I was reading some comments over on a Norse Christian FB page the other week and came upon this comment,
“Neopagans always forget the last thing their ancestors did was choose to get christened.”
Well, there are a lot of things that no small number of would-be Heathens “forget”. And in fact, have no interest, and even counter-interest, in remembering.
But as for the “Norse Christians” of the world, they would do well to remember that we are not talking about “their ancestors”. The folk they refer to as “their ancestors” were also their own ancestors, ie. OUR common ancestors, whose ethno-cultural legacy their Christianity has been carried on and developed within as Norse peoples. And that ethno-cultural legacy is the product of an age-old relationship between the Norse peoples and the divine, and extends back prior to even the emergence of a specifically “Norse identity”. And of which Christianity is but a single, ill-fitting component; as evidenced in the comment “their ancestors” for example.
These people aren’t speaking Aramaic. Or even Greek or Latin. They are speaking in one of the tongues of Woden, and all that entails regarding their fundamental thought processes, idiosyncrasies, and worldview; as evidenced in their desire to hold on to and celebrate their Heathen-God-given Norse identity for example.
Christians can of course be forgiven for imagining that Heathenism is just about deities and worship, as this is what their Christianity is to them. To the Heathen on the other hand, while there certainly were threads of culture that were directly and specifically religious, our native spirituality touched upon all aspect of our ethno-cultural make up; from the creation of man, to the emergence of tribes and nations, to the formation of tribal land masses, to the birth of language and poetry, to values and customs, to techniques of farming and hunting and warfare and craftsmanship. As the term Heathen, itself ultimately a gloss for the Greek ethnos, implies.
The Christians might well worship Christ, maybe, but they do so on the proverbial altar of Woden. And they tend to despise the “altar of Abraham” like Cain despised Abel; as evidenced in the very evolution of Christianity throughout its history among our people.
Christians should never forget that what “they are choosing to do” RIGHT NOW is reject their heritage as both Christians and Norse. And this is occurring in exactly the same fashion as Christianity was first carried into the Norse-Germanic lands, ie. top-down via the formation and power of the state.
Now, the ideological divide that exists between Germanic Heathens and Germanic Christians …
This origins of this ideological divide was not put in place by Heathenry. Even among the Goths, while much us made of the martyrdom of Sabbas and his ilk, Christianity was first brought into their midst via (powerless) *captured slaves* and yet was allowed to spread and flourish until it was at last able to challenge the dominant Gothic culture and beliefs. Only then did Christians suffer any persecution. And even then this was done more out of the desire to safeguard and preserve the Gothic identity/community rather than out of any malice towards the worship of a different god; which, once again, could easily have been stomped out if such was the Gothic will.
Among the Franks, King Clovis suffered the constant nagging of his Catholic wife and her entourage of Christians; when in fact, like the Goths, he had the power to put them all to death.
Likewise, missionaries were received with open arms, provisioned, given freedom to preach, etc. by the likes of King AEthelbeorht of Kent, King Ongentheow of Denmark, and even such staunch Heathens as King Penda of Mercia and King Radbod of Frisia; the latter of whom had one foot in the baptismal font before he deigned to ask the fate of his ancestors under Christian belief. The response, ie. they are in “Hell”, but you shall find yourself at the right hand of “God”, was the catalyst that led to his rejection of Christianity and his subsequent wars vs. Charles Martel in an attempt to drive the missionaries and the advancing Abrahamic theocracy from his land.
Indeed, the typical Germanic response to the introduction of Christianity was to make room for Christ on the altar of the native gods, as in the (harshly criticized) case of King Raedwald of East Anglia. It is reflected in the words uttered by Queen Sigrid of Sweden when she her self was asked to convert, “I must not part from the faith which I have held, and my forefathers before me; and, on the other hand, I shall make no objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best.”
King Olaf Tryggvasson’s response to this statement, typifying early Heathen-Christian relations, was to slap her in the face and call her a heathen bitch.
And so we come to the manner in which our preChristian ancestors “chose to adopt” Christianity…
To start, it should be noted that missionary activity among the common folk of the Germanic tribes generally proceeded painfully slow and resulted in little to no success. The folk themselves were, on whole, simply not interested in adopting the fables of a foreign peoples and/or their inclusive “cult of universal brotherhood and urban salvation”.
And so, from Clovis forward (if not earlier), the Germanic mission focused heavily on the (nominal) conversion of Germanic kings and the securing/establishment of “state power”. The conversion of these kings was achieved via the (ahem) “exploitation” of the natural jostling for position that occurs, internally, between royal kinsman, and externally, between rival houses and tribes. A prime example of this is to be found in the first Anglo-Saxon king to be converted, AEthelbeorht of Kent; who, with the aid of his Franco-Catholic alliance (see the archeological record), was able to unite Kent into a single kingdom and emerge as the most prominent of his rivals within the heptarchy.
King AEthelbeoht utilized the same tactics, a form of proto-affirmative action, in the conversion of his people, offering friendship and boons to anyone who would join him in the new faith.
And so began the rat-race, as the lowly and unworthy were galvanized at the prospect of getting some glory on the cheap, while the wiser were forced to get there first for the sake of the kingdom. And this for a price that, in those early “Germanic Santeria” days of the conversion, must have seemed like far less grievous a prospect than we regard it today with full hindsight. The biggest change was that the animal sacrifice was divorced from the sacred feast. And sometimes the names of “Christ and the saints” were used; though sometimes long established titles of the divine were used (god, metod, drihten, etc) leaving the attribution up to any given worshipper.
And within a few decades came the destruction of the idols in Kent, and finally as the 7th century drew to a close, to the drafting of Kentish laws against “devil worship”; not to mention the new laws that accompanied and followed in the greater body of the Anglo-Saxon Law Codes… that made failure to observe Church services, customs, or pay Church dues punishable under (foreign) “law”.
That was the “choice” given to the preChristian Anglo-Nordic peoples. That was the “choice” they made in their conversion, ie. to not be regarded as a pariah, to not be driven into debt, to not be legally hamstrung in self-defense, to not be driven into slavery, to not be sold outside of the country.
So, again, what are “you” choosing today?
It is a tangled web we weave, as the Bard once remarked.