is a culture and a set of values that anyone can benefit from, even if they are not particularly religious. So, making sure non-Heathen spouses feel welcome and included is an important part of getting families involved in our Folkway.
In other cases, non-Heathen spouses do become Heathen over time. Usually, interacting with other Heathens face-to-face convinces them that Heathenry is a positive and healthy belief system. Sometimes they see the positive changes it makes in their Heathen spouse, and this convinces them to become practicing Heathens themselves. But, this is something that is their decision, and it happens in its own time. It requires a very intentional patience, as well as a high level of communication and understanding to smoothly transition a family in its entirety back to the native ways of our People.
Having families involved, brings depth, strength, and longevity to the results of our efforts on behalf of our Folkway. Families honoring the Gods together and working side by side, can accomplish more than individuals can alone. Kindreds with families involved, tend to be more stable than kindreds without families involved. In addition, no matter how much you accomplish in this life, it is nothing compared to what your children, and their children, and so on...can accomplish when they add their own efforts and deeds on top of the foundation you have created for them. Involving our families in our ways, practices, and traditions is the second step in advancing our Folkway forward.
THIRD WORTHY STEP - We must build bonds among our Folk at the local grassroots level, bringing together Heathen individuals and families for local events, such as coffee-shop moots, pubmoots, study groups, Heathen workshops, fainings/blots, pot-luck dinners followed by symbel, and other community-building activities.
Our pre-conversion Ancestors focused heavily on both family and community. Bringing together Heathen individuals and families at the local level, provides the opportunity for face-to-face Heathenry in our daily lives. This lessens our dependence on the internet for interaction with others that share our beliefs and world-view. Creating local communities based on friendship, respect, and loyalty brings into existence a network of support where none existed before.
These local communities give us other Heathens of worth with which we can talk, study, honor our Gods, exchange ideas, interact socially, and help each other when help is needed. Many of the values and concepts within the world-view we are reconstructing involve how to interact honorably with other people in our lives. Interacting with local Heathens gives us the chance to be around people that share an understanding of these concepts and values, and who live by them as well. This is a rewarding experience for adults, but it also allows our children to observe and learn from these interactions.
Just as Heathen families can often accomplish more than a single individual, Heathen communities working together can often accomplish more than a single family could. They also provide an excellent environment for new Heathen individuals and families to become more fully involved in our Folkway.
FOURTH WORTHY STEP - We must form stable local kindreds made up of dedicated Heathen families and individuals of worth, with a focus on building a state of true Frith among those involved.
The natural result of creating active local communities, is the eventual formation of kin-groups or tribes of loyal, like-minded, and hardworking Heathen families and individuals. Membership within these groups is clearly defined, and they are usually based on some form of kindred-oath or obligation. The Heathen families and individuals within each kindred share Frith, meaning that every accomplishment is celebrated as a group, every hardship is faced as a group, and everyone involved shares collective Gefrain, Luck, and Honor.
Kindreds made up of multiple families and individuals offer a level of encouragement and support to their members that is similar to what one would expect from a close-knit and healthy extended family. Over time, kindred traditions, beliefs, and practices form and evolve that represent the shared expectations and understandings of the group, based on trial and error and their collective experiences. Involvement in an active kindred provides a context for living one's Heathen life that cannot be provided by any other organizational structure.
These local kindreds are the grassroots engine that make things happen within modern Heathenry, at both the local level and the regional level. The frith and strong bonds of loyalty and friendship they share, combined with the various strengths, talents, and skills brought together within the group, allow kindreds to accomplish things that Heathen individuals, families, and even local communities cannot make happen. Kindreds host both local and regional gatherings and they create and provide resources for other Heathens. They also provide a point of contact for new Heathen families and individuals in their area, and host open events in their area that local Heathens can attend.
Many of the remaining Worthy Steps are made easier, or can only happen, through the efforts of hard-working and dedicated local kindreds.
FIFTH WORTHY STEP - We must share practical information between individuals, families, local Heathen communities, and kindreds regarding personal practices, group practices and traditions, and organizational methods, with an understanding that we can learn from each others experiences, but that we will likely all do things differently.
Scholarly study and understanding of the Lore and world-view of our ancestors is important. But, there is a deep need for the sharing of practical how-to information among those practicing our Folkway. How to build a local community, how to start a kindred, tribal dynamics within a group, the role of a Chieftain or Godhi within a kindred, information on how to maintain a kindred and its traditions, building relationships with other Heathen in your region, or tips regarding Heathen marriages and families. The choice of topics is endless.
The motivation for sharing this practical information should be to simply help others learn from your experiences. It is not about control. It is not about making people do things your way. It is not about creating divisions within our native Folkway. Those receiving the information will use what works for them, and they should discard that information that does not work for them. The sharing of information should be a give and take, back and forth between Heathens and Heathen groups, allowing all of them to learn from successes and failures of those Heathens they know and trust. The reciprocal exchange of information allows individuals and groups to build on each other's knowledge and experience.
Information shared between Heathens that actually know each other on a face-to-face basis, is much more valuable than information you might read in a book or on the internet. When you actually know an individual or group, then you know if they actually walk the walk, or if the information they are sharing is just talk.
SIXTH WORTHY STEP - We must bring our People together at regional gatherings and with face-to-face visits, so that Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals can build bonds, work together, learn from each other, and come to personal understandings of each other that helps prevent needless conflict.
The only true way to know a person, is to meet them face-to-face and spend time with them. It can't happen on a message board or social networking site. We must encourage Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals to gather together at face-to-face events, and get to know one another. These events build friendships and alliances. They encourage the exchange of information and ideas between people that actually know each other, and this exchange will drive our Folkway forward. These gatherings also build trust between Heathens, and this trust helps prevent or diffuse unnecessary conflicts among our Folk.
The more often Heathens are able to gather together, the more their friendships and trust will grow. The more often they can gather, the more opportunities there are for them to exchange information, work together, and assist one another. So from a practical standpoint, regional gatherings must be our focus. Here in the Midwest, many of us can travel and attend gatherings around the region 5 to 6 times a year, or more. We see our friends around the region every month or every other month. In this context, the bonds between Heathens in our region are relatively strong. It is impossible for this same frequency of interaction to happen on a widespread basis on the National level.
Meeting other Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals at regional gatherings also inspires an increase in travel and personal visits between Heathens within the region. Both the gatherings and personal visits encourage the next generation of Heathens, our children, to play together, learn together, and build friendships and trust. As our children across the region grow into adult Heathens, they will already know each other and share bonds that will serve their own families and kindreds, and the region as a whole.
SEVENTH WORTHY STEP - We must put regional organizational structures in place that encourage positive cooperation between Heathen kindreds, families, and individuals in the region, while also respecting the autonomy and independence of those involved.
The goal is to engender a sense of unified purpose across the region without requiring or attempting to enforce unified orthodoxy or orthopraxy. As bonds of trust grow and deepen across the region, alliances and formalized methods of interaction and cooperation can be put into place. This requires everyone involved looking to the similarities they share with others, rather than harping and fighting over their differences. The leaders of the participating kindreds and families, must be mature and reasonable enough to accept that beliefs and practices among Heathens will differ, and that this is healthy.
Whatever method of formalized organization is put in place, it is important that the autonomy of every involved kindred and family is respected. A Thing structure or loose confederation of kindreds and families, allows each kindred to participate, contribute ideas, and partner with other kindreds and families in the region without any one person being in charge. Strong independent kindreds can then participate, communicate, collaborate, and support one another, without any one kindred or person being "in charge." This maintains the grassroots tribal nature of our native Folkway, and avoids top-down organization, dogma, and divisions among our People.
A Thing structure of loose confederation of kindreds and families must be based on face-to-face meetings and interaction. This is most easily done at regional gatherings of our Folk. The telephone and internet can be used for communication between gatherings, but without the foundation of real face-to-face conversations and relationships, organizational efforts are unlikely to succeed.
EIGHTH WORTHY STEP - We must acquire at the local level tribal land where we can establish Hofs and Halls as a regional gathering place for our People.
In this early stage of the reconstruction of our Folkway, Heathens tend to gather in each other's living rooms and finished basements. As local kindred's and the Heathen communities around them grow, gathering in someone's home becomes increasingly crowded and difficult. When multiple kindreds and families gather in any sort of numbers, we are forced to rent a campground, or reserve space in a hall or hotel. Logistically, it makes sense that we should move toward establishing at the local level, facilities for gathering that we own and maintain.
There is a sense of permanence that comes with acquiring tribal land, and establishing holy places and halls in which to gather as a People. These local hofs and halls become a gathering point for Heathens in the local community, and an important destination for Heathens in the surrounding region. Events can be held there. Weddings. Funerals. Coming of age rituals. A burial ground for Heathens can be set aside, so that we can honor our dead in the ways that we wish. Imagine for a moment three hofs and halls in your region, and what that could do for face-to-face Heathenry and regional efforts. Imagine a few years later, there being ten such gathering places, and what that would do to advance our Folkway.
Most hof and hall locations would be suburban or rural in their surroundings, while a few might border on an urban environment. These locations could offer religions activities and workshops, but there is also an opportunity to offer traditional craft classes and cultural events that would draw in members of our Folk that have not yet found their way home to Heathenry. The only organizational structure that has the resources, man-power, and motivations to establish tribal land on the local level, are kindreds. Very few individuals or families could ever afford to establish and maintain a facility of this nature. Loose-knit Heathen communities usually do not have the structure or unity to successfully mount the effort, or maintain it. National Organizations may one day establish a national headquarters or gathering point, but it is unlikely that it will be in your local area. (And it most certainly won't be in the Midwest). For the Eighth Worthy Step to happen, it will take the work of local kindreds.
The kindred or local group that is able to establish tribal land and to build a hof and hall will be leaving an amazing foundation for their Heathen children and the next generation of Heathens to build upon.
NINTH WORTHY STEP - We must pass onto the next generation of Heathens and Asatruar a solid foundation upon which to grow and develop our native Folkway far beyond what we were able to accomplish.
We are rebuilding our native Folkway against incredible odds. The world-view, as well as the religious and spiritual perspectives, of our People were drastically changed by the Christian conversion. The beliefs and practices of our Ancestors were suppressed and buried, so much so that the vast majority of our People do not even know that they are following a foreign religion that was methodically and successfully forced upon us. That leaves us often reconstructing our Folkway from bits and scraps of information. It leaves us in the position of an "alternative religion," and a rather small one at that.
But against these difficulties, we put a determined will and enormously hard-work to the task at hand. The final, and probably most important step, is that we leave our children and the next generation of Heathens in a better place than we find ourselves. Success at the previous 8 steps will accomplish that goal. If when we are done, there are more Heathens, more Heathen families, larger Heathen communities, more Kindreds, better sharing of practical information, bigger and better regional gatherings, a regional organizational structure that helps everyone involved, and hofs and halls on tribal land here and there across the landscape, then our children and the next generation will be able to take our Folkway places that is likely impossible for us to achieve in our lifetimes.
But, this also means teaching our children and giving them the knowledge and the tools to be better at this than we are. They aren't coming to Heathenry 20 or 40 years into their life. If we are doing our job, then they are being raised within a family, a community, and a kindred that lives Heathenry. They are immersed in our world-view, and participating in its reconstruction from an early age. These young Heathens will have plans and goals that are completely beyond us. They will have a drive and determination that will shame us, if we live long enough to see what they accomplish. They are our partners in what we do...they are the next leg of the race...and we need to give them the best start we are capable of providing them.
CONCLUSION - Are there other deeds that can grow and strengthen our native Folkway? Of course there are. These worthy steps reflect the focus of my kindred, and other like-minded tribal kindreds. These steps were carefully chosen to express the vision behind the work we do. We are utterly dedicated to making progress on these steps. They were also carefully put into an order that shows the natural progression that often occurs on the local and regional level.
These steps are never-ending, or cyclical, in nature. Even if you are attending regional gatherings and visiting other Heathens in your region (Step Six), you are still attempting to attract new Heathen individuals of worth (Step One) and attempting to involved families in your efforts (Step Two), and so on. Even when we reach the point where the next generation takes the reins (Step Nine), the next generation will still be working on the previous eight steps, maintaining, improving, and building upon the foundation we have built.
Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods
Posted by Mark Ludwig Stinson at 9:14 PM