Heathens in Profile is a monthly blog series featuring the lives and practices of self-identifying Heathens across the world, in an effort to dismantle the stereotype of Heathens as looking a certain way and living a certain lifestyle. The individuals featured in this blog series come from all walks of life and have differing perspectives of the world, but nevertheless all consider themselves Heathen. All answers to the series questions are their own words.
Tell us a bit about yourself, such as what you do for a living, what your hobbies are, what your favorite books/movies/TV shows are — anything you feel comfortable sharing.
Roland: I’m Roland, a.k.a. Widukinding on the Skíðblaðnir Discord server and r/Heathenry subreddit, where I help as one of the moderators. I am employed as an assistant manager of general merchandise at a larger grocery store. I enjoy comics, linguistics, coins, history documentaries, and woodworking, and I am a constant reader of literally everything Stephen King has ever written.
Liv: My name is Liv (in Skíðblaðnir, I go by Skāp). I am a massage therapist, a wife, and a mother. I love making things with my hands so I’m always knitting some little thing or baking something. Some of my favorite books are The Dark Tower series by Stephen King and Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I’ve been watching a lot of Lucifer on Netflix when I’m not being forced to watch Hilda with my son.
What kind of Heathenry do you practice?
Roland: It might be accurate to describe our practice as Saxon or maybe Ingaevonic, as it draws heavily from both Continental Saxon and Anglo-Saxon sources, supplemented by Frisian and other continental information where it is known. In practice, though, we’re so similar to Anglo-Saxon Heathenry that I like to joke that we’re Anglo-Saxon Heathens with funny pronunciations.
Did you have a religion before Heathenry? What caused you to leave it?
Roland: I used to attend a very conservative fundamentalist Baptist church. During those years, I had a rigorous routine of reading four chapters (sometimes more) of the Bible every day. One Old Testament, one New Testament, one in Psalms and one in Proverbs — everyday. I enjoyed it quite a bit at the time, but the way people at the church talked about other people, other cultures, other religions started to weigh on me. I started to see how insular, xenophobic, and just generally toxic they were there, so I left. I was an obnoxious atheist for a long time after that.
Liv: I was raised Baptist until I was allowed to stop going to church at 13. I was not thrilled with Christianity. Then, for a long time, I was an atheist. The worst kind of atheist. You know the kind. Then Roland brought up Heathenry and we started to explore it together.
When did you decide to explore Heathenry as a potential new religion?
Liv: Just before our son was born, we were talking about holidays. We wanted to celebrate them in our new home with our children, but we didn’t want to engage in Christianity and associated themes. So we looked into a lot of holiday traditions from all over. The idea was we would remain atheist but celebrate a variety of holidays. Naturally, we began looking into the Pagan origins of certain holidays. Since so many holidays in English-speaking countries are based on old Germanic Pagan holidays, we focused on Heathenry.
What compelled you to look into Heathenry in the first place?
Roland: After researching the Pagan origins of so many holidays, I began to read about modern Pagan movements and I was enamored. I have always had an interest in Germanic mythology, so Heathenry seemed right for me. As I began to read about the deeper concepts beyond the mythology, I became set in that decision. The worldview felt so intuitive to me.
Liv: I felt like I was missing something in my life. Something to connect with. I had been struggling with depression more than usual and felt it was time to find something to believe in. So, when Roland suggest we look into Heathenry, I was really interested. Polytheism makes so much sense to me.
What made you decide to stick with Heathenry after learning about it?
Roland: I read as much as I could and started to feel some spark that I’d never felt before, not even with those four [Bible] chapters per day. The practice, concepts, and worldview have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on my life. It’s been about two years now and I’m very happy with Heathenry as a religion and a lifestyle.
Liv: It felt right. After our first offering, I knew it was right for me. It was the first time I felt secure in my beliefs. It also really aligns with my worldview and my emphasis on family. The orthopraxic nature of Heathenry is another factor that made me stick with it. Having a religion based on correct action and behavior rather than in believing the right version of the “Truth” really resonated with me.
Has Heathenry influenced your perspective on your role in modern society? If so, how?
Roland: People say one of the goals in Heathenry is to be a good descendant to your ancestors, and to be a good ancestor to your descendants. The way I was raised there wasn’t a lot of emphasis placed on a family unit; everyone was out for themselves. I think Heathenry has strengthened my resolve to be a good father, a good husband, and a good man. My role in society is to do what I can for the well-being of my family and hearth.
Liv: Being a massage therapist, I feel especially connected with Frīg as a caretaker. I often view my work as devotional to her. Since I started Heathenry, I have felt like I am in the right place with my profession. There is no greater feeling of fulfillment than someone leaving an appointment with less stress and pain.
Are there any aspects of the Heathen worldview that you felt the need to modernize? Which one(s) and why?
Roland: I think nearly every concept we have is ready for modernization. Much of what we know and do is based on a world entirely different than where we are today. For example, the much discussed concepts of frith and inner yard/outer yard — in ancient times, keeping to these concepts was the difference between life and death. If someone close treated you badly, it was still important to maintain that bond or else you could be out and alone fending for yourself without the safety of the core group. That’s just not the case now. Modern societies have safety nets. They aren’t perfect, but a person can easily find caring strangers (outer yard!?) when faced with terrible situations caused by those close to them. I’ve been told that “frith is inviolable” … well, maybe then it was, but in a society like our own, a peace-bond can be broken. A person betrayed by family has places to go now. So I think frith needs re-evaluation in a modern context.
Do you find yourself focusing more on Heathen beliefs or culture?
Roland: We definitely focus on the beliefs more than the culture. We live in a very different culture and type of society than our ancestors and we accept that. We appreciate what came before, but we have to live our lives in the present. Culture and religion can and should be linked, but we feel that we should all accept our place in the modern world and discover how Heathenry works into that.
Do your family and friends know about your religion? If they do, are they supportive?
Roland: We’re openly Pagan and our family is more or less apathetic to it. We don’t have any horror stories, but we also don’t have any heartwarming stories of encouragement.
Liv: My family knows I’m Pagan, but it’s pretty clear they don’t understand it. None of them have really questioned me about my beliefs. I believe my father saw that I was wearing a Mjölnir necklace and asked me, “So, what, are you Pagan now?” And when I told him yes, he just nodded.
What do you think makes your hearth cult unique or personalized?
Roland: We perform hearth cult as a family activity. Beforehand, we all three wash our faces together, and while I place the offerings and speak, Liv holds our son who will usually whisper, “Wow, oh wow,” as he watches. It’s honestly one of the most adorable things I’ve seen. I’m very excited for the time to come where he can participate more actively. This is very much the family religion for us.
Liv: I tend to make informal offerings outside of regular hearth cult. Little moments of animism where I make a quick offerings without the full ritualized actions.
Have you had any divine experiences (hierophany) that you are willing to share?
Roland: When we went to a local honey festival a few weeks after I “officially” became Heathen, I remember sitting under a large oak holding my newborn as I spoke to my wife about Frīg. Then the world felt like it had stopped. It all felt heavy on me, but in the most comforting way. It really is hard for me to describe, but I felt divinity with me in that moment.
Liv: I’ve had a few, but I feel the one that stands out to me the most was throwing an offering for Thunar into a storm. We were receiving tornado watches that were meant to last several more hours. I was feeling really antsy so I decided to throw an offering into the wind and ask for protection. Within minutes, the storm that was predicted to last hours had stopped, and everything was unnaturally calm in the world. Like Roland said, I felt divinity with me then.
How would you say Heathenry has changed your life?
Roland: I worry less about the future and concentrate more on personal relationships today. I focus on maintaining a cordial and hospitable demeanor in my day-to-day life. I concern myself with my reputation to those close to me now and try to be as helpful and friendly as I can to all.
Liv: It has made me think more about my relationships and how I foster them. I love giving gifts and Heathenry has made me really think about who I give to, whether that is time or something tangible. If I feel the relationship is not mutually maintained, I may be hesitant to gift to a person again. I have really begun to value myself and realize that I do not need to keep ties with people who don’t appreciate me.
Is there anyone (Heathen or non-Heathen) you look up to? Why?
Roland: Marc and Wōdgār. The Lārhūs Fyrnsida website was immensely important to me while I was a new heathen (and it still is!). Getting to know the two of them after they made such an impact on my faith still leaves me a little giddy.
Liv: Angelica. She is very knowledgeable and well researched. She is also skilled at making difficult concepts easy to understand.
What advice would you give to new Heathens?
Roland: Don’t ever be afraid to ask a question. Everyone was new once and we all had to have someone’s help to learn what we know. Ask a thousand questions if you have to, because that’s how to learn.
Liv: Don’t get too hung up on the finer details. There is not a lot to go on historically, so just do your best and go with what feels right. The past gets a vote, not a veto.