This seems like a simplistic question when we first ask it but the more I think about it the more complicated it becomes. I see three things that must be done in order to help ensure our existence and to help it flourish in the future: scholarship, education, and activism. The first two aren’t terribly divisive but the last one can be.
Scholarship: We have come a long way on this subject over the last 40 years. It used to be that Ásatrú had very little difference from Wicca, particularly in style. This isn’t meant to insult either group, or early participants and their achievements. Had it not been for these early days, and the search for our own identity, we likely wouldn’t be having this discussion now. What changed us was that we devoted ourselves to academic efforts. We chose to move away from “New Age” thought in favor of serious and rigorous efforts to learn about the past. Then, some time in the 1990’s this effort was redoubled and we can see a concerted effort towards reconstructionist methodology to take what we had learned and put it into practice. It hasn’t stopped here, however. There are several highly educated people who have learned the old tongues and are working to bring material to those who can’t read it themselves. We have more translations of content than ever before. We are also seeing exciting new discoveries about our past in the field of archaeology. By working on scholarly efforts, we dig deep into our past and reconnect with our roots. We build from this and move forward.
Education: While scholarship works to teach us about who we are and who we were, efforts must be made to educate the public about our beliefs. This often means we need to put our own biases aside and attend “Pagan” events like “Pagan Pride Day” where we can interact with those most likely to be sympathetic to us. Our efforts shouldn’t stop there, however. We need to start moving forward on serious ecumenical works. This seems to be a bit daunting, however, especially because there are so few organizations or other faiths with which we share enough common ground as to feel like we are benefiting ourselves while helping others. This must happen, however, because the internet can’t do this for us. There’s either a serious lack of information out there or a plethora of really bad garbage that makes us look bad.
Activism: This is the one that I know sticks in the craw of so many people but I see it as the next step in our social evolution. As we gain a better understanding of who we are and how we are to move forward we need to see a vanguard that actively responds to the push-back that we are going to get from upsetting the apple cart of Western society as we begin to demand to express ourselves in ways that are true to our identity and not imposed from outside. We also need to develop an assertive principle of engaging in political discourse regarding activities or laws that serve only to repress our equal expression of our rights. As it stands, we have almost no will for social or legal activism. Some of this comes from disgust with politics. Some of it comes from preconceived notions about what “activists” are. Some of it comes from a desire to not draw too much attention to ourselves. This must end if we are going to build a shield wall against infringements upon our return to our own sense of self and we must actively go after those agendas and goals that seek to limit us. We must defend what we create and this can only be done by being active within the system.
So there you have it, the three things I think need to make up our current and future efforts to build our faith and culture. What do you think?