Tag Archives: European

The Great Divide: Ethnic Germanics and Germanic Christians

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.

Germanic Belief: Culture, Religion, and Identity

A friend of mine was asked the question the other day, “Can I be a viking, embodying their courage and values without following the gods?” To this my friend, a man not so well versed in the lore (relatively speaking of course), but with a strong and sharp intuition, replied (in so few words) that, “yes, our way of life is our religion“, and this was followed by some comments from others that our ancestors had no concept of “religion” as “that set aside as sacred”.

Of course, Germanic belief was a holistic belief system, which certainly marked the distinction between “what is set aside as sacred” and “what exists in the world of men”. Our limited modern vocabulary and intimate cultural familiarity with the proselytizing, would-be “universalist” religions, often leaves us unfit to the task of defining, or even understanding, intuitively, “ethno-cultural” or “heathen” belief systems.

The basic distinction our ancestors noted was between the innangeard (the community) and the utangeard (outside the community), from which point the innangeard could be further “divided” into the “esegeard” (Asgard, the divine community) and “middangeard” (Midgard, the mortal community). As such, it is true that they really had no sacred-profane dichotomy, but rather dealt in terms of wih (the sacred, that which is set apart), holy (the sanctified community), and unholy (profane, outside the community). They understood that holiness — which stems from the same native Germanic root as such other Modern English words as whole and health — was the temporal product of the hallowing power of wih. As such, holiness, the product of the consecrating power of the gods, can be seen as the totality of a community’s ethno-culturo-historical identity … as we can see in the Tacitus’ comments on the ethno-genesis myth of the Germanic peoples, in the Eddic myths of Creation and the shaping of Ask and Embla, in the Rigsthula and various king-myths and genealogies, as well as the various “hero myths” (and/or indications there of) that show such things as language or mead or letters or beauty, etc. as having a “divine” or “sacred” origin.

In short, our native culture is, not a wih thing by any means — which is what we would deem to be properly “religious” and so the prime concern of priests — but rather a holy thing. It is whole. ┬áThe great mystery of divinity given temporal form.

That said, if one was a good community member and participated in the community’s rituals/identity, then, at least within the context of Germanicism, it really didn’t matter what god or gods an individual did or didn’t pray to; as the experience of the first Catholics and Catholic missionaries among our ancestors, who generally extended to them every hospitality, clearly attests. And afterall, the focus wasn’t the maintenance, growth and development of the individual — bad apples were jettisoned rather than indulged — but rather the maintenance, growth and development of the community itself. If the community was strong and healthy, it follows that the generations that spring from it will also be strong and healthy; while any rot would of course have to be prune off lest it spread to the entire community.

Indeed, hearkening back to the early Christian-Germanic relations once again, one can see that a refusal to participate in the big rituals of the community, namely the sacral feast and/or toasts, by consuming at least a morsel/draught, was, at times, a big no-no among out ancestors. We see this as early as the Migration Age Goths (eg. Sabas) to as late as the Viking Age Norwegians (eg. Hakon the Good). We see it inverted among the Anglo-Saxons, where the missionary Mellitus was driven from Essex for refusing to share his own “sacred feast” with the 3 brother-kings that reigned there (as the missionary did with their convert father), and we see it early in Christianity’s history with the Romans as well. And really, if you are in a community, but have no interest in taking part in it’s identity, one has to wonder, what are you doing there??? Other than “perhaps” intending to subvert it?

Personally, I have for a very long time now said that I would rather the company of a Christian or atheist with strong Germanic values and cultural background than a (self-proclaimed) “Heathen” who might certainly, ahem, “have the (names and stories of the) gods”, but who would be utterly unrecognizable to our common ancestors. People are too preoccupied with “the gods”, ie. myths/fantasy-tales. And indeed without an understanding of the culture that supported those myths, from which the myths evolved, a person is going to “read them wrong” every time. Well, a lot of the time, and in regards to all of the finer points anyway.

In the final analysis, I personally would have to say that a person can certainly be a, ahem, “viking” without being preoccupied with priestly matters. One could in fact say that you were primed for it at birth. And remember, your heritage is your heritage. Would you ask your neighbor for permission to collect the inheritance your grandfather left for you? Would you neglect it because of the mockery some other made of the inheritance they received from their grandfather?