Silence I ask of the sacred folk,
Silence of the kith and kin of Heimdal:
At your will Valfather, I shall well relate
The old songs of men I remember best.
—Völuspá, W H Auden & P B Taylor Translation
In recent years, the number of those being called towards the “darker” paths within paganism have been on the rise. More people have been called to follow Lilith, Kali-Ma, the Titans, Hecate, Hades, and more. These paths have been rising at a rate we have not before seen in living memory. Within Heathenry specifically, this has manifested in a greater number of people honoring and working with the jötnar. It has manifested in the birth of Rökkatru.
Why this is happening is anyone’s guess. Many of these darker deities and their ilk are closely tied with natural forces such as storms, volcanoes, and wildfires. Perhaps the rise in their adherents is directly related to the maturation of the generations that grew up with warnings about global climate change, who are now witnessing the very real, very dire effects of this global calamity—in the form of increasing numbers of hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and droughts.
Many of these deities also embody a rebellion or retaliation against accepted authority—they are those who would rather dance in the ashes of a ruined empire than submit to it. Perhaps the rise in their adherents is related to the maturation of a generation who witnessed the laying bare of the corruption in Christian and Catholic churches, and who are increasingly aware of corruption in politics and feeling the sting of that corruption; who are just absolutely done with predatory capitalism.
Plenty of these deities are directly associated with death in one form or another—could their appeal be in any way related to the hopelessness many now face under late stage capitalism, the return of fascism, and the imminent dangers of climate change?
Within pagan communities, one theory states that the veil between the physical and spiritual or metaphysical world has grown thin and tattered; that seismic spiritual shifts are underway. Some believe that many if not all of the aforementioned crises being faced by the global population is a causal factor in this spiritual shift. Others think there may be a link, but remain uncertain what the link may be.
Whatever the cause, the reality is that more people are turning away from traditional, major world religions—especially Judeo-Christian traditions—and turning towards the modern revivals of older faiths. In a world facing near apocalyptic circumstances, Paganism is on the rise.
However, those who count themselves as Pagan—in whatever form that may be—are still a minority. Those who follow the darker of the gods are an even greater minority. Within Heathenism, there are few definitive resources on what Rökkatru really is, who its people are, and what they do and believe. For those who feel called to this path, there are a handful of resources and to find them, curious practitioners must wade through a sea of misunderstanding, mischaracterization, and outright vitriol. For those who are already in the faith, it can be frustrating to see so few resources available and to feel so alone in the face of a broader community which oftentimes seems to want to cast you out.(1)
This is why I am writing this blog—for the Rökkatru community that is so often misjudged as ignorant, cruel, malicious, or otherwise dishonorable. My blog will be for those who are new to the path, so that they may have a dedicated resource with which to begin exploring this new path. I will be writing here in the hopes of dispelling some of those harmful misconceptions that have arisen around Rökkatru.
This is intended to be for the Rökkatru community, and I will seek to reflect the community within it. Before even beginning I reached out to those in the communities to learn what they were most concerned about being put onto paper: most commonly people wanted the misconception of the jötnar as demons to be explored, explained, and debunked, a more thorough and thoughtful exploration of certain jötunn characters such as Mimir, and a clear statement of Rökkatru as being opposed to the bigotry which mas marred the reputation of the Asatru path, among other things.
I have asked the people of Rökkatru to tell me what they wanted to see presented here, and I have surveyed them on those subjects to gain a better understanding of this small but diverse and lively community. I will continue to ask this of my readers and of the various circles I frequent in an effort to make sure that I am addressing issues of curiosity and concern in the community. It is my hope that this will remain, to some extent, an interactive experience for both myself and my audience.
So welcome—may you find here what you are looking for, and if you don’t, may you at least find the resources you need to get you to where you’re going.
(1) The Heathen organization The Troth only lifted its ban on hailing Loki at its events in January of 2019. Loki is a deity many Rökkatru honor, and through whom many Rökkatru came to this path. “Loki Ban Rescinded – Idunna Blót – TKP Thew – Rituals at Troth-Sponsored Events.” The Troth, 2 Jan. 2019, http://www.thetroth.org/news/20190102-204808.
©Tahni J. Nikitins