Monday, August 30, 2010

The Importance of Grassroots Heathenry

As Asatru matures into a more established faith in society sooner or later the question is going to emerge of how exactly should Asatru as a faith and culture handle its affairs. There has been a lot of discussion flying around about how, where, and what form it should take as well as the issue of Universalist vs Folkish and all the shades of grey on that topic. With our festivals growing larger, kindreds sprouting up around the world, and awareness of Asatru steadily growing in society this question will likely need an answer some time soon before we're forced to come up with one on the spot.

This is not to say that the organizations that exist for Heathens in this day and age are unimportant or useless, far from it. They serve an invaluable function of forming bonds between Heathens and building the foundations of our community, without them we likely wouldn't be anywhere near where we stand now. That said, just as a child's clothes no longer serve the needs of a growing adolescent our organizations and community will have to adapt to what best serves the interests of the Folk. The best way to do that is to keep the center of balance in Asatru with the Kindreds and local groups ensuring that it is the needs of the Folk that are served first. Thankfully many of the national organizations active in the United States remember that without the Kindreds there is no foundation for the Folk to stand on. It is from the kindreds, study groups, and pub nights that new Heathens come into the fold and from there that our best emerge. This is why matters that as the number of Kindreds grows they continue to be the center of autonomy in Asatru.

Some would argue that the best way to advance the interests of Asatru and the Folk is to work through a strong, centralized hierarchy with an Asa-Pope or something similar setting the agenda and standards for all the rest. Those in favor would argue that in our current situation we need decisive, singular leadership. We need to define what Asatru REALLY means, and therefore the best way to do this is with a centralized authority. Unfortunately this argument shortchanges the needs of the future for the desires of those in the present. For the Folk to be led in such a fashion runs directly counter to the Lore, the ways of our ancestors, and what are the best working practices to prevent an unhealthy concentration of religious authority in one place. We have seen from the history of Christianity what came of having a strong, centralized ecclestiastical government and the fallout which echoes to this day. Why repeat an example we know would lead to the needs of the Folk being subordinated or ignored by those in the hierarchy in favor of what works best for that hierarchy? Putting all power in the hands of a central authority is a road that is certain to see our Folkway be twisted by others to their own purposes instead of keeping to that which makes Asatru what it is: a faith of strong, independent people who write their names with the deeds of their lives.

The best way to ensure Asatru stays true to itself is to put the power in the hands of the Kindreds, local and regional clans and tribes, and the Folk themselves first with larger organizations responding to the will of the Folk from the bottom up, not the top down especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Like in the old days, we should follow the example of our ancestors and keep the power and decision-making in the hands of the people who will be most impacted by the decisions made. While this may seem unwiedly we are not talking about building a government or a country. A system built on local autonomy and democratic rule is one that is often far more capable of acting on local or regional problems quickly especially compared to more centralized organizations where approval is often needed from somewhere in the hierarchy which can lead to delay or confusion. Not only does it best serve the Folk to keep the proverbial spiritual center of gravity at the bottom it also works more efficiently in dealing with day to day problems.

We must remember above all else that the decisions we make now are not just ones we must make for ourselves, but all those who follow in our footsteps. We have a duty to leave them the best possible situation we can give them. No matter what form Asatru takes we must be sure it is one that serves the Folk first.

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