Thursday, June 14, 2012

Open Letter to the Rede of the Troth

Open Letter to the Rede of the Troth:

I am an active Heathen and recently lapsed member of the Troth.  The reason I joined the Troth was because it is a Heathen organization that is open to anyone.  The Troth's stand on tolerance is the reason why a recent statement by Victoria Clare, the Steerswoman of the High Rede, on the matter of hailing Loki during Troth-sponsored events shocked me.  That statement is the reason why I am writing this open letter.

What surprised me the most about this statement was its uncompromising tone.  Early on it is asserted the matter of hailing Loki is, "irresolvable in a manner consistent with both frith and mainstream heathen sensibilities" followed by a reminder to "maintain the frith."  It is argued the hailing of Loki was causing strife without any explanation as to how or why.  It claims such practices, "cause dissension in our ranks."  It finishes by stating, "The Rede has agreed to review the language, but that does not mean any significant change should be expected in our policies or procedures."

These words are chilling to me.  This is not how an organization that values honesty and transparency with its members operates.  One of the great benefits I found with Troth membership was the space it provided for open discussion and dialog.  The language of this statement is contrary to the spirit of free discourse.

If the issue of hailing Loki is serious enough to cause strife it should be resolved with open discussion and debate.  Let the ideas of all sides of the conversation be tested for their worth in public dialog just as the Gods did when They created Midgard(1) and our ancestors did when resolving matters great and small.

As long as this statement is the Troth's policy I will not renew my membership.  I hope the High Rede will reconsider their stance on this issue and resolve it openly and transparently.


Ryan Smith

1. Voluspo 6-16

Friday, June 1, 2012


There are many ethical and spiritual virtues in Pagan and Heathen practice.  Which ones are followed are a matter of which tradition a person follows and their interpretation of its ideas.  There are many options in the rich diversity of traditions in the community to choose from.  In this tapestry of ideas there are many to choose from but a few are shared by many.  They may have different reasons and justifications but the root idea is the same.  One such precept is the virtue that calls for people to set aside personal differences in the name of the greater community.  Its name is solidarity.

Solidarity is the unity between people based on common ground.  It calls on us to support our friends, family, and community when they are in need however we can.  It urges us to do this because they are our kin whether by blood, association, or choice.  Such selfless acts are rooted in the soil of enlightened self-interest.

All societies, large and small, depend on common resources to ensure their continued survival and success.  These resources are built and maintained by the mutual aid, sacrifice, and work of the many.  When these patterns of mutual aid and support are maintained communities thrive.  Those that fragment, feud, and let these networks crumble rarely outlast the collapse of the social fabric.

Solidarity is an idea as old as humanity.  Every nation and culture in the world from the dawn of time has extolled the virtues of standing with one’s kin in times of trouble.  The origins of solidarity can be traced to humanity’s tribal past.  In the prehistoric world survival was not easy for a lone human to survive.  Essential tasks for survival such as hunting, gathering of food, shelter, protection from dangerous predators, child rearing, and aid when sick or injured depended on mutual support.  In a harsh world solidarity was a matter of life and death.

With the rise of agriculture and village life the need for solidarity was as great as always.  Growing crops and caring for livestock required the coordinated effort of whole tribes.  The dangers of famine, raiders, and natural disasters did not discriminate on what work a person did or where in the village they lived.  Collective effort and response was necessary for the sake of community survival whether one was raising a barn, plowing the fields, or putting out a fire everyone lent a hand however they could.

Concrete examples of solidarity in early civilization are easy to find.  In ancient Greece during times of war all inhabitants of a polis were given shelter in the city walls and expected to play a part in its defense.  Citizens were required to own arms and armor for taking part in the defense of the city as were landowners in the Roman Republic.  Every free person in the Celtic and Germanic tribes of northern and western Europe were expected to take their place in the line of battle when the tribe came under attack.

Some would argue solidarity requires us to sacrifice our individuality and submit to grey, featureless conformity.  They claim the actions necessary to maintain a strong community infringe too heavily on the rights of the individual.  This criticism misses the point completely.  Solidarity does not demand us to surrender our freedom and submit to communal enslavement.  In the cultures of pre-Christian Europe individual deeds and achievements were central to their ideals.  Whether in the songs of Celtic bards, the sagas of Scandinavian skalds, or from the pens of Greek poets the glory of individual mettle was celebrated.  What the great heroes have in common is applying their individual skills to the betterment of their people.  It did not matter if this was through battle, the arts, or trade those who strengthened their communities were celebrated while those who leeched from them were denounced.  There was no contradiction between duty to community and individual freedom.  It was well-understood the two were heavily intertwined, dependent on mutual support to remain. 

We now live in a time where our community is forming once again.  We face many challenges from many places.  Now, as our ancestors once did, in the face of these dangers we must heed solidarity’s wisdom.  How this manifests will depend on the person, tradition, and community.  What should hold true in all cases when facing common need is the unqualified trust and support of one’s fellow earth worshippers, polytheists, and Pagans transcending the differences that divide us to embrace the qualities that unite us.