I tend to view the Lārhūs Fyrnsida website strictly as an educational resource, and I do not tend to use it as a forum for my personal opinions. It is an educational resource for the proliferation of our interpretation of Fyrnsidu within an Anglo-Saxon Heathen context. Any opinion pieces which is shared on the service tends to be done as a mirror from my personal blog, because it reflects some important facet that should be discussed and is otherwise appropriate to the aims of this site. It is also always shared with other members of the Lārwitan vetting it.
I post on Reddit, and frequent the /r/asatru subreddit. To those unfamiliar with it, /r/asatru is the largest central hub of “Heathen” discussion on Reddit, despite the name. Many of the regulars are, in actuality, other types of Heathen from Norse. I was speaking broadly in a conversation which centered on Anglo-Saxon practice, where an individual poster was arguing that the majority of contemporary Anglo-Saxon Heathenry is simply repackaged Norse Heathenry. That it was basically a clone, with Old English names slathered across something which is fundamentally and essentially Scandinavian.
In many cases – and especially to those practitioners who only have access to Swain Wodening’s books – this is often true. Wodening himself has claimed that the praxis he utilizes and the one which found its way into his publications (as in Hammer of the Gods) is more akin to an “Anglo-Danelaw” tradition than it is to strictly Anglo-Saxon one. And there is merit in that, provided it is realized that Wodening’s perspective is not the sum totality of the Anglo-Saxon experience in contemporary Heathenry.
I had said in conversation that:
“I think this is the point where we draw the line in the sand and differentiate how non-Theodish Anglo-Saxon Heathenry was practiced, and how what we [the Lārhūs Fyrnsida] are doing is, and will be, practiced.
I’m going to excise Eddic lore out of the interpretation of ASH that the Lārhūs perpetuates as a unique Anglo-Saxon tradition. If someone wants to thread Anglicized Norse deities back into their personal praxis, I’m not going to stop them.
So consider this that line.”
As a member of the Lārhūs Fyrnsida, and one actively sitting on the Lārwitan, it is my goal to excise the tendency in contemporary Anglo-Saxon Heathen practice to overly rely on Norse Heathenry and Eddic Lore as a foundation or support for our practical working. These are later cultural developments which arose in different geographical, political, and temporal periods of time and history. There is three hundred years of developmental difference between the pre-Christian Old English practice we emulate, and the Old Norse practice as it was recorded in English histories.
When I say that I am going to excise Eddic Lore out of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, I do not mean I am going to cut out comparative studies in toto. It means I am not going to base the foundations of the practice of the Lārhūs exclusively on Scandinavian and Icelandic lore. Or even buttress the practice that we employ. Academically, Anglo-Saxon historians themselves are divided whether it is meritorious to study the later Scandinavian Lores or not. Both personally and academically, I follow individuals like Richard North over David Wilson, in that I fundamentally do believe that there is some merit in studying later literature traditions. However, I would rather search for deeper meaning in English folklores, deeper meaning in Roman and Brythonic comparisons, and deeper meaning in more temporally relevant practices or archaeological interpretations than I would in first going to Scandinavian sources.
There are many significant problems which prevent us from relying directly on Old Norse and Icelandic mythology, and these same caveats apply to sources like Saxo Grammaticus or Adam of Bremen. Temporal differences, foreign translations, Christian education, and personal interpretation all absolutely cause issues. Yet, despite this, people nevertheless follow the examples of some unfortunate scholars and attempt to appropriate – wholesale – the mythology associated with the Norse for Anglo-Saxon practice. Richard North has demonstrated, for instance, that there is an Old English word cognate with valkyrie. However, those mighty women…hurling spears is more likely a reference for the Charm for a Sudden Stitch than any comparison at all with the Old Norse Valkyrie as they are understood.
It is for this reason that many Anglo-Saxon scholars decide not to deal with Scandinavian literary sources. The fact of the matter is that comparative literary studies deal highly in specialized philological study. The same applies to Heathens seeking to study the literary corpus, and many Heathens are unfamiliar with performing this kind of scholarship. And so direct links are assumed, and there is an equivalence perpetuated by Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse deities, which is how we end up with a 1:1 ratio in terms of interpretation.
It almost appears as if the fixation with being true to “how it was authentically done” precludes acceptance that there are holes which cannot be filled easily in one’s practice, or that there are different ways to interpret practice. There are many reasons why this could be: It could very well be a broad phobia to contemporaneous innovation which is perpetuated due to a fear of “making it up”. It could be “easier” to simply plug in something that “already works” under an Anglo-Saxon veneer. And I really do hope it is not a residual hangup from having “one true way” forced upon us from a predominately dogmatic overculture.
But, what I do know is that there are different ways to interpret practice, and due to this we must be willing to look at, around, and beyond those ways. I am not a Norse Heathen, and if I were, I would not be writing here.
Reconstructionism is a freeing methodology and it lays the foundations of empiric discovery that can be used as a template for further research. It is absolutely not a cage, or a pair of shackles binding us to anachronism. But neither is it the end of Heathen practice. We’re not practicing a religious path in situ. This very claim is one that often gets made by individuals operating outside or unfamiliar with reconstructionist methodology – that we’re trying to replicate in totality the religion as it existed in the 6th or 8th centuries. Most reconstructionists are among the first people to argue that would be a fool’s errand, that such a task cannot be done.
However, what that means there must be some contemporary developments. And one of those developments is no longer relying on Norse practice to buttress Anglo-Saxon. It is time to stop taking an easier path, plugging in Norse practice and views for native Anglo-Saxon lore, and effectively treating it like it is one monolith. It is not, they are not.
People are going to disagree with me. People are going to disagree with the direction that the Lārhūs is taking. That is fine, and well. But we’re pushing the borders of comfort, and we’re already rehashing old material that is old hat for many people who have been Heathens for even half a decade or more. Innovation cannot occur if we’re shackled to what is comfortable.
This is a time of change in non-Theodish Anglo-Saxon Heathenry. We’re diverging in our beliefs and our practical interpretations. We have to, if we want to grow on our own, establish ourselves as a unique practice which stands alone from Theodish belief, alone from Norse Heathenry, and as strong and as vibrant and as respected as they are. We’re splintering among theological and regional lines, just as our spiritual ancestors did.
Are you excited? I’m excited.
– M. Arminius
Marilyn Dunn, “The Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons c.597-700”
Richard North, “Heathen Gods in Old English Literature”
David Wilson, “Anglo-Saxon Paganism”