Patreon Topic 40: Developing Culture

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From Leslie comes this topic:

“Developing culture.”

Developing culture starts with relationships. Meaning builds on meaning. Developing a Heathen culture starts with a polytheist worldview within which is an animist one at its base. The whole world is alive; the whole world is relatable. There are more worlds than this one; those worlds are relatable too. So are each and every Being within Them.

We have a Creation Story, myths, and legends however well or poorly preserved, within the Eddas. What I think is key, with all of our information whether derived from archaeology or especially the written sources, is that we are by-and-large dealing with an oral culture. I think this is also the future of Heathen cultures. Not that writing will not be important; it will, if for no other reason than we are part of a literate overculture which places a (sometimes disproportionately) high value on the written word. Rather, what is going to truly make the various Heathenry communities into cultures is going to be the passing of the worldview, teachings, relationships, and so on to the next generations.

Religious beliefs and worldviews alone do not make a culture. What comes out of them is part of that, too. Over time perhaps Heathen cultures will develop distinct styles of dressing, wearing their hair, decorating themselves and their homes, or any other way we could think of making themselves distinct from the largely Christian American overculture. On the other hand most Heathens blend rather seemlessly into mainstream American culture, regardless of the tattoos on their skin or the jewelry, shirts, and other things they wear.

So if we do not see the wide trends regarding dress, decoration, dance, and other outward signs of a distinct Heathen culture, what would differentiate a Heathen culture from the American Christian overculture? Relationships with and to the land would be a big way. Since most Heathens relate to the world Itself as a Goddess, and have a series of Gods They worship as part of/involved in the world, this is a firm push to develop good ways of living with Her/Them in reciprocity.

Most Heathens engage in some kind of Ancestor cultus. That could, over time, take place with actual mounds we raise on our own lands to Them, and provide powerful intergenerational connections to land, and through that to our Ancestors and vaettir. The vaettir Themselves are another powerful connection that encourages the development of culture, both in relationship with the environment and in relationship with how we live on the land. With a world alive with vaettir, spirits, and connections literally all around us, Heathens engaging with the vaettir can develop unique ways of relating to and living with the land. Already some Heathens, myself included, are working to include indigenous wisdom, permaculture, and similarly aligned views so we live well on the land and with the vaettir here.

As more Heathens engage in lived relationships with the Earth Goddesses, Gods of the land, local Gods, the Ancestors, and vaettir, local and regional cultus is beginning to form. Heathens will likely become even more distinct from one another as this goes on over time. We cannot all relate to the Earth the same way when we are living in different parts of America. Even those Heathens living close to each other not have the same relationship with the environment, the Gods of these places, our Ancestors, and/or the landvaettir.

Another vector for Heathens’ cultural development is the way that relationships within as well as without Heathen communities form, and how those are maintained. Having just written on the concept of frið and grið for my latest Q&A, it seems to me that it is both related to similar concepts found in other religions and also distinctly Heathen. Writ large into how we form relationships, personal and interpersonal, individually and communally, these webs of relationships can unfold in ways we are only just seeing.

TikTok’s latest Norsetok controversies actually show us the dark side of this: flame wars and cults of personality being formed around folks based in clan and Kindred structure. However, it also has shown in the same blow that even Norsetok has staying power, as folks have banded together to work against such things and address power imbalances, unchecked ego, and so on. Twitter and Tumblr Heathen communities before them have gone this way, and likewise so have physical Heathen communities. So, what we may be seeing on a far faster scale in TikTok is a larger trend borne from the way Heathens tend to structure themselves.

Heathen communities tend to unfold around shared interests of being in relationship with and worshiping the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. They may or may not share larger interests with the overculture, not unlike a lot of other cultures. There are Christians that play video games like Call of Duty, whereas others reject them as too worldly, or glorifying violence. There are Heathens that play video games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla or watch the Thor Marvel movies, while others refuse to engage with them. I expect that as we come into second, third, and in some cases fourth generations of Heathens, we will see similar trends to the overculture in terms of our overall place in things. Some Heathens will trend politically left, others politically right, and this will shift over time with general trends based on where they live, how, and with whom they are relationship with. What I think will be politically distinct for Heathens is that most will still carry some kind of emphasis on a good relationship with the Earth, their local environment, and environmental issues generally, whatever source that comes from for them. More than anything else the interconnected relationships born out of Gebo, frið, and grið that are distinct to Heathenry will have unfolding consequences into how regional variations of Heathenry may come about.

There is a big lack of prognostication in this post on exactly how Heathen cultures will come about, develop, grow, and work. Part of the reason for that is that I have no idea how Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Continental Heathenry, Slavic Heathenry, and other Heathen communities will develop over time because I am not directly involved in them. I do not have the anecdotes to develop even a broad picture of how those communities could shake out over time. The other reason for the lack of prediction on my part is because it is essentially a fool’s errand. There are some Heathen communities that operate essentially as männerbund (warband), others as communes, others as communally connected yet distinct hearths, and some Heathen communities are organized almost entirely online. Some Heathen communities incorporate some or all of these modes of operation together. Factor that together with the understanding that regional cultus and relationships are being made between local Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir with Heathen communities, and predicting anything other than a very broad-based idea is quickly put full of holes.

So where are we going? I have ideas for my local communities. A lot of us are engaging in local cultus, developing relationships with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir in context of where we are and how we live. As time goes on, I think one of the ways we and the overall trend for the Heathen communities are following one another is that there is going to be more involvement in local and national environmental movements. Something I am seeing the beginning of is communities developing distinct aesthetics with regards to clothes, home decor, tattooing, and other forms of decoration. There are patterns in the Heathen community which are in place that will balance devotion and relationship with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Some, if not most of those relationships will unfold with how we live on the land. I am excited to experience how Heathen cultures will develop, grow, and maintain themselves.

One thought on “Patreon Topic 40: Developing Culture

  1. Pingback: Patreon Topic 40: Developing Culture — Sarenth Odinsson – Horn and Hearth

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