Paying the Price, as a Heathen
For me, Heathenry was something that I learned at my grandfather’s knee. It would be decades before I had the words to describe Heathenry, or indeed even connected it to the gods whose myths I learned. One of the first lessons he taught was about the importance of paying the price for what is important to us.
I gave my grandfather a folding fishing knife, a locking blade that I thought he could use instead of the battered old one whose pin was loose and whose blade was honed beyond reasonable salvage. When I gifted him the blade for his birthday, he pressed into my hand a penny. He told me the tale of long ago, how Freyr contracted to buy a sword from a dwarf, how the cost was to be covering the dwarf entirely with gold and how Freyr came up one coin short. When the dwarf demanded the last coin, Freyr took the sword forged to equal Odin’s dread spear Gungnir, and struck off the dwarf’s finger, telling him now he is entirely covered. In response, that dwarf-forged Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor for the cost of that one single coin. While the Aesir and Vanir warred, Freyr’s sword balanced the power of Odin’s spear, but because he cheated the dwarf, the new forged Mjolnir broke the armies of the Vanir. The lesson my grandfather taught me is that you can never profit by failing to pay for what is important to you. Either you pay with a coin, openly and fairly giving to those who provide what you need, or you can cheat them and wait to see what it will cost you in the end.
42. To his friend a man | a friend shall prove,
And gifts with gifts requite;
But men shall mocking | with mockery answer,
And fraud with falsehood meet.
Pay the price for that which is precious to you. Our community is slightly better than the broader pagan community but nowhere near as good as it likes to think it is.
There are people in the community who give of their efforts as volunteers to put on events. These events we all gather at and celebrate our community in, but the community does not put them on, people do. Too frequently the same people put on all the events and end up bearing the costs for what the entire community enjoys. This is not “gift for gift” requiting, this is taking and not giving in return. This is not heathenry, this is parasitism. Heathens are not afraid of money, we do not have the Wiccan/socialist fear of gold. We generally like gold, we don’t fear success, nor its trappings as we understand that as we succeed, so do we have the chance to increasingly build our worth through increasing participation in the gifting cycle. When you enjoy events that others put on, and you are not in a position to bring labor or food equal to that which you will take away, feel free to offer money to the hosts as a gift for this will allow them to continue to host the events that you enjoy attending.
We are a community of gifted craftsmen and women. We are blessed with skalds of song and story, of artisans in cloth, paint, wood and metal. Great and sacred devotional art from tattoos to tapestries, jewelry to arms, statues to shields are created by those who have put countless hours and dollars into mastering crafts all but forgotten so that we may enjoy the fruits of their loving labor. Too often I see people looking at what local artists have made, exclaiming how beautiful it is, then going to search online to find it cheaper. This is not supporting your local artists, this is not rewarding those who are creating original works of art for the heathen community, this is about rewarding those who have made a business out of stealing images of others art and factory imitating them out of cheaper materials at lower unit costs. To take an appropriate quote, “This is why we can’t have nice things”.
We have skilled and talented artists in our community whose work brings us joy to see, joy to have, and pride to display. Why then are we as a community so willing to not pay the worth we acknowledge the work to have. We use money in this world to set the worth of our things. Should I pay more for a hammer made by an artist who is forging these hammers out of love for their art, and their community than some Indian or Chinese factory cross churned out by those who neither know nor care that it is supposedly a devotional piece for a faith they don’t share? Yes, actually, you should. One is a sacred act of creation, a joyful expression of craftsmanship that is sacred to both the craftsman and the purchaser, and the other simply an industrial process to churn out large quantities of low-grade things for distribution to parts unknown for purposes equally unknown.
We have some amazing artists, and I admit when I see something on Youtube that really grabs me I download it so I have a copy to listen to. That is fine if you don’t stop there. I next track down the artist and find out where I can buy a copy. I get that I don’t have to, I am enjoying the gift of their music already, but I am a Heathen, and a gift for a gift is our way. They created something that took skills I don’t have, years of discipline I certainly didn’t invest, to bring forth a song that brings me joy. This is a thing that I find worthy, and that word worth has a rather specific connotation in this world of ours. Worth has a price. I pay for the work they created because they have made a beautiful thing for our community. I wish our community to have beautiful things of its own, and that means our artists must be paid to make such art for us.
Authors and illustrators are forever being asked to gift their works as if they should be grateful for the chance for others to read or look upon the works of their labors. If it has such worth to the Heathen community, why will they not pay for it? People will pay for their recreational materials, their sports books, and their cookbooks, but if your book is about Heathenry you are supposed to offer it for free. I donate the proceeds of my own books to the Troth and the Freehold, but I don’t give the books away. If you want it, show me you value it by paying for it, and thus supporting the Heathen organizations that keep this community functioning.
Lastly, we have reputation. Our community has a strong and worthy reputation now. It was not always so. When I came to the greater pagan community, no dinosaurs were not still roaming the earth, it only seems that way, to announce yourself as Heathen was to be immediately suspect. The misdeeds of the Nazi’s and their clown imitators in later generations had tainted our symbols and our gods’ very names with associations with cowardly and criminal acts. It took generations of consistent and patient work by men and women of good faith, strong wills, and thick skins to prove that we were and are a frithful community of worthy men and women who judge people by their words and deeds, not gender, color or orientation. That took generations of hard work. I didn’t do that work, I inherit the work done by those who went before. In my generation, it falls to pay the cost of that work and defend the good reputation we are passed. I think that reputation to be valuable, I think it to be important to me, and I choose to do my part to defend it.
We speak much of worth in Heathenry, but worth has inside it an implication of value, and another expression of value is cost. If we are not willing to pay the price, not willing to meet the cost of what our community provides, we really do not value it, nor do we deserve it. I am not simply talking about dollars, I am talking about hard work, and sometimes speaking up and speaking out. We, as a community, must decide for ourselves if what is offered to us is worth the cost. It is for us to either pay the price of the community we wish to have, or simply let that community fail as something everyone wanted to enjoy, but not enough to support. We have an amazing Heathen community, and I guess it is up to us to decide if it is worth keeping.
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