Written by Dyami Millarson
When one says Germanic religion, that is just that – a religion that is defined by whatever Germanic means. However, when one prefixes religion with folk, natural, indigenous, traditional, ethnic, cultural, etc. one adds a new flavour to what religion means, and this may offer a fresh perspective that helps us improve our fundamental understanding of Germanic religion. So what we are looking for with these prefixed descriptors is gaining new perspectives that help enlighten us on the nature of Germanic religion. Another added bonus is the fact that the familiar-sounding word religion itself is not substituted, yet the connotation is changed.
When speaking of Germanic folk religion, Germanic natural religion, Germanic indigenous religion, Germanic traditional religion, Germanic traditional religion, Germanic ethnic religion, Germanic cultural religion, Germanic legal religion, etc. we are proposing equally valid alternate perspectives on Germanic religion and all of these perspectives have merit as they highlight or zoom in on a different aspect of the religion. The very nature of Germanic religion allows for this multitude of perspectives, and we should not be afraid to play with it and even have fun switching between different perspectives, as it deepens our understanding.
The ultimate purpose of this admittedly playful and fun approach is not just to entertain ourselves and the readers, but ultimately it is about learning to understand Germanic paleopaganism properly; we are trying to remove our own biases by highlighting various pristine associations – perhaps looking like contradictions to us – that exist within the religion. Changing between a variety of perspective namely has the advantage of opening our eyes to how religion penetrated the entirety of Germanic society.
Whilst Germanic religion is undoubtedly all-encompassing and spans across the entirety of Germanic existence, we cannot understand what it means to be Germanic without seeking to understand Germanic religion; being Germanic – or what it means to be Germanic – cannot properly be separated from Germanic religion. As Germanic religion is ‘everything that it means to be Germanic’ while it is everywhere in Germanic society, we must presuppose overlap that works like a vortex that cannot be escaped.
In other words, it is like the event horizon of a black hole which is inescapable. If we look at Germanic society from the outside, we see and feel an emptiness that is hard to define; we keep grasping at straws as we try to define what it is we are seeing. That is why we may symbolically see Germanic society as a black hole, it is a Ginnungap, an empty abyss that we can hardly comprehend. Continuing this black hole analogy, being Germanic is itself the event horizon, everything that is Germanic is connected and cannot be separated. Owing to the inescapable overlap that is inherent to the Germanic religious worldview or philosophy; as a result, every system of religion that is meant to help us understand Germanic religion is necessarily synonymous with Germanic religion itself (see my previous article).
Whilst Germanic religion was so deeply ingrained among the early Germanic tribes, it is inevitable that it survived in various forms. Similarly, Chinese religion survived in various forms despite the rise of Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. Various prefixes are applied to Chinese religion to differentiate it from those last three philosophies, and while our use of prefixes may also serve the purpose of differentiating from other philosophies prevalent in the West, really the main purpose for us is benefiting from the various perspectives that are offered – or conjured up – by the various terms that may be prefixed to religion.
Each prefix creates a new connotation or association that may inspire us and help us get a better intuitive grasp of Germanic religion. Since Germanic religion is as complex as it is, we cannot hope to ever fully intellectually understand it, but what we can hope for is to get an intuitive grasp such that we can be in harmony with the genuine tradition of the paleopagans who practised Germanic religion in their daily lives. Our goal is to get closer to the paleopagans and thus removing biases is vital; we have to embrace whatever it meant to be Germanic in the past and we have to let go of our modern ideologies which limit our understanding of the ancient world. Piecing together the ancient worldview that characterised Germanic religion means fitting pristine Germanic information into the matrix of our own worldview, as only then we can fully empathise with Germanic religion as it was. One has to live a philosophy or religion to truly understand it; Germanic religion is no exception.