Is It Making A Man Out Of You?
Tradition is thus a way for the elder and particularly once-alpha leaders to tell the juvenile up-and-comer's, "Knock it off", and "get your act together". It can do so gently and poetically for those youngsters who are eager to learn, sensitive, and willing to listen ; and it can do so rather bluntly and in a real no-nonsense, even "drill sergeant" way for those youngsters who have no intention of listening to anyone, and are eager to promote their own semi-ignorance rather than to learn.
If the majority of people practicing your tradition around you seem like they have never graduated from junior high or high school in terms of their behaviors and attitudes, then someone is playing dress-up and not actually doing the work of the tradition. And if doing the work of the tradition would drive them off, don't accomodate them to keep them : let them drift whereever their workless drift would take them anyway. They are dead weight and need not be kept around. When and if they're serious, they can come back and do the work.
"Making a man out of you" doesn't mean turning you into a grizzled, disappointed, bitter, cynical, and broken man who acquiesces to the reality you're handed. It does mean being able to weather disappointment, and trusting in the seasons to fund and source resilience, as winter inevitably (with help and will of Gods and Alfar) returns to spring. It is that resilience which comes out of long and hard experience which is the key here to maturity, because maturity ought be the flowering of idealism, and not its extended funeral. In order for a seed to flower, it may first need to toughen up its stem, strive with all might and crazed yearning for the sun, and grow thorns, but it must not forget its flowering, for if it forgets that, it forgets its glory, and its purpose, and the new seeds fail to fall upon the soil.
Maturity comes through encouragement and inspiration, and it also comes through scolding. Much of maturity is working through our scolding. The community speaks through its scolds, and we must determine what is of value and what is not in the scoldings. There inevitably will be much of value in the scolding. There will also be a great deal that is utter crap. But good scolds return us to our shoulds, and in fact have the same root. Scolds sting, and ought to. They are reminders, they force us to do introspection, and question where we are not standing as upright in the mirror as our dignity demands. Here the mirror is the world itself. For this, we ought not hold back our scolds, but our scolds should be as should be, not according to our own ignorance, parochialism, or narcissism, but as another whom we would respect falls short of that calling to progressive nobility with which the Gods beckon.
In deeply stewed and fermented disappointment lies the rich soil out of which new harvests may come. Sometimes we receive the disappointments we need, difficult as they are. They are not sent, Gods forbid, to crush our idealisms, but rather to show where our idealisms were imperfect in their conceptions, that we might make them lither, more flexible, and more congruent with the evolving wyrd we wish to shape. Disappointments force us to face up to realities we had rather avoid. In defeats lie seeds of greater victories if we will listen to what the faults tell us, and bring the full weight of our mind and our inspirations to bear upon the problems that we might learn what we need to learn to move on.
The heathen "community" is disappointing, very disappointing. It does not, on the whole, foster maturity, but is run for the most part by the most juvenile, who are pulled by whims of pettiness, of shallowness, and of simple thrill-seeking expressing itself in sophomoric behaviors and stereotyped slogans. A kindred, while it ought have mirth and the main of festivity, is not a frat party. A sumble and a tavern ought have a completely different feel. Blots are not excuses to get together, drink beer, and brag (in the vulgar sense). Again, it would be much better if heathen religious practice were far more intimidating, not in any macho sense, but in the sense of expected prerequisites, level of rigor, and strictly enforced behavior codes. ("Strictly enforced behavior codes" need not imply any level of puritanism, as behavior codes can incorporate mirth, festivity, and frith, but they can certainly distinguish these in very explicit ways from their counterfeits and those who would call upon their counterfeits in the name of these very real heathen values.) That might not win any converts too easily, and might very well alienate those who think they are already heathen, but so what? Quantity or quality? I believe that out of the disappointment and failure of the heathen "community" may come a greater maturity, if processed and worked through, that may lead to something more authentic and sustainable.
We might begin by emphasing sculd over bragi. Don't brag and get all mighty on yourself if you haven't first acknowledged your debts and begun to pay them off. Your first boasts ought be to work hard to pay off whatever debts you might have. Your debts accrue according to your flaws and injuries, as well as the debt of potential with which you are born and which you must pay back by developing who you are, individuating, and therefore giving back the fruit of your own flowering. Someone ought come to a blot fully conscious of one's debts. Kindreds ought encourage their members to do inventories of where they are in debt, both materially, on an economic level, and spiritually, where they have assaulted the rights of others and done injury. And just as a little hint : if you're still a jackass, maybe you ought to be working on yourself. Chances are you're probably in a fair amount of debt. Sure, you may not be a killer, nor even an out and out criminal, but you know, all those little snubs, all that petty bullying, be it physical or emotional, all that strife-sewing, however small, adds up over time : penny by penny the bank fills up. Don't strut your stuff until you've done your time.
"Do Your Time" really ought to be a heathen slogan of first priority. It's definitely not sexy, which commends it from the get-go. Do the inventory. Where have you hurt others? Where are you still a nasty bastard? How do you exploit others? Where are you failing to live up to your potential? How are you redeeming all the time and energy and money that has been invested by others in your life? Where are the weaknesses that are not only keeping your best sides from flowering, but actually draining off any luck or heil you might receive from the Gods or ancestors?
"But wait ... that doesn't sound like a warrior ..."
Shut up. You don't get to be a soldier in our army until we've put you through boot camp, and you've proven to our satisfaction that you're ready to fight for the values we stand for. We don't just want random mayhem-seekers. This is not a religion that is about carnage and sociopathy. Prove to us first that you know what you're fighting for.
And put a muffle on the glory-talk, braggart. It's empty talk, and you know it. Don't talk to us about the glory of battle and other such platitudes when you haven't even done your homework. Get down to business. Roll up those sleeves and do the work.
"Do The Work". Another great heathen slogan. Figure out where you're deficient, and begin working on it. Unless you're dealing with an enemy --- and I don't mean a rival, I don't mean someone with whom you got into a spat, I don't mean some petty internet feud, I mean a real enemy who acts on the will to undo your existence --- a real heathen is decent towards others. Honor demands it. You don't need to be warm and fuzzy towards everyone. That's reserved for proven friends and family. But unless someone is a literal enemy, you ought be decent, even if you don't like them. It's courteous, and in the long run, it preserves frith.
Before you come before the Gods, take a little note of what an ass you've been throughout your life. Get a little embarassed. Figure out where you need to shore up. You're facing some mighty impressive presences here, beings who didn't just talk about doing something great, who didn't glory in someone else's greatness, but who actually did great things, and moreover, deeds of great foresight and benevolence. Look at your life, your petty little life. Look, I don't mean to demean you, but you know far better than I do where you've been a little shit, and you damn well know there have been plenty of times, far more often than your pride would want to admit. Well, you can try to hide it from yourself, and you can try to hide it from others, but you cannot hide it from the Gods. They see that and smell its reek from miles off. Consider how far your prayers extend when you so willfully remain in such debt and unwholeness.
"Well, all this scolding and focus on debts and faults doesn't seem very heathen to me. Heathenism is about Pride."
No. You're wrong. Heathenism is about Pride From Merit. Merit through maturity. Grow up. A big man, a bold man, knows his faults, and does the work, however humble, every day. It's not easy. But it means when you have done your work and earned your merit, then you get to have genuine pride, and not just empty, bombastic boasting with no real weight of authentic brag behind it.
You don't have to be perfect ; you are expected to mature. If even those who ought to be elders are juvenile geeks, then you have a tradition of fools, no tradition at all. Good luck getting audience from the Gods.
Tough words, tough life. Face facts and do your growing ; find the secret resilience. Are you digging your well? Have you found the hidden springs? Are you so puffed up on yourself you're neglecting to tend your own garden?
Is it making a man (or woman) out of you?