The Role of Women in Heathenry is typically ill defined. This is for several reasons. As Raven-Radio Co-Host Jill Budynas explains in her most recent contribution to The Urban Ásatrúar, being a Heathen Women comes with its own unique set of challenges. In Women in Heathenry she vents on the pigeon holing done by many men against women in the folk way.
Being a woman in heathenry is a unique experience, especially compared to neo-paganism. We are male dominated, especially in recon, and foster the masculine due to our “Viking” persona. In a way it’s a bastion for men in the polytheistic, goddess driven folkways and it presents a challenge for women. This challenge doesn’t exist in every kindred by far, but I always hear the same frustrations whenever I ask. Women are discouraged with the pigeon holing of the warrior versus magical weaver, lack of information and availability of women/goddess studies and in some rare cases, the pure misogyny that we are met with in some the more “fundamentalist” movements. The ability to vent these frustrations is limited due to the fear of being labeled a dirty feminist or the denial of these issues existence, but I think few of us can deny that they exist on some level. The question always remains of what can we do about it?
Two of the cheapest and most readily available sources we have on women is Kathleen Herbert’s Peace-weavers and Shield-Maidens and the Saga material. In these sources women either play the role of warrior, peace maker or magical shrew. This has carried over into modern heathenry by way of expecting our women to be dedicated to the home by means of fiber crafts, children and folk magic. I cannot count the times I have been asked what I knit or it has been assumed that I practice seidth. If we are not in the role of magic/holy worker or homesteader, we are expected to be a shield-maiden of epic proportions. We are also expected to goddess worship, usually Frigga or Freyja and for some reason rule men out of this. I, being typical me, do none of these things. I can’t sew a button let alone knit, I don’t practice any sort of magic, and my family cult is to Odin. I suppose if I stretch it I could be warrior of sorts, choosing the pen over the sword, but I choose the role of scholar over gythia or seidth worker because I’m good at it, even if I have been judged for “not minding my place” which has happened several times. Not that there is anything wrong with any of the things I listed, its only that I believe through my research that there was so much more to our preceding sisters and that we are cheating ourselves and our history by not studying it.
The information is there, but it’s expensive and restricted. I am working to change that and I welcome any help! What we find when we hit the dreaded books is that women played a lot of roles! Historically, women were trusted consorts to kings and chiefs, seeresses to warlords, midwives with vital roles in naming ceremonies even after the Conversion, brokers of frith and peace in the halls, wards of family honor, and that is only the beginning. Yes women weavedand yes they guarded the home, but there was so much more.Are some of the things outdated? Absolutely, arranged marriages to barter frith being a prime example, but many are not if we get down to the “why” which is the bread and butter of recon.We must accept that this will be a never ending project. The ratio of information regarding heroines versus heroes and goddesses versus gods is overwhelmingly low. That does not mean we should not try in order to gain the place in the holy that our ancestors left for us.
The worst obstacle both men and women face are those who have deemed the woman’s place to be in the kitchen. Most of us would agree that the mentality is obscene at best and criminal at worst but we do ourselves no favors be pretending it doesn’t exist at all. We speak out against neo-Nazi’s but those who devalue our women twist our folkway no less and deserve the same treatment. A dear friend of mine has had men contact her husband to “control her tongue”. I myself have been told that I am not a “true heathen” because I am with an atheist, who is more heathen than most heathens I know and extremely supportive of my accomplishments in heathenry, instead of being with a “good heathen man”. Just yesterday I was shown a facebook page that spoke of “warriors” getting rid of women when they are no longer of use. I have been told that being a scholar is “men’s work” and I should go back to knitting. There are many brilliant and strong women in heathenry who feel that they are being silenced by these attitudes. They deserve a voice and only we can give it to them.
Woman studies in heathenry is a valid course of study that does not deserve the pejorative of “feminist”. It deserves as much effort as any other subject that we study in order to rebuild our folkway and women deserve a voice. Our ancestors believed this and we owe it to them to respect what came before us. We are far more important than just peace-weavers and shield-maidens. Women have a role in the holy should we choose to accept it. Will we listen?
 If one wishes to examine women in the literature, I highly recommend Cold Counsel: The women in Old Norse Myth and Literature edited by Sarah M. Anderson and Karen Swenson
 There is a great deal of evidence that our ancestors did not privately worship the gods, but instead the ancestors and god worship was in the realm of the public cult. Bil Linzie reasons that over time the gods remained public while the goddesses migrated to the home for women toward the conversion and after.
 Lady With a Mead Cup runs about $120.00 and Cold Counsel is about $110. The priciest is the discontinued Beowulf’s Wealtheow and the Valkyrie Tradition at $230.00 if you can even find it.
 Most PDF’s can only be found on JSTOR which membership can only be had by students or professors.
 According to most sources, a seeress was very rare
 Women in Old Norse Society by Jenny Jochens examines these roles in depth
 Judith Jesch, Jenny Jochens and Michael Enright all touch on the subject but Carol Clover goes into “whetting” in her essay “Hildigunner’s Lament”
 Michael Enright cites the use of the weaving loom as a status of magic and power in Lady With a Mead Cup
 Stooley talks about the life cycles of women and the discovery of certain jewelry in the graves of women around the average age of 26 which is well after marriage and child birth suggesting that this is a token of another coming of age, giving women worth in a role outside of the home in “From the Cradle to the Grave: Age Organization and the Early Anglo-Saxon Burial Rite”
 Explanations of reconstructionalism can be found in Bil Linzie’s “Reconstructionism’s Role in Modern Heathenry” and by Josh Rood’s “Reconstructionism in Modern Heathenry: An Introduction” in the ezine Odhreri
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