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We Feed the Mind, But Not the Heart

The Asatru community has been growing steadily these many years. We participate on all levels within our community, from the secular level, to the broader pagan community, and the more focused heathen community. We attend and host workshops, and moots; we speak out in political forums and at schools about our ways and beliefs. We volunteer in our communities and contribute in ways that make great differences to those both of our faith and those who are not.

We have carefully supervised and constructed programs of study that train those who wish to be godhi, gythia, and elders among us. These programs inundate students in the lore and history, in the ancient languages of our forbearers, and some of these programs also provide classes in counseling. There are groups that focus in the training of our magicoreligious traditions such as galdr, runemal, spae-craft, leech-craft, and seidhr. Yet for all of this, we as a community, we as a faith still have overlooked the most important aspect of all: the nurturing and growth of our relationships with our Gods and Goddesses. In essence we have overlooked our hearts while we cram our minds full of lore and history that is incomplete.

Yes, our history and our lore is incomplete. We have more questions than we do answers from what survives. Even much of what does survive is circumspect. How much of it was politically edited or lost due to the spread and encompassing sphere of influence attributed to Christianity? Christianity devoured and annihilated older religions and peoples like a plague throughout Europe until it rose into dominance. The indigenous cultures were wiped out, or forced to convert under Christian rule to preserve their lives. We have hardly any evidence, be it written or not that predates the Christian influence in Europe.

We modern-day heathens, we Asatru, have reconstructed our traditions from lines of text here and there scattered amongst what lore we do have. In many cases we have had to make educated guesses; we have borrowed from similar traditions among other cultures to help fill in the gaps. This is especially true for some of our magicoreligious traditions.

Heathens debate as much as Christian scholars and even Jewish rabbi about the meaning of our lore. Almost any heathen gathering both online or in person has such debates, and for all the debating I have yet to see any sort of consensus ever fully reached. The medieval Catholic Church with one voice told its parishioners this is how you interpret the text, this is what it means, until Martin Luther nailed his protest onto a church door. In this much, I agree with Mr. Luther: that it is up to every individual person to read and interpret for himself or herself the meaning of their holy texts. The beauty of the Bible is that it can be many things to many people, and it can provide answers in unexpected ways. Any true religious text should provide doorways to understanding and seeing the divine.

Our lore is no exception; it provides us with the basic framework of understanding for our faith. Our lore allows us a springboard from which we can dive into the divine and the great mysteries. Yet, why is there no real encouragement in our community to do just that?

We have blots and we have symbels, we come together and honor our Gods and Goddesses. Occasionally we thank them for how they have helped us in our lives. Perhaps Eir brought one of us healing, or Tyr helped justice be done; maybe Freyr brought great bounty onto our gardens and crops. Yet we never really speak about how They have brought comfort to our hearts.

This is perhaps the one area where Christians do hold supremacy over us. After all, when was the last time you heard any heathen on fire for our Gods? Where are our Rhine mystics?

Is it so hard for the heathen community to embrace our Gods intimately, to draw them down into our minds and hearts and souls? Can we not allow ourselves to be a microcosm of the vast divine macrocosm?

Our Gods and Goddesses live in our homes, our places of worship, in the places where we labor and work. They are the very air we breathe in, the blood that courses and pulses through our veins. They can be found in our laughter, and in our heartfelt tears. They are in the sky, and deep in the earth. They are the water that replenishes us, and in the food that nurtures us.

They care for us deeply. Odin sends out his ravens Huginn and Muninn not only to report on the state of the world, but on those individuals dwelling in it.

As a community we disregard any evidence except that found in our ancient lore, or with the aid of an archaeologist’s tools. We treat the lore at times more sacrosanct then we do our own Gods. Yet the lore is only what was, with suggestions of what may come. The lore is not the present and the now, otherwise we have been honoring Gods and Goddesses trapped within written word, as little more than fictional characters in a literary text, for over a millennia.

We need to at least open our minds and hearts, eyes and ears to the other evidence They impart our way, from trance-journeys, to oracles received from Them, or revelations found in meditations. I am not saying that you must agree with these, for sometimes those answers given are keyed quite specifically to an individual. But we should nurture an environment where we at least listen and encourage others to share. The Aesir and Vanir are not cookie-cutter deities. We experience them on many different levels. Different people experience Odin in a variety of ways: as warrior, as storyteller, as shaman, as the god of sacrifice, as the god of gifts, etc. We experience them based upon our own receptivity to various aspects of them as well as to what we need (not to be confused with what we want).

We as a community need to find a way to bring out and nurture both spirituality and the relationship between individuals and the Gods and Goddesses. We as a community need to support it. For only when we make a special effort to deal with not only the mind but the heart and soul as well, will we truly establish our faith into a holistic and healthy religion.

Edited: Making posts late at night when you're sleepy isn't always the smartest thing to do. Most of the above is something I wrote up about 5 years ago. I meant to post it as a then & now comparison, but I had forgotten to follow through. 5 years later, we now have a range of devotional and somewhat controversial UPG (unsubstantiated personal gnosis) as well as SPG (substantiated personal gnosis in which multiple persons independent of one another have come to the same gnosis) accounts that have been published, or are in the works.

Whether these sources are accepted or not is to me not the point, but rather that they exist at all proves to me that we are beginning to come into our own as a religion. :)


Whisperings of Woden
Walking Toward Yggdrasil
Odhroerir: Nine Devotional Tales of Odin's Journeys
A Devotional: Honoring Thor and Family
Trickster, My Beloved: Poems for Laufey's Son

Full Fathom Five: Honoring the Gods & Goddesses of the Sea
Feeding the Flame - A Devotional to Loki and His Family
I think there's someone else also doing another Loki devotional
Gifts of the Golden God - A Frey Devotional
Frigga Devotional
Hel Devotional

Also of interest
The Altar Project
Visions of Vanaheim


I think we're starting to move away from some of that. I've been thinking about the Heathen community more of late myself (now that I'm back into the swing of things). I've got my own little piece of this I'm working on... and I've got some thoughts but they're all jumbled now and I'd make no sense trying to express them. :-) I'll see about trying to express them in an essay or something sometime... just wanted to say I think you've got some good points here.
Actually I realized I forgot to go where I had intended to go with this post, so I edited it. In the last 5 years we went from 'nothing' to having several books already out, and more on the way. That to me is a good sign. :)
I compiled Frey's devotional "Gifts of the Golden God" which should be out around Yuletide. Thank you for the nod :)

I wanted to comment when I saw this last night but I was a little tired. This point in particular stood out:

This is perhaps the one area where Christians do hold supremacy over us. After all, when was the last time you heard any heathen on fire for our Gods? Where are our Rhine mystics?

Is it so hard for the heathen community to embrace our Gods intimately, to draw them down into our minds and hearts and souls? Can we not allow ourselves to be a microcosm of the vast divine macrocosm?

Absolutely. Unfortunately most modern Heathens in the US think the Gods do not get deeply involved in the lives of individuals, and forget stories of individuals who had fulltrui. Of course not everyone is meant to have a fulltrui but it seems like US Heathenry is rather "dead" in terms of enthusiasm and devotion to the Gods and the local wights. I have a healthy skepticism about some outrageous claims but I've also seen too much in my own life that cannot be coincidence, and I owe Frey a lot. There is love there... it may not be popular... but it's there.

I'm enthusiastic about all the devotionals listed (witchy_abriel is the one doing the other Loki devotional at the moment, and there's poetry by ignited_spark as well), and there's more forthcoming. I'm enthusiastic about the level of personal devotion to the Gods. If Heathenry is to be seen as more than just another failed countercultural movement in the US in the next 50 years, we need to re-think priorities, to focus less on being contentious and divisive, and more on what's really important: the Gods, and how we can honor Them and in turn honor each other :)

I have a hard time keeping things straight on who is doing what, when I haven't met the person. Names just swirl around in a vast soup in my head. I'm a visual person, so I need a face to a name to keep it straight. As much as I love Tolkien, sometimes reading his works drive me nutters by all the various names the same character is known by.

Certain branches of U.S. heathenry I've found to be quite hypocritical in nearly every regard. I think we have alot of confusion, and more than that alot of people with 'issues' from Christianity that have given them jaundiced views in some regards.