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1.0 out of 5 stars
It might be fun but its not Heathenism, 8 Sep 2007
At face value, with it's glowing recommendations from Profs Ronald Hutton and Brian Bates, this book should be a good read. Indeed its very title draws you to it in the belief that it will reveal new insights into Germanic Heathenism. In reality it plainly does not and is typical of a number of other similar publications written by `New Agers' who now find this subject fashionable. Most of the books of this ilk are influenced directly or indirectly by Eastern religion, Qabala, feminism and the musing of various fantasists like Robert Graves accompanied by large helpings of modern political correctness . To this is added a bit of creativity by the individual author(s) and we have a hotchpotch of personal preferences with a Heathen veneer.
Whilst I understandard the need for reconstruction to fill in large gaps in knowledge this is done with a mind on the prevailing wisdoms of the modern social order rather than by trying to understand the pre-Christian Northern Heathen mindset. What essentially emerges is what can be termed `modern attitudes in fancy dress`.
Right from the preface the authors make a point of nailing their colours to the mast of modern establishment thought and social agenda. There are a couple of denunciations of Nationalism combined with advice that there is no place for `right wing politics and `homophobia' within `the Runecraft we advocate' (Perhaps Roman historian Tacitus got it wrong when he claimed that the Heathen Germans punished sodomy by pressing the transgressors into bogs and in fact they exacted such punishment on homophobes, sexists and the like instead). In line with this the gods themselves get a new age make over. Thunor for instance, we are told, can be invoked to help find the martial spirit to fight `ignorance' and `negativity'. Presumably he can also be invoked to help in the fight against any modern heresy.
On the subject of gender relations they go even further, pushing the boundaries of modern thought by rather bizarrely aligning themselves with the thoughts of `feminist and `Queer theorist' Judith Butler in challenging the very basis of gender itself. `Galdrbok' we are told ''promotes equality between the genders we in the West know as `male' and `female'. Simplistic classifications which conflate sex and gender and rely on binary oppositions are a modern Western invention. Other cultures have different systems of classification, often involving three, four or more genders''. This is just a nonsense. Ethnic groups, from as far apart as Africa to South America, who have survived in to the modern age with essentially an ancient tribal structure intact, exhibit highly defined gender roles with each of the (two) sexes having its own rites of passage to adulthood. In addition the very concept of equality itself is erroneous in a Heathen setting. There is no equality in nature. It is a man made metaphysical construction . There is a concept in the monotheistic religions of an equality before god, but in Heathenism? I think not. The type of society that bred Germanic Heathenism was at the highest level controlled by a male warrior aristocracy and the lowest level fuelled by slaves. Those who transgressed the fundamental values of the society were liable to come to a very sticky end. The very attitudes of Heathenism prior to the Christian conversions just can not be equated to the cultural Marxist nonsense of the `Heathens against Hate' brigade that exists today.
Reading through the rest of the book you can detect some of the theories of the likes of Edred Thorsson are being used by the authors as a springboard for their own creativity. Using the 29 character Anglo Saxon Futhorc they break it down into three `Phases', each phase being assigned to one of the Norns and their aspects. Thus Runes 1 (Fe) to 13 (Eoh) form the Wyrd (past) phase, Runes 14 (Peorth) to 24 (Ethel) the Metod (Present) Phase and the five extra English runes the Skuld (future) phase. A bit of numerology mumbo jumbo and a not very convincing attempt to equate individual runes to aspects of Norse creation myth are thrown in for good measure. This is just pure invention and remind me of the musings contained in the book `Rune Games' written in the early 1980's by Marijane Osborn and Stella Longland. It's all just playing about with runes. .
In essence this book is about back projecting a preferred vision into the heathen past by people whose influences are far removed in spirit from original pre-Christian heathenism and says more about the hang ups of the present than it does about anything else.