What I Believe
Posted by Byron Pendason on , in Heathenry, Afterlife, Anglo-saxon calendar, Cosmology, Heathen basics, Heathen worldview, Heathen worship, Philosophical musings, Reconstruction, Runes, Stoicism, Updates
Wes hāl!1 I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to provide the fundamentals of what I believe as far as religion goes. I doubt anyone is going to agree with everything, and some people might not agree with any of it. That’s okay, I don’t base my friendships on agreement, but rather mutual interests and respect. Still, I think it could be helpful to some to see what one version of Fyrnsidu might look like (and again, this is only one version of it). My beliefs are always in flux, so these might not be applicable in a year, but since I’m providing the fundamentals upon which I have built my religion, I doubt any of these will change any time soon.
I will not be providing any justifications of these beliefs, as I’m only trying to show what a developed Fyrnsidu might look like. I am, of course, open to respectful and nonconfrontational discussion of any of these points. You can leave a comment below or ask questions on Discord. The main basis for my religious beliefs are my understanding of the culture and religion of the Anglo-Saxons, as updated to be applicable to the modern world, but you may recognise some ideas from other sources as well.
- The gods created the world from the primordial chaos that existed before anything else by ordering that chaos into what we see today. The gods continue to maintain that cosmic order, which is the balance of creation and destruction which allows for growth.
- Integral to that balance is the wights (living spirits) that inhabit every part of our world. These wights include the spirits of trees, rocks, animals, rivers, stars, planets, etc. We, too, are wights which inhabit this world. The interaction between these various wights are essential to maintaining the cosmic order.
- The wights also include our ancestors, our beloved dead who inhabit the underworld. The wisdom that they achieved both in life and in the years since they departed is still accessible to us through various means of divination, as too is the wisdom of the gods and other wights. I also believe the ancestors can still exert some influence on the world of the living (though I have no theories as of yet to how). Ancestors aren’t always necessarily related to us by blood.
- The goal of life is to live a life of virtue (good moral character). Our mægen (strength) is connected to our virtue, as virtue was one of the meanings of the Old English word mægen. The greater one’s virtue, the greater their mægen will be, whereas vice weakens our mægen.
- Mægen helps us primarily in this life. It makes us stronger, but that strength can manifest differently in different people. For some, it manifests as physical strength, others it can manifest as wisdom, yet others as strong character, along with hundreds of other ways. For most people, it manifests in several different ways.
- The greatest virtue is Wisdom. Within wisdom are four other virtues: prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice. These are the cardinal virtues. There are many other virtues, such as generosity and magnanimity. Living one’s life in accordance with the cardinal virtues will naturally result in living out all the virtues, hence why they are called the cardinal virtues.
- Another way to increase one’s mægen is through piety to the gods (which is actually a virtue in itself, but many fail to recognise this so it’s best to explicitly state it). The fundamental aspect of piety is building relationships with the gods, our ancestors, and the wights that live around us. These relationships are built by participating in the gifting cycle, probably by making offerings to the. When we make offerings to the gods we are providing them with some of our mægen, and if they accept our offering they will reciprocate by providing us with spēd, or blessings. Spēd isn’t just physical blessings though, and can manifest as non-physical blessings such as (for example) a second wind when we think all our energy has been exhausted or a gentle nudge to do something else than we had planned. It can even sometimes manifest in ways that we do not recognise. But I believe they will always reciprocate if they accept the offering. Reciprocity is a fundamental part of the cosmic order.
- Mægen is also exchanged in every interaction with any other person and even wights. This mægen is always flowing along the web of the cosmic Wyrd which connects everything in the universe to each other. Our mægen helps shape our individual Wyrd (or Fate), as does our every action.
- The soul is made up of several distinct yet interrelated parts. Our soul is what makes us us, and includes things that aren’t traditionally seen as part of the soul, like our bodies. Our soul, in essence, is our holistic self. When we die, our soul fractures and some parts can remain in the place where the body died, other parts can stay with the body, other parts may even join with souls that are just forming (this can be seen as a kind of reincarnation). The parts that make up our essential self, such as our memories, virtue, and rational thinking, stay together and make the journey to their ancestors in the underworld (a possible exception is those with the lowest mægen, as it may not have the strength to keep these various parts together; I believe that if this happens it only happens to a very small minority who are the most wicked of people). The greater one’s mægen, the easier their journey to the afterlife will be, and may even confer some kind of rank on them from their ancestors.
- The rhythms and cycles of nature are an integral part of the cosmic order, and this was reflected by the ancient Anglo-Saxons in their calendar. I honour my ancestors and this fundamental belief of theirs in the cosmic order by following the calendar they did to the best that can be done so. This calendar is balanced between two seasons: winter and summer, and consists of twelve lunar months with an extra lunar month added every 2-3 years to keep the solar and lunar cycles aligned.
- A big part of living in accordance with prudence is recognising that which is in our control and that which is not, and focusing our energy upon those things that are within our control. Focusing on that which is not within our control leads to anxiety and frustration, but focusing and working on the things we do control leads to self-improvement and can lead to serenity.
- The gods have a plan for the universe, and the big picture arc for human history. This plan is for the greatest good of the universe and all that is in it. This plan is part of the cosmic order. Some call it Providence, but regardless of what it’s called it is synonymous with the cosmic Wyrd. I don’t think they plan out the lives of every individual being, but they’ve set things up so that their plan ultimately comes to fruition.2 I do not know what this plan is, but I think (or at least hope) that it culminates in a society where every person is truly equal, treated with dignity and respect, and live in harmony with nature and the wights all around us. (Though it’s also possible that the Fate of the universe has nothing to do with us humans and we’re just a side story to the grand overarching story.) I think regardless, the universe will eventually end in the mirror image of how it began, with a big crunch to balance out the big bang of our beginning, and that our universe is just one iteration of a cycle of universes being born, expanding, contracting, and dying.
Well, I think that about covers what I would consider the fundamentals of my personal faith. So until next time, beo gesund!1
Wes hāl and Beo gesund are Old English greetings and farewells that literally mean Be well/whole/healthy. The first seemed to be more common among the Anglian dialects and the second more common among the Saxon dialects. I prefer to use both though, the first as a greeting and the second as a farewell. ↩ ↩2
My view on this is similar to the “science” of psychohistory in Asimov’s Sci-Fi Foundation series where the actions of individuals cannot be predicted but the actions of larger groups of people over longer time spans can be predicted with uncanny accuracy. ↩