For three days beginning on July 13, Atlanta hosted Mystic South: Theory, Practice, and Play. According to the convention’s Facebook page, the Pagan event “highlights the Southern flair and mystic spirit of our own part of the country.”
Headliners this year included John Beckett, Ivo Dominguez, Yaya Nsasi Vence Guerra, Sangoma Oludoye, Mama Gina, and the Night Travelers. The conference schedule included rituals, workshops, papers, panels, presentations, and a live podcast. Several events centered on Norse material and Heathen religions. To get a sense of the conference from a Heathen perspective, I spoke with Ryan Denison of the Mystic South organizing committee.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Odin, Freya and Loki must be jealous. In the new “Gods of the Vikings” exhibit in the Norway Pavilion at Epcot in Disney World, it was the slightly larger-than-life bust of Thor – especially the Norse god’s hammer, Mjolnir – that was getting the most photo-opp attention during a visit by The Wild Hunt. People young and old, and speaking numerous foreign languages, clutched the imposing, 18-inch Mjolnir as friends or family took photos – perhaps an indication of how the Marvel Comics movie franchise has made Thor a rock star beyond the community of practicing Heathens and followers of Ásatrú. Five feet from the Thor bust, however, was another Mjolnir, one less than an inch and a half long: an authentic Thor’s hammer pendant, made circa 800-1000 A.D. The artifact is on loan to the exhibit from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway.
The Ásatrú religion can offer new perspectives on climate change ethics via examination of the modern practice of historically grounded ritual known as blót – a rite that foregrounds reciprocity with the earth, inherent value in the natural world, transtemporal human relationships, global connectedness, and the consequences of human action. In addition to discussing Ásatrú textual sources and examples of ritual, this column offers a new ethical model for responding to issues of climate change. Ásatrú is a religion with a life that already relates to reality in a way that addresses major issues raised by climate change ethicists. Practitioners are both certain and competent in a life-practice that directly engages relationships within the transtemporal human community and with the wider world. Through study of lore and celebration of ritual, the practice of Ásatrú reinforces understanding of reciprocal relationships with the natural world, inherent value of living things, connections to past and future peoples, interrelatedness of all human actors, and consequences of human actions.