Once in a while, you get a chance to sift through your religious concepts. Sometimes, when this moment comes, it leads down a path that can sometimes make or break your beliefs in something. Sometimes, it means letting something in that was previously off limits! Sometimes, it leads to you completely deconstructing what you once knew to be true. But, wherever it leads you, leads us … there is a moment when we look at our faith and question it. For me, lately this has led to a deep question: how much of my faith do I truly understand?
Being Asatruar comes with the well you should have read every book on everything by now baggage, that, many times, I feel is a big overstatement of what it takes to be Asatru. A follower of the gods is not always made in a library, but sometimes walks a spiritual road in order to find themselves at peace with their faith. Not that reading is not important, it is! But sometimes you wonder if you allow yourself to get washed over by what you thought you knew for so long that you forget how you got to that conclusion … often being confused when confronted with the truth.
This comes when people blur the lines between what is ‘spiritual’ and what are the core concepts. Obviously this is something that happens with all faiths. Faith is a wonderful thing, but it can cloud the rational mind and leave a person in a dangerous fundamentalist cult of one in which faith then becomes poisoned. It transforms from being healthy to corrupting who and what we are, often blinding us to truth and reality. The further away from rational thinking the more likely this fundamentalism will take hold.
Of course this extreme goes two ways. The other side of the spectrum is liberalism. Which can be an issue if this view tries to push non-facts as ‘truth’ or perhaps allows for too much being sampled from other places. The only reason why either extreme is a problem is that it loses a necessary component. The rational thinking process. This is a process that I feel is essential to faith. It is not a conflicting force that people should be afraid of, but instead a key component of having a well-rounded faith system.
I think the key difference between faith and spirituality lies in the philosophy. In fact if you look at the word Asatru itself it means ‘belief in the gods.’ That’s it. There is nothing else to it other than believing in them — but there are key components that seem to turn up as part of Asatru. But, are they key? It is very likely that because Asatru is reconstructed, it is done so through slightly rose colored lenses. The true history of the people who founded Asatru that is the original heathens (who, by the way, likely did not call it Asatru) are often presented in the most colorful and convenient ways. I mean, the fact that it seems to be a pretty common belief of some Asatru that the Norse people never intermingled and had this completely isolated community is for me at least preposterous.
The issue here is that we need to make sure that what we believe comes from a sound place. That it is not dictated by what is speculated about by others, but that we do our own research. Sure, read the Edda and the Sagas, but also then go outside the box. These two sources get sold as some kind of guidebook, which they are not. Yes, they contain wisdom! However, what they don’t contain is any guidance as to rituals, spirituality, core concepts, et cetera. These are not meant to be religious texts; they are the myths. They lead you to the gods, certainly, but not to the extent of understanding them on a spiritual level.
Sifting your believes sometimes uncovers things that you might have not considered before … and with that comes a new awareness. Sometimes seeing things with fresh eyes or coming to some understanding with your world, your gods, history, and culture brings you a new enlightenment. Whatever you faith is, know that it is grounded in something true and not sugarcoated in convenient facts for the sake of making things suit a particular understanding.
[Larisa Hunter is the author of Fulltruí and Embracing Heathenry.]