Why I Choose to be Heathen
There are two things that this title refers to. First is the obvious, a question I get asked a LOT, “Why do you believe as you do?” The second is mostly semantic, referring to the reason that I chose the term Heathen over Pagan, Ásatrú, or any of the other various terms used by followers of Norse Paganism.
I suppose I’ll start with the easy one. The reason I believe the way I do. This is, truthfully, a reason that causes those who don’t understand to call me crazy, possessed, or just plain strange. You see, one day back when I was still Wiccan, I was meditating. Nothing unusual, just meditating, trying to decide the form that the God and Goddess would take for me as the Silver Ravenwolf book I was reading had instructed. Suddenly, out of nowhere I heard this gruff voice say “What are you doing?” I opened my eyes, assuming it was my father coming into my room needing something. Only thing is, there was no one there. I chalked it up to imagination and went back to meditating. Almost instantly I heard the same voice, “Boy, I asked you a question. What are you doing?”
Of course, my first thought was that I was going crazy, but I decided to converse with the voice. In the end, I discovered that the voice was Odin, and my spiritual path was changed forever.
Believe it or not, that paragraph and a half took me…20 minutes give or take to write. Why? Because every time I’ve told that story, with a few very happy notable exceptions, the person dubbed me fake or crazy and I never saw them again. However, from what I’ve seen from just talking with other members of the Pagan community since then, it’s very typical.
Long story short, I chose Norse Paganism because after my encounter with Odin, I did some research and found that it fit me much better than Wicca ever did. I’ve never looked back.
You may have noticed the image, similar to this one, at the top of the page. It is known as a Valknut, and is not only a symbol of Odin, but of those who die in battle. I thought it as good a preface as any to explain why I identify as Heathen, not Pagan and not Ásatrú.
It is, truthfully a matter of semantics. Identifying as Pagan means that, every time I say “I’m Pagan” and someone questions me on “What does that mean?” I have to explain how “If you ask 4 pagans what it means you’ll get 5 answers” and then explain what that means, followed by explaining my own personal beliefs. (not to mention dealing with Wiccans who insist that, because I’m Pagan and Wiccans are Pagan, I have to follow Wiccan rules. Which I don’t and I won’t.)
The other alternative is, of course, identifying as Ásatrú. The problem I have with that is simply complicated. While Ásatrú and my beliefs share many similarities, the differences between the two and the stigma that Ásatrú has earned itself (which I am not going into) makes the two incompatible. (side note: the reason I don’t identify as an Odinist is similar to the reason I don’t identify as Ásatrú. Differing beliefs that make the term and I incompatible)
Therefore I identify as Heathen, that is, one who follows the ancient Norse Gods and Their teachings. It is simple and to the point to explain, and nearly impossible to get confused with someone else’s beliefs. Of course, I still have to explain how every Heathen is entitled to their own interpretation, but that is child’s play compared to the difficulties with the other terms.
I hope that I have cleared up any possible questions, but as always I will gladly respond to any questions you may have in the comments.