The first year of any Heathen’s journey is often tumultuous, characterized by rapid growth as they read books, browse online discussions, and fumble with their first rituals. Some new Heathens decide that the religion doesn’t suit them as well as they expected, but most see their perspectives expand and their lives enriched by their new faith.
For this post, I requested volunteers who were willing to share their thoughts about their explorations thus far. All three individuals who reached out to me have been practicing and studying Heathenry for approximately one year. A huge thank you to all of them for sharing their reflections for this blog post!
For me, Heathenry came after looking into Germanic mythology and yearning for something more than what “traditional” religion offered. I was looking for a practice that focused on the here and now, strong family connections, and community. From what I read, Heathenry seemed to offer that in spades. Starting out, though, there was a lot to wrap my mind around: the gods and goddesses, the gifting cycle, as well as how it all would relate to my day to day life. It was a bit daunting, but I was excited to learn and open to anything.
While still new, it’s a welcome surprise to see how far I’ve come in a year. I started off praying almost solely to Odin and Thor, but now make offerings to a quite diverse group including goddesses like Sif and Sól, my ancestors, and even my local land wights. With help from a truly wonderful online community, I’ve refined my rituals and developed new traditions for my family to share in. In short, my Heathen practice has been central helping me to pull my life back together. Looking forward, I think my biggest project is starting a crop garden dedicated to Thor and Sif. Outside of that, I anticipate another year of healthy growth in my practice and enjoying time with my Heathen community.
I had always been scholarly interested in Iron Age Scandinavia and Bronze Age Germania, so when I left the Church after 14 years, I already had a “stepping stone,” per se, into the culture. I had no expectations coming in because I was in completely foreign waters. I had never met any kind of Pagan, either in life or over the web, so I just took it real slow and kept an open mind about everything. It surprised me that there wasn’t the type of prayer found in Christianity where your belief is enough for your deity to hear and answer your prayers no matter when or where you are, so it’s taken me baby steps to get into hearth rituals for the ancestors, spirits, and gods. I hope that as time goes on I can become comfortable enough with ritual and the gifting cycle that I can take on communing with these forces more frequently and clearly, and to be more open about my faith around my family and strangers.
It all started when the military decided to send me and my family to Germany. This is where I started feeling, for lack of a better term, a spiritual pull/calling to nature in a local forest. As the pull continued to grow, I began down a long rabbit hole of Google searches that eventually lead to my discovering Heathenry.
I don’t really know what I had as far as expectations, a bunch of LARPers I guess. I was just sort of caught off guard that people were actively practicing a religion that, until that point, I assumed was just something I learned in history class. Clearly those assumptions were wrong and the more I read and studied, the more complex I realize heathenry truly is. For the first time, a religion actually made sense to me and I didn’t have to try and justify its messages to fit my moral standards. I sort of just found my place and settled into it like it was where I was meant to be.
I think the thing that surprised me the most is how progressive these “primitive” cultures and religions were. Reading the Eddas and countless other historical findings and texts have really made me analyze how I live my day to day life and how I interact with not only my friends and family but also complete strangers and the world around me. I’m not saying I was a bad person before, I just look at every encounter through different lens now. I’m not sure where Heathenry will lead me but I know it is an adventure I can’t wait to have.