Future of Paganism
Heathens Moving Forward: Moving Past Our Differences
Sometimes I think we waste valuable energy on politics, backstabbing, cat-fighting, and mud-slinging, energy that we could otherwise be channeling into projects that build us up rather than tear us down. I can recall instances of public speaking engagements for Heathens (some local pagan-friendly church, a bookstore, or even an academic conference) where Heathens of another ideological fault-line will show up for the pure purpose of heckling and disrupting. If we take a look at other religions and examine their thriving grassroots initiatives and charities, we are floundering in an abyss mostly of our own making.
I know we have it in ourselves to be so much more than what we are. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (and later Hurricane Rita), the *Frige Fund was initiated to respond to this great crisis. The Frige Fund (currently inactive) is not to be confused with a charity, but rather had been established as a means to build *frith throughout the great Heathen community. Heathen women in kindred in one state might knit little booties that would later be used in a care package to welcome new Heathen babies into the world. But when Katrina happened, the lady in charge of the fund, Tee, went into action. As one of our elders in the Northern Tradition, she has many contacts throughout the U.S. and throughout the different groups and organizations. Using her vast network she was soon coordinating monetary donations, clothing, linen, toiletries, furniture, safe havens, and more for numerous heathen families as well as providing support for needed items for a Louisiana police department. I can personally attest to dropping off donations at her house, and watching the goods taking over multiple rooms in her house from floor to ceiling, to the point you could barely move in the house. When I dropped by again a couple of weeks later, her house was stuffed with an entirely different array of boxes, and several weeks after that things had returned to normal after she'd mailed everything off.
During this period of time the ideological fault-lines fell away, the politics and cat-fighting were mostly put where they belong: out of the way. What we saw was a tremendous outpouring and response from all sectors of the Heathen community toward others in need. To my mind, that was one of our finest hours, and much credit must be given to Tee for somehow organizing everything between those who generously gave and those who were so desperately in need.
My hope for our future is to see us grow, to see the cat-fighting disappear. Do I ever believe we'll have one homogeneous religion? No. That didn't even exist in antiquity. But I would like us to move beyond our differences, accept the fact that we have them, and work together to build up the community for those things that we do have in common.
This is not a foreign concept to our ways. If we look to our history, there is a prime example of this principal at work. In 1000 CE while Iceland was on the verge of civil war, torn between the contentious Christians and those who loyally clung to their ancestral ways, it fell to the Icelandic national assembly known as Althing and the national leader of it at the time Thorgeirr to determine the fate of his fellow countrymen. King Olaf Tryggvason, who had quite a staunch reputation for slaughtering those who did not convert to Christianity, backed the Christians. Thorgeiir, with Solomon-like wisdom, after much contemplation ‘under the cloak' delivered the answer: Iceland would become Christian, but people could continue to practice their ancestral ways in the privacy of their own home. The wisdom of this edict would become overshadowed in later years as Christians became intolerant even to this tiny religious freedom. But it demonstrates to my mind, a heathen concept... that the frith-building of our community is more important than petty squabbles.