Wyrd Words: Feminism in Heathenry

 

Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, here on Agora!

 

I recently saw a fellow author here at Patheos Pagan get put through the wringer on the channel’s Facebook Page. I watched people completely dismiss Crystal Blanton‘s work without even reading it, because she dared to declare herself a Feminist. Not that the article had anything at all to do with Feminism, they just decided that she couldn’t possibly have anything valuable to say because she supports equality for women. What really got me was that I saw fellow Heathens doing this! I saw people I recognized as regular followers on my own page doing this. I can’t even really wrap my head around that, unless these people really don’t have any idea what Feminism ACTUALLY MEANS. So I’m making a statement here, just for clarity.

 

I am a Feminist, and my Feminism is reinforced by my Heathenry

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 Skaði as a Feminist Role Model

 

The Lore has a lot of great role models, but if you want to see what actual Feminism really looks like, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than the goddess Skaði. Skaði is a giantess who eventually becomes a member of the Aesir. She is unconcerned with gender roles or expectations, and doesn’t allow others to define her. Despite the brevity of her story and relatively minor roll in the whole of the Eddas, she comes across as a fully developed and powerful person.

 

She’s a Warrior and a Hunter

Skaði is most often revered as a goddess of the hunt, winter, and vengeance. After the Aesir killed her father Thjazi for his gold, she decided to seek a Wergild (Restitution via blood or gold). So the Lore says that Skaði donned a helmet, some chain mail, and took up “all the weapons of war” and MARCHED ON ASGARD. She didn’t take a Jötunn army, she didn’t sneak in the back, she took up her weapons and marched on the front gate by herself. This is the citadel of the Aesir! Home to Odin the Allfather, Tyr the god of war, and Thor the ‘Giant Slayer’; and this one lone giantess decided to take them all on. The Aesir were so intimidated by her that they offered to give her whatever she wanted as restitution. One lone giantess against all the forces of Asgard, and Asgard surrendered.

 

She’s Unrestricted in her Sexuality

Skaði has a number of lovers over the course of various legends. She was briefly married to Njord, god of the sea, but divorced him when she discovered that they could not live together happily. She then has a number of flings with other Aesir including Ullr, Odin, and possibly even Loki. At no point is this ever questioned or denounced in the Lore. Skaði belongs to no one, and sleeps with whom she pleases just as any of the men among the Aesir are known to do. In fact, the only person to ever call her sexual relations into question was Loki, who ended up bound and tormented in Helheim for the offense.

 

She’s a Mother

Skaði has a number of children with various gods among the Aesir. Most of these are never named, but we know she ends up with a sizable family. This does nothing to hamper her free spirit or her notoriety as a fierce fighter. No one ever questions how she can be both of these things at once, it’s simply accepted that she can be both a devoted mother AND a still perform her duties as a warrior for the Aesir. On top of that, her role as a mother is never used to put an end to her love life. Even after having several children with Odin, she still has a number of other relationships despite being a full time mother and a warrior.

 

She is treated as an equal by the men of the Aesir. No one ever questions her role, or her place as a woman. She’s never hounded by questions of how she manages to juggle her family life and her work life. She’s never shamed for having multiple sexual partners, or for being unwilling to ‘settle down’ after her divorce. She has depth and is accepted as she is. She is both beautiful and fierce, intelligent and caring, free-spirited and loyal. She’s a fully developed person who can’t be fit neatly into some standardized little box of femininity.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of her story is that her gender isn’t ignored, repressed, or replaced. She’s never made out to be a man, or ‘manly’. Her gender is never belittled or diminished in little caveats like: she’s strong ‘for a woman’ or fierce ‘despite being a woman’. She’s recognized as a woman, but given the same freedoms and treatment as her male counterparts. In short, she is treated as a person.

 

 

THIS IS FEMINISM

It’s not the belief that women are better than men, it’s got nothing to do with being ‘PC’, it’s not a plea for special treatment, it is a demand for equality. Feminism is the right to be viewed as a human being rather than a representation of your gender. Our predecessors a thousand years ago understood this when they wrote these stories. When people argue against Feminism, what they are actually saying is that they are opposed to treating women as people.

So to those Heathens who chose to denigrate or ignore a brilliant author because she’s a Feminist, I ask you: If it was good enough for the ancestors, and it’s good enough for our gods, what the Hel your excuse?

 

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