The most important thing my religion has taught me is to never give up. To keep on fighting against everything that challenges you.
Heathenry especially seems to hold this message in all its sources and current forms. I think this arises from the cultural context that surrounds the religion. (All religions are a product of their cultural context.) Specifically the cold, biting weather of the North, long winters, unforgiving landscapes, communities that rely on each other for support. In all the myths and stories and sagas and poems that have come down to us, there is a pervading spirit of resistance and stubbornness, to see out our lives as well as we can, and to flip the bird at our enemies (and at the weather). Even when everything looks bleak and impossible (which it would in medieval Scandinavia, Germany, and Britain), we have to persevere and kick life in the ass while we can. Because we can, and because we’ll be damned if the challenges of life get the better of us.
There is also the culture of gallows humour, which one often finds in the literary sources. Warriors make jokes in battle or laugh as they die. Our figures find humour in the bleakest of situations, because they would be overwhelmed otherwise. They did what they had to to survive. They made jokes in the hardest of times and refused to be beaten down.
(It’s not that other cultures and religions don’t have these sentiments. But I’m a Heathen and I know about Heathen stuff, so that’s what I write about. It’s familiar to me and it resonates in a way other things do not.)
It’s a very inspiring philosophy, to defy hardship just because. It has been important for me in the past, as I’ve gone up against depression and general hopelessness. Even when I couldn’t imagine anything improving, ever, I persevered after the example of my gods and heroes, and continued just because – because I wouldn’t let these things get the better of me. Because even if I was hopeless, I was still stubborn, and I would fight while I was able. To do anything less was, for me, to not live up to my name as a Heathen. My point is, Heathenry was a very strong motivator. And lo and behold, things have improved. No doubt they’ll get worse again in the future. When that comes, I’ll stand and fight for myself again. I deserve to be fought for.
Keeping a defiant and humorous disposition when faced with hardship will get you far in life. Deciding to fight is half the battle when things seem hopeless. My religion inspires me to pick up sword and shield every day and fight – for myself, for my future, for my well-being (and my family if I had one). I think of hard times as challenges set forth by the universe. I’m not a victim; I’m a warrior facing my enemies.