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.
My name is Angelica, and I am an IT analyst working full time for a major financial company. I am a first-generation Filipino-American, which means that my parents immigrated to the United States before I was born. In my free time, I like to write fiction, read sci-fi and fantasy novels, play video games and tabletop games, cook, and write blog posts for this website.
It seems to me I am somewhat atypical, for a Heathen. I don’t like metal or folk music; in fact, my favorite genres are blues rock and the chill lo-fi beats for studying that you find on YouTube. I’m also not fond of the romanticized Viking aesthetic, with furs and facepaint and knotwork jewelry. In fact, I normally look like I stepped out of a hotel conference room with Starbucks.
What kind of Heathenry do you practice?
I practice a blend of Norse and Anglo-Saxon Heathenry. My original studies were of Norse Heathenry, so I’m more familiar with it, but the more I’ve studied it, the more I feel constricted by it. I think the Norse myths are a great resource, but I don’t feel like my practice or understanding of the gods should be defined solely by them. For example, I consider Ragnarök to be a complicated mess that’s easier to disregard from personal cosmology. Also, I worship Frigg and Freyja as two aspects or epithets of the same goddess, instead of different goddesses. The only Norse myth I hold dear to my heart is the binding of Fenrir, since the primary god of my hearth is Tyr the One-Handed.
Did you have a religion before Heathenry? What caused you to leave it?
Actually, I had quite a few religions before Heathenry. I was raised Roman Catholic but became disillusioned by it when I was 12 while preparing to take the Sacrament of Confirmation. My teachers taught me that once confirmed, I would be seen as an adult in the eyes of the Catholic Church, and that I could abstain from undergoing the Sacrament if I didn’t feel ready. I thought this was a reasonable offer, but my parents refused to let me choose for myself. The ultimate lack of agency as a 12-year-old seemed hypocritical to me, so I started to disconnect from Catholicism (and Christianity) because of that.
A year later, I learned about Paganism; specifically, I learned that people still believe in and pray to the gods of ancient civilizations. As a 13-year-old, I thought this was really cool, and I decided to start praying to my favorite god, Anubis, on that day. And so, for a few years afterward, I was a generic, on-and-off Pagan who kept an altar and prayed to Anubis without following any particular religious structure. My “off” periods were marked with atheism, the longest of which spanned three years while I attended college.
Following that, I had a revelation of sorts and became Kemetic, with Anubis as my primary deity. I worshiped as a Kemetic for four years before leaving the religion for various, unrelated reasons. I was a “non-denominational” Pagan for a couple of years after that while I learned about the death acceptance/death positive movement and deepened my relationships with certain death gods. But I always knew this stage of my religious journey would be a pitstop, since I naturally crave structure and ritual.
When did you decide to explore Heathenry as a potential new religion?
In 2016, after I was “floating around” as a generic Pagan for a little while.
What compelled you to look into Heathenry in the first place?
I was researching death gods in various pantheons when I came across the Norse goddess Freyja, who intrigued me with her double associations of death and love. The more I researched her, the more I realized how nuanced she is (as all divinities are), and I became more and more curious about the Norse pantheon and Heathenry. It also helped that I was watching the Vikings TV show at the time, which allowed me an admittedly fictionalized glimpse into the culture of the Norse people.
What made you decide to stick with Heathenry after learning about it?
It was a mix of two things.
First, I read another Heathen’s analysis of Thor, which sparked an interest I previously didn’t have. While I had been fascinated by Freyja and the other Norse goddesses, the gods didn’t stand out to me as interesting because my shallow research of them made them out to be uninspiring, blustering warmongers. But learning that Thor is “the common man’s god,” a protector and hallower, made me reconsider my initial judgment. And it opened me up to the rest of the gods.
Second, a friend of mine suggested I do some research on the god Tyr. I read the myth about the binding of Fenrir and read about different people’s experiences of Tyr, and the resulting revelations were like a shove off a bridge: unexpected, terrifying, adrenaline-pumping.
Has Heathenry influenced your perspective on your role in modern society? If so, how?
Heathenry has made me more aware of my connections to family (both by blood and chosen) and friends, following the ideas of inner yard and outer yard. It has made me more aware, too, of the obligations to those in my inner yard and given me stronger boundaries regarding those in my outer yard. Additionally, my worship of the goddess Frigg and my study of Anglo-Saxon meadhall culture have helped me to better understand and appreciate my “role” as “lady of the house.” I consider myself a feminist, and I have a strong belief that housewives and mothers can be just as successful and influential as women in the workforce. As the primary caretaker of my home and hearth, I have learned to see where authority exists in that domain, and I have begun to embrace it for myself.
Are there any aspects of the Heathen worldview that you felt the need to modernize? Which one(s) and why?
For me, Heathenry’s inherent tribalism fails to answer questions on a civic scale. How should we, as modern Heathens, address globalization? For that matter, Heathenry fails to address modern housing and family dynamics — in the West, at least. My parents came to the United States for greater opportunities, and in doing so, they left their tight-knit community of family and friends in the Philippines. My family moved several times while I was a child, and my siblings and I scattered from home after adulthood. Tribal identity is no longer a thing that matters to many people. That, if nothing else, needs to be modernized.
Do you find yourself focusing more on Heathen beliefs or culture?
I find this an odd question, because I don’t think it’s possible to divorce beliefs and culture. Beliefs and culture influence each other, which is why I believe it is impossible for modern people to practice Heathenry in its ancient form. There can only be modern Heathenry — or, in fact, modern Heathenries, informed by our knowledge of the ancient world and influenced by our modern societies and cultures. Moreover, this marriage of beliefs and culture is why I have the [perhaps unpopular] opinion that it’s not possible to be a “cultural Heathen,” a person who subscribes to the Heathen worldview (wyrd, orlæg, inner yard/outer yard, etc.) yet does not believe in the numinous or engage with them through ritual praxis.
Do your family and friends know about your religion? If they do, are they supportive?
My family knows I am not Christian, but we don’t talk about religion beyond that, so their knowledge of my beliefs is limited. However, they support me being myself, so I can’t complain. My friends, on the other hand, know a lot more, because many of them are Pagans, too, and we all support each other in our religious explorations and practices. Even those friends who are not Pagans or polytheists are respectful of my beliefs, even if they don’t know much about my religion.
What do you think makes your hearth cult unique or personalized?
“Because it’s mine” is the obvious answer, but to expand on that, I have a Germanic-Roman hearth. Vesta is my hearth deity instead of Frigg, and Janus is my gatekeeper — though I only petition him when I am honoring Roman gods. When I only honor Germanic gods, I leave out the gatekeeper petition. Tyr and Frigg are honored as the primary deities of my hearth, but I also honor Mars, who I view as the patron of my entire family line. Ingui (not Freyr) also receives offerings from me as a god of my hearth, though less often as the others do.
And that’s not even touching upon my separate, unrelated Anubis cult.
Have you had any divine experiences (hierophany) that you are willing to share?
My first experience was of a non-Germanic god, but it solidified my belief in the gods back when I was new to polytheist thought. My second experience took place in a holy vé in Canada, as I stood before dedicated god poles of Odin, Freyr, Frigg, and Freyja; and my third occurred at the edge of the ocean in the middle of the night.
How would you say Heathenry has changed your life?
I have always been religious, but Heathenry finally gave me the footing I needed to keep up a regular practice that is both fulfilling and enlivening. I have met many people since becoming a Heathen, touched many lives, and learned so many new things. If nothing else, it has given me a sense of purpose every day.
Is there anyone (Heathen or non-Heathen) you look up to? Why?
Humans are flawed creatures, and to idolize them is folly.
What advice would you give to new Heathens?
Question everything and everyone. If you don’t know what something means, look it up. When you encounter holes in the available information, look at what’s available from contemporaneous religions. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Don’t read the Sagas if you don’t want to. Seriously. It’s not required.
You will always feel silly or stupid whenever you start doing hearth cult rituals, no matter how much you read and prepare beforehand. Confidence comes with time and regular repetition. Also, don’t be afraid of writing down what you want to say first. There’s no shame in reading from a piece of paper.