The Importance of Kindreds and Community within Heathenry today.
“Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For 30 years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: Indeed, this pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We know longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: Is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help to bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.” -Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land
Often times, those new to Asatru today think “Vikings” were strictly of a ‘lone wolf’ mentality (i.e. someone who singularly went about their lives as they saw fit). Many 21st Century Heathens mistakenly think a real “Norse Pagan” never had to hearken to their fellow Kindred or consult with the home tribe to ‘go-a raiding’ as it was much ‘manlier’ to be a loose cannon; robbing and pillaging the neighbors hoard at will.
Because of contemporary movies and T.V. shows, many modern folks are led to believe our Scandinavian Ancestors just happily went through life as solitary warriors, seeking self-serving glory in their place among the nine worlds by being ruthless mavericks.
~Gods teeth, nothing could be further from the truth!
Our Ancestors organically understood the importance of a strong, local community. Everything and anything that might impact the collective village at large was always brought up to the entire Tribe to vote upon, in a communal gathering known as “The Thing.”
Unless the majority agreed it was good for all, whatever was on the docketed agenda for the Thing gathered to decide; it was fully understood whatever event might affect the town, (community) would not come to fruition unless everyone collectively agreed it was for the best of each and every community (town) member.
This communal cohesion also pertained to our Ancestors spiritual veneration; from en-mass witness to a sacred rite of passage or initiation, to honoring sacred traditions of seasonal auspiciousness; usually handled by the local’s holy women and men, whom were known as Gythia or Gothi’s.
In ancient times, just as it is today, humans need and crave the protection and fulfillment achieved by belonging to a ‘Tribe’ of like-minded Folk.
Our happiness is intertwined with the well being and participation within our local Heathen community. Being connected in a community (usually called a Kindred) helps us feel like we belong, and this has a big impact on our own happiness, as well as that of our family, and the community at large as a whole.
There are things all of us can do to improve our Heathen community well being, from locating and actively getting to know our Heathen neighbors, to supporting Kindred's in holding local activities via our regular participation; as well as finding ways to help build or improve Heathen community locations, facilities, and events.
But how, you ask?
The Asatru Community just so happens to have various programs that can aid everyone in not only building and creating kindred's, but also networking with each kindred as they begin to form!
Below is a “step by step” list if you will, of how a typical Heathen in today’s 21st Century might go about building a local Asatru community, which in turn could then become part of the Norse Pagan communities at large:
1. Get legally ordained as a Heathen Godwoman or man. (Gythia /Gothi) By becoming ordained through an accredited source like TAC, you now will have the authority and training needed to create rituals and rites of passage that can bring a small gathering of heathens together in a specific location on a regular basis. Accredited certification also makes any ceremony legal and binding, like marriages, or authentic and meaningful-like funerals or a child’s naming. The Asatru Communities Clergy Training Program gives any participant through training in all essential aspects any Heathen group spiritual leader might require. For more information on CTP see: http://www.theasatrucommunity.org/ctp
2. Form a kindred and become an Ambassador of the Heathen way of life. Here at TAC we have representatives of Asatru, called Ambassadors, and these Folk are the public voice and advocate of what an organized and working tribe of practitioners do when they have decided to come together as an active and working, heathen community in their area. It is an Ambassador’s responsibility to build a network of Heathens in their area and conduct events that will allow solitary practitioners of the Asatru path access to be part of a group or Kindred. An Ambassador for TAC may or may not be ordained as Heathen Clergy, but she/he will be very much in a leadership position. To see more please go to: http://www.theasatrucommunity.org/ap-central
To form a kindred, there are a multiple of ways, but the BEST outline I have found is : A. CREATE A WEBSITE OR WEB-PRESENCE, THEN SHARE YOUR KINDRED’S ACTIVITIES BY BECOMING A TAC AFFILIATED KINDRED. See: http://www.theasatrucommunity.org/new-kindreds-info B. SET UP A FIRST MEETING. C. PROMOTE THE MEETING. D. HOLD A QUALITY MEETING. To keep your people interested in continuing any ongoing Kindred gatherings, some consistency and ‘professionalism’ must be included at every get-together; be it for Kindred business or structural decisions, or spiritual Blots and Ceremonies. Clear communication, transparency, and hospitality are the big three for successful communal groups. Encourage a tone at every gathering that will set the tone for the creation and continuation Kindred. Make it clear from the first meeting via a “mission statement” where the group is headed and continue your Kindred's mission statement as you proceed. Also, if you are an open group, meaning each gathering is open to public participation, be sure to provide some useful information about Asatru (like a reading list or PDFs) each time your group gathers, in case those new to the path join your core members who will most likely be ‘adept’ in Heathenry. At the close of each Kindred gathering, be sure to exchange contact information from everyone, including name, phone number and email address’s while remembering to clearly announce the location and dates of your next kindred function or meeting. E. FILL THE YEAR WITH ACTIVITY! People may or may not have availability for all slated Kindred gatherings, so be sure to have a variety of times, places, and reasons as to why you might get together as a heathen Tribe.
3. Finally: Be an active participant in a group or Kindred! It would seem this should go without saying, however to be a successful Heathen community there must be people actively participating to in said group gatherings and rituals to make it active and functioning! That means if you find a group or Tribe you enjoy and get a fulfilling sense of community through active participation, be sure to do your part and commit to trying to support the Kindred on a regular and dependable consistency. Also, we have created a new role for our members at TAC called an Advocate, and in that role, any person who is part of The Asatru Community and who may not belong to just one heathen group or pagan community exclusively, can attend as many outside events in their area as possible, meanwhile net-working with other groups and getting a larger community of Norse Pagans in touch with each other through The Asatru Community.org. These outside events might include local Pagan (non-Heathen) community gatherings, Pagan Pride events, Gay Pride events, etc. TAC advocates can even host their own events and invite any heathens or pagans in their area! For more info see: http://www.theasatrucommunity.org/tac-advocates
In closing, as you can now see, the need for modern-day heathens to connect and gather communally in real time is not just a wish, but a necessity. The inter-web either's are nice to search out information and to virtually network, but the need for in-the-flesh community and gathering is a primal and deep seated human need. It might take some re-learning to be part of a community; as many of us have been swept away with the modern marvel bi-product of feeling 21st century technology and virtual connection through devices is how we are now supposed to interact as brethren. I can’t tell you enough how NOT TRUE that mistaken mind set is, nor how damaging to our hearts, our minds, and our souls that unnatural and damaging plastic thinking is; not just as Heathens, but as modern-day people.
If we all begin to connect and put forth a real physical effort, we can begin to create little tribes of our kindred, who in turn make bigger Tribes of Community.
It just takes the need and the desire to manifest that intention.
Intend for this year to create or join your own local kindred and make that intention today!
Sincerely, Ivy C Mulligan Owner of the 21st Century Heathen, Ordained Gythia and Völva; Vice President of The Asatru Community, Inc.