I want to discuss a topic that I know will go against the grain of common heathen understanding and acceptance. But I want you to hear me out on this.

We hear it and see it almost everyday, “We don’t Kneel before the gods, we don’t come to them begging but standing with strength”. This statement has been used for decades to draw a distinction of our own strength and power in contrast to the “weakness” of other religions i.e. Christianity.

I want all of you to challenge your own understanding of this and approach this post with real contemplation and not post reactionary comments about this topic, because if you do that you are only demonstrating a lack of real thought into your own spirituality and relationship with our gods and goddesses.

Now let me begin!

This concept of not kneeling is decades old and has no actual tradition to it (there are no sources that attest to this). I would suggest that it all started in the 70’s with a image of what a strong Viking was and has perpetuated itself through the years. However, if we actually take a moment to look at a few things we can arrive at a much deeper connection to our gods by considering if kneeling was actually performed and why they would do this.

If we look at the sacrifice of Odin to himself, we can understand that he was hanging from the tree with his head facing the ground. How do we know this? Because the passage in the Havamal says that he reached down and picked up runes. You can’t do that by hanging from your neck.

Similarly, when it came to sacrifices of animals they would be killed by a blow to the head by a hammer, which may represent Thor, but then they would be hung by their feet with their head hung toward the ground and then their throat would be cut as their blood would be drained into a bowl (representing the well).

So here we have two references of heads facing the ground in a ceremonial function. Additionally, there are people kneeling in a boat on petroglyphs and the Graenvenge figurine is also kneeling. The Ruslia of Ibn Fadhlan also speaks of a merchant groveling before a family of idols. It states:

Ruslia(10th c) “moment their boats reach this dock every one of them disembarks, carrying bread, meat, onions, milk and alcohol (nabīdh), and goes to a tall piece of wood set up . This piece of wood has a face like the face of a man and is surrounded by small figurines behind which are long [10] pieces of wood set up in the ground. he reaches the large figure, he prostrates himself before it and says, “Lord, I have come from a distant land, bringing so many slave-girls such and such per head and so many sables such and such per pelt.” He continues until he has mentioned all of the merchandise he has brought with him, then says, “And I have brought this offering,” leaving what he has brought with him in front of the piece of wood, saying, “I wish you to provide me with a merchant who has many dīnārs and dirhams and who will buy from me whatever I want without haggling over the price I fix.” Then he departs. If he has difficulty in selling and he has to remain too many days, he returns with a second and third offering. If his wishes prove to be impossible he brings an offering to every single one of those figurines and seeks its intercession, saying, “These are the wives, daughters and sons of our Lord.” He goes up to each figurine in turn and questions it, begging its [11] intercession and grovelling before it. Sometimes business is good and he makes a quick sell, at which point he will say, “My Lord has satisfied my request, so I am required to recompense him.” He procures a number of sheep or cows and slaughters them, donating a portion of the meat to charity and taking the rest and casting it before the large piece of wood and the small ones around it. He ties the heads of the cows or the sheep to that piece of wood set up in the ground. At night, the dogs come and eat it all, but the man who has done all this will say, “My Lord is pleased with me and has eaten my offering.”

Think about this in context. The inverted position of the body as in for a sacrifice... if You were to kneel before our gods as an offering of life unto the gods or goddesses, thus suspending our right to life and giving over the right of ones life over to whom you kneel before, is a powerful way to connect with the divine.

Consider it this way, ones life is their own and your will is your own. It is your right to offer your property ie life and will to whom you choose. You could do this in an inverted position on your knees. You could in do this to suspend your ownership of your life and will offering them up to the gods. So in affect You would not be kneeling anything that belonged to you. The knees that belong to the god would be kneeling. If after kneeling your life and will is restored to you and that would once again be you standing with possession of your life and will.

In my mind, kneeling just for kneeling’s sake is missing the point, rather than kneeling because I am offering life and limb to my gods, not by submission but rather by choice of service to that god. Putting my head forth and awaiting the hammer of the gods to take up the offer. This would also limit who was allowed to offer for only the best must be allowed to be offered for sacrifice to the gods (Odin like).

I want to emphasis to you that it’s not so much the act of kneeling that is important, it’s about how we approach the gods. Do we approach the gods with arrogance and ego? Or do we approach them with reverence and humility?

Taking the view that any form of humility is a weakness and that we must despise that creates a barrier where we become our own divine authority that ignores the true status that our gods and goddesses hold as not only our family but also as their subjects. We need to see them as our royal family where we pay our respect and have reverence for their real position and station in our lives. It doesn’t make one weak to show reverence and respect to those higher than you. There is nothing wrong in that. If we can return that spirit of sanctity to our lives, we will have the ability to connect to our gods in ways that allow us to recognize and return them to the divine status where they belong.

Even Grimm speaks about ways to express this humility. For example, he talks about removing ones hat from the head or exposing the head during the rituals. We can see in the priesthood, sometimes there is an opposite. What the “gathered” does is oftentimes the opposite of what the priest does. That could be because the priest is seen as a catalyst. The priest has to act as a conduit to the gods and the ceremony. Not as a symbol of power and authority, but rather as a symbol of a connection to divinity through their own piety. Which is why they are called “godhi”, which essentially means the “godly ones” or “pious ones”.

The notion of this is that you can uncover your head or kneel or bow etc. Consider how people would go to a funeral and take their hats off to show respect. That’s an ancient Indo European concept. Grimm points out that in certain European ceremonies that if the priest had his hat removed during the ceremony he would lose his priesthood.

You can see this same thing when praying standing in an erect stance with arms extended to the sky, that would be the priests position where the folk would be more humble in a state of humility displaying their respect and reverence. It’s not about the actual act of kneeling but more so the act of humility, reverence and piety before the gods.