Heathens and our hang-ups

There is an unfortunate issue that is all too common in Heathenry – bias against Christianity and/or Christians. I see it fairly frequently; many pagans carry around a disproportionately large amount of bias against Christianity and Christians. In some cases this bias hampers our ability to act in a historically pagan way. Heathenry is not the opposite of Christianity, it is not anti-Christian, and it is not the anti-Christian religion. Heathenry is a religion, a polytheistic religion that has numerous practices held in common with Christianity. If you were looking for a religion to be the antithesis of Christianity you are barking up the wrong world-tree. That is ironically enough a very classically Christian viewpoint, the ancient heathens were not initially or overtly opposed to Christianity because they recognized similar practices when they came knocking, it was the ancient Christians who would not tolerate the pagan beliefs seeing them as wholly against their religion. No, there were actually many similarities in the religions.

Contrary to what you may have heard, ancient Heathens kneeled before their gods. There is ample evidence to support that kneeling during worship was quite standard and ordinary in ancient heathenry. It shows up in Tacitus very early on, it plays out in the sagas, and it continues to show up as late as Ibn Fadlan’s trip to Russia. Kneeling, even prostrating oneself, before the gods was a very heathen practice. So why do so many heathens not kneel? Some folks somehow got it in their heads that kneeling was a Christian activity and thereby something we don’t do or shouldn’t do – that’s the anti-Christian bias talking. Kneeling before the gods would have been a sign of respect much like kneeling before the king. Even to this day people kneel or bow before royalty to show deference, do our gods deserve less respect than men on this earth of status or less respect now than they did in ancient times? Or are many of us letting our biases come between us and our gods?

Contrary to what you may have heard, ancient Heathens prayed to their gods. Every time you give thanks and offer to the gods that’s prayer; the textbook definition of prayer is in fact “an address (or petition) to God or a god in word or thought”. If you communicate toward a deity it is prayer. We know Heathens prayed because we know they conducted the gifting cycle. They prayed because how else were they supposed to communicate with their gods, give them offerings, or ask for aid? Now many heathens I have spoken to have a really toxic idea of what prayer is. They seem to think that prayer is you just spewing yourself out as a lesser being who is not worthy of anything etc. While I am not going to lie to you, you are a lesser being seeing as how you are a person and they are a god, you’re certainly worth the time and energy and effort of the gods seeing as how you’re building a relationship with them and them with you. We pray because we are communicating with the gods and thanking them or offering to them. That’s all prayer is – communication with the gods; thanks given for receipt of blessings, offerings given to the gods, and calls for aid on your behalf or the behalf of others. The ancient heathens prayed, if we do not then we are not communicating with the gods and it makes it mighty hard to form a relationship without communication.

A certain small amount of unhappiness towards monotheistic religions is to be warranted on the grounds that monotheistic religions as a whole view our gods in a great variety of unpleasant ways: as non-existent, as demons misleading us, as bastardized faces reflected from their own god, or perhaps as impotent beings compared to their omni-everything deity. We will truly never get across-the-board recognition from monotheistic religions in an even-footed way for our deities because the beliefs monotheistic religions hold leave no room for them. We have to step beyond that though, to give up our biases if they hinder our spiritual development. We should seek to practice our own religion to the best extent that we can and not be held up by our perceptions of Christianity and Christians. They have their religion and what they do and do not do has no bearing on our religion. Instead we should leave behind as much of the biases possible that we hold and further our polytheistic practices by focusing not on being anti-anything or negatively comparing ourselves to them but simply setting out to be good heathens with solid and grounded practices.

 

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