“I am one of the witches the Hávamál warns you about.”
This is the rallying cry of an international movement to address sexism in Heathen communities that is spreading like wildfire. It was started last week by Jade Pichette, a respected gythia in Canada, who writes:
“So a hashtag #HavamalWitches has started to critique sexism in the Heathen community. Overall the women and femmes in the Heathen community have put up with a lot of sexism and this is basically us letting off steam and making transparent what we experience. It references the fact in the Hávamál there are some really sexist stanzas so we are the Witches the Hávamál warns you about. If you have posts to make please do, and if you are comfortable feel free to do so publicly.”
After Jade’s post, many women started speaking out and telling their stories. I contributed a story of my own. Then, after hearing that some women were receiving blowback in the form of abusive messages and threats for speaking up about their experiences, I made the meme you see above to express solidarity. The image I used is “Disarblot” by August Malmström, and it’s in the public domain in the US. Feel free to share it as widely as you like to let other women and femmes know that what we are doing is important, and there is strength in numbers.
If you’re on Facebook, you can search on the hashtag #HavamalWitches to read all the stories being shared publicly. Jade has indicated that she intends to write up more about how it got started at some point, and it’s obvious that the women who are speaking out publicly are helping to embolden other women, femmes, and gender-non-conforming folks to come forth and tell their stories too. Looks like this is the beginning of something far-reaching.
Oh, gods, how it thrills me to witness this movement gaining momentum so quickly!
I stand with all the wonderful #HavamalWitches who are fed up and are finally speaking out.
When I first read the Hávamál in 2004, I was really hoping to find some in-depth online feminist “exegesis” regarding the blatant sexism in it, to make it clear that it wasn’t accepted uncritically in the Heathen community. But I found no such thing. I also spent years trying to find someone I could talk to about my religious experiences without fear of having them summarily dismissed as “UPG” (Unverified Personal Gnosis) and therefore unworthy of even a modicum of respect.
I was hesitant about getting involved with Heathenry for a long time because it didn’t seem welcoming to mystics and feminists like me. If “Hávamál Witches” had been around back then, I would have felt much less alone.
I hope this hashtag will start many much-needed, long-overdue conversations in Heathen communities all over the world.
Dearest #HavamalWitches supporters: Thank you. What you are doing gives me hope for the future of our religion. I would be honored to host you at the Hermitage.
And if you ever take me up on that offer of hospitality, I will invite you to hail Skaði with me. I have been in service to Her for 13 years now. She is the best feminist role model I’ve ever had.
Danica Swanson is a freelance writer, dark ambient music nerd, dark fusion dancer, and amateur polytheist nun. She is CEO (Creative Endarkenment Overseer) of The Black Stone Hermitage, co-admin of the Pagan & Polytheist Monasticism discussion list, and a co-founder of LANMIPP (Loosely Affiliated Network of Monastically Inclined Polytheist Pagans). Her first forays into Paganism began in 1995; she has been a devotee of Skaði and other Holy Powers of Yggdrasil since 2004. She also writes under the name D. JoAnne Swanson for her other main project, The Anticareerist (formerly known as Rethinking the Job Culture; originally known as whywork.org). Her life of contemplative solitude is made possible only by a web of thriving community relationships, human and non-human. She lives by the hands of the deities and spirits in all of her endeavors.