The Word Heathen – How Context Matters

So this meme recently crossed my feed, and it annoyed me. Greatly.
(Any areas in red, are items I’ve edited on the original meme, because I don’t want the original meme as it was to be shared anymore).

heathen

I’m going to ignore the surprise bitch aspect (I don’t think it’s helpful in terms of getting others to learn about us by being disrespectful like this, even though my inner snark can appreciate it). That’s not what irked me. What irked me here is the use of the phrase “godless heathen,” which is deeply problematic.

The ancient followers and believers of the old Gods of Germany, Scandinavia and Anglo-Saxon England did not have a name that they called their religion because their religious identity was simply part of their cultural identity. It wasn’t until Christianity encroached on these ancient polytheistic cultures that the term Heathen (used by the 4th Century Christian Goth Ulfilas in his translation of the Bible) was first employed to distinguish between Christians and the ‘other’. It is believed that Ulfilas was inspired to follow the example the Romans had created when they termed the word pagan. Ulfilas’ use of the term heathen in his translation of the Bible would trickle down the centuries until the word was used in various Viking Age sagas later.

Through the centuries since, the terms pagan and heathen have in the common vernacular become somewhat interchangeable, and the meaning has shifted and changed. Christians later used the term to describe any non-Christian people regardless of geographic location, and eventually the word was stripped of even religious connotation in some usages to merely refer to something that is strange or uncivilized. Today there is a movement of some modern-day practitioners trying to reclaim the original definition of the term Heathen and using it to name their collective religious identity as Heathenry, of which I am one. I’m not godless, I am one who has and venerates many Gods and Goddesses. The words and context of how we use those words matter.

The word anathema is used today, perverted by Christianity, to refer to something that is: horrible, malevolent, abominable, abhorrently evil. But the word comes from pre-Christian times, and meant something completely different. Anathema derives from Ancient Greek: ἀνάθεμα, anáthema, meaning “an offering” or “anything dedicated”. So this is a term used in connection with votive offerings, sacred devotion and dedication. Of course Christianity would vilify proper sacred devotions to the Gods and Goddesses as it was in direct opposition to their worldview. Hel originally meant the underworld (literally where the dead dwell, the earth), personified and deified by the Goddess of the same name. It etymologically also has connotations to the word hall, so the hall of the dead is a derivative meaning as well. Christianity stole the term and made it a term of negativity when spreading their doctrine. They turned it into a place of evil.

I understand the intent of the meme, but especially within the non-Christian spheres where pagans and polytheists all dwell and identify with, I’m disappointed to see the Christian definition and phrase “godless heathen” being used as it perpetuates Christianity’s erosion of these old and sacred traditions and religions; it continues the malignant stereotype. Even in a way that is mocking Christianity here, why are we still using the “godless heathen” phraseology of the religious oppresor that has done all they can to destroy us?

A “godless heathen” is a phraseology that is uniquely Christian in its origins. The phrase carries with it connotations to an uncivilized barbarian lacking of any religious mores or values, in other words an unintelligent inferior, someone not worthy because they do not acknowledge the God of Christianity as the one and only god. This sort of phraseology and attitude has been used as justification for the genocide of indigenous (and polytheistic) religions around the world.

Part of the church’s Discovery Doctrine that led to the Catholic Church’s genocide of millions globally and led to slavery (from Africa, to other non-Christian populations around the world, including the enslavement of First Nations People sold into slavery in Albuquerque’s Old Town). An attitude that led to the Mission School System and places like the Carlisle Boys School. For those unfamiliar with the Mission School system, the church ran schools determined to beat the non-Christian out of their students which meant horrible mental and physical abuse, resulted in the theft of land and property and did in fact result in the death of untold vast numbers. The mission schools represented the death of a culture: both physically and spiritually and is something the Catholic Church engaged in for about 500 years across the globe. The genocidal tendencies of the church to the First Nation Peoples of the Americas was just as devastating as the holocaust was to the Jews.

Phraseology of godless heathen, from the past to the modern era, has been used both directly and indirectly in various attitudes to justify forced conversion, the trail of tears/the long walk (and similar incidents), the aforementioned mission school system, land grabs, taking indigenous children from their parents (which still happens). Phraseology like these are behind attitudes that help to make Native American women the most preyed upon population in the U.S., 4 out of 5 will be the victims of violence, with a murder rate 10 times that of the US average for women who aren’t Native.

In other areas of the world the Church attacked the old polytheistic traditions too. Most pagans and polytheists are at least somewhat familiar with how that manifested in our religious traditions. For Northern Tradition polytheists, or Heathens, we know that the church canonized as Saint Olaf, the late King of Norway, Olaf II Haraldsson, who is credited as making Norway completely Christian. In fact if you look at the Heimskringla, aka the Sagas of the Norse Kings, the deeds of pagan killing is essentially bragged about in the annals of history. Famously, one of our martyrs of the Northern Tradition, Olvir of Egg, was executed by him. His story can be found in Óláfs saga helga.

Words matter, and how we use those words matter. Pagans and polytheists are attacked so much from the outside, we shouldn’t be doing the work of those who would destroy us by calling ourselves godless, when we are blessed with an abundance of deities.

I’m going to leave you with a song, “We are Heathens”, performed and re-branded to a Heathen religious bent by Karl Donaldsson. It’s sung to the tune of the song “They’ll Know We Are Christians”by Peter Scholtes. The lyrics seem uniquely apt to this post, you can listen here: https://youtu.be/hUkL8J5STV0

Chorus:
And they’ll know we are heathens by our might and our main,
And they’ll know what heathen means by the name.

We are brave men and women, courage worn like a shield
We will slay our foes and leave their bodies in the field
And we’ll make sure that our kin are all safe and healed

Chorus

We are honest with others; to the gods, we are Tru
When we speak, there is no doubt as to what we will do
Honest words can bring you close to your kin, too

Chorus

We will live with honor, we have nothing to hide
The worth of our ancestors was judged when they died
We will save women’s dignity and honor men’s pride

Chorus

We will demonstrate loyalty to gods and to man
Forging bonds of fidelity wherever we can
And some day our deeds will be sung by our clan

Chorus

We will make a place for visitors to our stead
We will share our ale and we will share our bread
And tonight, you must stay inside, in our spare bed

Chorus

Our minds will be focused, like a wielded sword
Our hearts act as one, as our bodies’ ward
Over each one’s existence there is only one lord

Chorus

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
Younger hands will be influenced by older hands’ guide
And together, the work we’ve done will aid others’ lives

Chorus

We rely on each person to bear his own weight
He will hold up his end making his worth great
And together we become the masters of our fate

Chorus

We stand strong in the face of adversity
We are stone in the path of instability
Persevere, now, to make it so our folk remain free

Chorus

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🐍🐉🐍 The Snakes in the Grass – Saint Patrick, the Pagans, & the God Crom Cruach 🐍🐉🐍

I do not celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, which is a day of holy obligation for Catholics in Ireland (as well as revered by a few other Christian denominations). Why would I, a heathen, celebrate a 5th Century Saint whose mission in life was to turn pagans from their Gods and ancestral ways? If he lived today he’d be trying to convert me away from the Gods of my life as well.

For those with Irish ancestry who take this day to celebrate their ancestry, that is all to the good. But remember there is a difference between a drunken revelry of green beer, and the celebration of a vast rich culture. There is a difference in remembering your ancestors and laying out offerings, telling their stories, and hailing their names versus urinating on the sidewalk because you’re behaving as a drunken fool.

Of course, I’ve always found it ironic that a man who was born in Roman Britain, has become the representative icon for Ireland.

While there are many stories about Saint Patrick, the tale of him driving out the snakes is the most wide known. Of course it’s also clearly historically impossible as snakes haven’t inhabited Ireland since the last Ice Age concluded more than 10,000 years ago, which is before Patrick was even born. It’s a bit ridiculous to think he drove out animals that weren’t even there. But not only did this story appear very late (centuries after his death), there’s also a belief in some corners that the story was allegorical, and the snakes were symbolical representations for the ancient pagans/polytheists.

Continue reading “🐍🐉🐍 The Snakes in the Grass – Saint Patrick, the Pagans, & the God Crom Cruach 🐍🐉🐍”

The Holy Tides – Yule, its traditions, and religious observances

Just as our pagan cousins celebrate the eight major sabbats that comprise the Wheel of the Year, for those of us in the Northern Tradition we too have somewhat similar key celebrations that we call holy tides (from the Old Norsehátíðir). Some of these celebrations are more significant and special than others, and these especially important holy-days are known as high holy tides: such as Ostara, Winter Nights, and Yule which is now upon us.

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Continue reading “The Holy Tides – Yule, its traditions, and religious observances”

Free Sigdrifa’s Prayer bookmarks to any veteran or currently serving pagan or polytheist in the U.S. military

Sigdrifa’s Prayer is a rare remnant in our lore, as it’s the only non-Christianized, complete prayer that we have from the historical sources. In it’s short simplicity, the prayer found in the Sigdrifumal is a microcosm of the vast macrocosm of Northern Tradition cosmology. It holds a very special place in my heart.

 

Hail to the Day
Hail His Sons
Hail Night and Her Daughter!
Gaze on us
with loving eyes
and bring us victory.
Hail to the Gods
and the Goddesses
Hail, the generous Earth!
Grant us wisdom
and eloquent speech
and healing all our lives.

What many do not realize is that Day (or rather in the Old Norse Dagr) is a personification of the Day, and is the son of Nott, i.e. Night. And that they are separate and distinct from Sunna and Mani (the Goddess of the Sun, and the God of the Moon).

These few lines… is enough fodder for a short book – Sigdrifa’s Prayer: An Explanation & Exegesis, by fellow blogger Galina Krasskova.  Whether you are of the Northern Tradition, or just practice some other form of paganism the book is definitely recommended.

I have created bookmarks featuring this prayer, and would now like to make them available for free (yes, I’ll cover shipping costs as well) to any veteran or currently serving pagan or polytheist in the U.S. military.

Sigdrifa’s Prayer Bookmarks

 

The bookmarks themselves are 2 x 6 inches, with a UV glossy coat, featuring a double-sided full color design printed on nice cardstock. One side has the prayer in the original Old Norse, the other side has a modern translation of it.

To Qualify:

  • Identify as either a Heathen (Asatru, Northern Tradition, Theodish, etc.), a polytheist, or pagan.
  • Be a veteran or currently serving member of the U.S. Military (any branch).
  • You must have a U.S. mailing address (an APO/FPO or similar address counts).

To Request:

Contact me via email (wyrddesigns at gmail dot com) or through private message on facebook (Wyrd Dottir). For privacy concerns, please do NOT make your requests (featuring your name and address)  in the comments of this post. When you do contact me please be sure to:

Provide your:

  • Full Name
  • Complete Mailing Address where the bookmark(s) can be sent. If you give me an APO/FPO address, remember that all mail must be addressed to an individual soldier.
  • Email Address or FACEBOOK ID (whichever method you used to contact me so I can notify you once I’ve got the items in the mail, and I can make sure I don’t mix your request up with someone else of a potentially similar name).

Quantity:

I’m going to assume that I just need to send 1 of the bookmarks along. If you are requesting on behalf of a group, please indicate that clearly in your message to me and the number you’d like to request. I’ve sent a stack of the bookmarks before to some of the Pagan Circles at various bases.

Offer only good while supplies last.

I have worked with groups before who offered to sponsor a print run to give away at large public gatherings and events. I am open to such discussion, just drop me a line.

Mesa Verde Vandalized in the Name of ‘Asatru’

The official Facebook account for Mesa Verde National Park posted on July 23, the following statement and images of recent vandalism. One of the many desecrations to this ancient site is graffiti depicting Thor’s Hammer, accompanied by text that spells out the word ‘Asatru.’

 

As the summer progresses and visitation increases, we are seeing more and more evidence of graffiti, vandalization, and intentional littering throughout Mesa Verde National Park. This comes in many forms and across many surfaces. In one of the pictures below, you’ll see names rubbed onto the sandstone using prehistoric charcoal which a visitor dug up in an archaeological site along the Petroglyph Point Trail. Not only did this/these individuals vandalize the cliff side, they destroyed archaeological artifacts to do so.
The purpose of the National Park Service is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. Please help us in this effort and refrain from creating graffiti, intentionally littering, causing damage to or otherwise disturbing the landscape in all National Parks. If you see others engaging in any of these acts, please report this activity to the nearest Park Ranger or to staff in the Chief Ranger’s Office located next to the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum.
Despite the fact that this is the mission and purpose of the National Park Service, we are seeing a growing number of instances of intentional damage throughout NPS sites every year. Why do you think people do this? What do you think the intent is and what can we do as a culture to cut down on these occurrences?
Thank you to all of the visitors who do visit with respect. Let us all leave no trace, educate others about proper stewardship of public lands, and enjoy these wonderful landscapes as they are.

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Graffiti found etched in sandstone boulders on the Knife Edge Trail, located near Morefield Campground at Mesa Verde National Park.

This infuriates me. Only nithlings are so ignorantly insecure as to destroy cultural heritage, regardless of its origin. This is our human history, and belongs to us all. This act is as heinous as Christians destroying our holy sites. As abominable as the Nazi’s burning books, and is nothing more than the act of a small-minded peon, who should be outcast from the community as a whole.

There are many runestones found in Denmark and Sweden, bearing both a depiction of mjollnir (Thor’s Hammer) but also an inscription entreating Thor to hallow or protect. This symbol is both a symbol of protection and consecration. Also it is used today by those who worship this God, be they go by the name of Asatru, Heathen, Northern Tradition Polytheist, etc.  To use His symbol in such a way is nothing but blatant disrespect for our God. For you have committed an act of defilement in His name, while also slandering us all. Shame on you nithling!

Vandalism does not in any way represent the ideals–summed up in the Nine Noble Virtues–of Asatru belief: courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, self reliance, industriousness, perseverance. This was a national park, and a guest of this park, violated hospitality, and behaved most dishonorably. I doubt that any of my circle of friends would have someone like this in their own circle, but if you have knowledge of the perpetrator of this atrocity, please contact the authorities. For does the Havamal 127 not say “If aware that another is wicked, say so.”

May Tyr bless the Federal Authorities & Criminal Investigators so they may find the cretin, and s/he is punished to the full extent of the law. May Thor bring down the hammer of His might, and smite the nithling!

Free Bookmarks for Pagan / Polytheist US Military Active Duty & Veterans 

Sigdrifa’s Prayer is a rare remnant in the Northern Tradition (historical cultures with a common worship to Odin/Woden), as it’s the only non-Christianized, complete prayer that we have from the historical sources. In it’s short simplicity, the prayer found in the Sigdrifumal is a microcosm of the vast macrocosm of Northern Tradition cosmology. It holds a very special place in my heart.


HAIL TO THE DAY
HAIL HIS SONS
HAIL NIGHT AND HER DAUGHTER!
GAZE ON US
WITH LOVING EYES
AND BRING US VICTORY.
HAIL TO THE GODS
AND THE GODDESSES
HAIL, THE GENEROUS EARTH!
GRANT US WISDOM
AND ELOQUENT SPEECH
AND HEALING ALL OUR LIVES.

What many do not realize is that Day (or rather in the Old Norse Dagr) is a personification of the Day, and is the son of Nott, i.e. Night. And that they are separate and distinct from Sunna and Mani (our Goddess of the Sun, and God of the Moon).

These few lines… is enough fodder for a short book – Sigdrifa’s Prayer: An Explanation & Exegesis, by fellow blogger Galina Krasskova.  Whether you are of the Northern Tradition, or just practice some other form of paganism the book is definitely recommended.

Speaking as someone who is a modern day polytheist, we honor our Gods, our ancestors, the wights of land and water, as well as those who serve our communities. Respect for the military comitatus and cultus is a part of this. Our deities such as Odin, and Freyja were (and still are) honored for their great wisdom, ability with magic, connection to scholars and poetry; they were also worshipped for their roles connecting them to warriors too. 

I have created bookmarks featuring this prayer, and would now like to make them available for free (yes, I’ll cover shipping costs as well) to any veteran or currently serving pagan or polytheist in the U.S. military.

Please feel free to share this post. 


The bookmarks themselves are 2 x 6 inches, with a UV glossy coat, featuring a double-sided full color design printed on nice cardstock. One side has the prayer in the original Old Norse, the other side has a modern translation of it.

To Qualify:

  • Be Heathen (Asatru, Northern Tradition, Theodish, etc.), a polytheist, or pagan.
  • Be a veteran or currently serving member of the U.S. Military (any branch).
  • You must have a U.S. mailing address (an APO/FPO or similar address counts).

To Request:

Contact me via email (wyrddesigns at gmail dot com) or through private message on facebook (Wyrd Dottir). For privacy concerns, please do NOT make your requests (featuring your name and address)  in the comments of this post. Please note, that you may not receive acknowledgment of the request for several days as I’ll be busy with travel and family. When you do contact me please be sure to:

Provide your:

  • Full Name
  • Complete Mailing Address where the bookmark(s) can be sent. If you give me an APO/FPO address, remember that all mail must be addressed to an individual soldier.
  • Email Address or FACEBOOK ID (whichever method you used to contact me so I can notify you once I’ve got the items in the mail, and I can make sure I don’t mix your request up with someone else of a potentially similar name).

Quantity:

I’m going to assume that I just need to send one of the bookmarks along. If you are requesting on behalf of a group, please indicate that clearly in your message to me and the number you’d like to request. I’ve sent a stack of the bookmarks before to some of the Pagan Circles at various bases. I’ve also donated stacks in the past to Circle Sanctuary’s program to send yuletide care-packages to those serving. 

Offer only good while supplies last.


I have worked with groups before who offered to sponsor a print run to give away these bookmarks at large public gatherings and events. I am open to such discussion, just drop me a line.

Book Recommendation – Legend of the Bluebonnet

One of the most pleasant memories of my childhood was being read to, or reading books myself. My bibliophilia has followed me into my adult life. But parents of a polytheist persuasion have a hard time finding book resources for our children reflecting some of our own values.

On a lark I recently picked up the children’s book, Tomie DePaola’s The Legend of the Bluebonnet as a souvenir on a recent wildflower viewing trip in Texas.

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[SPOILERS FOLLOW]
Continue reading “Book Recommendation – Legend of the Bluebonnet”

Working with the Ancestors

To be Heathen is to be an animist, meaning that in addition to worshipping the Gods and Goddesses, we also honor our deceased ancestors as well as the land wights. But while most people coming to our religion have some concept of how to honor a deity… when it comes to honoring the ancestors they are stymied as to where to even begin to work with them.

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Continue reading “Working with the Ancestors”