Heathen Pathways by Emma Brooks

The mothers

Our Heathen Pathways series aims to tell the stories of how ordinary heathens found their practice and who there influences are. If you would like to contribute send us a message via the contact page 🙂

I remember the first time I became aware of the existence of paganism; I was a child, sat in the back of the car, and as we drove along a road I saw a woman in black velvet robes emerge from behind a tree. I asked if the lady was a witch.

“Oh yeah,” said my dad. “Witches aren’t anything to worry about, they just like circles and worship nature.”

Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism were all we were taught about in school, and the idea that there might be other, stranger, options, appealed to me almost as much as the prospect of a long velvet cloak.

I didn’t do much about it, other than reading pagan forums and webpages as a teenager, and later, when books on physics and atheism sat next to Beowulf and the Eddas on the shelf, I still browsed the pagan and heathen corners of the internet with interest.

It wasn’t until we moved from our flat into a house with a garden that I started to really indulge my weird hippie side. I joined the AUK Facebook group, started meeting up and talking with other heathens, and started celebrating the seasons and making offerings in the garden. Now me and my husband help get local heathens together with the Wiltshire Heathens moots.

I’m not much good at putting things into words, so I’ll attempt to sum up my approach to heathenry with other people’s.

Norwegian musician Einar Selvik said this in an interview –

“I would say that any polytheistic belief is very personal. You can’t compare it to Christianity- where you have more or less one direction. In any heathen belief system it is more individual to what is important to you and what is important in your life. There is no ‘one way’, some fear Odin- some praise Odin. In Asatru it is about your personal relationship with nature and your surroundings.”

-And I think that’s a healthy approach 🙂

Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, High priest of the Icelandic Asatru Association, says this –

“It is a religion. I think it’s a way of looking at life. It’s also how we attach ourselves to creation. The Latin word religio and the verb religare have the meaning of “binding together.” We talk about the gods as höpt or bönd, meaning fetters or ties – they are the ones who bind us to our surroundings, and we are tied and bound to the gods in an intimate way. The nature of the gods is within us, as well, and we can also mirror the [gods].
Nature around us is also a living being, a living force. We can feel it, like with the volcanic thing where we start to anthropomorphize the volcano. We are saying the volcano is reacting to the pressure from the British, and so this is why the British got all the ash over them.
We are really quick at seeing nature before we set a task for [ourselves] – or maybe [nature is] forcing us into doing certain things. I think it’s a very cohesive worldview. We are intimately linked with nature and the forces around us. For some of us, the gods are personifications of natural forces. For others, they are archetypal influences. Then, of course, for others, it’s a nice historical thing because it rhymes with an atheist sort of mindset.”

In my heathenry I try to work on that ‘binding together’, forging healthy relationships with family, community, land, and gods. I’m interested in deep ecology, animism, and panpsychism, as well as polytheism. I’d like to learn more about the folk practices of the pre – Christian Anglo – Saxons, and incorporate them more into my own practice. I believe that Heathenry and Asatru can offer a great deal to those who want to explore it – deep connections, like strong roots, to the landscape, and to history, while still allowing it’s followers space to develop their own ideas.

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