Questions of Faith, part XI

Perfectly timed to coincide with my current case of writer's block, Christin has given us her take on Paganism.

Freya, riding Hildisvini the boar.

What faith do you espouse?

I just call myself a Pagan or a Heathen. I'm a Germanic Reconstructionist, but I don't want to lay claim to any specific name, like Asatru or Odinism, because I'm just getting started in this faith so I don't feel I have the right to yet. I also feel that some specific groups (like Asatru) focus a bit too much on the Scandinavian traditions and not enough on the German ones. My ancestors were mostly German, so those are the Gods I want to honor. Also, with Germanic/Norse faiths you have to be careful that the specific group you join or lay claim to doesn't have racist ties. That really sucks. Those assclowns ruin everything.

Who was the founder of your faith? When did he/she live?

The Gods are the founders of my faith. They live now!

What are the sacred texts of your faith?

We don't have specific sacred texts, per se. The myths, sagas, and legends are sacred to us. Old oral tradition and all that. A lot of them got written down in the Prose Eddas and the Poetic Eddas by a guy named Snorri Sturluson in 13th Century Iceland. However, even though Sturluson did a pretty good job, that was after Iceland had already been Christianized, so it's a challenge to sift out the old meanings from Christian influences. There are other sources, but the Eddas are the major ones. Any stories about our Gods or heros are inspiration to us. We also look to modern archaeology to give us information about the way our ancestors lived and thought, but you have to be careful with that too, what with the modernized Christian influences on it.

What is the central teaching of your faith?

Basically, honor the Gods, the earth and each other! There are nine major virtues that are promoted: Fidelity, Truth, Honor, Courage, Hospitality, Discipline, Self-Reliance, Industriousness, and Perseverance. Family and community are important, but so are diversity and idividuality. The challenge is to find the right balance. Also, we're hard polytheists, which means we believe all of our Gods and Goddesses are individuals, not facets of "The God" and "The Goddess," or of "The All."

How does your faith define sin? What are the major sins, and how is one absolved?

"Sin" is such a troublesome word. It's really heavy and guilty. Our "sins" are not always so heavy. They would just basically be ignoring one of the major virtues or dishonoring the Gods. To be "absolved" isn't that hard. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them, and if you've hurt someone try to make amends if you can. You don't have to be perfect, but you're expected to at least try not to be a complete failure. Dishonoring the Gods is a more serious matter. Fixing that is between you and the God you pissed off. And good luck trying to make amends with some of them, they can be a bit hostile sometimes.

Roughly how many adherents does your faith have?

No one knows. It's hard to be a Pagan of any kind in today's world, especially in America with our current religio-political climate. There are a lot of people who are still deeply in the broom-closet, lots of people who (like me) are out to some people and not others. My family doesn't (and will never) know and I only recently came out to my boss (she's awesome. Her sister is Wiccan).
[Reverend's Note: I hope your family doesn't stumble upon the Ministry...]

What does your faith teach about the afterlife? Is there heaven, and how do you get there?

There are several places you can go after death. People who die in battle (or even by edged instruments in other situations) go to Valhalla and party with some of the Gods. Others go to Hel (not to be confused with the Christian Hell). It's calm and peaceful there; the horrific descriptions of it in the Eddas are a Christian addition. Some also believe that evil people and oathbreakers to to Nastrand or Niflhel, which is a pretty bleak place. Other people can end up with various other Gods(Valhalla is not the only residence of Gods) if the God has a special attachment to that person.

What are the practices of your faith? (Daily, weekly, etc.)

Well, the nine virtues are a daily practice. There are four main holidays on the quarters (the equinoxes and the solstices). A lot of people also celebrate four other holidays around the cross quarters (about half way between one main holiday and the next). You can also do rituals and celebrations for a variety of reasons at any time. Stuff like marriages, births, or deaths can have their own religious rites and sometimes people just want to connect with their Gods or they need help with something, so they'll have a ritual for that.

How is your faith organized? Are there priests and bishops and
archbishops (oh my!)?

Paganism in general is pretty disorganized. Organizing Pagans has been likened to herding cats. A lot of people (like myself) practice alone. However, a lot of people also organize into groups (Hearths or Kindreds). They have a priest and a priestess. People can dedicate themselves to a particular God or Goddess and become a priest or priestess that way.

Are there regular services available to you locally? If so, where?

None that I'm aware of.

How did you come to be a believer?

I was raised Christian, but I'd been questioning it since I was about 6. In Sunday School I asked, if Adam and Eve were the first people, then where did Cain and Abel's wives come from. In response, my teacher snapped at me not to question the word of God or I'd go to Hell. So, of course, I began questioning constantly. By the time I was a teenager, I was calling myself an atheist, but what I really meant was that I was most decidedly not a Christian. Then, when I was on an internet message board when I was about 16 and the discussion turned to religion. Because of so many different people there it really hit me that Christianity was not the only option. I knew that before, of course, but it was only then that I realized the option of other religions was open to me specifically. I started looking into other religions and neo-Paganism and Wicca really appealed to my strong feminist and environmentalist convictions. When I went away to college at 17, I really started researching it and calling myself a Pagan. Eventually, I realized that I was a hard polytheist (I believed each God and Goddess were seperate beings, not a facet of the Great God or Great Goddess), so that ruled out Wicca and a lot of neo-Pagan stuff. I wanted to worship the Gods of my ancestors, and at the time I believed my ancestors were Celts. So I started looking into Celtic Reconstructionism, but I always felt an affinity with the Germanic Gods. Then, this summer I found out that most of my ancestors were, in fact, German and that my grandmother had hidden this my entire life because she never quite got over WWII. So now, I'm studying Germanic Reconstructionism. For a lot of reasons that would take forever to tell, I found my patron Goddess, Freya, fairly recently. She rocks.
[Reverend's Note: It is remarkably hard to find a good jpeg of Freya...]

What do you wish others knew about your faith?

We're not Satan worshippers! We're also not racists and we don't want to sacrifice your pets or your kids. While it's true that in the past animal sacrifice was a part of religious practice, that's not necessarily true anymore. A lot of us (myself included) believe that the entire point of a sacrifice is to offer something of value to the Gods. In an agricultural society, animal sacrifice makes sense. Now, however, that's not really the case. I think the most important sacrifice we can make now is time or money. Or offer up a computer or cell phone or something. However, there are some who stick to the old practices, but it's always done humanely. A lot more humanely than commercial slaughterhouses, that's for damn sure.

Well, there are my answers! I hope they help.



Feel free to direct questions to the comments window. If you have a more private question for Christin you can send it to the Email address listed in my profile and I'll forward it along.


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