Afterlife · Ancestors · Asatru · Christianity

Thoughts occasioned by a funeral

This weekend I had the unhappy duty to attend the funeral of the mother of one of my longest-standing Heathen friends. His mother, of course, was not Heathen, but Catholic, and so there was a Catholic service (not a full mass), and the priest made the usual statements about her being in Heaven, and waiting for the rest of us, and so forth. He seemed a likable enough sort, and I’m sure it never occurred to him that there were people in the room who diametrically opposed his religious opinions, despite the number of Thor’s Hammer pendants in evidence.

It did get me thinking about the nature of the afterlife and the nature of subjective reality. There are also substantive implications for the subject of ancestor worship. If I may…

Regarding the afterlife, there are several possibilities:

  1. We’re right, and the Christians are wrong. When they die, they end up in Hel or Náströnd, or in Asgard (in one or another of the Gods’ halls), or dwell in the ground, or one of the various permutations of the Germanic afterlife. It’s a complex thing, and doubtless a surprise to them.
  2. The Christians are right. Everyone ends up either in Heaven or Hell, and it sucks to be us. Obviously, this is the Christian position (and the relevant variation applies to the Muslims as well).
  3. We’re both right. Heathens end up in the Heathen afterlife, and Christians end up in the Christian afterlife. It follows that Muslims end up in the Muslim afterlife, Hindus end up reincarnated, Khemetic Orthodox end up in the Egyptian afterlife, and so on and so on. 
  4. We’re both wrong. Either something else happens when we die (didn’t expect to end up in Yima’s Kingdom of the Dead, did you???), or nothing does; it’s just oblivion. Nobody will be complaining, in that case.
Just from my personal experience, most Heathens tend to settle on choice #3, making the afterlife a subjective thing, based on one’s expectations and religious choices in life. I tend to land here as well. But this has its own implication…
One of the cornerstones of Heathen religion is the veneration of our ancestors, in the same way that we venerate the Gods. There are traditions that link ancestors to the land-spirits, alfar, and house-spirits as well. Is it appropriate to honor a Christian ancestor in a Heathen manner? Would that be insulting? Is it even possible? The Christian afterlife would seem to preclude any interaction with the material world (except in the case of Saints), because the dead are too busy basking in the glory of their God’s presence. Does burning grain in their honor have any impact, in that case, given that they don’t even know it’s being done, and/or can’t do anything to reciprocate?

I don’t pretend to have definitive answers to these questions, but I welcome your speculations.

One thought on “Thoughts occasioned by a funeral

  1. his is a topic I had considered at some length. I think that we all have the same afterlife just expressed in different terminology and with different Gods.

    Lets start with the big one here in the West, well its shrinking here but its still top dog. The first thing to remember is that Christianity is a subset of Judaism, specifically one that sees Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah.

    Its picked up a lot of stuff from other religions but its roots are Jewish. The same applies to Islam who have a different messianic tradition

    Now the Jewish afterlife is Sheol , the place of the dead. Its a grey bland kind of place very much like Helheim

    As I understand it some , Orthodox Jews also believe in reincarnation as well, its called Gigul and its earned by soul completion the act of Tikun which is "healing" kind of .

    Its not heroism exactly but being of an advanced nature in line with the Jewish character . They don't have a negative or positive afterlife interestingly

    On the whole though its quite similar to Asatru in effect, nothing or return to the Deity.

    What the Christians added is the only way out of Sheol, what is called the Harrowing of Hell was with an intermediary Jesus who was able to patch up things with his father and allow the dead into Jehovah's realm.

    Another point lost of moderns is that Jehovah has a distinct personality and very human wants and desires. Modern Christians seem Him as an abstraction more akin to a force but he isn't, he a is personified jealous God of the Jews. a God like Odin in quite a few ways . To be clear they are not the same but have similar aspects.

    The Hellenes also shared a similar afterlife Hades, a somewhat similar main deity, Zeus and an exalted afterlife Elysium which is a Greek version of Asgard , more suitable to their desires and nature . The y also had a lower afterlife Tartarus comparable to Nastrond too.

    Lastly there are also primal stories that overlap.

    This is speculation but I wonder if the apple in the book of Genesis wasn't the same fruit the Norse Gods eat to retain their Godhood

    If that is a genuine story and not a Christian add on , no wonder Jehovah was so angry.

    He forbids pretty much anything but adoration of him and following him fairly slavishly "For I the lord thy God am a jealous God." which is said several different ways multiple times .

    Instead of eternal childhood the Serpent offered Eve a chance to grow up and become unto a God .

    Foe the Christians. Jesus is much more mellow. I have no idea what Muslims thinks.

    Anyway given the similarities between so many faiths its #1 with a touch of #3 , you go your ancestors and Gods whoever they are.

    As for those without a Folk or Gods . I do not know. I think that some of the Disir or others guide them to Hel's Hall whichever section where they can perhaps find new Folk or just to rest.

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