Building Inclusive Heathenry

The Troth has long held a vision of Inclusive Heathenry which has been central to both its organizational purpose and culture. We believe that there is room under our roof beams for those of many heathen traditions and understandings of the many tribal cultures left to us by our ancestors, and indeed, various visions of their rebuilding and rebirth in our own generations. We do not accept that there is a definition of Heathen that is based on the labels that our North American culture seems compelled to divide itself along; we do not accept the artificial, arbitrary, and flawed view of race that has been brought into heathenry from various racist groups who attempted to usurp our symbols and lore to rebrand an 19th and early 20th century Christian racism with new heathen trappings, and pretend that the “white race” was not an invention of this continent and this past two centuries. We understand that our gods and goddesses present us with no single vision of how to be a good and worthy man or woman, so we reject utterly the idea that you must conform to gender roles and sexuality norms that are honestly based on the mythology of the 1950’s post WWII North American culture than any ancestral understanding of gender or sexuality.

Inclusive Heathenry does limit itself by race, gender understanding, or expressed affectional choice. It is not Universalist, as Inclusive Heathenry is not a catch all that will hold every person who does not self describe as Christian, Muslim, or Jew. Inclusive Heathenry does limit itself to those who revere the teachings, practices, gods, goddesses of the Germanic and Norse tribes. Inclusive Heathenry also limits itself to those who respect that those who respect and accept that persons of any race, gender, or expressed affectional choice who revere the teachings, practices, and gods of the north are heathen. If you cannot accept that persons of a given racial, gender, or sexual orientation label have a right to be heathen, then you are not an Inclusive Heathen by our understanding.

The Troth built for itself an Inclusive Heathen community, but as worthy a deed as this is, the question becomes, is it enough?

No.

It is not enough that our community is an Inclusive Heathen community, for as much as we are an Inclusive Heathen community, the last word, community is an accurate one. We have our own thew, our own belief and practice. There are many who agree with our stance on Inclusive Heathenry who are not part of our Troth community, either because they do not feel the need for connections beyond their local, or because some point of their own thew or practice differs from ours. There are a thousand ways to be good and worthy heathens, not all of them will fit under the banner of a single hall, even The Troth’s.

There are groups out there who seek to pervert our religion as a tool to further their own racial/political agenda. It is a sad truth that there are many more people looking for reasons to justify their own prejudice than there are seekers of any one religious truth, as a result, it is far too easy to find a group who will teach you how to justify your hatred using bits and pieces of lore out of context, and how to brand it with runes stolen from a faith they don’t have any intention of learning.

It is not enough that The Troth has built an inclusive hall, nor is it enough that we openly and continually oppose the misuse of our religion and its symbols by the alt-right and white power hate groups. We do not have the luxury of standing alone, while our enemies actively band together to spread their messages of hate.

There are many Inclusive Heathen communities. The standard for Heathen communities in my lifetime has evolved into a thousand variations of inclusive heathenry, in each local and ethnic flavour imaginable. With Declaration 127, the Troth joined its voice to those of 180 organizations of twenty different nations, representing everything all the myriad traditions within heathenry, in stating that we oppose our religion, its symbols, gods and lore from being used to further discrimination or hatred based on race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.

This was the first time the entire Heathen community came together and spoke with one voice to state for the whole world to hear, that the modern heathen community is an inclusive heathen community. From Canada to Venezuela, Austria to Australia, and every corner of the US; whatever doctrinal differences we like to argue about, we are united in the understanding that heathenry is inclusive by nature. Other groups practicing racial politics dressed up as religion were called out for it, and indeed cast out for it.

Building Inclusive Heathenry begins at home, at your own heart and hearth, in your own kindred and hall. It does not end there, not if we wish to protect our good name, our heritage, and our works from being stolen and tainted by those who simply wish to mine them for coverings for their hatred. To build inclusive heathenry into a whole and healthy culture, where each of the many groups who banded together under Declaration 127 can share and work together requires work in building bridges of understanding, in building an understanding of the many different ways we have individually found to express inclusive heathenry.

The Troth took part with various European and North American partners to put on Frith Forge, to bring Inclusive Heathen organizations from Europe and North America together to build an understanding between our two branches of heathen culture, and to begin to dispel some of the misunderstandings and stereotypes that have made cooperation between us difficult for so long.

It is not enough to stand alone, or even to look at your own inclusive hall and know you have got that part right. We, as Heathens, must deal with two very real issues about messaging. First, the outside world will judge those who self-identify as Heathen by what the outside world understands that to mean. If we allow racists to control the messaging, using our symbols and holy names unopposed, we allow them to become synonymous to the outer world with racist, homophobic, and misogynist views put forth by groups which we have already established do not speak for heathenry. Second, if we allow our symbols and holy names to be used unopposed to publish hate literature disguised thinly as religious doctrine, we risk allowing this toxic lie to be the only form of information about heathenry that newcomers are able to readily access.

We must work harder at getting our own messages out there, must be better at making our own information easily found, and our own groups easily contacted by seekers who are looking to learn about heathenry.

One last thing we must do, and as a community, this will require letting go of some toxic behaviors we have tolerated too long. We must stop attacking each other over doctrinal differences. If we agree on the principals of Inclusive Heathenry, and we agree on roof beam thew (the right of each organization that its own custom reigns supreme in its own hall), then while we can (and will) disagree with other groups and individuals interpretation of this bit or that bit of lore or ceremony, we will no longer permit this to move to condemning the practice or organization of other Inclusive Heathens.

The Troth does not wish to set “proper thew” for Heathen’s everywhere, nor does our Steer have any dreams of becoming a de-facto Asa-Pope, or ultimate authority of Heathen doctrine. We really do reserve the right to run our hall in keeping with the customs and understanding of our membership; we respect the right of every other  Inclusive Heathen hearth, kindred, or organization to do the same. We can share a commonality of purpose, a joint belief in inclusive heathenry, without demanding orthodoxy or orthopraxy.

Let us show with our own hall, what a frithful Inclusive Heathen organization can be, and let us show how Heathen organizations can come together in common cause, working towards a common understanding without giving up our own sovereignty, identity, or thew. We can build an inclusive heathenry that unites all of our peoples, without taking away any part of what makes each of them separate and unique.

John T Mainer

Redesman of The Troth

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Comments

Great article! I also believe

Great article! I also believe, as an inclusive Heathen, that others from other paths can join in the rituals I organize. I feel that Heathen ritual is welcoming, and I love when pagans who are more private about their secret ritual practices can all come together to openly honor wights, gods, spirits and ancestors together in our ritual. You're doing a great job at the Troth, and you inspire me to do better.