Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming out and Community

As I mentioned before, I don't consider myself Asatru, Heathen or any of the other Norse oriented branches of Paganism.  It's not that I have anything against any of them, in fact there are quite a few that I think would be lovely places to make a home.  However I know that my particular flavor of practice involves quite a lot of things that are outside the Norse sphere and these are things I hold near and dear to my heart and am not willing to give up.

This leaves me in a kind of a vacuum community wise.  A part of me really wants to socialize with other Norse oriented peoples.  I want to be a part of that community that shares practices, deities and social customs.  But I also know that it is those very differences that I embrace that would make me feel like an outsider, even if the community I was hanging out with didn't have any intention of excluding me.

But let's be honest for a second.  Or at least, let me be honest about my personal experiences.  I have lurked on several Heathen message boards, or checked out Heathen groups, and turned away because I get the sense that they are very clannish.  That is to say that they have a particular way they do things, specific definitions of what they feel is Heathen (or part of their way if they are one of the other Norse oriented groups).  And while they may be perfectly friendly with people who are outside their group, they are not going to invite you in unless you meet their requirements.

So many Heathen groups have such particular requirements that they have developed quite a reputation, both within the larger Pagan community and even outside it.  To those not in the Pagan community, many Heathens are indistinguishable from certain white pride groups, skinheads and flat out racists.  And I have seen some Heathen groups that definitely deserve to be in those categories.  Even within the Pagan community, there is often a judgement about Heathens and what they believe and how they treat non-Heathens.

Very often, this leaves me reluctant to identify Norse at all.  Not only do I not want to deal with Heathens or other Norse practitioners telling me how I'm doing it wrong, but I also don't want to have to break through any preconceived notions that people might have about what a Norse oriented practitioner is or does.  

Sometimes I feel like the Norse oriented are kind of the red-headed step-children of the Pagan world.  I have seen people put them just a step above Satanists (for those that put Satanists at the bottom of the Pagan umbrella or those who would rather Paganism not be associated with any form of Satanism at all).  And while I think that there are groups that take the Norse religious ideas and use them to support a political or racial agenda, I definitely don't think that all Norse oriented people or groups deserve to be judged by those extremists.  It's like judging all Christians by the measure of those loudmouths who end up in the news.

I have seen a lot of attitudes change in the Pagan community over the years.  I have seen a shift within the Norse oriented sub-group, where many people are starting to voice their objections to the more radical groups and try to show people that we aren't all that way, that we don't all hold those attitudes and opinions.  I truly hope that this continues, that people look beyond the stereotypes to the actual words, deeds and beliefs of the people they interact with, and that Heathen grows out of it's negative associations.

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