The naming of traditions since the revival of Pagan customs is a process that is still ongoing. Sometimes this is due to intentional fracturing, other times it is the realization that your custom is just different. Not better, not worse, but just different. I spend a lot of time between articles I write, and sources I read, trying to process what, if anything, I have learned. I often look at others doing great works and getting their traditions out there. I admire those who do. Though, I don’t admire everything some of these people do. Great can mean a really bad thing as much as it can a really good one. However, if there is one thing about that I have learned, it is that you can’t spend too much time going after those “doing it wrong”. If you do, you’ll come to see that you’re spending more time correcting people than actually doing the right things yourself.
I’ve had my phases in the past of doing just that. I realized that I hadn’t updated my own understanding. I was falling behind. So, I’ve went back to old and new sources — books and articles, along with listening to the experiences of others. I’ve heard that when people are dying, their whole life flashes before their eyes. I don’t want those images of mine to be me sitting around on social media telling people how much they suck at this or that. It isn’t that I don’t think there are some who have never picked up a book in their natural born lives, but think they are a repository of spiritual knowledge, are utterly annoying. Nor that I don’t think some are more interested in reading books about Heathenry, or any other Paganism, than actually doing it.
It has made me wonder, which I find necessary to often do in my periodic reflections, is to remember why I do what I do. It’s something I do often. I find that little has changed in purpose. I watch as I learn more and progress, and thanks to the works of many great people, I am inspired to do these things. The greatest joy of our practice here at Þunresfolc Heorþ, or at least one of them is the process of practice that meshes the old and the new. What that has done has taught me not just a lot about the Heorþ as a unit, but of myself. It’s taught me that it’s okay that we don’t know everything about the practices of the Heathen Anglo-Saxons. They have left behind plenty of their worldview, and we do get hints of other elements of practice here and there. In fact, I could only imagine how badly it would serve us if we did know everything about them. What would we do, just copy it? It wouldn’t help us much in this day and age if we did.
It’s actually that we don’t know, and that so many people have put in so much effort into various avenues of reconstruction that make me respect them even more, not less. This is not to say that we all shouldn’t keep learning. I hope that goes without saying, but much of that can be “lost in translation” at times. However, I think that new knowledge should help us buttress what we already have, instead of completely replacing things that have become integral parts of our practices. Traditions are defined by what is continuous. New information, to me, at least, supplements more than outright replaces traditions we already have unless those traditions no longer make sense to us as a process of the growth of the hearth or group. To recognize effectively the legitimacy of the traditions of our ancestors, we must also recognize the validity of the traditions we build.
After all, there was a point where our own ancestors developed new traditions as tribes split off from each other. What at one point would have been what we think of as “Proto Indo European” peoples, became the Germanic, Celtic, Slavic, Baltic, Greek, Roman, Iranian, Indic, and more! This spans a vast amount of the world, and the great many languages and cultures that came with them. This is also, of course, the case for many non Indo European peoples as well. A whole myriad of peoples, who are very different from one another, can be traced back to small points. What has been done in the revival of these traditions, in the places where they haven’t held sway in some time, is allowed us to contribute our piece to that.
I say this because one day, it will be us who are the ancestors. It will be new generations of people who will be making offerings to us, telling our stories, and remembering our names. I’m more worried about that, than I am policing the traditions of others. However, I’m tribal minded, not nationalist or globalist. This puts me in odd positions on many things in the world, and on many issues. Not that I plan to go into details on that part here, but I don’t feel the need for big national or international organizations to represent me, personally. My innangeard are my best representatives for my interests, and likely care the most about my well-being. My hearth is the voice of my practices. No one else. Even if I agree with someone 99% of the time, that 1% I don’t means as much to me as the times I do.
What I mean to say is that I’ve learned not to let others dictate my practices. It doesn’t mean that others don’t have excellent advice, or don’t know more than me, many do. I may know more than someone about one thing, and they on something else. Learning from someone, even your ancestors, and blindly emulating are two different things. We all have different ways of incorporating Elder Heathen worldview into our lives, and we learn it at different paces, there is definitely a curve. Just as we know some elements of it, but really, few, just don’t apply to us anymore. Much of it still does, and my life has been vastly enriched by my understanding of it. Though some of it is best left in the Iron Age and Early Medieval period (such as the idea that slavery is okay), much of it still “holds water”. The ideas of frith, grith, wyrd, innangeard/utangeard, sacred/profane, luck, worth, honor, hospitality, etc. – are still applicable in today’s world.
There may be some changes to how some of those things are perceived, however, at their base, these are still profound ideas, and the philosophy behind them, I believe, is far deeper than one might be led to believe. It may not have libraries of tomes dedicated to them, with well-known philosophers like other types of societies. However, when one ponders these ideas and applies them to every aspect of their lives, as one who would normally be identified as Heathen would do, it becomes quite a mental exercise! It is every bit as worthy as the works of any Classical, Renaissance, or Enlightenment Era philosopher, or any other for that matter. Now, to point…
Most Heathens, Pagans, and so forth have many titles for their practices. Often these are done in layers, and some have more than others. The importance to people may vary to some degree, though I am a firm believer that it starts inward and goes outward, or “bottom up” as opposed to “top down”. Using myself as an example, the flow would go something like this. Starting with the closest, and to me the most important: Þunresfolc Heorþ >>> Fyrnsidu >>> Anglo-Saxon Heathen >>> Heathen >>> Germanic Pagan >>> Pagan >>> Polytheist
That’s quite a bit, and many of you could probably trace yours in a similar fashion. I know that seems like quite a lot when you look at it. So, I hope you all will forgive me, but there is one more I would like to add. That is Fyrnsǽd. This borrows from the Old English words “Fyrn”, meaning “Ancient”, and “Sǽd”, meaning “Seed”. There you go – Ancient Seed. One may ask why, and to explain, I’d like to use a tree as an example. Trees live a long time, but of course, like anything else, none live forever. The seed of an old tree, which will eventually die, sprouts and grows becoming a new tree. It is descended from the old tree, but as no two trees look exactly alike, the new tree will not look exactly like the old one. The seed comes from that which is old, but becomes something new. It has characteristics of the old tree, but many of its own as well. This term is about the best, other than that of my hearth to describe what I do. It is not a “rebellion” against other terms, like Fyrnsidu, I identify with that term quite often. I just feel like Fyrnsǽd fits the description just a little bit better.
Fyrnsǽd describes what I have felt about my practice for some time. That it comes from something older, in many ways. However, it is still new, and its own thing. If you look any description I give of Þunresfolc Heorþ, I say it is Fyrnsidu based. Fyrnsidu is the foundation of the practices here. However, it is not the totality of them. The Elder Heathen practices of the Anglo-Saxons, and in some ways the Germanic Heathens of the past provide the “seed” from which the tradition of my hearth grows. It is the seed, but not the tree. The tree of the past has already grown, and been cut down. The stump of that old tree is still there, as are the wooden products made from it, but that original tree in its entirety, is long gone. However, before it was cut down, it left seeds for new trees to grow. With great care, and knowledge of the old tree, we can grow new ones that are as strong, beautiful, and great as the old tree. However, I respect and enjoy the fact that the new tree I grow is something new, and has taken on a life of its own.
I may need to do some pruning at times, and clean up the twigs and branches of it that will inevitably fall off here and there, but I have resolved to make it a strong and beautiful oak. Even if right now, it is merely a sapling. It is my hope, that along with all of you, and your own trees, that again in this world, we will see a new and beautiful forest. Just so happens that it is nearly spring.