by Stephen A. McNallen
from The Runestone; Winter 1984 #50

Anyone who has spent much time reading about Asatru knows that we place a great deal of influence on the idea we call ancestry. Indeed, our religion is largely based on this concept. Is this mere sentiment and nostalgia on our part – or are there deeper reasons why we are continually referring to our forbearERs?

The ancient lore of Asatru makes it plain that this is no modern notion. Continuity of the clan has always been important to our people, and the god Frey seems to have been specially associated with this principle. The sagas include plentiful genealogies which are much more than literary devices – after all, Icelanders were known for their ability to recite their entire lineage back to the settlement of their ice-threatened island. Clearly, these were folk to whom ancestry mattered.

From a common-sense viewpoint it’s not hard to see why we should have an affinity for those of our own line. Heredity influences not only the obvious things like hair color and shape of ear lobe, it also helps to determine more subtle physical factors – our personal chemistry and neurology – which shapes our tastes, feelings, attitudes, and needs. We are quite simply going to resemble our ancestors in these ways more than we are likely to resemble people who are not our ancestors. Something of this sort is what Dr. Carl Jung meant when he said that the archetypes, or symbolic content of the unconscious mind, were hereditary rather than cultural. It’s only natural that we should most identify with that which is most like us.

To those who follow Asatru, however, our links to our ancestors encompass and go beyond this. A part of our native belief tells us of certain components of the soul which are transmitted down the family line from generation to generation, hopefully growing in quality and strength as they pass from one clan member to the next. One such component is the fylgia, a sort of mobile magical force. Each individual has a fylgia – a “mannsfylgia” – but a group of people like a tribe or family could have one as well – a “kinsfylgia”.

Another element of the soul is the HaMINGJA. It Recieves the actions of the individual and combines them with the accumulated actions of the person’s forebearers to produce a resultant “fate” or “orlog” (meaning “primal Layers” and referring to the layers of deeds done by the ancestors of the individual). Thus, a person is directly connected to those who have gone before them in the line of descent because they inherit, or can inherit these are very special soul components.

These esoteric-sounding theories sound strange to our twentieth-century way of looking at things, but, unfamiliar or not, they are being confirmed by theories on the leading edge of our scientific knowledge. New ways of thinking about human memory indicate that we are influenced not only by our personal memories, but also by those belonging to our ancestors – all stored in some extra-material realm called “transform space”. Beyond this are studies which seem to show that genetically similar beings can interact with each other at a distance, as if their DNA molecules served as antenna responding to the same frequency, or, alternatively, as though their individual memories and deeds were poured into a common pool. This particular phenomenon – called the “hundredth monkey effect” – does not require direct lineal descent but nonetheless does deal with specific sets of genetically similar beings. Our religious conviction that there are special bonds between kin are magnificently confirmed by these theories.

Ancestry, then, is special. We are connected to our ancestors, and to all others descended from those ancestors, in a special way. Common sense, the metaphysics of Asatru, and modern science confirm this. These holy ties give us special duties in regard to our kin, and justify the loyalties we extend to them in preference to the rest of humankind. This way of looking at things is contrary to the dogma of this day. Nevertheless, we know in our hearts – as it was known to our forebearers in the distant past, and as our growing knowledge of nature confirms – ancestry is better than schemes which would deny these truths, and propose a formless, alienated, and unnatural universalism.

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