Written by Dyami Millarson
Recently, people have been asking me about my identity: “Are you Germanic?” As I know that humans are tribal, I think it is natural for them to wonder about whom I identify with and what I identify as.
The speakers of Shire Frisian, to whom clannish identity is still as relevant as ever, have a saying: “Fan wa bisto der ien?” (To which family clan do you belong? In other words, what is your background?) So let me tell you about my history (family background) and how that influences my identity.
I was born into a Dutch-speaking environment. As my readers may know, Dutch is a Germanic language. So it ought to be noted that my world was Germanic-speaking from birth and as a child, I felt comfortable with this sort of linguistic environment; as a consequence, I do naturally identify with speakers of Germanic languages.
I have been living in a different linguistic environment for many years now. Fryslân, a region situated in the North of the Netherlands, is the home of a diversity of Frisian languages and that is where I live right now.
I have been displaying a public interest in the study of all Frisian languages since 2016, as my fascination with Frisian has been increasingly piqued. I am so far still quite occupied trying to familiarise myself with all Frisian languages.
As you may already understand, I was neither born a Frisian nor a speaker of any Frisian language. However, while I have been living among Frisians in their native homeland for more than a decade now, I have been integrated into their culture and I have been learning their languages for many years now, I consider myself Frisian despite not being born as one.
I have been initiated into multiple Frisian tribes, because I have familiarised myself with multiple tribes inhabiting Fryslân since time immemorial. These communities have their own language, culture and perspective on life.
As I have been working hard to integrate and becoming accepted as an equal among Frisians, my work proves that I believe in integration with locals. This is relevant to my identity.
I do have a bloodline that stretches back to the ancient Germanic inhabitants of Northwestern Europe. However, what does that mean if I do not wish to integrate with their ancient culture and pay attention to their ancient language?
I consider myself as Germanic not merely for being born into a Germanic-speaking world, being comfortable with the modern culture of any particular Germanic-speaking community or having a bloodline tracing back to the people of ancient Germanic times, but for the fact that I am willing to understand ancient Germanic people, empathise with them on the levels of philosophical worldview and culture and language, adopt their traditional customs, beliefs and their linguistic concepts as guiding principles for my way of thinking and behaving.
I am a sincere student of ancient Germanic linguistic, cultural and religious evidence; I consider myself Germanic for allowing myself to learn from the ancients and adopting the ancient evidence in a faithful and empathic way.
I have this same empathic and loyal attitude towards the Frisian tribes or communities that I integrated with; I know that this respectful attitude is how one becomes accepted into a community.
I always wonder: if I wish to interact with the ancestral spirits of the Germanic peoples, how can I get accepted by them? I believe that the path to tribal initiation is achieved in the same way as with the modern Frisian tribes or communities.
One does not just get accepted, but one has to be willing to adopt the language and culture and philosophy of life that is associated with the people one wishes to be a part of; one does not simply become an authentic traditional polytheist by simply claiming one is a polytheist.
I am not interested in neopaganism or “New Age-styled paganism,” but I am interested in paleopaganism or “traditional paganism.” My aim is to truly understand and adopt the authentic philosophy of the ancient polytheists.
As I am a zealous student of what it means to be Germanic, I have become increasingly comfortable with the ancient way of thinking, I can imagine how the ancestors would have thought about this or that, and since I can put myself in the shoes of the Germanic ancients, I have become increasingly comfortable identifying with them due to being practically and psychologically familiar with them; I believe the ancient Germanic minds or spirits may be revived with our own brains, as our modern human brains are not psychologically different from those of the ancients.
Human tribal identity is a psychological phenomenon; we wish to belong to groups that we are comfortable and familiar with. I feel comfortable and familiar with the Germanic ancestors, I empathise with them and I have a distinct sense of closeness with them, they are not just my objects of study but I have come to regard them as my teachers, my grandparents and spiritual guides (fylgjur).
If you were to live among a tribe as an anthropologist or sociologist, you would grow closer to the people you are studying as well; you realise their human side at some point, you see nothing human is strange to them and they aren’t as alien as one might imagine as an outsider.
When you can truly see how human a group of people is and you have been able to look past the dehumanising or “othering” perspective of the outsider, you have truly become an insider.
I feel like an anthropologist or sociologist having lived among the Germanic peoples; I am trying my best to make sense of their worldview and to interpret their cultural concepts, I have been philosophising for a very long time about whatever evidence I have been able to gather over the years.
I may not have been born into ancient Germanic culture, but I do still feel like someone who was born in ancient times and I do feel Germanic; just like I feel Frisian and therefore feel equal to someone who was born into a Frisian community. I do not feel any less Frisian because of my time and place of birth; nor do I feel any less Germanic because of my time and place of birth.
This is also the reason why I will never consider myself a neopagan, but I am a faithful and zealous student of traditional polytheism, the old continuous pagan tradition, and therefore I consider myself a paleopagan, i.e., someone in practical and philosophical agreement with the traditions and beliefs of the true pagans of yore. In conclusion, I deem myself to be a follower of genuine tradition, not of newly made-up tradition, and that is also why I am objectively very interested in the genuine folk religious or polytheist traditions of various peoples around the world.