I’d like to thank Tim Smith for being willing to share a dialog with me, and with you. There was an old bit of advice making the rounds when I was growing up, “Don’t discuss politics or religion.” Well, I think most of us active on this site have failed that advice miserably. There’s also another old adage I recall, “Don’t judge a man (person, for the politically sensitive) until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”
So I’d like to share a very few of the things I’ve learned.
As a Christian, I had always be told that Pagans were demon possessed, devil worshippers, ‘lost souls’, etc. Personally, I identified metal music, excessive tattoos, the ‘Goth’ look of black lipstick and clothing, skinheads, and use of pentagrams, among other things as ‘Pagan’, but since ‘words mean things’, what’s the actual definition?
Pagan: (from classical Latin pāgānus “rural”, “rustic”, later “civilian”) is a term first used in the fourth century by early Christians for people in the Roman Empire who practiced polytheism, or ethnic religions other than Judaism. (Lately we could add agnostics, atheists, Muslims, and Christians to Judaism).
There are several groups folks call ‘pagan’ these days. We have the Skinheads, White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Wiccans, New Agers, Satanists, agnostics, atheists, and finally, those who actually study and attempt to live their lives based on what I call The Old Ways of our Germanic pre-Christian ancestors. Such people identify as Odinists or Asatruars (true to the Gods). I was surprised to learn that there is a sizable minority of the latter in Europe and the United Kingdom, recognized by their respective governments and worshipping openly. So from the list of Pagans mentioned above, one might realize that the term ‘Pagan’ is not all inclusive anymore that the term ‘Christian’ is all inclusive (Baptists to Catholics and everything in between). And if one wants to make an argument that Christianity is different in this regard, I’d remind them that Catholics consider all Protestants ‘lost’, Baptists and Pentecostals pretty much think they’re the only ones to be ‘saved’.
So what is important to the Odinist, the Asatruar, or the one following The Old Ways? There are three cornerstones of belief: the sacredness of nature, reverence for our ancestors, and the Divine within ourselves. Unlike the Abrahamic religions, there are no ‘doctrines of men’ and there is no ‘book’. This is a folkish faith. I hesitate to even call it a religion. It is a way of living. There are Nine Noble Virtues: Courage, Discipline, Fidelity, Honor, Hospitality, Industriousness, Perseverance, Self-Reliance, and Truth. People following this path do not accept the concept of ‘original sin’ and feel no need to be ‘saved’. They live their lives based on the Virtues and take full responsibility for their actions and lack thereof. As the Apostle Paul suggested, “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling’. This is where I come down after much prayer and study – both theological and secular historical. It’s mine so you need not feel threatened by it.
I guess you could say that I follow in the steps of Thomas Jefferson as a deist. I believe there is a Creator of All/Allfather who created the universe with Natural Laws and cycles and then stepped back to allow it to work like a clock. So how do I reconcile that belief with the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses? To minds incapable of grasping the Totality of God, peoples revering their most excellent ancestors as partial/imperfect manifestations of His perfection makes sense. These folks believe the Gods to have been actual humans of great renown. Some followers of The Old Ways believe these Gods to be real deities. Others, like myself, tend to view them as Carl Jung did, as archetypes. Odin sacrificed an eye for wisdom, so I should be likewise be willing to make sacrifices for wisdom, as just one example.
You may ask why I bothered with this post. Your mind is made up. A couple of reasons. First, I wanted you to understand that people following The Old Ways are not evil. They care about traditional values, their families, the good, the beautiful and the true, just like most Christians. Secondly, to remind you that ‘iron sharpens iron’. There is nothing to fear and much to gain with an exchange of ideas. What I’m not attempting to do is evangelize anyone. We each have our own ‘walk’ in this life and I think we all agree that in some way, shape, or form, we will all ultimately be held responsible for that walk. So, for anyone so interested, I’ll offer this email address if you want to amicably discuss any of this in private. I find that such discussion in a public forum tends to lead to defensiveness that negates much of the benefit. The email address is: Ponderings@proton.me. I promise to keep any discussions confidential.
We have a big fight ahead, and since ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, let’s fight together!