I think if I were to ask most of you what good and evil were I would get a very one sided, possibly even a very Christian influenced answer. Which, if you are from the Western World is very expected.
As an example, if you ask a person that has a general Christianized view of good and evil, if a man who had just robbed a store was evil; there is a good chance most of them will say yes. Yes that that person is in fact evil. But what if he was robbing the store to feed his family who are living on the streets and starving for weeks on end? Well then it gets a little more complicated doesn't it? Perhaps, maybe his actions were evil, but he himself, as a human being is not. Within our more modern conceptions, there is a very fine line between good and evil, between intention and action and whether or not it was the person, or the deed.
However, I believe that in ancient times, and in modern heathenry it is not so cut and dry as that. I believe that there is in fact not at a thin line, but a large gray area. There can be a person who does evil things but does good things as well, and when this occurs, we then we have to look at their decisions and actions and judge those individually rather than all together to come to the conclusion on whether or not this person is “evil” or not. There could be the worst man in the world, but he saves a family by sacrificing himself, yes I would say he is still a bad person, but that action was good. I do not believe that the good wipes out the bad, and the bad does not wipe out the good either. Good and Evil are just not that simple! That man is a terrible man still, but he will be remembered for the good deeds he accomplished at the end.
Look at the gods, Thor, whom we view as "good" goes and pitilessly massacres thousands of Jotuns, including entire families! Is that good? Well again it can be depending on where you stand, and if those Jotuns were "bad" but some of them I do not think were evil, many in fact! You could say he is racist! That is a bad deed to just kill innocent Jotuns! (not to say they are all innocent, many of them in fact are "bad" but not all). Thor is half Jotun himself is he not? So how can we decide whether he is good or evil? I do not think we can, he has done both good and evil, by our modern perceptions. Of course besides the fact that he is a heathen god, the christians would say he is completely evil because of his actions. I do no think it is healthy to think that way, we all have good and evil in us, and all around us. But I do not think everything is one or the other entirely. This does not work with the way in which we as heathens view the worlds around us.
Another good example of this is Hel, the daughter of Loki and the ruler of helhiem and the dead. She is half alive "good" and half rotting corpse "evil" but the beutuy of one side does not make the other look better, or vice versa. I really think we need to get rid of the idea of such black and whiteness, it all depends on how you look at it, and which side of the action you are on. If you are in a war, and you are bombed, you will think the bombers are evil, but they may be bombing you because you are going to attack them first! There is no this or that. There are so many factors that contribute, and i think that is how heathen thought is, or should be IN MY OPINION.
This brings me to my next main point however. The very fact that the term “Good and Evil” should not even be applied to Heathen thought or philosophies! These concepts bear with them ideals there were not necessarily supported during the Viking Age, or by our ancestors. These ideas came from other parts of the world, other cultures and religions. Over time their influence of course has sway over the way in which we do things today, and that I think is something we need to change. (But that is an article for another day).
I believe that it would be much more appropriate for us to use the terms, “Order, Balance, and Chaos”. If we use this model, the Aesir would be the forces of Order, the gods of man, of magic, death and poetry, of law and justice. Then the Vanir, would be the gods of balance. The Vanir are the nature gods, the primordial, nameless and or forgotten gods of the winds and trees. The gods that were there before the coming of the Aesir. The gods of nature personified. Then, we have Chaos, the Jotuns, the forces bent on destruction of order, not of good, but of order and balance. Those of the Vanir, care only for balance, seeking to restore it where they can, to bring balance to nature.
When we look at the world in this duality, vs the other, then things seem to flow easier, to make more sense. This large gray area that I was speaking of earlier, now takes over all sides. Men, women, and gods must be judged but their actions individually, their character, and their accomplishments in this system to judge their quality. But when everything is good or evil, the details no longer matter, and large events or mistakes can then govern a persons life, altering their course, and making them the person that they have been labeled.
It is my opinion, that Norse Mythology, and day to day life as a heathen, we should not think in terms of Good and Evil, but of Order, and Chaos, Balance and Disruption. The ebb and flow of nature and the ever preset presence of the Holy Powers.
What are your thoughts? Do you think “Good and Evil” are perfectly fine terms that we can, and should use? Or do you think my proposal sounds a little more correct? Do you have ideas of your own? Share them will the community! We would love to hear them!