Is Germanic Paganism Perhaps Not a Religion?

Written by Dyami Millarson

The answer to the question in the title is yes and no. Germanic paganism is more of a cultural thing: the traditional Germanic perspective is to treat Germanic religion as synonymous with Germanic culture (see my previous article on the reason for the Nordic ancestors’ perception of their religion as cultural heritage). Germanic culture and religion are merely two sides of the same coin, because Germanic religion and culture are traditionally indistinguishable; they form one whole which we may artificially separate into religion and culture based on our modern understanding. Germanic paganism is, however, all-encompassing. There is no clear demarcation between where Germanic culture starts and Germanic religion begins. Furthermore, there is no clear distinction between Germanic history and Germanic paganism.

Imagine the Roman army being confronted with a Germanic tribe, which sings songs of praise for their Gods and ancestors according to their tradition; to the Romans, it is evident that like in their own tradition, the Germanic pagans regard such songs as history. In fact, the Germanic paleopagans, holding a firm conviction that their lore is historical and therefore historically accurate from their cultural perspective, have a tradition of perceiving paganism as encompassing both history and culture. Germanic paganism is both a cultural history and a historical culture, i.e., a form of history which pertains to culture and a form of culture which has a firm historical foundation.

Nevertheless, I apply the term religion to Germanic paganism, because it is useful for analysis. However, in doing so, I have had to redefine religion because otherwise the term does not fit the Germanic context. When I use religion to talk about the Germanic peoples, I understand it to be simultaneously cultural and historical as well. Germanic religion is a religio-cultural system which gives a culturally accurate account of Germanic history. Separating Germanic religion from culture is alien to the Germanic tribes; it is really an outsider perspective. The ancient perspective — which is, by the way, not at all limited to the Germanic peoples in Pagan Europe — is that in order to be truly Germanic, one has to culturally assimilate with one of the Germanic peoples, and that assimilation automatically also means adopting the native religion and the native history. Religious conversion is, according to Germanic tradition, an indistinguishable event from cultural assimilation; one has to be culturally Germanic in order to be a Germanic pagan, and vice versa.

This is still how it works today with many indigenous minorities. When I immerse myself in the language of a minority, such as that of the Hindeloopen Frisians, it is expected that I also immerse myself in their culture, history, and folklore; it would otherwise not be considered a complete immersion, and therefore it would definitely be rejected as inauthentic.

Integration with traditional communities entails so much more than the analytical components alone; a community is not just a language, a culture, a history, a folklore, but they are everything at once and that is what you have to learn to master if you wish to interact with that community on a native level. The traditional communities I work with represent complete ways of life. Likewise, one cannot be native to the confederation of ancient Germanic communities unless one immerses oneself with, for example, the Old Norse language, Old Norse religion, the Old Norse account of history, and Old Norse culture as one whole; one has to adopt the Mōs Majōrum Way of the Elders of the Old Norse speakers — the Viking way.

In order to drink from the well of wisdom, one has to build such a profound connection with the community of Old Norse ancestral spirits, which can be invoked for guidance by absorbing old words, poems and sagas. Instead of being an outsider, one has to become an insider in order to unlock the essence of what it means to be Germanic in the most ancient sense; in order to achieve the level of knowledge an insider possesses, one has to study diligently.

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