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Orthodoxy, Dogma, and Practice in modern Neo-Paganism

Orthodoxy: defines "Orthodoxy" as "beliefs, ideas, or activities considered traditional, normal, and acceptable..." or as "following generally accepted beliefs or standards." Orthopraxy: Wikipedia defines orthopraxy as both "correct conduct" and "ὀρθοπραξία (orthopraxia) meaning 'right practice'."

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy: While orthodoxies make use of commonly accepted beliefs, orthopraxy focuses on adherence to common rituals, the transmission of tradition, sacrificial offerings, concerns of purity, and ethical systems.

Dogma: defines "dogma" as "the doctrine of belief in a religion or a political system." Wikipedia defines "dogma" as "Dogma, in its broadest sense, is any belief held unquestioningly and with undefended certainty. It may be in the form of an official system of principles or doctrines of a religion, such as Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, or Islam, as well as the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school, such as Stoicism." In short, dogma and orthodoxy are very similar, and some people group dogma and orthodoxy together. Heathen: Comes from the Greek word "ethnos". The word "ethnos" is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word "Goyim" meaning "Gentiles." "Ethnos" was the Greek term the Jews used when translating their Hebrew Bible into the Greek "Septuagint" (Greek Bible) circacirca 200 BCE, when Jews began to spread across the Roman and Greek world. Ethnos' Germanic equivalent is "Heathen", and like "Ethnos" means "non-Believers" (in the Abrahamic God). Heathen therefore is not really a Germanic word. (I have been underlining the th and n in the word's "ethnos" and "heathen" to show the linguistic tie between these words). Compare for example the Gothic word for Gentile "haiþno" with the Greek "ethnos". In short, in the Abrahamic sense, a "heathen" is a believer in the Gods (plural) outside of the "One True Abrahamic God."

Does Asatru (New Ways Heathenry) have Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, and Dogma? YES (in all capital letters.) Asatru has a set of commonly accepted Gods and Goddesses (Aesir and Vanir), a commonly accepted Cosmology (Nine Realms), commonly accepted ethics (Nine Noble Virtues, the Havamal), American Asatru has strict adherence to either a Folkish or Universalist belief, as well as commonly accepted holidays (the Wiccan Wheel of the Year) and common rituals (modernized sumbel, modernized blot, an Asatruized Wiccan Sabbat, etc). No one can argue that there is so much shared belief and practice in New Ways Asatru. Asatru orgs and many Asatruar have attacked me for criticizing the Wiccan Wheel of the Year being passed off as historical Old Ways and pre-christian practices in Europe. The backlash was so strong, it is clear that I ruffled the feathers of Asatru orthodoxy and orthopraxy. To criticize the Wiccan Wheel being passed off as historical pre-christian practice in Asatru, was to these Asatruar an attack on modern Asatru's orthodoxy and orthopraxy. This is even though my issue is not with New Ways Asatru, it is with New Ways Asatru passing off Wiccan and Christian holidays as historical pre-christian Heathen holidays. If one were to go to the three biggest Asatru organizations websites, one would clearly see see Wiccan holidays, and holidays not attested in the Sagas and our historical sources passed off as historical pre-christian holidays. I am aware that not all groups in Asatru pass a horn in a circle three times calling it Sumbel, but many do, and I have attended many such ceremonies (I no longer attend any new ways groups, or any Asatru groups). I understand that there are a tiny few groups within Asatru moving away from the Wiccan Wheel of the year. The backlash I have received from my Historical Sumble blog article from Asatruar is telling. Though, how can Asatruar be mad at a blog article that quotes two long sumbels in Heimskringla and Beowulf, as well as other sources? The answer is simple, by showing what the historical sources state about Sumble (or Sumbel, Sumbl) it makes Asatruar reading my blog nervous as their practice and belief is nothing close to what the sources show. My point is that Asatru does have common beliefs and common practices, so much so, that writing blog articles discussing what the sources show as historical angers Asatruar. I would have no beefs with Asatru if it were honest about Asatru's lack of research and lack of historicity. Honestly is a virtue. Old Gods and new ways (Asatru) is a legitimate religion, but at times, Old Ways Heathens grow angry with Asatru for its lack of honesty and academic integrity. No Old Ways Heathen should be angry with Asatruar who prefer new ways and are honest that their practice is new ways, or Wiccan or Christian, or made up. Even The Troth's website makes clear that many "viking raiders" were actually christian Norsemen, and that Heathenry did die out in northern Europe and Scandinavia, being completely replaced with Christianity. I agree with Old Ways Heathens and New Ways Asatru that Abrahamic religion does not work for those of us in Heathenry today. However, just as Old Ways and historical practices are not for everyone, making up practices or new practices also are not for everyone. I have an orthodox Jewish friend who grew up in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood which completely shut down for Shabbat observance. This person lives within walking distance of the local synagogue and walks every Sabbath to shul (synagogue). This person said to me just last week "If a religion is made up, how can anyone follow it?" While I agree with that sentiment, not everyone does. According to scholar Stefanie von Schnurbein, there are only 20,000 total people in the entire world that practice some form of Germanic Neopaganism [Schnurbein, Stefanie von (2016). Norse Revival: Transformations of Germanic Neopaganism. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-1-60846-737-2. p.88] For these few people, Abrahamic and established religions do not work. And I do understand many Jews and Israelites feel that it is strange that European Gentile culture abandoned their native paths to adopt a foreign and Christian culture. I understand this way of thinking, as I wish Europe did not adopt Christianity. Religious diversity is a good thing. Please note, too many Asatruar argue with me that Asatru does not have orthodoxy, common practices/customs, and dogma. However, isn't this what religion is? Are those joining Asatru not looking for common belief and celebratory rites with others? Without commonly accepted holidays and rites for those holidays, there can be no common religious belief to celebrate with others, it would be a solitary path for everyone. Asatru is clearly a religious belief with orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and dogma. While modern Americans are largely secular, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Mothers' Day and Fathers' Day are good days to have family gatherings. Maybe these celebrations are no longer religious in America (for the most part). But they are common customs. Religion provides common belief and customs.

Does Aldsidu have Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy, and Dogma?

YES (in all capital letters.) Aldsidu has a mission statement. I will place it here. In view of the fact that many modern pagan religions claim to be revivals of ancient Germanic religions, and assert that their own practices are historically accurate or representative of ancient practices while ignoring the historical record regarding such practices, Historical Old Saxon Heathens (Aldsidu) adopted this mission statement.

This statement is solely intended to help distinguish historical Aldsidu, or Old Saxon Heathenry, from those modern pagan religions, such as Asatru or Wicca, that claim to be “Old (Historical) Ways” that are clearly not. Asatru and Wicca are fine traditions. However, they do not use the historically attested practices of Germanic Heathen religions and deviate substantially from them in both practice and belief. While we do not mean to insult or discount the validity of Asatru or Wicca, we absolutely deny any claims of these groups as accurately reflecting historical Heathen Germanic belief and practice, through the surviving historical sources.

Some Aldsidu (Old Saxon Heathen) groups and/or individuals may be stricter in their observances of these principles than others. Historical Old Saxon Heathenry (Aldsidu) as well as any form of Historical Germanic Heathenry can be defined by a commitment to the following points:

  1. Modern observance of Aldsidu should comply with historically attested practices in historical sources. Aldsidu practitioners believe in the Gods attributed to the Saxons. Aldsidu is a faith, not a re-enactment group. Aldsidu is the Old Saxon cognate of the Old Norse "Forn Sed" (various spellings in Scandianvia.)

  2. Aldsidu Heathens and Saxonhofs (local communities) reject the Wiccan Wheel of the Year as a model by which the dates of sacred rituals should be set. Aldsidu ceremonies are dated in accordance with the cycles of the moon, as was done in historical Heathen times, rather than by the solstices and equinoxes of the sun. This follows the historical sources on the dating of Heathen holidays. Historical Germanic Heathens (including Saxon Heathens) followed a lunisolar calendar. The Old Saxon word for "moon" and "month" are related words, as the Old Saxon word "month" (manoð) means "cycle of the moon."

  3. Saxon uuihdage (holidays) are Winter Full Moon (Norse Winter Nights), Giul (Norse Yule or Jol), and Summer-blot (Norse Sigurblot), which occur on Full Moons respectively. Winter Full Moon occurs on the Full Moon of Winter Moon (Uuintar-manoð). Three full moons after Winter Full Moon is Yule, also called "Mid-Winter", which begins on the Full Moon of Yule Moon ("Iul-Manoð.") Three full moons after Yule is Summer-blot, on the Full Moon of "Summer Moon" (Summar-Manoð.)

  4. Aldsidu communities observe Sumble in accordance with historically attested examples of Sumble, rather than in the Wiccan Sabbat Celtic Circle-style Sumble often used among modern pagan groups.

  5. Aldsidu communities perform blot in accordance with historically attested practices to the best of their ability. Blot has an important place in modern practice and Saxon Heathens strive to observe it inasmuch as it is practical to do so under all relevant circumstances.

  6. Aldsidu individuals and Saxonhofs reject all forms of bigotry and racism.

  7. Aldsidu Heathens and Saxonhofs share a commitment to academic honesty and integrity.

Aldsidu is a networking and education website, and "lite organization." Aldsidu also has a Facebook page for members to ask questions, network, and interact. Aldsidu in Old Saxon means "Old Ways" and is the historically attested word the Saxons used to describe their Heathenry, and similar to the Scandinavian term "Forn Sed." This is well attested in Old Saxon poetry from the 8th and 9th centuries. Aldsidu, the lite-organization, is a loose confederation of Saxon Heathen families and communities. We are bound together by our generally shared commitment to observing the Historical Old Saxon ways in accordance with the ideals expressed in this General Statement. We have come together for the purpose of divorcing historical heathenry from other forms of modern paganism. More importantly, we seek to further the growth and development of the Old Ways (Aldsidu) in the modern world by putting like-minded Heathens together and providing a forum in which they may network and share ideas. Historical Germanic Heathens are welcome to join us, as Aldsidu is very similar to Scandinavian Heathenry. Please join us in the Facebook group: Aldsidu: Saxon Heathenry.

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