Relationships: the Down Side
[Young Heathens Page]
DISCLAIMER: the following article was
written during a time of very very bad Heathen politicking and infighting.
It details in plain English the very worst social behavior among Heathens.
People give me down the road for this article from time to time, saying that I
am being "negative." However, that was not and is not my intention.
This article was written to point out, hopefully for thoughtful consideration
and eventual correction, the very worst things about our Heathen community.
There are wonderful things going on among us as well. If there were not,
I would have gone completely solitary long ago! I am sure that with
patience, careful searching, and a good old Havamal-inspired "show-me"
attitude, you can find a Heathen community to fit your temperament and needs,
where you can learn, socialize and grow and help others to do likewise.
As you do, remember what your parents (hopefully) taught you about good
manners and polite interactions with others. If you do these things and
avoid those who consistently do not, you will be off to a good start in both
having and being a part of a wonderful Heathen experience.
Otherwise known as:
"The Sorry Way We Heathens Treat Each Other"
In my nearly five years (as of late 1997) of involvement with Heathenry,
I must say that the most disappointing part has been the sorry way we Heathens
tend to treat each other. Folks, this is having a very nasty effect on our
community. Attendance at some of the better-known and better-publicized Moots
and Althings was way down last year. People are leaving. I recently heard
that the folks running the Asatru Historical Library are leaving Heathenism!
Although I do not know if the overall dismal level of frith contributed to
this, I'm certain it did nothing to encourage them to stay! Some people are
trying to turn this around. Frigga's Web, "a frithstead for all Heathens,"
has done good work in this regard.
What are the problems? Essentially, political infighting within and between
groups, and squabbling and name-calling between individuals. Heathenry is
much too small to support the current level of fighting! I'm having to counsel
folks not to let what Heathens say to them on the internet bother them, and
have been asked my opinion privately because folks don't want to see a mess
started on an e-mail list or a computer bulletin board. Don't get me wrong.
I don't expect perfect frith. We are too diverse and opinionated a bunch
for that, and some conflict is necessary. Everyone is going to have a bad
day every now and then and behave accordingly. In addition, we are a part
of a necessarily imperfect Universe. However, the current level of conflict
is simply much too high for our community to continue to thrive and grow.
Here is a brief Heathen survival guide, or if you would, a guide to the newly
(or not so newly) Heathen. First of all, if you are thin-skinned or emotionally
fragile, stay the Hel away from organized (especially Internet) Heathenry
until you work those issues through. This religion works just fine for the
solitary practitioner. Otherwise, you will be hurt, and hurt badly. I can
virtually promise you that. Keep some space in your life for interests outside
Heathendom. Too many people have seem to have no life outside of organized
Heathenry. It's basic sanity insurance to live a well-rounded life. A healthy
side-effect is that you won't have time for stirring up silly Heathen wars
and will be more able to ignore them when someone else starts them.
Find Heathens who impact your life, especially your spiritual life, in a
positive fashion. Endeavor to avoid, rather than pick at, Heathens who do
not. This includes Heathens with whom you disagree on issues such as
sexual orientation, politics and ethnicity. Leave them to their Wyrd and
to the Gods. Concentrate on your own religious/spiritual life first. Then
try to start a strong, well-grounded local group. While national and
international groups have much good work to do, this has always been mostly
a religion of the individual, families and small groups. Get involved in
the larger Heathen community if you have the time, energy and inclination
after getting your own house in order and working when possible with other
Heathen folks in person. You'll find that the best Heathens are those with
something to offer to the larger society, that is the community and nation
in which they reside. If an individual's "mundane" life is a mess, chances
are he or she won't help you religious-wise. The Gods will be more impressed
by you striving to better yourself, support yourself and your family to the
best of your ability, and be a responsible citizen than they will by any
amount of hot air and fancy titles. Join your local neighborhood association.
Pick up trash along the road or in your local park. Donate blood. Go tutor
kids or be a big brother or sister to some lonely child. Volunteer for some
of the large number of worthy causes in your community. And let them know
you're a Heathen. That will get us Heathens more acceptance than anything
Avoid individuals who consistently behave in a childish, domineering, or
insane fashion. When the ranting, raving and name-calling start, do your
best not to respond. Hit the delete button, hang up the phone, or throw it
in the trash can (or better yet, the recycling bin). This includes the opinions
of those with a "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude. Some of these folks are
merely young and immature, and thus may well grow up and out of it in time.
For example, I recently got a nasty, vaguely threatening, and borderline
racist rant from a fellow Heathen. I admit I typed up a esponse that was
pretty nasty, but had the sense to delete it unsent and replace it with a
brief but reasoned response. When I later checked the sender's AOL profile,
I found out he was only 17. Others are in worse shape. More than a few Heathen
adults need to start acting their age.
On a more positive note, do what you can for your fellow Heathens. Feed them
if they're hungry. Then, help them find a job if they are employable or help
them get a government check if they are too old or sick to work. If they
have a substance abuse problem, get them to detox. If you cannot do an
intervention yourself, find someone they might listen to. That's what I did
last Summer when it became obvious to all present that a very prominent Heathen
was suffering from a full-blown case of alcoholism. I'm sure I did him, the
group of which he is a part, and Heathenry as a whole a lot more good than
did the folks who expressed outrage at his behavior (justified as that outrage
may well have been) and went after him politically.
I hope this article has been useful to you. If you disagree with me, fine.
I can deal with it. I strive to lead a balanced and productive life. My Kindred
accepts me as a godhi. The commonwealth of Kentucky recognizes me an ordained
minister, licensed and bonded to marry people within its boundaries. While
many of you are dear friends, when push comes to shove, I'm not real worried
about what anyone but my Kindred (the Heathens I see and worship with regularly)
and the state in which I live (which recognizes my ministerial credentials)
thinks about me or my ministry. If more folks felt that way, the level of
frith in Heathendom would be considerably improved. Don't get me wrong; I'm
slowly getting more involved in the national and international groups, but
I treat that involvement as icing on the cake, not the main course. While
I do have some serious concerns, most especially the relatively large number
of Heathens involved in extremist political ideologies and/or who are
incarcerated, I truly believe that contemporary Heathenry can have a bright
future. Nevertheless, if we don't at least try to get our collective house
in order, the Gods will not hold us guiltless for what we are doing to the
long-term viability of the Heathen revival.
all works used by permission of the authors