Heathen Morality

When talking with new Heathens or others outside of our faith, the question of morality often comes up. How do we as Heathens determine what’s moral and amoral? Especially in a religion that has no set doctrine, no Bible and therefore no outside source to tell what what’s good and evil, how do we determine what’s right and wrong? Well, those are questions I’m hoping to answer right here in this article, but meanwhile, I think it’s important to note that much like everything else in Heathenry, the concept isn’t quite as simple as Good and Evil. Heathenry is tribal at its core and as such, different groups are going to do things differently, and that’s okay and usually seen as acceptable to most rationally thinking Heathens. So in this article, we are going to objectively discuss some of the more common approaches to morality, their history, and what they’re based off of as well as some of the common reasons some groups either embrace or shy away from them and at some point in the article I’ll detail the approach taken by this Kindred.

The Nine Noble Virtues: There are two sets of Nine Noble Virtues, both are extremely similar but were created by two different groups.  The first set was codified sometime in the 1970s by a former member of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union Of Fascists and Leader of the Odinic Rite. As the rise of Asatru started in North America, there was a push to gain legal legitimacy through the U.S government and a codified “creed” was required to gain just that. So John Yeowell (a.k.a. Stubba) and John Gibbs-Bailey set out to simplify the Havamal (the third poem in the Poetic edda commonly accepted as being advice from Odin himself). As a result, the general concepts of the Havamal were broken down into a set of nine “Virtues”. Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance became the nine principals that guided practitoners of Asatru during that time. In 1983 a second set of similar virtues were codified by Stephen McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly in his journal, The Runestone, titled “Some Odinist Values.

  1. Strength is better than weakness
  2. Courage is better than cowardice
  3. Joy is better than guilt
  4. Honour is better than dishonour
  5. Freedom is better than slavery
  6. Kinship is better than alienation
  7. Realism is better than dogmatism
  8. Vigor is better than lifelessness
  9. Ancestry is better than rootlessness

From the 70s and into present day, these virtues have served as one of the most popular  generally accepted values of the modern Heathen, that is, until recently. Due to the political nature of the organizations that codified these concepts, and their close ties with fascism, neo-volkism and far right wing extremist ideologies, groups such as The Asatru Community (T.A.C) have chosen to distance themselves from these virtues because of their “tainted history” and have created their own guiding principals now known as the Nine Oaths to Odin written by Topher W. Henry. The Nine Oaths to Odin are similar to the Nine Noble Virtues, centering around the same guiding principals but with their own spin on them.

  1. Kith & Kin
  2. Frith
  3. Truth
  4. Honor  
  5. Knowledge   
  6. Diligence
  7. Independence
  8. Defender
  9. Fortitude

Each of these “oaths” come with their own meaning and explanations of how their followers should apply them to their own lives. However, it’s important to note that whether you’re an adherent to the 9NV by the Odinic Rite, Some Odinist Values by The AFA or Nine Oaths to Odin by T.A.C, these concepts are modern constructs designed to fit Heathenry into a modern political system. While based on the Havamal, many Heathens disagree with these tenets because not only are the modern constructs, but are historically inaccurate to the customs of arch-heathens as well as inaccurate according to the bulk majority of our lore.  For example, Odin is known to lie and deceive to gain an advantage during times of conflict. In Hardbardsleod, Odin tells Thor of a time when he raped two women and wished Thor had been there to help him hold the two women down.  Many of the Gods and Goddesses in our lore have many wives or bore children with multiple women or entities.  Just these examples alone make the case that Truth, Fidelity and even Honor were subjective in arch-heathen times, which brings us to the next model of Heathen morality.

Morals in arch-heathen times were subjective and largely circumstantial rather than objective truths dictated by a specific doctrine. As a tribal society, individuals were expected to do what’s right by them, their family and their tribe. A man who took good care of his family, sacrificed for them, worked hard, protected and defended them was seen as an honorable man as these were the things that were important. Right and wrong largely depended on the needs of the family and tribe. Is stealing wrong? Most of us in modern times won’t hesitate to say yes, and even in Heathen circles, the answer is almost always yes as theft is rarely a necessity to provide life and therefore harms the reputation of the thief and in turn anyone associated with him/her.  But think of this; if you fell hard on your luck and had no financial means to provide food for your children, and all community resources have been exhausted, is it better for your family to take the moral high road and let them starve on principal? No, by all means, if theft is your last resort and determines the difference between eating or starving, then by all means, steal that loaf of bread and feed your children. The same can be said about killing, as we can’t say that taking a human life is always objectively wrong. In cases of the defense of your own life or the lives of your family, killing may be justified as it was your only option to provide the best result for you and your family. The arch-heathens believed that our social responsibilities were divided between Utengarđ and Innangarđ or outer and inner circles. The first priority was providing for ones immediate family and then contributing towards ones tribe. That was your innangarđ. Anyone who fell outside of your tribe was considered you utengarđ and therefore weren’t owed as much in terms as responsibility, but there were expectations that governed both. This brings us to our next two concepts as we explore morality in heathen society, Law and Thew.

Law: In arch-heathen times, the concept of law was a but different than what we know it to be today, but similarities do exist. They were general expectations placed between individuals or groups of people such as tribes, that governed their behavior towards one another. Ever hear of the adage “lay down the Law”? This is where that comes from, in arch-heathen times, when alliances were made, representatives of each tribe would sit and convey their expectations towards one another based on what is good for each tribe.. if they reached an agreement, they’d work together, if there wasn’t an agreement, the alliance wasn’t formed. Laws were still seen as subjective and geared owards what’s best for the individual and tribe, but sometimes, what’s best for me isn’t always what’s best for you, and for this reason, people would often find themselves in a dispute. In these cases, the two people who were butting heads would go in front of an all-thing were they would sit on a stump, make their individual cases and a lawspeaker would decide what’s fair and just. This is the foundational concept that kept peace between two tribes or what we call Grith. Grith is defined as “peace, security, or sanctuary imposed or guaranteed in under various special conditions.

Thews, on the other hand, aren’t generally accepted expectations between two groups of people, but more of cultural customs within a group of people. Adherence to these customs within a group, largely determined a person’s honor. For example, if a woman married in to a new tribe and went to market, let’s say she saw a beggar and decided that her household had enough wealth that it wouldn’t impose on her family and decided to toss a coin to the beggar, is she right in doing so? Well by most modern standards, that would be considered an honorable act, but if it wasn’t within the customs of her tribe and family, then she just dishonored her family by giving away hard earned wealth to someone who didn’t deserve it. Thews can be seen as being the same as law, but apply more directly to the individuals within a group as opposed to conduct between two groups. As is within the concept of laws, this opens up room for disputes and disagreements. Whenever two people within a group were at odds with one another, they’d sit with their chieftain, both would state their case and the chieftain would decide what’s good and fair for both people. This is the system that kept peace within the innangarđ and this is the concept we call Frith. It’s important that Frith be maintained within a tribe at all times because without it, blood feuds may and the tribe itself would be at risk of being torn apart.

As we grow our communities in modern times, we must work to realize that regardless of whether you’re guided by any of the external doctrines or an internal compass based on what’s good for you and your tribe as my kindred is, other groups may not be guided by the same morality, and even if so, what’s good for you and your group, may not be what’s good for another. Warring tribes happens when one group imposes their morality on another without understand of the culture within the opposing tribe. If we wish to spread peace within our heathen society we have to learn to just make the decision thats best for you, and let others to the same. If you can’t come to mutually agreeable terms with another group and figure out what’s best for both groups, then just don’t work with one another. In modern times, with the help of technological advancements, it’s easy for one tribe to go to war with one another because as each person is safely tucked behind their keyboards and there’s really nothing of value at stake other than eachother’s pride and reputation, but as we grow, one must realize that the day may come that you need something from a group you’ve had fundamental disagreements with. If nothing else we have to at least consider the division and harm we’re causing to our greater community as a whole while feuding over petty differences.

As with any major concept, it’s impossible to go into every single detail and explore every aspect of Heathen morality in just one article. If one wishes to gain a deeper understanding of this subject, there are entire books devoted to this exact subject. Just a couple of good ones I’d recommend are We Are Our Deeds by Eric Wodening and The Culture of the Teutons by Vilhelm Grønbech. These are in my opinion two of the most fundamental books in fully understanding Morality as it pertains to Heathen society.

Cults in American Heathenry

Within the world of Heathenry, the word “Cult” can have two different definitions, but the intent of this article is to bring awareness to a specific definition, so I’ll briefly explain the differences between the two and then focus on the intent of this blog.

Cult:  “a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.” Within heathenry, some people may choose to venerate a particular diety over others, or even an animal totem. You’ll hear mentions of the Cult of Thor or Cult of Loki, as well as Bear Cult, Wolf Cult and Boar Cult.  Under this definition, these various practitioners dedicate their energy towards a particular item, being or diety as a focus of their worship. This practice is ancient in origin, relatively harmless and is considered acceptable within Heathen groups.  We will do another blog in the future detailing this particular definition of cult, but our interest for this blog is in something much more sinister in nature.

Cult: “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” This is the definition we are going to focus on because as Heathenry started becoming more popular in North America, a void of leadership has formed and this has opened up room for something sinister and dangerous to fester and take hold. As we’ve seen in modern history, these types of cults, include,  Heaven’s Gate, The Branch Davidians, Jim Jones and his followers and many more. One thing all of these cults have in common is the deadly results they yield, and the psychological trauma that they inflict on surviving members. As heathenry grows in acceptance and popularity across the United States, Heathens everywhere are searching for local communities of like minded people to become a part of, so it’s important learn how to identify these types of groups so that we can steer clear of them in an effort to not get wrapped up in their deadly webs. The following is a list of warning signs compiled by psychologists who study this sort of thing as well as my own experiences with these types of groups. It’s important to understand that these are not universal as cults can take many forms, and their leaders are masters at manipulation and therefore may know how to disguise themselves as well intentioned, charismatic people, but by studying cults in recent history and how they operate, we can identify classic traits that serve as red flags or potential warning signs of a groups potential to become dangerous.

Infallibility: A leader of a malicious cult will often claim to have some sort of information unreachable by anyone else, therefore giving them a status of unquestionable Infallibility. I have personally come into contact with a person who claimed to be a “World Walker” and the only seeress who has been welcomed inside the gates of Asgard in over 2,000 years. She claimed to be betrothed to Loki himself and insists that she has innumerable contacts with all of the Gods and Goddesses of Asgard. Another person I’ve only heard of, claims she’s one of Odin’s wives and therefore what she says is word directly from the Gods, and therefore indisputable. Over the years I’ve heard of others claiming to have distinct memories of past lives or be in direct contact with divine entities etc.. Regardless of the gender or personal approach of the leader, their goal is to create a group of unquestioning followers who hang on every word of their divine leader. Some of these are of course extreme examples, and not every group leader will exhibit these extreme traits. Sometimes this behavior manifests itself in more subtle ways such as claiming moral superiority over another group. They’ll shut down conversation and take an “I’m right, you’re wrong” stance any time they’re challenged. One thing that is almost always a factor is the leader’s ego, therefore free thought, open dialog and debate is often squelched.

Loyalty: Its common for any group to want it’s adherents to express some sort of loyalty, but some over the years have taken loyalty to a whole other level. Preying on the fact that Heathen culture is one built on Honor as a foundational stone, groups will demand that an oath be taken by the new followers, and insist that the oath be taken before they’re accepted as “one of them” This is usually met with pressure being applied by the leadership with promises of special information or privileges so that new new follower is encouraged to make a quick decision of “in or out”.  Once a member has taken an oath, they’re subject to shaming if they even think about leaving the group, threats of being considered dishonorable or an oathbreaker and blacklisted from the entire Heathen community are often thrown around as ways to keeping their adherents through fear of being ostracized. I have seen groups “test” the loyalty of their members by asking them to do immoral or illegal acts and I’ve even heard of one instance where a gun was allegedly put to a member’s head so that leadership could gauge their reaction and deem them either worthy or unworthy.

Reprogramming: Cultic groups often use deceptive means to gain the trust and acceptance of potential members and once someone becomes a member, they’ll undergo some sort of “reprogramming”. In the Heathen Community this often occurs in the form restricting the adherents flow of information. Usually by disallowing them to associate with other groups or restricting what types of books they should read. Anytime a person is discouraged or forbidden from doing their own research and finding a group or path that is right for them is typically  more subtle warning sign of manipulation

Exploitation: In nearly all cultic groups, the hidden agenda behind a leader’s motivation, other than feeding their ego, is to exploit their members in some way. Few groups have been known to exploit their members sexually by requiring sex in exchange for membership or acceptance, but most within the Heathen community exploit their membership psychologically or financially.  This usually comes in the form of unreasonably high membership dues or fees or insisting that a member pledge a percentage of their pay check. Now, it is important to understand that not all groups who ask for money are cultic, as caring for a group of people or hosting public events or gatherings can be costly, so most groups share this cost by asking for donations from those who can. Asking for voluntary donations crosses over into the realm of exploitation when it’s a requirement for acceptance or when the fruits of that cost are inconsistent with how much they’re receiving or even non-existent. Not all groups that ask for money are bad, but requiring “Tribute” to be able to associate with them, and then not being able to see where your money is going is usually a good sign of a dishonest group at the very least.

So, we’ve covered a few red flags that should serve as warning signs to anyone looking to become a part of an active community, but the question now remains of what should we look for in a group that we may want to join? In any group you’re considering  membership should be voluntary, and anyone should be free to walk away without being shamed or threatened. After all, if I’m doing my job as a group leader, I should encourage personal growth within my community and recognize that not all people grow in the same direction, therefore, people will come and go as their needs evolve and fluctuate, and this is okay. A good group leader will put the needs of the community above their own wants or desires and no one needs to be pressured into membership, sex or handing over their hard earned paycheck. A good group of people will encourage it’s members to seek knowledge and experience in as many places as possible and make the best decisions they can for themselves. Freedom of thought is one of the most valuable freedoms we possess, and a good group leader will understand that and encourage a diverse range of thought and discussion within a group. After all, what are any of us going to learn in an echo chamber? Groups that seek out legal legitimacy in the form of establishing a 501c3 non-profit are held to a verifiable standard by the regulating governmental authority and therefore stand a good chance being a group worthy of your interest, although there have been groups establish this form of legitimacy that still turned out to be bad apples, so of course, this isn’t an instant qualifier. A group who accepts donations should keep records of where the money is spent and there should be some evidence that the leaders aren’t just pocketing it for themselves. A good group should always promote positivity, learning and growth and have accomplishments under their belt so people can see the fruit of their labor. Whether it be hosting events, or reaching out to the community via special projects etc… you should always be able to judge a group based on their accomplished deeds.

The Symbolism behind Ragnarok

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I think Ragnorok gets compared to the Christian concept of Armageddon and that’s a mistake. You see, threats of end times and promises of salvation are very much Abrahamic concepts and quite frankly, are designed to make it easier to rule over a people and are opposite of what the Heathen world view is. We don’t need salvation because we are empowered to save ourselves and well, we aren’t afraid of the end of the world because we understand how the world works. But we’ll get more into the cyclical nature of time in just a minute. You have to remember that there are more ways to interpret mythology than direct translation, and the tendency to only look at one possible meaning is more of that Christian baggage that’s better left out of Heathenry. Is this to say that the Gods aren’t real and are only archetypes and metaphors? No, I’m just saying that they’re all of the above and we shouldn’t limit our understanding of our mythology to just one method of interpretation, because once you open yourself up to different ways of interpreting mythology, you start building layer after layer of meaning in our lore and learn unlimited ways to apply it to your life.
So, let’s take a look at the events in Ragnorok, the symbolism behind them and see how we can relate them to life in general, and/or our lives individually, but first, I think it’s important to first explain how our ancestors more than likely viewed time based on what they could observe right in front of them, nature. If we pay attention to the world around us, it’s not hard to see the cyclical nature in how the world works. Each day the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and each day has a birth and a death. Just as each day begins and ends with the sun, the moon also presents itself in a cycles. Not only does the moon travel across the sky every night, but as it does, it also waxes and wanes. Beginning with the the new moon, the moon appears larger each night until it becomes full, this is known as the waxing cycle. From the full moon until the following new moon, it appears to get smaller each time it treks across our night sky, this is known as the waning cycle. The completion of both of these cycles, marks one month. If we take another step back, we can see that the days get longer and longer at the first part of the year until the summer Solstice, and then the days begin to get shorter and shorter as we get closer to the winter solstice. Once again we see a cycle as the year passes marked by birth, death and then rebirth. Now, let’s take another step back and look at an even bigger picture. A picture so big that none of us can actually observe it in our life time, but can be observed by studying the earth itself. Just as the days give way to night and each month gives way to the year, each marked by birth, death and rebirth we can see the same cycle happening over a much larger span of time. From the warming and cooling of the earth, melting and freezing of the ice caps over hundreds of years to the rise and fall of great civilizations dating back to 800 BCE and even further, each century gives way to a millennia, and each age is marked once again by birth, death, and rebirth. Our ancestors knew this as they lived closer to nature, not ruling over it, but living as a part of it, therefore, our ancestors concept of time was one of constant cycles of creation, death and rebirth. I say all of this to make one point, the thought of Ragnorok being the complete and total destruction of the earth and everything on it, is very much influenced by our Christian world view as this concept is conflated with Armageddon. Ragnorok symbolizes the cycle of creation, destruction and rebirth on a cosmic scale, not the end of all things to come.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s look at the events of Ragnorok one by one and talk about what I think they can mean to us. Remember, everything any of my videos are my thoughts and opinions alone and don’t represent the opinions of anyone else.
The sources for this portion of the video come from The Heathen Handbook by Woden’s Folk kindred, Voluspa in the poetic edda, and the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturleson. Again, I’m simply giving you my own interpretation of the information within these sources so feel free to agree or disagree.
The first notable event within the myth of Ragnorok, is the death of Baldur, influenced by Loki. Between the Poetic Edda and Snorri Sturleson’s account in the Prose Edda, you’ll find some differences in how it played out, but which ever one you read, Loki influenced Hodr to kill his brother Baldur. Loki then was banished by the Gods, tied to a rock and had venom from a serpent dripped on him. To me, this represents the moral decay that begins in any society and usually begins by the breakdown of the family. In nearly every civilization, the decline of the moral fiber that holds that civilization together begins with the dissolution of the sacred bond of the family. When family is no longer revered as sacred, fathers stop raising their children and become ever increasingly absent in their children’s lives, mothers give their children up to strangers, and both are usually done to clear room for selfish ventures such as drugs, alcohol or the feeling of freedom they feel entitled to. When the heads of the family put their own wants over the needs of their children, the sanctity of the family is fractured and is usually followed by family betrayal, brothers killing brothers, mothers killing children and whatnot. Once family is no longer deemed sacred, then nothing is sacred and the idea of “always look out for number one” becomes a virus that infects the communities and paves the way for further moral decay. This is in my opinion, why the veneration of Loki is so unhealthy for a community. Loki is the embodiment of selfishness, decay and brotherly betrayal, these things should be shunned from our communities instead of regarded, but Loki worship is a topic for another episode.
The next notable event in Ragnarok is said to be a three year winter. It’s important to bare in mind that at then time when our ancestors were telling these stories word of mouth before they were written on ink and paper, they were primarily an agricultural society. Winter time in the north was a harsh period when no prosperity was to be had, everyone had to just hunker down and hope they saved enough food to last them until spring. I think a three year winter with no summer in between could be symbolism for an extended period of time of economic collapse such as what we see in third world socialist countries such as Venezuela or possibly may even be a warning of a global pandemic maybe? The reason this symbolism is notable to me is because when studying the rise and fall of great civilizations, you can see a trend of economic collapse and extended hardships being a catalyst for what’s next.
According to our Lore, the next event of Ragnarok is the release of the enemies of the Gods and mankind. When economic collapse is coupled with moral decay, a culture is created when people must do whatever is necessary to stay alive. This usually means rioting, looting and violent uprising. A nations only response to complete destabilization is always to preserve order by force. Curfews, martial law, police brutality, complete state control. Once a civilization has reached this point, the enemies of the Gods and Man are already well at work. The wolf has swallowed the sun and the moon, The wisest of us among us are forced to battle with their own greedy nature, and without the bindings, even the wisest fall victim to their Fenris Wolf and those who swore to protect us are poisoned by the venom of destruction. Good, honest police are overrun by corruption and can no longer defend their communities and what follows is all out war. The death of law and order in even the greatest of civilizations, traditions of peace time are all but lost and there is nothing left but uncertainty and little hope for any sort of future. Sounds pretty grim right? Not so fast, the story continues with Vidar avenging the death of Odin by slaying Fenrir, with the corrupt and greedy all gone, there is room for rebirth.
Two humans, sheltered by the roots of Ygdrasil emerge and Baldur is reborn. Yggdrasil, the world tree, is a symbol of all that is good in life. So long as two people remain close to Yggdrasil, they can, bring sanctity back to the family and recreate tribes with a culture that reinforces and strengthens the family and strong families, rooted in tradition and sanctity create stronger tribes and the birth of a new golden age is on it’s way.
In this story, we are those who must remain close to Yggdrasil, and let her roots shelter us and holding our traditions and families sacred and bring them into the new age.
While Ragnarok can be seen as the end of a civilization like the examples I just gave, we can also see Ragnarok on a much smaller scale. Just like the sun and moon play their parts in the year, they also have their role in each day, Ragnarok also has its role in the great cosmic scheme of the universe, but the symbolism of Ragnarok can also be seen in the daily workings of our individual lives. Just like the sun, the moon and the universe, our lives are also governed by cycles of ups and downs and in betweens. In the story of how Odin wins the mead of Inspiration, Odin transforms himself into a snake to bore deep into the mountain, seduces the giantess and then transforms himself into an eagle to fly back to Asgard with the mead. If we can see these events in our lives, we have the power to become the snake, get inside of our own lives, transform ourselves and win the mead of inspiration in our own lives and rise above any obstacle just so long as we keep carrying our ways forward into the dawn of the new golden age.

Beards in Heathen Culture

If you spend any amount of time in Heathen groups on Facebook, or really on any social media platform, a conversation that’ll at least be brought up and made to be controversial is the beard (Old Norse skegg) in Heathen culture so I thought I’d add my two cents worth. It’s important to note that what follows is my own opinion backed up with a few facts from history.
The first thing that some will say whenever the question is asked is “There is no religious requirement for Heathens to grow a beard”. This is absolutely true, but to be honest, heathens don’t have religious tenets or dogma associated with our beliefs, so to say it’s not required by a set of rules is just pointing out the obvious. But if that’s the case, then why are beards so popular within our culture? Well, in order to explain that, we have to go quite a way into history, so buckle up your seatbelts while we explore the history of hair in European culture, when and why it changed.
To the animist Indo-European people, the hair and beard was an extension of their spirit and to some, a source of their power and influence. Animist cultures believe that everything has a spirit so to say that your hair has a spirit and that it empowers you in some ways, shouldn’t be such a mental hurdle to wrap your head around. In fact, the lore is literally riddled with examples of this belief in Heathen culture. Even though nothing in the lore comes right out and commands that we must wear a beard, It paints a pretty clear picture that beards were a major part of Norse pre-Christian culture. It is crucial to remember that the Sagas and such aren’t a bible, they’re simply stories that are meant to inspire and we use them in modern day to get an idea of some of the beliefs of our ancestors. From the Sagas of the Icelanders to The Lay of Atli, there’s mention of the beard being the center of male virility and prowess. In our mythology, the only one of our God-like figures who is portrayed as being clean shaven is also the only God who was shamed and cast out from the Asir. Loki is known for his feminine qualities as he shape-shifted into a mare, became pregnant and gave birth to Slepnir, Odin’s eight legged horse, so there again do we see the absence of a beard associated with femininity. Furthermore, Loki is also known for playing pranks and getting himself into trouble, so aside from femininity, one could argue that Loki’s being perceived as beardless also reflects that he was child-like hinting that only women and children didn’t grow beards and a man without a beard would have been seen as both. The absence of the beard in nearly all germanic literature is equated with weakness treachery, shame and dishonor.
From an archeological standpoint, combs and oils are almost always amongst the finds of anything related to a Viking burial. This tells us two things. 1, that our ancestors were hygienic and took great care of their hair and beards, almost to a point of reverence, and 2 that they believed their beards and hair would need to be maintained in the afterlife as if it has something to do with their spirit. Both of these things reinforces the animist perspective of hair being an extension of the spirit of the northern people.
When did we start shaving our beards and cutting our hair though and how did it become so acceptable to go around with short hair and a shaved face? Well, that began with the rise of the Roman Empire. To Romans, Rome was the epicenter of civilization and was hailed as one of the greatest cities that expanded and dominated most of the western world. In Roman culture, men cut their hair short and shaved their beards in submission to their emperor and distinguished themselves as “civilized” men by separating themselves from the “barbarians” that inhabited the hillside. As the Roman empire evolved and became the enforcement arm of the holy catholic church, their military began to forcibly cut the hair of the native men they conquered as a symbol of removing their power and killing their spirit. The Tale of Samson and Deliliah in the Bible is one shining example of the victory over the uncivilized barbarian, removing his native spirit by cutting his hair and replacing his ancestral powers with faith in the Abrahamic God. That story is literally telling us to put our native ways aside, submit to the governing power and save the lives of our own people by submitting and the symbolism used is cutting his hair to remove his strength.
You still see this in the military forces of most western civilizations today as Basic training begins with ritualistically shaving the recruits head to eliminate their personal identity and force them to submit to a new authority. In western nations today, long hair on men is said to be feminine or unmanly, beards until recently beards were seen as “dirty” or unhygienic. This is so engrained in our culture today that many of us don’t even question it. We just keep doing what we’re told and forcing this culture on each other with no regard to why or where it came from, all we know or care about is that society keeps telling us that beards are gross and long hair is for girls.
I’m not telling anyone else what they should do, I’m just telling you how I see things. My beard is an extension of my spirit and I grow it, maintain it and keep it healthy to honor my ancestors. I grow my hair as a symbol of rejecting roman law. To me, my hair and beard is not only a symbol of masculinity and virility, it is an extension of my soul, gives me strength and prowess and is a symbol of rejecting the laws of foreign Gods and maintaining the way of my ancestors.

Honoring Your Ancestors

Any time you’re around a group of Heathens, whether online or in person, you’re bound to hear someone reference “The Ancestors”. Sometimes during blot or sumbel, one might raise a horn and shout out a hearty “Hail the ancestors!” In a form of toast, or you might see a meme on social media platforms pleading their viewers to “Remember The Ancestors”. But who are “The Ancestors”? Who’s ancestors are we talking about? All of our ancestors? Or just specific ones? Just the viking ancestors? Or the farmers and christians too? It seems to be a trend in modern Asatru to just talk about some nondescript group of dead folks from the viking age in which we may or may not have any direct lineage to and somehow worship or deify them. Some of this fascination seems to be rooted in some sort of Viking age romanticism, and to be honest, some of it is rooted in something quite a bit more deviant as “The Ancestors” can be twisted to just mean a bunch of random white dudes and in some circles has become the politically correct way of saying “White Power!”. As with any other subject, you have the two extremes that everyone talks about while the more common sense and rational approach tends to go unnoticed .
Ancestral worship has a long history in many different forms of paganism, namely those that are pre-Christian, Animist spiritual paths and Heathenry is no different. It should come to no surprise that Heathenry is derived from ancient shamanic practices of the proto-European people and as such it has deep roots in the cult of ancestral worship, deification of the sacred dead and various mother’s cults etc.. A lot of the reason for this was the tribal society our ancestors lived in at the time and the fact that family and tribe came first so it only made sense to continue to revere the family members who had the greatest impact on us after their passing. Ancestor worship takes many forms throughout history and presents itself in ways such as remembering and celebrating the birthday of a loved one who’s passed on or hosting a memorial on the anniversary of their death. It was common for our ancestors to continue to bring offerings to the grave mounds of their relatives for years after their death. Ynglinga Saga has one major example of this as followers of Ing-Frey would bring offerings to his mound in hope of a plentiful harvest or continued prosperity . The tradition of leaving offerings for our dead relatives was actually so prominent in our culture that it’s actually the reason we leave flowers on the graves of people we care about still to this day.
But wait, in all of this, where do the random white guys or nondescript Viking warriors come in? All of what I mentioned above seems sort of personal doesn’t it? Well that’s kind of the point, ancestral worship is supposed to be something that is very personal to each individual, otherwise it’s just empty words that ring hollow. By replacing “Hail the ancestors” with “Hail MY ancestors, you make it personal and by doing so you start to effect change in how you practice your spirituality and even how you live your every day life as it should be. I mean, what good is a belief system if it doesn’t inspire positive change and growth? “Honor YOUR ancestors should be a call to action. It should inspire you to live a life that honors the people in your life that have passed on. Your deeds should honor the memory of your mother or father or grandfather. We should be able to think that someone we loved would be proud of us and who we’ve become since their passing and our words and deeds should reflect a drive to do just that; make your ancestors proud.
You can start honoring your ancestors by building honor within yourself, by becoming a person of virtue. By holding yourself accountable and possessing integrity, being honest and forthright. Someone close to me once suggested that honor is the culmination of all other virtues, because if you become a person of great virtue, you will by default become a person of great honor. The greatest gift that any of our ancestors gave us is the blood that courses through our veins. The life that we choose to live should honor the memory of those who came before us and their struggles and sacrifices they made for us and in doing so, we build our own legacy to pass on to our descendants. Our greatest hope is that they will carry our traditions, culture and heritage forward into the future so that they’re aren’t forgotten, but first it is on you to pass down something meaningful and sacred not ironic or superficial.
Honor YOUR Ancestors even if they were Christians and stop romanticizing about a vague description of Vikings in long ships or just a bunch of pigment deficient strangers. Make your spirituality deeply personal and sacred to you and then pass that on to your children and grandchildren.

Death And The Great Beyond In Heathenry


In order to grasp the concept of death as it’s understood out side the confines of Abrahamic theology, we need to accept the fact that for the pagan mind, it is not the end of the series of events that play out in one’s life. Death is apart of a cycle that begins with birth and ends with transformation of the conscious mind. The stages of the cycle are continuous just as all cycles found in nature because for all our advancements as a species, we are still a species that adheres to the laws of nature whether we like it or not. You are born, you live, you grow old, you die and you are born again. Now to say we are “born again” is not as simple as it may sound.

While examples of reincarnation are prevalent in Northern European lore, that doesn’t explain away how the dead manifest in other ways. Sometimes the spirits of the dead simply reincarnate as creatures which why I’m inclined to believe animals and birds are often popular symbols for family coat of arms; especially for Celtic families as it was widely believed among many ancient Celtic tribes that they descended from particular animals. In parts of Europe, it’s not unheard of to come across stories of certain families who believe, after someone dies, they may manifest for a short time in dreams or the physical realm as a specific creature such as an owl, a deer or a butterfly and such.

I recall one story from Ireland where a woman came to her priest in a panic. She told the priest that her sister had been stalking her even though her sister had been dead for weeks. The priest was rather concerned by the woman’s claim and wanted to calm her fears through counseling. During their visit, the woman looked up and pointed to the window and told the priest her sister was watching them at that very moment. The priest looked at the window and saw a bee crawling across the glass. The woman was certain that was her sister; the bee had been following her every where she went ever since her sister died.

The idea that we don’t always change into someone else but rather some other living thing is closely tied to the more abstract concept of the afterlife. The popular motif of our soul being a seed that bursts from the body into a tree, a rose bush or a bird that takes flight points us to a very old idea that apart of us, perhaps the primitive aspect of our spirit, is somehow drawn into the natural world to be used to fuel a thriving environment. In theory, you can see this absorption, physically, if you ever watched a carcass being slowly broken down by different bugs and animals as the soil underneath it will literally drawing nutrients from the carcass. One could argue, thanks to modern society and many laws about burial in parts of the United States, we don’t even have the common courtesy to allow our bodies to be given to the land to use in return for all it gave us to sustain us while we were alive and someday, that will have dire consequences.

A good bulk of our lore also rests in the realm of ghosts, fairies and wights. There’s no denying we live in a haunted world. This concept is handed down from the lore in the Old World that tells us the dead can, and often will, take up residence in mountains and hills. From Ireland, Iceland, Germany to the Baltic, there are countless stories of mountains where you can find glorious halls within where heroes or whole families live after death. Sometimes, door ways will open, and a wanderer may be well received by the occupants of these underground places. Grave mounds are probably meant to serve as mini-mountain halls for the dead so one need not have to travel great distances to visit them. This would be very handy for the living, as in Celtic traditions, the underworld was a place that existed parallel to the living world and not some far away plain of paradises. So physical places, such as graves, could create access points for the living and the dead to converse from time to time.

These mountain/mound dwelling wights and fairies may venture out at certain times through out the night, but many are most adventurous during the later part of the year. The most noted time where the dead and other spirits move freely is during Samhain (October 31-November 1). In pop culture, it’s expressed that this is the “one time of the year,” when the dead walk. The reality is that the winter months appear to be just as active. After all, the most common spectacle to be seen would be the Winter Wild Hunt. This is a great spirit hunt that’s often hosted by supreme divine figures such as the God Odin or Goddess Hulda and the host is usually made up of spirits who join the hunt for various reasons. The hunts are not limited to the supreme divine though; figures like Sigurd the Great Dragon Slayer are said to host their own hunts.

The lore surrounding death is pretty diverse and filled with stories that you could fill my house to the ceiling with. If there is any truth at all to the over whelming volume of stories about reincarnation, ghosts and wild spirits who retained some of their memory from their mortal lives than it appears our consciousness tends to imprint itself onto the energy that fuels us on a daily basis and certain parts of who we are in life carry on after death.

To understand the transformation from a physical person to spirit, we need to understand the nature of energy. According to science, we know that energy can never be destroyed. It simply disperses, changes form or transfers into other cycles which is echoed in traditions found in Germanic paganism, for example. It is there that we find a belief of a soul complex that disperses into separate parts. Apart of your conscious absorbs into the elements. Another part may transcend to the next plain over while another is absorbed into the cycle of life to return in physical form. This is why when someone asks me what is the meaning of life? I simply reply: “Live like you’re never leaving this planet because you probably aren’t.” Don’t be so quick to taint the waters today, you may live in tomorrow.