[BLOG] Are You There Odin? It’s Me, Brian.
Hail Odin! And Thor. And Freya. And Tyr. And Balder. And Heimdall. And Frigga. And Idunna. But not Loki. There are more that I am missing, but we are of course talking about the pantheon in Asatru (Heathenry, Odinism, Norse Paganism). I was, up until recently, unfamiliar with this path in paganism and it has become a topic of interest in the past seven months.
Upon moving to Lexington, Kentucky to serve the Unitarian Universalist Church as their minister, I began to learn more about the sizable Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) group that was affiliated with the church. This is nothing new to me. I know CUUPS. I’ve been a part of CUUPS.
The church I grew up in had a lovely mix of humanism and paganism that informed and inspired all areas of church life. My own mother has a connection to paganism on some level. But what was new to me was just how many followers of Asatru and Heathenism were present in the group. In the Bluegrass.
I like to imagine that wherever people gather, the stars align and the spirit moves them to shared traditions and beliefs. We see this with ancient paganism and the sharing of similar gods and goddesses across cultures. So, too, it appears to be true today as well. Odin (and friends) have found a home in Kentucky.
And what an opportunity it’s been! I’ve met a sincere and devoted group of people that find great meaning and depth in this tradition. The gods and goddesses speak directly to them, the traditions inspire moments of peace, and the honoring of ancestors reminds them they are not solitary creatures but part of a great lineage. In talking with one member, it becomes clear that this is not a religion that is just an excuse to be a white supremacist (those people exist. they’re not cool. they are also in the minority.) or to like heavy metal/symphonic metal/etc (how could you not like it to begin with?) or just because they’re fans of the Avengers, but a belief system that calls for its followers to experience that transcending mystery and wonder that Unitarian Universalists affirm and uphold. Odin, it would appear, is a perfect addition to the diversity of Unitarian Universalism.
I often feel like, as Unitarian Universalists, that we’re “good” when it comes to Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Atheism, and other larger, more public traditions. But with Paganism and its many variations, there is a discomfort. Perhaps it is because Paganism often interests people that are not “mainstream” (and we are still a tradition that likes the mainstream), or maybe it’s because as Unitarians, more than one god or goddess causes an inherited awkwardness. But what I’ve found as one who was raised in a pagan-friendly home in a pagan-affirming church, is that there is just as much flexibility in engaging these traditions, such as Asatru, as we’ve found in Christianity or Buddhism.
The god Tyr, who is best known for liking Tuesdays, getting his hand bitten off by a wolf, and wearing fabulous hats, is one example of such flexibility. He is the god of Law and Heroic Glory. In Asatru, there is a sense of loyalty to the community and good will toward the people you encounter. It requires followers to be law-abiding citizens, to respect people, to welcome them, and to hold to one’s oaths in community. The Law, it would seem, is something to be embodied, valued, and cherished. I know many people believe these gods and goddesses, such as Tyr, are real beings in some way. But I also know that some people relate to them as archetypes, symbols, and stories of greater truths. There is a poetry to the story of Tyr, the god of Law, when he agreed to put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth, so the other gods could bind the great wolf. This sacrifice (of his hand) teaches us about the sacrifices in our own lives for the greater good.
As a minister, I love stories that point us to greater truths for living our lives. I feel like the many varied paths of paganism have a treasury of wisdom that we can use. As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm science and reason, but we cannot forget the poetry and wonders of art. For me, I’ve discovered some new stories to guide me and inspire me. I will always remember the expressions of people celebrating a Blót (a common ritual in Asatru) and seeing the deep impact it was having. If beliefs are life-affirming and enriching, they are to be celebrated. I’m grateful to serve a community that has taught me about Asatru. I’m grateful for the continued gifts of paganism to Unitarian Universalism.
For all these things and more in this wild world of beliefs, Blessed Be.
As this is just the beginning of a discussion, it isn’t over yet. But here are a couple resources about Asatru in the Bluegrass:
Kentucky Asatru Alliance: Facebook Page
Jordsvin’s Norse Heathen Page: Lovin’ the old school design. Lots of info.