Inclusive Heathen Logo Project

If you’re interested in ordering a shirt or other items with this design, please contribute to my survey HERE so I can better understand the scale of interest and proceed from there. You can read about the concept and process behind it below. Thank you!

I started working on this design around the Capitol Riot in January 2021, but it’s taken various revisions and conversations to bring it to this point of sharing. I reached out to Dr. Jackson Crawford regarding using a small portion of his translation from The Wanderer’s Havamal and was given consent to do so, which was really an honor, and have been researching how best to produce the shirts given the range of colors and transparency when I have time.

The original concept was to develop a design inclusive Heathens could display to make it readily apparent they were supportive of the queer and BIPOC communities. January was a frightening, uncertain time existing here in the United States, and everywhere I looked the heathen community was once again discussing the issues of racism in the community and the use of these symbols by white supremacists. That conversation isn’t new, but it often feels swept under the rug or dismissed for more comfortable topics in heathen circles. I was angry that it took such an upheaval to tip the conversation beyond ‘not being political,’ but at the very least it feels easier to broach. The heathenry subreddit have made a stickied post about this, and recently Beofeld and some other members of the heathen community on YouTube released the Declaration of Deeds, which are welcome reminders that this should be an ongoing conversation.

So here is the design I’ve created to attempt to alleviate a fraction of the emotional and mental energy that goes into deciding whether heathens you encounter in the wild are approachable. I found some designs online when I first searched, but a lot of heathen content is quite hesitant to be direct, or makes big assumptions about how clear and friendly the messaging might appear to others–there’s even heathen stickers and t-shirts out there with rainbow colors on them, but this wasn’t what I was looking for. I long for a day when I can approach others wearing a Mjolnir or spearhead necklace without having to calculate as I walk towards them whether they have any suspect tattoos or the like.

Included Symbols

The Drinking Horn After listing out and sketching a number of potential symbols from Mjolnir to admittedly reaching longships or Ulfberht swords, I decided on the drinking horn. While potentially a bit old-fashioned–my hearth and I prefer horn cups with flat bottoms and save the horn itself for larger blots–I feel the horn represents the values of hospitality and community in heathenry, and the blessing and sharing of the horn with esteemed guests in Beowulf and other texts is an emotive and memorable scene. It was also important to me to avoid martial symbols of heathenry, which are found all over the place. As this is also directed towards people not within the heathen community, I wanted to represent protection as an element of hospitality. Imagine a complete stranger trying to sort out the intended message of a rainbow longship!

Runes I was concerned to include the runes in this, but feel the rest of the design offers enough that is immediately recognizable that the runes will serve as a sort of additional nod to heathenry, an echo of Havamal 47, and present these runes in an explicitly welcoming context where they have often been used by supremacist groups.

Rainbow Few of the dozens of pride flags around today are quite so ubiquitous as the rainbow flag, which has made its way into corporate advertising at this point. Incidentally, I also feel it adds some brightness and needed color to the design–lots of heathen content is quite focused on what feels like an aesthetic of Fimbulwinter.

BIPOC Colors I have tried and failed to find the origin of this flag online, but as of yet have come up empty-handed. At this point, at least among my friends who would recognize it in the first place, it feels quite common and simple to parse if you haven’t seen it already.

If you skipped the lede, I promise I’ll only judge you a little–you can contribute to the survey about this design should you want a t-shirt or other item here!


Heathenry and the Military, Part II

It’s time to return to the subject of heathenry and the military! In my previous post I claimed I would get this segment published the following weekend–what hubris that was. I apologize for the long wait. Life has been pretty busy these past few weeks, and I appreciate your patience. If you haven’t read the original post in this set, it’s worth doing so for context, and should only take a few minutes. 

Heathenry and the Military

“I don’t agree with military hero worship, though a toast for a particular person during blot wouldn’t be bad.”

“If we are not careful, something like [excessive numbers of beard waiver requests] can ruin the professional legitimacy [of Heathenry] from the military and the military chaplain corps. We need to maintain the sincerity of the requests in order to maintain legitimacy.”

“When you see people using the runes and iconography to support white supremacy, that’s a detriment to us all..the misconceptions, lack of representation, those are all things that are holding us back and we need to work on changing that. We are going to change it and it’s going to be slow, but we’re going to.”

Participants explained they had little concerns regarding the culture of heathenry as it relates to the military, expressing overall happiness in their experiences with other heathens. Hero worship and the “fetishization” of Valhol and Folkvang were cautioned against. Heathenry obviously honors military experience and spirit, having emerged from a warrior culture, but more than once participants referenced the fact that honoring specific service members or veterans with whom one or a community has a personal relationship is respectful, compared to honoring the concept of the military or combat alone. The relationship between this misplaced focus and “brosatru” was noted more than once and will be explored further in Emergent Topics

Regarding service members who are in the military, beard waivers arose as a topic and multiple participants expressed they had difficulty finding other heathens within the branches whether deployed or at home. If you are unaware of the issue of beard waivers in the military, I encourage you to read the link provided above from the Open Halls Project. It is of interest to me to return to this in the future, as I know several members of the military who have pursued and acquired these waivers and the existing reporting on this issue is rather scant, but for now that link will explain the matter. Participants’ reflecting on their difficulty finding other heathens to talk to varied from matter-of-fact to expressing frustration at either being told heathenry is, “not to be discussed at work,” or not being able to find other heathens with military experience other than online. This may support the importance of military recognition of heathenry, “inclusion,” and, “representation,” as were requested at times during our interviews. As this was not within the scope of my interview question set and did not ask at the time, I am unaware of whether or not servicemembers of other faiths discuss their beliefs more readily than heathens. It is worth noting that The Troth Military and Veterans Steward, Joshua Wood, expressed that The Troth is working to expand heathen lay clergy members in pursuit of these goals. 

The Military and Heathenry

“When I became lay leader on deployment, the first question a chaplain asked was, “You’re not going to kill anything [as a sacrifice] are you?”

“It would be awesome to have a dedicated Heathen chaplain.”

The matter of heathen visibility amidst service members has been discussed above. Participants’ responses to the inquiry of whether there was anything they would like to see change with the military response to heathenry ranged quite a bit, from indifference to frustration. They mentioned colleagues assuming they, “worshipped Vikings,” implying they were white supremacists, diminishing the weight or validity of their belief, lying about being religious, and the above statement about animal sacrifice. While these are not unfamiliar to civilian heathens as frustrations, the particular weight and sacrifice of this industry illuminate the importance of recognizing heathenry for the valid system that it is. This is even more important given the complex and varied relationship of heathenry to death and the afterlife and service members’ often increased risk. While not a new revelation, to hear the scope of ignorant comments around heathenry and given the weight of the work being done is a strong reminder of the changes that are so needed. The above link over chaplains from the Open Halls Project reports that no Wiccans or Heathens have been brought to chaplain status, with the majority of chaplains being Christian. Representing heathenry honorably within your communities and working to support organizations lobbying for recognition of heathenry within the military branches are ways you can help locally. Additionally, existing groups such as The Open Halls Project, Awaken the North and The Troth have their own ongoing projects you can contribute to.

Honoring Heathen Service Members and Veterans

When a heathen deploys, doing an honorary ritual to ask the gods to look after them [is] always a good thing. While they’re deployed, increase the acts of Frith, do what the Eddas say and partake in gift giving. Care packages are always welcome, it makes a service member feel like, ‘I may be physically away from the community, but I’m still here.” [If] someone comes back and you are glad they’re back but have made no effort to communicate with them while they’re gone, that can be really disappointing…The only disrespectful thing would be not making the time to maintain Frith.”

“Thinking of fallen friends is almost a form of ancestor worship.”

“Yule is the time to sit around the fire and discuss your dead, honor them, toast them, and tell stories about them.”

“If you’re going to do something like [Feast of the Einherjar] make sure the communication is there with the veterans because psychologically [they] may not be ready to explore those thoughts and feelings that they have. I know I did a toast for the Einherjar after a friend of mine committed suicide, and it’s definitely tough. You’re opening up old wounds[.]”

The importance of communicating personally with service members was reiterated. This could include discussions of whether hailing fallen comrades is appropriate for the kindred as a whole, whether they are ready for this act, whether service members wish to be singled out as honored guests, and how you might go about preparing for their deployment both before they are deployed and during this time away. As with any discussion of boundaries and needs, it is often difficult to articulate these when initially asked or still in the midst of recovery, so this conversation should be sensitive to their state and may require multiple sessions instead of all at once. Bear in mind that assisting deployed service members while they are deployed can also include checking in on and supporting their families if this is something they are comfortable with. The US Department of Veteran’s Affairs has published a series of cultural competency courses that may be of interest to gothar/githya and other community members, and here is a specific course regarding Military Culture and Spiritual Health

On Valhol and Folkvang

“[There are] multiple different endings for how our lives can be, trying to stay set on one diminishes the journey. As far as the military context goes, the prospect of going to Valhalla would be much more real to them [and] unfortunately, not everybody makes it back. [It] can be not only a very limiting mindset but a very dangerous one at that. You can only think about the conflict.”

“I wouldn’t want to see [Valol and Folkvang] glorified, but when you have a comrade fall [they] can help with acceptance[.] Valhol and Folkvang are consolation prizes for dying in battle far from home.”

[After a veteran close to me committed suicide, I] went out to an empty field, offered a libation of wine over parsley, and requested that Odin allow him into Valhol as he lost in the battle against his mind.”

Valhol and Folkvang are two potential realms in the afterlife for those who die in battle, and are often referenced outside of military contexts for a variety of reasons. I asked my participants about their thoughts regarding these and their use in both a military and civilian context. Some participants felt that these are exclusively for those who die in battle, while others felt that veterans who die outside of battle or people who have battled with diseases such as cancer can also be taken to these spaces after death. The somewhat dueling concepts of Valhol as a, “consolation prize for dying far from home,” and a comfort and honor emerged, and underscore the complexity and significance of these spaces. As heathenry is a living faith and individual experiences of it are quite variable, it is important we work together to understand our varied conceptions of these spaces. 

Emergent Topics

Death and Suicide

While I did not add to my question set through the interviewing process, there were some topics that recurred and are worth noting: it was of particular interest to me that death and suicide arose in responses to even questions unrelated to Valhol and Folkvang, and at times resulted in interviewees pausing or changing the subject entirely as their emotions rose, which is absolutely understood. Even with a question set specifically written to exclude this, it came up in multiple interviews, and I believe this underscores the importance of preparing as a community for these conversations. The evident emotional impact of these topics also reinforces the need for sensitive approaches to these topics, and obviously avoiding raising these topics in an overly glorified or insensitive manner. I believe working to conceptualize service members as individuals instead of as a monolithic entity is an important step in this process, and that acknowledging them as individual people helps in not diminishing the respect given. 

White Supremacy

The topic of white supremacy’s presence in heathenry also came up in discussing heathen culture in the military. This is an issue for all of us to recognize and combat. Even if your personal experience with other heathens has not involved abject white supremacist statements, this presence is clear online and in countless examples from others, and we must not allow any grounds for white supremacists to believe they are supported. I encourage you to inform yourself about the tactics these groups take in recruiting new members, monitor your communities for members who may follow this path, support them so that this can be avoided, and take proactive, strong steps against the allowance of racism, ableism and folkism in your circles. This goes beyond simply acknowledging the issues of white supremacy in heathenry and must include proactive steps against these, not simply in claims but in actions. Additionally, much work has been done in documenting and monitoring the use of heathenry by white supremacist movements, and understanding this history can help you recognize this occurring in the present. The Heathen History podcast is an excellent source for this. 

Shallow Heathenry

Some participants noted their frustration with ‘Brosatru’ and Folkish heathens misrepresenting or parroting misrepresented heathenry for their own gains, which highlights the importance of education to expand heathenry beyond stereotypes and only embodying the imagined Viking age. You can help accomplish this by calling out stereotypes, misinformation and intentional misrepresentation when these appear in your community and understanding heathenry as a living and ever-evolving faith; we must recognize that heathenry exists in a modern world and the richness and diversity of the world around us is a gift, not something to be ignored or closed off. Building a richer understanding in your community can also help with legitimizing heathenry in the eyes of other faiths and the wider world we live in and contribute to.


I approached this inquiry and discussion with a somewhat monolithic concept of military heathens, something I had slowly chipped away at over the course of my communicating with friends, but still found to be present in researching and writing my question set. I have come away from this experience with a more diverse understanding of the experiences, needs and wants of military heathens, and a renewed interest in developing a vocabulary and skillset for supporting them in those aspects of their lives specific to their military experience and outside of it. I hope that these questions have inspired you and might further your communities’ closeness. Please let me know if you have any questions, would like to talk, or have recommendations for future posts on different topics. Thank you so much for sticking through this with me, and once again I want to thank the contributors to these conversations for the time, emotion and honesty they put into talking with me. You have helped me and given me much to consider moving forward, have given our community some concepts to better support one another, and I wish you well.

Heathenry and the Military, Part I

In my years as a Heathen, I’ve witnessed quite a range of responses to service members and veterans, from stilted change-of-subject, to the oft-repeated and variably appreciated, “Thank you for your service,” to intentionally drawing up a soldier’s traumatic experiences. It should be our goal to allow group spaces in-person and online to give service members and veterans a space to lay down their arms and armor, both physical and mental, and experience Frith with their lives and experiences acknowledged in healthy and respectful ways. As heathenry springs from a warrior culture and surviving texts are sparse and often have their own unexamined goals toward military service, a complex relationship exists between heathenry, the present-day civilian experience in the United States, and the military. These articles will aim to answer questions modern heathens may have in understanding and honoring the members of their communities who are service members and veterans, and bring about more open discussion of what your community members need. It is especially my hope to illuminate the fact that military service members’ experience of heathenry, as with any other practitioner, varies greatly; theirs is not a monolithic experience, and thus having the rich, open conversations that heathenry allows will help in supporting one another.

In order to better understand the current experience of heathen military servicemembers and veterans, I wrote up a set of interview questions and organized video interviews when able. These questions were published to the Heathenry subreddit and distributed to representatives at The Troth, Awaken the North and the Open Halls Project. I also spoke with members of my communities. While I will not be attributing quotes to specific individuals to protect their identity, all quotes included in this article are from current or former service members of varying lengths of service and branches. Quotes are edited for clarity only. I want to thank these participants, the moderation team at r/heathenry for allowing me to post my question set, and those community leaders who pointed me toward potential contacts for their help. If, throughout the course of reading this, you find a need for definition of terms or a reminder of their context, I invite you to read The Longship. I will endeavor to include direct links to definitions for the first instance of these terms where possible, as with Frith above. 

As the intent is for at least one more portion of this to be published at a later date, if you read this and are interested in contributing, please feel free to reach out to me–I am always happy to set up discussions and would like to return to this topic at a later date with more data! 

Finding Heathenry and Meaning

“Heathenry allows you to live life to excel and help others do the same.” 

“Heathenry is about finding your own path in life, knowing that life is what you make of it–a lot more than the Brosatru, ‘I’m going to die and go to Valhalla.” 

Of those interviewed, the majority of participants came to heathenry early in their military service having been introduced to the Norse myths earlier in life. Several of them spoke to the individual growth and responsibility given to them by their finding heathenry. While some referenced that they knew of other heathens in the military during their service, they also stated that heathens queried about iconography or practice were hesitant to discuss their beliefs in a work environment. Similarly, some noted that non-Heathen servicemembers misunderstood or teased them for their being Heathen, claiming that they believed themselves to be vikings or worshipped Marvel characters. Potential solutions to this will be expanded on in The Military and Heathenry. One participant who had come to heathenry outside of his service experience explained he believed he would have stayed for 20 years were he a heathen beforehand, and said several times that heathenry has built on his self-concept having a, “warrior spirit,” and being a, “front-line person.” 

Military Service and the Texts

“[Being in the Navy] was almost feeling the continual bond with the ancestors that would sail on their own longships, go explore, and just discover different aspects of the world.”

I do enjoy reading but never felt that it was service related.”

“After years as a warrior, I identify with the violence, aggression, and the Code of Honor present in the Sagas. For example, in the Story of Freyfaxi, the King had to uphold his oath; [while] a layperson may read this as violent or awful, as a soldier you understand he is upholding the oath.”

I expected, given much of the warrior aesthetic and focus that are popular in heathenry in the US today, that military service and culture would lead service members to experience their reading quite distinctly. Instead I found an even divide; there were those who felt closer to the figures in the texts or their ancestors for their service, and others who felt that reading the Sagas was removed from their service. Another participant explained that while he did not feel his service shifted his view of the texts, his background in analyzing religious texts from an English degree was helpful, stating, “my time in Catholic education classes with biblical scholars who took common verses and reverted them to their original language has served as a template for avoiding a lot of the folk-bro nonsense.” 

Approaching and Processing Service

“Whenever I or any of my friends have gotten back from deployment, we’ve done smaller ceremonies thereof–you’re back, you’re symbolically laying down your sword and done for now.”

“[It is] definitely easier to process service-related deaths [and] easier to focus on the job when I’m taking high risks.”

“There’s as much in the Havamal and Eddas about living a peaceful and humble life as there is going into combat. It’s not like the religion’s drilling it into us by any means. It just recognizes that it’s an active part of global life. To seek it out is very dangerous.”

Several participants referenced the impact of a heathen concept of death and the afterlife as comforting in processing the deaths of their comrades and friends. One participant explained that he offered to Odin after a relative died by suicide following their military service, later explaining, “thinking of fallen friends is almost a form of ancestor worship.” While not always in response to this particular inquiry, participants stated that heathenry contributed to their strength, wisdom, endurance, desire to excel and decision-making skills in stressful and dangerous situations, which I will return to in Heathenry and Returning Home

Heathenry and Others

“In heathenry, there’s the concept of Frith, ‘the communal bonds that you build with other people.’ Since I’ve been out, that bond has been stronger with prior servicemembers and bonding over experiences that I had in active service. With colleagues it’s like, ‘Yeah dickhead, we were there too.’ Now it’s explaining experiences and the differences [with other veterans] and ‘helping each other out,’ especially when you’re out knowing how difficult transition can be. The kinship within the veteran community [is] trying to help each other out and succeed.”

“Civilian heathens strive to have that warrior spirit. I tell people about boot camp and non-heathens laugh, [while] heathens can embrace the feeling of community and shared effort. As heathens, we strive to build the community up.”

My specific questions were, “Has heathenry impacted your interactions with other service members and veterans?” and “What have you observed in interacting with civilian heathens? Is this distinct from your interactions with non-heathen civilians?” One participant spoke to his frustration with the use of Valhol as accessible to the non-military dead via combat with mental or physical illnesses in talking to civilian heathens. Similar to the above comments on heathen community efforts and building Frith, one participant said that talking to civilian non-heathens removes an additional layer of shared experience, making it such that he has to, “dig for a connection a bit more, work a bit more,” with them. 

Heathenry and Returning Home

“The experiences don’t leave you–they knew that back then, we know that now. Despite being in a different world and mentality, you’re still going to have those experiences–those still make you who you are in their own way. The stress levels, the challenges and everything you did–I worked in the Navy and there were times when I’d be lucky I’d be getting sleep at night doing a 36 hour shift without eating for 2-3 days[.] Compared to that, I’ve almost seen no stress in the civilian world. To see those stanzas in the Havamal and to see that they got it then, you know, it makes it seem like the experiences are a lot more shared.”

“I feel more tied to my family, community, and the earth as a Heathen.”

While heathenry was referenced positively in contributing to soldier’s strength, wisdom, endurance, desire to excel and decision-making skills, one participant warned against constantly seeking danger and death by combat. He referenced Havamal 16 as initially a point of concern for him in considering returning from his service: 

“An unwise man

Thinks he’ll live forever

If only he can avoid a fight,

But old age

Will give him no peace,

Even if weapons do.”

The Wanderer’s Havamal, Crawford, 9

This participant went on to state that witnessing portions of the Havamal that clearly acknowledge traumatic memory and PTSD as aspects of combat experience were helpful for him in reintegration. Dr. Jackson Crawford recently published a video on Veterans Issues in the Sagas which may be of interest in this regard, included here.

Coming Soon

As mentioned above, I will be publishing the second set of quotes and discussion points in the near future–these will include some larger sections and resources: 

  •   Heathenry and the Military
  •   The Military and Heathenry
  •   Honoring Heathen Service Members and Veterans 
  •   On Valhol and Folkvang
  •   Emergent Topics 

Like before, if you have read this and are interested in arranging an interview to contribute to the data set, please reach out! To everyone who contributed to this and has sought these pieces out, thank you so much for your interest and working toward the betterment of our community and the building of Frith. I will be working the next few days but will aim to publish the rest of this by this upcoming weekend! Until then, I wish you all the best!

The Snowball Effect of Focus

Here is a portion of the Forest interface, which shows trees you’ve planted successfully and less so–try, try again!

Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow…For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous.” – Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, p. 22 (Affiliate Link) 

The above quote speaks to me in a way I am embarrassed to admit, but am so glad to have heard from a professional author. I often struggle with the romanticized idea of inspiration compared to dutifully setting aside time to work. I keep my bullet journal or another notebook with me often, in case something striking comes to me and I want to expand on it later, because those bright little snippets of prose are a joy to build from–but that’s exactly what they are, snippets. And one cannot build complete articles out of snippets! It would be like writing an email with every sentence closed by an exclamation point. There are all kinds of transitional phrases and dull clarifications in writing that must, however begrudgingly, be used as vehicles for excitement. So it goes. To combat the struggle for inspiration, I break my work into little segments and focus for increments I feel capable of depending on the day and my coffee intake. In a useful little trick, oftentimes once I’ve begun, it’s easier to keep going even if I have lots to repair at the end. I think breaking the work into smaller pieces allows me to leave the work and return to it refreshed, making improving and editing projects easier. I’d like to talk about the benefit of timers to focus and the resulting snowball effect that makes work easier. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article on time management during the pandemic and mentioned the application Forest. It’s what I use throughout the day to track my time management. I’m not so organized as to schedule my time beforehand, however, I do set up little 20 minute to one hour blocks throughout. And what I find after setting a timer I’m actually able to stick to, puppy and other responsibilities permitting, is that I have a sort of attention-and-enthusiasm snowball. Once I get going, I feel more confident in continuing, and will often run over the allotted time and accomplish more! It seems, at least for me, that getting started is the first hurdle and paradoxically the biggest stumbling block. Working this way, smaller projects usually end up with a first draft fairly quickly, and larger projects end at a stopping point to collect my thoughts and begin anew later. The work becomes a matter of tallying what progress has been made, and ensuring a concept is returned to rather than having to rally myself to begin. You can even adjust the settings in Forest to tally and reward your overtime, which is very encouraging. The app lets you purchase new flora and in-app benefits with the coins earned via concentration, and you’ll collect more of these coins by working on your projects for more time than you initially set out for. Another approach is using a Pomodoro Timer, which means working for a longer period interspersed with brief breaks for relaxation. While Forest sets aside time and makes contributing to your forest or sharing productivity with friends the reward, the concept of Pomodoro timers builds reward into the process. I’ve found it’s especially important to remind myself of how deserving we are of respites and celebrating even little victories, and the common 45-minute stints of Pomodoro timers are a great length of time to become invested in your work without burning out. 

As I mentioned in my last post on productivity apps, I think appropriately contextualizing your work environment and your present abilities is very important. I often find myself kicking myself while looking over the lists of goals I have and expertise I have to build, and I am trying to work on this. Every step you take towards completing a project, whether that be pulling out everything you need before baking or acquiring a certification after months of studying, brings you closer to your goals. And any action you choose to take is hopefully in the interest of improving your life–whether you need to destress for a while with a video game or cup of tea, or you need to take a day focusing on arranging doctor’s appointments and other tasks instead of building your portfolio, these are all worthwhile. This is a very difficult time and we are the worst on ourselves even in the best of circumstances. Please do try to be proud of yourself for living your life well, you deserve to be celebrated and to celebrate yourself. 

I hope this is somewhat helpful for you if you have been struggling to keep your focus right now. I have, too, and this blog is as much a professional aim as it is a cathartic process for me. Recently I’ve been mulling over who my intended audience is, and I think my real goal is just to produce content that encourages people to celebrate yourself and your victories, no matter what brings you to the blog. It’s a little nebulous, but I think having an ethic in mind is something even if I’m not min-maxing my posts. Writing in itself is healing and pushes me in a way I have not pushed myself in a long time out of shame, and I deserve better. So it is understandable that writing, and work, are not rapturous; if I feel better on the other side, proud of even the smallest of accomplishments, that is enough. I hope you feel that pride in yourself too. I am also quite proud to announce I have found a part-time position in a totally different industry to contribute financially to my household and still have time to work on my professional aims! I am awaiting instructions to begin training, but hope to receive training later this week and begin work very soon. This will hopefully mean a whole new set of experiences to write about, and I’m really looking forward to it. This is just to say if you are looking for work right now, know that you will find it in time, and that the emotional and physical labor you contribute to your household are of deep, often unrecognized worth too.

The Norse Myths: Larrington

It recently occurred to me that public libraries still exist outside of the university, so I picked up a library card. I know, I’m a poor heathen and even poorer grandson of a librarian–let’s chalk it up to my book-hoarding brain. We have so many books we’ve two separate shelves and need to buy a new one, so I’m glad these have to be brought back, and the turn-around time is just enough to finish them in a timely manner. The librarian jokingly informed me she had, “a surprise for me,” offering me a set of brightly-colored cards fanned out as if I were at a magician’s show. I chose the green one, clarified the limits for check-outs and holds, and shortly thereafter left the building with a copy of Carolyne Larrington’s The Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes

The subject matter of Larrington’s Norse Myths is right there on the tin. It is not a translation of the Eddas, nor a dictionary of the sagas and myths; the book begins by illustrating the context in which the Poetic Edda was compiled by Sturluson and quickly proceeds from there. For the introduction of each of the major gods of the Norse pantheon, small cards are included as a sort of aside on the page with their common names, associated symbols and information about them. I imagine these would be particularly useful if you were new to the subject of Norse mythology, as these could easily be transcribed onto notecards or into your journal as a quick reference. Larrington recounts many of the myths from the Poetic Edda in a very linear fashion, expanding on the relationships between the gods and occasionally adding her own commentary or interesting aspects we know from archaeological record and other sources. In the midst of exploring the myths, she takes an interlude to discuss the major Germanic heroes, including an excellent review of the stories of the Volsungs and discussion of the related storylines located across Germanic and Scandinavian legend. As someone who has listened to many, but not read, the Sagas themselves, I really appreciated the simplicity and clarity of this section, and feel it is an excellent primer for diving into these stories. I was grateful to have a new understanding of their overlap and convergences. Finally, Larrington turns her attention back to the gods to discuss Ragnarok. She ends the book noting the staying power and popularity of these myths and the Viking Age. 

Larrington’s long history of studying the myths is clear, but did not present much information that was outside my realm of knowledge. There were some scant instances when claims were made that I longed for a citation or footnote for, not because I doubted their validity but because I wanted to know more. While I understood the relationship between some stories from studying the history of English literature, Larrington discusses the variation in certain stories and the potential cultural aims of these distinctions. I feel that her review of the Volsungs’ saga and other myths have made me more prepared to tackle these myself. 

Another component of this book that I have found lacking in other discussions of the myths and sagas is the consideration of the treatment of women in these stories. Most of the books regularly recommended among heathen circles are written by men, especially so men who wrote their works in the 20th or early 21st century, and little criticism is offered. Often, the threats leveled at Gerd in Skirnismal and Gylfaginning are noted dismissively, with a mild reprimand. Larrington acknowledges this and the treatment of the women in the sagas of the Volsungs with more careful care, drawing the reader’s attention to women being regarded in these stories more as tools or a means to an end than individual people with their own desires and aims. As acknowledgement of the wrongdoing here is the first step in making change for the better, I was thankful for her thoughts on these matters. This also increases my interest in reading Women in Old Norse Society and Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World

In Relation to Heathenry

While I did not walk away from reading The Norse Myths with a great deal of new information, it did offer opportunities to explore certain cultural and ethical questions that go unturned. This is important to me, and for this reason I would suggest this book to others regardless of your experience. With that being said, I understand now I likely need to expand my library to include more female authors writing on Old Norse subjects. I am currently making my way through The Road to Hel and will look to the women-centric books referenced above in time. I do feel a more personal, critical review of the Sagas was appreciated and lacking previously, and would recommend this to new heathens in need of a primer who are already invested in the eddas. The book underscores the importance of expanding one’s reading well beyond the Eddas, which is important for building a stronger cultural context and locating those scant references to the lived religion of ancient heathens. If you have read a few books prior to picking this up, your mileage may vary in what you glean. If you are a heathen with a few years’ experience and books under your belt, I would highly recommend Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs by John Lindow as a ready reference for placing names, creating new kennings, and knowing where to look next. I use it regularly when I can’t quite place a name, and the Kindle edition has an excellent table of contents when you don’t want to flip through manually. 

If Larrington’s Norse Myths is at all reflective of a shift in academic literature surrounding pre-Christian Scandinavia to one more critical of once glazed-over actions in the Eddas and Sagas, then I am excited for the future. I will certainly recommend it to new heathens I meet and very much look forward to exploring more of her publications