All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
a light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
- J.R.R. Tolkien
It was nearly forty summers ago, in a small, sleepy town, tucked away in a near forgotten corner of the country, that a fellowship of friends, young men and women bold by their youth but wise beyond their years, awoke in their hearts and minds. As if roused from an evil spell that had set them to slumber, they heard the clear calling of the Old Gods, echoing across the ages, resounding from the ancient Anglo-Saxon forests their forebears had once called home. These were the first contemporary Anglo-Saxon Heathens, a merry yet mysterious band who dedicated themselves to reviving the religion of Wóden, the father of gods and rider of the World Tree, and Fríge, the mother of earth and lady of love. They believed that their renewal of the old belief was a return to a holy, affirming, world accepting, life giving, and joyous religion.
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean
For the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change
The road you’re on
- Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven”
One may ask, why? Why renew a root so far forgotten in the past, one so buried beneath layers of Christian history? Because Anglo-Saxon Heathens, then and now, verily believe in our heart of hearts that this “Way of the Heathen” is the surest, soothest, tried and true means by which men and women may be roused from the spiritual laziness, apathy, and savage selfishness that modern religion has afforded them. We believe that we, Wóden’s own, the descendents of the Anglo-Saxons, forged through effort, experience, and, if need be, ordeal, might yet renew the old belief . Furthermore, we believe our gods deserve no less. Our Heathen belief is, now as it was then, one worth believing. This world, despite the Christian’s denial and Atheist’s disbelief, is in truth a magical world, a world full of gods.
“You leave well enough alone Gisborne, or you may find the old gods are not as dead as you think.”
- Abbot Hugo, Robin of Sherwood, “Lord of the Trees”
Though it may very well be difficult to imagine, you may be surprised by how much of the old religion you know already. You do, after all, know the names for the days of the week, Sunnandæg Mónandæg Tiwesdæg Wódnesdæg Þúnresdæg Frigedæg Sæturnesdæg – Sun’s Day/Sunday, Moon’s Day/Monday, Tiw’s Day/Tuesday, Woden’s Day/Wednesday, Thunor’s Day/Thursday, Fríge’s Day/Friday, Saturn’s Day/Saturday. And it would probably not be too great an assumption to think you know the goddess of the Spring, Eostre/Easter, and the hares who so openly show her fertility and fecundity, the new life that she brings to the land once Winter has begun to wane. Dare we say you’ve mostly likely heard of Lent, the lengthening of the days that comes with the Spring, and May Day as well. Our friend, you already know of Yule/Christmas, its yuletide carols, the decking of the halls with balls of holly and evergreen, the tree, the log, the gifts, and the joyful wassailing thereof. In the late Autumn, you already gather for a thanksgiving, to give thanks for the harvest. Mother Earth, Robin Hood, King Arthur, and Beowulf are already known to you, even if John Barleycorn and Weyland the Smith should require reintroduction.
No matter what you may have been told, the old gods are not dead, and the old religion has lived anew for quite some time now. Should you find your soul stirring, should you find your taper lit, and should you hear the winds as they blow through those Anglo-Saxon forests of old, by all means friend, speak up. There are others who have gathered in the forest before you.