Following the old ways is a concept commonly associated with pagan practices. While it's true the path of Heathenry is a road long forgotten, it's important to ask which period do we stake a claim? Heathen communities include numerous different practitioners, such as dabblers, reconstructionists, history buffs and even eclectic practitioners who take many aspects from Norse gods and their roots.
We can't say for certain when the lore and practice of the Norse Gods came into existence, we do know they were widely followed as an oral tradition, and so their stories were not written down. What we do have are bits and pieces compiled mainly from outside observers such as through Tacitus's Germania within which he compares the Germanic deities to his own Roman Gods, accounts of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, and up to the 13th century's Codex Regius where you'll find Snorri's work. This shows us a span of at least 12 centuries for which the Norse Gods have been worshipped, and there is importance at looking at this full timeline of practice.
Throughout the fragments of history we have available you can note some evolutionary tracks of the gods. There are connections that can be deemed as unverified personal gnosis, while others have been widely accepted. One such are the similarities between Frigg and Freya. Both of their marriages being to a wanderer god who rarely was present, and potentially being an unfinished separation of one goddess into two. With the era of conversion, their separation did not have time to fully be formed to allow them to become the two separate beings they were intending to be. Perhaps they were merging into one singular goddess, where Freya was the younger aspect of the Goddess Frigg. Because of the interruption of Christian rule, these gods, and their stories, were silenced.
We also have the pact between the Aesir and the Vanir, to which it is widely accepted that this came about through the conquest of another tribe of people. These people are assumed to be primarily a farming tribe for which the Vanir themselves represent. When taken under norse rule, their gods then were incorporated into the wide pantheon of the Norse Gods.
The problem that exists is that if we are to follow these gods today, and we believe they exist in all the ways that they have before, what were these gods up to in the last eight centuries? Do we believe that they have sat, frozen in time, for those who believe to come forth again and breathe new life into them? Throughout the centuries of which their practices and followers were thriving, the gods and their stories were always evolving just as we humans go through life and experience many changes. One of the biggest draws to our gods is their very human characteristics, after all. They are not the omnipotent God of the Abrahamic faith, they have faults, shortcomings and make mistakes, they seek wisdom because they are aware that they lack a supreme perfect power.
As a culture in modern society, we are natural skeptics, we have so much information at our fingertips that it seems the only way we know how to see these beings is through age old texts that we cannot purely reconstruct no matter how much longing some may have for those times. We cry out against any interaction someone may have with the gods, any stories they may have gleaned, as being Personal Gnosis and having no basis to the history of our gods because we lack the ability to believe. We cannot fathom the means to truly take in all that the gods are, and their force and life and energy and relate it to this new age. We live in a world without bards, the poets who travel and learn the tales of the gods ventures through the many tribes and go on to share those adventures through those oral traditions. What modern heathenry appears to lack is a TRUE belief in our gods and their existence, putting them instead frozen in time and shunning anything that goes against those words written down thousands of years ago.
So, to my fellow kindred members and to the modern heathen practitioners, I challenge you to allow our gods their evolution, their new stories to come to us, to be handed down, and break from the chains of stagnation. Our gods have not died yet, Ragnarok has not yet claimed their world or ours. Believe in the life force of our gods and their existance, rather than be dismissive of others claims of interactions, or the stories they glean from the Gods.
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