The Rules of Modern Heathenry

When you attend someone else's blot or sumbel, they aren't telling you how you have to do it in your home. As their guest, you are being shown how they do it in their home. I suggest you take that as an honor, to witness and participate in it: not just everyone gets to do that. Whether you would do it their way is entirely beside the point. They are your host, and you are their guest, and it's all good. And you might even see some things you want to transport back into your own practice.

Maybe you're finding yourself thinking something like this right about now: "Yeah, fine, but that's not the way the gods want it done!" Assuming your thought even makes sense, they might answer "No, that's not the way we want it done by you in your home."

A hundred years from now, I envision a Heathen community that has at least two layers in its practice.

The first layer is a fairly standard order of common blots to the major gods, and a standard sumbel. Everybody knows these, with some minor variations. They are used at large gatherings of diverse Heathens, and at smaller functions where it is not clear who the host is or what the guests know. These standard orders are fairly simple and have evolved over time, after a lot of experimentation and tooth-gnashing and forbearance along the way. People have come to assume they will be known and used. They do the job and annoy no one without being bland. To go along with them, there are probably injunctions against hailing non-allied Jotnar such as Fenris and Surt, and if Loki comes into the picture at all, he does so in a way that is considered harmless by those who worry about such things.

The second layer is similar to what we see now, only more so: local groups have their own blots and sumbels, also evolved over time, but maintained with pride and not aiming at commonality with other groups. In this form, people can express themselves to the gods in ways that seem especially appropriate to them. For some people, these might even include Loki, and right out loud. When guests appear, they are asked if they want to use a common rite, or honor themselves and their hosts by participating in the local form. The choice is accepted gracefully, and if the local form is chosen, there is a well-written script, supplied to the guests along with time to read it and a local guide to assist them with their part in it. It's not that there is no wrong way to do it, but there are a great many right ways, and the individual Heathen can be happy to see at least several of them in his lifetime.

And then there is a possible third layer: rites which only members of a local group get to see and be a part of, as a way of strengthening our most personal relationships with other Heathens.

Achieving this will require some effort, and not just once, but as an important part of every Heathen's life. That's because, among adults, anyway, The Rules are not an expression of mere belligerence, but of independent thought that nevertheless welcomes company. The result will be a community that is richer in practice, and stronger as a whole.

The Rules are important. We don't need to abandon them. We just need to look at them a little differently, perhaps recasting them, and we can turn one of our community's biggest liabilities into one of its greatest assets.

5/6/2011 4:00:00 AM
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