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Association of Polytheist Traditions

Diety and Humanity: Introduction

Copyright © by Arlie Stephens 2003

I am a heathen, a member of a modern neo-pagan religion that gets its inspiration from the pre-Christian religions of the Germanic tribes of Northern Europe, England, and Scandinavia. Other names for our religion include Asatru, Forn Sed, Norse Paganism, and Heithni. The various names reflect both organizational boundaries and differences of emphasis; I use "heathenism" in this paper because it's generally seen as including the broadest range. [1]

We are still mostly converts, still small, and still debating most aspects of our beliefs, organization, and spiritual practice. What theology we have is rudimentary, and generally very specific; we are only just beginning to see the need to consciously systematize. We have a collection of near primary sources [2] (generally recorded by travelers, or after conversion), referred to as "lore", which serve some of the functions of Scripture, but we're very aware of the likely biases and omissions in what little has been preserved. We're also very much prone to direct personal revelatory experiences; it is customary to regard these with considerable skepticism, but they do get used to fill in the blanks.

My presentation in this paper is a development from primary sources (lore), contemporary interpretation, modern heathen experience, and my exploration of Christian theology. For purposes of this course, I have limited myself to discussing the nature of deity, the nature of humanity, and the ways in which deities and human beings relate to each other. The third area is needed, because it's proving impossible to discuss any two of those areas without the third; that would be rather like a Christian discussing Christology and anthropology while ignoring soteriology. I will not be giving a general overview of heathen beliefs except as they impact these areas; a general description can be found in the bibliography. [3]

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