I’m not a mediaeval Scandinavian, so why should I worship the Norse pantheon? Wouldn’t I be better fit with a more modern religion, or by making my own religion?
It’s keeping me up at night.
Religion, I’ve always argued, is a product of culture. Religions look the way they do because of the cultures they arose in. Of course there’s an influence both ways. But you don’t get a Dionysos in northern Norway, and you don’t get a Skadi in Hawaii, to put it crudely. There are parallels found in various religions, but they are all different on certain levels, and those differences are driven by culture, which is also driven by geography.
My point is, pre-Christian Scandinavian beliefs are specific to a certain people in a certain place in a certain period of time: pre-Christian Scandinavians. They shaped and were shaped by their beliefs, which occurred in their culture in a very organic way. I am neither Scandinavian nor pre-Christian. Honestly, those beliefs are incredibly foreign to me – I’ve had to read about them and study them and wrap my head around them and try to live them. It’s hardly a natural cultural context for me to live in. And yet I have to try if I want to understand or practice a religion of Scandinavia.
Surely I, as a modern person, would be better suited to a religion born of and into a modern context and culture? Surely I should follow a religion relevant to me, one with pavement and metal buildings and cars and packaged food? One that encompasses the 9-5 and the white picket fence? If this religion doesn’t exist, shouldn’t I create it for myself? There can be no religion more compatible to the individual than one the individual creates.
I would understand it, relate to it, connect with it personally. I could make my own religious texts, ones without historical question marks or questionable translations. My gods would be ones I saw myself in, and ways of making sense of the world around me.
This whole thing sounds pretty good to me. As a kid, I invented my own pantheon. There was Ziye, the moon goddess, Tasar and Amaera, the primary god and goddess, one to do with battle and the other with healing. There was Rakkia, the goddess of living things, and Rubaiya, goddess of death. Yuusoma, goddess of the sun. Names and deities I liked and felt comfortable with. And most of them female, like me.
It depends on how you define or use religion, I suppose. But one thing that created religions do not have, at least not to nearly the extent as organic religions, is wisdom about the secrets of the universe. You as an individual do not have access to the spiritual wisdom of generations, and a created religion will never be as deep or as informed. (If it underwent centuries of practice and change, maybe.)
Hel, maybe I’m wrong. On second thought, pagans successfully follow religions like the system/s found in Tolkien’s work, for example.
In any case, the real reason I still follow the religion of the North instead of sticking with my personal pantheon is because it resonates with me deeply. It makes innate sense. It feels like home. It feels natural. It’s where my heart has led me. And no matter the superficial qualities of any given religion, this is the most important thing: to do what you are pulled to do, to do what makes your spirit feel at home.