How I became a Heathen, and Why I am a Wodan's Man

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          Many people have asked me these questions about Ásatrú; "How did you become a heathen?" "Why does an Asatruar dedicate himself to any one God or Goddess?" and sometimes with strange tones of voice, "Why did you choose Wodan?" I can only answer for myself, but I will answer as best as I know how.

          The first encounter that I ever had with anything I could really consider divine consisted of my experiences writing poetry. My talent for the art was rather inborn, and though I always seek to hone my skills, that blade has always been well-edged. I found myself, at a time when I suffered from some rather severe mental maladies, able to go into a state of strange, wild, determined creation and craft. It was actually the insanity of that state that warded and returned me from the insanity I suffered at all other times. I often spent moments of ecstatic inspiration in the self-imposed exile of my room, either scratching away at a notebook intently, or tapping harshly with a constant stuttering cadence the worn keys on my old computer. Sometimes I would sing, speak, or yell my words -- feeling them thrum through me like a force of nature. This quality would later prove telling of my nature as a heathen.

          The second encounter with the divine that I claim is my discovery of runes. The first signs that led me to them were some strange visionary experiences. I had these powerful dreams of shapes that I could never hold in my mind long enough to burn into my waking memory. I saw deep, rippling pools of roiling angular tracery. When I saw runes first in a drawing, next in a dictionary, I felt this burning need to find them - to explore their every aspect, to know their nature wholly. I began my search, and soon found those names of the great Gods and Goddesses that I had once looked to in childhood. I hadn't fully remembered until after this discovery, but it was pointed out to me by a family friend that I used to carry around a little book of Norse Mythology. I admit, it came to me again, the picture of Thor in his goat-drawn chariot in old line art on the book jacket was stored somewhere deep inside. I looked at the values and the maxims of those Gods and Goddesses with whom I already felt great kinship, and I knew that I was a heathen. All of my values, all of my truths, were echoed in the truths uncovered in the Lore. From that point on, I began my studies as a heathen.

          For two years I continued studying and practicing privately, reading all that I could and observing rites of my own craft, not knowing that there were others that shared my faith. After those years, I learned of the other heathens, but yet stayed completely solitary until I truly felt prepared for contact with my heathen compatriots. I worked much with the runes, and though I at first thought that Tyr's qualities were an ideal - the truth and justice was very noble and made me wish to "better" myself - but I knew after finding my natural talent for the runes expanding wildly - after having some experiences with visions and with my writing, that Wodan's hand was the one that I felt on my shoulder as the fury of my natural talent burned through me. I could no longer seek after the noble ideal of the One-handed God, because I saw echoed in Wodan's gifts, as described in the lore, those gifts that I had been given. I belonged to the One-Eyed God, and knew intimately his gifts. Those gifts I knew were an integral part of all I had been, and showed themselves to be a defining force in determining the direction I would strive after. I was a very precocious child, so too in my adolescence, from as early as first grade I was tested and subsequently selected for a special program that would put me in an environment that would provide a challenge for me -- a full immersion in the all-day gifted program. Throughout my education I tried to reach beyond my grasp, and usually came up with the next challenge in my hand. I was always willing to pay great prices for gaining wisdom. To this day, I feel that the wisdom I have has cost me a great deal of my childhood -- and yet I would pay it again.

          In all of these things, including my penchant for language and my skills with writing poetry and prose, I knew that I had Wodan's gifts to thank. Taking the "gift for gift given" maxim to heart, I knew that I could do no less that proclaim myself what I already was - a Wodan's Man. I hail him often, and keep a shrine for him separate from that I keep for all gods and goddesses. I owe him nothing less. I love Wodan and feel his influence in my life, though I know that the love he has for his own can never get in the way of how the Norns' weaving must eventually take shape. I love Wodan for what he is. He made me much of what I am with his gifts. I do what I do, and I assume, considering that these gifts stay greatly in my life, that I am serving whatever purpose I have been given these gifts for. In all of his ways, he is my patron - and as Allfather, Valfather, Grimnir, Bolverk, or any other of his many "traveling" personae, he is the one I hail first.

Erich Campbell

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