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Cult And Identity In Modern Heathenry

By Shane Ricks and Odroerir

The transition from the intellectual effort of reconstructing pre-Christian and conversion-era Germanic worldviews and religiosity to a practical living religion can be a bit of a conundrum for modern heathens. There are two extremes that find frequent and common commentary in modern heathenry. On one end of the spectrum is the tendency for reconstructionist heathens to attempt to replicate cultic ritual precisely as it is portrayed in the literary or archaeological remains. At the other end of the spectrum is the tendency to create an entirely new ritual model that has no basis in historic heathenry whatsoever. As a matter of necessity, most heathens fall somewhere in between and they often do so with remarkably little variation.

The pine that stands in the village
no bark or needles to cover it;
so is a man; that no one loves
Why shall he live long?
— Hávamál, st. 50.

There is a number of reasons for this apparent lack of variation among average heathens. The combined research efforts and tendency to share resources dealing with the limited nature of the data regarding these subjects tend to result in homogeneity of models, terminology, and conclusions even when those involved focus on different branches of the Germanic tribal tree. Another contribution to this is the taboo among some heathens regarding speaking of the particulars of their own group’s thew. The most conservative of heathens adopt the position that speaking of specific and/or personal religious experiences is strictly off limits. On the other hand, the least conservative tend to share their experiences with everyone with little regard to the appropriateness of their actions. The latter has acquired for themselves a negative reputation among many reconstructionists.

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