Monday, September 10, 2007

What Would My Ancestor Do

What Would My Ancestor Do Cover Christians are always asking themselves, “What would Jesus do?” though there is no real evidence they ever answer the question; perhaps because they don’t want to know. It would likely oppose what they’re so eager to do. How often do I ask myself, in a similar vein, “What would my ancestors do?” It’s a question that is bound to come up among those who adhere more strongly to historical standards in the reconstruction and revival of ancient religions. We tend to be very ancestor oriented and traditional minded, even as those traditions are being reconstructed and reinterpreted in light of the passing of a thousand years or more. Of course, I’m not a Reconstructionist but a revivalist, if I must take a label. Heathen reconstructionists are no more able to reconstruct the past than Christian reconstructionists. The main reason is that it’s gone and past. Many centuries have passed and the world has changed.

That’s just my opinion and you’re welcome to challenge it. I know there are some pretty strict reconstructionists out there. But look at the context of the past for starters. The climate has changed – twice in some cases, perhaps more if you go back far enough. We’ve had a Little Ice Age and a global warming periods and now an upward trend in temperatures that make a solid case for anthropogenic global warming. In that respect alone the world is different. Some ways of living will be more or less difficult as a result. Whales are on the decline and protected and my Norse ancestors loved to hunt whale. The world has also gotten smaller. Communications and technology have changed everything. The three-tiered universe has been discounted. There may still be people who believe the gods are up and the dead below and we humans are in the middle. I suppose a case can be made in a metaphysical sense that there are other ways to look at this point, or maybe multi-dimensional physics could take care of it. We mostly live in larger communities. We’re not isolated by geography and climate. There is no place we can’t go, no influence we can entirely avoid. Things just aren’t the same.

We can’t even raid monasteries anymore. But then, on the flip side, those Christian reconstructionists, though they might want to, can’t burn us at the stake or pour molten metal down our throats to make us convert either, so there are some trade-offs I can live with. But my point in all this is to say that I can say, “What would my ancestors do?” in a given situation except that the situation in question would probably never have arisen in my ancestor’s world and he would be ill-equipped to deal with it now, were he here. We have no idea how our ancestors would have coped with some of the changes of the past ten to twenty centuries. We can try to imagine but there is simply no telling, not with any degree of certainty.

That’s not to say we should just throw up our hands and surrender to a world culture. We have our gods and we have our beliefs and we treasure the wisdom passed down to us by our ancestors. Across the centuries, they have something to tell us, some important things. Sometimes you have to ignore the little ancestor on your shoulder. Sometimes you would do well to listen. But that is largely why I am a revivalist. Our customs and traditions are important, but they must make sense in the context of the 21st Century, not the first or the seventh or the ninth. Even the Amish, isolated as they make themselves, have to abide by the law, and those who oppose being bound by the Ten Commandments or Sharia Law would do well to avoid proposing the enforcement of old Pagan law codes. So ask yourself what your ancestor would do, but keep in mind when he answers that this is the 21st century America (or wherever) and not 9th century Norway, and if somebody tries to tell you what Jesus would do, remind them that this is 21st century America and not first century Judaea, the Romans are not our overlords and that neither of you are Second Temple Jews.

Books in PDF format to read:

Reformed Druids - Anthology 08 A General History
Ross Arthur - English Old Norse Dictionary
Aleister Crowley - The World Of Tarot
Stephen Mcnallen - What Is Asatru
Thomas Voxfire - What Was Aleister Crowley