I had, roughly a couple of weeks ago, come across something new that was going around the Heathen Internet. I’ve seen some folks using it, and I’ll wager some of you have as well. One of those hashtag things I never quite caught on about. It’s called #HeathenHallJoy. As usual, I’m late to the party, and well out of the loop. I hadn’t posted any statuses on social media with it. The reason why is that when searching for positivity in my life as a Heathen, or Heathendom in general, was at first because I was so caught onto the negative side of things. It is no secret that just about any online gathering of just about anyone is bound to have conflict. Sometimes it is vigorous, intelligent debate. Other times, it is callous bullying. When it comes to the latter, it doesn’t really get anyone anywhere.
All it ultimately does is create animosity where there didn’t need to be any. We don’t all have to get along. We don’t all have to like each other. However, I myself was regrettably caught up in that game after so long of swearing away from it. Sometimes I see someone, or some people say things I don’t like, or feel is wrong, and I just feel like I have to jump in. It achieves nothing. Heels just get dug in deeper.
Regardless, it took me back to a time when I was just starting out, fresh off of Gaulish Paganism. Finding my practices being based more and more off of Germanic ideas, I had finally decided to make that leap. Being a couple of years younger, about twenty four, I still felt I had something to prove. Of course, this is common with people in their early twenties. I was right about having something to prove, but wrong about to whom I had to prove it.
I found people very advanced in knowledge, and at the time, I didn’t feel worthy of approaching them. They were smart people, and they knew it. They had no issue with letting everyone around them know that fact. I thought that this is what you needed to be. It brought to mind the idea of the Germanic “war band” attitiude. These were the people who wanted to emulate that mentality, though more reasonably adapted to the modern day. However, I didn’t talk to them. I’d watched them tear people apart, after all. Who wanted that kind of embarrassment? I didn’t. So, I conformed to a way that those folks would have likely approved of, however, I didn’t dare ask. Nor would I lower myself to people whose character was unknown. After all, anyone can read books and learn something. Even then, I knew I wanted to learn from people who were at least friendly.
I found those people. It was like setting foot on fresh grass after a long winter. These folks kept me at an appropriate distance, but at least seemed approachable. They were welcoming and friendly. Affording me the best an outsider should expect. They didn’t “bro” me, but they didn’t put on airs either. They were straight shooters and honest. If I made sense, they’d say so. If I did not, they were able to correct me without dehumanizing me. Admittedly, though, the first group of people were in the back of my mind.
For some reason, I didn’t want to think anything about practicing Heathenry that would disappoint them. Can you imagine that? I wanted, briefly, to be worthy of people who would never accept me because even if I could learn as they did, I couldn’t look down on people for no good reason. One who is unproven doesn’t need to be greeted with a smile, but they don’t need to be greeted with a scowl, either.
Still, it took a long time to shake that influence off of me, but I finally did. Once I did, I found that I was somewhat different from the latter group of people. However, that didn’t change much of anything. I am still friends with some of them today. This was my warmer welcome to Heathenry. They were the first people to hear my silly ideas, and helped me round them out to make sense. Though we don’t always see eye to eye, their willingness to share their knowledge has made an impact beyond measure. This was my first, as far as meeting other Heathens, #HeathenHallJoy.
The second came from starting to grasp and understand worldview. Learning from other people taught me more, if I am to be honest, than books did. The books helped me see where these folks learned it, but real life examples, and reading through stories often was, and still remains, in my opinion, the superior choice if one can grasp the poetic understanding of the world that the Elder Heathens had. Though my practices are rooted in Anglo-Saxon Heathnendom, Fyrnsidu to be specific, I very much enjoy Norse stories, as much as I do Old English ones, and when more experienced people broke them down for me (both Norse and English stories), I learned the most that way. When folks more experienced than I broke these stories down, I learned that they weren’t as often about the chest thumping that Viking wannabes seem to get when they read stories.
In time, I would read again these stories and understand them better. Learning through stories, and reading history books have been two of my favorite things since I was old enough to read them. Though some were incredibly dry and boring, the learning was always worth it, and still is. Reading and talking, learning that these weren’t just relics of a bygone age, but that there are many real remnants of these traits in many of us. Including elements of our own society, particularly on the familial and local level. Christianity did erase some things, but mostly, it just diluted them.
I’m not the only one who was raised to value ones mate, family, and close friends above others. Nor am I the only one who was raised to judge people by their deeds. I wasn’t the only person raised to put pride in their name, and to defend it. I wasn’t the only person who was taught that I should pick my company carefully, because I would be associated with what they did.
The irony of hindsight, that pouring through books taught me that my mother taught me the basic, interpersonal parts of Heathenry. All I needed to learn, in that hindsight was ritual, lore, demarcation of sacred vs profane, and worship. The realization of this, since we’ll take into account the two to two and a half years that I have been Heathen, instead of the span of my life makes the second of these a no brainer. Reading great books, and learning to appreciate my upbringing has to be the second #HeathenHallJoy.
The third I will share with you is the reason I keep going. I have learned a lot of life lessons in this pivotal time of my life. It was when I found another with whom to share this hearth, that put me in the position where in order to be a better person, I had to really learn these lessons cannot be understated. At this point, I had to learn that my actions could truly affect another. After all, who would have to deal with me if I got annoyed in an online argument?
However, it is that I see just how much better my life is with her in it that I facepalm at the thought of stupid feuds with strangers behind a screen. Does it matter if they know more than me, or vice versa? Who is giving out “Best Heathen” medals? If negativity is what spawns me to learn, I am learning the wrong way, I believe. It isn’t though. If I am in a group and just end up arguing, I’m in the wrong group. Online arguments rarely make anyone a better Heathen, or anything but more of an asshole, from what I have seen. The world has enough assholes, though, does it not?
This isn’t a lesson I would have cared to learn if not for sharing a hearth. If not for finding the love of my life. Someone who not only has tolerated my practices, but has shared them, and has even had a hand in shaping them. That has been the biggest difference maker. Thanks to her, and the care I must put in my words because when I speak, it is a voice of not only myself, but of Þunresfolc Heorþ, I have learned that it is the positives I should look for, not the negative. Highlighting negative things is a survival trait. However, online interactions aren’t typically life or death. Fight (well, argue) when you must, but otherwise, there’s no reason to stick around toxic places. I have finally learned that. There are toxic people who like to play games, and that’s okay. Let them play by themselves.
Almost anyone with a little time around other Heathens has a gripe or two about Heathenry. Nothing’s perfect after all. However, seeing as how I’ve managed to establish my hearth, cultivate experiences, practice with sincerity and integrity, embrace an identity that it provides, I’m willing to be patient and see if Þunresfolc Heorþ grows to be more than just a hearth. Whether it does, or not, I have been granted much more than I had expected out of life. I never thought a simple laborer with a hearth practice and Thunor cult could be given such a good life. So, my third #HeathenHallJoy is finding the other and better half of Þunresfolc Heorþ, and watching it grow to become something that doesn’t just fit a small convenient label. It is who I am.
Though, with all of this joy going around, and my gratitude, the last #HeathenHallJoy of mine, is that you took the time to read this. So, in spite of my usual lateness: What is your #HeathenhallJoy?