I was raised “Irish-Catholic” by my father, and essentially Norse-pagan by my mother. Every other weekend, my dad would pick me up for visitation and take me to church on Sunday. He even got me to go into CCD, basically a catholic indoctrination course for kids, and I remember graduating and getting my first communion… but all I was really excited about was the gifts I got from family for it. My father tried his best to put the entire weight of the Roman Catholic institution upon me to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior… and I, like any other child, was certainly moved by the Church’s high ceilings, the harmonies of the choir, and the imagery of the blood and thorns and Christ on the cross. What impressionable child wouldn’t be moved by such things?
Yet, all the while, my mother and grandmother would subtly drop hints about a different sort of world. Magic and omens were part of everyday conversation… carved figures of trolls sat scattered on shelves and cabinets… thunder was said to be the work of Thor, and so on. Without any force; no stubborn fights about going to church, no hours of lectures or guilt trips or scare stories like heaven or hell… without any effort whatsoever, they were able to subconsciously transmit a pagan world to me as a child.
On the surface, I was a Christian– even to myself– into as far as my early high school years… because the manipulation worked and I was afraid of going to hell (and even more afraid of upsetting my family). But I vividly remember even as a kid, the first time I learned about the vikings in full and got a lesson about their pagan traditions, I felt such a strange sadness. I couldn’t understand how it happened– such a proud and strong people with such ancient beliefs and values… all cast aside in a matter of just a few centuries and replaced with Christianity… becoming tame– no longer Vikings. Even as a Christianized child, I felt that Christianity’s erasure of my ancestor’s native pagan culture was a terrible loss which can never be fully known or understood.
How can this be explained if not by instinct? The rigorous training I was put through to make me a Christian– along with all of the guilt and social pressure Christianity leverages against lone dissidents– was all negated merely by my mom’s casual invocation of my ancestor’s pagan deities. If that isn’t instinct, then it’s magic.