Norse Paganism


Anonymous asked: I’ve been interested in Norse mythology for a long time, and feel that Norse paganism may be the path for me, but I have no clue where to start. Is it anything like Wicca, or is it completely different and if so where do I find more information on it?

Completely different! It’s polytheistic rather than ditheistic, its rituals are much more simple and centre around the sharing of offerings (often in the form of alcohol such as mead), and there’s a much greater cultural depth to it* because it is a religion with a historical basis – although even the most hard reconstructionist forms of it will necessarily be different from the palaeo-Paganisms.

We recommend the books “Essential Asatru” by Diana S Paxson and “True Hearth” by James Allen Chisholm to start with, and “Our Troth” I and II if Heathenry looks like the thing for you. Also the books of Hilda Ellis Davidson, particularly “Gods and Myths of Northern Europe”.

Most of all there are the Eddas and Sagas, many of which you can read in older translations online. The ethical system is mostly related to what one might consider the honourable action to take, and based on the advice of the Havamal. (Some Heathens shorten it down to “the Nine Noble Virtues” – but not all of this list of virtues are particularly stressed in the Havamal, and some particularly important ones are left out… not to mention such a list is not particularly “reconstructionist” so many Heathens don’t have much time for it and just use the Havamal and so forth as their guide when they need it.)

Here are some more links for you:

Viking Answer Lady

Ravenbok

DIY Ritual Kit

That’s all for now, but this may be edited later to add a little more. Good luck!

*Not to say Wicca doesn’t have depth – it does, but it’s less cultural and more related to its ritual and Mysteries.

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TIP: Expanding Our Horizons


This week’s TIP comes via a recent rant. It is a perfectly legitimate rant, because it‘s something that happens all the time, it’s frustrating to see when it does, and really, it lessens all of us when it occurs. Especially, when you consider the wealth of knowledge on different cultures and practices that we are missing out on because of it. I think (except for those that it affects directly), we’ve probably all done it at one time or another, but this doesn’t make it right. It just means that we all need to be more careful and actively make the effort to try to change the way we think when it comes to those we are interacting with.

This doesn’t apply to everyone (to be sure), however there seems to be a tendency within the Pagan community to assume that everyone is Wiccan, or on a Wicca-based path, and that we all celebrate the same Sabbats around the same time, and in generally the same way. There is a bit of “tunnel vision”, often forgetting that there are many different paths, all who have their own various holidays and celebrations. Not all of them are Sabbat related (or called Sabbats) – even if some of them are celebrated on, or around the same dates.

It’s also very frustrating to see how many people forget entirely that the Northern Hemisphere is NOT the only Hemisphere that exists. Many tend to ignore completely those Pagans who live on the “flip-side” as it were. Which means that even if they do happen to celebrate the Sabbats (which again, not all do) they will be doing so on a schedule that is completely opposite to what would be done in the Northern Hemisphere. It wouldn’t make any sense to celebrate seasonal holidays, outside of the season that they occur in, but for some reason, we often assume that those in the Southern Hemisphere do, if we even consider them at all.

So this week’s TIP is a reminder to expand our horizons just a bit. While clearly if you are discussing something with your local coven or group, it might not be such an issue, but in larger gatherings, and especially if you are participating in an online Pagan community or discussion, it’s worth the extra effort to remember that not everyone does things exactly in the same way. Nor would we want them too… imagine how boring it would be if we did.

TIP: Cults


Over the years the word “cult” has gotten a bad rap. People tend to think of cults as a group that has been brainwashed by the twisted leader to do anything and everything. And indeed, this is one definition of the word “cult”. It’s also one of the most popular uses of the term. However, within comparative religion, one may come across the term used in a more positive way; for example, Gardner referred to his religion as a “witch-cult”.

But not all cults are like that. One of the dictionary definitions of the word cult (see below) is a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols, or even, simply, formal religious worship. Under that definition, many religions can be considered cults. Another definition of cult is an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing; we use this colloquially in the context of “cult films” and so on as well as in relation to religions.

The term “cult” can also refer to the external or observable aspects of a religion, and a religion for which the neglect of these aspects would be considered impious.

Though there is often cause to bristle with indignation if one’s religion is referred to as a “cult”, it is important not to leap to the defensive when the word is used. The person using the word may not have intended any offence after all. The definition being used may not be apparent from context, so check before flaring up.

As an aside – it is wise to familiarise oneself with the signs of a dangerous cult. Not every group that identifies itself to you as, for example, Wiccan, is in fact a Wiccan group. The Cult Danger Evaluation Frame linked below should help you ascertain whether a group is a cause for worry, and if you don’t feel comfortable, stay away.

The OED on “cult”

Merriam-Webster on “cult”

Wikipedia on “cult”

The Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame (with the pleasing acronym of ABCDEF)

Choosing A Path


This is a question we received a while ago on Tumblr, intended to repost here and then forgot about. Whoops.

hey i really interested in paganism, but i dont know what path to choose, i may be an eclectic pagan, what are some different beliefs/simple spells/rituals from different pagan religions to get me started?xxxxxxxxx

 

Ooo, big question. The term Paganism at its very widest refers to any religion that is not Abrahamic. Even the much more narrow “Neo-Pagan” is so broad an umbrella it’s difficult to know where to start. People want to leap into rituals right away, and rituals can be fulfilling, but if you don’t know what you believe or what direction you want to go in, you may end up leaping in with both feet to something that isn’t really for you.

So to start with, write out somewhere what you believe at the moment. I find writing or typing gets my mind working, but it may not be the same way for you; you may do your best thinking while jogging or whatever, but once you have it worked out write it down as well, because it’s an interesting thing to refer back to in years to come.

As far as beliefs go, Pagan religions span the range of theistic interpretations (though pantheism and hard and soft polytheism may be the most popular). Not all Pagans believe in gods, and some that believe in them do not worship them. Many Pagans recognise spirits of the natural world to some degree, and some honour or worship these spirits. Beliefs regarding the afterlife (or lack thereof) vary; some believe in reincarnation, some in an Underworld, some that your spirit is absorbed back into the universe, some that there is no afterlife.

Many rituals held to honour gods tend to involve an offering of some kind, such as food or drink. Rituals can be elaborate and involve a lot of tools, lines to learn and preparation, or they can be as simple as lighting a candle. If you’re wanting to get in touch with your spiritual side and the world around you, I’d recommend something quite simple, like going out into the garden or a park and sitting somewhere that appeals to you. Take some deep breaths, listen, observe, enjoy.

Things to consider when choosing a religion to look into might be the gods or culture you feel drawn towards, your theistic beliefs, your beliefs in the afterlife, and the morals you personally consider important. These things may well change and evolve as you learn and research – I know mine certainly did – but at least they’ll give you some clue on where to start.

You might also find the following article of some use.

I hope that was of some help!