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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How To Be Heathen

 In taking on a month of blogging about Heathen topics I asked my friends several times what they would like to see me write about and several mentions were made that boiled down to "how to be Heathen". This is one of those difficult subjects that can either end up as an overly specific guideline that will only apply to a small group of people or a broad overview that usually doesn't really help anyone. It was a daunting proposition to think about writing a blog about this topic so I've been putting it off. After much thought though I decided to offer my own attempt at an outline of how I think a person - any person - should go about getting started in Heathenry. So, here you go, my personal advice:
  Morgan's Guide On How To Be a Heathen

  1. Read the mythology, folklore, and stories to become familiar with the Gods and Spirits (alfar/dawrves/assorted wights) of the Heathen culture you are drawn to. Use this to get to know these Powers and to start to understand the worldview and cosmology. You can't read too much of this stuff, ever, but always keep it in perspective for what it is and avoid the trap of fundamentalism. 
  2. Learn about your own ancestors and connect to them, whoever they are. The dead never truly leave us unless we forget them. Tell their stories, honor their memories, ask them for guidance and help in your life. 
  3. Respect the wights of the land and your home. Learn about how the wights were and are understood and honored by the Heathen culture you are drawn to - be it Norse, Germanic, or Anglo-Saxon - and find ways to do this in your own life. 
  4. Be an honorable person. Live a life that reflects the values you want to embrace, including honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, and courage. If you give your word, keep it. If you commit to something, see it through. Take responsibility for your own life, the good and the bad; be proud of your accomplishments and be willing to make amends for your errors. 
  5. Embrace reciprocity. Give as much as you get and seek balance between what you take and what you give. 
  6. Following along with part 5 - offer to the Gods, ancestors, and wights to create reciprocity with these Powers. Offer in thanks and celebration, for blessing and protection. Offerings create a relationship between us and the Powers we honor that is important in our spirituality.
  7. Connect to your spirituality regularly by celebrating holidays, reading, and essentially living your faith. Heathenry isn't an occassional religion that you practice once in awhile or a hobby, its a way of life. 
  8. Set aside some space, no matter how small, in your home to honor the Gods. Think about who the Gods are to you, and what part they play in your life. Which gods do you connect most strongly to and why? Who do you honor most often? While each Heathen culture has its own pantheon you will find that within that pantheon there will be a selection of deities - perhaps as few as three or four, perhaps as many as a half dozen or more - that you are particularly drawn to for a variety of reasons. Over time these Gods will be the ones who you form the strongest connections to, much as each historic community had specific Gods within the wider pantheon that they honored. 
And there you have it. You can add seeking community in real life or online as well, but I think that the heart of Heathenry starts with you and your own life. If you aren't a Heathen in your own life then all the community participation in the world won't make you one. That isn't to downplay the importance of community, which is a wonderful source of support, but if you can't be a Heathen without a community then you are missing the point altogether. 




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