It is a crisp Saturday evening, and a group of Heathens have gathered in the park, preparing for blot and sumble. The altar is laid out beautifully, and folks are milling about waiting for things to get started. A newer person to the group named Denise looks a bit tense. She has been to a few meetups, but this is her first ritual with the group. She slowly makes her way over to Kel, the person organizing the ritual.
“Hey, Kel,” she says softly, feeling embarrassed, “Is there going to be a … you know… dry horn?”
Before Kel can answer, the loud booming voice of Josh is heard laughing. “Dry horn? We’re HEATHENS! A dry horn is an insult to the gods!”
As a new person and a new Heathen, Denise does not really know how to respond. Clearly these folks know more than she does. If drinking is required to be Heathen, then this might not be the religion for her, despite the deep calling she feels. She has been sober for 4 years, and the idea of going back to drinking terrifies her.
While the above isn’t a true story, it is an amalgamation of events I have witnessed and stories I haveheard from other Heathens who struggle with addiction. As Heathenry struggles with what it really means to be an inclusive religion, one thing that we all must consider that to be truly inclusive, we must respect and include the sober Heathen, because not only is addiction an issue many Heathens battle, it also intersects with other areas we often fail when it comes to inclusive action: mental health, the LBGTQIA+ community, and the BIPOC community.
This could become a novel if I dove into all the reasons why these communities are disproportionately affected by addiction, so instead I will just cite the National Institute on Drug Abuse Study that dives much deeper into this. The purpose here is to demonstrate that inclusive, queer affirming, anti-racist, and ability accommodating Heathenry must embrace Sober Heathenry. To do otherwise is to potentially contribute to what can already feel like a potentially hostile environment to many marginalized people.
What does this look like on a practical level? This means offering a dry horn, or even dry rituals. It means holding events somewhere other than bars and pubs on occasion. It means also fighting the latent toxic drinking culture that can creep up on anyone, and lead to incredibly embarrassing episodes at moots and festivals. It also means not asking questions, making jokes, or otherwise making a big deal about someone else’s choices to drink or not.
The Havamal talks a great deal about the dangers of drinking too much. I feel we can all heed this wisdom as we work together to help fully embrace all who come to worship the gods.