Holiness is Rootedness

In order to have a sense of what is holy, one must have ideas and concepts related to holiness.  In order for these ideas and concepts to be related to holiness, it must have roots in a religion, a theological framework, in which holiness as a concept is able to take root.  If one’s religious framework has no Gods, there is nothing to consecrate.  If there is no God or Goddess, no Holy Power to consecrate, then there is no holiness just as there is no profanity or things lacking in that consecration.

The very notion that an atheist can declare or recognize an image as holy is illogical on its face.  An atheist framework is one in which there is no God or Goddess, and thus, no sacred.  One may hold things reverently, that is, with deep respect, but without a religious framework that very concept that one may hold anything as holy has no basis.  An atheist claiming to hold something as holy is a person claiming something to which one has no right by either religious framework or the result of one’s own philosophy.

If you eliminate the sacred from your worldview you cannot claim to hold onto something as sacred.  Claiming symbols and symbol-sets as your own, when you have neither the investment in a religious framework, nor a religion itself that recognizes these things as holy, is appropriative from those whose identities revolve around the engagement with these symbols of Gods and Goddesses, and the Gods and Goddesses that are embodied by them.  Using them in ritual, or for personal  use, then, can be seen as a violation of communal bounds with those who worship these Gods and regard their symbols as sacred.

Rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry is what allows a person to understand Gods, the Runevaettir, the Ancestors, and vaettir of these religions.  Rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry also allows for people, individually and communally, to understand what is held as sacred, holy, taboo, etc.  There are plenty of worshipers of various religious backgrounds who come to worship Norse, Germanic, Scandinavian, etc. Gods without becoming part of Northern Tradition or Heathen religions. Yet, there is still rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry with many of these people.  It is not any different than someone being on the outside of a religious community coming to a religious community seeking roots in their religion, practices, Gods, and spirits.

The idea of holiness and sacredness cannot exist without a religion and cosmology. One can study the myths as they like, even relate to the Gods, as characters, but holiness and sacredness and the treatment of the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in a respectful manner cannot be done in this fashion. Without this rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathenry, there is no context for the Gods, the Ancestors, and the vaettir as holy or sacred.  Indeed, there is no context for Them at all.  Sacredness, holiness, and similar terms, are the province of religions because religions are invested in the means by which holiness is understood, and the ways of determining what is holy, and held as sacred.  Atheism cannot be invested in this understanding as it has no basis for holiness and the sacred, as atheism denies both on their face by its very outlook.  Atheism denies that Gods exist, and in so doing, denies the cosmology They are rooted within.  The notion of holiness within an atheist context, therefore, cannot exist.

Can people who are not rooted in the religious communities of Northern Tradition Paganism or Heathenry, then, be rooted in the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry itself?  Absolutely.  There are plenty of folks in these religious communities without a community in their area to call home.  Pagans tend to call these folks solitaries.  Can people who are not rooted in the religious communities of Northern Tradition Pagans or Heathenry, then, be rooted in the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry?  Yes.  They may be general polytheists without a community to call home or they may have a religious tradition to which they belong, but for one reason or another, are called to or brought into contact with our Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir.  In either case, it is the acceptance of the Northern Tradition’s cosmology or one (or many) of the Heathen cosmologies, respect for the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and understanding of holiness and the sacred that binds the Northern Tradition and Heathen paths together.  For some Heathen paths, they will say that you cannot practice alone, and that you must have a community to call your own.

I do not take rootedness in the Northern Tradition and Heathen religions to mean that one cannot hold to relationships outside of these religions.  It may mean that your rootedness in other traditions will need to be considered with or against the relationships you have in these Gods vs. Gods of another religion, and it may mean that you may need to consider the obligations you have to this communities vs. the other, but I do not think that Northern Tradition Pagans and Heathens are automatically precluded from relationships with Gods of other pantheons.  What it does mean is that your considerations will need to be weighed, and priorities developed.

In other woods, rootedness need not mean exclusivity, though it may.  Rootedness need not mean that you leave relationships with other religious paths you are walking or have walked, though you may.  Rootedness in the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry means that you are grounded in the religion, the weltanschauung (worldview) of the Northern Tradition and/or Heathenry, grounded in the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, and from there flows your life, priorities, and relationship with, view of, and understanding of the holy, and holiness.
Advertisements
  1. awkweirdwrites
    October 30, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Wow. Who are you to declare such things on behalf of all atheists everywhere? Is the Earth only sacred if your Gods tell you so? Does nothing have inherent worth, or is it all the mere vessel of divinity? Are things like the sea and stars, the thunder and the flame, the animals, birth and death, only valuable if a God (or several) rules them like a divine overseer? I’m theistic, personally, but I don’t need to believe in God/s to believe in the sacredness that is all around me. And even IF I did, I wouldn’t be so eager to assume that gives me a superior grasp of sacredness – the opposite could be argued quite easily.

    • November 13, 2016 at 11:32 pm

      “Wow. Who are you to declare such things on behalf of all atheists everywhere?”

      It has been a while since you left this, but I will answer this anyhow.

      First, I am a Northern Tradition and Heathen shaman and priest. I am a polytheist and an animist. Even if I were not a shaman and priest, I could still discern what is and is not sacred because such concepts exist within my worldview.

      Second, I have reason. This entire article was written as a refutation that the atheist worldview can, in actuality, hold anything to be sacred, as the very idea of atheism generally eliminates this understanding.

      Within the Northern Tradition there are things that are inherently Sacred, such as Fire, which I hail as the Eldest Ancestor. The form of Fire is not only the container of the Sacred, every iteration of Fire is Sacred.

      If there is sacredness, then there is not-sacredness. Therefore, there are things which are, inherently, not sacred, that may be made sacred.

      Fire is commonly used in Pagan, animist, and polytheist rituals as a way to demarcate boundaries and to purify. If there is a thing needing of purification, then it is impure. Therefore we purify so something is able to be in the Presence of the Holy Powers, or is a fitting vessel for Them/Their Presence. We make it a good place/thing for the Sacred to be around/within. In terms of people, we purify ourselves so we may be cleansed of things that would be wrong to bring into the places and times we wish to pray to, honor, commune with, etc. the Holy Powers.

      If one lacks cosmology through which one understands and is placed within the context of what is and is not sacred, then the ritual act of purification and cleansing is itself without meaning. That is, without rootedness in holiness through a cosmology, it is not of benefit to claim that one understands that something is sacred. It is, rather, an affront to those who are rooted in that cosmology, and those relationships with the Holy Powers.

      To say “I pray to Odin” when you neither believe you pray to Odin nor actually pray to Him, but to the idea of Him, or the archetype He represents, you are committing a falsehood. Whether or not He appreciates it or accepts it is another matter entirely.

      “Is the Earth only sacred if your Gods tell you so?”

      The Earth is sacred because it is a Goddess, but even were the Earth not a Goddess, It would still be sacred in a very large perspective as my, and countless others’ home. The Gods need not tell me the Gods are sacred. If I believe in the Gods, and have a worldview then it follows that I ought to be able to tell with relative ease what is and is not sacred.

      “Does nothing have inherent worth, or is it all the mere vessel of divinity?”

      You throw out the word ‘mere’ as though this was…somehow bad? Inherent worth is quite a different notion than inherent sacredness. They are not necessarily the same; something holy can be quite cheap on the market, for instance our Eldest Sacred Herb, mugwort, but it may have deep sacredness. All is potentially a vessel of divinity. Whether or not it is, well, that is another matter.

      “Are things like the sea and stars, the thunder and the flame, the animals, birth and death, only valuable if a God (or several) rules them like a divine overseer?”
      Fire is Fire and it is Sacred by Its Being. The Stars are made from Fire’s power, and They are Sacred. The Sea is full of Gods and vaettir, and the seas are Sacred. Asking whether or not a thing is valuable and whether or not it is sacred are, again, two different questions. What is a cup of seawater worth? A birthday candle? Yet They can contain the Sacredness of the Holy Powers. They could be sacred whether or not we had Gods of Fire, of the Ocean, but that we have Gods of these Sacred things means nothing to whether or not a thing is valuable per se. Fire is powerful, it is Sacred. Whether in Loki or Surt’s hands, whether Muspelheim’s form, or whether caused by Thor’s lightning or Farbauti’s wildfire, Fire is Sacred. A Fire may be Sacred or be called into being by a Holy Power such as Thor, Loki, Surt, Farbauti, etc., and this changes the nature of how this Sacred Power, Fire, acts, and how we relate to It. However it comes about It is holy.

      Now, as to your assertions:
      “I’m theistic, personally, but I don’t need to believe in God/s to believe in the sacredness that is all around me. And even IF I did, I wouldn’t be so eager to assume that gives me a superior grasp of sacredness – the opposite could be argued quite easily.”

      Were this true I would have thought you would have argued this, given how easy you claim it is. It is not a superior grasp of the sacredness that I have, but a grasp of it at all without merely mouthing the words. You are theistic, and necessary to that theistic outlook is that the Gods are worthy of worship, and so many other understandings that a cosmology brings with it. A person lacking a cosmology does not have a grasp of the sacred because they have not, or have actively rejected the tools by which a concept such as ‘the sacred/Sacred’ makes any kind of sense or is in any way intellectually honest.

  1. October 30, 2015 at 11:01 am
  2. November 3, 2015 at 10:40 am
  3. November 3, 2015 at 1:07 pm
  4. November 12, 2015 at 9:48 am
  5. November 12, 2015 at 11:44 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: