They Call us Heathens
Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen is a novelist from Norway and his blog www.bull-hansen.com is read by thousands of people all over the world. He is an outdoorsman, survivalist and a carrier of his cultural heritage as a Norseman. Here is a blogpost he wrote exclusively for us at TAC:
THEY CALL US HEATHENS
by Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen
Are you a heathen? If you are, you’re not alone. Heathenry is one of the fastest growing spiritual movements right now. But what does it mean to be a heathen? The word has sometimes been hurled at me by people of the Christian, Muslim or atheistic faiths and I understand it is supposed to make me feel bad. Well, it doesn’t. I am by definition a proud Norse heathen, and in this blogpost I will tell you what that means.
To me, being a Norse heathen means that I strongly relate to the wisdom expressed by the symbols found in Norse mythology. Some would say that is a vague form of heathenry, and maybe it is. But I think it would be hard to find a Norse heathen who believes the old myths should be understood literally. Instead, Ásatru have become a belief system suited for the modern world and the old gods are understood as forces that live beside us, strengthening us every day. That said, I know some will disagree and I have no problem with that. The beauty of being a heathen is that it’s 100% individual. To some, the ancient ways of worship is essential. To others, like myself, just being out in the woods is the only «ritual» we need. We heathens don’t need churches. We don’t really need figures of authority either. In my opinion, that individualism is a very healthy aspect of heathenry.
Another thing that is very healthy about Ásatru, it that it’s well suited to the modern world. The «séd», or customs that made up my ancestors’ religion was established in a time when things weren’t as black and white as they would later become with the introduction of the Abrahamic religions. For example, the concepts of race and sexuality were less rigid. It should also be mentioned that Ásatru would not have been reserved for people with Scandinavian DNA. It would rather have been a part or Norse society that involved everyone, no matter where you came from. In my case, I am as Norwegian as you can get. My name is Bjørn, I am the son of Bjørn, the Bull part of my surname seems to be derived from de Rule (of Rollo) and I grew up in Viken in Norway. I am also very enthusiastic whenever people from other parts of the world, often with another ethnic background than myself, message or email telling me that they’ve found Ásatru or Norse mythology and symbolism. I believe the world would be a better place if more people connected with themselves and with nature in a spiritual way, and Ásatru is a great guide in that process.
Being a heathen is a «softer» approach to the big questions in life. I find that the absolutism in both the Abrahamic religions and also in atheism is a bit silly, to be honest. Also, it does annoy me that whenever I tell people here in Norway that I am not a Christian, they assume I’m an atheist. I have nothing against neither Christians or atheists, but here in secular Norway the organized hard-core atheists are starting to look a lot like some extreme religious cult and they are quick to ridicule people like me. I think it’s a shame, but I try to tell myself they behave like that because they don’t know any better. How many of them have even the slightest clue of what the word «heathen» means? Probably not many. The word «heathen» actually comes from the word «hede», which means moors, fields or the land itself. So heathen literally means «people of the land». Isn’t that what we all should strive to be?
As a heathen, you probably believe that every living thing should be respected. Personally, I have always felt a special, spiritual connection to trees and it has been something that I did not fully understand. Ásatru explained that connection to me. It is yet another thing both atheists and people of the Abrahamic religions usually fail to understand and often mock. They say believing in such a connection with nature is uneducated. Well, I’m not uneducated and most heathens I have met, are well read and intelligent people. Also, they call us romantics. But what is wrong with being a romantic? The problem is rather that so many people today lack that ability.
Being a heathen means you’re part of a spiritual kinship. Our myths and tales are ancient and carry the wisdom of our ancestors. Our kin were here at the very beginning and great responsibility lies on our shoulders. Never forget: We are the ancient ones and people died for the right to remember our ways. So the next time you hear those drums and the names of our gods, be thankful and be proud. Our drums beat with the pulse of the world itself and our gods will walk beside you if only you let them.