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Building a Better Heathenry

By Galina Krasskova

[Snip] When I first became Heathen, it was all but taboo to discuss or give any personal credence to what was (then as now) termed “UPG” (unverified personal gnosis). In good Protestant fashion, anything remotely smacking of mysticism, experience, or messy, messy emotional engagement was frowned upon, strongly. As a religious studies scholar, I find this not particularly surprising but ironic and very, very amusing given that all religion is, at its heart, UPG, but I digress. All emphasis was placed on a body of non-religious texts termed “the lore.” This included the “Poetic Edda,” “Prose Edda,” Icelandic Sagas, Anglo-Saxon medical charms, historical and legal accounts as well as contemporary scholarship. The idea was to reconstruct the religion of our ancestors as accurately as possible and to that end, Heathens would comb through the extant sources looking for evidence of how rites and rituals were performed. Validity of an approach or practice rested on its presence in the lore. The Gods were, by and large, an afterthought. Certainly there was very little sense of the terrifying immediacy of devotional engagement, and rituals were largely constructed to keep the actual rawness of the sacred at a distance.

The reasons for this textual focus were many: the majority of our converts come from Protestantism, quite often fundamentalist Protestantisms in which the written word is given tremendous credence; there was a strong desire to do things right — and this I fully understand. We should want to do things the proper way for our Gods; there was a desire to separate oneself from Wicca and other non-historical forms of Paganism; and from its beginning in the States, Heathenry has attracted a doggedly blue collar demographic, with a powerful work ethic but an ingrained aversion to contemplation of that which wasn’t immediately apparent or immediately accessible to a community.

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