Friday, February 12, 2016

Universalist Asatru as cultural imperialism

Synopsis: Universalist Heathens are exacerbating the effects of European cultural imperialism by encouraging non-Europeans to practice Asatru. By doing so, they subconsciously imply that European cultures, which have been imposed on non-European populations historically, are inherently superior to non-European cultures, and subtly discourage those with non-European ancestry from exploring their own ancestral religions by perpetuating the idea that European culture is somehow universally applicable, and therefore superior to native cultures.

Folkish Heathenry, by contrast, finds beauty in the vast diversity of human cultures and indigenous faiths practiced around the world. We believe all peoples should be free to practice the faith of their ancestors, and wouldn't think of implying, even unconsciously, that someone should adopt the faith of our ancestors before they explored the faith of theirs, any more than we would co-opt the beliefs and practices of other peoples into our own religion.

* * *

It should come as no surprise to my regular readers that I've gotten to really enjoy Lucius Svartwulf Helsen's blog, Son of Hel. He's both a Heathen and a practitioner of the Religio Romana (aka the Cultus Deorum), so we've got a lot of shared roots, even though my interest in Roman paganism these days is more academic than practical (especially given Nova Roma's complete implosion recently).

Roman Universalist Religion

So when he wrote A Cultor Deorum Looks at: Folkism vs Universalism the other day, naturally I was intrigued. In fact, I agreed with almost all of his points. I just came to a completely different conclusion:
The Cultus Deorum is both Folkish and Universalist.
I suspect jaws are no doubt hitting the ground. “How can this be, Lucius!” some people are no doubt asking. “Exclusionary and Inclusionary at the same time! Impossible!!”
The key words though are “Supremacy” and”Assimilation.” Worship whatever gods you please, but Rome’s Gods have supremacy if you wish them included. The Olympii are to be privileged above all other pantheons in the worship. Make your offerings to Odin, if you want, but remember that it is Jupiter who is King, and Olympus whose people have conquered. Praise the Morrigan if you so desire, but remember that on the field of battle, it was Bellona who was victorious and triumphant. You can be of any people by birth, but remember, you must be Roman if you wish the privileges and rights of Rome.
Folkism and Unversalism, living together in harmony.
I agree completely with his characterization of the Religio Romana. Rome, by its nature, was universalist in that it not only allowed, but expected, its citizens and subjects to at least pay lip-service to the fact that the gods of Rome were supreme, because Rome itself was supreme. The one was evidence of the other, so why not?

A Mithraeum. Mithras was a
Persian deity imported into Rome
I submit that Rome was also highly syncretic, not only exporting its own gods to other peoples, but importing their gods and cults into Rome. In fact, there was a whole priesthood, and a specific religious rite, devoted to doing so. The Roman State would regularly officially bring in alien cultii, often in response to advice gleaned from the Sibylline Books.

All that, of course, was in furtherance of its imperial power and ambition. The very notion of taking away a god or goddess from a conquered city, specifically inviting them to leave and come to Rome because Rome was stronger, is in and of itself evidence of an imperialistic mindset.

Now, Lucius is trying to forge his own Cultus Deorum Germanica, by his own admission, and more power to him.

Universalism in Heathenry

But in a strictly Heathen context, however, the problem becomes acute, specifically because historically the Germanic peoples did not act the same way that Rome did (and before it, Greece under Alexander, who spread Hellenism as Rome spread its own religious predilections, and largely for the same reasons). There's no evidence at all of the Germanic tribes -- Goths, Burgundians, Saxons, Franks, etc. etc. etc. -- spreading their tribal religions to others. To be sure, they conquered, and were conquered by, other lands and peoples. But the sort of "religious imperialism" evinced by Rome (first under paganism and later under Christianity) was alien to them, at least until they embraced Christianity. Before that, they had their tribal religion (min þeodisc gelefa, in Anglo-Saxon), and other tribes had theirs, and all was good, even if one tribe subjugated another.

Heathen goddesses,
Roman-style altar
That doesn't mean the Germanic tribes didn't adopt Roman customs when it came to expression of that religion. Material culture such as the shape and construction of altars and temples was absolutely borrowed from the Romans, especially in regions such as the Rhineland where cultural contact was most intense. But there's little to suggest that they brought in Mercurius to supplant Odin.

Here's the kicker, though. In a modern Heathen context, when someone of a non-European ancestry decides they want to be Asatru, they're really responding to having been raised in a culture dominated by Europeans. They're implicitly saying that European culture, and native European religion, is somehow superior to their own! And that's something that Folkish Asatru has been pointing all along, if not in so many words. As Lucius said in another post on his blog:
After all, we all  have our ancestral cultures. As a rule, these ancestral cultures are really, really awesome. So why would you not go with your own super awesome culture, why are you wanting in on mine? Do you feel there is something wrong with yours?
So…it’s actually kind of the opposite of racism. It’s not saying “A Black man can’t worship Odin.” It’s more often saying “You’re a black man, why aren’t you worshiping Baron Saturday, that dude is fucking rad, man!!!! He’ll probably speak to the things you lived way better than Thor ever could.”
And that's exactly it. If there's one misconception about folkish Heathenry I'd like to correct, it's the idea that we say "you can't worship our Gods." It's exactly the opposite! We say, "Why would you possibly want to worship the Gods of our ancestors, when you can worship the Gods of your own ancestors?"

And Lucius, I think, has hit on the answer to that question, even if he didn't realize it.

"Europa über alles" - The Universalists' unwitting battle-cry

When a universalist Heathen says, "Come on and worship our Gods and Goddesses! Germanic culture is so great and wonderful, of course you should want to, no matter what your ancestry is!", when they're really saying is, "Yeah, I sortakinda know you've got an ancestral culture of your own, but mine's much cooler, and it can apply to you just as well as it does me, because of course everyone wants to do like my ancestors did!"

"Let me 'splain why Asatru is just as good for you as it is for me"
In other words, those other cultures are somehow deficient, and Germanic culture (and the Asatru religion) is a much better choice for everyone, even folks who have only heard about European paganism, even if their own ancestors had a completely different religion.

That is nothing less than an institutionalization of cultural imperialism by the universalist Heathens out there. After all, Europeans spent the last few centuries trying to convert the world to their adoptive faith, Christianity. The unspoken assumption is, if everyone thought that European religion was so much better than their own ancestral faith, then surely they'd find this older European religion to be better, too.

Or, to put it another way, when was the last time you heard a universalist Heathen tell someone of primarily African descent, "Hey, I hear the gods of Yoruba are really awesome. Have you thought to check that out first?"

Of course they would never say that. Because pointing out that other races and other tribes have their own cultures and ancestral faiths, and those faiths are totally just as cool and appropriate for them, would be... somehow racist?

But of course in our modern society, which is so focused on crushing any sort of tribalist identity in favor of a secularized, homogenized, one-size-fits-all post-industrial mold, has robbed non-Europeans of almost any knowledge of their ancestral faiths. Indeed, there are only rare survivals of truly European culture in modern American society any more. It's all a bland, corporate, monoculture. That's the true heritage of Colonialism; European culture is superior to all others, and therefore deserves to be embraced by everyone.

Wouldn't it make sense for those who find value in multiculturalism to champion the efforts of non-Europeans to embrace their ancestral faiths, rather than "helpfully" guiding them into a European faith merely because it happens to be the only thing that is even remotely known to them? Because we Europeans did such a great job of obliterating their native traditions, and they might think that's the only route to something even remotely ancestral, and the universalists are only too happy to oblige.

I submit the best thing that someone who is truly liberal could do, when someone of non-European ancestry comes to them asking to participate in a native European faith, is to encourage them to rediscover their own ancestral faith. Overcome the Christian cultural imperialism that has gripped them for generations, and stripped them of their tribal identity, and infused them with the idea (undoubtedly purely subconscious) that "European is better".

Otherwise, my universalist friends, that is precisely the message you're sending.

At least we folkish Heathens have the honesty to say that all pre-Christian faiths and cultures should be embraced by those whose ancestors practiced them. By adopting this "Asatru for all" attitude, you are quite literally contributing to the cultural genocide of non-European cultures. Congratulations.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Who's Hijacking Who?

Asatru before the folkish came along,
er... maybe
The SJW element in Asatru is fond of saying that those of us on the folkish side of the Folkish/Universalist divide have "hijacked" Asatru. As if, Asatru was a happy meadow filled with joyful prancing hippy-dippy universalist Asatruar from the early 1970's until... whenever the Freikorps units of folkish Asatruar stormed in, suddenly claiming the word Asatru to describe their own religion (or to get a religious "cover" for their real, but naturally hidden, beliefs), and thus tainting the universalist vision of Asatru with our nasty "pride in our European ancestry" ways.

The reality is quite a bit different, of course.

Steve McNallen, acknowledged as the "founder of Asatru in America" by no less an authority than Stephen Grundy (Warder of the Lore for the Troth)*, had founded the Asatru Free Assembly in 1974, which was from the start what we would call folkish in orientation, but still stopping short of (and actually outright condemning) actual racism. In fact, it might be said that in the earliest days of Asatru, the first fault line was not folkish vs. universalist, but folkish vs. racist.

The big split between the Folkish and Universalist camps happened in 1986/7, with the dissolution of the old Asatru Free Assembly and the creation of the Ring of Troth (now known as The Troth) and the Asatru Alliance. The Alliance was always what we would today call folkish, while the Troth was neutral on the question of folkishness vs. universalism at its inception:
The Ring of Troth, as originally conceived, was to act as a body for the training and licensing of a "priesthood" -- to be called Elders. At first, it also steadfastly refused to make any overt statements concerning matters of race or sexual orientation. ... It seems that once the door to "tolerance" was opened, the Ring of Troth was quickly and completely transformed into a "politically correct" version of the troth. (Edred Thorsson, A Book of Troth, p. 19)
And of course McNallen went on to found a new organization, the Asatru Folk Assembly in 1994, which is also explicitly folkish.

Althing XII (1991)
So, when we have a history of Asatru in America since 1972 being dominated by folkish organizations, when the history of Asatru in America is the history of folkish Astru until 1992 or so, and an organized voice for universalist Heathenry wasn't even around for the first twenty years, and only then do we start hearing that it's the universalist view that's mainstream within Asatru (a view that would have been unheard-of prior to the post-Thorsson Ring of Troth era), the answer to the question posed in the title of this article becomes clear.

Of the two strains of Asatru under discussion, one was here long before the other. One was not only the mainstream of Asatru for twenty years, but completely monopolized its institutions and represented the majority of Asatruar at the time. The other is a latecomer, trying desperately to change the fundamental character of the Asatru religion in order to better reflect its own liberal political biases and agenda.

It's the unversalists who have hijacked Asatru, not the folkish.

And we're going to take it back.

* "Steve McNallen, the founder of Asatru in the United States and leader of the Asatru Folk Assembly..." (God in Flames, God in Fetters, introduction page x, by Stephan Grundy, Troth Publications, 2015)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: "The Outsiders" television series

Foster Ferrell, would-be leader of the clan
So far I've seen two episodes of WGN's new drama "The Outsiders" (playing on Tuesday at 9 PM, at least where I am). It may seem a bit odd to read a review of a television show about Kentucky hillbillies on a Heathen website, but I submit there's a lot in this show for Heathens to like. In fact, I think of this show as a hillbilly version of The Wicker Man.

The show revolves around the Ferrell clan (I'm sure the homonym with "feral" is completely intentional), who live in their hundreds on a mountain in Kentucky that an evil coal mining company has gotten legal title to. The company wants the local authorities to kick the Ferrells off the mountain so they can strip-mine it to get the coal that lies beneath. Thus lay the chief conflict of the show, but it is by far not the only one.

A love triangle waiting to blow up
The performances are quite good, and there are enough layers of conflict to keep me interested. There are factions within the Ferrells (including a power struggle for control of the clan, love-triangle-induced strife between a "cousin" who had left the mountain and returned, and others), the coal company is obviously being two-faced in its dealings with the local sheriff as well as the townspeople, the chief deputy obviously has his own agenda going on, and there are the ever-present tensions between the townspeople and the Ferrells in general (certain to be exasperated by a burgeoning romance between a Ferrell and a black girl he happens to meet while raiding the town for goods). There are lots of room for conflict, and those conflicts are interwoven quite well.

Lady Ray, matriarch and magic-worker
But what really excites me about this show is the obvious everyday paganism of the Ferrells.

There are prophecies, and the Appalachian folk-magic is thickly spread around. There are "healers" who deal with poultices and herbs straight out of hoodoo, the titular leader of the clan, or "Bren'in", Lady Ray (played by Phyllis Somerville) is deferred to and held to have magical powers that could have been seen in Veleda or Rosmerta, there is a sort of council of women and elders that have some undefined, and yet quite palpable, role in the administration of the clan, they hold what a modern Asatruar would call a folk-moot to decide issues of import, some of the townsfolk (including the aforementioned deputy) with some knowledge of the Ferrells make pronouncements such as "They know things the name of which we can’t even remember" (which I take to be a reference to land-spirits, elves, and the like), and the presumptive Bren'in, Foster Ferrell, even goes so far in the second episode as to mention "the gods" (with a most definite plural). It's dripping with Heathenry, presented as un-self-conscious survivals. It's just the way they do things, and it seems that the Enlightenment was "something that happened to other people".

Little Foster, complete with elhaz tattoo (and others)
There is more than a little of the Wolves of Vinland to be found in the Bren'in clan, with their "pit fights" (jousts on ATV's that seemed to me to be straight out of Knightriders) and a fierce independence combined with a love of family that is highlighted with the description of the wide world outside of the mountain: "That world down there is a prison—families don’t know how to look after each other."

There's more than a little Heathen mysticism going on in this show, and it goes way beyond Little Fosters runic tattoos. This is a society, nearly completely cut off from the modern world, that holds women in near-reverence for their mystical and prophetic powers, acknowledges and glorifies the natural masculinity of men, places faith in folk-magic remedies, resents intrusion from self-appointed authorities, and holds family and clan above all.

Tell me that doesn't sound more than a little familiar.

(Photos courtesy WGN)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Of Rape and Racism

Well, the outrage train keeps chugging along, so here I am waving the red warning light ahead of it, rather than writing about lore and ritual and books and stuff I really enjoy. I have hopes that this will be the last, but I somehow doubt it. ~~Sigh~~

This time, not content with publishing a libelous hit-piece aimed at Stephen McNallen, me, the Asatru Folk Assembly, and folkish Heathenry in general, and not content with spiking my own reply to the first post, which the Patheos Pagan editor refused to publish once he read how effective a counter-attack against HUAR it was, the Patheos Pagan channel is at it again, this time with two new attack articles on the same day. This in addition to a few other ankle-biters around the web over the last few weeks.

Now, to put this in perspective, let's remember what is really happening here:

  1. Stephen McNallen made an off-the-cuff comment wondering if the people of Germany would stand up and protect German women from being raped, sexually assaulted, and accosted by Muslim "refugees", in reaction to the mass sexual assaults that happened across Germany and northern Europe recently.
  2. In reaction, several prominent neopagan bloggers accused him of being a racist. 
Yes, you read that correctly. McNallen comes out against rape and sexual assault, and these Big Name Pagans think that racism is the real story. To them, racism is worse than rape.

Let that sink in.

The poster child for
anti-racist fanaticism.
They see it everywhere,
and literally nothing is
worse. Even rape!

Ryan Smith literally thinks it's more important to falsely call someone a racist, than to speak out against rape and sexual assault. He places more value on attacking those who do speak out against sexual assault. He's proven that with his actions.

John Beckett literally thinks it's more important to lead some crusade against "racists" (who aren't really racists), than to speak out against rape and sexual assault.  He places more value on attacking those who do speak out against sexual assault. He's proven that with his actions.

Jason Mankey literally thinks it's more important to drive people he thinks (falsely) are racists out of the "pagan umbrella" (who don't want to be under it in the first place) than to speak out against rape and sexual assault. He places more value on attacking those who do speak out against sexual assault.  He's proven that with his actions.

Josh White literally thinks it's more important to falsely attack someone for being a racist (attacking a choice of words, rather than seeing the issue behind them) than to speak out against rape and sexual assault. He places more value on attacking those who do speak out against sexual assault. He's proven that with his actions

These Big Name Neopagans (well, two Big Name Neopagans and two pathetic wannabes, really) are completely despicable. Anyone who thinks that complaining that "you hurt my feelings because you say folks should worship the Gods of their ancestors" is more important than standing up against women actually being physically assaulted, raped, and sexually abused doesn't deserve anyone's respect. Their values are completely inverted, and they are the ones who deserve to be driven out of any right-thinking society.

If these people are your "leaders", oh neopagan community, then I am ecstatic not to be under that umbrella. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Of course racism is bad. Duh!

There's been a whole lot of hullabaloo lately about racism in Asatru, most of it being spouted from the Usual Suspects. You know the type. They have a radical left-wing political agenda, they conflate everything they don't like into one big ball, and slap on the worst label they can possibly find, in hopes of utterly destroying those people on "the other side". They're petty tyrants, and they'll twist anything in any shape in order to make the people they don't like look bad. And the worst label around right now is the "racist" label, so that's what they use.

And in the process, they'll label "racist" those of us who actually are against the real racists. You know, the ones who actually believe that whites are the Aryan Master Race, and who want to finish the Holocaust, and who beat up or kill people just because they're not white. 

Who would want to be associated with those sorts? Nobody in their right mind. Certainly not those of us who call ourselves Folkish. There's a reason we use that label, and not "Aryan", or "National Socialist", or "Wotanist", or whatever. Because they're not the same.

It's because Folkish does not mean racist. And we don't like the real racists any more than anyone else does! We just know where to properly draw the line.

Let us examine the problem rationally (I know, I know... a radical concept for those who are "all about the feels", and "muh safe space" and such; fuck 'em).

Simple definition of RACISM
: poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race
: the belief that some races of people are better than others

That first quote, of course, is the dictionary definition of racism. It's also the definition that most normal, rational people share. There are some on the radical political Left who would like to extend and expand that definition (more on that later), but that's what it boils down to. Now compare it to this:

The belief that spirituality and ancestral heritage are related has nothing to do with notions of superiority. Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race. On the contrary, we recognize the uniqueness and the value of all the different pieces that make up the human mosaic. (source
Sounds pretty anti-racist, according to that dictionary definition, right? Well, that comes from the Asatru Folk Assembly's Statement of Purpose, which all AFA members have to pledge that they agree with, in order to join the organization. And which some on the political left have recently accused of being "racist".

If they're trying to attract racists, saying "Asatru is not an excuse to... hate members of any other race" is a pretty piss-poor way of going about it.

So what explains this? Why do people keep saying that Folkish Asatru, or the Asatru Folk Assembly, or particular prominent Folkish leaders, are really racists?

Simple. They have a ludicrously warped definition of "racist" that they have deliberately concocted specifically to use to pummel people they disagree with (and themselves, but the intense self-loathing involved on the radical Left is a topic for another day). Because then we're put in a position of having to "prove a negative", which is by definition impossible. Which is exactly the point, according to them. They're not trying to be fair. They're trying to slap the "racist" label on as many people as they can, to ruin them and silence debate. 

And who's a racist, according to them? The list is as expansive as it is ridiculous:

Actual racists
But of course those definitions are bullshit. Normal people, who aren't part of the radical political Left, don't accept those ludicrously expansive definitions, and neither do folkish Asatruar. Because, well, we're normal. And not racist, by the normal definition. Which, you know, most folks use. Because we're normal.

And that's something that those on the radical political Left of Asatru just can't stand. That someone (most someones) actually disagrees with them, and won't roll over and say "sorry". So they set out to destroy those who disagree.

And what do folkish Asatruar do with real racists? The ones who keep going on about Hitler, and who have "88" conspicuously in their online profiles, and so forth? Simple. We shoulder them aside. We close the door on them. We call them "morons" and "whackaloons", and make it clear that they aren't us, and leave it at that. 

But you know what we don't do?

We don't go absolutely apeshit berserk about it, because we understand that most normal-thinking people understand that they're a niggling fringe. We don't think they "harm the reputation of Asatru" because they're such a vanishingly small minority that they can be ignored. If we gave them anything more than a passing "whatever, they're assholes", we'd be playing right into their hands, their desperate cries for attention, and, in some way, validation (often, the validation of the martyr, which just feeds into the conspiracy mindsets that so often besets them as it does their counterparts on the radical political Left). 

And that's exactly what the radical Left does! It pumps them up into some sort of ginormous threat that doesn't really exist. In reality, it's a few fringe-of-the-fringe whackos, but to hear the radical Left talk about it, there's a racist behind every tree (or inside every white person), mainly because they're so distorted the word "racist" that it could be used to describe just about anyone. And that's just not the case. 

We just ignore the racists for the most part and let them wander away muttering into their armbands and hoods, and if they do find their way in our midst, we show them the door. In fact, the AFA has already hung a big ol' sign on that door saying they're not welcome, as I mentioned above. For most of us, that's sufficient. We don't need to go on and on and on about a problem that is negligible. (Yes, there are more important things than racism in modern day America, no matter what "Black Lives Matter" might say. GASP!) 

So yes. I'm absolutely against racism. Real racism. As practiced by racists who want to beat up or kill or genuinely oppress people just because they belong to another race. The ones who venerate Hitler. And... the ones who venerate Farrakhan. And the ones who are Chicano Supremacists and speak of "reconquista" and "the race" (and it ain't the white race they're talking about). And the ones who advocate killing white people just because they're white. 

Because if you get too wound up calling everyone with whom you disagree a racist, you lose sight of the real racists, and then you're doing a disservice to the real victims of real racism. Violence. Murder. Legal discrimination. Terrorism. You know; real racism. "He told a joke that hurt my feelings" or "they wouldn't let me participate their ritual" doesn't count. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: Staubs and Ditchwater

H. Byron Ballard is billed as "Ashville's village witch", and her first book, Staubs and Ditchwater, is a short but wonderful entry into the world of Appalachian hoodoo and folk magic.

The book is structured in topical chapters, each of which is separated by a relevant homey reminiscence about life in rural North Carolina. Her style is wonderfully easy to read, and she really makes it feel like you're sitting on a porch on a mountain cabin, listening to her talk while the birds and bugs sing into the waning afternoon. She really has a gift for language, and her writing "in dialect" is done rarely enough as to not be annoying or a hindrance to understanding.

Chapter one sets the scene, giving a brief history of the region and its magical and religious history. Chapter two covers magical tools, chapter three materials, chapter four divination, chapter five provides some techniques and spells (or "receipts" as they are called), while chapter six wraps up the whole thing nicely.

What drew my specific attention, in my studies of Germanic folklore and folk-magic, were the similarities between what Ms. Ballard describes and sources from Trolldomr (Scandinavian folk-magic), Braucherei (Amish folk-magic, itself derived from west-German sources), and pre-Christian practices described in penitentials, sermons, Saints' lives, and similar sources. After all, Appalachia was settled by Anglo-Scottish border country folk (right in the thick of the ancient Danelaw and Norse influence, not to mention the Anglo-Saxons) and Germans.

If the book has one failing, it's that she doesn't always differentiate between elements of her practice that are borrowings from Amerindian or African diaspora magic, although she does mention that such borrowings exist. Her second book, Asfidy and Mad-Stones, does seem to do a better job of making such distinctions. Still, it's not an insurmountable problem, and doesn't greatly detract from the overall utility, and wonderful readability, of this terrific little book.

If you're at all interested in folk-magic, this is a great addition to your library.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Performance in Ritual

"Furthermore, the incantations customarily chanted in the ritual of a sacrifice of this kind are manifold and unseemly; therefore, it is better to keep silence about them." - History of the Bishops of Hamburg-Bremen, bk. IV
No Christian on the feast of Saint John  or the solemnity of any other saint performs solestitia or dancing or leaping or diabolical chants. ... Diabolical games and dancing or chants of the gentiles will be forbidden. No Christian will do them because he thus makes himself pagan. Nor is it right that diabolical canticles should proceed from a Christian mouth." - Life of St. Elegius
That our ancestors filled their celebrations and sacrifices with dancing and song is well-attested in the written sources. There is also strong evidence to support the notion that ritual dramas were also enacted, and even that some of the Eddaic poems are scripts or models for just such dramas.

But, for some reason, modern Asatru hasn't embraced this aspect of our ancestors' practice, for the most part. Our rituals tend to be staid, pretty dull affairs in and of themselves, even if an occasional game of kubb might break out at a weekend gathering to liven things up.

I'm a big believer in using music and dance and drama in ritual, and using drama as ritual, and have been for years. In the (now-defunct) Arfstoll Theod, we did a big May Day celebration a few years ago that included a Maypole dance (with live music) and a sacral drama called the Return of Odin (part of a three-part cycle of ritual dramas dealing with Odin being deposed as king of Asgard, Ullr taking over temporarily during the Yuletide, and then Odin's return to power in the spring):

And, more recently, at this year's Yule celebration, the Skylands Asatru Fellowship started our Yuleblót with traditional animal guising, punctuated by a Wild Hunt, which picked off the various animals, saving the Yulebok (Yule Goat) for last, who offered himself as a sacrifice to the Gods. After the offering was completed, we danced around the fire-pit to the Thirty Year Jig.

Animal guising

Dancing 'round the fire

But I am very pleased to say that I'm not the only person out there who sees the value of this sort of "joyous" or "performance-based" ritual.

The Chase Hill Folk, a Heathen community in southern Vermont, enthusiastically embraces the use of music and song in their rituals. Lynn and Will Rowan gave an absolutely terrific workshop on the subject at last year's Trothmoot, and they have released two songbooks ("Hail, the Turning Year!" and "Yule Songs" - a song from which I used in my own Mother Night celebration this past Yule) as well as a CD ("Sing the Sun's Return: Wassails and Carols for Yuletide", which accompanies the aforementioned "Yule Songs" book). Music apparently plays a central part in their rituals, and I long for the day when I can be present at one. Their energy, talent, and enthusiasm at the Trothmoot workshop was amazing.

Eirik Westcoat has written a ritual drama around the theft of Idun's apples. I don't know if it's ever been performed, but it seems like a perfect thing to do for a fall celebration. UPDATE: Several of Eirik's ritual dramas have been performed by the Hearth of Yggdrasil, near Pittsburgh, PA, including that one. Pics of one event with such a performance can be found here. Another work of his was done as a dramatic reading (rather than a staged performance) at Winternights in the Poconos 2012. A print edition of his three ritual dramas is in the works - when it is released, I'll be sure to announce it.

Ron Boardman of Othala Acres Farm in New Hampshire has also been known to incorporate Morris Dancing in a Heathen context. I'm not sure if he still does it, but if so, I'd like to know about it! This is him at a non-Heathen event in 2011:

I know that AFA Winternights and East Coast Thing usually have a couple of music groups performing, but not as part of ritual; more like a separate part of the event. Which is fine, but not quite what I'm looking for.

There are a ton of Heathen musicians out there; it would be impossible to list them all. But with all that music out there, I'm hard pressed to think of any examples in my experience where the music was integrated into the ritual experience itself (other than some drumming, occasionally).

So I put out the call - anyone know any other examples of song, or dance, or ritual drama being used as part of ritual in a Heathen context? If so, let us know in the comments. This is a long-underserved area of Heathen ritual, and one I'm eager to see get more exposure.