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A Thorn In My Side
been something which has been a thorn in my side for years now:
folks using one set of religious rules, on religious experience, to
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
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.
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".
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
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
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
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
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
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.