There is so much to read and if you’re just starting your studies, it really can be daunting. Not because the information isn’t out there, but because a lot of this reading isn’t easily digested in big chunks the way chapters of a novel are. Maybe you’ve got the right brain to read ancient lore and scholarly works and absorb it as easily as Krispy Kreme but for me….
I need to chew slowly.
Let’s take Eric Wodening’s We Are Our Deeds as an example:
I’ll admit that I had to read Wodening slowly, making notes and taking it a paragraph at a time. That book was the best introductions to Heathen thought I could begin with, but the style of writing required me to chew and swallow slowly.
Taking on Heathen studies means reading works few people seek outside of Academia. It’s better to sit down and focus on a little at a time and truly grasp it than fly through a jumble of words so you can add it to your "I read that” pile. That pile is worthless if nothing took root in your mind. Remember, Odin took his own eye for a little wisdom. All I’m suggesting is reading slower.
That is the best advice I can give: read the best work available and read it as slowly as you need to. Haven’t studied anything for a while? Then get a notebook and your book of choice and set them down on the same table with a good pencil. If it helps, go to your local library to be surrounded by wisdom and lore and quiet. Open your book to the first chapter and write the name of that chapter in your notebook on a clean page. As you slowly read, stop every paragraph or two and write down the important points or meaning of what you are reading. For example, if I was starting off with my study of We Are Our Deeds I would begin with notes like this based on the first two pages of his work in Chapter 1.
Chapter 1: Good and Evil Innangard and Utangard
– The words good, evil, right, and wrong are often taken for granted.
– Good appears in every Germanic Language in some form.
– Proto-Germanic godanaz and ghedh – meaning “to unite, to join, to fit”
– Original meaning might be “that which is suitable to society”
– Good is what keeps us part of our tribe, clan, society and out of the wilds
– Tribe, family, clan is “inside” or Innangard (old Icelandic term)
– Outside negative influence, dangerous wights, threats are Utangard (also O.I.)
Summary – Ancestors saw good and bad differently than modern people. It had to do with what kept you and your tribe at their best and safe. It had to do with community and selflessness.
And that is just the first two pages! If that is all your brain can take in one sitting, then digest it and stop studying for a day. Let all that knowledge cook a while. Meditate on it while walking in a park, forest, or on your porch. Leave a small offering on your path as a thank you to the Gods for the ability to find, read, and digest such words. While on that quiet walk, consider what you thought of as “good” before? Does this change how you feel about something you were once told was not good, like sex before marriage? What does that have to do with keeping you outside a community and separated from it? How does sex between two consenting adults endanger your tribe? What did our ancestors think of premarital sex? Write down that thought in your notebook to bring up at your next Heathen gathering or to research in the future.
Do you see how just two pages of a book on Heathen Ethics can send you into a personal mental hopscotch game of jumping over a lifetime of prior conditioning?! It’s okay to read three pages a day. It’s okay to read one paragraph a day. What matters is truly understanding it and learning to think as Heathens do.
This type of study is so important. There is no Sunday School or Asatru 101 course someone will hold your hand through. You need to do the work, period.
When we share our personal studies at Gatherings of TGH it is more valuable to bring up one point you focused and thought hard on from an obscure page of a book by a valued author than to slap a generic printing of the Edda in front of the fire and say “I read this! All of this!” Surely there is pride in showing your enthuisum and effort – but gatherings and study groups are not places to boast over libraries – they are the places to share wisdom without gouging each others eyes out.
Keep reading, read slow as you need to, and write notes. Take the time to think about what you read. Wisdom doesn’t come from a stack of books you checked off a list. Wisdom comes from challenging and questioning your own mind. Study does this the same way lifting weights or running miles challenges the body.
Darling, it’s time to start working out. You’re Heathen now.