K.C. HulsmanBy K.C. Hulsman

In the many years I've been Heathen I've seen the good and the bad of what our religion has to offer. Just as in any group of people, there will always be some who are sweet to your face and who will badmouth you behind your back. I've seen godhi/gythia or other elders who are more concerned with their personal power and ego trip than they are in giving proper homage to the Gods and Goddesses, the ancestors, and the land vaettir. I have heard the gossip mongering; I've seen the buzzing bees flying into open ears trash-talking this set of practices, or that particular person. In other words, at times our religion seems like all the bad things about high school all over again.

When newcomers come into the religion, all too often they're dismissively told to "read the lore" then come back and ask questions. How many people have we driven away from a religion and path that they may have found to be a good fit?

Sometimes I think we have a big public relations problem. We are unfortunately confused at times with Neo-Nazism. Some of the rare occurrences when our religion tends to make the news are because of lawsuits filed by inmates in prison. Even within the general pagan community we are sometimes perceived as being Patriarchial, rather than truly polytheistic. We are even sometimes perceived as being misogynistic, when those who truly know our path can tell you that women are indeed greatly honored in our tradition. I'm sure the fact that we have what I like to call our weekend Viking warriors out there, doesn't help our reputation. I've gone to a gathering or two where the guys do nothing but talk about weapons. Yes, aspects of the warrior are a part of our religion, but a good host-especially one trying to reach out to newcomers-should be making concerted efforts to find a range of topics for discussion.

As much as I love the Northern Tradition, yes we do have our share of problems. Sometimes there can be quite a bit of cat-fighting between some of the ideological fault-lines of our tradition. As someone who worships Loki, I've had my share of vitriol slung my way. I've also had my share of people contacting me behind the scenes, or pulling me aside at gatherings for a private word to tell me they believe as I do but they then ask me to please not mention it. Why? Because if it were known, they'd be outcasts from their group. I think it is a sad fact of our religion that just as some people may live in a broom closet, others live on the top-shelf of that closet. If you look at the number of people subscribed to a list, versus the number of posters, in most cases over 2/3 of that list merely lurk. Religious discourse takes just that: discussion. If we have people too intimidated to speak up or to share their thoughts, doesn't that make us a weaker religion for it? If the most vocal voices are sometimes the most intimidating voices, how does that help us in the long run?

Read More from: The Future of Paganism