The individual Heathen identity is often subsumed under group and communal identity. This is understandable, given the nature of human society, and how we collectively buld social bonds. If we are to take someone like Ken Dowden at his word in his book European Paganism: The Realities of Cult From Antiquity to the Middle Ages, as heathens our polytheistic practice by its very nature is unconsciously designed to encourage the growth of a form of greater-than-personal identity [1].

While I heartily disagree with this assessment of the native spirituality of these pre-Christian peoples, there is truth in the idea of the coalescing of identity within a larger group. As we as a society (especially American) progress from one of hyper individuality and a disillusionment with a pan-national idea, we’re engaging with and encouraged by the growth of tribal identity. In our society, we coalesce around hobbies, interests, and orientations which we derive our understanding of the world. Religion is, ultimately, tribal and concerned only with its constituent members. Pan-cultural universalist religion was a relatively late, relatively unique, development in the human idea of religion.

Other Heathens have written about the relative lack of individuality and individualism within Heathenry, that the worldview is inimical to the concept of the sole individual. Heathen religion is a communal religion, so they say. Larger traditions within Heathenry believe that divinity deals with the whole, and not the individual, and that the individual should nevertheless avoid attempting to engage with some facets of higher divinity. Others are content to ignore the personal for the communal, which has ultimately lead to a deficiency in home-based religious orientation.

They are, of course, free to do this and to prioritize their religion as they see fit. But it has never been something which I’ve approached as tenable to my understanding of self, my interaction with the wider community, and how I engage in my personal practice. And I identify that as one of the fundamental deficiencies of Heathenry as a religious movement.

We hear often that there is no such thing as “Solitary” practice within Heathenry, as a result of the pressures to engage in a wider group. “Go and do” is often uttered to interested neophytes and curious onlookers – go and find a kindred or tribal Heathen entity and see what they’re about. If you cannot, try to build one, no matter the relative experience (or lack thereof) that one may have. In some cases, this works well, and vibrant groups are founded that meet several times a year for ritual and rite, and otherwise make an effort in their locality.

In others, it fails abysmally. The location is not good, or the surrounding community are filled with people whom do not align with one’s politics, worldview, or what have you. These are all major considerations for the interpersonal relationships that are founded between people and while diversity of opinion is valued, some differences are insurmountable to a healthy working relationship. There are reasons why people stick to themselves. With concepts of intermingling luck, worth, and more importantly wyrd, it is particularly egregious to ask anyone to engage in a ritual relationship with relative strangers simply for the sake of “communal religion”.

With the discussion naturally focusing on the wider group, an individual tends to be glossed over. Ignoring the universally abhorrent quality of most published 101 level works, which might have some information about home-based worship, there is no true initiative in the maintenance of a home cult. Which is odd, considering the inverse importance that many Heathens place on their ancestors and local tutelary spirits over the higher gods. Some people even believe that there is such a thing as “too much gifting”, and that only a handful of times a year is suitable for their veneration and devotion.

While there are historic arguments for the development of individualism within the Western conscience (my Old English professor was aghast at the theory that some academics had that argued the idea of the “individual” did not occur until the Romance literature of the Medieval period), there is no argument that the individual household holds preeminence within archaic society. While the nations were supported by the tribes, the tribes were supported by the community, and most importantly, the community was established by a collection of households.

Our very understanding of the innangeard originates on the household first. This is the fundamental unit within Heathenry, and one that is vastly overlooked, to the detriment of the foundation of the whole religious outlook.

This brings us to the topic of this post: Eofores Holt Heorþ

I eschew the titles “Solitary” or “Unaffiliated” Heathen. I do not believe that community is the sole determining factor of “Heathen-ness”, and I have often found myself the pariah of various communities which I engage that espouse this view of Heathenry. By characterizing my practice consistently around my association with others, I lose myself, my family, and my gods, in the process.  This is unacceptable to me.

Instead, I choose to embrace a term employed by the Larhus Fyrnsida (as of yet unpublished, so here’s a sneak peek): Frēosceatt Hæþen [2], or “Freehold Heathen”. My hearth is independent from a larger tribal body. I am an independent entity holding to Heathen ideals and practices.  As the smallest unit of the innangeard is on the hearth, so is mine a unit, and I encourage individuals to look at it in this way.

In the honored tradition of the sacra privata of the Indo-European peoples, I am the familial priest of my hearth, and take the title: Þingere, or “intercessor”. As the sole polytheistic member of both my families, I keep my ancestors, and handle my gods on the behalf of them, any residing members of my family in my house, and tend the sacred space of my hearth and whichever tutelary deity is there.

To that end, to help assist the Larhus Fyrnsida (as member of the Larwitan) in the development, proliferation, and visibility of a hearth-centric Heathen practice, I take this time to formally announce the naming of my hearth, Eofores Holt Heorþ Boar’s Wood Hearth. I officially join the ranks of other free hearths like Sundorwīc, Þunresfolc Heorþ, Weiß Alb Hearth, Eber-Blut Hearth, and many others.

The nature of my hearth will blend my domestic cultus into my worldview as established by Heathenry and Fyrnsidu. As hearth cult is mutable, it is a guide to be inspired by, not necessarily one to be followed in toto, and will naturally differ from even those who I am in close correspondence with.

Consider this a statement of intent, a peek of what is to come, and an apology for not having much to update since October.  It’s been rough.

[1] Ken Dowden, European Paganism: The Realities of Cult From Antiquity to the Middle Ages, (London: Routledge, 2000), 291.

[2] The Larhus will be elaborating more on this in an official capacity.