MAP AND COMPASS VERSUS INVISIBLE STARS
OR – UPG versus very strict Recon
I have been a practicing heathen for well over ten (10) years and have seen a lot of strife, condescension and stupidity in that time with some of it directed at me or my friends. It is, in fact, why I almost never call myself Asatru but rather Heathen. I had early experiences with people telling me we were wrong to celebrate our sumbels a certain way that I felt was only proper due to hospitality. More recently, I see tremendous strife between two poles which I will call the strict reconstructionist Map and Compass side (the Right, for this case) and a very UPG (Unverifiable Personal Gnosis) oriented Invisible Stars side, sometimes calling itself spirit inspired (the Left, for this example). While I see the sides screaming at each other for reasons beyond these two “poles” (ranging from accusations of bigotry to perversion, et cetera), I think a large portion of the dispute centers on this range or continuum with much of the other back and forth being “noise”. I am going to deliberately refrain from using names or links as I see no reason as a mostly centrist player in this to feed further dispute. I work hard to connect to both sides of the continuum, which I do see as such rather than a dichotomy.
For Norse Heathens, we need to first start from the general realization that there is a great deal about the practices of our ancestors that we cannot know. While we are luckier than some attempts to reconstruct a faith as there is some material, much is missing and what we have documented often has to be checked for bias. There is historical and archaeological record as well, which all help, but often our view of our ancestors’ belief systems and related views is far too limited to allow us to follow directly in their footsteps. We must fill in what we do not know from somewhere and therefore some form of extrapolation is absolutely necessary. We really have no choice but to fill in details using imagination and deduction. But, there is a second and equally important thing we need to realize that cannot be underemphasized:
We are NOT our ancestors. We do not live in their time and place.
Our ancestors were, effectively, frontiersmen and women. They lived in a harsh place and time and their rules reflect that. I think their rules were good ones and have adopted many of them but it was a conscious choice. I do not get in a ship to go raid others or think that I have the right to challenge a man I am angry with to the holmgang. I am very happy to live in a major city with good medical care, sewage systems and the rule of law with actual police rather than having to bring a bunch of armed men to the Thing to enforce the court ruling we hope to get.
So, taking all of this into account, where do I see the differences and commonalities?
1) Almost all of us agree on certain virtues such as hospitality, honor, truth and other things. We may disagree on some of the details but the ethics are very similar.
2) The Map and Compass side teaches us the value of our history and where we and our ancestors have been. This is important. I have to know where I started on the map to get where I am going. In fact, even most on the far Left Invisible Stars side honor our history more than the Right chooses to admit.
3) The Invisible Stars side sees that we cannot live in the past and must exist now, in a different and modern age. We can honor our ancestors and yet not BE them. Even those most spirit inspired look to our past, other sources and do research. Granted, some have been so attacked and insulted by the other side that they cease showing their work. Sometimes, I cannot blame them.
4) Both sides support our military, want to help believers in prison and help their fellow believers. I have seen it. Call me a liar if you must, but you will be wrong.
5) With the exception of those who threaten violence, practice racism or are otherwise extreme; I trust many of you from all sides and honor you as friends and fellow believers. You have all taught me much. I see the honor and power in both.
So, the next time you hear something terrible about someone you think opposes you, look a little deeper. You may find you have more in common than you think and that there is common ground worth pursuing. Even if you do not, I will be. Our faith is too important not to.