Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Gift for a Gift


     For a comparatively small religion, Heathenry seems to drown at times from sectarian tensions between various groups who are at loggerheads with each other.  Some of these debates can seem petty and puerile, but others admittedly are matters of great importance.  The latest imbroglio falls within the latter camp – who gets to be part of the religion, or more properly, who is excluded, and by what criteria are they so excluded.   As far as internal mores among Heathens themselves, and as far as relations between Heathens and outsiders, there can be no more salient question.

     There is no small amount of rhetoric on both sides of the debate.  I would like to address the issue obliquely by asking two simple questions: What exactly is the point of Heathenry, and why do (or should) people go into it in the first place? 

     I understand Heathenry as an umbrella term for a set of highly related practices based on the polytheist, pre-Christian religions of the various Germanic peoples.  Heathenry itself is related, in linguistic and cultural terms, to a wider set of cultural realities that philologists collectively call the Indo-European world.

     “Theology” is a grandiloquent term for what these peoples believed and practiced.  But let us say there was a central assumption that underlay all that they did spiritually.  And that assumption was one of gifting. 

     The give and take, the exchange of goods and favors and good will, is typically what united individuals in these pre-modern times.  If gifting was the impetus behind social bonds, it carried over into the realm of the spiritual as well. Gods, ancestors, wights – these were not forces to be obeyed or commanded, but entreated.  Religion was votive.  A gift was given to the gods, ancestors and wights – and in return, or so it was thought, they were supplicated to return friendship and favors to the ones gifting. 

     The Romans had a saying, expressed in Latin: do ut des.  I give so you may give.  If our ancestors had a similar pithy quote in their own native languages, I have yet to encounter it.  But the modern English “a gift for a gift” succinctly summarizes the sentiment.  We gift you in friendship. Be our friends. Gift back to us.

     This is our religion.  Or, if you have pedantic aversion to the word “religion” as applied to Heathenry, then let us say this is our worldview.  However one wants to term it, gifting is That Thing We Do That Makes Us Heathen.

     Let us return to the original two questions: what is the point of Heathenry, and why do (or should) people go into Heathenry?   If the point of Heathenry is gifting the gods, ancestors and wights, then it follows logically people should go into Heathenry if they wish to gift the gods, ancestors and wights known to Heathenry.  They presumably seek to draw into mutually reciprocal relationships with those powers.

     This may seem obvious, but apparently, it is not.  We have people who seem to think the point of Heathenry is flexing (literally or metaphorically) their muscles as great Viking warriors.  Or some such.   And so, their sine qua non is playing with axes, and swords and guns.  Or contemplating ever more sophomoric ways of getting into Valhalla without actually, you know, dying in battle.  I daresay they are in the wrong freaking religion.  Or, to employ quintessentially Heathen parlance, they are doing it wrong.

     But to return to the more immediate question that prompted this whole essay, who gets to be in the religion, or who should be excluded? To my mind, anyone who brings a gift to the gods in good faith is a Heathen and should be treated as such.   If they are excluded from the community of gift-givers, it is because they have committed egregious deeds that are deemed harmful or otherwise dishonorable to the community itself.  Not because of who or what they are outwardly.

     Do we say that a gift is invalid because of the ethnicity or gender-identification of the one making the gift? Those that say such things speak for themselves and their ulterior causes, not the gods.  Only the gods may proclaim if a gift is lacking. If a gift is lacking I suspect it was simply because it was a substandard gift, not because the person who made it did not live up to some ethnic or gender criteria.  
     I have heard a lot of talk about “inclusive Heathenry” or “rainbow Heathenry” as a way of consciously countering bigoted Heathenry.  I find this superfluous.  We simply need to adhere to our roots.  A worldview of gifting is inclusive by its nature, insofar as the emphasis is on the act of gifting, not on the various biological designations of he or she who does the gifting.   

     An emphasis on gifting also has the virtue of weeding out other unsavory groups, such as the aforementioned individuals who seem to think the point of Heathenry is internalizing the most superficial martial aspects of the Viking stereotype.

     Gifting. A gift for a gift!   Heathenry is enriched, enlivened and ennobled by the addition to its ranks of worthy individuals who come in good faith to gift the gods. 





Monday, September 5, 2016

Declaration 127

The Troth has signed onto Declaration 127. This act represents the organizational entity of The Troth deciding not to associate with the AFA as an entity on a business level. We do not police what our individual members, Stewards, or other officeholders do unless it violates the frith of the hall.


Hávamál 127:
I rede thee, Loddfafnir! 
and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
If evil thou knowest, 
as evil proclaim it,
And make no friendship with foes.



This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Just a Note...

The Troth stands by its Mission and its position as a leader in inclusive Heathenry. As a leading voice in Heathenry, it is important that we are clear in our actions and our deeds. Rumors are circulating that The Troth was somehow responsible for the AFA losing use of the site at Camp Courage. This is not the case at all.

When searching Twitter for posts on Asatru Folk Assembly, these tweets immediately come up:



They are both from a Minneapolis "Antifa" (anti-fascist) group. The first asks for people to contact the campground and get the AFA banned. The second congratulates them for doing so.

Any issues the AFA has with the cancellation should be directed to this non-Heathen Minneapolis group.

This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

For Heathen Service Folk

Hail!

Racist or homophobic actions or speech are considered to be violations of military discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) article 134, and the Canadian Queens Regulations and Orders 103.60. Recent statements from the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) that imply that Asatru or Heathenry is only open to those who are white, heterosexual gender conforming are in fact untrue. This represents their internal policies, not Heathen belief. The AFA present the US and Canadian military a clear-cut, but false, statement that those service folk who express Heathen or Asatru religious beliefs are in contravention of UCMJ 134, and QR&O 103.60. Because the Department of Defense guidelines specifically prohibit this sort of prejudice (http://diversity.defense.gov/About/), the statements of the AFA, if accepted as true, would appear to put Heathen or Asatru soldiers in breach of the policies of the forces and nations they are sworn to serve. This has severe career implications for all Heathen service folk, as well as being a slur upon countless good and worthy men and women who are forbidden by existing regulations to advocate for themselves.

It falls to organizations like The Troth to provide the strong and clear message that Asatru and Heathenry as a whole strongly condemn racism, homophobia, and similar forms of discrimination. For those Heathen men and women who now serve under arms, and who are forbidden to speak in their own defense, let us be as clear as possible.

Racism is not a Heathen belief, nor is sexism nor homophobia. We in the Troth, like many other Heathen organizations, hold and enforce a zero tolerance policy on such behaviors in our halls, and at our events.

As Heathens, we take great pride in disagreeing with each other on a hundred points of doctrine and practice; this is part of our community, part of our ancestral tradition, and not something we are looking to change. We can - and do - unite on some matters though; some matters that are so important, so fundamental to our beliefs that we set aside our differences and speak with one voice.

Two things have brought us together to speak in that single voice in recent years. The first was to all stand behind the Open Halls Project (OHP) to see that all good Heathen service folk had access to support wherever they were based or deployed. The second thing has been condemnation of the AFA’s racist and homophobic proclamations. They do not speak for Heathenry, they do not speak for the many fine men and women who serve our nations under arms, and who have given up the right to speak for themselves while they serve.

We who have served before, we who now stand in support must be that voice, and that voice from not simply the Troth but a hundred other Heathen organizations rings loud and clear. Racism and Homophobia are not Heathen, that is not what our service folk bring to our banners. Loyalty, courage, self-discipline, honour and frith you may find in our teachings, industriousness, self reliance and hospitality as well. You will find no hate in our teachings, no barriers set up against race, gender or sexuality. These things are not Heathen.

Our Heathen service folk stand on guard to defend us all, but to do so, they have given up the right to speak in their own defense. If falls to us, the Heathen community, to raise our voices for them. The teachings of Heathenry are not in conflict with the UCMJ or the QR&O. In fact the teachings of Heathenry are consistent with the highest military and civic virtues. Those in your ranks who you know are Heathen are not just pillars of our community; they are pillars of their service. They are loyal sons and daughters of their nations, offering the gift of service in return for the freedom in which they were raised. A gift for a gift is our way. As these fine men and women are giving us their gift of service, now we give for them this gift; a gift of the words they may not speak in their own defense.

This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.

For Heathen Service Folk

Hail!

Racist or homophobic actions or speech are considered to be violations of military discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) article 134, and the Canadian Queens Regulations and Orders 103.60.  Recent statements from the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) imply that Asatru or Heathenry is only open to those who are white, heterosexual, and gender conforming, are in fact untrue.  This represents their internal policies, not Heathen belief. The AFA present the US and Canadian military a clear-cut, but false, statement that those service folk who express Heathen or Asatru religious beliefs are in contravention of UCMJ 134, and QR&O 103.60. Because the Department of Defense guidelines specifically prohibit this sort of prejudice (http://diversity.defense.gov/About/), the statements of the AFA, if accepted as true, would appear to put Heathen or Asatru soldiers in breach of the policies of the forces and nations they are sworn to serve. This has severe career implications for all Heathen service folk, as well as being a slur upon countless good and worthy men and women who are forbidden by existing regulations to advocate for themselves.

It falls to organizations like The Troth to provide the strong and clear message that Asatru and Heathenry as a whole strongly condemn racism, homophobia, and similar forms of discrimination. For those Heathen men and women who now serve under arms, and who are forbidden to speak in their own defense, let us be as clear as possible.

Racism is not a Heathen belief, nor is sexism nor homophobia. We in the Troth, like many other Heathen organizations, hold and enforce a zero tolerance policy on such behaviors in our halls, and at our events.

As Heathens, we take great pride in disagreeing with each other on a hundred points of doctrine and practice; this is part of our community, part of our ancestral tradition, and not something we are looking to change. We can - and do - unite on some matters though; some matters that are so important, so fundamental to our beliefs that we set aside our differences and speak with one voice.

Two things have brought us together to speak in that single voice in recent years. The first was to all stand behind the Open Halls Project (OHP) to see that all good Heathen service folk had access to support wherever they were based or deployed. The second thing has been condemnation of the AFA’s racist and homophobic proclamations. They do not speak for Heathenry, they do not speak for the many fine men and women who serve our nations under arms, and who have given up the right to speak for themselves while they serve.

We who have served before, we who now stand in support must be that voice, and that voice from not simply the Troth but a hundred other Heathen organizations rings loud and clear. Racism and Homophobia are not Heathen, that is not what our service folk bring to our banners. Loyalty, courage, self-discipline, honour and frith you may find in our teachings, industriousness, self reliance and hospitality as well. You will find no hate in our teachings, no barriers set up against race, gender or sexuality. These things are not Heathen.

Our Heathen service folk stand on guard to defend us all, but to do so, they have given up the right to speak in their own defense. If falls to us, the Heathen community, to raise our voices for them. The teachings of Heathenry are not in conflict with the UCMJ or the QR&O. In fact the teachings of Heathenry are consistent with the highest military and civic virtues. Those in your ranks who you know are Heathen are not just pillars of our community; they are pillars of their service. They are loyal sons and daughters of their nations, offering the gift of service in return for the freedom in which they were raised. A gift for a gift is our way. As these fine men and women are giving us their gift of service, now we give for them this gift; a gift of the words they may not speak in their own defense.

For those who wish to confirm for themselves the words of the organization we are compelled to speak out against are in fact implying Heathenry belongs to only those who are white straight, and gender conforming, you may listen to them in their own words and draw your own conclusions.

https://youtu.be/4JZA0RWF640. I don't recommend watching, but if you are unclear about the justness of the community reaction, it may well dispel any doubts.

This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Official Note from The Troth

The Troth is open to all who seek to know and to honor the Gods, ancestors, and values of the Germanic Heathen traditions, regardless of gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation. The Troth stands against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, or any other form of prejudice.

While we are aware that there are some Asatru organizations that are not inclusive to all people, the Troth's doors are open to all those who may have been excluded due to their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability. The Troth stands against the AFA's vision of what Asatru should be, and we do not recognize their beliefs as representative of a majority of American Asatru (Heathenry). There are no arbiters of who can and cannot worship our deities, but the Gods themselves. We are a family religion, and to the Troth that means all families.

This post represents official Troth policy or is an official Troth statement.