I am a practicing neo-pagan. A neo-pagan is anyone who does not follow an Abrahamic faith or in some cases and situations the definition also includes Dharmic faiths. That means that they do not follow Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Dharmic faiths include Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and occasionally Shintoism.
My path is rather eclectic and so are my ethical and moral views on the world. One of the pagan religions that has deeply inspired me and my world view have been the Germanic faiths. These faiths include religions like Asatru, Odinism, Anglo-Saxon reconstruction, Heathenism, and or religions that follow the Gods outlined in the Poetic and Prose Eddas as well as the Icelandic Sagas and other forms of Nordic folklore.
The Gods in this pantheon would be Odin, Thor, Tyr, Loki, and many others. There are several sagas and Eddic tales that explore not only the myths, but the values or virtues of that culture. Some of these virtues have remained intact and others have become ignored. I do feel that these virtues have much to offer in today’s world and could help our society make some major changes.
The majority or rather the most popular and well known websites and texts on the subject of practical practicing of these religious practices have come up with a list of what they call the “Nine Nobel Virtues”. These virtues outline my basic ethical and moral guidelines. How I interpret them may be different from others, but I feel I am an ethical person as outlined in the Nine Nobel virtues.
The Nine Nobel Virtues are: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industry, Self-Reliance, and Perseverance. Each of these virtues works together. In many ways if you are not working well on one virtue, the other virtues fall and fail a little as well.
Courage basically means having the strength to face the challenges given to you and to know when to ask for help. It also means trying over and over again when you have failed in order to succeed. Being courageous does not mean you don’t have any fear. It simply means that you act courageous when you are in the act of facing your fears.
Truth is basically self-evident. To me it simply means that you should always tell the truth and that means being true to yourself as well. In many ways it is about making sure your actions are honorable. You should not be making excuses for doing acts that you “know” are wrong.
Honor is something that can be difficult to explain. Honor goes hand in hand with respect. Honor means acknowledging that you respect a person’s actions and how they live their lives. Honor also means living your life the way you would like others to live and a life that you would see as respectful and honorable.
Fidelity is not something many people would think of as a virtue today. However I personally find that it is a very important virtue. Fidelity is loyalty. I take loyalty very seriously. When I give myself to a cause or an idea and it rises to an action I do what I can. Loyalty is staying true to your friends and your allies.
Discipline is one thing I think that many people in today’s societies are lacking. Discipline does not have to mean making people behave a specific way through punishment. Instead in terms of the Nine Nobel Virtues it means working hard to change a behavior, and shaping a behavior.
Hospitality is something people don’t often think about. In the ancient times when the tribal religions were being practiced, even if you had your own land, everything you did was also for your community. Today it is about helping out when at a friend’s place or when they are at your place offering drinks or snacks or things to make them be at home. It is about sharing what is yours with someone else.
Industriousness is basically spending your days working towards something. It means doing more than the minimum in order to get things done. It means giving your all and being productive. It also means taking time to play. Playing is how we explore new things and ideas and recharge our energies. It’s a balance between work and play making sure you get the most out of everything you do.
Self-Reliance is something I think every person needs to work on in some areas. It means being responsible for yourself and your actions. It means doing as much as you can by yourself and knowing when you need help to do something that you cannot do yourself. Self-Reliance also means that over time you will learn new skills to do what you can for yourself.
Perseverance is probably the most difficult virtue for me. This virtue is the one of keeping with something until the job is done. It means trying and trying over and over again. It also means knowing that you may need to start over with a new idea and begin from the start. It also means that if your project is futile and not worth the time and effort that you need to move on to something else. You don’t get credits for stupidity.
Aristotle believed that the best way for excellence was to be somewhere between a deficiency and an excess of any single virtue. That by following the middle path one will have reached peace and balance. This is more difficult than it seems in many cases. Out of the nine virtues there are several that I am closer to a deficiency on than others.
I am not as industrious as I could be. In many ways I am a sloth. There is so much time I have that is spent playing games online or just on my laptop that could be devoted to improving my skills, writing, housework, spiritual development, creativity, and the like that I feel quite wasteful in my time. Now as mentioned this virtue does apply to playing.
I have tried before to find ways to be more industrious in my “free time”. One of the ways that has been more effective than most has been to create a daily schedule or routine for me. This way my time is organized and things do get done. I feel that Aristotle would probably have told me that if that system had worked before, try it again, but maybe be a little more flexible with the time arrangement and the like.
There is really only one way that I am not as reliant as I could be. That to me is basically in the aspect of transportation and financial situations. I have used the excuse that the public transportation system in the city of South Portland sucks as an excuse for not going out and getting supplies and other things done that should be done. In reality I could use the bus more often than I do; it’s just not as convenient, which ties into my industriousness. The transportation ties into my employment or financial situation as well. There are ways for me to get employed and find transportation. I just have to get up off my ass to get the work done.
Aristotle would probably have told me to be willing to get help to achieve my goals. For example if I am having trouble getting to some of the offices, even with public transportation use the options I have available to me in order to get what needs to be done done. I am still being responsible for myself and my actions as I need to ask for the help and make sure that both them and I work together and get the task accomplished.
Several years ago I would have stated that my courage needed to be worked on, but these things have been worked on with my fiance’ and myself as they were intimate issues. I just need to work on continuing to face those issues with him as we continue on our paths together.
There are other areas that my courage could be improved. One way is being afraid to ask people for things like rides and the like. The other could be facing my fear of my ideas being rejected by publishers and the like (see discipline below). I just need to try hard.
Aristotle would tell me that I just need to send out my ideas. He would probably tell me how his mentor Plato was taught by Socrates whose ideas were widely rejected, yet still maintained some value. He would tell me that rejection is not always a failure, but an opportunity to reach a different set of ears or eyes as the case may be.
Discipline is one virtue that I will admit I lack. I am disciplined in some ways, but in others I am not and it is clearly visible. In one way is that I do not always remember to keep up my religious and spiritual studies. I am working towards one day ultimately being a priestess and member of the clergy. This also goes for my witchcraft (which is both a religion and a craft) as well.
For many years I have tried to keep up a steady study schedule with activities and actions done. I may keep to it for a few months, but then my interest may switch to something else which I start to study. In turn I stop forming the habit and lose my focus on the original study at hand.
In Aristotle’s eyes the solution would be simple. If I get distracted by other ideas and subjects to study, add them to a list and get to them after the current topic has been explored. In this way I will be able to continue my current studies, but make notes of other things that fascinate me. This is something I have actually done before.
Perseverance is the last virtue that I need to work on. I am a writer; or rather I would like to be. Writing is a hobby of mine that comes naturally. I have been told that I should get published. Many times I have started to write a book and then after getting several chapters in, will read what has been written and delete all of it, not enjoying how it sounded at all. Instead I should have taken a break from the project and then gone back to it letting the book write itself.
It is quite likely that Aristotle would tell me to keep with the project and maybe start with smaller stories and books and work up to novels and long non-fiction books. He would probably say how his works started out as single lectures that were actually a series of lectures that were tied together. In time they were bound together as a book for reference. So the work in small bits part would be the best approach for me.
All in all I think I am a just person. Some people may have other views on where I am lacking in my virtues. Others may say that my life does not reflect any of these values at all.
In reality I am doing my best. These values have only been added into my life with in the last five years. They are still new to me. I work hard and have become the best person I can be at this point in my life. Can I still grow, and is there more to learn? Absolutely, but for now I am where I should be.
The last few blog entries have been focusing on why pagans and witches are very individual people and why personal truth is so important. Today is a bit of a continuation on that theme. Today it’s about why witches and pagans are always seemingly reading a new book or looking for new materials to study,
There is always something new to explore or even something old to reexamine. With in the realms of spiritual practices and spiritual development there is always something new to learn about. There are so many different cultures out there that one can always look to new cultures for further inspiration as to where they would like to go or different types of practices.
I’m going to provide a few cultural examples that you can look at to see what I mean when it comes to looking for new things to study and explore to advance your spiritual practices and development. These are examples of things that I have looked at and thought about for my own personal studies. Though these will only serve as examples. From here I will go back and talk about what exactly this means for you as a seeker and a practitioner.
The first example I am going to cover is that of Germanic Paganism and witchcraft. These are two spiritual and religious paths that are a part of my personal practice that also inspire and help form the products that this business sells. This is also a popular culture to explore spiritually right now with more people having interest in Germanic mythology with new pop culture references.
In Germanic paganism there is a lot of lore that can be explored. Most people start off with the Eddas and Sagas. With in the Eddas and Sagas there are many tales of magical practices and spiritual works. This is where most of the concepts of Modern Germanic worship come from such as the Blot and the Sumbel. The Eddas and Sagas while having an extensive study in themselves, is not the only source of the lore out there.
Many people are familiar with the Grimm’s brothers fairy tales. These fairy tales actually come from the Germanic forests, These fairy tales provide another source of wealth for practicing Germanic Paganism and witchcraft. The tales describe many different spirits and even some of the traditional practices of the Dwarves, Witches, Elves, and other spirits found within Germanic cultures. These tales provide even further keys into the folk knowledge that create the base of witchcraft and other magical practices.
Aside from the fairytale and the Eddas there are other sources of practical information. The Rune poems give inspiration for the practice of rune magic which has been mentioned in the Eddas and the Sagas. By reading the Rune poems a Germanic Pagan begins to study another wealth of information regarding the spiritual practices of the ancient Germanic Pagans.
Even within the Umbrella of Germanic Paganism and practices one could go into even more specific studies. For example one could focus their attention on the continental practices in old Germany and Norway for example. Focusing even further on some of those specific tribes. One person could even focus on the Anglo-Saxon practices (England mostly here for those looking for a region). One could go so far as to say that even the Icelandic practices and tribal setting would have been different.
While each of these tribes had a base shared language and some base cultural similarities, the names for the Gods and even some of the specific practices were different. Though they were similar and related enough that the cultures and tribes were able to trade and intermarry and work successfully together in war and in peace.
Those are just a few examples from the Germanic cultures. There is so much to explore and study within one area of the vast umbrella of Paganism and Pagan spirituality that one will always find something new to learn and study. Even if a person decides to stick to a specific set of cultural practices and identities ( Germanic paths for example) there will always be something to learn.
Here is a set of examples from a different Pagan culture completely. Hellenic Paganism or Greek style Paganism has many different facets. This cultural style of study and practice can be even more difficult and extensive as it is so diverse. You have on one hand the cults for each city state as well as cults of areas.
Greece because of the way it was organized for many years did not have really a cohesive religion for the culture. They had in general a pantheon that they all shared with some common festivals, but each area was highly specific. There were areas where people focused their entire worship on One of the Gods and you had those whose temples were only really visited once a year (The Elysian mysteries for example).
Hellenic pagans from what I have found typically follow one or two specific Gods that are their Patron Gods. While extensive research into the practices of worship in the culture is important in order to form bonds closer to their chosen deities they will most likely focus their attention on studying the cult centers and cult worship of those Gods.
The above examples were specific to Paganism in general as a study. Now I am going to try and give some examples of magical practices from the view of a witch who is always studying and learning. This blog does focus on all of these topics so covering both of these topics in this entry is reasonable.
Within magic and witchcraft there are many different ways to practice and types of practices that one can study. To be honest there are so many options that a newbie often seeking to start practicing witchcraft can feel overwhelmed. Which is why many find that mastering spellcraft can be near impossible and they wonder if they are doing it right.
In magic you have herbalism, crystal and gem magic, Galdar, Seidr, Trance work, summoning, healing work, poppet magic, astral projection, weather work, ect. Often times a person may have so many interests that they can’t figure out where to start and will find that practices can overlap.
I’ll take Herbalism for example. In Herbalism a witch and magician studies the herbs that they work with. They can use them in powders and in potions as well as in oils, lotions, tinctures, soaps, and other types of charms. There is also the healing work with herbalism. Though while one studies making an oil for example they may learn or hear about spell oils from Hoodoo and then start to explore that for further herbal use and practices.
The examples above are one cultures examples of how deep and diverse the study of a cultures religious heritage can be. The above examples also illustrate just one example of why it is impossible to master the spiritual crafts. There will always be something new to learn and explore.
This is also why some witches, Pagans, and spiritual people tend to have rather extensive libraries. Books are used as references in work and in studies and are often to valuable to just borrow from a library when it is needed.
For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian. If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen. Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition. I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans. My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.
The heathens of today are often hard to define. For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path. For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.
You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible. There are several Germanic cultures to choose from. You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes. Each tribe had slightly different lore. By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.
It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from. It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest. Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders. These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette. From these sagas we learn how they lived. That is why they are excellent sources to use. The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:
Right now I am in the process of reading Heimskringla. I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla. Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods. Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.
My Heathen Practice
My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts. Witchcraft as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture. There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki. Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant. That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.
Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning.. These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like. As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative. I have gained much wisdom from those practices. Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.
So what makes me a Heathen? Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun. I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines. The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd. There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.
The Norse were very much a warrior culture. For them it was about honor and the battle. Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless. Yes. The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes. It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.
My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can. It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like. The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry. For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.
What my heathen practice entails
I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism. While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that. My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods. It involves prayers and obviously magic.
I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic. Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes. Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism. It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom. There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.
My practice also entails a lot of study. There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me. My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions. I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual. One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.
The path to wisdom is never ending. This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.