Heathen Orthodoxy

Posted by Byron Pendason on , in Heathenry, Heathen basics, Rants

This blog post is going to be a bit different from my usual. It’s going to be more of a rant than an informational post. It’s been stewing for a while, but we’ll get into the why here in a little bit.

It’s often said that Heathenry is an orthopraxic religion, not an orthodoxic religion. Before I get into whether that’s true or not, though, let’s define what this means. Orthodoxy refers to right belief, whereas orthopraxic refers to right practice. This article explores the differences between the two if you wish to dive deeper.

So, let me be very clear about this: There is no such thing as Heathen orthodoxy. There is no central authority to define what correct beliefs in Heathenry are, so to speak of correct beliefs in Heathenry is kind of nonsensical. I intentionally define a Heathen to be very broad, so as to avoid conveying an idea of Heathen orthodoxy. My definition is one who bases their spirituality on that of one the pre-Christian Germanic tribes and self-identifies as a Heathen. I likewise define a Fyrnsidere and Anglo-Saxon Heathen in broad terms: one who bases their spirituality on that of the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons and self identifies as one.

The reason for this rant isn’t the claim that Heathenry isn’t an orthodoxic one, it’s the sentiment behind it when it is said. It seems like anytime a Heathen voices a controversial or even unpopular opinion, they are accused of trying to establish a Heathen orthodoxy. This is said to try to shut down conversation. It is, in my opinion, a very anti-intellectual idea that certain things should not be discussed. I agree 100% with shutting down certain conversations, namely those that are racist, sexist, transphobic, or otherwise bigoted. Allowing room for discussion of these ideas only gives them legitimacy and allows these bigots to recruit from impressionable newbies to Heathenry.

But outside these situations, I don’t think we should fear discussing unpopular and/or controversial opinions. Discussion of things such as ideas of order and chaos, whether ettin/chaos worship is a good idea, or whether Odin or Tyr is the chief of the gods (just to name a couple examples) should not be shut down just because you disagree with it. Someone expressing an opinion different from yours doesn’t mean they’re trying to establish a Heathen orthodoxy, it just means they have an opinion different than yours.

I am not, of course, suggesting that everyone should be required to discuss these things. Anyone who doesn’t feel like participating in any discussion has the right to not participate in that discussion. What I’m saying is that just because you don’t want to discuss something doesn’t mean you need to throw around accusations of Heathen orthodoxy. There’s also not anything wrong with limiting certain discussions to certain spaces (perhaps just to a specific channel of a Discord server), and this may even be a good idea for a topic that most people on a server have participated in so much they are tired of it. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with banning certain topics, for example if they cause too much heated argument.

What I am saying is it’s wrong to allow discussion on a topic from one side of the argument but then throwing accusations around when someone expresses an opinion that you disagree with. Either ban discussion of a specific topic completely, or allow both sides to give their opinions of the topic and discuss it.

Now, this isn’t targeted at any specific online spaces, or the mod team of any such space. It’s more pointed at an attitude that some individual people seem to have, that anyone that disagrees with their opinion has some ulterior motive for discussing it (in this case, an ulterior motive of trying to establish orthodoxy among Heathens). Give those who disagree with you the benefit of the doubt unless they give you a reason to think that they have ulterior motives.

Anyway, there’s my rant. Feel free to give your opinions in the comments below!