Written by Dyami Millarson
The sense of interconnectedness helps to reinforce the importance of social bonds and community in Germanic polytheism. Because every individual is seen as part of a larger web of relationships, it is important to maintain those relationships and to fulfill one’s obligations to others, including the Gods, in order to ensure the well-being of the entire community. This emphasis on interdependence shapes many aspects of Germanic culture, including law, ethics, and social norms. The concept of interconnectedness is a central belief in Germanic polytheism, shaping everything from the relationship between humans and the Gods, to the ethics and social norms of the community, and the relationship between humans and the natural world. It thus creates a sense of unity and harmony within the Germanic cultures, and plays a significant role in shaping their worldview and way of life. While the concept of interconnectedness plays a central role in shaping Germanic theology and while the belief in the interconnectedness of all things helped to create a sense of unity and harmony within the community, the Germanic peoples traditionally exhibit a deep reverence for the natural world and the Gods and Goddesses who govern it. Germanic blót may be understood in this context as well: fate, interconnectedness, and blót are all essential to Germanic theology, reflecting a belief in a complex web of cause and effect that connects all things in the universe, and emphasises the importance of maintaining balance and harmony in one’s interactions with the Gods and the natural world.
The concept of interconnectedness or interdependence in Germanic polytheism is closely tied to the idea of fate. According to this belief, everything in the universe is connected in a complex web of cause and effect, and every action had consequences that can ripple through the entire universe. This interconnectedness is also expressed through the symbolism of a tree or a web, such as the world tree Yggdrasil in Nordic religion, or the web of the Norns, the Goddesses of fate who weave the threads of destiny for all living beings. Because of this interconnectedness, the actions of one individual or group can have far-reaching consequences for others. For example, a person who violates a taboo or commits a crime can bring harm not just to himself, but to his family, his community, and even the natural world. Likewise, a person who performs a heroic deed or makes a sacrifice to the Gods could bring blessings not just to themselves, but to those around them as well, thus taking on the role of saviour to his people (see my article on the compatibility of messianism with Germanic religion). This sense of interconnectedness also reinforces the importance of social bonds and community in Germanic polytheism. Because every individual is a part of a larger web of relationships, it is important to maintain those relationships and to fulfill one’s obligations or oaths to others in order to ensure the well-being of the entire community. This emphasis on interdependence thus shapes many aspects of Germanic culture, including law, ethics, and social norms. Moreover, it is a motivation for a strong sense of piety or duty towards parents, elders, and leaders, and Gods.
The concept of interconnectedness in Germanic polytheism also jas implications for the relationship between humans and the natural world. Because everything in the universe is seen as connected, the actions of humans could have an impact on the natural world, and vice versa. This belief is expressed in the custom of mutual gift-giving between friends, which can also be analysed as applying to the relationship between humans and the Gods. According to this belief, every action has a consequence, and every gift or sacrifice offered to the Gods is expected to be repaid in some way. This reciprocal relationship also extends to the natural world, as humans are regarded as part of the larger ecosystem of the earth. The land, the sea, and the sky are all living beings, and humans are expected to treat them with respect and reverence in order to maintain the delicate balance of nature. This belief in interconnectedness thus informs the ethics of Germanic polytheism. Because every action has a consequence, it is important to act in a way that was consistent with the values of the community — both in the human and divine worlds — and to avoid actions that can bring harm to oneself or others. This emphasis on ethical behavior and personal responsibility is reflected in the Germanic codes of law, as can be found in the Old Nordic and Old English written materials that have been handed down to us.
The interconnectedness in Germanic polytheism also influences the way that the Fods and Goddesses are perceived: rather than being distant, all-powerful beings, the Germanic deities are seen as actively involved in the lives of humans and the natural world. The Gods and Goddesses are not only worshipped, but also interacted with on a personal level. Performing sacrifices and making wishes are ways to establish and maintain relationships with the divine, and to seek the Gods’ guidance and protection in the hour of need.
Because the Gods and Goddesses are active participants in the world, They are also subject to the laws of nature: the Web of Wyrd. They can be influenced by human actions, and can even be challenged or defeated in battle by mortal heroes. This dynamic relationship between humans and the Gods also contributes to the development of hero worship traditions, in which mortal heroes are elevated to divine status and worshipped alongside the Gods — this is the native Germanic tradition of Saint worship. These heroes are intermediaries between humans and the divine, and have special powers and abilities that can be invoked through prayer and sacrifice. The belief in interconnectedness also contributed to the development of a rich lore, in which the natural world is revealed — thanks to clairvoyant men and women — to be populated by a vast array of Álfar, Dvergar, Þursar, and other supernatural beings. These creatures have a direct impact on human lives, and some such as the Álfar are worshipped alongside the Æsir, others such as the Þursar are feared as they are harmful Spirits.