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A Thorn In My Side


There's been something which has been a thorn in my side for years now:  folks using one set of religious rules, on religious experience, to invalidate another. 

One example of this is people becoming Wiccans so "the world" (their families, especially family members they don't like) will know that they're no longer Christian. Anyone seen a person becoming something to fit their previously made "lifestyle" decisions?

First of all, one doesn't become a heathen. One is already a heathen, and removes the foreign scale off of the pipes, so to speak, with each chip coming closer to "original equipment". It's an unburdening.

Some folks just have more baggage than others, and then add to it.

Think of what your grandparents of great-grandparents would've thought of homosexuality, drinking to excess, being a "berserker" in public, and snubbing people and commitments to people because they're Christians or some other form of ütländer? These elders wouldn't've disapproved solely because they were Christian (which was most likely), but also because such conduct is anti-social, and is reprehensible on a visceral level.

These elders where, even having lived and died Christians, closer to being "in-thew" and heathen than many of our "free spirits" today.  This is because they were closer to the Law, however many layers of the Foreign Faith had been ladled over what they knew to be right.

That is a feature of modern life: what is popular is legal, because it's popular and therefore excusable. Bend the law to give the people what they want.

Laws, if they are laws, don't bend. They are brittle, and break.  That is why one must be very careful both in observing them, AND in drafting and implementing them.

Some feel that one must be a particular “flavor” of heathen to be a heathen.  One, for example, must live "close to the land", going "back to nature" to be more "historically accurate".


Frankly, I think that a little primitiveness would suit me fine, but is impractical right now. One doesn't have to go "back to nature" to be a "genuine" heathen. One should go (if you can) or not go because it suits you.

This stuff is akin to "you have to be physically fit to be a heathen", "you have to be fluent in Old Norse to be a heathen", or some other artificial and very personal prejudice ladled over the subject.

In truth, one has to make and keep one's word, and observe the Law to be a heathen. That's about the extent of it.

This brings up two problems with even a discussion of the LAW:

a) the reach of the Law,
b) “literalness” and the law, the letter outweighing a law’s practical purpose.

A lot of folks, particularly those in charge over their heads, seem to want to have a law for everything. I remember Thoreau discussing Plato (I think it was) talking about the length one's fingernails should be. I think that such a think might be left to individual discretion.

Remember the 10th Amendment: that not specifically delegated to Federal government is the province of the states, and ultimately left to the individual.

Therefore, we need to be judicious in what we claim is and isn't Law, and examples such as the Grágas might be useful in this regard... remembering that Iceland is a useful model of what to do and WHAT NOT TO DO.

We need also to remember that a Law is a limiting of personal choice, and so must seek to address those things that effect the common good. One makes marriage and fidelity laws both to protect and regularize lineage and to reinforce that oaths, particularly ones that may lead to children, are respected in public. Freely fornicating right left and center does two things: it muddles up the answer to "who is my Daddy" and it leads (I'm thinking of a recent former president here) to people thinking that other oaths and promises are equally elastic.

One observes outlawry or it weakens the effect of outlawry, and other deterrents and methods of keeping the peace come into play, from imprisonment to death.

One observes thews having to do with interpersonal business because it completely messes up not only the physical and practical in business -- you have to trust somebody -- but also the spiritual, as expressed by the runes.

Ultimately, one walks the straight and narrow because we aren't alone, and it effects our reputations not only here in Midgardh but...well, elsewhere... and also effects our luck. And, not only our luck, but the luck of our families, anyone tied to us by alliance, and the luck inherited from our ancestors and them as well.

The Law is practical, and needs to be addressed practically.

That is why we make laws where necessary, and recover ancient laws where we can.

Furthermore, as in B above, we must recognize that people are literal creatures. I was viewing my copy of the dramatization of the "Mahabharata" over the weekend, and one thing struck me: in one case, the mother of the heroes of the piece, five brothers called the Pandhava, rushed to their mother with good news. One of the brothers had won a wife in contests of warrior might with other kings, and addressed his mother initially with "Mother, it is wonderful! Look, I have won something!".

Their mother immediately said, "Share it with your brothers". They were all stuck then. They couldn't all share a wife, could they?  Their mother, with regret, suggested that they work out an accommodation as she'd said what she'd said, "and I cannot take it back".

We need, then, to be careful, as people are literal creatures, and laws are often just as literal.

I use this example because I know of none from Germanic Lore, other perhaps than Hrafnkel's oath about killing anyone who rode Freyfaxi and it's consequences. Either way, the "Mahabharata" is an ancient text, relying as much on IndoEuropean ethics and roots as any Western text, I feel. Furthermore, it illustrates my point, which helps.

We need, when reading Lore, to get away from "the Ancients did that, we must go do likewise", but read beyond what they did until we reach the consequences, and then decide if we'd be wise to do likewise.

We need, in our Law and in our oaths, to remember that we shouldn't paint ourselves into a rigid, inescapable corner, which harms the Folk and the general good. That is the point.