Luck and its importance to us as Heathens
Alternatively, a pyre for the dead horses of contemporary Heathendom
Ours is a trow, a thew, and a worldview shaped by pagan superstition. Our grasp of the gods is absent of modern sensibility. Our trow lacks the sophistications of politics, philosophy, and psychology. We know nothing of a Right or a Left. There is no –ism in our understanding. Our belief is absent of archetypes. The gods are what the gods are, whatever they may be. In our earnest effort to reconstruct the ancient religion of our fore-elders, we feel no need to project the inventions of Modernity onto the past. Ours is a primitive and pre-Modern trow, one that is to be experienced and expressed through tradition, poetry, and ritual.
We believe in luck, hál, spéd, or mægen, as we often call it. This belief is not a superficial subscription to chance. No, for us luck is a serious matter. From our luck flows the good health that we enjoy, the wealth that we possess, and the fertility of our fields and our wombs. It is through luck that we find ourselves victorious over adversaries. If our gyld grows, it grows because we are lucky.
It is through our deeds that we add to or diminish the luck that we have. We believe that our luck is given to us by the gods as a reward for rites done rightly and offerings found worthy. Likewise, we believe that our luck may be lost should the gods ever find us unworthy of their company. It is for this reason that we are ever vigilant in the warding of our luck. It is in the warding of our luck that the intentions of Ealdríce Hæðengyld may be misunderstood by those who do not share our brutish barbarism.
Let us, for a moment, consider the following dreadful fiction. A Native American comes to us and says, “I have turned my back on the gods of my ancestors. I have hewn down the sacred totem poles. I have cursed the generations of my kinsmen who came before me. The gods of the Anglo-Saxons are the true gods and I would become one of you.” We would be terrified of such madness. It would be unlucky for such a soul to renounce his or her ancestors and ancient gods. Likewise, it would be unlucky for us to allow such an individual into our gyld. After all, even if they do not believe in the realness of their ancestral gods – we do. All gods are real gods, even if they are not our gods. Likewise, we hold that the ghosts of their ancestors are as real as any living kinsman. To welcome such a person would be to welcome the wrath of the gods and ancestors that they abandoned. Furthermore, if they could not hold trow with the belief of their own bones, what hope could we have that they would not break oaths among us, abandon our gods, and thus diminish our luck? To such superstitious primitives as ourselves, the only right and good thing would be to turn such a confused individual away lest any curse that might befall them befall us as well.
There are those who would read into our intention a Modern ideology, some sort of hateful mean motive. But we are impoverished of such ideology. We are an eldritch folk who cast wooden slivers scratched about with symbols and earnestly believe that, in their falling, the true whim of the gods may be divined. There is nothing about us so refined by Modern sensibility as to afford us anything more sophisticated than a savage’s perspective. We are but barbarians.
Let us consider another dreadful story. One comes to us and says, “I give worship to those that hate the gods. I plight my troth to those that the gods hate. And, into my home and before my hearth I welcome the murderer of Woden’s son, Fríge’s bairn, and Þunor’s brother. After all, the gods are not real. Loki is not even real. He merely represents the forces of…whatever I want him to represent. Besides, should it turn out that they are indeed real, only crypto-Christians believe that any wight is evil. If you don’t embrace the worship of these woeful wights, then it is because you’re still a closet Christian.” Alas, such Modern refinement would fill us with fear. We know from the charms that have survived the centuries that our ancestors did believe there to be baleful wights with unholdan, áglæcan, eotenas, maran, and þyrsas being among such monsters.
We hold that it is unlucky to give leave to those who hate the gods and who the gods in turn also hate. Just as we would not open our hall and share our mead with one who murdered the child or kinsmen of one of our own, we afford our gods that same respect. We possess no more progressive perspective than this sort of childish, kinship bound, clannish way of thinking. Ours is a primitive paganism.
Our belief is one that is barren of any notion of universal balance. Ours is a religion wherein even the gods struggle against evil, though they know that they are already doomed to be overtaken by it. We know death and destruction to be inevitable, yet we do not give leave to such powers. Why would we? We lack the lofty philosophical vantage and view afforded by the new age to see such things as remote abstractions. To us, death and destruction are all too near realities. It is against such evils that we struggle to be victorious, even if for just another year.
Let us consider then one of our more barbaric rites, one which speaks to our decidedly sided worldview. Every spring, as the days begin to lengthen and the earth begins to warm, we create an effigy of Winter, which we then carry out of the “village.” Once removed from our innangeard, we set upon it with birch cudgels before drowning it in a lake, tossing it into a fire, or throwing it into the brambles. We do this in imitation of a rite found throughout Europe. To our ancestors, who lacked the modern conveniences that we now take for granted, Winter was a bringer of death. Without central heating to hold back the freezing and the local grocery store to prevent starvation, Winter was a cruel creature, one whose coming was to be dreaded and whose springtide defeat was to be celebrated. Though our world is now enlightened by electricity, we do not believe that Winter has changed its nature and become a benign spirit. Therefore we do not welcome Winter, for to do so would be to invite Death into our innangeard.
Our backwards heathenry is such that, whilst we may understand that death and destruction will ultimately overtake us, all of our rites and rituals are aimed toward increasing life and renewing the year. Even when we honor the dead, we do so because we believe that they have the power to bestow their luck upon the living. There is no cult of cruel Hel in the Ealdríce Hæðengyld, only the heap of our ancestors.
As said, ours is a primitive paganism. Our beliefs are superstitious, ever concerned with matters of luck. Our rites are agrarian, magical, or occasionally martial. And, aside from a belief in the tribalism and sacral kingship known to our fore-elders, our religion is without politics. We are a merry band of Heathens, whose trow is uninformed by Modern ideology, free of philosophical or psychological abstraction. It is through poetry, ritual, and tradition that we engage the real world, a world inhabited by all manner of wights, ghosts, and gods. It may very well be then that the ancient wisdom that we have sought to embrace will offend the outside observer’s modern sensibility. To this we can only beg the gentle reader’s pardon. We are Heathens after all.