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Thread: I Have Many Questions!

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    I Have Many Questions!

    Hello all. New to the forum and newish to Heathenry.

    I've been struggling to find somewhere safe to discuss this sort of thing. As no doubt many of you are aware, Heathenry especially has been largely co-opted by white supremacist groups and it's difficult to find a place online to talk about it and get advice without running into those sorts of people. I've also discovered that the Heathen/Norse Neopagan community here in New Zealand is also largely white supremacist, and so there aren't any groups IRL I can find to get support.

    When I was a teenager I started feeling a draw to Heathenry. I tended to ignore it because I was also a militant atheist, but I couldn't deny my fascination with the old ways, and digging deeper I found that my ancestry on my father's side can be traced all the way back to Norway by way of the Danelaw (as well as more recent Scandinavian infusions into an otherwise English line). My mother's side, which I always identified with quite strongly, is almost entirely Scottish, with its own Scandinavian and Slavic infusions as well. I started reading up on Norse myths but resisted acknowledging the pull towards this faith that I was feeling. I was raised outside of religion. My parents are atheists, and my grandparents only ever paid lipservice to God because in their day that was the norm.

    More recently the pull has been getting much stronger. I've become especially fascinated by runes, and I've been re-reading the Eddas and the Sagas simply because it felt right to do so. There are a few things I'm struggling with, however, and I'm hoping that someone more knowledgable than I might be able to help me.

    First of all, my partner isn't following the same path. That's fine by me, of course, I wouldn't expect her to do exactly as I do just because I'm doing it. The only problem here is that she is resistant to the idea of me setting up an altar to give offerings and ask for help from the gods. In truth, my house is small even for two people, and there isn't anywhere I can set up a sacred space that won't be interfered with. She is also overly concerned with what people coming in from the outside might think if they saw an altar decorated with sacred objects and runes in our house. The struggle I'm having is that I feel like the gods are telling me to set up an altar. It wasn't so strong a feeling until last night, which prompted me to seek out this forum; I actually lost sleep over it. My partner is generally respectful of my decisions and although she isn't being outright negative towards this path of mine I can tell that she's hoping I'll move on from it. I also suspect she doesn't want our future children to be raised in a pagan environment (she's a believer in letting kids choose their own path when they get old enough rather than being 'indoctrinated' at a young age, which I agree with, but I'd still like to be open about this even if we have children). So, the bottom line here is, can a sacred space be more internalised, can it be somewhere that is quiet and personal in the moment, or is it truly important that such a place be permanently designated?

    Second of all, and perhaps more spiritually, I feel like I'm being pulled in several directions by the gods in terms of who I should honour most highly. As with most Heathens, Norse Pagans, and so on, Odin is always at the forefront of my mind, but I also feel a strong connection to Freyja (by way of divination, premonition, and the runes), and perhaps most surprisingly there is also a strong link there to Skadi. Of course the nature of polytheistic belief is that every god has its place in the pantheon and every god deserves honour or at least respect from a practitioner, but for me it's more a case of not knowing whether or not I have anything to offer every god. The other issue is that financially I'm not the most well-off, so while I often have things like beer, wine, and foodstuffs in the house which I can give as offerings, it isn't always the highest quality and I'd sooner not have the gods thinking I'm throwing them my scraps.

    The link to Skadi brings me to my third concern. Largely due to climate change, New Zealand has been having increasingly mild winters and harsh summers. I'm a man of winter. I don't feel the cold as much as others and I've always preferred winter and autumn to summer or spring. I'm struggling to think of ways to properly show Skadi honour and worship in a place where winter is becoming weaker and weaker.


    Forgive me for the long first post, and I hope I posted it in the right place. Fingers crossed someone is able to give me some advice or point me in the right direction!

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    PF Ordo Hereticus MaskedOne's Avatar
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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    So, we have some Northern Tradition/Heathens floating around who may have thoughts for you.

    In the meantime, Heathen Traditions has been relatively quiet for a while but it may have topics of interest to you. Most of its threads are currently locked to due to several months of inactivity but new threads can be started there and staff can reopen old threads on request. This is at our discretion but generally if the thread isn't locked for misconduct, we will probably open it.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



  3. #3
    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by NZHeathen View Post
    Hello all. New to the forum and newish to Heathenry.
    Welcome! I am a Northern Traditionish/Heathenish person and well aware of how confusing and confronting the community can be to newcomers. Even the Northern Tradition community (which used to be the inclusive escape from the folkish and reconstructionist elitist Heathens) has been tightening their borders over the last few years, so it can be very, very hard to find your place when you are starting out. My first advice is to not be discouraged, and to just keep looking until you find people you are comfortable with. There is a vast array of people and paths who follow the Northern deities... and they range from white supremacists and folkish groups, to hardcore reconstructionists, to Asatruar and Heathens, to Vanatru, Rokkatru and Northern Tradition shamanists, Norse Wiccans and weird-hybrid-Northern-type-people like me. It took me many years to actually settle into my faith, because I was so put off by the Asatru and Heathen communities and I resonate more with the jotnar deities than the Aesir. So don't give up... you will find your place.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZHeathen View Post
    The struggle I'm having is that I feel like the gods are telling me to set up an altar. It wasn't so strong a feeling until last night, which prompted me to seek out this forum; I actually lost sleep over it. My partner is generally respectful of my decisions and although she isn't being outright negative towards this path of mine I can tell that she's hoping I'll move on from it. [...] So, the bottom line here is, can a sacred space be more internalised, can it be somewhere that is quiet and personal in the moment, or is it truly important that such a place be permanently designated?
    The short answer is: yes, yes and no. The long answer is that it depends on your gods and relationship with your gods... but most of them are willing to compromise and work with what you have. There are no hard rules here unless you have made a specific agreement with a specific deity that you are now trying to go back on. Some paths and traditions do have rules about altars/hofs, but I look at those as 'Tradition Rules' rather than 'Faith Rules'... most of the gods don't really care about the specifics of your actual physical altar... they care about the effort and energy that you dedicate to them. Sometimes they send us an image of what to do... but it's okay to say that you can't replicate that and find an alternative that works for you. Usually it's about the action, intent and what you are willing to do rather than the actual end result.

    So yes, you can absolutely have a portable altar, or a tiny altar, or an outside/in the shed altar, or an altar inside a cupboard, or that doesn't look like an altar, or that is used for another purpose when you aren't doing dedications. I personally do prefer a dedicated permanent altar... but we aren't all capable of that and that is 100% okay. What matters is that you are thinking about this and trying to find a solution rather than just giving up. An altar can be anything... a shelf, piece of furniture, cupboard, box or even a simple picture on the wall or a pinboard or magnetic notice board.

    The other thing to remember is that when you are fully immersed in a belief system, everything becomes your altar. Everything becomes a part of your spirituality. Modern humans seem to like to compartmentalise and represent their faith with 'stuff' rather than 'being'... possibly because most of us grew up in a faith that we don't truly believe in and so were never comfortable with the idea that living your life is practicing your faith. But this is where we can absolutely take inspiration from devout members of mainstream faiths. Some Christians have altars or dedicated religious spaces in their homes, but many are just fully immersed in their faith and honor their God without any physical accouterments. It's okay for us to do the same. We don't have to have an altar. The Northern gods can be honored in a million different ways... there are a handful of ways that are traditional and were practiced by our ancestors, but that doesn't mean that alternative ways aren't acceptable. And remember that history only tells us what was recorded or survived the ravages of time... not every house had a hof, not every person attended a temple, not every person wore an amulet or tattoos or whatever. The Northern gods were honored by a HUGE portion or Europe over a HUGE period of time... they didn't all do it the same way. We have a very, very narrow slice of Lore to guide us... some people choose to be reconstructionists who only follow the Lore and primary or secondary sources, some people choose to use the Lore as the foundation and fill gaps with relevant tertiary sources or UPG, some people choose to mix things up with whatever resonates with them. All of those are perfectly acceptable!

    And at the end of the day, our Northern ancestors were largely syncretic... as they spread they adopted practices from the lands they spread into and their daily practices and methods of worship changed and evolved. So we have clear historical precedent for finding compromises on things like altars and devotional practices.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZHeathen View Post
    I also suspect she doesn't want our future children to be raised in a pagan environment (she's a believer in letting kids choose their own path when they get old enough rather than being 'indoctrinated' at a young age, which I agree with, but I'd still like to be open about this even if we have children).
    So the really, really nice thing about the Northern paths is that most of it is not overtly pagan. If you look at the Lore, there is a huge emphasis on hospitality, community, family, honor, trust and integrity. There is emphasis on spending time together, on music, skaldship, intelligent discussion, gaming, sport, and feasting. These are all things that would form an amazingly rich and supportive environment to raise children in! There is no indoctrination in celebrating family. There is no forcing beliefs in teaching your kids about hospitality, gift giving and maintaining harmony. You can 100% practice your faith daily, in every action that you perform, without ever indoctrinating children or imposing on your atheist partner. You wearing a religious necklace or having a religious tattoo, or hanging up a religious picture or having a religious statue on a shelf is NOT forcing a 'pagan environment'.

    Besides, part of letting kids decide for themselves is making sure that they are exposed to their options... otherwise you are just indoctrinating them with forced disbelief.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZHeathen View Post
    Second of all, and perhaps more spiritually, I feel like I'm being pulled in several directions by the gods in terms of who I should honour most highly. As with most Heathens, Norse Pagans, and so on, Odin is always at the forefront of my mind, but I also feel a strong connection to Freyja (by way of divination, premonition, and the runes), and perhaps most surprisingly there is also a strong link there to Skadi. Of course the nature of polytheistic belief is that every god has its place in the pantheon and every god deserves honour or at least respect from a practitioner...
    Don't overthink it. You do NOT have to honor everyone equally. You do NOT have to hold Odhinn at the head of your personal pantheon. You do NOT have to adhere to anyone's strict idea of who should or shouldn't be worshipped. Period. Take your time to explore all the deities. There is no right or wrong here. The only 'wrong' action is to enter into an agreement and not hold up your end of the bargain. Our ancestors honored the deities that were useful to them. It might surprise you to know that historically speaking, Odhinn was not the most worshipped of the Aesir. Freyr, Thorr and Tyr were far more popular than Odhinn was (and none of them are pure-bred Aesir either)... and that's because for the working class Viking-Age Scandinavian or Anglo-Saxon, the most important elements of their lives were successful farming, protection from harm, and a harmonious and fair legal system. Odhinn gained a fair bit of traction as our ancestors headed into the Anglo-Saxon phase (as Woden and Wotan), but in Scandinavia and Germanic lands, things were a bit different.

    Tell you a secret... I don't like Odhinn and I don't worship him. I respect His position as leader of the Aesir, but the only time I ever send him honor is as thanks for his part in bringing the runes to us. And that's okay. I work closely with Frigg sometimes, and She is perfectly okay with the fact that I don't like Her husband... it doesn't affect my relationship with Her or with any of the other deities that I do work with. Most of the Northern gods are very pragmatic and very understanding of personal politics and interactions... part of the concept of 'frith' is understanding that not everyone likes everyone, and knowing how to honor that by being civil and avoiding harmful conflict. So respect all the gods, but honor the ones that are useful to you. A true connection and two-way relationship is far more powerful and fulfilling than paying lip service to a god because that's what you're 'supposed' to do.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZHeathen View Post
    ...but for me it's more a case of not knowing whether or not I have anything to offer every god. The other issue is that financially I'm not the most well-off, so while I often have things like beer, wine, and foodstuffs in the house which I can give as offerings, it isn't always the highest quality and I'd sooner not have the gods thinking I'm throwing them my scraps.
    I'm not a huge fan of buying stuff to offer. To me, offerings are about sacrifice and energy... the energy part can come from anywhere, and the sacrifice is proportional to the means of the person doing the sacrifice. From a wealthy person, a dribble of cheap wine is not acceptable. But from a not-wealthy person who struggles with their budget, a thimble of cheap wine and a prayer is perfectly fine. You offer what is within your means. And we don't have to honor the gods with 'stuff'... it's energy and dedication that they are after. I very rarely offer food or drink... but I dedicate energy through craft, art, my relationship with the land and my daily work at my job. Putting together an offering is as much about the time and effort you spend researching, checking and obtaining the item as it is about the item itself. When giving gifts to the gods, it really is a matter of 'it's the thought that counts'. So spending ten minutes going to the store and buying quality mead just to let it sit on your altar is sort of the 'easy way out' to me. There are a hundred different ways to honor the gods, so don't get caught up in 'stuff'.

    Quote Originally Posted by NZHeathen View Post
    The link to Skadi brings me to my third concern. Largely due to climate change, New Zealand has been having increasingly mild winters and harsh summers. I'm a man of winter. I don't feel the cold as much as others and I've always preferred winter and autumn to summer or spring. I'm struggling to think of ways to properly show Skadi honour and worship in a place where winter is becoming weaker and weaker.
    Ah... the eternal dilemma of Southern Hemisphere Heathen/Asatru/Northern Trad folks! Skadhi was the first Northern deity that I connected with, and as an Australian I had/have the exact same dilemma. I've never even seen snow in person. But I am a person of the mountains and of the bush and of clear windy nights. My experience is that the gods don't seem to mind that we don't share our ancestors' climate. They travel well and Skadhi in particular knows exactly what it's like to live outside of your homeland, people and/or preferred climatic zone. So if you can't honor Skadhi by bow hunting in the snow on skis (how many can?!), then find a different point of connection. The open sky at night... the quietness of a wild space... a camping trip... the wind on your face... your fogged breath on a frosty morning. Or even your discomfort on a hot day... the dislike of the ocean... the annoying sound of seagulls screaming... finding those little connections is far more personally meaningful than adhering to some stereotypical but unrealistic or meaningless image. The gods appreciate whatever devotion they get in whatever form they get it in... and at the end of the day this is about YOUR relationship with the gods, not anyone else's.

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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    Welcome! I am a Northern Traditionish/Heathenish person and well aware of how confusing and confronting the community can be to newcomers.
    Wow! Thank you so much for this reply! You have certainly helped ease my mind. I knew I was supposed to come to this website!

    I'm not sure what else I can say. You are dead right about the aspects of community, family, and hospitality especially, and I feel embarrassed that I overlooked those aspects, since they are spoken of in the very beginning of the Poetic Edda. Of course I should have considered that.

    In terms of Skadi, you have no idea how relieved I am to hear that someone else has had the same dilemma. Part of my concern came from the fact that recently I was in Central Otago (Cromwell/Queenstown/Wanaka area, not sure how familiar you are with NZ as an Aussie), and even though the climate was unseasonably mild (still got to below zero, but there was precious little snow beyond the very tops of the mountains) I strongly felt her presence there and that she was trying to make herself known to me in some fashion. In the end the best I could do was get up early in the morning and just breathe in the cold air and silently thank Skadi for the freshness of the environment. However, since coming back home, I haven't felt her presence as strongly, even though I badly want to.

    I guess I am still figuring out my specific relationship to the gods. All I know for certain is that I am going in the right direction, that this is what they want, and that I need to keep learning. Every time I read something new, learn something new, I feel a little brighter inside. I do of course wish there was a group in real life I could sit down with, have a beer with, and discuss all this with. Part of my struggle is that I am not on Facebook or anything of the sort, for personal reasons, which seems to be where a lot of like-minded people link up. That said, there is also something somehow satisfying about this journey being so personal.

    Also, thank you for the tips regarding offerings. I feel even more strongly now that I can connect with the gods meaningfully despite my circumstances.

  5. #5
    Copper Member Rick's Avatar
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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    Rae'ya, as usual, is spot on. I might add, re: a subtle altar, you can put a few small representative items in a matchbox, and voila, portable altar (isn't there a thread about that around here somewhere?).
    I often wish that I had done drugs in the '70s. At least there'd be a reason for the flashbacks. - Rick the Runesinger

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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    Rae'ya, as usual, is spot on. I might add, re: a subtle altar, you can put a few small representative items in a matchbox, and voila, portable altar (isn't there a thread about that around here somewhere?).
    Thank you, I will see if I can find that thread.

  7. #7
    PF Ordo Hereticus MaskedOne's Avatar
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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    Sooo....

    This is the general altar thread. It's old, some of the pic links may no longer work and I have no idea if any of it is directly applicable because it's not a thread I've spent time in and I'm not searching 34 pages tonight.

    This is about building portable altars. Short, few pics, some interesting ideas.

    This is about Northern Trad altars. The two links above are more generic.

    Not all of the above will be relevant to your goals and there may be threads with relevant info that I'm not remembering because I don't generally spend much time in threads about altars out of personal interest and altar threads are generally benign enough not to require my presence in an official capacity.
    "It is not simply enough to know the light…a Jedi must feel the tension between the two sides of the Force…in himself and in the universe."
    ―Thon

    "When to the Force you truly give yourself, all you do expresses the truth of who you are,"

    Yoda

    Yoda told stories, and ate, and cried, and laughed: and the Padawans saw that life itself was a lightsaber in his hands; even in the face of treachery and death and hopes gone cold, he burned like a candle in the darkness. Like a star shining in the black eternity of space.

    Yoda: Dark Rendezvous

    "But those men who know anything at all about the Light also know that there is a fierceness to its power, like the bare sword of the law, or the white burning of the sun." Suddenly his voice sounded to Will very strong, and very Welsh. "At the very heart, that is. Other things, like humanity, and mercy, and charity, that most good men hold more precious than all else, they do not come first for the Light. Oh, sometimes they are there; often, indeed. But in the very long run the concern of you people is with the absolute good, ahead of all else..."

    John Rowlands, The Grey King by Susan Cooper

    "You come from the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve", said Aslan. "And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth; be content."

    Aslan, Prince Caspian by CS Lewis



  8. #8
    ingridstjerne257
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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    Dear NZHeathen,
    To me, your post is not so much about questions but about circumventing your situation. (I hope that makes sense).
    First, you do not need a group to join. I would advise only to do when both you and the group have something very much in common and it's truly supportive... though you can ask the Gods to bring the right individuals toward you.
    Second, yes an altar can be kept in a closet or even a drawer. Can be a shoebox too... though I personally would pick something better than that like a little plain wooden box. There are some things that can be left in plain sight, like some flowers or a bowl of gemstones nearby.
    Third, to me---and this is solely my opinion---to stop or interfer with someone's private prayer method is downright disrespectful.
    Fourth, you might want to do some affirmations feeling safe, free, happy, etc. In the long run you'll feel better about your situation.
    Fifth, hmmm weather doesn't always have to literal (my opinion). One can look at a photo of a winter landscape and just feeeeel the cold, wet snow. Or imagine it... Whenever I think about Egypt and the Egyptian Gods I think about the desert and how hot it is even though I've never been to the desert or to Egypt.
    And lastly, well you can just say "All the Gods" in your prayers... it's obvious there are some who are more personal for you. It's not disrespectful to have attention on a few. Otherwise it will sound like roll call without any feeling.
    Hope this helps.

  9. #9
    ingridstjerne257
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    Re: I Have Many Questions!

    If you like Tarot then consider obtaining Vikings Tarot by Lo Scarabeo. It's a nice deck with many depictions of the Gods.

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