Aren’t Odinists just Progessive Pagans or Heathens?

Q. Rota: “Coming from a progressive (read; NOT universalist) heathen, I find your views on women and heathenry to reek of monotheist baggage and otherwise antiquated views, not to mention some information on here is either appropriated for your own views/purposes (i.e Freya as only a goddess of pleasure and beauty) or just super made-up (i.e your World Elements chart). It saddens me that some groups of heathenry have come to this.”

A. Andrew: Thank you for your comments. Here is my first response. Others will follow.

First of all, I’m not sure what a “progressive” heathen is as distinguished from “universalist.” I am familiar with “folkish” and “universalist” Odinists, so in addition to my following comments would you care to define “progressive” for me as you understand it? If by “progressive” you mean you want to “progress” beyond natural nature, then we have a fundamental disconnect. True “progress” to us means to hold on to what one has accomplished in the past generations, while adding to them progressively in better ways. We call that “progeneration.”To let go of the past, in this case the natural order of the past, in order to “progress” means you lose the benefits of the past lessons. The proverb, “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it,” is consistent with our perspective. We do not call turning our backs on our ancestral ways “progress.” We call it degeneration.

Just as a reminder, we are a natural religion, which means to us we follow the male and female “natures” found in our souls and our bodies as inspired by the gods and goddesses of the Norse, Germanic and Anglo Saxons of Northern Europe. There are natural inclinations in the souls of males and females that are consistent with the natural functions of our bodies.

You also say you are a “heathen” and seem to assume we are “heathens” as well. We do not consider ourselves “heathen” by definition. We are Odinists not heathens. Not everyone is familiar with what an “Odinist” is, so they will turn to the dictionary if we accept the terminology of “heathen” to identify us. Here is why. The English dictionary defines “heathen” two ways:

“1. Anyone not a Jew, Christian, or Moslem 2. A person regarded as irreligious, uncivilized, etc.—adj. pagan.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary). The first definition of Heathen being “anyone not a Jew, Christian, or Moslem” is too broad to identify us and distinguish us from all the other non-Jew, Christain, Moslem religions. For instance, that definition of Heathen would include all the Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Japanese Shintoism, Jainism, etc., as well as, all native religions, such as Native American, Native African, Native Australian, Native Polynesian, etc. We follow none of those religions. We do not define ourselves by what we are “not.” We define ourselves by what we are—Odinists. It seems obvious that Christians, Jews, and Moslems came up with the label “Heathen,” if it is everyone except Christians, Jews, and Moslems. So why let them define who you are?

The second definition of Heathen being a person regarded as “irreligious” and “uncivilized” does not fit either. We are “religious.” We follow the Northern religion of Odinism instead of Eastern, Western, or Native religions found outside Northern Europe. Are you “irreligious” Rota? Again, it seems obvious that by Christians, Jews and Moslems calling us “irreligious” it just means we don’t follow their religion. It also includes “uncivilized.” We Odinists are “civilized” into high levels of social organization, including the arts and sciences. Are you saying you are “uncivilized” Rota? If you are “civilized” and not a “savage,” as the dictionary includes in the definition of “uncivilized,” then why let them label you with a title that by English definition means you are an uncivilized savage? Being a “heathen,” accepting “their” word to identify us, also gives them the power to define us their way. Simply put, it is a derogatory term that is simply an exclusionary effort by Christians to insult and degrade while elevating themselves above everyone else.

The definition of the word “Heathen” also includes the synonym label of “pagan.” The dictionary says “Pagan” is from the Latin word “paganus” meaning “peasant” (Webster’s). It continues, “1. Same as Heathen 2. One who has no religion.” Again, you can see, we are not “peasants” or Heathens who have no religion. Our religion is Odinism. So we are not Pagans by definition either. Are you a “peasant” Rota? The dictionary defines “peasant” as “1. A small farmer or farm laborer, as in Europe or Asia 2. A person regarded as boorish, ignorant, etc.” (Webster’s). Are you “boorish” and “ignorant” Rota? We Odinists are informed, educated and well mannered. So we do not accept being called or considered “pagans” either. That word describes someone else or some other people, not Odinists. It has even been said that “Odinism is the religion with homework.” We do our home-work.

What may be of interest is where the words “Heathen” and “Pagan” came from in the first place. The word “Heathen” comes from the word “Heather.” It refers to those who dwelt in the “heather” or bushes. The word “Pagan” comes from the Latin word “pagus,” which means a country district of local territorial divisions within the Roman Empire. Once one knows the history of the words, the reason they originally called people “Heathens” and “Pagans” becomes clear.

Pagan: The Roman Empire was made up of numerous countries where they left the rulers native to those areas or “pagus” divisions in place as long as they submitted to Roman law and paid taxes to Rome. The Roman Emperor Constantine organized and constructed his own version of Christianity with the help of the Bishops he had assembled to stop legal complaints among Christians in his empire. He then converted to his own version of Christianity in 325 A.D. He then ordered all the native rulers in the various “districts” or divisions of the Roman Empire to convert as well to his version of Christianity. If the native rulers did not, then their titles and lands would be taken from them and given to others loyal to Roman rule. So by 400 A.D. all of the native rulers to their “pagus” districts were converted or replaced. These were the ruling class only. The “peasant” farmers or laborers in those “pagus” divisions did not have to convert…at first. Consequently, the peasants retained their religions native to their “pagus” districts. Since the Roman Empire stretched from Spain to the Middle East, from North Africa to southern England the amount and religious diversity of “pagus” districts were too numerous and cumbersome to identify individually. So they just grouped all of these non-converted /non-Roman law abiding peasants into one word “Pagans.”

Heathen: Over time the forced conversions of the “Pagans” to Roman Christianity and rule began, first in the cities of “pagus” districts, then to the outlying areas controlled by lesser nobles and land owners. In England this forced the peasant “pagans” who did not want to convert from their native religions to withdraw from the cities and lands controlled by nobles out into the countryside which were covered with “heather.” So they became known as “Heathens” or non-Christian dwellers in the hills of heather. The clearest example is the resistance of Scotland where “heather” was abundant. The Romans could not conquer the highlanders of Scotland to Roman Christianity and rule, so they built the Hadrian wall to divide the southern England “Christians” from the northern England “Heathens.” Over time, as anyone can see by the English dictionary, the definitions of “Pagan” and “Heathen” were broadened and overlapped to simply refer to anyone “irreligious” to the Christian faith and “uncivilized” by the Roman Empire’s standards of civil law.

We Odinists understand how words change their meaning and definition over time. The resurgence of the elder religions of Europe in rejection of Christianity in the last fifty years or so has caused many people to go ahead and use the eclectic term “Heathen” or “Heathenry” and even “Pagan” to refer collectively to the emerging diverse elder European religious movements. We Odinists simply choose to distinguish ourselves from the “Wiccan,“ the “Celtic” and “Druidic” paths native to Europe many now follow under the heading “Heathen,” as well as, the elder Greek and elder Roman religions native to Europe identified as “Pagan.” We represent none of those religious paths, even if they are native to Europe, even though some elements may overlap. Therefore we maintain we are “Odinists” not “Heathens” or “Pagans” which terms either by English definition or New Age Movement do not identify our Northern European native religion—Odinism.
Sincerely, Gothi Andrew Webb

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