This article was written by Fred Bower-Brauer, Heargweard of Frithstead Heathen Fellowship for Wyldspirit issue 2 (Wyldwood Radio e-zine, June 2014).
One of the parts of Heathenry that has always appealed to me on a deeply personal level is that Heathenry at it core is about relationships and community. This web of relationship, or Web of Wyrd, is about connections to the gods and goddesses, the land spirits to our ancestors and to one another. To the Heathen Wyrd is a force that connects everything in all of the worlds through the past, present, and future. By exploring relationship/ connections within ourselves, our families, and our spiritual communities we expand our capacity for a life of well being and wholeness and Luck. This web is more connected and intricate than any other thing in the entire universe and in fact, according to Norse mythology, it forms the universe and everything within it. Reciprocity establishes and maintains everything within these relationships to the great Web of Wyrd.
Relationship and Spiritual Beings:
Heathens work to build relationships with our gods and goddesses, our ancestors, and the spirits of the land through rites and offerings, this is regarded as a sacred exchange. Our relationship with these beings is one of reciprocal relationship and reciprocal hospitality, creating connections within the Web of Wyrd, connections that strengthen us. This reciprocal aspect of the relationship is a fundamental part of Heathen understanding and world view, sometimes called “A gift for a gift”. This ethic of reciprocity is grounded in hospitality and was an important aspect of the societies of ancient Germanic/Norse cultures, this was a defining virtue not only of an individual, but of a clan or tribe as a whole. As we build these relationships , we develop a reciprocal relationship with the Ancestors, Nature Spirits, and Gods/Goddesses
Before I give anyone the idea that we a trying to buy the favour of the gods, it needs to be understood that true hospitality is not just the act of giving, it is also the act of receiving in a respectful and appreciative manner. This act is an exchange in which each person or tribe is giving and each is receiving.
Reciprocity also exists in nature as well as the human / land spirit relationship in the form of balance. Tending the land brings forth sustenance and a healthy environment for all creatures. This is necessary for life. Birth is balanced by death; growth is balanced by decay; darkness is balanced by light. This natural reciprocity is found in the ancient myths and stories of our ancestors as well and can be a great lesson for all of us. In order to gain wisdom from Mimir’s Well, Woden had to sacrifice an eye. He gave up part of his physical sight in order to gain inner sight or wisdom, a gift for a gift.
Relationship as Community:
“The true journey is not into the self at all, but its opposite: community.” ~ Garman Lord
Another major aspect to the Wyrd of relationship and hospitality is the Heathen focus on the building of healthy community as a web of interpersonal relationships. In fact the whole way of life is very much centred on community, family and tribe. When I speak of community I am not talking about some surreal concept of being a “community” because we share a common belief system but community is real face to face, ups and downs of human interaction community. Real community offers us opportunities what extreme individualism will never give us. As humans we are social creatures and there is nothing like being part of a group that you know has your back and supports your growth as an individual. You will find, in my opinion, that
your growth as a heathen will be much better if connected in a hearth or kindred, than as a solitary.
Much of modern life and the internet in particular encourages people to exist purely within their own heads and can lead to isolation and loneliness. We never get the chance to really live the virtues that we claim belief in. We have seen an extreme of individualism which is possibly the reason that there are plenty of heathens on the internet but not always easy to find out there in the real world.
When we come together as community we blend and share our wyrd, we strengthen our luck, we have the real life opportunity to express relationship and hospitality. One of the most important things about heathenry is getting out there and interacting with the world around us, in all the ways available to us, living within it and putting heathenry into action every day. As the saying goes, “we are our deeds” after all. This is not just a connection to the natural world but the world of human interaction as well, and trust me I know this is not always easy but the benefits can not be rivaled. The cycle of reciprocal relationship is about the strengthening and continuance of the inner-yard of community. This is what it means to be heathen.
There are always reasons individuals need to go it alone, or take a time away but within heathenry this should never become the ideal as our world view is deeply connected to community, relationship and reciprocity. We are in this together!
Be whole and be connected
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