Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rings and Troth

I have had the honour to perform a few marriages.  The question was recently asked about whether we had a policy about gay marriage.  I admit it struck me as a bit odd.  The Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia has always had a very simple policy when it comes towards it membership.  We are a universalist group.  If you are called to the worship of our gods, and you have been a good and frithful member of our community, we do not care where you can trace your line of descent, nor do we care who it is that you love.  We do care rather a lot about oaths though.

Freehold Oath Ring

We don’t like oaths to be sworn lightly upon our oath ring, for that touches upon the luck of us all, and a broken oath is a thing that has real and sacral consequences, this we accept.  We do not make our decisions about whether or not we will marry you based on anything except your commitment to each other.  To stand before the community, to make your offering for your loves hand, and to have them accept it, this is a worthy thing.  To stand before your community, your kin of blood and oath both, and swear your love and troth to each other, this is a worthy thing.  For me to call the blessing of the gods and administer the oaths you exchange is something I take a profound and reverent joy in.

Ken and Mary Joy Wedding

I have so far only married heterosexual couples, the reason is simple, I have only been asked to perform a small number of marriages for our community so far, and those who have asked have been heterosexual.  The next couple could be the same, or could be gay or lesbian, and again, the only questions that I will have are about the couples devotion to each other, and such specific questions about their spiritual practice so that the marriage rites performed will be anchored as firmly in their personal relationship with the gods and ancestors as in our own ritual framework.  A marriage has as much magic as you, the couple making it, put into it every day.  That is what the plighting of troth is, the promise that you will jointly labour to make this marriage a real thing, a true thing; in fact the one true thing you both can depend on in an ever-changing, and frequently hostile, world.  That being said, what you make together is made stronger by the ritual as it is by the presence of your community as witness.  The details of that are my job, the heavy lifting, and the rewards of the marriage itself, are yours.

Wedding of Aaron and Kate

We are a Troth KAP Kindred now, and the question will no doubt arise about whether the Troth stands with us in our commitment to marriage for all of our members.  In fact, the Troth Clergy program addressed this issue quite directly, making it clear that for Troth clergy, there is no question of gay marriage, or straight marriage, there is only marriage.

“The Troth’s position has always been to accept gay members, and furthermore to hallow bonds between same-sex couples, considering them no less valid than marital bonds between heterosexual couples. Troth – ordained godfolk are expected to be willing to conduct ceremonies for both same-sex and different – sex couples (with certain limitations discussed in the Clergy manual).”

p273-277 in Our Troth vol. 2

Troth Publications 2007

The Heathen Freehold Society of British Columbia springs from a land in which gay marriage is legal, and from a thew that judges people by their words and their deeds, not by the labels that the outer-garth society might apply to them.  Our community judges you by what you show us.  It is an honour and a pleasure to stand in the sight of the community, to call the wights of the lands and waters, to call the sacred ancestors, and to call the holy gods themselves to witness the binding of two people who have chosen to pledge their love and their troth to each other.

I have known a number of Heathen Freehold godfolk and Troth godfolk, none of whom I could ever see refusing this sacred duty on grounds of the gender of the parties involved.  To serve your community as priest is not something that earns us any money, rather the cost of fulfilling the obligations in terms of both time and resources is quite expensive for us.  This is a calling that we find rewarding because of the honour of the service, the pure and unquestionable joy of joining two worthy folk in the sight of their gods and community.

It really shouldn't need to be said, that we are here for those who need us, reguardless of such petty concerns as gender or sexual orientation.  I shouldn't need to be said, but in a world with so much casual ugliness, in which so many times peoples trust has been betrayed by those who owed them better duty, perhaps it is time it be spoken anyway.

The Heathen Freehold respects, and holds most holy, the tradition of marriage that binds a couple in love and in troth, together in the sight of the gods and of their community.  The Heathen Freehold does not recognize straight marriage or gay marriage, it recognizes only marriage.

Love is rare and precious.  Troth is a commitment that gives back rather more than the sum of what both of you put in.  There is magic in the rings exchanged at the time of the wedding; exactly as much magic as the two so joined put into them every day of their lives.  This truth transcends gender, orientation, race, and yes, even religious creed.  There is only one marriage, and that is the one we perform.

John T Mainer,
Western Canada and Military Steward
Redesman of The Troth
Freyr of the Heathen Freehold Society of BC 
(Troth KAP Kindred)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Gender Roles In Heathenry

There has been a recent resurgence in the discussion within Heathenry on racism and the role it has played, and is continuing to play. This discussion reflects on the way Heathenry is seen, not only by those who are unfamiliar with our ways, but to those who have recently come to Heathenry, as well as those who have been on the Heathen path for years or even decades. Let me be clear: there is no room in my Heathenry for racism.

This discussion has reminded me of a conversation I once had with a fellow Heathen about gender roles in Heathenry following a workshop on Seiðr given by the amazingly knowledgeable and gifted (now dearly departed) Rod Landreth. In the lore, there is a word, ergi, which is an Old Norse term of insult, denoting effeminacy or other unmanly behavior.The practice of Seiðr by a man was considered ergi in the Viking Age, as well as in Icelandic accounts and medieval Scandinavian laws. No one would deny Odin’s prowess as Seiðmaðr, yet he was still called ergi for practicing it.

This, I think, illustrates a long history in western culture of the delineation of the genders, and what happens when those lines are crossed. Women could do certain things that men could not, and in turn, men could do certain things that women could not. Historically, there were usually good reasons for this division. Women cared for the estate because the men were called away to war every season. The logic in this situation is that, if the woman cared for the estate, there would be a consistency of leadership within the household. The women literally held the keys to the kingdom while the menfolk fought to protect it and provide better resources for it.  

From the Viking Age moving forward, as the world changed due to the influence of Christianity, the role of women became more marginalized while the role of men expanded. I’m not saying that Viking women had it good, but they did have a lot more freedoms than many of their descendants (and even contemporaries) had. It wasn’t until the late Victorian period that women would make a push for equality, something that still hasn’t been fully realized in the western world.

Whatever our motivations for reconstructing Heathenry, there is one thing that we must come to terms with: our Heathenry is a modern one.  There is no unbroken line of Heathen practice coming down to us from the early medieval period. With that in mind, we are reconstructing Heathenry in a century very different from the last century it was practiced in. We have cars, computers, the internet...we put human beings on the Moon! Why then must we reconstruct the outdated gender roles of a long dead society in our own culture -- a culture that has fought for at least a hundred years to bring equality to the genders? Ergi is an insult. Calling someone a sissy is an insult. Equating somone to the “lesser sex” is meant to be derogatory. When men seek to learn how to weave, to sew, to be stay-at-home dads, society degrades them. “That’s women’s work.” The inverse is also true.  When women seek careers instead of kids, we call them selfish. When women assert that their skills and intelligence are equal to that of men, they’re called bitches and dykes.

This has to stop. To pigeonhole genders into specific roles in this modern age is archaic and ridiculous. Men can be stay-at-home dads. Women can have careers. Men can practice Seiðr. Women can be Chieftans.

Reflecting on the conversation that spurred this post, I found it surprising and disheartening to find a modern day Heathen that thinks there will always be areas that are “women’s work.” As a woman, I regularly experience gender bias. When I walk into the auto-parts store I have to assure the sales associates that I do, indeed, know what a socket wrench is. When I have to assert that I’m not a simple headed woman, that I actually know how to install my own GDDR5 SDRAM. When I have to fight for my right to control my own body, to insist that I have the right to ask for and receive a tubal ligation even though I have never had children. To hear a man insist that activities traditionally considered to be in the realm of women should remain that way, widens the gulf between the genders even further.

Gender based discrimination is not, generally speaking, something that men have to worry about. I do, however, recognize that men experience gender bias. Ask a dad who's changed his daughter's diaper in a public bathroom how many times he's been called a perv. What I never expected was to hear from a man that he can’t sew, not because he doesn’t have the ability, but because it’s in the realm of women. My eldest brother was taught how to sew. He made really good money in college fixing clothes for fellow students...and met a lot of women that way too.  The point is, there is no such thing as “women’s work” anymore.  Men are just as capable at sewing, knitting, weaving as women. Women are just as capable at fixing cars, grilling meat, and playing sportsball as men. We are past the point of reserving certain mysteries for certain genders. Such exclusionary, sexist beliefs have no place in a modern Heathenry, just like racism has no place in Heathenry. Our Heathenry is not perfect. There is no Heathen Pope, no central organizing authority, and therefore, no "wrong" way to practice Heathenry. That being said, it's a failing of society as a whole, not necessarily just Heathenry, that particular groups within our society experience marginalization and prejudice.

~Sara Gavagan Conley

Monday, February 8, 2016

New Corporate Address

The Troth has a new corporate mailing address!

The Troth
325 Chestnut Street
Suite 800
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Please keep this in mind when reading older publications.
Thank you!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The High Cost of Rhetoric

Stephen McNallen gives us the following question:
“Germany - that is the German people, not sellout traitors like Merkel - deserve our full support...Where are the Freikorps when we need them?”
I propose to answer this with a quick side step from rhetoric and dogma, and a little trip through fact. Now I was a soldier, which by definition means I am part of the clean up crew. What do we clean up? Failed states stuck cashing cheques written by men with bold words and colourful rhetoric that are paid in blood, suffering, horror, and most of all, waste.

The Freikorps that McNallen rhapsodizes about gave us much colourful history in the interwar years in Europe, Hitler’s failed Kapp Putch, and their street thugs and bully boys were the foot soldiers for the political machine that made the National Socialist Worker’s Party the answer to the Communist problem. All those right thinking folks had found a solution to the Communists, and when the Freikorps were done with Germany, a new power rose in Europe, and the Swastika which had been a sign of life and light would forever be a symbol of darkness and blood.

Freikorps then, and ethnic militia's in service to many causes today, do what governments cannot get caught publicly doing.  Attrocities.  Murder, arson, rape; all are tools of the ethnic militia to drive out, or wipe out those rival ethnicities they have targeted.  In Germany it began with the Night of Broken Glass, targeting homes and businesses of the German Jews, but we all know it didn't end there.

Ancient history. My grandfather and his generation put those monsters in the grave where they belonged and we swore never again. We meant it for about twenty years before we forgot the cost of rhetoric again and an old horror was free to live again.
Fast forward to Yugoslavia, the union of all the Slavs, a nation forged out of all those peoples littered across the Balkans by generations of invaders who used minority satraps to keep the locals in line. After a dozen invasions over as many centuries, it was a hodge podge of ethnic groups, similar to our own land in many ways in the level of its diversity, but different in that they remained largely self segregated into ethnic villages or towns. Yugoslavia was dying, Bosnia, Serbia and the other states to be were tearing themselves from the hide of the dying Yugoslavia.
What to do about those inconvenient ethnic enclaves inside what you are giving such stirring speeches about being the Serbian Heartland? What to do about the Muslim? The Albanian? Well you can’t use your troops to wipe them out or you will have to answer to the UN. Ah, but the Freikorps, the ethnic militia………they will defend the race.

Chosen method? Armed men slaughtering the unarmed, especially women and children, and leaving them dumped in mass graves. Ethnic cleansing; wiping out those odd coloured dots on the map of a racially pure territory.
The Serbs, Bosnians, Croats could all look at UN inspectors and say their troops did not do it, but their governments armed, supplied, and directed the activities of these groups to do the ethnic cleansing, the mass murder, the genocide done village by village that would have fit so perfectly into any sweep by Gestapo units in the bad old days of WWII.  Indeed, save for the fact the pictures this war are colour, the images of the starving victims as Belsen 1992 could easily have been taken in 1945.

We see similar groups in the Taliban, Isis, Hezbollah, and we see the tactics that such groups naturally employ. These are not soldiers operating under the rule of law, these are ethnic militia’s pursuing an agenda based on only one group (their own) having any human rights, and any an all actions taken in the service of that group are justified. The same tactics are being used right now by Russia as their ethnic Russian militias are waging a proxy war in the Ukraine.
There is no room for community, for reason, for acceptance. There is no room for diversity, for any form of personal freedom where that freedom fails to conform to both the perceived ethnic standard, and the obedience to the whim of the militia leadership who are operating without any constraint of law.
For an examination of what this looks like as a state, I suggest Syria, Somalia, Lebanon.
Take a good long look at what the end state of turning to the Freikorp and ethnic militias are, and then ask yourself if that is what you want for your community, for your nation, and for your family.
The rule of law is what separates us from the failed state. Our economy, our science, our culture, our great works and infrastructure, all these things owe their existence to one thing; the stability that comes from the rule of law. Our law is not perfect, and its enforcement is likewise imperfect. We struggle in every generation to move the balance the right way towards both justice and order, where freedom and security are balanced. Sometimes we get it more right than others.
It is imperfect, there will be people you do not like doing things you do not approve of. Freedom included freedom to wish it was legal to do things we have decided are wrong. As long as you keep wishing and refrain from doing, that is fine. The will of the people determines our laws, and limits the scope of our actions. Considering what some groups want to do, this is a necessary limitation. Again, we balance freedom to do what we choose, against freedom from having others do what they will to us. Some generations get the balance better than others.
Ethnic militias are not a good idea. They are not a new idea. They have a rich history of atrocity, of the corruption of the political system by mob violence. Such tactics go back in history to the classics, to the Demagogues of Athens, the street thugs of Marius and Sulla, the Hippodrome thugs of Byzantium, the Freikorps of what would become Nazi Germany, and the blood soaked fields of Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia.
When you hear the call for Ethnic Militia, when you hear the Freikorp being called for, take a long look at where that road leads, and decide for yourself if you still want to take that first step.

John T Mainer
Troth Redesman

Monday, February 1, 2016

This is Who We Are

Affirmed by the High Rede of The Troth on February 1, 2016.

Let there be no mistake.



"We are deeply proud of our indigenous Northern European religious, cultural, and historical heritages. We welcome all people, whatever their religious, cultural, or ancestral background, gender or sexual orientation, who have developed or wish to develop a relationship with our Gods and Goddesses, and would like to know more about Asatru and other forms of Heathenry."