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Relationship-Based Heathenry: Ethics and Practices: Part Two

By John T Mainer

[Snip] Reciprocal gifting relationships are what Heathens seek to develop between each class of being they interact with. We build these relationships with the wights, being classified as all things having spirit includes all living people, animals, plants, the spirits of rivers, lakes and streams, of field, forest and home. The laws of hospitality in the Havamal guide us in building these relationships between people, but apply as well to the other wights, the animals and plants that surround us, and that we not only share our land with, but depend upon. This building of relationships through exchange of gifts becomes the centerpiece of practice for spiritual matters as well. We offer to the wights of the lands we are in, we offer to the ancestors that came before us, and to the Disir, the female ancestral spirits whom tradition has guide and guard our lines still. We offer to powerful and self-aware spirits of the lands around us, the alfar, the Jotun. Some we seek to build relationships with, some we seek merely to placate because their nature is not friendly to our presence. The volcano will not be your friend; it might perhaps not kill you today.

A question that drives most new heathens nuts is “who is a god?” Well that is a funny one. In heathenry, godhood is relationship based. Jotun or giants are classified as powerful self-aware discrete knowable entities of tremendous power, embodying powerful natural forces. Gods are those with whom we have built reciprocal gifting relationships. Our gods are of the tribes of the Aesir and Vanir. Most are at least half Jotun by blood, some completely so. What makes them Aesir and Vanir is the honouring of those bonds, the acceptance of duty. It is the reciprocal gifting relationship that makes Skadi a goddess, even though she was a Frost Giant until demanding her suffering price. Sif, Gerd, and most of the goddesses are in fact Jotuns won in marriage from those tribes. Their marriage vows made them Aesir and Vanir, and brought with them ties to us.

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