A Beginner’s Journey in Heathenry: Dane Watson’s Introduction
I thought I should start this series with an introduction of who I am and what drew me to Heathenry, it’s ways and it’s practices so without further delay, let’s begin our journey into the fascinating and amazing religion known as Heathenry.
I am from a small fishing town in the south east of the UK that has many ties with the older religions and many still practice them today. There are also plenty of people who practice it without even knowing that they are in fact taking part in pagan rituals, such as “Jack in the Green”. The town itself has always been one to shy away from more mainstream religions and my understanding is that it was one of the last areas to fall to Christianity when it encompassed England so in a way, there was always a high chance that I would find a religion such as Heathenry of interest. There is in fact, much more to it than that however.
The culture of the Norsemen of Europe has always been something that has drawn me in, even from a young age I felt the need to dive in deeper and find out more about them. Even my name “Dane” is old English for “from Denmark”. Some may say that it is fate that I would follow this path, personally I think it’s just a touch of coincidence and the fact that I had parents who happened to like names like that. Nonetheless, it is quite fitting.
It was a few years ago now that I first started to read with a ferocious interest about the religion of the Norse. I was completely and utterly enthralled by their stories, customs and their beliefs. Everything about it was screaming at me to dive right in. I would have loved to do nothing more but I decided against it. I denied the feeling inside me to pursue it and regret that decision but maybe it was for the best. Had I have jumped in at that time, I wouldn’t have experienced what I call my “true understanding”. Time had ticked by normally as I carried on my life, living it the same as I had before without change, well, at least not conscious change. It was only when I stumbled upon an article about Heathenry by chance that I realized I had been following the nine virtues without realizing it. The morals and characteristics of them had embedded themselves deeply into me and had made me change for the better. I always agreed with them and thought they were sensible from the start but it was only at this point did I realize quite how much I agreed with them. They’re not a list of commands or instructions but a guideline to improve you as a person both mentally, physically and spiritually. From this moment onward I decided that I would make the commitment and begin practicing as a heathen. But what do you do? The first port of call for me, was some further research online.
Now, the trouble with researching theological points from a re-emerging religion such as Heathenry is that inevitably most things are all someone’s opinion and interpretation on a matter (I feel I should mention at this point that that’s not necessarily a bad thing, you just need to bare it in mind when researching) which means that it isn’t necessarily a flowing and consistent message. In fact with a topic such as this where we struggle to find troves of information from the past its very much opinion and personal interpretation. Still, onward and upward I thought as I carried on reading and researching the basics, the gods, the holidays and the customs.
It was during this research that heathenry cemented itself fully. The very ideals of it tell the individual to carry on in the face of troubles, not because it pleases someone else or because it will get you somewhere(although that is an added benefit) it tells you to better yourself because it’s good for you. Every aspect of the religion involves doing things that benefit you or those close to you in some way and that’s good common sense in my view. It goes further than that though, you are taught that perseverance and determination are important virtues to hold close to you. Our ancestors had to fight through wars, famine, disease and a myriad of other unpleasantness. Today, we don’t really have issues such as they did which has led to a lazy and relaxed mind-set where “good enough” is what you should aim for. I believe fully that you should strive to be the best. Why come second when you can come first? That is an important part of this culture that I have taken very much to heart. You can be the best and you should.
Some of the more observant readers may have noticed that I haven’t actually mentioned the Gods as of yet. Arguably they are the most important part of any religion, but I don’t think that that’s strictly the case here. Though I do venerate and worship them, I feel it is first important to make yourself worthy of their attention. Just because you like them doesn’t mean that they should be bothered, once again the theme of doing things to better yourself comes in to play here. Each of the Gods is their own person with strengths and flaws unlike many religions that have all-powerful beings that can do no wrong. The feeling of realness I get from them Is comforting, after all everyone makes mistakes and has to overcome them so why wouldn’t they? The tales about them inspire us to act in their image but also to stay true to ourselves.
And that my friends, is a small introduction and brief overview of some of the things that made me start to follow this path. I am by no means experienced and I still need to come to grips with certain aspects, but I hope over the course of these articles, my experiences and thoughts on the subject will aid you in beginning(or carrying on) your journey through Heathenry.
–Dane Watson, England.
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