Heathenry is not hate

It’s one of those unfortunate facts that heathenry is seen on the greater pagan landscape as relatively more conservative than other beliefs. While this reputation isn’t entirely unwarranted, thanks mostly due to the alt-right co-opting symbols, it ignores a rapidly growing facet within heathenry that embodies inclusivity for all. Of course, it has always been present, but in the last decade it has become a powerful force indeed and vocal against hate in all its forms.

At its core, heathenry is a religion defined by multifaceted gods that embody diversity. Here there are gods with missing eyes, missing limbs, missing ears. They are not defined by their disabilities, they simply are. Here, there are gods from all backgrounds, all – if you are to read the lore in a specific way – ‘races’, feasting at the same table. Here there are gods that defy human gender roles and travel across the gender spectrum: From Freyja being a goddess associated with love, beauty and fertility alongside battle and the war dead, and Odin practising seidr (‘women’s magic’), to Loki’s gender fluidity.

Of course, we can also ponder on the extension of such definitions. After all, what is gender to a god? Or sexuality? These are human things, like aging, getting up for work, and deciding what to have for dinner. It is easy to imagine Freyja having no such concerns about sexuality – why would she? She is associated with love in all of its forms, and beauty in the myriad of ways it is expressed on Midgard and beyond. Loki and Odin have no qualms about breaking out of their presumed male forms and taking on new ones. They have both become figures of empowerment for the trans community.

This is all the more enlightening when we consider the bias written into the lore. Coming mostly from Christian scholars writing centuries after the fact, it is easy to see where omissions have been made – either on purpose or through simple faults in memory. What we have then has been written through a smokescreen. The goddesses, even with their roles reduced, still have echoes of their importance, shining brightly through the attempted obfuscation. Freyja has first choice and receives half of the chosen dead in her hall of Sessrumnir. The Norns are crucial weavers of fate. The Disir are familial guardians. Frigg, like her husband, has a gift of prophecy. The story of Ullr’s birth is lost to time, teasing a story involving Sif that we’ll never know. And so on. Heathenry is, at its core, diverse, with lore that transcends time.

With all that said, heathenry will not be defined by its worst elements. Try as they might to twist, bend, and ignore the written lore that we do have. Our gods defy those restrictions, and break fetters. They will continue to do so when we are long gone, and our human hang-ups are long forgotten. Our gods champion inclusivity, and break boundaries in every saga and story. Heathenry is inclusive at its core, and ultimately, those elements will shine brightest as we challenge those that work hard to restrict and strip the agency of the gods for their own agendas. Heathenry is not hate, and it never will be.

Sif Brookes
LGBTQIA+ Manager