Category Archives: Posts by Aelfwynne

Marvel’s Female Thor and the Asatruar Reaction

I’m a little annoyed at the response to the share of the female Thor petition.

Listen, People. Some people care about this, others don’t. Someone asked us to share, we shared for those who DO care. I already pointed out in the corresponding group for this page that not only did Thor cross-dress in the lore, that gods changed gender as they evolved over time and cultural boundaries. So on one hand this is really no big deal.

Thor

That said, Asatru will never be afforded the same rights and considerations that main stream religions, and even minority religions like Wicca have recently won, by sitting quietly and never making any noise.

This is not a cut and dry issue. On one hand, it’s no big deal. On the other hand, it absolutely IS. It IS difficult to be taken seriously as a legit belief system when one of your main deities is a cartoon character. Or – at least in the mind of the general public, as that is their only familiarity with the subject.

I am in no way saying to ban Marvel Thor. But, I am saying these topics are worthy of discussion. AND, even if it isn’t that big of a deal, it’s still worth making some noise so that Marvel gets the message that Asatru exists.

As someone else pointed out, political correctness should be applied to ALL or to no one at all. If a “living mythology” like Hinduism had its deities cartoonified, gender switched, and so forth, there would be some holy hell raised.

Someone else pointed out a black Jesus is about to be aired on Comedy Central, and if that’s ok, then so is this. Um, first of all, I would say, it ISN’T ok to be purposely poking at Christians and trying to get a reaction (yes, we ALL know Jesus wasn’t “white,” at this point, before the geniuses point that out. But, he also wasn’t black. He was a Middle Eastern Jew. Duh).

The last cartoons about Mohammad caused the cartoonist’s door to get axed down by a crazed Islamist who was trying to kill him and his wife. The guy needed to hire 24 hr body guards. So how did the West respond? By being too chicken to ever depict Mohammed ever again. Yet we continuously mock Jesus. Yes, Christians make noise about it, but they don’t go axing the artists’ doors down.

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Yet, I’ve noticed that these pansies who claim to take such pride in their Viking heritage can never take a stand and fight for their belief system when push comes to shove.

You don’t think it’s a big deal? Fine. I’m really not that concerned about it either. But I AM concerned at sarcastic and negative responses by those who would condescend those who DO think it’s a big deal.

And, I don’t see much hope for ever being taken serious as a minority religion (again, the geniuses will pop up arguing it’s not a religion – semantics), if there is such major division amongst adherents who refuse to support one another, and no one is willing to go out on a limb to make our presence known.

Whether female Thor is right or wrong is irrelevant. The point is to let corporate giants and the wider world know that Norse Mythology isn’t just a dead religion, but a living one and people DO honor this pantheon, so be conscious of it.

And think about this – No Viking ever fought alone. They stood shoulder to shoulder as brothers in arms (and sisters! Not forgetting the shield maidens!). If Germanic warriors had been more united, they might have stood a better chance against the onslaughts of Charlemagne, the Northern Crusades, and the many forced conversions of the Northern people. This divisive and negative attitude and unwillingness to support fellow Asatruar is a problem that should be considered if this minority religion (way of life, whatever you like to call it) ever wants to be respected the way that other religious groups are.

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~ Aelfwynne ~

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The Militant Monotheistic Religions, Christianity and Islam, And How They Dealt With Paganism

A History of Pagan Europe by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick

Excerpt from Chapter 11 – Paganism Reaffirmed (p196)

The High Medieval period (950-1350) saw the militant monotheistic religions, Christianity and Islam, imposing their influence on the rulers of Europe, so that the official religions of the emerging kingdoms and empires became monotheistic and in practice androtheistic, referring to their supreme deity only in the masculine gender. 

We have also seen Pagan practices and beliefs continuing here and there, unnoticed by official sanctions, and also being incorporated into Christian practice as this developed. In that sense the Pagan outlook and deities remained, shaped in the form of Christian society which overlay them, and were available as a living tradition to be recognised and reclaimed by later investigators in an age of independent thought.

In Islamic areas of Europe, the situation was different. Islamic doctrine did not compromise with Pagan values (indeed, the famous Satanic Verses of the Koran were almost immediately repudiated by Mohammed as an attempt by the Devil to incorporate the three goddesses of Mecca in the celestial hierarchy), and Islam remained militantly anti-polytheist.

Get the book: 

http://astore.amazon.com/thenorgro-20/detail/0415158044

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My commentary:

Right on, this book tells it like it is! Yes, Christianity was militant… BUT it made a lot of accommodations for paganism that Islam did not. 

There is this myth that Islam was in a golden era during the Middle Ages while Christianity caused Europe to rot. This myth paints Islam as this beautiful, peaceful religion of enlightenment and tolerance, while Europe, saddled with Christianity, is depressing, ignorant, intolerant, and lost in a fog of darkness. It’s not that simple.

As many scholars in their papers, books, and documentaries are showing, there was a lot of intellectual work going on in Europe during the so called Dark Ages. Yes, Islam did preserve a lot of Greco-Roman knowledge and were especially good with mathematics. Bravo, Islam, you get a cookie. But they fervently attacked native neighboring religions with gusto from day one, and continue to do so now.

Was Christianity perfect? Nope. But if it’s a contest on which religion is the biggest asshole…. Islam wins hands down.  Don’t get me wrong, they were both assholes. But, Islam takes the cake.

No more false histories and misrepresentations, please. Stick with the truth, even if you have to play hardball. People cling to what they’ve been told and what they want to believe.

 

Frazier Glenn Cross does NOT represent most Heathens and Pagans

The recent shooting in a Kansas City synagogue by Frazier Glenn Cross is a terrible hate crime. Anyone with a heart is mourning for the families of the victims.  When situations like this happen, it is natural to look for reasons and causes for the violence. In this case, the shooter was a known white supremacist with strong anti-Semitic feelings.

However, news reports, such as this one by CNN, are reporting that Cross is an “Odinist.”  The story goes on to explain that Odinism is a racist religion.

It is important to note that, as with ALL religions, there are many branches of belief that represent the revival of Pagan faiths around the world.  There are MANY examples of “ethnic” pagan revival among all various races and cultures around the world. The revival of an indigenous, ancestral belief system is not unique among those of Germanic descent. There are examples of people returning to the faiths of their ancestors all around the world.  Because of the ancestral element, yes there is an emphasis on ethnic culture.  HOWEVER, in most cases this is completely separate from ANY “purist” ideologies.  In other words, Germanic pagans aim to respect their ancestors in the same way that Polynesian, or Native American, or African tribesmen respect and revere theirs.  Respect for one’s ancestors in no way directly implies  a supremacist ideology.

Are there people who twist supremacy into their interpretation of Norse paganism? Sure.  But, there are a lot of racist nuts twisting their supremacy into their version of Christianity and Islam, too.

Do some religions support racism in their holy texts? Absolutely. But there is no one holy text adhered to dogmatically in Asatru.  Followers of Asatru (called Asatruar or Heathens) look to the old legends and lore (found in the Norse Eddas and Sagas) for wisdom and understanding of the Old Religion.  And these texts do NOT underscore race or encourage “purity” in any way, shape, or form.  If someone inserts that into the religion, they do it of their own volition.

The majority of the Heathen and Pagan community bear no ill will to the Jewish community, or other ethnic and religious groups.  Our hearts break over this travesty, and go out to the victims.  We must stand up and be vocal to let the world know that we do NOT support Frazier Glenn Cross or his wicked ideals.

By signing this petition, we are letting the world know that Frazier Glenn Cross does NOT represent us as Heathens, Pagans, and Asatruar and we harbor nothing but sympathy for the people he hurt.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN

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The Sorceress – Film Review

ImageThis subtitled French film is about a “forest woman” in a remote rural medieval village. She uses her knowledge of plants to act as a healer. Villagers come to her for her knowledge of herbs to heal sickness.  She also has some “tricks” up her sleeve in terms of cures that are more for placebo affect.  So of course, when the Catholic Church sends a new priest to the village, he accuses her of witchcraft.

The priest is depicted fairly in this film. Rather than a purely evil figure, he does try to wrap his head around what’s going on. He’s from a more urban, and his mind a more forward thinking, town.  So these rural villagers and their folkways appear backwards and superstitious.  But, the priest sees practices that just do not jive with Church teachings and the forest woman finds herself in a prison cell.

The film is interesting because theories about pagan superstitions are explored through the dialogue between the accused witch and the priest. Also, many occurrences that are known to have happened are depicted, such as the priest ordering a sacred tree to be chopped down and destroyed (this is documented to have happened all over Europe, and even in Mediterranean areas).

I really enjoyed this film and highly recommend it. Anyone interested in Medieval history and pre-Christian folkways will enjoy this film. The entire film can be viewed online for free on YouTube!  We’ve also added the DVD to our shop 🙂

~ Aelfwynne ~

Witchdom of the True – Book Review

Review of Witchdom of the True by Edred Thorsson

Witchdom-of-the-True-Thorsson-Edred-9781885972125There is much less published on the Vanatru side of Germanic paganism than on Asatru. Whereas Asatru means true to the Aesir (Odin and the gods of Asgard), Vanatru means true to the Vanir (Freyr and Freya, and the gods of Vanaheimr).

The author studied both Germanic and Celtic philology at the graduate level and earned a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Medieval Studies.

Despite his impressive credentials, this book is incredibly accessible and written for a general audience. However, due to his credentials, this author is generally considered reliable with his presentation of history and expected to have done his research.

It is understood that Wicca is a contemporary religion influenced by ancient ideas  rather than actual representation of indigenous European religion.  Yet, Thorsson asserts that  Wicca actually may actually draw upon Vanic traditions. He postulates that Freyr and Freyja are the actual Wiccan Lord and Lady based on the etymology of their names (Freyr and Freyja literally do mean lord and lady).

Now, whether Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, had this in mind when he created his religion, we can’t say. This theory may seem suspect to some considering that mainstream Wiccans typically place emphasis on the Celtic pantheon.

The Wiccan emphasis on all things Celtic is dubious when one considers that the word Wicca is of Germanic origin.  One may also find it mysterious that Ostara, a goddess of the Germans on the continent was grafted into the Wiccan wheel of the year. Even her counterpart in the British Isles, Eostre, is an Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) goddess.  While some examples of the “Wheel of the Year” use the Irish Lughnasadh, others use Lammas.  Lammas was an Anglo-Saxon holiday. The Wiccan calendar also celebrates Yule for winter solstice, another Germanic holiday.  The Celtic winter solstice is Meán Geimhridh.

So, considering Wicca uses a Germanic name and has such precedent of inserting Germanic tradition into their religion, one might consider the Lord and Lady may have been meant to be Frey and Freyja in Gardner’s thought process.  Or it might simply be an alternative way of viewing the religion to make it more palatable to people who value historical precedent in their religious practice.

Anyway, this book is not about Wicca. It’s about interpreting the Vanir through the eyes of a former Wiccan who’s personal practice evolved as his knowledge of ancient history deepened.  This book will not tell you how to be a Wiccan. But for some Wiccans it may open the doorway of new insights and interpretations of paganism.

While this book is highly recommended for Wiccans looking to deeper their study, it is also recommended for other pagans and Heathens interested in the Vanic gods.  This book provides a foundation of understanding the history of the Vanir, and the connection between Vanir tradition and witchcraft.  It discusses underground survivals of witchcraft and its revival.  It also gives a rudimentary introduction for the Norse/Germanic practice of Seidr (spelled Seith by the author, the ð symbol can be translated as “th” or “d” and the “r” is often dropped in translation).

seidrI have to apologize to any of you reading this right now. I bought this book a few years ago, and as I’m finishing up this review, I’m realizing it has gone out of print.  I’ll leave it in our Amazon bookshop anyway in case some reasonably priced used copies turn up. At the least if you click on it in our store, Amazon should suggest similar titles and books by this author.  Or, maybe you can find it used with another bookseller!

Anyway, I quite enjoyed this title, and I hope some of you will be able to get your hands on it.

If you are interested in Seidr, we have added another book on it to our shop.  “Seidr; The Gate is Open” is a title I haven’t read personally, but it comes highly recommended by other readers.

~ review by Aelfwynne ~

Baltic Religion Today *Free ebook* – Book Review

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Stylized ‘World Tree’ or Austras Koks (Tree of Twilight). The most used symbol of Romuva

Some Background:

Baltic Religion Today is quite possibly the only book about Baltic indigenous religion available in English today. It is written by Jonas Trinkūnas, who is one of the founders of the Lithuanian traditional pagan revival movement, known as Romuva. The religion takes its name from an old pagan temple that existed in Old Prussia.  The temple was destroyed by conquering Christian Teutonic Knights (the conversion of Europe was discussed in our last blog).

The Prussians were neighbors to the Lithuanians, and each region of the Baltic have languages and traditions that differ slightly. But, they obviously share a strong cultural heritage.  Lithuanian Romuva is the Baltic tradition with the most information available in English (which is still very little!), and being that the Balts are nestled between the Germans, Norse, Finns, and Slavs, anybody with a serious interest in Northern European pre-Christian religion would do well to learn about the region and religion.

About the Book:

ImageThere is currently very little available in English about Romuva. The English language market for Baltic pagan studies is a veritable dearth when compared with other reconstructionist movements such as Asatru, or modern neo-pagan religions like Wicca. So this book is literally a must have for anyone interested in Lithuanian and Baltic paganism.

Baltic Religion Today explains everything a beginner needs to know about Romuva. Starting with a short overview and background on the history, to tenets of belief, overview of the Baltic Deities, holidays, and the concept of Darna (Harmony).

Romuva is a truly beautiful, nature based religion. It focuses on being in tune with nature and one’s own inner harmony. For that reason, this book is HIGHLY recommended for ALL pagans, not just those on the Baltic Path, as well as anyone with an interest in spirituality in general. The concepts expressed in Romuva will deepen anyone’s understanding of the Earth and our place in it. As well as help us on our personal journeys to establish our own inner harmony.

It appears that this book was meant to be freely available as it is available for free download from the official Romuva website, which I believe is run by the author.

Follow the links above or click on the image of the book to download it for free. Also I have added a section on the Baltic to our book shop. Happy reading!

~ Aelfwynne ~

Clearing Up Confusion About the Conversion of Europe

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Cross of the Celts by Mad1Dave on Deviant Art

When people speak about conversion from the Old Religion to Christianity in Europe, they tend to use universal terms, as if it happened the same everywhere all at once. It didn’t.

There are a lot of generalizations and blatant falsities put forth from many different angles. Many Christians insist that conversion happened peacefully and voluntarily.  Many modern Pagans insist that all of conversion was bloody and forced.

What we need to remember is that the conversion of Europe occurred in a time span of over one thousand years.  The process happened differently in different areas.

Since this blog focuses on Northern Europe, defined by me as the area stretching from the British Isles to Russia, barring countries speaking a Romance language (sorry, France), I will not go into the very early Church in the Middle East and Mediterranean.

The Celts:

The  area where the biggest misunderstanding seems to lie is with the Celts who were the earliest converts outside of the Mediterranean. Wiccans, who tend to cling to Celtic culture and claim to follow a form of Celtic paganism, are often the worst offenders of spreading false history.  Sadly for them, the Celts were one group in Northern Europe who converted by and large peacefully and voluntarily.

Because they converted so early, very little is known about what Celtic pagans actually believed and practiced.  Since the Church arrived early in Ireland in the 5th century, they were the minority and therefor  had to tread lightly, and this conversion happened organically and willingly (much to the chagrin of  Wiccan writers who have been reading garbage by unqualified writers who don’t fact check).

There was no Druid slaughter by Christians. That is a myth. The Druids are thought to have blended into the Celtic Christian priesthood.  One reason for the confusion is that the Romans DID slaughter druids. But this was simply due to the fact that they were a political threat. It had nothing to do with religion. In fact, this slaughter occurred nearly 300 years prior to the conversion of Rome! It’s called the Menai Massacre, and it is the only known large scale slaughter of druids.

Also, Saint Patrick was NOT a slayer of druids. Please read this blog by The Wild Hunt and this one by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan and scholar for more information on this rumor.

Druids by Alex Martinez on Deviant Art

The Anglo-Saxons:

The area that became England was home to many Christians when they were occupied by Rome. At this point in time, Christians and pagans lived side by side. It was actually a very diverse religions environment, where people practiced both Roman, Celtic, and a hybrid version of paganism called Roman-Gallo paganism.  When the Romans left Britain, Christianity faded away with the influx of the pagan Anglo-Saxons early in the 5th century.

Replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet found in the Sutton Hoo burial site.

Replica of the Anglo-Saxon helmet found in the Sutton Hoo burial site.

The Church did make huge missionary efforts to convert the Anglo-Saxons. Again this was very early (tail end of the 6th through the 7th centuries) and was a complicated process. At this point in time, virtually all Germanic people were still pagan (barring the Franks who had been long Romanized by now and no longer retained their Germanic language, religion, or identity). However, France had converted to Christianity one hundred years prior under the Frankish Merovingian king Clovis I, in the year 496 A.D. Between the French to the East and Celts to the North joining up with the Roman Church, the reach of Christian political military and political power was now stretching further out of the Mediterranean. So, it appears this is the point where political pressure began to be a true factor in the conversion of the Kings and people of Northern Europe.

However, Anglo-Saxon conversion still happened very gradually. Their kings were not known for using violence to forcibly convert their people. And there were many tug-of-wars when a Christian king’s pagan son inherited the throne. The common people retained their pagan customs for many years, as is so famously lamented by the Venerable Bede. The Anglo-Saxon retained a lot of their pre-Christian culture even after they were by and large fully converted. It was really when the asshole NORMANS came in with their stricter version of Christianity when the Germanic systems of fairness in rule of law became oppressed by the choke hold of Norman rule.

A wonderful fiction novel, but one that was meticulously researched, about the old religion of the Anglo-Saxons and their conversion is The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates.

Charlemagne’s Epic Battle Against the Valiant Pagan Saxon King Widukind:

Saxon Shields by Endakil on Deviant Art

Saxon Shields by Endakil on Deviant Art

Ok, so along comes Charlemagne in France. Just as his predecessor Clovis converted to Christianity and united the Franks, the Christian Charlemagne sought to unite the German tribes and used forced conversion as a tool. He was one of the first rulers actually use forced conversion en masse.

HOWEVER, it should noted that Charlemagne was defending Europe from onslaughts of Muslim invaders from the South (ever heard of the Reconquista? the reclaiming of Spain?). In case you haven’t noticed, uniting pagans is like herding cats. The Germanic tribes were fiercely independent and more prone to tribal raiding for land and goods than large scale war. I believe Charlemagne used Christianity as a way to unite Europe under one banner to keep the Muslims from conquering Europe.

(The Crusades are another story, but that’s another false history that the Christians were to blame. The Crusades started as a response to Muslim invasions, that had a long history. Vlad the impaler is another “hero” who kept the Muslim invaders from getting in through Southeastern Europe.)

Ahem. That said, Charlemagne is responsible for the conversion of the Saxons. The brave pagan Saxon king Widukind (who’s name means Forest Child, how perfect is that) fought against Charlemagne for years in what is known as The Saxon Wars. He was finally forced to surrender to save his people from slaughter, and his conversion was a self sacrifice to protect his people.

The Norse: 

On to the Norse. King Olaf converted as a political move in the year 995, because by now most of Europe had gone over. Olaf was an asshole. He brutally forced his people to convert or die. It was Olaf who slaughtered the Volvas and Norse pagan priesthood or “wise people.”

There’s not a heck of a lot more to say on that. Other than that the things people think happened with the Celts, actually DID happen with the Norse. It was a vile and bloody forced conversion and their religious leaders and “sorcerers” who were sort of equivalent to Druids were slaughtered by Christians. Sorry Celts, the Norse win the prize!

Sejdmen

King Olaf Trygvasson had seidmen tied up and thrown on a skerry at ebb.

The Balts and Slavs – Crusades in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe:

The Teutonic Crusades, also called Northern Crusades, Baltic Crusades, and the Wendish crusades occurred a few centuries later. By now the Germans and Norse had been completely assimilated by the Borg (I mean Church) and were used as fighting-bots to go out and slaughter remaining pagans. This is how the Balts became Christianized, and in the case of some of them, especially the Prussians, this is even considered by many to be a genocide. The Wendish crusades were against the Slavs, I believe Poland and nearby areas.

Lithuania held out very long, until the late 15th century, when the now Christian king of Poland waged war on them. You will notice a pattern here.  Forcibly convert a people, assimilate them into the machine. Then send them off to assimilate their neighbors. That’s how the Borg, I mean the Church, worked.

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Destruction of the Baltic Pagan Temples by the Christian Teutonic Knights

The Last Holdouts – the ones that hardly anybody even knows about:

Saami Shaman Spirit Drum

Saami Shaman Spirit Drum

After that the main pagans left were the Saami in the tippy top of Scandinavia, a Finno-Ugric people, who were still pagan as late as the 18th and 19th century. It was the Lutherans who went out of their way to go after the Saami, and their tactics were remarkably similar to how Christians in America assimilated Native Americans and attempted to make them lose their languages and native religions.

The Mari El in Russia have an unbroken line of pagan tradition. Probably due to their remote location, they were left alone more than other groups, however they still faced many periods of persecution. They are still pagan today (although many are Christian, the pagans still thrive).

In Conclusion:

So, there we have it.  As you can see, conversion was a long and widely varying process.  Anyone who speaks of it in sweeping generalities simply demonstrates that they don’t actually know much about it!

We’re building our section for pagan scholarship and reliable history in our shop.  So please give it a gander. Books covering the conversion have also been added 🙂

~ Post by Aelfwynne ~