Heathenry is the modern-day version of the ancient Northern European religion. Followers dedicate themselves to the Norse gods and act according to the sacred texts. However, heathen communities are independent; some beliefs and activities vary from one society to another.
Most heathens believe that historical and ancient religious information accuracy is crucial. In contrast, the rest believe modern innovations are necessary to remain relevant in the current world. Continue reading to find out more interesting heathenry facts.
1. German Folk Tales and Norse Myths Hugely Impact Heathenry
Many heathens attribute German folk tales and Norse myths to why they chose the heathenry path. This is evident through their demographic distribution, with the majority occupying areas with Germanic cultural inheritance. A few claim revelations to join the movement were shown to them in their dreams.
2. Heathens Are Different from Wiccans
Heathenry and Wicca are examples of today’s non-reconstructionist pagans. While they share many similarities, heathenry differs from Wicca and other similar groups. For instance, heathens do not adopt the Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year,” as with Wicca. However, the wider pagan communities usually work together for political and social reasons.
3. There Are Not As Many Heathens, Yet
According to a religious scholar, Graham Harvey, telling the exact number of heathens in the world is impossible. However, results from a 2013 self-selected census estimated that well over 16,700 members were scattered across the globe. The number surpassed the 20,000 mark in 2020.
4. Heathenry Is Relatively New
One of the reasons why heathenry is not as popular globally is that the religion is relatively new compared to Islam or Christianity. While its origin lies in the later parts of the 19th century, most heathenry movements emerged and grew from the 1960s to the early 2000s. Religious studies scholars openly classify heathenry as a new religious movement.
5. Heathenry Doesn’t Place Much Significance on Afterlife
Contrary to what some popular religions believe, heathenry does not place much significance on the afterlife. Followers believe in living right and that those who die naturally will go to the hall of the goddess Hel, where they’ll reunite with their ancestors.
Over time, there have been talks of Valhalla being heathenry’s equivalent of heaven, but it’s a misconception.
6. There Are Elements of Heathenry Misappropriation
Just like other religions, heathenry has its unsavory attributes. One of the most prevalent ones is racism. The vice is a concern in the United States and Canada and has lately found its way into the United Kingdom. Perpetrators mask themselves behind heathenry to fulfill their discriminatory beliefs.
7. It Does Not Have A Unified Theology
Heathenry is polytheistic; it does not have a unified theology. It shares cosmological views with ancient communities, including the imbuement of the natural world with spirits and some animalistic aspects. Heathens honor their deities through libations and sacrifices (blots).
8. Heathens Occupy Specific Parts Of the World
Heathen organizations have emerged and spread to specific parts of the world, including Canada, the United States, Germany, Iceland, Australia, and some parts of the United Kingdom. However, heathens from specific regions differ; they are independent. The growth of modern pagan movements hugely influences these variations.
9. Heathens Have Festivals, Too
Different cultures and religions worldwide have festivals throughout the year; the same is true for heathens. Yule, Winter Nights, and Sigrblot are the most popular celebrations for heathenry followers.
10. The United States Has The Largest Heathen Community
Research shows that the United States has the largest heathen community. According to Jeffrey Kaplan, a famous sociologist, the country hosted hundreds of heathens in the 90s, with the numbers constantly rising. In 2018, Jefferson F. Calico, a scholar of religion, estimated that there were over 8,000 heathenry members in the region.
11. Heathenry Movements Have Varied Designations
While heathenry is an umbrella term used to describe the religion, members prefer using specific designations depending on their regions and ideological preferences. For instance, followers of Anglo-Saxon traditions call it Theodism/Fyrnsidu. On the other hand, those from the Scandinavian region prefer Vanatru, Forn Sed, or Asatru.
12. Some Ancient Heathen Cultures Practiced Magic and Seership
Some ancient heathens practiced magic and seership activities. For instance, the Northern European members carved runes onto talismans and chanted charms commonly referred to as galdor. Others practiced shamanistic exercises, popularly known as Seidh. Modern-day heathens engage in runic divination.