When people are curious about my religion , they often ask me about “who” or “what” I worship. I tell them that I HONOR the wights, gods and ancestors with my actions, and that I also give offerings when I feel it is appropriate. This is usually follow by questions like: “The what? Whites?” The wights, or vaettir, are the spirits of the land and other places such as the home. These can be best explained as various clans of spiritual beings native to Miðgarð, other than humanity. This tends to spark more questions or just a confused smile and a nod. I quite honestly prefer the later most days so I don’t spend hours trying to cover what different heathens believe. There is not any true set rule on the way practices should be done in most cases. Trying to explain anything properly without dropping a few crates of books on someone is hard to do. Just try listening to any Heathen podcasts out there. One basic question can lead to over an hour of discussion that still doesn’t fully answer the topic. It’s even worse with heathens in person when you don’t have a time constraint keeping you on topic.
For me I spend most of my time in the home with my family. We have certain goals that we work towards in our home, so we tend to focus on select relationships with local vaettir. It’s important to note that our way of interacting with the wights/gods/ancestors may not look like how other Heathens work. Currently, we are not part of a tribe or kindred so our practices are entirely our own. All the work we do is together with our family. Joining a community is a wonderful thing and to be encouraged but at our current point in our lives this is working for us. So we keep going and keep working with the other beings around us.
In our practice the wights are what we work with the most often. This sets us apart from most heathens we meet, who almost exclusively speak of the gods and their personal relationships with them. We work with the wights for household problems and to encourage a peaceful cohabitation. Their presence is very prominent in the forests here and I often feel them close to my home, seeing as I live a few steps from a wooded area. It’s almost as if they curiously explore the edge of the trees when the mood suits any one of them. Most of our offerings go to them because they are always there and they can have a good understanding of things when you treat them well. A little offering can go a long way. We especially seek their support as we are working on becoming small scale farmers in the future. My husband thinks the term “homesteader” and homesteading” are hipster terms, but I don’t see it that way. I often speak of incorporating the wights into my homesteading ventures. I believe that any place we live we will have to work with them to be successful. Which works for me. I am happy to do so. They are more apt at aiding you where you stand instead of petitioning the gods as I see it.
So why do we focus so much more on the wights than the gods? Well, grew up I longed for religion. My mother was secretly a pagan (that worked out great for me later!) and my dad from what I know of him now was a Christian (depending on if he could find a good church that wasn’t openly corrupt) when he was sober and had amazingly deep mystical leanings that were scientifically based but with a sheer, spiritual curtain draped over it. My mom encouraged us to find our own faith, so I went through many. Even when I became a Pagan I still studied everything I could get texts on. The idea of God, when I was studying Abrahamic religions, was something that was difficult for me to grasp. I knew there was something but the ideas I was given to work with led to many awkward attempts at being religious. Even while Pagan I had a general God/Goddess but never had a set two I was never any I was specifically devoted to. So I went off to practice folk magic, and essentially ignored other aspects of what my community was doing. Even as a Heathen who finally found her gods, I see them as something to honor and respect instead of having over for afternoon tea. I see them as ancestors in a sense…but as the greatest of the ancestors. With great knowledge and wisdom. I give offerings to them for the big things in my life and as a general thank you at times. We don’t ask them for much, unless it’s a huge problem or something that needs more than the wight that lives under the counter can do for us. We honor them at various holy days we celebrate as well. If you need help around the house you don’t call the president to come help you tidy up. That is just silly. Saying that, those that do claim they have quite the relationship with the gods still have a valid stance. Their Heathenry is not my Heathenry but it is still perfectly valid. Part of the Homesteading lifestyle is trying to live truly and as independently as we can. Although we may ask for their help on occasion we try to be self-reliant and honor the gods by using their stories and presence as our strength to obtain knowledge, gain wisdom, learn from our mistakes, act in a way that is good and true and live a Heathen life. I have found this pleases them the most.
Then there are the ancestors. This one is hard for me and I sometimes feel I am a “bad Heathen” because they don’t have a huge place in our lives currently. My husband and I have familial lines we can trace back so far the blood we share with that person probably barely fills a pinky toe. Then we have the lost histories, either due to adoption or purposeful elimination of the past, which leaves us with the nameless ones. We both have problems with various parts of our families that have hindered our relationships with parts of them. Many Heathens will say that if these relationships cannot be repaired, the ties should still be honored. Which, for anyone with a dysfunctional family knows, is hard to do. It has been my top priority recently to develop my relationships with my ancestors and to ask for their guidance. To bring them more into my life. This opened the lines of communication in a way for me. I have also been working on developing skills (most people just see them as crafts) that can draw out various ancestors who have worked similarly in their time. Now that I have a child I feel the relationships with the ancestors I had a hard time with is more important than ever. I have always been interested in my genealogy and luckily the same love runs in my family and I can map out the familial lines thanks to their work (my husband also has some snack hungry detailed records. The Dutch don’t mess around apparently). I recently found a picture thanks to my aunt of my 4 times great grandmother sitting at her spinning wheel. I had a profound experience seeing that image and knowing her name. Eleanore. I have recently begun to spin and oddly had always had a fondness for the type of wheel she worked on. Even her name had been one I considered for my own child since I was young. Could she have been with me my entire life and I ignored her? Influencing me in ways I did not realize she could? Yes, in my opinion even if you don’t work with them. So again yes, she was quite possibly always there. I am at a point in my life where the voices of my ancestors and their guidance would be most helpful. I will be one of them someday so my work now for my children and line is important to me and hopefully them as well. Be aware they can both help and hurt so just like any being…don’t be a jerk. There is a reason they say not to speak ill of the dead. Do you really want to find out why?
Heathens are fueled by their religion. These beings are a part of the every day life and practices for a Heathen. If not I truly believe they should be. I already have admitted I have some faults of my own in living alongside these beings in the best way I can. It’s not easy but there is always room for improvement.