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Sticky: Reconstructing heathenry~
7 years ago  ::  Mar 19, 2008 - 1:40PM #1
boars_heart
Posts: 31
Several times in the past few weeks since my return here, I've encountered the phrase "since we can't really know X we have to Y."

The main problem I have with this is that most of the time, we in fact DO know X . . . and have for some time, if one reads something other than modern neoheathenry primers or understands that the "lore" is not confined to the Eddas and Sagas, or even to just literary sources at all.  Thus, I consider such assertions, when I encounter them, as evidence of either ignorance or wilfulness . . . the proclivity to believe what one wishes despite an abundance of countervailing evidence.

Spirituality is personal, but heathenry, historically, was communal . . . the self-expression of the tribe, not the individual, in its relationship to a larger community that included both the living and the dead, the seen and unseen, but that was specifically OF the Folk and the soil.  And all too often, when I hear someone talking about needing to "fill in the gaps," I'm convinced that the gaps they are referring to are not in the lore itself, which is almost always far, far more extensive than such proclaimers realize, but within THEM.

In what 1,000 years of draugrtru enculturization and half a century of New Agery have led them to assume a "religion" ought to have:

1. A personal relationship with deity
2. An afterlife
3. Lots of "woo."

None of which, in point of fact, Germanic religions actually had.  Things like Snorri's Prose Edda post-date the conversion of Iceland by about two centuries, and display both an awareness of and adherence to xian conventions . . . of which little to no evidence, according to later scholars, can be found in the ancient cultures whose beliefs he purported to represent for the edification of revivalist poets.

1, 2, and 3 can be found in Snorri, because they are part and parcel of the dominant xian worldview of his culture and education, just as they are of ours. Like many modern heathens, Snorri simply assumed that every religion---indeed, every culture---simply HAD to have those things.  Thus, reconstructing heathenry is not . . . cannot be . . . simply a matter of donning tunics and waving swords about and talking in mangled Ye Aulde English.

That would be re-enacting, or recreating, much like the modern Civil War troupes or the SCA.  *G*

A worldview is not the "stuff," but rather, the way one sees and interprets and categorizes and thinks about the "stuff" . . . the hiearchies, categories, symbol systems, and cultural understandings through which one filters and interprets one's physical realities.  Learning a different worldview is like learning to think in another language . . . just as difficult, and ultimately, just as transformative.

I consider learning to "think like a heathen" . . . to reconstruct and adopt the actual, documented worldview of my pre-xian Nordic ancestors within the 21st C culture I inhabit, to be the most arduous and yet worthwhile of tasks. For our ancestors, heathenry was NOT a "religion" or a "belief" or a matter of "faith" or "spirituality" . . . those would have been alien terms and concepts to them.

It was simply die Sitte . . . our ways, the way we do things, the right order of things. A full knowledge of one's place in a complex web of right relationships maintained through gifting and tied to the soil and Folk and gods.

And the more I learn to do it, the better I like it.
:-)

~Boar
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2008 - 4:09AM #2
Lugh
Posts: 43
"The main problem I have with this is that most of the time, we in fact DO know X . . . and have for some time, if one reads something other than modern neoheathenry primers or understands that the "lore" is not confined to the Eddas and Sagas, or even to just literary sources at all. Thus, I consider such assertions, when I encounter them, as evidence of either ignorance or wilfulness . . . the proclivity to believe what one wishes despite an abundance of countervailing evidence."




"I consider learning to "think like a heathen" . . . to reconstruct and adopt the actual, documented worldview of my pre-xian Nordic ancestors within the 21st C culture I inhabit, to be the most arduous and yet worthwhile of tasks. For our ancestors, heathenry was NOT a "religion" or a "belief" or a matter of "faith" or "spirituality" . . . those would have been alien terms and concepts to them."



OK.....I'll bite.    What are the documented sources other than the Edda's and Saga's?   What is there to reconstruct a worldview on other than literary sources?

Certain digging up the ancestors yields information, and digging up long abandoned villages/trading centers yields information.   But enough to actually understand these people?

As far as Heathenry NOT being a religion.....yes, I recall it being pointed out to me that Old Norse had no word for religion.    They probably had no need for one, the gods were simply part of the world around them, their existence in the greater scheme of things unquestioned.   But we need such a word, such a concept, thus we have one.

And, for the record, I don't really think of myself as having a "personal" relationship with the gods.....I do my thing and they do theirs.    Hopefully, their thing doesn't trample me into the mud too often.    I'm sure they are not watching each sparrow fall.     As far as afterlife.......who knows?   Indeed who cares?    If the gods are mortal, I suspect there's not a whole lot for us to look forward to, be it the summerlands or floating around on a cloud playing a harp.

As far as #3, the "woo" thing.....if that means what I think it means, every religion should have a whole lot of it.  :)

Lugh
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2008 - 12:34PM #3
sjalge
Posts: 21
@Boars_Heart

You may have already figured out from my postings that I largely agree with your positions on the importance of scholarship and reconstruction.  Similarly, it was evident to me almost immediately that you are well read concerning the historical accuracies of Germanic religion and folkways.  I believe your level of scholarship to be admirable and something I hope to achieve in time.  Along those lines I do not yet describe myself as Heithinn, but as someone who studies Heithni.  I don’t yet feel I know enough to go around saying I have incorporated enough of the old ways into my worldview to say I am a follower of that view. 

That said, I find your level of scholarship makes you someone I would like to listen to and that makes your presence in this forum encouraging for someone, such as myself, who is historically minded and just beginning to learn about Heithni.  I do, however, find you rapid level of frustration with others throughout these threads to be a bit off putting.  I do not know if years of having to listen to a myriad of UPG from many people will make me more quick to snap back, but from a neophyte it seems to be taken to an unnecessary degree.  I am certainly not trying to discourage your participation here (though I suspect I could hardly sway you if I tried) as I feel you have a lot to offer people such as myself who are just beginning, and probably to others who may have been practicing for a time but have not had the opportunity to be exposed to someone with such a scholarly background.  At the same time, I fear that such a strong response on your part will cause people to dismiss what you have to say, and may even turn people away from a very reconstructionist approach.  I can fully understand why the UPG (I just looked up what that means this week) approach quickly would grow tiresome, but I hope a more encouraging voice from someone who has studied as well as you clearly have would magnify your message rather than diminish it.  I suspect than many people participating here do not know X.  For some such as myself this means we seek X.  Others may need to fill that gap temporarily and so do with Y.  I think they will quickly substitute and accurate X for a gap filling Y if presented with it though.  Making the voice of those who have studied well even more important.  Even, if you need a strictly selfish reason (though I suspect this is not the case) I would think you would want to be encouraging of people that might not agree with you in hopes of generating better understanding of the reconstructionist approach solely to lessen your own frustration by increasing the percentage of people that are not new-age-y you deal with in forums such as this.  I don’t want to offend you, or to get into a discussion of the justification for your stance (I was certainly already guilty of being antagonistic on another thread which had to be moderated, and I assure you I have some idea of how you feel).  My only hope here is to point out that another, subtly different approach may generate better long term results. 

In regards to the paper you cited on another thread, I would very much like the pdf.  Particularly if it is in Bokmål, as I will have a better chance of reading it.  I look forward to continuing to read your input in these postings.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2008 - 4:36PM #4
boars_heart
Posts: 31
@sjalge~

I'm afraid I'm a little confused here. 

What exactly do you find rude about THIS post?

My posts in the other thread, particularly those directed at Giertrudis, were quite frankly intended to be a bit sharp . . . she and I have a certain amount of history here, none of it especially amicable.

But if this post bugs you . . . well, you're going to need some thicker skin, my friend. I'm aware that here on B'Net, particularly in the neopagan/Wiccan forums, there's a lot of "well, it's only my opinion" and plenty of affirmation and nodding and avoiding calling anyone out, but . . . tolerance in the heathen world does not preclude letting others know, firmly at that, when they are in point of fact actually wrong.

Solipsism only goes so far, then the fluff factor sets in, and before you know it, you're up to your keester in sparkly unicorns. *G*

I tend to state my opinions forthrightly, without apology or equivocation.  You'll find that's typical of heathens, online or IRL.  Our social interactions are . . . distinctive.  *G*

~Boar
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 21, 2008 - 6:29PM #5
boars_heart
Posts: 31
@ Lugh~

[QUOTE]OK.....I'll bite. What are the documented sources other than the Edda's and Saga's? What is there to reconstruct a worldview on other than literary sources?
[/QUOTE]

Linguistics, for one, which yielded Bauschatz' seminal The Well & The Tree, other historical sources---Procopius, for example---ancient legal codes , detailed analysis of grave goods and archeaological sites (which reveal a great deal more than you seem to realize), comparitive folklore, runestones and other runic inscriptions, early post-Conversion sources like the Merseburg charms . . . and a very large body of scholarly  works analyzing and cross-referencing all those things, some of them just now beginning to be translated into English.

This is, after all, the religion with homework.

~Boar
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2008 - 5:17AM #6
Drknss
Posts: 135
@sjalge~

Speaking as someone who's read Boars Heart's posts for going on six years. I agree he is well read and you should pay attention to what he says. I know when I first started posting here, I was alittle put off by his posts. Then I realised about two years later. He REALY does know what he's talking about. LOL! Don't take two years to come to the same realization.

Take Care. :)
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2008 - 9:57AM #7
giertruidis
Posts: 206
He does have a lot of information.  His style off presenting it by hitting one over the head and trying to make the questioner look really stupid and then only giving part of the information may be a bit of putting however.  Charsmatic front for heathenry he isn't.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2008 - 11:08AM #8
sjalge
Posts: 21
@Boars_Heart

Obviously my attempt at being courteous in my last post here was misdirected.  I’ll be more straight forward with you in the future as it seems you prefer that approach.  My reason for posting in this thread is that you used it to make a general statement, and I thought it a good place to make a general comment on your style.  I, personally have not been offended by any your postings.  In fact, I would be surprised if you could find anything to truly offend me (don’t be confused you could irritate me, haven’t yet though).  So, I assure you it is not a thickness of skin issue (btw that phrase makes anyone that uses it sound like an ass).  Additionally, I fully realize that there are long standing traditions in northern society to ‘telling it like it is’, but equally these approaches can cause needless conflicts.  In the sagas, after someone has spoken out it often falls on wise men to arbitrate a solution.  All I was advocating was that a gentler hand may get better results.  Knowledge and wisdom are not synonymous.   Essentially, I was trying to politely give the “honey will attract more flies than vinegar” perspective.  Hope that clears it up for you.  I’d still like that pdf if you can send it to my B-Net account.
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2008 - 11:09AM #9
sjalge
Posts: 21
@ Drknss

I have no doubt that Boars is well read and knows his facts.  However, that is all it is.  He is well READ.  I can read those sources as well.  My point was simply that he can chose to make things easier for people that are interested in learning the facts, or he can be cantankerous and those people will just ignore him and have to look up sources themselves.  (Think to a teacher that presented facts well, and one that did it poorly, who did you learn more from?)  I’m NOT suggesting that Boars is, but I don’t suffer arrogance for long and I imagine others don’t either.  I could meet THE most knowledgeable person on the topic and if he were arrogant, I may dismiss him as if he were a fool (before this gets misconstrued, that is not to say I wouldn’t recognize the facts as valid but that my respect for him would be as to a fool, due to his foolish approach toward presenting the information).  I didn’t intend to suggest Boars shouldn’t tell people when the facts contradict them (see how I did that without using the “you are wrong/an idiot” approach).  My suggestion was only that if he took a different approach people might not be on the defensive after his posts and would therefore be more receptive to what he has to say (which as we both agree is full of valuable information).
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7 years ago  ::  Mar 22, 2008 - 12:12PM #10
boars_heart
Posts: 31
*sigh*

And yet another potentially useful B(S)Net thread gets turned into the "Dr. Phil Show." 

Thanks tons, Sjalge.  You rock.

Oh, and . . .

[QUOTE]I have no doubt that Boars is well read and knows his facts. However, [COLOR="Red"]that is all it is[/COLOR]. He is well READ.[/QUOTE]

Assume much?

~Boar
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