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Author Topic: Pantheism and Heathens  (Read 3193 times)

Enid

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Pantheism and Heathens
« on: December 26, 2012, 02:04:21 pm »
I've been lurking for a bit, and I want to pose a question that I feel like I can't ask among other Asatru online communities, for fear of being into a "More Heathen Than Thou" discussion.

I've identified as Asatru for almost a decade. However, I have never felt the gods were incarnate beings. I suppose I am more of a Jungian archetypes type of believer, who believes we project shape to the divine in ways we can relate to or understand.

Almost every Heathen I know, either personally or online, is a HARD polytheist. I suppose definition wise, I would be more of a pantheist. I recognize that part of that is I don't have any experiences that would lead me to be a hard polytheist.

I do love the culture and community of being a Heathen. My experiences with the greater Neo-Pagan community have left me feeling either uncomfortable or just like I am in some Mamet play. Once again, this could easily be a result of my local community, which has some very negative and sketchy folks involved.

Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.

Thank you.
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hlewagastir

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2012, 02:41:47 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86853
I've been lurking for a bit, and I want to pose a question that I feel like I can't ask among other Asatru online communities, for fear of being into a "More Heathen Than Thou" discussion.

I've identified as Asatru for almost a decade. However, I have never felt the gods were incarnate beings. I suppose I am more of a Jungian archetypes type of believer, who believes we project shape to the divine in ways we can relate to or understand.

Almost every Heathen I know, either personally or online, is a HARD polytheist. I suppose definition wise, I would be more of a pantheist. I recognize that part of that is I don't have any experiences that would lead me to be a hard polytheist.

I do love the culture and community of being a Heathen. My experiences with the greater Neo-Pagan community have left me feeling either uncomfortable or just like I am in some Mamet play. Once again, this could easily be a result of my local community, which has some very negative and sketchy folks involved.

Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.

Thank you.

Hi and Welcome, Enid.
 
Personally I would not consider myself Heathen if I were a pantheist. The theological problems arising from applying such a perspective on the source material, would be too big for me to handle...
I might be able to make some headway by looking at isolated instances and areas, or being reductionistic in my view of the gods´ functions, but I don´t think I would be able to argue that the current information supports "hard" pantheism.

That´s my perspective anyway.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2012, 02:42:20 pm by hlewagastir »

Enid

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2012, 03:32:06 pm »
Quote from: hlewagastir;86859
Hi and Welcome, Enid.
 
Personally I would not consider myself Heathen if I were a pantheist. The theological problems arising from applying such a perspective on the source material, would be too big for me to handle...
I might be able to make some headway by looking at isolated instances and areas, or being reductionistic in my view of the gods´ functions, but I don´t think I would be able to argue that the current information supports "hard" pantheism.

That´s my perspective anyway.

 
That is kind of where I am, I suppose. Though, I have to admit, the loss of community is hard for me.

There are several examples that could possibly be projected as agnostics or atheists in the lore. King Hrolf, Gauka-Thórir, and Bárð are all recorded to not have worshiped any gods. That is really what has kind of kept me around - evidence that there were those who were more focused on might and main, who also kept the practices while not really believing in the gods.
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Gilbride

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2012, 06:13:27 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86853
Almost every Heathen I know, either personally or online, is a HARD polytheist. I suppose definition wise, I would be more of a pantheist. I recognize that part of that is I don't have any experiences that would lead me to be a hard polytheist


The Asatru community in Iceland is and has been largely pantheistic since its founding in the 70s:

http://www.norsemyth.org/2011/07/interview-with-hilmar-orn-hilmarsson-of.html

Here are a few quotes from the interview:

 "We talk about the gods as höpt or bönd, meaning fetters or ties - they are the ones who bind us to our surroundings, and we are tied and bound to the gods in an intimate way. The nature of the gods is within us, as well, and we can also mirror the [gods]. Nature around us is also a living being, a living force. We can feel it, like with the volcanic thing where we start to anthropomorphize the volcano."

And:

"KS - Some followers of Ásatrú in the United States seem to practice their religion in a very American mode of true belief - if you pray to Thor, he will answer you. They read the Eddas in a way that is similar to literalist interpretations of the Bible.

HÖH - Yes. It seems to be a fundamentalist mindset. You move away from being a fundamentalist Christian into being a fundamentalist Ásatrúar."

hlewagastir

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2012, 07:44:20 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86873
That is kind of where I am, I suppose. Though, I have to admit, the loss of community is hard for me.

There are several examples that could possibly be projected as agnostics or atheists in the lore. King Hrolf, Gauka-Thórir, and Bárð are all recorded to not have worshiped any gods. That is really what has kind of kept me around - evidence that there were those who were more focused on might and main, who also kept the practices while not really believing in the gods.

 
You do not have to sever ties to the heathen community because you are pantheistic; you just have to be aware of the potential differences.

About the idea of agnostics or atheists in the lore: It is always important to remember that any instance might be a case of medieval writers imposing the concept of the "noble heathen" (as Lönnroth put it) on their material.

Megatherium

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2012, 07:52:21 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86853

Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.

Thank you.


IMHO, what you do is a lot more important than what you believe.
Beliefs, especially in regards to big, more-or-less untestable theological questions, will likely change with time and experience. But I think that when one is making a formal offering to the Gods, the most respectful way to approach them is as distinct individuals. To put it another way, I don't think a pantheistic deity-archetype is going to be offended by being addressed as an individual, but I do think that individual deities may be offended if addressed as archetypes.
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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2012, 08:35:26 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86853
Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.

 
If it's problematic for you, you could always be a Norse-flavored pantheist and not worry about the "heathen" label.
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Juniperberry

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2012, 09:38:27 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86853
I've been lurking for a bit, and I want to pose a question that I feel like I can't ask among other Asatru online communities, for fear of being into a "More Heathen Than Thou" discussion.

I've identified as Asatru for almost a decade. However, I have never felt the gods were incarnate beings. I suppose I am more of a Jungian archetypes type of believer, who believes we project shape to the divine in ways we can relate to or understand.

Almost every Heathen I know, either personally or online, is a HARD polytheist. I suppose definition wise, I would be more of a pantheist. I recognize that part of that is I don't have any experiences that would lead me to be a hard polytheist.

I do love the culture and community of being a Heathen. My experiences with the greater Neo-Pagan community have left me feeling either uncomfortable or just like I am in some Mamet play. Once again, this could easily be a result of my local community, which has some very negative and sketchy folks involved.

Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.

Thank you.

 
I think "being heathen" means that that's the foundation from which you asks questions, not where you find absolute answers. Pondering the possible natures of gods isn't unheathen, but the answers can be.
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Jack

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2012, 09:50:50 pm »
Quote from: Enid;86853
Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.


Most of the Heathens I've known have been hard polytheists, but I've met some that consider themselves atheist and some that would fall in between.
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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2012, 01:17:37 am »
Quote from: Enid;86853
I've been lurking for a bit, and I want to pose a question that I feel like I can't ask among other Asatru online communities, for fear of being into a "More Heathen Than Thou" discussion.

I've identified as Asatru for almost a decade. However, I have never felt the gods were incarnate beings. I suppose I am more of a Jungian archetypes type of believer, who believes we project shape to the divine in ways we can relate to or understand.

Almost every Heathen I know, either personally or online, is a HARD polytheist. I suppose definition wise, I would be more of a pantheist. I recognize that part of that is I don't have any experiences that would lead me to be a hard polytheist.

I do love the culture and community of being a Heathen. My experiences with the greater Neo-Pagan community have left me feeling either uncomfortable or just like I am in some Mamet play. Once again, this could easily be a result of my local community, which has some very negative and sketchy folks involved.

Can one be a Heathen and not be a hard polytheist? I suppose I am not asking for someone to give me the answer, as much as I am hoping others can offer experiences or insights.

Thank you.

Okay, speaking as one of those hard polytheistic types...

I would not kick you out of my house and community simply because we had a difference of opinion on the form the gods take.

Heathenry is far, far more about how you interact with your community, with your ancestors, and in how you conduct your dealings with those outside the above.

Are you honorable? Do you speak what you mean and mean what you speak? Do you comport yourself in genteel fashion when speaking and socializing with your peers? Or at the very least, do you not come across as a complete douche-canoe?

Then congratulations, you are a heathen! And one who would be welcome at my fire, most likely.

Heathenry informs our actions and interactions with the world and people around us far more than it declares what form the gods take or who is allowed to pray to them.

Now, that being said, there will always be things that heathens do (or do not do) that makes a person's acts Asatru (or heathen). If you come in to my home, take part in my sumbel, and then hail Eris/Jesus/Quetzelcoatal/Staypuft, we likely aren't so friendly anymore. I won't toss you on your ear, but I won't invite you back either. Because what you did is not what we, your peers, would call heathenry/Asatru. it doesn't mean I would stop being friendly to you. We just won't be having any faith related celebrations together.

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2012, 04:12:48 am »
Quote from: Enid;86853



I'm not part of the Asatru community and don't know much about them, but I know a bunch of people who practice a mix of Asatru and other pagan or Wicca stuff. This ranges from people who practice Neowicca or Wicca with Norse deities involved to people who see themselves as Asatru, but also show up at their local pagan moot ritual which is mostly loosely done in a wicca-derived fashion (calling quarters, one or two deities etc.). and includes a whole bunch of different people.

The funny thing is that there's no linguistic difference in German between 'pagan' and 'heathen', because there's just one word for it. So I never encountered a hard line between soft polytheists and hard polytheists (I'm sure there are quite some people who don't even know what those terms mean - sadly). Of course there are lines between Asatru and Wicca or Wicca-derived froms of witchcraft, but they seem not to be about how one believes in Odin and Freya etc., but about how a blot is different than a wiccish ritual.

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Re: Pantheism and Heathens
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2012, 07:37:02 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;86931
IMHO, what you do is a lot more important than what you believe.

I tend to lean towards this direction. For myself, I'm more of a panentheist, really, instead of a hard polytheist. I don't think they're incompatible, but I also am not going to necessarily bring up the term as I first introduce myself in a Heathen setting. If I get into a conversation (such as this!) about it, then no big deal.

I don't think being a pantheist is a deal-breaker, but perhaps you should think about what's more important or fundamental to your spiritual or religious identity. Your answer to that might be the angle from which you present yourself.

As an aside, in this instance I see this "labeling" more of a construct to help other people understand what you're about, hence the focus here on how your beliefs reflect your identity to others.
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