We all know that Heathenry differs from the dominant Christian view in some very key and critical ways but often we can’t express what those differences are. I know that I am hard pressed to to enumerate the differences beyond the most basic of characteristics. Part of returning to our way of life is know what that way should look like. This requires us to have a firm understanding of the ways and modes of thinking that are native to the indigenous faiths of Northern Europe. We can also look at these differences in characteristics and see what influences on our practices and beliefs today Universalist religions like Christianity have had. We can examine our thinking and evaluate our actions and better determine the course forward as we rebuild.
I’d like to express my most sincere thanks to Mikki Fraser, who is studying Old Norse religion at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik. The following comparison chart comes from Prof. Terry Gunnel’s class “Old Norse Religion” and does a great job of demonstrating the differences between us and what I believe we should be working towards. Some points of clarification have been added by both Mikki and myself to help provide a better idea of the key points.
|Heathenry / Folk Religion||Christianity / Universalist Religion|
|Limited to one's own folk group (tribe/culture group)||Targeted to all people in the world|
|No active "mission"||There is a mission to save souls or accomplish something similar|
|Life-based (e.g. the proper way to live in the here and now)||What happens after you die is most important|
|Peace (frith) with the world is the main objective (includes the "spirit world")||Freedom from the trappings of the physical world is the main objective|
|Centralized around cult practices (what you do; right action)||Centralized around belief (what you believe; right belief)|
|Non-dogmatic (proper practice and understanding changes from region to region)||Dogmatic (there is one correct way to believe in order to achieve your ultimate goal)|
|You learn via your community's traditions/personal experience||You learn via teaching and instruction from others higher up in the tradition|
|Male and female cult leadership||Male cult leadership|
|Less concentration on sacral buildings||High concentration on sacral buildings|
|One's personal honor in the community determine one's morality||Freedom from sin and redemption is determined by one's morality|
|Centers on the good of the collective||Centers on the belief of the individual|
If you’d like to follow along on Mikki’s crazy Heathen adventures in Iceland, you can always check out his blog, Sacred Iceland.