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.
Hi, I’m Wōdgār. I’m a 32-year-old half-centaur whose unbridled charm is matched only by my rugged handsomeness. Women want me and men want to be me. I run a blog called Sundorwīc and am 50% of Lārhūs Fyrnsida (the other 50% being Marc).
For our perfect date, we’d start out at a restaurant, where I would treat you to the finest things on the menu; perhaps a Cheesy Gordita Crunch, or a Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Supreme. For our next stop, I’d take you to a place of culture — like a museum or zoo — where I’d regale you with various witticisms and anecdotes. The sexual tension between us would become so palpable, we would reluctantly give into our irrepressible lust and end up making passionate love near the monkey enclosure. True story.
What kind of Heathenry do you practice?
I practice Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, or Fyrnsidu, and refer to myself as “Fyrnsidere.” Given the dearth of information we have at our disposal regarding native Anglo-Saxon practice and belief, I tend to utilize a lot of other pre-Christian, European sources for comparative study. Etruscan theological concepts have been particularly influential in helping me shape my own theology and understanding of divinity. Etruscans were very much immanent polytheists who believed that the cosmos was laid out in such a way that there was no space that was not controlled by some numinous being. Think of it like an endless grid, where each square in this grid would fall under the purview of a specific God or divine being — thus creating a reality where Gods are everywhere, doing godly things for their godly purposes. Only through ritual action was it believed the Gods could be diverted in some way from their path.
“Whereas we believe lightning to be released as a result of the collision of clouds, they believe that the clouds collide so as to release lightning: for as they attribute all to deity, they are led to believe not that things have a meaning insofar as they occur, but rather that they occur because they must have a meaning.”
— Seneca the Younger on the Etruscans
Did you have a religion before Heathenry? What caused you to leave it?
I grew up in what I would consider an agnostic/atheist household. My mum was vaguely spiritual, believing in things like spirits and fate, and my father was avowedly atheist and extremely hostile toward the Catholic faith he was raised in. Religion was a taboo topic in our house because of this hostility, so I didn’t really start exploring it in earnest until I was in my early 20s. I was (and still am) a big fan of old samurai films and became particularly interested in Zen Buddhism once I’d moved out on my own. I read a bit on Rinzai and Soto Zen, thought it seemed pretty neat, and decided to try my hand at meditation and mindfulness practice. I kept this up with varying degrees of success for a year or two (sitting zazen is hell on the hips), when I began to branch out and pick up books on other religions. One of the religions that really piqued my interest was Shinto. Shinto’s immanent animism really jibed with how I viewed the world and I made it my mission to find something similar that wasn’t intrinsically linked to a culture that I was in no way a part of.
When did you decide to explore Heathenry as a potential new religion?
It wasn’t until I picked up copies of Germania, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and one of Barry Cunliffe’s books on Celts from my local library that things started to coalesce. I thought, “I wish there were people who still practiced these religions and worshipped these Gods!” and as it turned out, there were. (Cue cinematic training montage with Foreigner’s Juke Box hero playing in the background.)
What compelled you to look into Heathenry in the first place?
The aforementioned books and a serious interest in history and my own genealogy.
What made you decide to stick with Heathenry after learning about it?
I started out the same way most newcomers do. I was overeager, uneducated, and completely unsure what to do or how to do it. Most people are put off by the homework aspect associated with a reconstructed religion, but I absolutely loved it, and I genuinely think my inherent need to learn everything and “do it correctly” kept/keeps me focused.
Has Heathenry influenced your perspective on your role in modern society? If so, how?
I mean, it has certainly made me more aware of how I deal with people in my family and immediate social circles, what with the emphasis Heathenry places on familial obligation, action, and reciprocity. I’m not sure it has really changed the way I view my role in the greater civic construct, though. When dealing with people outside my family or “sibb,” I guess I just try to act in a way that won’t reflect poorly on them, or put them in a position where they’ll have to deal with unnecessary bullshit — “try” being the operative word here.
Are there any aspects of the Heathen worldview that you felt the need to modernize? Which one(s) and why?
They all require a level of modernizing if we’re to make this a living, breathing thing for the 21st century. It’s about taking that tribal worldview and trying to adjust it and apply it to our time, a time which is both globalized and increasingly disconnected — a weird dichotomy, I know.
I know some people have taken to constructing “kindreds” or “tribes,” wherein they can enact worldview with like-minded individuals. While I think this approach definitely has its merits, I also think it runs the risk of being overly anachronistic and ultimately unrealistic for people who do not live in close proximity of other Heathens.
Instead, we need to realize no one is an island and everyone has family (blood or otherwise) and social bonds where worldview can be practiced. This isn’t 500 AD, so we don’t need to join a comitatus to practice frith or do ut des.
Do you find yourself focusing more on Heathen beliefs or culture?
I assume by culture, you’re referring to worldview? I don’t know that I see a distinction, and historically speaking, there definitely wouldn’t have been one. My beliefs permeate everything I do, whether it be painting a picture or shopping for groceries – they are always present and informative.
I know there was a concerted effort at one point to push worldview at the expense of belief (i.e. as long as you practice the worldview, the belief is unnecessary). I wholeheartedly disagree(d) with this approach, as it opened the doors to atheists and archetypalism. Instead, I think it is important to approach the religion holistically and in a balanced manner, as both things are needed for the whole to work.
Do your family and friends know about your religion? If they do, are they supportive?
Some do, some don’t. I tend not to talk politics or religion too often, even with family and friends. My immediate family knows I’m Heathen and have been pretty supportive of it, but it’s not like I’m waltzing around proselytizing or demanding some sort of recognition from people. I regularly intercede and make offerings on my family’s behalf, and nobody I’ve told this to has requested I stop, which I will take as silent support. :laugh emoji:
What do you think makes your hearth cult unique or personalized?
Everyone’s hearth cult is unique by virtue of the fact that no two families or households are exactly alike. Mine is unique in that the ancestors I petition are my own and unique to me and my family. It’s also unique because I am likely the only guy who regularly gives cult to Wada (though that may have changed since I wrote my article about Him). I also have a particular affinity for liminal and chthonic deities, which is likely why I view the Gods as being somewhat primordial and frightening. Spooky rusticity for the win!
Have you had any divine experiences (hierophany) that you are willing to share?
Most of what I’d consider hierophany has occurred via dreams. It was actually because of a dream that I decided to give cult to Wada and Frīg in the first place and is also the reason I ended up syncretizing Wada and the British God, Nodens ultimately. Oneiromancy is particularly fascinating to me because of this and I often record my dreams to look for patterns and possible meanings.
Hierophany is inherently subjective, though, so what might seem like mundane happenstance to one person, can seem like a life-altering experience to another. The Gods are everywhere and do what they do, so who’s to say they can’t manifest through dream, or through the flight pattern of a flock of birds? The modern propensity to limit what the Gods can and cannot do and who/what they can and cannot interact with is a bit presumptuous and doesn’t really agree with the immanent polytheism I practice.
How would you say Heathenry has changed your life?
It sounds kind of cliché, but it really has provided me with purpose. Not only has it inspired me to lift the veil and look past “the seen,” and the mundane, but it also inspired me to read, write, paint, create music, etc. etc. I’m in a constant state of absorbing new information, letting it rattle around my head a bit, and then spewing it out through one medium or another. I used to do all of those things before, but I never knew what I wanted to paint, or write, or read. Thanks to Heathenry, now I know.
Is there anyone (Heathen or non-Heathen) you look up to? Why?
Groucho Marx and Ötzi the Iceman.
What advice would you give to new Heathens?
If you encounter an aggressive bear in the wild, make sure to keep a calm head and observe your surroundings. A tall tree may be all that stands between you and a hungry grizzly. It’s important that you do not turn and run, as this may trigger their predatory instinct. Back up slowly until you reach a place of safety. Don’t forget to pack your bear spray!!