Anonymous asked grumpylokeanelder:
For someone who is just starting out, is there anything that a newbie might do by mistake that would be considered offensive or in poor manners? I’m not planning on making any oaths or anything, and I’ve done what research I can, but I know that coming from a Christian background things that are considered good in one could be seen as bad in the other, and vice-versa.
I’m sure I’m going to miss things, but I can list out a few pointers off the top of my head:
- Hospitality is really damn important. Hosts are expected to be gracious and provide, and you’re expected to behave yourself and not take advantage of their generosity. It’s respectful to ask what the local customs and etiquette is when visiting a particular kindred or someone’s home, then respect that. Local customs could be anything from “don’t say ____’s name” to “don’t bring alcohol because we have a member struggling with alcoholism” to “there will be blood, please dress accordingly and don’t tell us we’re disgusting monsters.”
- In some kindreds everyone drinks out of the same horn. Ask beforehand, and speak up if you have concerns about it. People should respect the fact that you have health concerns and decline to drink. It’s also acceptable, as a substitute, to pour your swallow out onto the ground (if outside) or into the offering bowl if you do not want to drink.
- Some people are alright with you eating food on altars. Some will get mad. Ask first. In fact, don’t touch altars unless you have prior permission.
- Boasting isn’t considered rude or egotistical (up to a point). It’s a community building event, to share recent things you’ve accomplished with other Heathens and to receive recognition and positive feedback. At the same time, don’t go overboard and puff yourself up to a ridiculous degree.
- Turning down food from vaettir can actually hugely offend them. This is corroborated in Scandinavian folklore. People think accepting food is dangerous because of lore about Irish and Scottish fairies, but with Scandinavian vaettir, rudely refusing offers of hospitality can get you in trouble or killed.
- Vaettir find human waste (and sometimes spit) absolutely disgusting. It’s a folk tradition to announce that you’re going to relieve yourself if you’re outside and need to do your business so no unwitting vaettir gets, uh, dumped on and literally pissed off. In the same measure, throwing human waste in areas will drive the vaettir there away, which can be good to remember if they’re actually being malevolent and troubling.
- Oaths: serious fucking business.
- Charity is still considered very admirable. Trying to be self-sufficient is good and all, but working together in order to survive in a harsh environment is still a part of the culture. Being nice to your neighbors and being generous with your wealth isn’t just a Christian thing, and it appears in several places in the lore.
- Some people make snippy remarks about worship and “I don’t grovel”, but there are places in the lore that mention people worshiping and fully prostrating themselves while doing so. It isn’t rude or unseemly to kneel or bow or full-on fling yourself down.
- There’s disagreement about whether it’s permitted to have weapons in a holy place or near altars. Instances of both are mentioned in the lore – both weapons being banned (and people taking advantage of that to murder a hapless worshiper) and people bringing weapons with. Ask the Deities and do what feels right to you, but respect the wishes of your hosts when you visit someone else or another group.
A lot of stuff is just general common sense “don’t be an asshole” sort of things. I’d recommend looking at my take-down of the “Nine Noble Virtues”, since that gets passed around a lot. I’d also ignore a lot of the crowing about how we’re a “warrior religion”. I side-eye anyone who starts edging into subtle or overly racist territory, including people who start waxing poetic about the “folk soul”, which was an invention of the Romantic period (particularly in Germany) to attempt to instill a sense of nationalism. Absorb that fact and think about all the things that happened as a result of German nationalism. Remember that every time someone brings up the concept of the “folk soul”.