The religion website Patheos has an interview with Galina Krasskova, who calls herself a “free range tribalist Heathen.” The interview is titled “Heathen Piety” and it presents some good insight into contemporary Heathenism, a tradition with which I have very little first-hand knowledge.
Krasskova describes herself as a “god-slave” – she does not merely follow Odin or honor him or serve him, she is “owned” by him. I’ve been a UU for a good while now – I’m a strong believer in individual autonomy and I shuddered when I first read that description. But she explains it as an extremely committed devotion, and in other writings (her website is here) makes it clear this isn’t everyone’s calling.
While this is extreme, in many ways it’s a welcome change from the casual approach to spirituality prevalent among most folks of all religious persuasions. Here are a couple quotes I find particularly informative:
“We’re conditioned in many ways to assume that spirituality should make us feel good, should not inconvenience us, should be about what we want to do, not what might be necessary.”
“I think that the Modern Pagan movement would benefit greatly from embracing the idea that sometimes it is right and proper to pour out an offering, or do a ritual, or say a prayer not for any gain, but because it is the right and respectful thing to do [her emphasis, not mine]. We need to remove ourselves from the equation. Without knowing it, we can be so tremendously self-centered, and while the Gods can bring immense healing, there’s more to religious practice than free self-help.”
It would be easy to recast Krasskova’s words into the context of dedicated and selfless service to the community and to the world. Certainly that’s one aspect of Divine service. But her commitment flows out of her hard polytheism – the belief that the gods and goddesses of our ancestors are real, unique, individual beings and not simply aspects of one great Mother/Father/Creator. Her slavery – which she wears as a badge of honor – must be understood in that context.
Further, this whole arrangement wouldn’t be possible without her hierarchical worldview. Here’s another quote:
“Part of it is about knowing one’s place … knowing who is below you so you know who you have an obligation to protect and mentor; knowing who is above you so you know who to go to for help, who is deserving of respect as an elder. We’ve lost this. We’ve lost even the sense that it is something to be valued.”
I don’t share Krasskova’s worldview and I’m not likely to declare myself a god-slave to Danu or Cernunnos or anyone else. But there is much we can learn from her about the commitment necessary to move from ordinary spirituality to extraordinary mysticism.