We here at Elhaz Ablaze have been reflecting on the purpose and theme of our website and have concluded that there needs to be a slight change in emphasis.
All of us have interests and experiences outside of heathenism or which, while connected to our heathenism, would not be regarded as “authentic” by the more orthodox heathen crowd.
On the other hand, it would be false to ourselves not to include these reflections on this website. They are part of who we are. Our gods and ancestors do not ask us to deny aspects of ourselves as the Christian god asked of the early heathen converts. Indeed one of the main points of polytheism is to acknowledge the full spectrum of beings and realms – as Phil Hine put it, “a god denied is a devil created”.
So in this vein Donovan has a developing practice exploring Somafera and internal kung fu from the point of view of a natural berserker; I have been having spontaneous experiences in the last year that could only be described as alchemical (even though prior to that I’ve never even had any interest in alchemy)! Clint has always had his own idiosyncratic take on these issues which I’ve not even encountered in anyone else that I’ve met. If we were to force ourselves into the one-dimensional oafish heathen mould then we’d soon shatter it.
On the other hand, there are some areas where we feel great care must be made not to blur important distinctions. For example, I have come to feel that greater clarity around the use of terms like seidh is necessary.
To be really strict, the term seidh refers to archaic magical practices for which we have only the most elliptical evidence. While it is possible for modern folk to create seidh-inspired practices, I do not believe it is strictly possible to practice seidh in modern times because we just do not know enough about the past. There is neither a substantiated unbroken living tradition, nor a collection of Dark Ages ‘how to’ manuals left behind for us to follow.
This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, and I still think learning as much about history as possible is vital to inspire us. But I think we need to be realistic – no matter how ‘accurate’ our reconstruction of seidh, or rune magic, or whatever, it will not be what went before. There will always be room for disagreement and any single piece of evidence will likely be able to generate a number of equally valid interpretations.
This is not some kind of post-modern “its all the same” attitude. It is a recognition that we just don’t know enough and the evidence we have is scanty and ambiguous and covered over by at least ten centuries of dust. We might look to our own personal experiences for confirmation or inspiration and this is a fertile approach. But it is no basis for objective historical research or making objective historical claims.
I therefore will be (and I guess already have been) writing with the understanding that unless I make it otherwise clear, I am using the term seidh to refer to modern practices which may or may not bear resemblance to the historical practices which are their inspiration. I think Clint and Donovan will be taking a similar line on these sorts of issues.
We want to avoid leading others down confusing paths by pretending to be evidence-based or historically authentic when there can be only limited authenticity in some areas. All of us struggled with this when we first became interested in heathenism because so many supposedly reputable authors make just this deception (even if sometimes with good intentions).
We still believe that trying to understand and recover the old ways is essential. We still believe that the spark of our original ingenuity is essential. And we believe that it is good ethics to make the distinction clear.
We also want to be free to document and explore the full range of our magical/psychological/spiritual/physical/martial experiences and ideas so that Elhaz Ablaze is a genuine reflection of who we are and what we are doing. In that vein, we’d like to think that chaos magicians and other magical/spiritual/martial types as well as heathens might be interested in what we have to say.
“Chaos Heathenism” is our philosophy. Heathenism is the spiritual harbour from which we sail, but like chaos magicians we are creative and irreverent and are not afraid to explore all manner of strange new oceans. In this we identify with the spirit that inspired so many Viking expeditions, as well as the far-reaching web of our ancestor’s trade routes and travails.
In that vein, we do not believe that our ancestors were as hermetically sealed in their culture and beliefs as the more conservative end of heathenry believes – and from what I can see archaeology and history are on our side.
We therefore do not wish to indulge in the separatist charade when there are for more nuanced understandings to be had. All too often we have found that the self-proclaimed “true heathens” are just as dilute as everyone else – their only distinction is that they are hypocrites as well. We believe that by accepting the world’s (and our own) complexity we will express our ancestral worldview more fully than by clinging to simplistic and narrow-minded dogma.
Perhaps part of the reason for our perspective is that all three of us are Australian (even though Clint now lives in the States). Australian heathenry faces unique challenges because of the nature of this land and the importance of its traditional custodians.
European-descended people have been in this ancient place for so little a stretch of time and the question of our relationship to spirit of place is much more challenging than, say, the question faced in Europe where heathenism was born or even the U.S. which at least shares some climate and ecosystem similarities with Europe.
Consequently some of the questions, ambiguities and mysteries that are more easily ignored by heathens from other parts of the globe are inescapably scored into our psyches and it would be self-deception if we did not engage with them.
So where this will lead us I cannot say, but hopefully our plan to go a-viking will take us to places we could never have previously imagined!