Radical interpretations of Norse Mythology

I was just discussing Paidric Colum’s Norse Gods and Heroes for a university class, and my professor had an interesting reading of the text. Though I didn’t see these elements when I read it, he made a pretty compelling argument that Colum (an Irish nationalist and radical) was subtly telling the myths in such a way as to present the Aesir as representing an immoral hierarchy which should be overturned. I wasn’t unfamiliar with these kinds of readings of Norse myth, though I didn’t necessarily see Colum’s presentation as supporting it at first.

I want to know what people here think about these more radical readings of hierarchies and power dynamics in Norse myth. Events that particularly interest me include:

The fact that the Aesir seem to have fired the first shots in the Aesir/Jotun war.

The fact that the Aesir seem to have fired the first shots in the Aesir/Vanir war.

The Aesir have no intention of dealing with other races fairly, as evidenced by the building of the wall.

The only way they really interact with the Jotuns is by killing their men and stealing their women.

The binding of Loki’s children seems preemptive and unfair.

Essentially, what I want to know is why I should side with the Aesir when they seem to be the equivalent of pretty much any imperial, conquering force that harms indigenous people to establish their own “order”? What makes them different from the British in Ireland or the Europeans in the Americas?

Does Anyone Else Have Issues with Tribalism?

For those of you who don’t know what the term means, “tribalism” refers to the current within Neo-paganism that claims that in order to understand gods and practice religion properly the “culture” (often invented by the founder) must be adopted to some degree.

First issue: being able to pick one’s culture, invent it, and adopt a new ethnic identity. This is another manifestation of white privilege, as I learned from reading “Dealing with Race, Ethnicity, and Whiteness in constructing the Ethnic Folkway of Germanic Heathenry” by Jennifer Snook http://citations.allacademic.com//meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/2/3/8/8/4/pages238849/p238849-1.php. From page 14: “Because whites are unconstrained by the politics and visibility of race, they are free to choose from multicultural symbols and practices.” With great privilege comes the greater responsibility of not using it.

Second issue: European culture (artificial or not) being presented as universal. Well, to be blunt, only a white person could come up with something so color and culture blind. Not to mention the fact it completely ignores the history of imperialism and how problematic westernization has been for non-European cultures.

Third issue: though the CR and Gaol Naofa FAQs discuss the evils of cultural appropriation, the authors don’t seem to realize that assuming someone else’s culture, and even ethnic identity (including extinct ones) when one has not been born to it or chosen to become a citizen of the country where it’s native, is the most egregious form of c.a. that I can imagine.

Fourth issue: But-its-my-cultural-heritage! People. Maybe if you’re an immigrant, or your family is, and you were raised in an immigrant community-you have some right to a European cultural heritage. But coming from the perspective of a person whose grandparents got off the boat at a one-muddy-path village called Jamestown, and I’ll be blunt again, one’s “European cultural heritage” ended when your ancestors decided to emigrate. We need to start calling it what it is-national heritage, because it belongs to the people who live in the country where the stuff happened. Faint if you must.

Fifth issue: the surviving Indo-European pagan religions (all Indo-Iranian [the Dharma of Sanatana, Buddha, Jaina, and non-racialist Mazdayasna]) do not require converts to adopt aspects of an Indo-Iranian ethnic group. The only thing they require to practice the religion is……….brace for it……………practicing the religion. Shocking, I know. No folk customs? No ethnic clothing/sports/cuisine/music/dances/art? No nothing? How do you live?! Some of you may exclaim. By grounding my religion in my own culture and family traditions. Which directly leads to-

Sixth issue: the CR and Gaol Naofa FAQs also talk about “westerners” (a.k.a. P.o.W.? [people of whiteness]) being rootless (read: ethnicless read: pretty sure they’re talkin’ ’bout white people now) and not being raised in a culture. How is that even physically possible? Are we alien pod people? Needless to say, this kind of attitude leads to the kinds of cultural appropriation they protest.

Seventh issue: The Usonan Person’s Burden. Sometimes the chatter about preserving European folk customs, when coming from my fellow Usonans, sounds paternalistic, like we need to preserve European ethnic groups from their own cultural evolution-which is none of our business, I might add.

A recent thread on how illogical folkism is reminded me that tribalism, considered the midpoint between the folkists and the complete universalism of Indo-Iranian religions, is also a little illogical. Especially when coming from U.S. citizens. Has anyone else noticed these issues? Is it possible for Neo-paganism to grow beyond them?

Which Came First, the Universe or the Gods?

I would love nothing more than to hear what you believe on the matter. I personally believe that the Goddesses/Gods are a product of the Universe rather than the thought that the universe was created by a God/Goddess or Gods/Goddesses. I feel that if one can find an understanding of a Deity’s relation the the cosmos, it is only a stones throw from being able to understand our roll in the cosmos as well as our progression through time and space both physically and spiritually.

Please let me know what you think!

The Ethics of Offerings

In this post, in the ‘Honoring Land Spirits’ thread, Ferelia talked about avoiding offerings of food, drink or items, as these involve (unneccessary?) consumption of the produce of the earth.

I’m very keen to ensure that any offerings I give are ethical. I look at the processes of producing and shipping food etc., from as many perspectives as possible (from human rights to animal rights to environmental conservation), and this affects what I purchase (or grow or find) as offerings.

But offerings themselves, as an expression of hospitality, are central to my religion. In an ADF context, we give offerings in a spirit of hospitality and reciprocity: “I give so that you may give”. My Gaelic polytheism is similarly based around giving offerings. If the gods are real – and I believe that they are – then they deserve hospitality.

This is often based on sharing my food with them, but I also have a bottle of whisky on hand most of the time that’s mainly for them – I may have a taste, but the gods get the bulk of it. I will sometimes use found items – carefully – or buy things that are just for the gods, and that I wouldn’t have been consuming otherwise.

So, in response to what Ferelia was saying: do you think giving physical offerings of this kind is important? Do you think it can be done ethically? Is it an expression of ethics itself, and if so, how does that reflect on what you give to the gods?

Honoring Land Spirits

I’ve lived in this town for several years now and I’m curious about the spirits of the land that may be here. I’d like to make a respectful offering to them but I have some questions. (I’ve been reading other threads but I keep coming up with questions and I don’t want to derail people’s discussions.)

A) Who are they? How can I find out? Do I just make an offering and hope they accept it and never know who they may be? First Nations people lived here in the past. Would their land spirits still be here, or would they have followed the people when they left? Is it acceptable for someone not Native to make offerings to beings that may be Native?

Or would they be spirits of the spiritual beliefs that I am leaning towards and starting to learn about? Or would they just be beings of the land that grew organically in this place?

2) What kind of offerings are appropriate?

C) Do I say some sort of prayer? Meditate? Just say out loud what I’m doing?

I don’t want to do something wrong and offend a being. I tend to be horribly socially awkward as it is, I don’t need to add land spirits to my list of beings I can’t interact with without causing upset.

Is a Wand Necessary?

I am wishing to start learning about magick, particularly after I had this strange and sudden craving for a wand. But I wish a few tips first; Number one: Is it actually necessary to have a wand? Are there other types of Magick directing instruments? Number two: Should a wand be found and hand made or bought at a store? and, finally, number three: Are there any particular preparations and precautions that need to be implemented before trying to use a wand in practise?

Personal Responsibility (and Public Interactions)

I got to thinking this afternoon: how does your religion view personal responsibility? And in particular, how does it look at what your obligations are in public settings.

(I work, as most of you know, in an academic library, but we allow and generally encourage community patrons to make use of our resources. I was talking to a co-worker today about the behaviour of a particular person, and we were particularly discussing how we deal with drawing the line about some things that are having a negative impact on other library users.)

My own path has a high value on it, but my actual usual model comes from a description elsewhere from someone who used to post on the Cauldron (she got it from her teacher in Feri) that I’ve found really useful for deciding what I want to be doing.

The idea is that inside of each of us is a cast-iron cauldron, and that every action we take (or don’t take) seasons that cauldron, and that those actions continue to shape future actions (like a cast iron pan does with flavour).

So each time I take an action, I think about what seasoning it’s going to add. Good things, that’s great. Things that are not good, or not the direction I want my cooking of my life to go – I have to *really* want them, because it’s going to mean affecting everything down the road and/or a lot of really annoying elbow grease to clean out and reseason the cauldron.

Thinking about in terms of a fairly long time-span is also very helpful when I’m thinking in terms of something that’s not me – how a choice is going to affect the library I work for, a group I’m involved with, a project.

Roman Religion in Celtic Lands

I was wondering if there are any good sources about how Roman and Celtic religions interacted historically. Specifically, I’m curious about a few things:

1) What elements of Celtic religion entered the empire? I know they adopted Epona as a goddess, but did any other Celtic elements spread throughout the empire as a whole?

2) How did Romans in Celtic lands practice their religion? I know that they would often conflate certain Celtic gods with Roman ones, but I’m just wondering what the average practice of a Roman in Gaul or Britain would look like.

3) How did the native Celts react to the infusion of new ideas? Would a Roman and a Celt in Gaul practice the same basic religion, or were the Celts mostly still practicing their native religions unchanged?

4) I know that Rome never conquered Ireland, but did they have any contact? I’ve never heard anything about the matter and I’m curious.

I’m personally interested in these questions because I was practicing Irish Reconstructionism for a while, but I found that I really didn’t fit into the community or the philosophy. I’m finding myself more drawn toward an eclectic or syncretic philosophy, but I still want to do it in some kind of structured way. I’m currently enamored with the way the the Greeks and Romans were able to encounter other cultures and synthesize fascinating new ideas and practices.