Recently a good web friend asked me, how I became a Pagan. That question woke up a lot of rather scattered pieces of memory, all more or less dealing with that question.
Maybe while telling a few of them, they might give a picture that would answer the question.
First, my parents hardly told anything about religion at home, they didn’t go to church, so almost all religious ‘information’ I got was at school and at the boarding school I was for about twelve years.
At the primary school, I was a young boy below 10 years of age, there was told about the Bible and the God who is the central ‘character’ in that book. Because there was spoken about him as a ‘he’, I thought he must be male and asked the teacher after his wife and friends. Keeping some doubts I could accept the answer he didn’t need a wife but refused the idea he was all alone, without any other divine friends and family. I couldn’t image someone could live so very long without having a family or at least a few friends. I did have friends, even a girlfriend for a short time, sometimes we walked hand in hand. But walking with a girlfriend soon became boring, especially while at the same time seeing my boyfriends kicking against a ball, which was much more exiting at that time. In the course of time, that view changed.
Not having family, relatives and friends….. I couldn’t even pity that, because I simply couldn’t conceive such a concept.
Another fragment I remember must have happened a few years later. As my younger brother was attacked by a much bigger boy, bigger too than I was, my instinct awoke, I ran towards them and hit the attacker with a fist on his lips which started bleeding, I kicked against his knee and as he bow forward for pain I hit my head against his nose which also caused bleeding. After that I cooled down slowly. The director of the boarding school punished me… for three days I had to write 2500 times a long Latin proverb.
We boys did not fight very much, but enough to clarify our hierarchy. Repeatedly we were told, that we violated the message of peace of Jesus by that, however that didn’t really change our behavior. On my question in a lesson about the Crusaders fighting the Saracens, whether those battles would violate that same message of peace, the teacher answered….. I don’t know anymore his answer, but as I pointed to my fight a few days before and said, defending my brother was as good as fighting Saracens I got another Latin saying to copy a 1500 times for being recalcitrant and impertinent.
It consolidated my rebelling convincement something was wrong with the belief I was so often told about in school.
Several years later as I read about Donar (Thor) who fought a lot and Wodan (Odin) who carried a long and dangerous spear, I felt a lot of affinity. Warlike Gods seemed to me much more plausible fitting to mankind than one God without family and friends who preaches peace but sends out armies in battle.
Later again, in a history lesson it was told that the primitive Batavian barbarians, dressed in hides, came rafting down the river Rhine to my home-country the Netherlands. Together with some friends we started in the next days building a float which was soon discovered and declared forbidden, we weren’t primitive Batavians, the teacher said.
Seeking for more information, I searched and found out that what was described in that history book about the Batavians was wrong and also that the Batavians venerated Gods and Goddesses, among them Magusanus.
I must have been 17 or 18 at that time.
In the following years I cemented my reputation as a bookworm, reading very many books about history and mythology, both fiction and non-fiction. Although I liked those stories and narrations from all over the world, my favorites were those about Germanics and Celts.
Many years later I found in the city library of my hometown Groningen an old dissertation about a Germanic Goddess called Holle. That was it. I must have read that at least four or five times consecutively. I wasn’t only fascinated, but had a very strong feeling that I had found what I was looking for. That Goddess appeared in my dreams and daydreams, I thought a lot about here, wrote Holle poems, made drawings and felt sure having ‘contact’ with her.
That strong feeling never left me.
I ‘discovered’ many more Gods, both Celtic and Germanic, got an affinity with more of them, but not as strong as with Holle. I felt and still feel myself at home with so many Germanic Gods and Goddesses…. well, OK…. a few continental Celtic Gods are ‘familiar’ too.
Today I can smile about this all, and I know what teachers and ministers told and preached about aspects of Christianity and Christian morals is not always by definition covering Christian belief, but then, I feel fine being a Pagan, specifically an Asatru.
Feeling myself ‘at home’ with so many Germanic Gods and Goddesses, I completely accepts the existence of other deities, be it the Christian and Islamic God, or Hindu and Buddhist deities, and Gods and Goddesses from other natural religions. There are enough beings on Earth to honor and worship them all….
I wouldn’t be surprised if those divine beings know each other and have their own struggles and parties.
That is also why I respect other religions, denying however, there is only one true religion and all others would be wrong. It implies too that I do not have a problem honoring Gods not belonging to my pantheon if I’m in one of there sacred places. I simply do not see any reason of not being polite, if such a divine being didn’t want me there, he or she surely would have shown that.
Today it is very often told and written, gods are human personifications of ‘power’ or ‘powers’ and many see those forces as parts of one main ultimate, ‘almighty’ force. For those people this implies, that it principally doesn’t matter if such a power is called Woden, Lugh, Jupiter or whatever other god name is used.
I really don’t feel well hearing that viewpoint. To my conviction, each deity is an individual and personality of its own, and with own spheres of competence and responsibilities. True, I’m not upset and neither do I feel offended hearing that. In fact, I think, the gods may smile about such human shortcomings which are basically for an imperfect mankind. But if I contact or honor goddess Holle, I an convinced not to connect to some ‘universal power’ but are interacting with a unique divine personality.
And then a rather hot item…. Quite often I’m asked about a possible connection between our personal genetics and ‘predestined’ gods to venerate. This article as a blog contribution must stay incomplete, but leaving out this topic would be really a deficiency. So, this is what I recently rather quick and dirty wrote about it in a Facebook group, quoting myself:
“Until today, any research for genetic descent is done through the Y-Chromosome. That is 1/46 part of the total descent. The rest, 45/46 part is much more difficult to determine and is hardly done yet and can come from any person in ones genetic history from very ancient times until to your parents. There are companies which offer genetic ancestral research and they’re often advertizing with the so called Frisian Rb1 genetic structure which should point to your ancestry. First, this is a pattern in the Y-Chromosome, and second, that pattern is found in many European countries, also in southern ones among the Mediterranean people. Generally, genetic markers to determine specific linguistic or cultural defined peoples don’t exist – it cannot be determined whether someone has Germanic, Celtic or Slavic ancestors because those people were from a genetic point of view already mixed peoples, developed from several other peoples.
If, with the accent on that word, someone has ‘Germanic’ ancestry, it simply cannot determined whether that is dominant in a genetic sense, one can have quite some other genetic dominance.
That could lead to the point, that if you want to honor your genetic ancestry and you’re restricting that to Germanic ancestry, you deliberately leave out all your other possible genetic ancestors which could be even a majority.
… as you know of course, linguists define Germanics as a group of peoples through language from that second Germanic sound shift until its spreading in several follow-up languages.
Archaeologist define it through specific characteristics of found remnants they ascribe to Germanic peoples. Historians and philologists again use other marks. The periods in these different points of view differ but have a big overlap.But none of them uses genetic markers to define Germanics.
If one should restricts honoring ancestors to those ‘Germanics’, he or she ignores older
ancestors…. those who we today call Indo-Europeans (in Germany called: Indo-Germanics). See e.g. here, which big range our ancestors may have. And of course we all have also much ‘younger’ and even much older ancestors.
But what I mean to say is, that honoring the Gods and Goddesses we see as ‘Germanic’ does not subsequently mean our ancestors just were those who also honored those deities.”
Another question from a Christian acquaintance, it happened quite some years ago, was the friendly invitation to try to convince him that his religion would be wrong and mine the right one. He was quite astonished at my reply that both our religions were right. That is true IMO, because I accept that both his God and my Gods exist, worshiping them only can be right for those who wholeheartedly choose to do that. It is the concomitant human behavior that is sometimes highly problematic, specifically the behavior towards those people who have a different religion. I myself wouldn’t think one moment to proselytize or evangelize – it would IMO offend the God(s) others worship and would show principally disrespect for the freedom and self-responsibility of those other humans. Such an attitude reminds me to medieval situations:
“you better do this and that and leave the thinking to me”, which was and still is denying a basic social piece of humanity.
Reading this all over again, you won’t find back the corresponding emotions and deep feelings I had and have about my religion and the closely related topics, I’m not able to express such things’ in clearer words.