Who Can Worship The Norse Gods?


My partner wants to worship the Norse deities but runs into a lot of media that says that he only wants to appropriate them because he (as a white person) doesn’t have any connection to gods of his own. Do you believe you need to be descended from a certain group (in this case the Norse) in order to worship their deities?

Pre-Christian Norse culture/religion was never closed, and especially given how far and wide they traveled (and intermarried), it’s pretty ridiculous to even claim it. As far as I know, the only people who say such things are ultra-folkish and/or white supremacist groups who are seriously misrepresenting things to cater to their own exclusionary agendas.

I would point to this article published in the Iceland Magazine in May 2017, which focuses on Ásatrú (which is currently an official religion in Iceland), but would apply to the Norse Gods as well, and the following quote in particular:

Anyone can practice the religion but only Icelandic residents can join Ásatrúarfélagið

Only Icelandic citizens or people who have a domicile in Iceland can become members of the Ásatrúarfélag, but anyone can practice Ásatrú, regardless of their nationality or residence. It costs nothing to join and is open to all, irrespective of race, cultural background, gender or sexual orientation.

Ásatrúarfélag is the national pagan association in Iceland – which is why that particular group is only open to those who live in that county. But the religion itself and worship of the Gods is open to all. And I mean, if anyone would know, it’s them right?

Now, I do feel that it’s worth mentioning the following though. Whether or not other religions are able to be practiced by everyone depends on the culture/religion in question. Some are open to everyone – Norse and Hellenic practices for example, while others, such as Native American religions, are closed to those who are not members of the culture (or who have not been adopted into the culture). So it’s always better to ask, if one is unsure.

 

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Consequences of Suicide within Pagan Religions


TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of suicide

NOTE: If you are depressed and contemplating suicide, please, please get help. If you have a trusted friend or family member, counselor, teacher, etc… that you can talk to, do so. Otherwise (in the US) you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255 or chat online with someone who can help via IMAlive or CrisisChat. For international assistance you can check the International Suicide Prevention wiki for resources. No matter how bad things may seem right now, they will eventually get better. Taking your own life is not the best solution, and there are people out there who can help.

~*~

Hello, I’ve had this question for a few months now and I’m still trying to find the right way to ask about it. I’ve been looking up people to ask, but it never seems to work. When I found you, I got excited. If you commit Suicide, will you not be welcomed in by the Great Mother and Great Father? I’ve been told that if you commit suicide out of Deep Depression, you wont be loved or forgiven by the divine. I’m sorry if the question makes you feel uncomfortable, but I had to ask.

Thank you.

 

Within Abrahamic religions (and potentially others as well) the main issue that many will cite in terms of “forgiveness” is that you have to, not only ask for it directly, but also be truly repentant – neither of which one can do if they have already passed beyond the mortal/physical world. However others feel that in the end, it is one’s actions during their life (outside of that final moment), which will better determine whether or not there is love and forgiveness when they are received by God.

As many have come to Paganism from an Abrahamic religion, they will often carry over some of these beliefs, even if they are not necessarily relevant to their current path. The more relevant issue within Paganism though, is which Pagan religion? As, not all believe the same things, or may even have a particular stance on suicide. In general, in terms of NeoPaganism, you will probably find a very wide variety of personal opinions on the subject – ranging from it’s your life, do what you want, to extremely strict interpretations of the “rede” which equate an it harm none to mean don’t harm anything ever (including yourself).

Keep in mind too though that Wicca, and those paths that are inspired by Wicca are often about taking responsibility for one’s actions in the “here and now”, rather than preaching the concepts of “Hell” or divine retribution. So what we do on Earth, during our life (including ending such life), has little bearing on the afterlife. For those who believe in reincarnation – it may set the course for additional lessons that one may need to “learn” in a future life (if one believes in such things).

Within other Pagan traditions, again it varies. For example, Norse lore offers multiple examples of suicides occurring, and typically those who committed such would go to Helheim in the afterlife. As this is where most of the dead would go (outside of those killed in battle – who went with Odinn and Freyja), it was clearly not any sort of punishment or lack of love/forgiveness that got one sent there. Within Kemeticism, when one dies, their heart is weighed against Ma’at’s feather, and those who are found unworthy would stay in Duat, while the others would move onto the afterlife in Aaru. There are no specific prohibitions against suicide within the lore though, and again it’s more about having lived a virtuous life in general. Within Greek and Roman traditions, suicide was generally only condemned if done for petty reasons. Keep in mind too that for thousands of years some cultures upheld the practice of Sati, in which it was perfectly acceptable (or even encouraged/forced) for wives to kill themselves via immolation when their husbands died.

In the end (literally and figuratively), it’s really going to depend on your own beliefs on the subject. There is no clear rule or opinion, and even within the same traditions if you ask 20 people, you’ll probably get 20 different answers. My personal thoughts on the subject are this – any God or Goddess that one is devoted to, or has spent time serving or honoring, is not going to forget that devotion. So unless one spends their final days/hours completely repudiating said God/Goddess, when the time comes they will be welcoming. It’s entirely possible that they may express disappointment, if they don’t agree with the choice, but I do not think that they would withhold love because of it. The Gods know what is in our hearts, and particularly in the case of someone who has struggled with severe depression, or other mental illness for many years, it doesn’t follow they would punish someone for losing that battle.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Suicide has been a hot topic the last few weeks in the wake of Robin Williams’ death. This question was actually submitted a day or so before that tragic event and I had been in the process of writing it up when I saw the news. The original intention, when we’d gotten the question, was to post the reply immediately, however with the flood of suicide and depression/bipolar related commentary that was suddenly going around, we felt that it would be better to wait (at least a little bit). It was an emotional time for many people, and this would give everyone a chance to process their grief and/or any feelings on the topic of suicide, without bombarding one more thing on top of it all. However, we also don’t want to let too much time pass, as it is a timely topic and for some people an important one. It’s also a sensitive subject for many though, so if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

If anyone knows of more specific myths or lore which directly speak to the topic, relating to a particular culture or religion, please feel free to comment as well so that we can add it.

And again if you need help, never hesitate to ask for it. Particularly when one is depressed, it can often seem like there is no one who cares, but this is often just a symptom of the illness. There are people that care, and who can help. You are not alone.

 

Paganism Without Gods


Hello, I have a question about paganism without gods. Is it possible? What does worshiping the triple goddess or the horned god achieve, if instead you’d prefer to appreciate the world around you. Are they simply figureheads, ritual shorthand, for the traits they represent? Would love some recommended reading and some helpful words. Thank you 🙂

While there are some NeoPagans who simply see Gods and Goddesses as archetypes, rather than actual beings, personally I think that the better choice would be to find a path that does not involve them at all. Not that there aren’t plenty who do make it work, but it seems strange to go through the motions of working with the Gods – even just for the symbolism, if one doesn’t actually believe in them. Especially when there are other options available that can be just as rewarding, and probably even more suited to one’s beliefs.

In terms of those other paths, particularly for someone who is more interested in appreciating the world in general, Pantheism would be a good place to start. Might want to check the following… Elements of Pantheism: A Spirituality of Nature and the Universe

Outside of that, the next step would be to ask yourself exactly what aspects of “Paganism” call to you? There are literally hundreds of different paths one can take, and other than Wicca and Wicca-inspired NeoPaganism, most do not involve a Triple Goddess or a Horned God. Along with that, I would venture to say as well, that if one does not believe in deity (in any sense of the word), then anything “Wicca” (Trad or otherwise) would probably not be the right fit

If it’s just the witchcraft and the “nature-based” parts, then again it may not be Wicca that you are seeking, as traditionally Wicca is fertility-based (focused on the continued cycles of birth-life-death-rebirth), rather than “nature” as a whole.

To the issue of deities though, Wicca (even in an Eclectic NeoPagan sense of the word) is about polarity between a God and Goddess, or (in a non-traditional sense) aspects of such. All rituals are centered around them – the Sabbats relate particularly to the God’s journey through the Wheel of the Year, and the Esbats are the Goddess’ journey. If one is not looking to incorporate that, then another path would be a better choice.

If one is looking more towards a witchcraft based spiritual tradition, then I’d focus on that, rather than trying fit what interests you into a NeoPagan mold. Paganism has a vast wealth of traditions to choose from (including the ability to create one’s own path), there’s bound to be something that is a much better fit. It’s just a matter of finding the right resources (which admittedly can be very difficult sometimes).

A few other resources that might be helpful…

  •  T. Thorn Coyle’s Crafting A Daily Practice or possibly even her Evolutionary Witchcraft though that might be somewhat deity centered as well, but there are probably some good things that can be taken away for a practice separate of them as well.
  • Another that might be worth looking at, and though they do talk about about deity in the following, it’s also set up in a way that the word encompasses, not only God(s), but other entities, the Universe, etc… so it’s very open-ended in terms of creating a cohesive practice, that is somewhat Wicca-inspired (still based on the Wheel of the Year and similar concepts), but also more for those who are eclectic in nature – Katrina and Eric Rasbold’s CUSP: A New Way to Walk An Old Path

 

Spirit Guides


I’m sorry to trouble you but I wasn’t sure who to ask. I decided to talk to my spiritual guide for the first time to help have a question answered that had been troubling me a for a while. I was able to enter a place of forest, a beautiful place where I met my spiritual guide who helped answer my question. I was so completely calm and at peace with him that I failed to question that he wasn’t human until I came out of my trance like state. It was easy to enter the place and talk to him, but hard to leave. My “spiritual guide” was a man, a strong bold looking man, he had deer antlers on his head. they were of great size. he sat cross legged when we talked, and was very calm but still with a sense of boldness. When I asked for his name he hesitated, and I found the name to be false. after the event I went to look for him because our encounter seems strange. What I found is that, I believe he is the Horned God. the Oak King and the Holly King. Is this strange or am I mistaken? I am very confused if he was the horned god why he would appear as my spiritual guide. Can you help me? I just need an explanation, can gods be spiritual guides? Why did HE appear instead of an actual spirit?

A “spirit guide” can be any type of entity, and especially if you left the request for contact sort of open ended, then it’s possible that any entity could choose to manifest as your “guide”, even potentially a deity.  So that, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily strange if it was a God that came to you – the point is whether or not the information imparted was useful, and/or needed.

Alternatively (again if the request was too open ended, or without a clear focus), there are some entities that might try to take advantage of that sort of situation. So while it may be something benevolent giving whatever advice they think you can handle for now, it could also be something else entirely that is lying to you for it’s own ends. It’s important to be careful about such things.

As far as visual form – the “Horned God” you describe seems to fit with sort of a general accepted image of Cernunnos, or similar type images like what is seen in the Gundestrup cauldron. However, Cernunnos is particularly related to Celtic polytheism (though the name itself was derived from a Gaulish monument dating back to Roman times) , rather than a “horned God” in general, so not entirely sure how/if that relates to your practice or not. Similar figures – antlered and wearing animal skins have also been noted elsewhere, such as the cave paintings at Trois Frères.

The Oak King/Holly King mythos – is something that was documented by Robert Graves in his book “The White Goddess”, and previously by James Frazier in “The Golden Bough” (chapter 28 in particular). It was later picked up by Stewart and Janet Farrar, and incorporated into their practices, as written about in “A Witches’ Bible”. Again, not something that is necessarily related to Cernunnos, or even “horned Gods” in general – even if some “horned Gods” might follow that type of cycle.  

If those are things that fit within your practices, then it could be why your “guide” chose that particular form. But again as to if it was actually deity and/or the Horned God specifically that visited you, it’s hard to say. Could be, definitely not out of the realm of possibilities, but could also be another entity using a guise that fit with something you would more readily recognize and be willing to accept advice from.

Generally when one is in a situation like that, it’s good to ask questions to help test the “validity” (relatively speaking of course) of what is being experienced – but then again, sometimes it’s the advice given that really matters (regardless of the source). It’s easy enough for entities to choose whatever face they want to put on, so sometimes even if you can’t tell if they really are who they say they are, as long as you can get a good sense of the intent behind their visit, and if the advice being given is relevant and helpful (even if it’s not necessarily what you were hoping to hear), then it may be ok to accept the experience at face value, despite not being quite what you were expecting.

 Some other options…

  •  go back into a meditative/trance state and see if you can contact them again, and try to get a better sense of who they are. Ask more questions – they may or may not choose to answer, but it’s still a good way of trying to clarify the experience.
  •  use divination to help to confirm the experience.
  •  independent confirmation from other trusted Pagans who often work with spirit guides, or who might normally have a strong working relationship with said deity.
  •  independent confirmation via a cold reading from others who are trustworthy and experienced in various divination methods.

Keep in mind as well, if you decide to contact this entity again, don’t be afraid to question it. Any new relationship has a getting to know you period and questions and discussion are a part of that.

Pan and the Nature of Gods


Hi, i’m new to paganism and am wondering about Pan, and if he is a loving deity. I think our culture has stereotyped the idea of the devil so much that searching for understanding/differences/alternatives is difficult. I’ve heard of the green-woman but not very much about her. Goddesses interest me, its just that compared to the hypocritical ideas in christian religions of a loving god + hell, other kinds of male deities interest me too… i’d like to believe in good ones in general that work for me.

Going strictly by the original lore – I wouldn’t really categorize Pan as a “loving” deity, at least not in the sense I think you mean. Clearly he’s not one deserving to be vilified as he has been, but he’s also not necessarily gentle and kind either. Though primarily a God of “shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music”, there is also a good reason why his name can be seen in the word “panic”. As a companion of Dionysus, he is more rightfully associated with pleasure and wild abandon, instead of more placid pursuits. As such, he was often found chasing Nymphs, though they they clearly did not return his affections, and in many cases went to extreme lengths to avoid being “caught”.

If you are interested in getting a pretty detailed picture of Pan, at least as far as the lore is concerned, I would suggest reading over the Theoi Project page on him. It’s a great overview and links to the related texts and source materials, which you can use for further research.

The thing to keep in mind with most Gods and Goddesses, at least from a Pagan perspective, is that “good” and “bad” are sort of relative terms – it’s usually not so cut and dry. While some Gods or Goddesses may be more caring and loving (or whatever other “good” qualities one might look for), in many cases it’s more a matter of them having good days and bad days just like everyone else. The question to ask too, is…  What is “good”/“bad”? Some people don’t like to acknowledge things that make them uncomfortable, even if those things are perfectly normal or necessary. From a more conservative perspective “pleasure” and “wild abandon” are often considered taboo, yet there can be joy and even healing in such actions. To be sure, too much of anything can be a bad thing (and there is definitely the potential for it to be taken to an extreme with Pan), but even so, letting our hair down every once in awhile is a wonderful release.

If you are just looking for “good” Gods to work with, you may have a difficult time finding what you are looking for. There are many Gods who are known for being kindly, and/or less demanding than others, but even most of those have another side to them as well. If there is a particular God or Goddess that you feel called to, it’s probably going to be a matter of either accepting them as they are, or declining the call. It usually doesn’t work out very well when we try to force our Gods into being something that they really aren’t.

For those following us – if any of you work with Pan on a regular basis, please feel free to share (as much as you are able, or willing to) any personal experiences, that would give more insight as to his general nature. We’d love to hear from you!! 🙂