This is a blog I've needed to write probably since the beginning, but I have been putting off because it's personal, it's painful and it's messy. It's also unresolved, but it still needs to be said, and maybe saying it will help me push myself into blogging more about heathenry and related topics...
People ask me sometimes why I write so much Celtic material if I am also heathen. Well there are two main reasons. Firstly I have studied the Celtic side of things for about 20 odd years now so its definitely my comfort zone; not that I know everything, or even comparatively that much, but I'm comfortable with Celtic mythology and paganism and feel confident talking about it. It's sort of my metaphysical comfy sweater.
The second reason is that heathenry is a difficult emotional subject for me to talk about. On the one hand I love my kindred, and I very much enjoy the heathen practices in my life, which are probably more numerous than most people would assume. On the other hand I often find the larger heathen community enormously frustrating for me, personally. When I "converted" to heathenry in early 2006 it was the first time in my life I had ever moved from one religion to another - and initially it was a full conversion, only later did my religion become dual-tradition and only now is it evolving into something more synchretic as I explore Gaelic Heathenry, but I digress. The first several years went very well; I started a kindred, was hijacked by Odin, met lots of great people, and generally really liked it. And then the train de-railed in late 2008 when my youngest daughter, then only a year old, started really struggling with chronic health issues. I had to pull back from several community commitments and also had to start turning down invitations to other groups events. And in the middle of these months of feeling alienated from the larger community, feeling that I had failed at something that is a core aspect of heathenry, I had the inevitable crisis of faith. Oh it wasn't quite that clearly defined, since I had already been missing some aspects of my Irish practices and had already been reaching out to the Druid community in particular, but it was at this point that I really had a dark night of the soul experience. I missed the easy comfort of Celtic paganism and I felt that I had no connection to any of the gods (except Odin but he's an all around exception). I felt cut off from my new community due to my own inability to participate in it and while my kindred remained strong I felt increasingly alienated form heathenry at large. Which is a problem in a faith that is so deeply community based. I started to feel like I needed more to depend on, but was stuck in the Catch-22 of feeling like I had no one to go to to explain my nebulous feelings of insecurity, the nagging sense that I was doing it all wrong, which only fed into the feelings of failing at being a self-sufficient, persevering heathen. Now looking back I can see that a lot of this probably related directly to me projecting my feelings about my daughter's health issues onto my religion because I could not let myself feel weak or ineffective as her caregiver, as the person she depended on, but I could feel that way about my faith even though it made me totally miserable. I had my kindred who stood by me through everything, I had friends I could have gone to, I had people who I could have reached out to, but I convinced myself that my problems would be a waste of their time, or that I was already bothering them enough with other things going on at the same time. Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was fear of judgement. Either way I fell back into what was comfortable, my comfy sweater religion, only I didn't stop being heathen either - which was a very good way to alienate myself from both the CR and heathen communities, so maybe that was another subconscious expression...or maybe it's just that on a deep level I need both Celtic and Norse paganism to find any real balance in my life. I'm still sorting that one out, but it certainly is a system that works for me.
Anyway, I never stopped being heathen, I just also had other separate Celtic practices and I struggled for a long time to find a balance between the two, in the end settling on an equal division of time. I joke that I treat it like a divorced couple sharing custody, although as I mentioned earlier I am now exploring Gaelic Heathenry which is more directly synchretic in it's approach....I never stopped being dedicated to Odin (as if I could!), or being a gythia to my kindred, never stopped living the 9 noble virtues as best I could, or honoring the gods, vaettir, and ancestors with fainings, but these years of struggle and difficulty put me in a place where I feel very apart from the larger, and local, heathen community, a fact which in and of itself makes me feel worse about all of it; community is a huge part of heathenry, so feeling cut off from that, even if it's only in my own mind, makes me feel less heathen, less worthy. And that just sucks. I've made a right mess of things at my end and there is no easy way to fix it, so I keep stumbling on, one foot in front of the other.
This all makes it hard for me to write about heathenry or my heathen practices, because it immediately pulls up a mess of emotions. But I realize that not doing it out of fear isn't helping anything, is just perpetuating the feeling. The only way to defeat fear is to face it, and I need to face this one, so I am going to start writing one heathen themed blog each week, on whatever topic comes up.
So if you've ever wondered why my heathen themed content so far was limited mostly to book reviews, now you know. No one has as much power to mess us up as we do over ourselves.