Folkway, not just Theology

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you might have noticed a slight shift in content. When I originally started writing An Ásatrú Blog, I was looking to use it as a means of sharing my ideas and thoughts on matters of theology regarding our troth. Ever so slowly, I found that my focus had grown beyond this original parameter and started including things like poetry and recipes. In short, the blog had evolved from being one of purely theological content to one that is concerned with all elements of living our troth, including folk customs. It has grown to being an avenue for exploring the folkways of our troth and I’m glad to see this change. Also, it gives me more to write about, so that’s a very good thing.

It has, however, allowed me to see something that I hadn’t expected. It has been my understanding of Ásatrú, and Heathenry in general, for a very long time that this isn’t “just a religion” and that it is a way of life. What I mean by this is that we have more than just theology. We have cultural elements that make us “different” from the larger cultures we live in. For some of us, these differences are obvious and for others these differences are variations on the culture of the nation we live in. For those of us who are Americans or living in an Anglo nation like Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, the cultural elements are starkly in contrast to the common culture, especially if we derive our practices from Scandinavian or German tribal traditions. For those of us living in places where our troth was native, the differences can be harder to spot, but they are there. Mostly, they manifest in ways that are revival of our ancestral ways of thinking and acting as compared to the Christianized customs of the modern world.

Not everyone sees it this way. For some, our religious identity is seperate from our cultural identity. It’s not a hard argument to make, especially for Americans, where the idea that religion and society are seperate entities. When we look at the plethora of various folkways that inform the entire Heathen spectrum of beliefs, customs, and practices it is easy to see that we are not a single, unifed people who have a single, consistent folkway that makes us all one group of people. We can see this manifest in just the variety of terms we use to identify ourselves. If we aren’t one people, then how can we have a way of life?

Frankly, I reject this conclusion. We aren’t one people, that is correct. We are a diverse group of peoples that are bound together by a common Germanic origin. I prefer to throw out the idea that we are a tree with an uncountable number of branches and discuss ourselves as a forest with many trees. Most of those trees are young, but they are born from the seeds of the forest that grew in the soil we now grow our own forest. Like a wooded land after a fire, we are starting anew but we are growing on land rich with heritage and history. Some of our folkways are old and buried and we need to revive them. Some of them just need a little pruning. We are also making new customs as our forest matures and the branches of our folkways grow strong and healthy.

Now, I know that we are talking in terms of a lot of symbolism and maybe even a little bit of hyperbole here, but the important thing to keep in mind is that we are a living, growing community. We are no longer in our infancy but we are still young. We are deeply rooted in the past but we are moving towards the future. That future includes more than our theological elements. That future contains the reality that we are a robust group of peoples with customs and ways of life that mark us as “different” from whatever national culture we reside in and unites us as a people.

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