Update: Since writing this post I have been informed that the author, Mark Ludwig Stinson is affiliated with Asatru Folk Assemply, a known racist and misogynistic and homophobic organization. He also was arrested for stealing from his elderly mother. He responds to the arrest situation on his blog.
I share this update so that you can make an educated choice on whether or not to read his work.
I have removed my affiliate links and links to his work for these reasons but resolved to keep this review posted. If you have any recommended resources for Heathen families/parents/kids, please comment below.
I have been long wishing for a book or series of books for Heathen children. What I was hoping for was something that drew from the Havamal that taught children Heathen virtues. Then, while scrolling Pinterest, I saw a picture of Heathen Families by Mark Ludwig Stinson. While this Heathen Families Review will cover the book, its also a love letter to Frigga and my Ancestors for dropping it in my lap when I needed it.
Heathenry is very family oriented, and encourages us to live responsible lives of honor. Nothing is more important than our families and the children that we bring into this world. Written by Mark Ludwig Stinson, the modern heathen fables included in “Heathen Families” are just one part of a larger puzzle of finding better ways of sharing our way-of-life with our children. This book also brings together all of the essays written to-date by Mark Stinson on the topic of Heathen children and families. Love your children, give gifts to your Gods, honor your ancestors, and respect the Vaettir of the land. Hail our Folk!
Author Mark Stinson is the Cheiftan of Jotun’s Bane Kindred. He lives with his wife and three kids in Kansas City, Missouri. He runs Kansas City Heathen Blog along with writing many other Heathen-focused books. To contact Mark, email him at email@example.com.
The beginning of the book is made up of nine fables inspired by the Havamal. Each fable focuses on the actions of talking animals that learn their life lesson. I was very excited to read these to my son as this is something that has been on my wish list.
So many fables and books that teach virtues for young children are Christian inspired or Bible-focused. While I think most parents of any faith (or lack thereof) can agree that children should learn virtues like honesty, kindness, and gratitude, I admit that I resent being heavily limited to monotheist authors. Before finding Heathen Families, I was almost resigned to writing my own instead.
Fables are a fantastic way to instill life lessons and virtues in children. As we raise our young ones, its indebted to us to make sure we raise good people. Good might vary a little in definition from religion and culture and that is something we see in regional/religious stories. For instance, a Christian fable might focus on forgive-and-forget and evangelizing. These are not “virtues” I necessarily want to focus on as I raise my child in my Heathen faith. So finding Heathen Fables is a blessing.
My son’s favorite is Four Mice Attend the Feast. My favorite is The Beaver, the Frog, and the Ringed Snake. I wish the fables were illustrated. For now they are simply marked with animal photographs. Despite that, they’re very clever and we will enjoy reading them again and again. In fact, I intend to use these nine Heathen fables in my homeschooling.
Essays on Heathen Families
Following the nine fables is two sections of essays. The first is Heathen Children and the second is Heathen Families. In both of these, Stinson is unapologetically blunt about his beliefs and advice. I’m a fan of this even when I don’t entirely agree with him.
I love that Mark spoke against circumcision. In fact, when I saw this essay I texted Damon (my husband) immediately. He too was very happy to see another Heathen speaking out against non-consensual body modification in our children. I hope that as more Heathen and Pagan families have children that they too will decide against it and speak out against this abuse. For more information about the dangers of circumcision in babies, please check out Intact America.
Some of Mark’s comments and essays I’m sure will be controversial to many modern Heathens. We live in a secular society with a lot of focus on the Self instead of Family. Media, modern education, and more will tell you that to sacrifice for your family is unnecessary and bad for you. Sure, there are limits to what anyone can and should do for others. Mark points out that getting too far away from putting family first is causing more problems. He suggests that doing so is the root of many of the problems in today’s youth – from drugs to school shootings.
Mark includes essays on who a Heathen should marry and retaining marriage oaths. I know from experience how defensive so many can get when the topic of marriage, who someone should marry/start a family with, and divorce comes up.
Damon and I, in our capacity as witches and diviners, in the past have counseled MANY Pagans, Witches, and Polytheists regarding their relationships. In our experience, when a two people with conflicting religious beliefs marry it does not go well. I’ve seen nearly every witch/Pagan/Polytheist woman I’ve ever met that has married a Monotheist man forced to put her beliefs and practices in the broom closet or stop practicing entirely. It is a form of abuse that breaks my heart.
So when Mark advises Heathens, I am grateful for his words:
There are some serious issues to consider when you begin dating non-Heathens, that should ultimately have a huge impact on whether the marriage with the non-Heathen is right for you.
He also advises against divorce except in matters of addiction and abuse. As a married woman who has worked through MANY issues with my spouse and seen friends end marriages within a year over petty matters – I agree. I think that turning to divorce on small matters rather than working things out dishonors yourself, your word, and your oath. Its a stain on your descendants if you have any. If divorce must happen, I strongly encourage that it does before children are had and this why I often advise friends to be married a good while before having children.
Remember that Marriage is an Oath. Oaths are held sacred in Heathenry. In the end, all we have in this life is our reputation – reputation is built on our words and actions. Breaking an oath is a dismantling of our words and actions.
Where I Disagree
I will say that beyond that is the one major point where I disagree with Mark. In his essay, The Families We Build,The Oaths We Make, Mark speaks against polyamory. Its a short essay and there are aspects I agree with. Heathens should not focus their families and kindred/hall/clan/etc on being reactionary against Monotheism. Too much focus on making us “other-than” will not help us build and strengthen ourselves and our communities.
His essay relies strongly on the concept of oaths between a husband and wife, however, not everyone makes oaths of monogamy. Its a very – Not My Hall, Not My Call – situation. I have met families where the parents are polyamorous and the children are not only well-adjusted by love having multiple parents to turn to. I’ve met children of monogamous families that are not well-adjusted and have suffered from their parent’s marriage. In the end, polyamory not something I would counsel against.
What I Love
Mark’s essay A Conversation with Frigga is excellent. I love that encourages Heathen men (and I would urge any Heathen that is married or wants to be married no matter gender) honor Frigga. I might be biased as a devotee of the All-Mother.
My Heathen Families Review
I love this book. I think every heathen that wants to have a family one day or already is blessed with a family should read it. I also recommend it to any Heathen that is part of a community that has families, especially group leaders and Chieftains. I think that even if you don’t 100% agree with what Mark says here, it will prompt some deep thoughts and conversations that need to be had among Heathen families and kindred.