What I’ve Learned as a Disabled Heathen
©2003 Ingeborg S. Nordén
I've learned that the Heathen ideal of hard
work doesn't necessarily
involve having a paid job or running a business. Sometimes "hard work"
involves sitting up at 5:00 in the morning and counseling someone on the
other side of the Atlantic. Sometimes it involves helping a friend with Old
Norse for 2-3 hours a day, even though he's unemployed and can't pay for
lessons. Sometimes it involves taking an hour-long bus ride to the one
place that sells my usual fixings for a blot, because I learned that Freyr
likes a few specific gifts from me. And sometimes "hard work" involves
something as ordinary as calling every agency in town, looking for help with
a ride to my doctor.
I've learned that although bloodlines are important to a lot of
Heathens, people who would have been killed by their ancestors and who
can't raise children can still teach and advise people with an interest in
our religion. Anyone with a functioning reproductive system and general
good health can make babies; but not everyone can teach a child (or an
adult, for that matter) what being Heathen is about.
I've learned that although tradition and lore
have legitimate places in
Heathenry, they were never meant to become an all-encompassing straitjacket.
We face social problems that the Saxons, Norsemen and other Germanic peoples
didn't; therefore, we need to find solutions consistent with our own time
and place, not with theirs. We may be part of our ancestors' lines, but we
can never turn back the clock and become them: if I were to take the
sagas as a prescriptive norm, I'd have to conclude that the gods and/or my
family want me to roll off the nearest cliff and kill myself! (There
honestly IS a passage in Gautreks saga, describing a family who
"euthanized" elderly and severely ill relatives that way.)
I've learned that the gods allow for a lot
more wiggle room in worship
and theology, than they do in everyday ethics. The one time a god gave me
"what for" over an incorrectly performed blot, was the time I blurted out an
invocation in a very Biblical language! Yet I'm much more likely
to "hear" a dressing-down from them if I break a promise, let down a friend,
or do wrong in some other mundane aspect of life.
I've learned that you don't need to
work the land, raise a family, do
period crafts, or fight physical battles to get close to the gods. If
someone has the ability and desire to do those things, and if they enhance
that person's spiritual life--fine. But no one should confuse the external
trappings of ancient Germanic culture with Heathenry itself. (Lest you
think I'm claiming this only about physical skills, I've also known
Heathens who had decent ethics and sincere faith in the gods--but could
never speak a language other than their own, or tell one rune from another!)
Don't misunderstand me; I don't buy into the politically correct, New Age belief that a disability, or suffering in general, is supposed to be a "learning experience" in disguise. I'm not particularly interested in becoming a disabled-rights spokesperson either, unless some specific problem hits close to home. But--and this is a major "but"--sometimes I do wonder whether the gods made me this way for a reason. I sometimes tell would-be faith healers that if my creator (never mentioning that I mean Odin, of course!) had meant for me to walk, he wouldn't have put me in this body to begin with.