Baggage: Just make it right…
I have been kicking this one around for a few days, trying to find the best way to say what I need to say. Hopefully it turns out useful.
What is baggage to a heathen? Baggage refers to the left over thoughts, practices, ideological bases, and worldview that we gathered from growing up in a culture influenced by the dominant religion(evangelical Christianity in most of America, more traditional Christianity for Europe, and Mormonism for Utah and parts of Idaho). We all have it, though it comes in varying degrees, there is no getting around that. Some of it can be useful, growing up in the church can prepare the mind to think theologically, it can also prepare us for setting up and maintaining communities(church potluck anyone?). A lot of it, however, is useless enough that we should get rid of it just to make room for more heathen ways of thought. Some of that baggage is more insidious and cause some of us to end up with a diluted form of Heathenry.
The best way to fight baggage, in my own very important opinion, is to be able to recognize it for what it is and to have the tools to change it. This is what lead me to write this, new heathens often lack the ability to spot baggage, and usually the tools to change it.
The statement: “I did something wrong, how do I ask the gods to forgive me.”
The baggage: Sin, we are all familiar with the word, and the meaning of it. Where we tend to get fuzzy is what it means in the two competing theologies here. In Christianity everything you do that is a “sin” is literally a transgression against Yahweh, thus in order to make it right you must ask him for forgiveness. In fact because your sin is a transgression against Yahweh, and he forgives you, other Christians are also required to forgive you in order to be in line with Yahweh’s will. New heathens bring this with them, they read that Odin has his ravens “spying” on us, and that Heimdallr sees everything, and they make the natural assumption that they are watching, judging, and condemning everything we do wrong.
Heathen stance: Our gods aren’t babysitters, they aren’t out to condemn you, or to coddle you. They exist as our betters, and are caring for the workings of this universe, they do not have time to care if you shoplifted from Safeway. Not only that if you stole a stick of gum from Safeway, told Janey’s parents that she Is sleeping around, or broke Jim Bob’s window on that sick double wide, you didn’t transgress against the gods. You “sinned” against Safeway, Janey, and Jim Bob, honor dictates that you seek to make it right for them. We don’t have a forgive and forget mentality in Heathenry, no really, go get your copy of the saga’s, the Eddas, or whatever you are using as your “heathen Bible”(more on that in a bit), now find me a place where someone is forgiven with no effort to redress a grievance. It doesn’t happen. This means that you need to go to Safeway, Janey, and Jim Bob and actively **do** something to make it right, replace Jim Bob’s window, pay Safeway or work it off(if’ they will let you), and for Janey, well good luck figuring out what will make that one better, but that is what it takes.
TL:DR Instead of seeking forgiveness, make it right. Do something for the person you wronged. Pay back your debt to them.
The Statement: “But the Havamal says…” or “Well the definition of x is actually…”
The baggage: Because a thing says a thing, it really means that thing. That is a really really obtuse way of saying that because we understand a definition or can read a sentence we can understand it. This baggage is a bit more difficult to understand, and it has it’s roots in the catholic reformation. When the Church began to make doctrine more and more accessible to the average parishioner it lead to an essential dumbing down of theology. Don’t believe me? It’s still happening today, from the complicated and wordy Latin and Greek, to the more accessible German, to King James, and on down to the modern NIV bibles, you can watch meaning leach out as the language gets more simplistic. This means that every Tom, Dick, and Harry who picks up the book thinks they know what it means, and thus doesn’t spend any time looking for old cultural cues. The same has carried over to Heathenry, we look at the various translations of the Lore and think we understand it. When in reality we aren’t even really scratching the surface.
Heathen Stance: Culture is the key. We are fighting nearly a thousand years of cultural sublimation, we literally lack the language to have an innate understanding of our mythology. This is why we call Heathenry the “Religion of Homework.” So before you go and crack open the Edda’s, or the Saga’s, or even much of the low lore, and go searching for existential truth, first you need to some mental lifting. If you can’t get into a heathen worldview before you start mining the ancestors words for wisdom, you will misinterpret it, and you will learn false lessons from it. It isn’t the fault of the author, it is just a product of our time. Maybe future generations of heathens won’t have to work as hard to get it.
TL;DR: Without an understanding of the culture the lessons from the lore, or even the meanings of the words we use in Heathenry is going to be lost on you.
The statement: “Don’t worry about it brother…” & “Hey we are all brothers under Odin…”
The baggage: This one is pretty easy to nail down, hell I am barely going to touch it. This comes straight from Christianity, it is directly pulled from their doctrine. They view themselves as all the children of God, and all simultaneously being cared for by him. This served a few purposes, it broke down traditional bonds, as Jesus said “I am here to set son against father…”, and it then replaced them with new expanded bonds. This worked well for Christianity, and effectively destroyed much of the pre-Christian family culture of heathen Europe.
Heathen stance: I literally cannot put it any better than it was here: Don’t Call Me Brother seriously go check that out.
I am sure there is more to say on the subject of baggage. I may get to that eventually, but for now I have said what I set out to say.