Highway to Hel
Sometimes when you're talking about religion, the old technology was better. ~ Eileen Laufeyson
I am a Heathen, relatively devout in faith and practice (at least I try to be). I honor the Gods of the Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Germanic peoples. I honor my ancestors. I pour out offerings to the land, the mountains, and the occasional tree. As a priest and shaman, I try to help others to do the same. I am Heathen and I am practicing the indigenous traditions of my ancestors. For those of us coming from Northern European roots, Heathenry (in all its glorious manifestations) is the contemporary adaptation of our indigenous ways. For those not coming from Northern European ancestry, you too, at one point in history, came from an indigenous polytheism.
Think about that for a moment.
If we go back far enough, all of us come from indigenous roots. At one point in our history, all of us had our tribes. We looked at and interacted with the world in a far different way. At one point, if we go far enough back, we all had our animist and polytheistic traditions, rooted in a bone deep recognition of the interconnectedness and sentience of the world around us, in reverence for the ancestors, for the land, and for the Holy Powers and an understanding of our own place in that mix. It may not have been perfect; it may not have been a golden age; but it was far more connected. Reverence was not passé. It was the natural, organic state of being, the natural and necessary way of interacting with the world at large and all the Powers that fill it.
Etymologically, the word "indigenous" means "native" or "innate." It is exactly this inborn naturity that we are referring to when we describe something as an "indigenous tradition." At its most basic, all of us come from somewhere. All of us come from a place, a culture, and a people who walked quite naturally alongside the unseen, the divine, and the mystical. The holy had a place in their lives and there was a culturally ingrained knowledge of how to interact and behave when confronted with it. Though many of us descend from multiple pathways of blood, from a diverse sampling of ancestors (may they all be hailed!), all of our ancestors spring at some point, from indigenous traditions. Heathenry is the contemporary expression of the indigenous traditions of the Scandinavian, Germanic, and Anglo-Saxon peoples. These are the beliefs and practices derived from the natural ways of our ancient predecessors, who for millennia walked in close alignment with their worlds, their deities, and their dead.
Then something happened. Then monotheism came and we, fools that we were, bartered away our birthright. We abrogated our connections to our dead and our Holy Powers. We turned our back on our responsibilities to the land. We ate their poison, drank their Kool-Aid, and allowed the victors to write our histories. This was done so thoroughly that few of us coming from Northern European stock even remember that at one point we had tribes, that at one point we were an indigenous people too.
Then, in the true spirit of sharing (and yes, I mean this with utmost sarcasm), we turned around, came across the ocean, and did unto others exactly what was done to us. We looked upon the indigenous peoples here with the eyes of religious, economic, and political colonizers. We exterminated their traditions, cut them off from their dead, and bred slavery into their bones all in the name of Jesus (and, let's be honest, greed). Indigeny had become twinned in our collective minds with primitivism, lack of reverence, and savagery. We behaved accordingly.
The author of several books on the Northern Tradition, Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, shaman, and devotee of Odin. She blogs at Gangleri's Grove.