A blogger has written a very thoughtful criticism of our podcast, and each of us wanted to respond. We are grateful for our listeners and their opinions do matter.
First, let me start off with thanking you for giving us a listen. In a world where anyone with an internet connection can spew whatever they want on the airwaves, there’s way too much stupid out there for someone to listen to ALL of it while trying to pick out that with Worth. So, since you decided to not only listen to us, but give us enough of your attention in these early days of our broadcast to pen a review, I thought I’d do you the courtesy of responding to some of your concerns. I can’t promise you that you’ll like what I have to say, but I can promise you it’ll be the truth.
And it goes without saying, I’m speaking for myself here and make no claims on the views of anyone else appearing on the podcast. This might be a little long, but thoughtful criticism requires thoughtful response.
1. Hints of “religion with homework” attitudes and related condescension to new Heathens.
As the podcast continues, you will hear more than hints of ‘religion with homework’. I wholeheartedly believe that there are only really two ways to approach heathenry: Either through a LOT of difficult and diligent scholarship to learn as best as possible the thoughts and actions of our ancestors, or by learning from someone who has put this effort in. Or a combination of those two things. The ultimate goal of this is to be able to, as accurately as possible, create a synthesis between worldview and the modern times we find ourselves in. This point plays in with your third point, about reconstruction, so I’ll not belabor it further in this part.
As for condescension towards new heathens, no. Not intentional, at any rate. If you notice any, feel free to point it out case by case so we may correct ourselves. We may play the grouchy old heathen from time to time because we’ve seen the same questions and mistakes for decades, but we are neither trying to be condescending or discouraging.
2. Constant hammering away at “tribalism,” and use of “tribes” as a term in lieu of “kindreds” or “hearths”.
I’m probably more guilty of this one than anyone else, and would even go so far as to say my vocabulary on the subject might influence the word choices of the others. There are, however, two different points at play here. First is the issue of Tribalism. I am a “Tribalist” heathen in that, when the subject of the Folkish/Tribalist/Universalist debate is raised, that’s where I fall. I think it’s useful here, given the myriad of ways these terms are used on the internet, to explain what that means to me. If Folkish heathens are concerned with cultural assimilation and genetic descent, and Universalists are concerned with neither, Tribalists are concerned with Cultural assimilation. That is, as someone who uses reconstruction as a methodology, I have come to believe that one of the single most important aspects of heathenry is worldview and culture. This understanding of our ancestors culture helps us understand the basic theology of heathenry, and it helps set the semiotics of ritual. I don’t claim that there is a single hard and fast culture for all heathens, any more than there ever was for our ancestors, but I believe there are a few things that are basically universal to heathen thought. That’s the Tribalist end of this point.
The second part is the use of Tribe where others might use Kindred or Hearth. This is not some statement of absolute need, but rather a vocabularic reaction to the fact that I am the leader of a group that refers to itself as Tribe. Others might use Kindred or Hearth or whatever seems right to them, and I have no issue with that, but where I don’t have a direct identifier to a specific group I’m going to default to Tribe because it’s what comes naturally to me. If I’m talking about a specific group, however, I’m most likely to use whatever word they use out of respect. If I don’t, it’s a slip up and I welcome a correction to my use of the wrong word.
3. Hard Reconstructionist lean with related gatekeeping.
Yes, I very much believe that reconstruction is the most valuable method for reviving heathen theology. Religions grow, they change, but they all have a beginning and a history that can be followed from there to here. For heathens, our line was interrupted about 1000 years ago. We strive to understand where we were then so we can continue to develop in the modern day. I should point out, reconstruction isn’t a denomination, but rather a methodology. Reconstructing as best we can what we were so we can become what we will be with as little Christian influence as possible. I’ll stress that the reconstructionist does not strive for a return to the Viking age, but rather to understand it and our ancestors so we can move forward. We are, after all, an ancestor worshipping religion.
As for the gatekeeping, I can’t respond to that because I’m not sure what you mean. Excuse my ignorance on your use of the term.
4. Ridicule for godspouses, especially those of Loki.
I have been known to ridicule the concept of Godspouses. If it seems especially Loki that’s only because it’s the one I see most commonly. This is because there is no reason to believe that our ancestors would have given the idea any more respect than I do. The closest we have to it is some temporary situations as part of ritual symbolism, and even these people were separate from the tribe, and some evidence indicates it would have been just about the last thing they did before being sacrificed as part of ritual. The idea, as it is commonly presented today, is a mockery of the divine, and a profaning of the sacred. I won’t try to go into someone else’s place and tell them how to do things, but I won’t hold silent about my feelings on the subject in my place, or in public.
- Ridicule for eclectic Paganism.
I don’t ridicule eclectic pagans, I just resent their profaning of our sacred in some situations. I am, in fact, completely unconcerned with what they do up to and until that happens… But that is a topic better expanded on in the next point.
6. Argues that Heathenry is a thing that can be culturally appropriated.
Yes, I do, and will continue to do so. When that which we hold sacred is removed from its cultural context it has been profaned and appropriated. I believe strongly that ANY culture can be appropriated, and worse, treated disrespectfully (whether the disrespect is intentional or not). My reaction to this is not to rage and to lash out, but to explain why I feel offended and try to remedy the situation. If that falls on deaf ears, I may become harsh. In the end, words are all I have to work with in these situations, but I will use words if I feel it is needed. After all, I have no obligation to stay silent when I believe, by the theology of my religion, that that which I hold sacred is being profaned.
7. Holds to idea that there are right ways and wrong ways to practice Heathenry, based out of historical reconstructionism.
Correction (and I’ve said this in exactly these words many times and very publically): There is no right way to be a heathen, but there are a lot of wrong ways. These are identified when the praxis falls outside of the heathen worldview. This is a concept that is foreign to someone who has a disdain for reconstruction as a methodology, so I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. But I don’t necessarily seek everyones agreement. I say what I have to say in the best way I can say it and move on. If someone wants to challenge me when I say something is “not heathen” I’m more than willing to have that conversation, but I will be coming from a place of reconstruction methodology. My ancestors thought in certain ways, and I strive to understand that and to build on it something appropriate for the modern world and modern heathenry, without losing the soul of what is heathenry in the process.
8. Espouses idea that if one is a properly “mature” Heathen one will practice the religion in a certain way.
I believe a mature heathen will start to think about things in a certain way, and that such thought will be reflected in some of their practice. I do NOT think that any mature heathen will practice alike. I can easily name a number of heathens that I would call “mature” that do things differently than me, and we have some amazing and lively debates. At the end, sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t, but we almost always part in peace. After all, as a Tribalist I don’t think there is only one way to do things, but I do think my way is “right” (or I wouldn’t do it), and am willing to debate the reasons why.
9. Liiiiiiiiiiittle bit of scoffing at idea of witchcraft
I don’t recall any scoffing at witchcraft, and certainly not from myself. I DO recall a brief mention of it, but only as an aside in pointing out that heathenry isn’t a religion of ceremonial magic, such as Wicca. This is merely a statement of fact, not scoffing. Further discussion of magic in general wasn’t scoffing, but debating a few points about it such as the fact that not all heathens believe in it, and further that it has always been something that separated the practitioner from the tribe. I do not scoff at magic, but rather fear and respect it to a great degree where it intersects with my beliefs.
10. Casual ridicule of trigger warnings.
Yes, I’ll cop to this, but not apologize for it. Our podcast is not striving to create a safe place, but rather is being used as a platform for our thoughts on heathenry. I’ll reiterate here that I do not speak for everyone on the podcast, but rather for myself only. If one of them has something different to say about it, that will be their words and thoughts.
I’m interested to see where you got this idea from. You will find none of it in my ideology, my theology, or in my daily life.
- Casual misogyny wrt relations between husbands and wives
See point 11. I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, racism or racial exclusion etc… I’m very curious to know what was said that would give you this impression.
I know not all of my responses to your criticisms will comfort you, but they weren’t meant to. They were rather meant to address your thoughts on our podcast and give you the respect of not ignoring you. That said, I hope you’ll continue to listen, and continue to form your opinions. There are a number of topics coming up in near future episodes, some of which you might not like our views on (tomorrow we will be covering a lot of “newbie heathen” issues, which will largely come from a reconstructionist methodology) and some you might (in the very near future we are planning on an episode about LGBT+ folks in heathenry and will have Jennifer Popkin of Seattle’s Gender Justice League as a guest). Here’s to hoping you keep listening, and keep providing feedback. Everything is welcome, whether we agree with it or not.
I want to first make a pretty blanket statement about Josh and I (and Thorin, though I do not know him as well as Josh.) None of us suffer racists lightly – even casual racism. /r/Asatru has been proactive in banning those folks even to the point that people have called the mods “SJW.” I consider myself a very vocal feminist and both of us are very pro-gender and sexual minorities. I am openly bisexual/pansexual (though I don’t use that term often.)
The use of the word tribe is intentional. The tribe is more than your kindred or hearth. It’s your family, both by birth and choice. It’s your neighbors. To me my larger “tribe” is the city I live in. I firmly believe that my heathen ethics dictate that I do all I can to support local farmers and local businesses. Fighting for a strong social safety net and guaranteed minimum income are heathen values in my opinion.
That being said, I feel that you are taking a few things out of context. The conversation about “mature heathens” comes in the context of shedding the Christian culture baggage and the anger that comes with that process.
Religion with homework :
In my experiences, the worst of modern Heathenry know jack about what the arch-heathens knew or how they believed. Their version of “Heathenry” is a mash up of biker culture and the horrible Victorian ideas about what Vikings believed. I have seen heathens grow and evolve from that by reading and learning. It’s not just books. Heathenry is a practical religion. People should also learn by doing, and by being involved in their community.
That being said, we have a long way to go in making that information accessible. Many Heathen books are not available in a format that is accessible by those with print disabilities. I am slowly converting public domain works to a format that can be used by a screen reader but it takes time, and I don’t always have it. We need to make sure that information is available for everyone.
Sorry, we will disagree. I find the idea to be completely foreign to my belief system. Not to mention I have encountered too many Marvel Loki Godspouses. Like the Snapewives of old, I just find it sad.
Cissexism I will own up. I need to be better about that. We have a trans rights activist guest in 3 weeks.
I really do feel you are being over critical. Keep in mind we are all human. I feel for you that some heathens have been jerks to you in the past. I experienced it myself. We are trying to present a diverse show with many opinions so you will hear things that will likely offend someone. Still, these dialogues need to happen.
Also, Icelandic Heathens tend to act like they speak for all Heathens and we can’t be Heathen because we live in America. There is a lot of baggage and that wasn’t clearly communicated. Your post reminds me that what we know is not always what every listener knows and we need to be cautious with making sure we explain what we mean.
Though the trigger warning thing was meant to be a joke on Dan O’Halloran because eff him. I tend to not use trigger warnings because so many people don’t take them seriously. I do however insist on content warnings.
And finally Josh responds:
I completely agree with my co-hosts and could not have responded better.
If anyone else has any other thoughts, feel free to share them.