Who is Red Oak?
We are a group of Central Texas Heathens interested in building a family-friendly community for the purposes of outreach and observing Heathen religious and cultural traditions. We hold 4 open and 4 closed feast days annually. We also host an informal meet-and-greet, normally at Beverly Sheffield Park in Austin, from 2-4pm on the second Saturday of each month.
Heathens? What is Heathenry?
Heathenry refers to the collective movements to reconstruct or revive Norse and Germanic folk religions and traditions as complete, culturally sound practices. One such example is Ásatrú. As the tribes of Northern and Central Europe spread out and mingled with other peoples, they developed regional differences in language, names of the heroes and Æsir, stories and other markers of their culture. They retained some common elements such as their values, cup sharing rites and major feasts. Heathens celebrate both their shared and distinctive traits.
You’re linking to an Ásatrú FAQ. Are you Ásatrúar, or Heathens?
The two are not mutually exclusive. Therefore, while some of us may be Ásatrúar, we are a fellowship of Heathens. Some of us are keenly interested in the traditions of Central Europe. Some are more inclined toward Scandinavian cultures. Some will pursue the paths tread by ancestors in Russia, England, Scotland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Jutland, Gaul or the Iberian peninsula.
What do Heathens believe?
Heathens believe in local nature spirits, known as Wights or Vættar, as well as ancestral spirits and a number of Goddesses and Gods known most widely as the Æsir (see the Irminsul Ásatrú FAQ for their individual names given in the Prose Edda). Heathens place an emphasis on relating to the world around them, honoring their family and ancestors, and striving to meet their own ethical standards.
Where do Heathens go in the afterlife?
Since evidence exists for a variety of folk beliefs, it may be more concise to discuss what does not happen in the afterlife. Heathens do not believe specifically in a dualistic “reward or torment” system, nor in a cycle of rebirth from which the soul must break free. Some of the ancients believed that the soul may continue its physical existence in this world after death, while the belief that Oðin claims half of those slain in battle to be his chosen warriors at Ragnarok was also widespread. (Simek, 2006. pp. 57-58, 71) The Eddas indicate that some souls become honored guests of various Æsir in their halls in Asgarð. Others may reside in the underworld, named “Hel,” but this is a place of rest or residence for the dead, not a place of torment, and must not be confused with the modern usage, “Hell.” (Simek, pp. 137-138). Still others become guardians of the line or are reborn within their line. H.R. Ellis Davidson and other researchers have managed to put together more complete surveys of Heathen afterlife beliefs than we are able to print here (Davidson, 1968).
What about Ethical Standards?
Heathen traditions include a code of ethics, which are suggested or supported by surviving documents and literary works from early Heathen times. The number of tenets varies in each codified example. One popular set is known as the Nine Noble Virtues. It emphasizes personal growth and conduct in terms of Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness, and Perseverance.
What about other cultures? Are your Gods their Gods by different names?
The Æsir are held by many Heathens to be distinct individuals, rather than aspects of some universal godhead. It is important to note that Heathens have great respect for the traditions of other cultures and usually consider their ways to be equally valid. We simply find our ways to work for us.
You mentioned ancestors. Must I have European ancestors to join you?
No. It is enough that the Heathen Gods and/or Goddesses have inspired your genuine interest in Heathen ways.
Do you honor Loki, son of Laufey?
In the Prose Edda, he is numbered among the Æsir (Brodeur, 1916, Gylfaginning 33), and some Heathens feel that honoring him is obligatory or even desirable. Others take such issue with his deeds, motivations and methods that they prefer not to acknowledge him. To some extent, the surviving lore supports both viewpoints. Therefore, we strongly suggest that in group settings, it may be best to simply hail the Æsir instead, and trust that they will sort the matter out amongst themselves. Those who have any particularly strong feelings of their own regarding Loki should discuss the matter with their hostess or host in advance to preserve the peace of the gathering.
What are the rituals like? May I attend one?
The rituals are described briefly in the Ásatrú FAQ. One purpose of the Fellowship is to provide a vehicle for interested people to experience our holy tides, such as Yuletide or Winter Nights. Before we invite you to attend, we’d like to have some of our members meet you in person. It’s very important to us to clear up misconceptions in advance and make sure people will be able to get along peaceably in our hallowed spaces.
As mentioned above, we hold a monthly “Heathen Get-Together,” where people can meet other area Heathens. If you can’t attend one of these, please contact us to introduce yourself, and we’ll make arrangements to chat with you in person at a more convenient time. Then, if you’re still interested, we hope to extend an invitation to our next event.
Must I drink alcohol or share cups or eat certain foods to be Heathen?
No, but as with any gathering, a host needs information to accommodate your needs. Ask them in advance how best to handle your concerns about ingredients or beverages. For the cup/horn passing rites, a second vessel of juice, water, milk, etc. can also be blessed and passed. If you simply can’t drink from a shared cup for any reason, most groups have a gesture they use to honor the horn, but the specific gesture varies, so ask your host, preferably before the ceremony starts.
How do I become a member of Red Oak?
After you have attended a few of our holy tides as a guest, we hope to invite you to become a member. Our members help plan and supply events, pay modest dues, participate in outreach efforts, and have a voice in setting the direction of the Fellowship.
Bellows, Henry Adams (1936). The Poetic Edda. Princeton University Press. http://www.sacred‑texts.com/neu/poe/index.htm
Brodeur, Arthur Gilchrist (1916). The Prose Edda. The American-Scandinavian Foundation. http://www.sacred‑texts.com/neu/pre/index.htm
Davidson, H.R. Ellis (1968). The Road To Hel. Greenwood Press.
Granquist, Susan, et al. (2001). Ásatrú FAQ. Irminsul Ættir. http://www.irminsul.org/arc/023.html
Simek, Rudolf. (2006). Dictionary of Northern Mythology. D.S. Brewer.
Thorpe, Benjamin (1866). The Poetic Edda. Unknown Publisher. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14726