The Elhaz Ablaze Sign, designed by Donovan
The following article was intended as my first one for Elhaz Ablaze. Somehow I never finished it. But as Elhaz Ablaze has had its birthday a few days ago, I think it makes sense to write my own story how I came to call myself a Chaos Heathen. The first time I read about Chaos Heathenism and the explanation of it written by Henry I felt that it resonated with my being very strongly. Though I personally think that one-word descriptions (or two words in that case) cannot really express who I am and how I feel, I still think that the term Chaos Heathenism is really a gem.
„Why Chaos? Why Heathenism? And what is Heathenism anyway?“, I heard some of my friends ask. Friends of mine – most of them – don’t call themselves anything and, if they are religious (or spiritual, as most of them would prefer that term), they don’t like the idea of belonging to some kind of philosophy and/or religion. So, what is Heathenism? (I know that most readers of Elhaz Ablaze already have a very clear conception of what Heathenism is.) Basically, I think that Heathenism is the ‘religion’ of our ancestors. But it’s not really a religion, it’s more a way of life, or to be even more accurate, a ‘way of doing’. However, this way of doing is based on certain philosophical / ‘religious’ concepts that imply powerful truths about the nature of reality and consciousness. To me personally Heathenry is really about roots (RE-connecting with your ancestors & the ancestral, primal root of consciousness – ANSUZ), the interconnectedness of everything (Wyrd) and about a living, ‘ensouled’ universe/multiverse with which humans can communicate by interacting with ‘beings’ that are imagined as gods, elves, dwarfs & other mythical beings (Esoteric Runology). And, of course, Heathenry is about values (like honour & loyalty), where one’s deeds & words count for something.
But the values of our ancestors implied also a very different approach to the Divine. I’ve been raised as a Catholic and to me God has always been associated with fear (to some degree). Heathenry is very different from such an attitude. The arch-heathen would be able to argue, laugh & talk with his / her Gods. There were also Heathens that only believed in their own ‘might and main’ – rather than in any Gods. But the difference between such an arch-heathen and a modern atheist would be the basic feeling about the universe. The modern atheist basically feels that the world around him is without any meaning (except the one attatched to it by the individual), while the arch-heathen felt a mystical ‘web’ of mystery surrounding him/her and carrying the very fabric of his/her existence (cp. Jan de Vries: Die geistige Welt der Germanen). This is the huge difference, from which very different attitudes towards life and its possibilities arise. This includes a very different attitude towards death, too.
I’d argue (like Edred Thorsson in his brilliant The Northern Dawn – a must-read for anyone, who believes that the heathen worldview is somehow lost and not accessible to us anymore) that modern atheism and its most intelligent and sensitive articulation, existentialism, is a consequence of the monotheistic cult, Christianity. The Kristjan (old way of spelling Christian) worldview NEVER suited to the European ‘soul’ – our ways of thinking & feeling, fighting & loving, doing & being – and it was only a matter of time until it deconstructed itself. Further, what appears Kristjan on the surface is often Heathen beneath its appearance (Yul / Xmass, the Xmass Tree, Easter, Easter Eggs etc. etc.). And many early Kristjan ideas have been ‘germanized’ just to fit to the Heathen mind! Otherwise many Kristjan ideas wouldn’t have been even understood by our Heathen ancestors. Consider how brutal and cunning the Kristjans have been just to realize, why they have converted to a creed that has been totally alien to them. After these important considerations have been ‘digested’, it doesn’t appear so weird anymore (though it’s certainly Wyrd), why being a Heathen in these modern times is like ‘coming home’ or ‘becoming who you are’, rather than just following another foreign cult and/or religion. So, to put it in plain view: when (young) people feel the sacredness of nature, or feel drawn to magic(k) or the Runes or pagan deities asf., I consider all these manifestations as authentic expressions of Self – our Heathen ‘soul’.
But then, why Chaos? First of all, the Chaos perspective just admits that the world has changed dramatically since our Heathen forebears lived on this planet and we cannot (and do not want to) turn back the clock. Our ancestors have been so succesful, because they were pragmatic and knew how to adapt to new challenges. Otherwise they wouldn’t have survived and we woulden’t BE HERE NOW (this being a mantra to achieve a state of real wakefulness :-). The chaos perspective allows us to draw new inspirations from different contexts as we are able today to connect with and elect from many ideas, philosophies, magics, techniques & cultures that surround us materially and virtually. So I don’t consider it as ‘untrue’, when I find myself ‘working with’ Ganesha or Kali (or any other deity I feel drawn to) and/or when I am exploring magical paradigms/techniques/ideas that are not part of the Heathen Lore. (Though, honestly said, I’m beginning to become very sceptical of ‘working with’ Gods from different cultures as this approach of ‘working with Gods’ seems to be disrespectful to other cultures and to the deities themselves. However, this is a topic for another article…) But there is another aspect: the chaos magickal or freestyle ‘shamanic’ approach just suits to many of us rather than a strict, ceremonial way of doing magick (though I tend to like both & lean a little bit more towards a strict way of doing rituals). I’d argue with Freya Aswynn that the Northern Tradition is far more in harmony with chaos magick than a Western ‘Ritual Magic’ approach.
“The magical arts of the Northern peoples covered a wide spectrum of activity, all of which was purely practical. There was none of the Qabalists’ occupation with building a stairway to the Deity, no Golden Dawn mysticism. It was, as the poet T. S. Eliot so aptly put it, ‘designed to produce definite results, such as getting a cow out of a bog’. If it bears a resemblance to any modern magical system then the most likely candidate is Chaos Magic…“ (F. Aswynn: The Northern Magical Tradition. In: The Fenris Wolf, Issue No. 3 (1993), ed. Carl Abrahamsson, Psychick Release Production Cerebrum & Press, Stockholm.)
I personally like the idea that Galdor represents a more ‘strict’ way of working magick and that Seidhr equals the chaos magick approach. However, a Chaos Heathen is someone who doesn’t deny his/her many ‘selves’ and will move on to new horizons of understanding. This should be reflected in one’s own magickal practice. For example, if one still uses the same approach to sorcery after some years of practice, this would reflect that no real progress has taken place. For me Chaos Heathenry just expresses an attitude that allows for more experimentation, free exploration and an undogmatic, fresh perspective. A chaos heathen won’t bother too much about debates that ‘it isn’t historically proven’ to use Runes or Seidhr in such-and-such a way. S/he knows also that it’s not much that we know and that the way historical information is interpreted & presented always reflects the individual agendas of the persons using them. That doesn’t mean that I as a Chaos Heathen dismiss Tradition, but that I believe that one of the cornerstones of that Tradition has been innovation and a creative spirit – not orthodoxy (being a rather Kristjan obsession). Of course we have to avoid New Age nonsense. But we don’t want to fall into the trap of dogmatism either. There is no ‘one right way’ of walking the Runic Path. The Lord of Light & the Drighten of Darkness HimSelf was/is a couragous, creative, innovative explorer & shape-shifter, wandering restlessly between the worlds, always ready to look behind the curtain and to find a new secret. I think that to emulate this spirit in the here-and-now is more noble than to try to live in the distant path of our ancestors. If Othinn was alive as a human being today, he would be a Chaos Heathen. May His Power be Mighty amongst us!
Hail Chaos! Viva Loki! Aum Wotan!
Tags: Chaos Heathenism