On Being an Eclectic Heathen

I’ve been thinking for a while about what umbrella my faith really falls under. My beliefs are pretty unique, and I’m highly aware that I don’t fit within any particular Pagan mold. Ever since I started researching Paganism, over 16 years ago now, I realized that to be true. Every path I’ve ever tried has been interesting and intriguing in some ways, and in others, I’ve felt a complete disconnect.

A big reason for that disconnect, however, is that I grew up learning how to channel energy as an Empath. I grew up learning proper energy-work techniques that I never saw replicated in the Pagan traditions I tried out.

When I first started researching Paganism, the first path I came across was Wicca. When I started reading about Wicca and learning about the rituals used, especially all the tools required, I knew Wicca wasn’t for me. Energy-work (or magic, whichever term you prefer) doesn’t require the rigorous tool-based ritual format that Wicca seems to prefer. I also hated spelling magic with a k because you either believe in magic or you don’t. Adding a k to the end of the word does not make it any easier to suspend disbelief if disbelief exists.

In any case, I realized that what I enjoyed about Wicca were the older arts sometimes in use. Astrology and Numerology both fascinated me. I started researching those on my own, and I have a decent amount of understanding of both. I know enough to use those arts to understand myself a little better, and that’s really all I need.

But those were the only things I enjoyed about Wicca, and astrology and numerology are far older than Wicca is. The extreme focus on having two deities, one Goddess and one God, known via multiple names, didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t mind the idea of two deities, but I hated the extreme focus that was put on the Goddess over the God. For a religion that was supposed to promote a balanced world between feminine and masculine energy, Wicca fell far short of that mark.

So, I spent a few years learning more about astrology, numerology, gemstones, and many different pantheons of gods. I also spent time researching other religions, including the Abrahamic faiths. It was in this period of time that I read the Bible all the way through, and I even experimented with going to different denominations of Christian churches to see the differences. No matter where my research took me, however, what I found was that I loved Paganism. Even though no pantheon was speaking to me, even though I had never been approached by a single deity, I was in love with a religion that allowed me to not only choose, but design, my own path through life.

Once I became comfortable and adamant about sticking to a Pagan path, the Norse deities began to appear to me. I started dreaming about Odin, and he called me to him. I wear the Valknut in his honor, as I am sworn to him. I can’t say that it was an easy decision to make – at first, him approaching me terrified me. I tried to ignore him for almost six months before he got so insistent about being in my life that I could no longer shut him out. Once I stopped running and started to get to know him, I started to see that his path was one that I could walk with ease, as I had already been on it without knowing it.

After Odin appeared in my life, it wasn’t long before Loki came along as well. While there are many, many people out there who offer hatred to anyone who worships Loki, they are the people who do not understand what Loki’s path entails. Odin’s path is hard enough, as it is full of sacrifice and pain in the pursuit of wisdom. Loki’s path, in a way, is harder, as it entails facing yourself, dealing with your demons, and learning to laugh despite the pain. Sigyn came along with Loki, and her path is one of compassion, loyalty, and, most importantly, self-love.

Then came Tyr, the cosmic balancer, the one who keeps the nine worlds from spinning off their axes. Balance, exchange, comprise – all of these are Tyrian traits. Freyja also showed up, and she has taught me a lot about facing up to who I am as a woman. I have a lot of masculine energy, so she, in essence, helped me learn about my own femininity and sensitivity.  Freyr also came along, and he has taught me what nobility truly means – what it means to take pride in the smallest detail of the work you do, and how to accept that there is no one and nothing beneath you when you possess true nobility.

Most recently, Mani and Ullr have begun to feature in my life. Ullr plays a pretty significant role in my life, and he has taught me much. He prizes his secrets, and he is right to do so. Mani is ethereal and elusive, and I think that he, like Ullr, doesn’t wish to be known by everyone.

With all that being said, when Odin first came into my life, I started doing research into Asatru. What I found there, originally, was interesting. I learned about the Eddas, and I read them. The lays within are beautiful, even if somewhat distorted due to having a Christian author. I also found the Nine Noble Virtues, a guideline for ethical behavior that everyone can aspire to emulate. I also found the runes, which pulled to me as nothing else ever had. All of these things were positive, and I fell in love with them.

But in Asatru, I also found things I despised. I found people who adhered so strictly to the Eddas that anything outside of them were automatically labeled “wrong.” I found reconstructionists so passionate about rebuilding old religions that they had become blind to the possibility of a living faith, a living spirituality. I found people so full of self-righteousness that I might as well have been sitting in the pew of a Southern Baptist church listening to a preacher spew sermons about hellfire and brimstone. I found intolerance, bigotry, and ignorance. I found hatred.

However, the Gods I honor are the Norse Gods. Asatru is one of the Heathen faiths dedicated to the Norse pantheon. And, although there are other Heathen traditions, all of them suffer from the same pitfalls. So, what was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to reconcile myself to being part of a religious movement that was full of hatred and self-righteous anger because certain people didn’t worship their gods in the “right” ways?

These questions are questions I have been asking myself for a long time. For years, in fact. And they are the reason that I typically stick to myself, even on the internet. Because, the truth is, my beliefs don’t fit neatly into a box. They never have, and they never will.

The closest I can come to fitting a label to myself is to call myself an Eclectic Heathen. But, when I say Eclectic, I mean that I draw from multiple faiths across the Pagan spectrum rather than strictly across the Heathen spectrum. When I say Heathen, I mean that I honor the Norse deities first, and other deities second. I’m willing to honor other pantheons, if I am called to do so, but the call of the Norse pantheon will always be the one I listen for first.

I’ve heard multiple times that my beliefs in certain things aren’t “Heathen.” I’ve been told that there is no place for the elemental powers within Heathenry, which I find ridiculous. The elements are as old as the earth, so to say there is no place for the elements is to say that there is no place for the earth (which is, quite frankly, ridiculous). I have also always been drawn to magic, and I have finally found a path of magic that makes sense to me. A path that I have already started walking.

I intend to do a lot of things with my faith, as I refuse to let it stagnate. I will not be someone who insists that there is a right way of belief or only one correct way to perform a ritual. While I am a priestess of the Norse gods, I am not a priestess of Asatru or any tradition in particular. To call myself an Eclectic Heathen Priestess seems incredibly weird, even though that is technically what I am. One day, perhaps, I will have a name for what to call my path. Perhaps, when that day comes, I will be ready to share it fully with the world around me.

To be Eclectic is to choose to walk away from the other paths that are out there. It is to be brave enough to say, “These ways don’t work for me. I need to create my own,” and realize that need isn’t borne out of arrogance but out of necessity. Most people can find the faith they need already realized in one that already exists, but some of us – some of us need to construct it out of bits and pieces of the other faiths we find around us.

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7 comments on “On Being an Eclectic Heathen

  1. Good post. Our beliefs actually sound rather similar. I wouldn’t consider myself Lokean but the Norse gods are my gods and I understand Lokis role as something far more complex than the evildoer role many Asatru cast him in. I’m lucky that my husband shares similar beliefs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never been a big believer in absolute good and absolute evil – I feel that dealing in absolutes blinds people to truth, which is often complex.

      As for Loki, he plays the complex role of transgressor. He crosses boundaries, and, by doing so, he sets them. That’s the most difficult thing to understand about Loki. Every time it seems like he is doing something “just because,” there is always a deeper reason for it.

      I follow multiple deities, so I follow multiple paths. I wouldn’t say that I am strictly Lokean, but I am Lokean. I am also Odian, Tyrian, Freyrian, etc. and so on (this applies to all of the deities I follow). Heathen encompasses most of the deity-specific paths I follow, and eclectic encompasses the rest.

      Thanks for the feedback! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Much of this rings true for me as well. My faith doesn’t fit into any of the regular boxes either! If pressed for a description of what I am I’ve come to say I’m an eclectic polytheist – while my main focus lies on the Norse pantheon I also have quite strong connections to certain deities belonging to wholly different pantheons, which is why I say “polytheist” rather than “heathen”. Which perhaps is a bit silly, since the word “heathen” really doesn’t mean a strict focus on asatru but… Mweh, it’s all just words right? What matters is the contents, not the words.

    It always makes me happy to hear of others walking their own path like this. Learning from a multitude of sources, being open to see what others think and do, but ultimately following your own heart, as cliché as that may sound.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think it’s that clichéd, considering the Havamal has this to say on the subject:

      “The mind alone knows what is near the heart, /Each is his own judge: /The worst sickness for a wise man /Is to crave what he cannot enjoy.” (V. 95)

      And Eclectic Polytheist works as well for me as Eclectic Heathen does – Heathen just narrows it down a bit. If pressed, I’d say I’m a polytheist first, then an eclectic heathen. After all, my entire worldview is now caught up in living in the worlds of multiplicity, and I quite like it that way. 😛

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I love this post so much. It almost describes my feelings and approach exactly! I’ve felt kinship with a lot of deities over the years, like Greek, British/Roman/Gaulish and Celtic, and and I still honor them, but when I figured out two years ago Odin has been calling me since childhood, everything kind of fell into place. Frigga, Thor and Freyja have followed (Thor being my husband’s patron, I have been honored to get to know him). I think Loki is lurking at the edges, I feel him, but not ready to explore that just yet. Since my background is both British and German, I sometimes slip into the Anglo-Saxon view (i.e. Frige).

    BTW, when doing magic, I often work with personal tutelarys as well as local wights/fae/elementals/genius locii, whatever you call them. Am I the only one who finds it fascinating that so many cultures carry the same beings, but have that slightly different cultural flavor?

    Liked by 3 people

    • You’re definitely not alone in that fascination. It’s also intriguing to me that there are so many Gods in so many pantheons that have essentially the same function. It makes me wonder if there may have originally been a single pantheon that different cultures understood in different ways that gave birth to the pantheons we have now. Granted, if you know anything about Shinto philosophy (which is absolutely fascinating), Gods are born through the beliefs of the followers they hold, and they live and die as the belief in them wanes and waxes. If that is the way that Gods are born, then it would explain so well how the Gods have become so numerous.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Every Heathen heathens their own way, Odin himself wandered learning the knowledge of all the worlds. Our ancestors, once the immigrated to othe lands, would have assimilated and learnt the traditional ways of their new land and incorporated that into their own traditions. That is how the world has so many Pagan traditions that are so similar. Gods would have been given new names under new tongues but still the same God. Witches and Shamans are seen in a plethora of different Pagan religions/beliefs throughout history without even being connected to another.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post, thank you.

    Like

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