Being Fyrnsidere and Mythology

As Anglo-Saxon Heathens, we are lacking in surviving myths. To those used to being able to pick up a collection of myths to better relate to divinity, this might be stifling. I’ve been told on many occasions “it’s pointless to be an Anglo-Saxon Heathen, considering you need outside sources to fill in your blanks.” This might explain why many ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Heathens typically opt for an Anglo-Norse/ Danelaw inspired religion, as opposed to something a little less…defined. I mean, you have to piece together a deity like Ingui or Thunor from comparative mythologies and cultural ideals, not from what a West Saxon or Mercian wrote about them. Once you understand the Anglo-Saxons, their worldview, their lifestyle, what they held as important and set that beside similar Indo-European deities, it’s much easier to paint an entire, albeit still somewhat interpretive picture of these Gods and their functions. It’s a jigsaw puzzle and it takes a lot of doing to see which pieces fit and which don’t. Not everyone likes puzzles.

Then there is UPG (unverified personal gnosis), which often finds its way into our understanding of divinity. UPG might not be so great to whip out during a rousing argument with a fellow Fyrnsidere, but invariably lends us insight on a practical, insular level. How do I know that Frīge was Goddess of hearth and home? I don’t, but I think she may well have been, given her parallels with other deities and my own special feelz. We progress by pairing informed opinion with academic evidence.

That being said, I’ve always been sort of okay with the fact that things are underdefined in Fyrnsidu. We are dealing with the ‘Other’, the ‘Divine’ after all and we are but men. The unstructured parameters that fail to delineate clear differences between High Gods, Dweorg, Ylfe, Wælcyrian, Idesa, House Gods, Ancestors, Land Wights etc. don’t really bother me. I take it as it comes and interpret likewise. Can my House Gods also be my ancestors, or a combination of my Ancestors and the tutelary God of my home? Sure, why not?

So, I got a little off my initial topic of myths.

In order to appreciate myths, we have to understand their purpose. Myths illustrate how one should live in accordance with the Gods (including legendary ancestors) and how to simultaneously reach the ‘Everywhen'[1], where the Gods perpetually dwell. I may have lost you there but, basically the time that Myths are set in are not grounded in historicity. They exist in this amorphous, a-temporal ‘Mythic Time’, the ‘Everywhen.’ Because of their a-temporality, the Gods are ALWAYS doing those things which occur in myth, as time is not a factor. Essentially, if you are participating in ritual offering, you are re-enacting the formation of the cosmos and in doing so, repeating that which the Gods have done, putting you outside of profane time. It tethers you to divinity for a brief time. So it is in this way that myth and ritual are intrinsically bound. A myth about a God making clay funerary urns is meant to be re-enacted and thus ritualised. It’s for this reason that archaic religious man lived what Eliade termed a ‘ritualized existence.’

It is for this reason that I believe new myths can be created. We’ve lost our myths which explain divine ritual praxis, but one can assume the cosmogony would have been presented in one form or another. Regardless of the tradition, the Gods triumph over primordial chaos and bring order, structure and tribal cohesion. Because they represent order over chaos, it creates the dichotomy of sacred / profane or innangeard / ūtangeard. Based on our varying Hearth traditions and what we know of Anglo-Saxon culture, it’s entirely possible to write myths that at least work in conjunction within the confines of a particular hearth or tribal unit. Wouldn’t it be something if we were able to teach ritual action to future generations by showing them myths, newly constructed or otherwise? I certainly think so.

“We must do what the gods did in the beginning”

–Satapatha Brāhmana, VII

“Thus the Gods did; thus men do.”

–Taittirīya Brāhmana, I

“We must add that, for the traditional societies, all the important acts of life were revealed ab origine by gods or heroes. Men only repeat these exemplary and paradigmatic gestures ad infinitum.”

“In the particulars of his conscious behaviour, the ‘primitive,’ the archaic man, acknowledges no act which has not been previously posited and lived by someone else, some other being who was not a man. What he does has been done before. His life is the ceaseless repetition of gestures initiated by others.”

–Eliade, Cosmos and History

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[1] Stole the ‘Everywhen’ thing from Karen Armstrong’s book, A Short History of Myth

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One thought on “Being Fyrnsidere and Mythology

  1. I could not agree more with this. This is exactly what makes sense to me. Knowing that you “don’t know” is still knowing, and knowing is faith and belief. Rooting everything in the worldview is absolutely key and then how one interprets the mystery of the tangled web of wyrd where so much is hidden and yet remains not so, is one of the delights for me of being Fyrnsidere. Myths serves very useful purposes as they help us to make sense of the world around us. They describe how some things may have come to be, teach us lessons and values and also unify us on a distinctly cultural level. Drawing upon the historical links of Indo-European common ancestry and seeing the effect of different cultural interpretations of that ancestry is one of the most enduring and fascinating aspects of Heathenry, in my view. Myths vary from culture to culture but they often have common roots and common features based on shared traditions and beliefs, even if the subjects of those myths is just as varied. We are different and yet we share something tangible that goes back millennia. This is truly, at least for me, the worldview in action. People appear reluctant to make new myths for fear of “making it up as they go along” but the point is being entirely missed! Myths are there to help us learn, to share values and lessons and to inform us on the worldview we now follow. There is nothing wrong with that, particularly given the lack of known facts concerning Fyrnsidu. Wyrd bið ful aræd!

    Apologies for the length comment! You’ll have to bear with me as it is nigh on 4am here and this night shift is taking its toll!

    Liked by 4 people

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