Monthly Archives: November 2013

CW’s “Reign” Misrepresenting Pagans

It may surprise some people to know that I have been enjoying CW’s new series “Reign.” It’s a historical (I use that term lightly) drama about the life of Mary Queen of Scots. Although false history is usually a pet peeve of mine, it was obvious from the get-go that this was not going to be a scrupulously accurate re-telling of history. So, I took it with a grain of salt and just enjoyed the drama, the foofy dresses, and looked forward to it as nothing more than light-hearted (and not very well-written) entertainment. A guilty pleasure, if you will.

But, then they started messing with Pagans. And now Aelfie is a little peeved. (Yes, sometimes Aelfwynne likes to speak in the third person.)

*edit* Shouldn’t have to pander to crusty old fuddy duddy haters. But I will clarify, as if that wasn’t clear enough, that the reason the lack of historical accuracy wasn’t bugging me is because the show is so OBVIOUSLY not even TRYING.  If it was playing itself off as a true representation, then the inaccuracies would be insulting. But, it isn’t.  It’s not pretending to be something that it’s not. Therefore, I look at it as a form of mindless entertainment to “zone out to” after a long day. We all have them. End of disclaimer. *

ImageAny series needs conflict, and therefore a nemesis. This series started by using the English as the “bad guys.”  Ok, that makes sense considering the period and history of Queen Mary of Scots.  Then there was court intrigue, double agents, hidden agendas, the usual thing you imagine in a late Medieval court. But, apparently when that got old, the writers decided to fall back on the old “demonize the pagans” trick.

That the series’ writers would have no interest in historical accuracy was demonstrated from the first episode. They certainly make no effort what so ever to get their costumes remotely period accurate!  So, I wasn’t really surprised to see Pagans depicted inaccurately. But, what did surprise me as the viciousness with which Pagans are attacked in their representation.

Reign writers would have us believe that the 16th century saw rogue bands of pagans committing “Heathen” human sacrifice in the woods, using their own symbol rendered as a pewter stag’s head pendant left as a “calling card” to identify their next victim, the pendant is “dipped in poisonous oil” in order to burn an imprint of the stag on the skin of the targeted victim, and then terrorizing said victim by hanging a still bleeding head of an actual stag above the bed of said victim Godfather style.  Apparently Early Modern Pagans were masters of “the Sicilian message!”

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And, it’s not just the way the Pagans are depicted in the show that is so outrageous. It’s the way they are discussed.  The word “Heathen” is spewed forth with disgust.  They are discussed by the shows protagonists as if they are the most morally reprobate people on the face of the Earth and referred to as “savages.”

Did “Heathens” perform human sacrifice? Yes. But, did they during this period? Unlikely. Most of Europe, and certainly Western, Central, and Northern Europe was long converted by this time (barring the Saami in the remote far North).  Many modern neo-Pagans like to fantasize about witch trials being a purging of Paganism. But, the truth is the surviving remnants of paganism in the 16th century were usually folk beliefs.  In fact, “folk religion” is a term used to describe the fusion of old beliefs with new. Usually, practitioners are completely unaware that their traditions are, in fact, pagan.  They usually view themselves purely through a Christian lens.  (This obviously didn’t save them from the flames of the stake, but that’s another story). So, the witch trials were a purging of Paganism, but not in the way that they’re thinking of it.  There may have been pockets of agrarian “witch cults” surviving in secret. But the evidence is not yet overwhelming.

Secondly, we know that the practice of human sacrifice often involved the killing of prisoners of war and criminals.  In other words, people who typically would be executed anyway.  They just happened to prescribe a religious meaning to their executions. There are some very unpleasant accounts of Celtic human sacrifice by flame. But, this was during late Antiquity, and we can’t be certain how much of the account was exaggerated for the sake of propaganda. (Although it has been pointed out there are separate accounts which corroborate each other).

However, let us not forget to point out that the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern worlds were violent times! Abhorrent violence and killing was also committed under the Christian banner, even by groups who seem quite mild mannered today such as the Lutherans.

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Now, I’m not the type of person to falsify history to make our religion more palatable to a modern audience.  But, the fact of the matter is that Paganism is not well understood by the general public today.  There is still much discrimination against Pagans, especially in areas like the “Bible Belt.”  There is still a mistaken belief that Pagans are Satan worshiping practitioners of black magic.  And, there is also the annoying assumption that Paganism means Wicca, and that all Pagans identify as “witches.” Sadly, many uninformed neo-Pagans who have no knowledge of the numerous reconstructionist forms of Pagan revival even think that!

So, in a time when we are fighting for equality, fighting for acceptance, and suffer prejudice based on misunderstanding and confusion, it is highly IRRESPONSIBLE of CW and the writers of Reign to be so ridiculously biased in their interpretation of a living modern religion.

If anyone out there knows of a petition floating around demanding that CW apologize for their portrayal of Pagans, please link it in the comments below, and we will share it around on the FB page.  I would link you to their “Contact Us” form, but that part of their website appears to be down.  If anyone would volunteer to create such a petition, it would be much appreciated 🙂

~ Aelfwynne ~

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How the “War on Christmas” Made Me a Pagan

I’m going to share something personal with you guys. Maybe you’ve heard Christians give their “testimony” about how they “came to The Lord.” Well this is my story about how I came to discover my own ancestral indigenous religion.

Unlike some of the pagan stereotypes out there, I was never a goth chick, never obsessed with magic or “playing witch.” What I was, simply, was a deep thinker, inquisitive, curious, an avid reader, a history nerd, an animal lover, nature lover, and passionate about the things I care about.

Being raised in the church from birth, I was naturally very gung-ho about it up through my teenage years, and my thirst for knowledge lead me to learn a lot about the Bible and church history. But, there was always a frustration because it was clear from childhood that my Christian peers tended to be very shallow thinkers and I butted heads with them on their hypocrisy and sheer lack of logic. By my late teens and early twenties Christian dogma was just no longer jiving with my own ability to process information and what I knew to be true about the world at large. So I entered a period of what I might call “agnostic spirituality.”

As someone who avidly absorbed myself in history since I was a kid, I always knew about old Yule, and always had an interest in world cultures in general, but also my own cultural heritage which is generally British and Northern/Central European. So one year during the Christmas season, when I heard Bill O’Reilly launch into his “War on Christmas” tirade, something inside of me just snapped!

Now, this was nothing new. I was raised with this rhetoric. But after having been released from the brainwashing for a few years, it just really irritated me to hear this complete and utter bull. I sat there thinking “what about when Christmas warred on Yule?!” How ridiculous and hypocritical to bang on about your holiday being attacked, when your holiday attacked and hijacked another!

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It led me to thinking on how much of Old Yule is still present in our current Christmas traditions. This spawned more and more research, and something inside me just clicked. To get to the truth, you must scratch away the facade. Christianity has been a veneer painted over Europe (and European descendants in the New World) which has separated and hidden us from our roots.

I don’t mean to leave out other ethnic groups because the same is true for many. Other ethnic groups experienced this assimilation and erosion of culture more recently so it is more well known. The attack on indigenous European culture is further back in time and very well hidden. By the time Christianity began assimilating other cultures, it had become ubiquitous with Europeans, so people saw it as “white man’s religion.” We had lost our own tribal and indigenous identities by then.

By emphasizing my ancestral roots, I make no claim on any kind of superiority what so ever. Every person should connect to their ancestral roots, and to all aspects of it if you are of mixed heritage. I do not mean to exclude anyone. But the fact of the matter is that American and European “Christmas” was stolen largely from Germanic Yule. There are many other winter solstice traditions all around the world, and I urge everyone to research solstice traditions from your own heritage, or simply embrace what speaks to you.

Yule has a special place in my heart because it was the moment I had an epiphany. It was my rational and knowledgable side that thought “um, no. Screw you and your fake war on Christmas! And screw your lack of knowledge of history. Screw your hypocrisy. Screw your idiotic lack of conceptual understanding that there was, indeed, a religious holiday preceding yours that your religion usurped and waged war on!” From that moment on I became a shield maiden. No, actually I always was a shield maiden, it’s in my blood! But it activated my inner warrior to stand up for what is good and right, for the truth, and for my heritage. It spurred my entire “Heathen awakening” if you will.

I hope to have the time to post more on Yuletide traditions and history this season, but life has been busy and I have been dealing with serious illness. The Northern Grove FB page will be sure to share informative posts in the upcoming weeks.

~ Aelfwynne ~

PS – UPDATE:

People have been asking where to find info on Yule, and Yule’s influence on Christmas. I’ve added some great books on this to our Amazon shop and created a new section for Heathen/Pagan holidays ! 🙂

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Feast of the Einherjar

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By Ásfriðr Godardsdottir

Today is a day where we honor our fallen or Einherjar. Many of amazing people have sacrificed their all not only for this country, but our ancestors who were slain on the battlefields as well. This is where one of my many strong connections to Odin and the Einherjar come into play as I am a Veteran myself, seeing my friends come home and some who didn’t come home standing on their own two feet. Today we honor the slain warriors of past and present. For today I feel the Einherjar are especially training for the day Ragnarok comes, and when night falls they will feast and drink as much mead as the Valkyries can hand them. Honor our current generation of war fighter who have fallen and joined the ranks of the Einherjar. Today we honor the values the Einherjar abide by, courage, honor and duty.

HAIL THE EINHERJAR !
HAIL OUR GENERATIONS WAR FIGHTER!
HAIL THE ANCESTORS AND THE GODS!

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Heathenism in Main Stream Society

By Ásfridr Godardsdottir

Heathenism in main stream society is often miscued as a religion with racial ties. When indeed it is quite the opposite. Yeah there are those few shall I say who bastardized the old ways. Ignorance is not bliss. Be aware and open minded, you might learn a thing or two

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I myself find the biggest misconceived notion of Ásatrú is that it’s just a religion of what the “cool kids” are getting into. They to, like the Neo nazis will weed themselves out. My point may seem harsh, but I feel being called back to the old ways is just that, A Calling! A calling from our Ancestors to our true self. The mighty Tyr did not sacrifice his arm to the Fenrir wolf for no reason at all. He did it to bind the wolf until Ragnarok where the wolf will join the giants against the final battle of the gods

Heathenism here in America can be a very solitary thing unless you know other Heathens, which can be hard to find at times. I myself am self taught and and still learning everyday! I’ve been on my path for about 18 months. I’m an empath so I’m very “touched” with the gift of Spaë. My family doesn’t agree with my beliefs but as I always tell them, ” I wasn’t born to follow”!

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The Belief in the Old Ways in The United States Military

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The belief in the Old Ways in the United States Military

By Ásfriðr Godardsdottir

First I think the term Paganism should be defined.

n.
1. An adherent of a polytheistic religion in antiquity, especially when viewed in contrast to an adherent of a monotheistic religion.
2. A Neopagan.
3. Offensive
a. One who has no religion.
b. An adherent of a religion other than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam.

Now there are many branches of Paganism. It’s whatever you prefer to call yourself or what your beliefs are. Myself, I am a Heathen believing in Ásatrú which is the beliefs in the Norse-Germanic deities.

I was also a Veteran of the United States Army in a time that paganism of any form was not accepted. Upon my discharge from the Army , the Wiccan beliefs were just starting to become recognized by a very Christian military force. You were either deemed a satanist or atheist. Which in contrast is an oxy moron.
I personally did not find my path until I had been out 7 years (no time is right and no time is wrong).

Now I’m hearing that Paganism is becoming more accepted throughout all branches, which excites the hel out of me! In a Christian sense, Jesus taught religious tolerance for ALL religions. Let me say that it’s easy for me to put this together because I was a Catholic when I served. So me personally, I always have the counter response when asked questions. I think it would be amazing if the US Military introduced Pagan Chaplains in to accommodate ALL religions, not just those of accredited faiths by the Christian community.

I’ve taken accounts of a few service members who will be protected under the Stolen Valor act. I will not give names or ranks out. For our living heroes, it saddens me that no matter how many tours they’ve done or how many years they’ve done, they are still not accommodated in our faith. Sumbels in the Heathen/Ásatruar path are strongly prohibited but there’s ways around that while deployed. I believe ALL forms of paganism should be allowed to openly and freely practice. They’re all fighting for the same cause, why not let them pray to whatever god they choose?

One Marine told me he actually practiced more while he was deployed, stating that his subordinates would make sure he practiced before missions because they saw that it was working. Coincidence? I think not. Though not accomadated state side, I’m getting accounts of these brave men practicing on their own without fear or repercussions of practicing a non-Christian belief system. Heathens are often labeled Nazi’s because of the third riech bastardizing Ásatrú and just out of pure ignorance with a totally misconceived notion that not all, in fact, most Heathens are NOT racist in any way, shape or form. If the military were not so secular in their beliefs, I know a good amount of the boots on the ground would not be afraid to openly practice their faith and continue on their paths.

The Einherjar are those who have died in combat and rest in the Halls of Valhalla, preparing each day for the events of Ragnarok, then they rest each night feasting upon Sæhrímnir and having a plentiful supply of mead being passed to them by the Valkyries. I am of the belief that not just anyone gets to Valhalla (sorry to burst anyone’s bubble). Even then, half of the slain warriors go to The Goddess Freyjas hall, Sesrumnir. The Einherjar are our fallen ancestors, blood related or not. If it wasn’t for those who came before us, our personal paths now would be nothing but some “cool stories”

HAIL THE EINHERJAR!
HAIL ALL ACTIVE DUTY/RESERVE/NATIONAL GUARD!
HAIL THE GODS AND GODDESSES!

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