It’s been over 15 years since I was first introduced to Neo-Paganism in the form of Wicca during my teenage years. After spending a few years under the label of Eclectic Pagan I was introduced to Asatru and Heathenry.
I viewed myself as a Hard Polytheist. My belief for quite some time was that all deities existed as fully existing spiritual beings that could and did on occasion manifest or influence the physical realm, their existence possible by the energy and focus people placed into them.
Over the years I began to truly question the validity of that belief and during a time of great personal difficulties, I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist in regards to my belief in divinity. But I still fully believed in the cultural values and traditions of Heathenry. So what was I now? Mostly I’ve still used the Heathen label because I had personally met one Atheist Heathen and had heard of many more.
Around six months ago, I learned of Naturalistic Paganism, and upon reading the definition learned that I am not alone in still feeling connected to a form of Paganism but yet not sharing the commonly viewed senses of Deity.
Deities Real to Deities Not: How Does that Happen?
To others around me, and from my story in a nutshell above, it may seem like these changes in belief were fairly sudden. They were truly a gradual progression. In my early days of Wicca, I held to a light polytheist view but a strong belief in the supernatural and magic. First, my belief in magic began to dwindle as I personally found gaps in the common definition of why magic worked. These were places where faith was the only answer. Unfortunately faith alone, along with personal random results to my own magical practices, led to a dwindling of that belief.
A belief in magic is not a central belief in Heathenry. There are those who do practice it, such as rune magic, but there are many Heathens who have no belief or just refrain from any practice of magic. Other than feeling a connection to the culture and values, that lack of centralization of magic was something that drew me to Heathenry.
So now I’ve come to start studying Heathenry, and my only belief in magic (and one I still hold) is it works only on yourself. It is an excellent way of self-motivation and visualization, but I do not think we can affect outside of that with spellwork. I still practice divination and am a Hard Polytheist.
Years go by and small things begin to challenge that Hard Polytheistic belief. Those beliefs don’t hold up to these little challenges over time. It comes to where I see Deities as a form of Societal focus and comfort to people, not beings who have the direct ability to affect our lives. I went on for quite some time before I said anything to my kindred and friends. When I did, it led to a falling out and distance that I’ve never repaired.
Where Am I Now?
For the past 5 years, I’ve been a solitary practicing Heathen. It’s not my preference, as I still strongly believe in family, community, and the importance of those bonds. Shortly after I had this realization, my first child was born and anyone with children knows your life changes dramatically. One of those things being your ability to get out and do things too.
One day I hope to return to the Heathen community, because I still have beliefs in Wyrd, the values taught by the Lore, the importance of community and our personal honor, honoring our ancestors, and even land spirits in a way. In this time I’ve delved more into online communities, including Naturalistic ones.
I still feel a bit like I don’t fit in anywhere precisely but maybe that is just because I haven’t found it yet.
Velody Dark is a mother of two small children and a certified teacher in her state who has been walking a pagan path for over fifteen years. She is also the creator behind Treegold & Beegold, a blog and handmade business that focuses on Life, Parenting from a Pagan perspective, and Crafts with tutorials. Her handmade shop includes a large variety items aimed for the family from embroidered children’s items, tarot bags, and vinyl decals.
You’re not alone.This is close to what happened with me.
I identified as Heathen for many years I tried to get close to the Gods but I just couldn’t shake my feeling that I really don’t believe in the reality of Gods,Wights ect.So when bring this up I was seen as offending the “real” Heathens who saw the Gods as real and somehow less than in that community.So I just sort of fell away from it all.
But there is something that still draws me to Heathenry.When I see the Mjolnir
I feel something deep down and i just can’t shake it.But I can’t believe in the Gods as actual beings either.
Bill Linzie over at Asatru Lore/Raven radio has a post pod cast on what is a God which I find excellent.
I thank you for writing this as I now don’t feel so alone as someone drawn to Heathenry but see the Gods as symbolic rather than real.
Yes I get you completely. For me I’ve always been drawn to Yggdrasil and the imagery surrounding it. I have spoken with a Heathen who was also an Atheist years ago, so I know others exist but yes definitely rare. Glad to know their are even more.
I can relate!
My mindset isn’t as naturalistic as it once was… but I’ve been a heathen for years, and while I was a staunch naturalistic pagan I definitely came across some resistance. However, I was lucky in that the folk I’ve been with were (are) very accepting and understanding.
It’s great to see that even though you (and William) had a negative experience in “coming out” with your views, you’ve stuck with it. There’s a strong pull to those traditions, even in a purely symbolic context.
Oh — and I’ll second William’s recommendation on that Podcast, it is a good one.
Velody, your story is very interesting. I am particularly interesting in what led you from Wicca to a hard polytheistic perspective in the first place? Also, if you don’t mind sharing, were you raise in a religious tradition? And how do you think that impacted your evolution?
John, no I wasn’t raised in a strongly religious tradition but I was raised Christian. I went to church quite often as a child (Presbyterian) but my mother (my largest influence) was very much into letting me find my own way. I believe that had a huge impact into my feeling comfortable in exploring religion at a young age. My mother was supportive and even attended an open Beltaine ritual of a public group I went to when I was 17.
I really went from Wicca to Eclectic Pagan. While identifying as Eclectic Pagan I had begun looking into the Norse deities. From their I learned of the difference between Norse Pagan and Recontructionalist. It was more the reconstructionalist part that drew me. Memories are vague as it was pretty long ago but I never completely believed strongly in the common Wiccan diety view of male and female with all just being archetypes.
Thanks for sharing Velody. Was there a particular experience which led you to embrace hard polytheism, or was it more of a philosophical conversion? (I apologize if I’m not using the right terms.)
Thinking back on that I don’t really think it was that much of a conversion in the first place. I had grown up with the concept of a single omnipotent deity and just over time added that from one concrete deity to many, it just took a few steps as I added more and more to the list. (Not the easiest thing to explain really). It wasn’t until many years within Heathenry that I began questioning the validity and reality of deity.
I don’t know if any one thing led me to specifically embrace hard polytheism. It’s more that all of my early spiritual searching were motivated by desires to control and understand my own self and surroundings. I went through a long period of emotional turmoil, if that makes sense.
Thank you for sharing your story Velody. It is very enlightening to hear the thoughts and experiences of others who have moved to naturalism but maintain a spiritual practice. May we all find community anew 🙂
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