This is not a blog post for the general Heathen community. To be frank, I am not sure if this is a blog post for anyone but me, but these are the thoughts that I have been considering over the past week. It’s hard truth time, folks, and time to admit when you aren’t doing it right, and I’m not doing it right. I’m struggling, and this is a weakness in being a small and newer faith tradition – I don’t have a lot of people to look to for answers, because almost everyone I know is coming from a similar place.
Recently, I have been reading Women in Old Norse Society and one point that sticks out to me is the importance of ancestry when it comes to the Icelandic settlement. There is a historical record that not only takes on the settlers of Iceland, but also their ancestors all the way back to Germanic heroes. It has stuck out to me just how important this was to the people of Iceland, and more importantly how this could apply to modern Heathenry.
In a reputation culture, knowledge and deeds play a major role in building your reputation. But there is also something to be said about network and community. Who you know will determine who knows your reputation. Having someone who can speak to your worth and training who has a high reputation will help build your reputation.
There is also a need to build ties between tribes. A kindred alone is amazing, but imagine a web of kindreds, bound by oaths, who are able to build strong alliances and friendships. I experienced this in some degree when I got divorced. Members of a kindred three hours away offered me a place to crash, to come move my stuff, and even hide bodies if needed. *
It gave me this vision of creating a lineage of kindreds and tribes in a similar manner. People will be able to stand and cite that lineage. Jane will be the fosterling/thrall/worthling of Amy the Gothi of Blue Lake Kindred, who was the fosterling/thrall/worthling of Erik of Green River Kindred, who was fostered by Edna the Gothi of Adjective Noun Kindred.
Like many Heathens, I am mostly self-taught. I’ve never studied “at the knee” of someone, and it’s starting to show. I find I am lacking in many areas, especially now that it is coming to me to educate new people who would benefit from an actual education, and not just the haphazard self-guided education that I have. As a kindred leader, I also have the responsibility of guiding the building of traditions within my own group, and I hold their luck. It’s a terrible and awesome responsibility that I can’t afford to screw up. Unfortunately, screwing up is how most of us learn lessons when we are self-taught.
Another challenge is a lack of critique and criticism of my theology and methods. I lack someone to challenge my beliefs and tell me I am doing it wrong, and how to improve. I don’t want someone to hold my hand, but I do want someone to give me a map, and smack me upside the head when I take the wrong road.
What is the answer? There are a few ideas that have buzzed through my head. The first is to leave my tribe and join another where I can learn from someone with more experience. The Theodish have the market cornered on effective educational programs, but there are also other long established groups that have produced excellent members of worth, some of whom who have gone on to form their own successful groups. The logistics of this is a bit of a nightmare. The nearest tribe I would consider joining is at least six hours away, and I can’t drive.
The second idea is to just keep going forth blindly on my own. My pride likes this one the best. I hate asking for help, and I am a leader, trusted by my kindred. They believe I have worth. But that is what I have been doing for 10 years, and it’s no longer working. It would be foolish to continue on this path if this isn’t working, especially when my mistakes not only damage me, but damage my kindred.
The third idea is mentorship. This is an idea that has benefits and pitfalls. There are some large barriers to this. The first is finding people who have the skills to mentor others. The second is finding a qualified person who has the time or desire to mentor. The third is matching these people to the right mentee. It sounds daunting, but if it is done correctly, I think this might be the best solution not just for me, but also many others who face the same problems I face.
With all of these thoughts out, I decided I would try mentoring. I approached a Heathen woman I trust and respect, and asked her to be my mentor. We are still working out the details, so I have no idea how it will all work out, but I do know that I like this idea of not only learning but building connections. For Heathenry to thrive, both of these are vital.
I close with a challenge: if you are an experienced Heathen, mentor someone. And if you are struggling like I am, ask for help. Together, we build better communities.
*No heathens were harmed.