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 María, and I’m born Mexican, raised Singaporean. I’m going to start my undergrad studies later this year, probably in Literature or Psychology. For now, I spend my time helping out at my junior college’s theatre club, giving Spanish classes, reading, and playing RPGs (both tabletop and virtual). And sleeping. A lot of sleeping.
What kind of Heathenry do you practice?
I practice Norse Heathenry, with Freyr, Njörd, and Loki being the deities I venerate most frequently at my hearth, though I interact with the husvættir more often than the gods or my ancestors. I suppose the acceptance of Loki in my hearth sets me apart from most Norse Heathens, but I’ve had a soft spot for him since before I started practicing Heathenry. I also don’t define my view of the gods solely through the Eddas, and tend to base a lot of my interactions with the gods on UPG. I do have a recent growing interest in Hellenism, so perhaps my practice will become more syncretic in the future.
Did you have a religion before Heathenry? What caused you to leave it?
I was baptized into the Catholic Church, as is custom in Mexico, and though my parents were never particularly religious, I did like going to Mass as a child. I suppose it was a way for me to find community and connect to my family and ancestors, who are largely quite religious, but though I always felt there was something out there, the idea of a single all-powerful god never really sat well with me. My interest in the Church faded in my early teens, especially with the newfound realization that I liked girls as well as boys, and would not like to be condemned to hell for my sexuality.
When did you decide to explore Heathenry as a potential new religion?
I suppose I started poking around new religions after leaving Catholicism, and an interest in witchcraft led me to the discovery of Paganism. Though all that remains of my witch days is an ever-growing collections of crystals and shiny rocks, it did open the door for me to explore the different pagan religions, which led me to Ásatrú. I was hesitant to call myself Ásatrú for a while — though I believed in the gods, I was wary of the unwelcoming community, especially considering that I am very much not Northern European and very much a solo practitioner. I eventually stumbled on the r/heathenry subreddit a few years later and found a much more welcoming religion that fit better with my worldview.
What compelled you to look into Heathenry in the first place?
I was always quite drawn to polytheistic traditions and myths, especially as I grew up hearing Mexica and Norse myths, and went through phases of obsession with Egyptian and Roman societies and mythology. I did however have a particular love for the Norse gods, and was extremely excited to learn there was an actual group of people that worshiped them!
What made you decide to stick with Heathenry after learning about it?
The concepts basic to Heathen beliefs really clicked with what was already part of my worldview, and so I felt like I found a place to grow and explore without having to drastically shift the foundations of how I perceive the world. The community was also definitely an added bonus. Community is a large part of spirituality for me, and having such a welcoming and accepting community on the Skíðblaðnir Discord server has definitely helped me find my place.
Has Heathenry influenced your perspective on your role in modern society? If so, how?
It has definitely caused me to give more thought to why I do and believe certain things. I am more conscious about how I treat my relationships with people and my communities, and who I choose to keep frith with.
Are there any aspects of the Heathen worldview that you felt the need to modernize? Which one(s) and why?
Frith, innangard and utangard, definitely. While there are groups that rigidly keep to these concepts, they can lead to toxicity in a community. I don’t believe frith should be extended to people just because they are of blood, or that it should be maintained even if the person is abusive. Similarly, I don’t think maintaining innangard and utangard rigidly can accommodate modern relationships. We no longer live in a world where all you have is the family around you, and outsiders should be treated with suspicion. Perhaps that’s just my being a naïve kid living in one of the safest places on Earth, but I think these concepts need to be treated more flexibly to fit with the dynamics of modern relationships. While that does seem to be the case for most people, the fact that people still entertain the idea of maintaining frith with abusive family or kindred members is rather troubling.
Do you find yourself focusing more on Heathen beliefs or culture?
Both. Beliefs influence culture as I see it, so I don’t really see a difference between the two.
Do your family and friends know about your religion? If they do, are they supportive?
My mum and some of my closest friends know and are supportive, if not at least tolerant. I’m lucky to have a very open-minded mother who has been okay with my coming out, religion changes, and all the weird phases I went through in Secondary School. I always test the waters first before telling anyone, considering I live in a rather conservative country which, despite having freedom of religion, isn’t really open to new things. I see religion as a rather personal thing, and I generally won’t even mention my own unless it is brought up.
What do you think makes your hearth cult unique or personalized?
By its nature, each hearth’s cult is unique, I think. I suppose that the Mexican elements included in mine make it, well, mine. I offer cinnamon, tequila, yerba santa, chocolate, and beans to my ancestors; my altar is decorated with clay sugar skulls and a painting of a Xoloitzcuintle (psychopomps in Mexica belief); and I’ve replaced Vetrnætr with Dia de los Muertos, with an extra day at the end for Freyr. Apart from the husvættir, I honor the local land wights at traditional Taoist/Folk Chinese tree shrines, as there’s one in my neighborhood. I also place offerings outside at the joss burning drums along with everyone else during Hungry Ghost Festival on the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when it is believed the dead wander amongst us. I grew up taking part in Buddhist and Taoist celebrations, so I’m not hesitant to bring that into my hearth cult.
Have you had any divine experiences (hierophany) that you are willing to share?
How would you say Heathenry has changed your life?
I’m happier. Doing weekly hearth cult ritual has brings me a sense of peace and fulfillment, and I feel like I’ve become more open to new things and information. I have met so many wonderful people through Heathenry and learnt so much about myself, my relationships, and the world around me.
Is there anyone (Heathen or non-Heathen) you look up to? Why?
My mother and her parents. They are/were resilient, smart, humble, and always put their loved ones first, and have always been open minded and welcoming. Also Diogenes of Sinope.
What advice would you give to new Heathens?
Anything I would say my friend Tora has put perfectly in her blog post, “To Tora.”
I’d also add that its okay not to have the answer to everything immediately, and to be open to new ideas and concepts.