In this blog, I hope to seek my dancing heathenry. I mean this both literally and figuratively. I want to find a place for dance in this heathen revival. And I want to find a heathenry that makes my spirit dance in joy. To me, these are one and the same.
To start off with, and as an introduction, I am going to post an essay I wrote for my mother. She’s an evangelical Christian and I recently told her that I am a heathen. I wrote this essay to explain to her what I believe and how I feel about it, why I converted. I sent it to her over a week ago and she hasn’t responded, but it was, nevertheless, a good exercise.
For clarity’s sake, I will mention that Gent is my Christian boyfriend. We’ve been together for six and a half years, since high school.
You asked me what I believe. I will tell you.
Practically speaking, I worship the gods of the ancient Germanic tribes, the Norse, the Anglo-Saxons. These gods are earthy, powerful, and real.
I believe that the Earth is our mother. We call her Nerthus or Jord. I prefer Nerthus. You’ve said to me that you believe that Mother Earth takes care of herself, and that some day she will fix the overpopulation, the awful way that we treat her. I believe this, too. And so I worship Mother Earth and strive to live in balance with her, to walk lightly upon her. I do not want to be selfish. The Earth is our home, the only one we have.
I believe that the Universe is worthy of reverence because it is so complex, so beautiful. I see the ebb and flow of energy, the ways that death feeds life. I see how everything is connected, how the smallest change can forever alter the course of history. And I revere that. I have no name for this. I refer to it as “the All,” because it truly encompasses All That Is, Was, and ever Will Be. It is the act of destruction that leads to a new act of creation. You have said to me that, after the fact, even the worst parts of your life you would never change because they have made you the person you are today. In revering the All, I revere that. That the chance occurrences, the pain of the past have created the present. That the beauty, pain, fear, love of today will create the future. That every act of creation begins with an act of destruction. That life is change. That All That Is is at the same time all exactly the same and completely different. We are One, and we are All.
I believe in the Goddess Freyja whose name means Lady. She is passion. She shows me the beauty and magic that life has to offer. She teaches me to use the psychic gifts you have given me, to embrace them. You have said to me that you were told that your gifts were of the devil, but that you reject that and believe they are gifts. And Freyja has helped me to embrace that gift and begin to use it. Freyja gives me gifts of flowers and love. For my fifth anniversary with Gent, she gave us a dozen roses. She is the passion that drives me to dance, to laugh, to love. She brought me out of depression. She teaches me that, no matter what, I should keep fighting for the life I want, that nothing is ever easy. Freyja is sex and dance and life. She teaches me never to fear for enjoying life or my body. My body is my life. They are the same. And so Freyja teaches me to love my life by loving my body.
I believe in the Goddess Sjofn who grants love. She creates the ties between people that are essential to a happy life. She helps me remember that I love Gent even when I’m feeling as if I don’t. She helps me to find friends and to love them. She helps me create peace in fights. She has taught me that, no matter how much I think a fight is the other person’s fault, I should try to bridge the gap, try to help mend the ties because interpersonal ties are our lifeline.
I believe in the God Frey whose name means Lord. He is Freyja’s brother. He shows me beauty in the green world. I find him in the warm sunlight and the cool breeze. I see him in Jimmie’s pigs who are living in mud, rolling in it, showing the truth that is life. He is in horses. The mud is sacred. There is no difference between sacred and profane in my religion, no exaltation of the beautiful while reviling the ugly. We are all cells that grow, that feed on other cells, that die, that feed other cells. He is there in gardening and agriculture, in delicious bread. He is there in the cycle of life, embracing it.
I believe in many other gods and goddesses, too. I believe in the God Odin who endlessly searches for wisdom, who achieves states of ecstasy in his search, who gives up his eye and hangs himself on a tree in order to learn the wisdom that will help him save the world at the end of time. I believe in the Goddess Holda who makes the snow fall and taught humans to grow food. I believe in the God Thor who protects us from the darkness and danger in the world.
I believe in the Norns, three women who spin threads and weave them into the Web of Wyrd, the way that history unfolds, the way that our lives become themselves through our choices.
I believe that our ancestors live on, and that they help us in our lives. I call them the Grandmothers and the Grandfathers.
I believe that the land is inhabited by spirits. That these spirits live in the rocks, the trees, the mountains, the flowers, the grass, the homes.
I believe that we are responsible for our own actions. That we should follow a high ethical conduct because we have no one else on whom to blame our actions but ourselves. My most important ethical values are Honesty, Generosity, Perseverance, Love, Moderation, and Loyalty. I view ethics in terms of positives rather than negatives. Instead of rules we should follow (don’t sin, don’t be greedy), it’s better to look at it in terms of positives ideals to strive for.
I believe that the human imagination has a far greater power than is usually attributed to it. Nothing in society exists that was not first imagined. Everything from cars to religion to friendship to cooking was imagined by somebody or other. And so we should embrace the imagination and love our ideas instead of fearing being wrong. We should boldly live the lives we want, that we imagine, that we dream instead of worrying that we have the wrong answer. We should listen, first, to ourselves.
I believe that, when we die, there is a whole host of potentials. On the one hand, our bodies are eaten by other beings, giving them life so that we live on through them in the same way that the food we eat lives on through us. “You are what you eat” is not just a metaphor. The proteins and vitamins and calories in the food we eat literally becomes the flesh of our bodies. And so we quite literally become the flesh of the flies, the bacteria, the worms, the scavenging animals that eat our bodies. And I think this is beautiful. Spiritually, we may reincarnate down the family line, or go to live with a god or goddess we are closest to, or go to live in Helheim with our ancestors under the kind and watchful eye of the Goddess Hella, whose name was stolen by early Christians as a name for the world of afterlife torment.
I believe that the afterlife should be irrelevant in how we live this life. There is no way to know that the afterlife truly exists, or what it entails. But we know that this life exists, and so we should live well and honorably. That, to me, is the point of life. To live a good one.
I believe that my gods and goddesses make me happier. In the midst of my pain, they show me potential futures that will come out of the pain. They help me to think of my pain as a tool to help me grow, so that I use the pain as fuel rather than as a wall. They show me how to fight.
I believe that my gods act very concretely in my life. Gent believes this as well. He has seen it. Precisely when I converted, all of my professors began talking about how I was suddenly dancing much better. They could see the way I had found the magic in dance, in my body, in life. My gods give me concrete gifts like flowers that show up. There have been so many unexplainable coincidences that show me that my gods are talking to me and that they are acting in my life, that they care about me. I have become a better girlfriend, a better dancer, a better woman.
I believe that everything that is possible to be believed is an image of truth. William Blake said that, and it’s true. I don’t think there is any religion that is false, really, because all of them are driving at the real truth, the “bowels of life” as you referred to it. I hate to say that all religions are the same because they are not, but I believe that the gods, goddesses, and spirits of every religion do actually exist, and that some of them are just more jealous than others.
I believe that Gent and I will make it. He was leery, at first, when I converted. But the more I talked about it, the more he realized that it was the perfect religion for me. He saw how my happiness and confidence bloomed. And then, on our fifth anniversary, he became as convinced as I am that my gods are real, existing beings who act upon the world. Each of my gods gave us a gift that day precisely in line with their personalities. Odin left a rune on a path that means Good Luck. Thor, the Thunderer, left a giant oak felled by lightening, whose wood has been burned so as to look like lace, in our path, letting us know that he would protect us with his mighty hammer. Freyja gave us a dozen roses. And he knew that they were real, and that they bless our union. He prefers Jesus, and continues to worship Him, but has a hard time with Christianity now because it is not as accepting of other religions as he would like it to be.
I believe that you should not fear that I will not be damned for this. For one thing, I do not believe that a person searching for happiness, truth, and goodness could ever be damned by an all-loving God. But there are even Biblical reasons you shouldn’t fear. As an example, 1 Corinthians 7:14 states that “the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband.” And so instead of using my religion to drive a wedge between Gent and I, take comfort that our union is both honored by your beloved Bible and that I can be sanctified through him so that, even if I would be going to Hell for my blasphemy, I may be saved by my associations with Gent. For another thing, Paul talks in the Bible about the “unknown God” who the ancient Greeks worshipped. In his discussion, Paul shows the Greeks that they really are worshipping God because the Unknown God is really God. And, as I told you early on in my essay, I worship an unknown God, the All.
When I was a child, I did not believe in sin. It was a concept I could never get my head around. I did not think that the purpose of life was not to sin, but rather to be as happy as possible and that, no matter what the religion, if there were a heaven, everyone who strove to be as happy as possible given their circumstances would go there. That Hell could be reserved only for the most horrible of people who hurt many and the people who purposefully lived a life of sadness. I will not live a life of sadness. I will live a life filled with joy, with gods whose experiences accurately describe the world to me, with dancing and love. Christianity never worked for me, and I tried so hard to make it. I read the Bible, I went to Church. But there were too many things that didn’t fit. Like that it didn’t teach happiness, but rather ignoring life and the body in favor of a transcendent God. Like that I could see magic, but that the Bible says that magic is evil. That I love Gent and wasn’t going to wait until marriage, but that our love was a sin. That my friends who are gay are sinners. That people would be burned for ever and ever for being born into a family who practices the wrong religion. That three of the world’s major religions who all worship the same God nevertheless are constantly warring with each other over it. These are things I could never believe. And so I believe in the gods and goddesses who teach me to embrace my life, to take responsibility for it, and to search for my happiness. Do not think that I think it is wrong to be a Christian. I would not have stayed with Gent if I did. It is a fine religion, full of beauty and power, but it is not the religion that makes my heart dance.