Why “Recon” is (Sometimes) a Dirty Word

[Medievalist and all-around super awesome person Sarduriur Freydis Sverresdatter had something to say about diehard recons relying on Snorri in order to reconstruct Heathenry. I liked it so much I had to ask permission to post it. Please direct all appreciative muffin baskets her way.]

The sad thing is, Snorri (a 13th century Christian lawyer), is not the ONLY person who ever wrote about Scandinavian religion (and he was only writing about Icelandic religion for the most part) . . . and most (especially strict) recons fail to realize it. They latch onto the Eddas like Gospel and thump, thump, thump. Even though at that point Snorri was Captain of the U.S.S. Make-Shit-Up of Christianized misinterpretations and glazings-over of Heathen religion. Dude was well over a century removed from living pre-Christian religion, whereas chroniclers like Ahmad ibn Fadlan were EFFING THERE, around Polytheist Scandinavians during the 10th century. Why would ANYONE rely on Snorri and his High Medieval Christian contemporaries for accuracy of any sort at all? Especially when he omitted so much of what didn’t agree with his or his audience’s Christian sensibilities, and wasn’t there to witness Polytheist Scandinavians actually practicing Polytheist Scandinavian religion(s)?

What (specifically diehard) recons end up with, then, is revenant Christo-Heathenism. It’s a half-assed, half-dead religion, not a living one — particularly dead when it’s popularly maintained that the Gods can’t be bothered with you, because you’re no Sigfried, and only the really cool shit happened in the Early Middle Ages, so tough titties for you, might as well not have any Gods, but it wouldn’t be as cool without Them, so we’ll keep Them anyway. Coupled with a very self-entitled, arrogant “I don’t need to kneel or do anything I don’t want to before the Gods, I’m entirely equal to Them and They’re glorified wish-givers” attitude, you have a reeeaaal recipe for disaster/setup for imminent failure.

^^^ And this is coming from a Medievalist, of all people. When Medievalists start saying “dude, stop messing with dusty old tomes and dead bones, live your life,” you know you have problems. Historical validation is all well and good, and “Teh Lore” (TM) [not including Snorri] can provide a very loose framework for belief (i.e., this is where some of our basic beliefs came from, this is how things were formerly done as far as we know, etc.). But you’re not going to have a sustainable, living, genuinely Heathen religion that long outlives you if you rely on blatantly, severely biased High Medieval Christian authorship for all or even most of your objective non-Christian religious knowledge and practice. We have to reestablish contact with the Gods. We need to make our own mark with our own ways and our own words, not some Medieval Christian who thought that “Pagan” Scandinavians were superstitious backwater hicks who didn’t deal with the death of their beloved heroes very well.

That scares people. A lot. Suddenly the belief system they’ve latched onto makes virtually no sense anymore, and they have to find new ways to rationalize it. Which requires a whoooole lot of work few people ultimately want to do. It’s far easier to turn off the “critical thinking” switch and fall back on the “dogma” reserve generator. It’s far easier to say/believe “if it’s Ancient or Medieval, it’s categorically more true than Modern stuff” than actually figure things out for yourself and know how and where to identify and remove the Monotheist additions/worldview and how and where to bridge gaps — what to keep and what to get rid of. “Unlearning” bad information is very difficult and tedious, but entirely necessary.

In the sense of “relying upon ‘Teh Lore’ (TM) beyond a very basic framework or foundation, clinging to it and refusing to both drop the Modern Western Christian worldview most of us grew up with and refusing to allow the religion to grow, change, and progress,” yeah, I’d say “recon” is a dirty word.

[‘Nuff said.]

6 thoughts on “Why “Recon” is (Sometimes) a Dirty Word

  1. One of the things that drives me batshit about The Lore (TM) is that so often when The Lore is being beaten on it’s a matter of someone is upset about Loki because Ragnarok, and I just …

    … okay, the first time I read a version of the Ragnarok myth, it was one that ended something like “And after the end of the world, Baldur will be resurrected and take the male and female survivor into Thinly Veiled Eden Reference,” and I was all, “… … well, that’s weirdly Christian.”

    So learning that a lot of stuff was actually written by a Christian was one of those things where I got heavily Oh, That Explains Just About Fucking Everything.

    Some time later, my Celt commented something I don’t recall the words for, but it boiled down to, “Oh, I always thought of Ragnarok as the heathen equivalent of the greater jihad” (he wasn’t the one who had the Islamic trivia to phrase it that way, I was). And I was all, “Oh, the inevitably doomed personal struggle against the inevitability of death, now that actually sounds like something an actual heathen would have cared about.”

    (And then I found some fascinating speculation about Baldr and yeah. Basically developed an amazing lack of patience with Biblical, I mean Ragnarok literalists.)

    • The “no Loki because RAGNAROK” thing honestly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. It’s basically the book of revelations with vikings, so it doesn’t really make sense to hate Loki if you’re trying to “purge all the Christian influences from Heathenry” because that includes the Ragnarok myth. But what really boggles my mind is people who say “You idiots, Loki doesn’t exist, he’s a literary construct,” WELL THEN WHY THE FUCK DO YOU CARE SO MUCH ABOUT A BEING THAT SUPPOSEDLY DOES NOT EXIST?! Seriously, go take a walk and quit whining about how other people do things!

  2. Man I am glad someone said it. Lore in Heathens IS like Christians with the Bible. And the only “worthy” gods are the Aesir. I don’t have issues with the Aesir but I connect more with the Vanir. How can you ignore Sunna, Mani and Freyr when working with the land and seasons? I think when you rely on the stories you don’t have to actually get to know the gods or your kin. I have had great contacts with both.

    • The recon argument I’ve heard is that Sunna and Mani are not deities. The charm that mentions Sunna is actually using her as a “literary device” and the only source that mentions moon-worship is (as far as I know) Bede, who is (as usual) HIGHLY SUSPECT!

      I for one seriously doubt that something as important to the North as the sun wouldn’t be deified in some way. This isn’t any scholarly assertion, this is just logic.

      I haven’t heard a lot of “only Odin and co. are worthy” but there does definitely seem to be a greater emphasis on Odin, Thor, Tyr etc. than Njord, Freyr, and Freyja. My pet theory is that some people just don’t know what to *do* with these deities. They feel comfortable with Odin and Thor, who are BIG STRONG MANLY WARRIORS! But honouring Freyr makes them feel more “Wiccish” (all this emphasis on “fertility” and such) and no one wants to be “Wiccish” because Wicca is EWWWW! Or….something….to that effect….

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