DPM 22: Home Is Where The Kindred Is

I am going through the Devotional Polytheist Meme questions from Galina Krasskova’s blog, together with my lover Lon Sarver, over the course of several months.

We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers, as well as your thoughts on our answers, in our comments.

22. What customs are associated with the home and family in your tradition?

All of them.

Seriously, there’s a reason Heathen groups are usually called either “Kindred” or “Garth”, i.e. either “family” or “household”. Heathen practices in general assume that the central group is the family, whether by birth or chosen, or some of each. Marriage, adoption, fostering, even taking on hostages as part of the household, are all taken very seriously in Heathen Lore as ways of forging family bonds, and making kin out of those who were not born one’s kin.

Now, this can lead to insularity among Heathens – or rather, it can draw people who value insularity into Heathenry. As such I actually find myself trying to push back against this focus on family, because I don’t believe focusing on family to the point of othering non-family is a healthy and ethical approach to spirituality.

It can also lead to some really strange problems when people who come from dysfunctional families don’t have a functional model on which to build their expectations, and then crumble or explode when their kindred falls short of the ideal they built in its place. I’ve seen a fair few small kindreds fall apart all too quickly for this reason.

I don’t think either of these problems are inevitable or essential, though. Structuring faith organizations as families, or around family units is plenty functional when the model for “family” is a healthy one.

What I value most about the focus on family is the respect for peers as family. It’s understood and expected that no one stands alone, nor should they. That’s also part of the emphasis on ancestor reverence as a way to honor where we each and all come from. It provides a sense of connection and continuity in an otherwise alienating world that I think pretty well everyone can benefit from.


Lon’s answer: Customizing the Home