Heathenry is constructive. It compels us to create. It compels us to build a legacy to pass down to future generations. The Heathen mindset is one of investment in the system in both terms of identity and physicality. The Heathen mind cannot abide tearing down the system. It demands reform, not destruction. Chaos follows in the wake of destruction. Reform rebuilds where things are broken, repurposes what is good but wasted, and creates what is needed. It establishes hale order out of what was unwholesome. The Heathen mind has ideals, not ideology. Heathens are known for being practical, pragmatic people. We take the world around us as it is, not as we believe it to be. This is what we mean when we talk about Heathenry being world accepting.
To be Heathen is to build a legacy that we pass down to future generations. As Heathenry grows, we will continue to strive to build that legacy of order carved out of chaos. We will rebuild our norms and establish new ones. Sure, we are going to struggle and we are going to make mistakes and have failures. We have a lot to rebuild and we have to find ourselves invested in these reconstructed and revived societies, but it is our nature to continue to do so.
Heathenry is communal. In Culture of the Teutons, Grönbech discusses frith, kinship, and honor to great extent and one of the conclusions he draws about Heathen society is summed up best as “the man is the clan and the clan is the man.” We are at our truest when we are part of something and when we are invested in it. In fact, it is the man without a clan, without frith, that is no man in any meaningful way. This is partly because a man living without frith, without kin, is expelled from society and can build nothing. They will have no legacy. They transgress the borders of society, living like a wolf, and preying upon others. They are outlaw and not protected by the normal rules governing human interaction. They are without purposeful and meaningful existence and, where they intersect society, exist as a parasite. They steal what they can and give nothing back. They violate all the rules and upset the proper order of things.
Because Heathenry is constructive, that also means that Heathenry is normative. We live with the idea that the Order is good and that, for there to be Order, there must be rules. These rules set the foundation of our tribal customs. Those customs then build our cultural legacy. The opposite of this constructive nature is transgression. Transgression is reductive. It tears down the normative and violates the social order. It bucks the rules. It sets aside what is understood and acceptable. To transgress against the normative is to change the rules you are playing by when no one else has.
This is why Heathenry and Wicca don’t get along, and more importantly, what makes us call something “Wiccatru.” Wicca, is built on a model of counter-culture. It is transgressive. Our complaints about “Wiccatru” are less about “Woo” and more about how Wiccan mystical and religious ideas transgress our boundaries. You could say that where we build fences, they hop right over them. The truth is, we like our “Woo” as much as any other pagan religion, we just have fairly rigid norms that aren’t to be violated when it comes to them. When our “Woo” does transgress against the norm, we demand that it also acknowledge the superiority of the norm. An example of a common norm is resistance to syncretism. The syncretic nature of Wicca, the thing that drives us craziest about Wicca, is part of Wicca’s transgressive nature. Therefore, when “Woo” transgresses the normative, fails to acknowledge the superiority of the normative, and has even a hint of syncretism, out comes the “Wiccatru” saw. By standing against the transgressive, we are working to reinforce the normative, constructive nature of Heathenry.
I don’t bring this up to beat on the old anti-Wiccan war drum. In truth, what I just said will not contribute to the conversation between Wicca and Heathenry in any meaningful way. At best, the observation only serves to enlighten us about our own motivations. It does, however, serve as an illustration of the Heathen world view.
Recently, I had a conversation with someone as they struggled with how their growing understanding of Heathenry was forcing them to come to some very uncomfortable conclusions about his political ideology and those who share it. His conclusion is that the reason this political ideology continues to fail to make any meaningful impact and has no real experimental success is because it fails to set rules and expectations and then devolves into infighting because their are no norms to uphold. For our purposes, we need to compare this extreme individualism to the communal factor of the Heathen world view.
When I was younger, my politics were a lot more radical than they are now. I still hold on to many of the core values of that political ideology but I am not as extreme in them any more. The reason for this is investment in society. This is both a matter of how Heathenry as a cultural system, and not just a religion, developed an understanding of who I am but also how actual financial and physical investment grew from the accumulation of personal property that was distinct from my parents’ property. The ideology got tempered by realism, that damned world accepting thing we like talking about, into ideals that could be used as tools for working with others to build something rather than tear down.
Heathenry is constructive.
It compels us to create.
It compels us to have a legacy.