I’ve been involved in Heathenry for quite a while and there’s one truth about it that I’ve seen manifest itself many, many times; Heathenry isn’t for you. It isn’t for me either. This isn’t a statement about who should be allowed into our little club. This is a statement about understanding the Heathen world view. Heathenry isn’t for you and it isn’t about you. Heathenry is for us. Heathenry is for the community.
We talk a great deal about how Heathenry is a communal religion. We talk about it, but we sure don’t do a whole lot to prove it. The reality is that American Heathenry of all variations is filled with big egos. You’d think that this is natural, given that we are a people who value pride over humility. The problem is that we have people who have egos bigger than they ought to be that all too often make things about them. They are the important one and you should just accept that. If you can’t, then get out! I’ve seen plenty of groups fall apart because of this more than any other problem.
I’d like to tell you a version of the story about the first group I belonged to. Names have been changed to protect the guilty. Some umpteen million years ago, when the earth was still cooling off and dirt was a new invention, I joined my first kindred. When I joined it, I was still rather wet behind the ears as I had only recently crawled out of the primordial seas to walk on land. The world was a big and scary place and the mud ball I was now walking on wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the primordial waters I had left behind. I was no longer free to swim where I wanted. There were new rules to follow and there were plenty of other critters running around trying to convince you to walk like they did. I didn’t much like most of them as so many of them had this funny little waddle that they did and I just wasn’t interested in learning it. Eventually I would meet Cranky. Cranky was the alpha-critter of a mish-mash group of miscreants that called itself Furzedoosa. This group seemed to fit my personality pretty well and it sure didn’t have that funny waddle that others I met did, so I didn’t have to put on an Aerosmith album and learn to walk that way.
For a while, everything went well. I learned a lot. I met some really great folks that I still keep in touch with today. I even developed the same giant swollen head that Cranky had to go with the legs I had sprouted, making me into one funny looking creature. I call this early larval stage of malformed growth Buffoonery. Most of us will pass through it at one point or another, and if the gods are merciful, it won’t last long. Sadly, some get stuck in this stage, but that’s a different story for a different time. As I said, things had been going really well… for a while. Eventually, Cranky would forget this important lesson and things would deteriorate rather rapidly. You see, he forgot that what we did wasn’t about him. It wasn’t about his ego. It wasn’t about the problems he had with others. He forgot that and we all suffered for it. The details of what he did or didn’t do aren’t really that important. What’s important is the impact a raging ego has on a community. Our lives became miserable as frith disintegrated. All manner of things in our personal lives started going completely haywire, as they are wont to do when frith falls apart. If something should have gone our way, it didn’t. If things should have gone against us, well, we were truly good and hosed. It would be nice to place the blame all on Cranky’s shoulders but that wouldn’t be fair or accurate. We were all bear some responsibility because we made the internal strife about us, as individuals, instead of about what is best for the community we belonged to. We followed our leader’s example instead of learning from his failure.
Heathenry isn’t for you. Heathenry is for the community. Being faithful to our gods and our way of life means that we work for the well being of the communities we live in, not just for what is good for us as individuals. We work for the family, the village, the tribe, and even the nation. In a more modern context, because none of this really means anything today if we’re just going to pretend that things are the way they were 1000 years ago, this means that we place our families first. Then we worry about our neighborhoods, or towns or cities, our counties (or parish, as the case my be), our states (or province for so many others), and even our countries. We can disagree about how to get to what is good but we should always be working for that good. Heathenry isn’t for us. It isn’t about us. It’s about what is around us and how we interact with it. We can either choose to be proud without being egocentric or we can choose to take the rank of admiral in the douche-fleet.