As I prepare for a long needed hiatuses in the wilderness, I was going to ask a simple question to my readers: Are you someone who is wanting to practice the heathen path, (especially the Occult portion of Asatru called seiðr) yet all the stuff you see about seiðr says “There is even today a complete way of reconstructing this path based on Ancient Tradition/lore that is still known/discoverable” or “One must live and think like the Vikings” or “ You must really be from Scandinavia to truly authentically understand it” or worst “ There are secret ways to this path only the chosen can know” and these erroneous falsehoods sends you running to some other path?
I have been thoroughly studying and LIVING this path since the 90’s, and in my advanced research, I can firmly tell you NO ONE since the conversion of Scandinavia some 1000 or so years from pagan to monotheism has a unerring understanding of what pre-Christian, pre Roman life or “religion” entailed. Not one person alive today knows the mind sets, techniques, rituals, or complete history about the path of Norse paganism. This Indo European Spiritual Tradtion is not fully understood, nor is it able to be reconstructed 100% accurately today, even when comparing mythos to archeology finds.
“Norse” paganism can NOT be practiced as it was when our Norse Ancestors walked this planet, as #1-we are VERY different people, and #2-since not knowing they were Norse ancestors, (but regular people like me and you) the converting Scandinavians ABANDONED their beliefs for various reasons; which speaks volumes to the fact a spirituality must fulfill the needs of those practicing it, PLUS that spiritual path must fit in naturally to the practitioners of their everyday, CONTEMPORARY, day to day life.
To our Ancestors, spirituality was NOT a form of escapism by trying to go back in time and live in a contrived “good old days” delusional mindset- it was a way of being/living that lead one closer to ALL aspects of day-to-day life, thereby making those people able to use esoteric tools (magic and ritual) to help get through life’s problems.
Moreover, ancient Europeans were very much involved with the now and the future, meaning to try to recapture a ludicrous dream of re-enacting/reconstructing the possibilities of a perfect “past” was a concept foreign to them for survival back then. One had to be ever progressive and look to evolving their family and tribe into the future if they indeed wanted to become part of that future!
I and a dear heathen friend of mine are going to attempt to change this toxic mindset that had arrived with the new found popularity of seiðr and heathenry; we are going to form a new path called ‘Contemporary Seiðr and Norse paganism.’
Within this correctly labeled modern construct of old fragmented Lore paired with today’s proven occult work, Kurt Hoogstraat and I plan on giving the 21st century seeker of Norse based occult arts and paganism the much needed permission to study a modern construct based on Old traditions, but not stifled in the trappings you need to be a bachelor in history, a LARPER, or from Scandinavia to follow your souls lead and actually be a 21st century heathen or seiðr worker!
Our Contemporary Path will be both authentic and user friendly.
Yes, you must know your roots and the culture from whence you came; but EVERYONE on this planet has a few places they can trace their roots to-and like ALL spiritual work, if it (that path of spiritual craft)isn’t meaningful by being up to date and time correct, its as useless for being a viable path of transformation and empowerment as it is watching a movie, day-dreaming, or going off for a weekend of LARPING fun.
As I go off into the wilderness for the next few weeks, I am leaving you with an excerpt from a beautiful writer and witch Laura Tempest Zakroff, from her book titled “Weave the Liminal” at Llewellyn Worldwide. Laura is an amazingly powerful witch has dared to bring her Tradition of Witchcraft into the modern era. ~Get her book!!
Let her words really sink in and PLEASE, apply her wise words to today’s Heathenry/Seiðr/Asatru.
“At the Loom: In order for us to be amazing weavers, we first must understand the history of how such things came to be. Liminally Minded: To find the space in between, we need to see where we have been and feel where we are going.
Every tradition starts in the present, becomes part of the past, and sees itself change and morph into the future. In walking the path of the Modern Traditional Witch, searching for origins can be like following an ouroboros—the serpent that consumes itself endlessly in a circle, all the while shedding old skins to reveal new ones beneath. To uncover the history of the Modern Tradition as well as its present applications and future possibilities for you, we need to wade through some of the skins of my own path.
You see, I love reading different perspectives and particularly enjoy the hunt for information. But for my personal practice, it was hard finding one path or tradition that resonated. I found I have an aversion to ceremonial magic, trouble with power pyramids, and no tolerance for ego massaging or misogyny, so that cut out certain paths. Then there were the folks obsessed with recreating or reconstructing the past.
Rediscovering ancient things is cool, but the question is: Does the practice work or can it be applied practically now? Can it work effectively outside of its original location or time period? I live in the United States and come from a long line of people who like to sleep with people from other cultures, so I couldn’t follow just one path from one place. Most importantly, I asked, if we’re living in the here and now, what makes the most amount of sense for the modern-day practitioner?
Back in the late ’90s, I read and participated in a variety of online forums/message boards. There were many that were flooded with 101 questions, spell requests, and fantasy fluff, so it took some work to find ones where serious or more advanced discussion happened. Often you had to fill out a questionnaire to be granted access to the better boards. That was the process for several of the Traditional Witchcraft boards I belonged to.
There were some good discussions and sharing of resources, but often the conversation got dominated by pissing contests. Statements like “My way/tradition is better/more correct/more authentic/older than yours” would come up again and again.
And there I was with my on-the-table oxymoron: “Why, yes, I’m both modern and traditional.” I didn’t receive too much flak for it, possibly because I was probably ignored by some hotheads who saw me as beneath them due to my age, gender, or chosen labels. But I think a large part of the lack of debate had to do with the fact that I was very upfront about my path, presented myself in a grounded manner, and didn’t care much what other people thought.
So why modern and traditional? Because I’m not a genetic pure-blood anything, nor am I living in the twelfth, fifteenth, or nineteenth century or in the “old world.” I’m not from one particular ethnic background, so why would I align only with the gods found in a portion of my blood when there are many more talking to me?
What if it’s not just ethnic heritage that factors in but also past lives—and what if those aren’t connected by blood either? What if our ancestors really can and do come to us in dreams and initiate us in the old ways as needed?
If our predecessors had the tools we have access to today, would they exchange the flint for the lighter? I think so. Every day we are not only living proof of past traditions and methods but are also innovating and creating new traditions and ways.
To me, Witchcraft is about doing what needs to be done with what you have available. There are time-honored things we do not just because Grandmom did them but because they work—and then there are the new ways we find that work better. Whether the method is ancient or modern isn’t important as long as it works. The trick is in understanding how and why these seemingly opposite categories work in balance.
What Is Traditional?
I think these are both questions that are not often asked when folks talk about “tradcraft,” or Traditional Witchcraft. I’ve watched an interesting metamorphosis over the last two decades, and there are a wide variety of opinions as to what those two words, when put together, actually mean….
…There are other traditions of Witchcraft, many of which claim to be hereditary or family-based in origin, though being a blood relation is not necessary to join. I have seen countless online forums and discussion threads where people really get their anger on debating what those words mean and who gets to use them, which is essentially time wasted arguing semantics and worrying about what other people think.
Who has the time and energy to police and validate other people’s paths, especially if they’re working for them? I don’t know about you, but I find all of that so exhausting.
If your label works for you, great. It’s wonderful to explore history, but no amount of academic research is going to prove that there is one definitive tradition of Witchcraft. Humans and culture simply do not work that way. Traditions are born, acknowledged, and reinvented and fade away into obscurity every day. They are not universal, meaning that if you find a tradition in one place or with one group of people, you won’t necessarily find it somewhere else. You might, but considering that traditions can vary from country to country, town to town, family to family, and generation to generation, we must acknowledge their fluidity.
A tradition simply refers to a pattern of action and/or belief that is passed along in some designated way. It could be direct, from generation to generation, or passed along by friends, or it could skip down the line. Recipes, songs, dances, stories, observations of holidays, good luck charms, ways of crafting certain items, formulas for gardening, and secret spots for fishing or vacations are all ways that traditions are transmitted.
With the possible exception of recipes and photos, very few things are handed down solely through the passing of books.
Even those two examples are generally shared directly, such as cooking alongside the maker and looking through a photo album together.
There is a hands-on factor that keeps a tradition living, and it’s usually dependent on the relationship we have with the person we’re sharing that experience with.
You might have certain saints on your altar because your beloved grandmother had them too and taught you how to work with them, but you might avoid doing something you associate with that mean uncle you hated.
We tend to equate “traditional” with things that are old, ancient, or historic, have esteemed value, or were created by great people, but the reality is that traditions are being made every day by regular, ordinary people.
Often they are infused with meaning, but sometimes the initial intent and purpose gets lost in a multigenerational game of telephone. Traditions tend to get started because there was a change activated that correlated to a specific event or situation, which probably involved some problem solving.
Typically the response to that change was positive and seen as successful, so that belief or action became reinforced and was repeated.
Certain traditional practices get left behind or change because they’re no longer functional, safe, available, affordable, culturally/socially acceptable, or able to be reproduced. Others fall out of favor when a new generation tries to break away and the old ways get tossed in the rebellion. But things that work and have meaning are not always lost forever. We can reactivate traditions that were left behind or forgotten, picking up the thread and weaving it anew.
So what does tradition have to do with Witchcraft? Consider the traditional as a means of weaving in the past. We can look to folklore to harness the wisdom of those who came before us. Plant lore, charms, myths, and cultural history can all help us tap into things our ancestors already discovered. We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel—especially when the plans have been laid out before us. We can also look to tradition for inspiration and to give us guidelines on how to use our knowledge effectively and pass it on to future generations.
It’s much easier to know where we are going if we’re familiar with where we have been.
One of the best things about humanity is our ability to problem-solve, to take ideas and build on them, to find new and different ways to interact with the world. Of course those same inquisitive traits can get us in trouble when we move forward without considering the full consequences of our actions. Progress for the sake of progress can in turn set back progress, but for the most part, innovation has moved carefully and positively forward.
For instance, we harnessed the power of fire to warm ourselves, cook food, and purify water. Then we learned to work metal so we could go from using animal bladders, shells, and coconuts (carried by African swallows to Europe) to crafting cauldrons to use for cooking, carrying, and cleaning.
We could continue down the line with advancements that led to new techniques, from indoor plumbing to electricity. It’s natural for us to keep wondering and working—in fact, you can say it’s part of human tradition. Incorporating new ideas into the mix doesn’t have to mean tossing out old ones.
There has to be a balance. Short of going totally off the grid and running your own island, it would not be easy to disconnect from the world and go back to the way our ancestors lived 200, 500, 1,000, or 5,000 years ago. Our modern world presents new challenges that our ancestors could never have imagined. That means we must use our ingenuity and be willing to adapt to new ways of doing things when the old ways cease to work.
It’s important to respect and educate ourselves about the past, but living traditions can’t survive under pin and glass. They have to be able to breathe, grow, and change. But at the same time, everything that’s new and shiny isn’t necessarily better. So it’s up to us to find the right mixture of modern and traditional.
What does modern have to do with Witchcraft? Thanks to technology, we are able to find information more quickly, as well as preserve it for ourselves and others in a variety of formats. We can use our modern technology to tap into the past, locate ancient sites, and discover relics that give us insights into the past. With our advanced knowledge, we can utilize materials that are safer and healthier for us and the environment, and have a better understanding of where those materials come from. We are able to connect with others much more easily and share our ideas with people all over the world.”