There Are No Participation Trophies in Paganism

“Be your friend’s true friend. Return gift for gift. Repay laughter with laughter again but betrayal with treachery.” - Havamal 42

Gebo is the rune of reciprocal giving. It embodies an idea that was very important to our ancestors. Reciprocal giving is such a simple concept, yet it commonly eludes us. This is not to say that we are selfish or lack gratitude but for many of us it is simply difficult to look past the gifts we receive. We often find ourselves in situations where we reap the benefits of hard sown efforts whether we are actively aware of them or not. But we need to remember that there are no participation trophies in Heathenry. The title I chose for this article is meant to appeal to a wider audience but, of course, I am a Heathen, so I will be addressing this issue from the perspective of a Heathen. But take whatever terminology I use and plug in whatever words you would like and the point remains the same. Taken as literal or metaphorical as you would like, the fact is that we don’t get participation trophies for what we do. This is not to say that we cannot gain personal satisfaction from participation, far from it. On the contrary it is important for everyone to discover what personally rewards them with the most fulfillment. If you are a solitary practitioner who takes joy in simply participating in online communities that is great. Whether you are an observer, dabbler, participant, or leader, each and every Heathen has a duty to discover and develop their own personal relationship with the gods. Any sane rational human being knows that you cannot get something from nothing. The gods themselves knew this. The Norse creation myth tells of Odin, Vili, and Ve standing in Ginnungagap between the land of fire, Muspelheim, and the land of ice, Niflheim. The gods saw the void and took the initiative to fill it. (Granted the act involved brutally murdering their kind of sort of great grandfather, but that is beside the point.) In a similar fashion, individuals are required to put effort in to creating groups and organizations to serve the Heathen community. Albeit their effort tends to be much less epic and blood soaked.

Modern Heathenry is still in it’s relative infancy. More and more individuals are learning about and being called to the old gods. In the modern age it is easier than ever for us to reach out and connect with like-minded individuals all over the world but at the same time we remain isolated. There are efforts made on a daily basis to work towards improving and strengthening the community. As these communities grow so does the strain placed on them. In most cases you will see membership far outgrowing the volunteer manpower. This leads to community leaders being isolated from their members by their ever-growing workloads, delayed project schedules, ideas never being brought to fruition, and in the worse case scenarios for organizations operating physical projects it can mean stressful financial burdens that can fracture their community.

For those of us who enjoy being part of Heathen communities it is important to remember that we will only get as much out of them as we are willing to put in. We can passively participate as much as we would like but when a time comes that a group isn’t offering what we would like, no amount of complaining or brooding will make it happen. To put it simply: If you want shit to happen, you need to make shit happen. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. We live in the age of information with the entire world at our fingertips. If you are reading this right now it means you have the tools necessary to be a vital part of the community. Do you want to meet others in your area? Join groups, sift through comment sections, dig around, and always be on the lookout. Would you like to see more gatherings locally? Do a little digital legwork, create a Facebook event and invite strangers, meet in a park, step outside of your comfort zone. Volunteer with organizations, give your time to the community, don’t be afraid to learn something new.

Do you have absolutely no leadership experience? No leader ever started out with experience. No artist ever started by creating masterpieces. A million people could be wanting to get something started but it will never happen if nobody takes that first step. This doesn’t only apply to leadership either. Be supportive of your fellow community members. You may not be interested in or meant for a leadership position, but you can help those who are trying to fill the role.

There will always be work to be done. But if we all strive towards our goals together and share the load we will be able to accomplish so much. Put in the time and effort. Offer to host gatherings, offer rides to those who don’t have transportation, be willing to donate to fund projects and causes you care about. The more of us that volunteer to do our part the less will be required of each individual. Together we can accomplish great things.

The greater Heathen community is thriving, but it is up to us to make sure it stays that way. We have to be willing to put in the time and effort to cultivate it. If we want things to happen we need to ask ourselves how we can make it happen. If we enjoy something we should find a way to give back to those who put in the effort to make it possible. Remember: There are no participation trophies in Heathenry. “If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” – David Bowie

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