Delineation of Wights

Nushif has written a fantastic post (archive) about the “scale, domain, and level of importance” of wights. Excellent questions were raised. Here’s a quote from later in the post:

I think the idea of wights is something more heathens should tackle earlier in their study and internalize far earlier than some other concepts, such as the gift giving cycle.

First I think as heathens we must understand wyrd. We have a splendid post up already about this, to which I cannot add much.

Secondly we have to understand the world in an animistic sense, filled with wights of (sometimes) vague and unclear scale, domain and level of importance to us. That makes sense if we engage in the metaphor for wyrd that I’ve heard most often: a tapestry woven from threads. One thread, no matter how thick, thin, short, long, pliable or non-pliable can only make one intersection in the cloth of the tapestry at a time, as such our perception or rather our ability to act is limited to the intersections we can take. Simply put, we cannot do things we can’t do.

When I say this I mean the following. Taking the belief in wights and the history of the concept we absolutely must be animists. And we can’t discard wights not explicitly mentioned in the sagas or Eddas either. Remember that the heads on boats at times had to be removed when approaching land so as to not scare the wights. This doesn’t seem like the behavior of a people who limited the existence of wights to very specific and very certain places or things EXCLUSIVELY.

Krettir has an especially delightful response:



Theodicy—why a good god allows evil—is an astounding issue within Abrahamic religions. A god who is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient surely can’t allow evil in the world, yet evil exists. In fact, it seems to be pretty obvious where it comes from:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version)

That certainly doesn’t seem like omnibenevolence to me. And it only becomes worse when you start allowing for Satan doing evil deeds in the world, which undermines omnibenevolence, omnipotence, and omniscience simultaneously. This leads to a variety of attempts to explain away evil, such as Augustinian theodicy, which says that everything is the result of original sin and poorly used free will, or Irenaean theodicy, which states that evil is needed for human development. But why would we be punished for something thousands of years ago? And what development do we need from, for example, having a town die from bombing or a person torturing children?

Simply put, Heathendom does not have this issue in the slightest. Our gods are not omnibenevolent, omnipotent, or omniscient. They have flaws like we do. They are subject to Wyrd just as we are. There are limits to their knowledge, though those limits are far beyond ours. They can’t be everywhere at once, nor are they required to be. And it’s not as though they’re the only things out there.  Elves, wights, ancestors, and so much more hold sway over the world. It is in their multiplicity and differing goals that bad things may happen.

We don’t, however, require all actions to stem from the Ēse or the myriad other beings out there. Humans can do horrible things all on their own. To quote Hobbes, life can be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Of all things, we’re very adept at continuing such issues.

Ultimately, however, the concept of evil for Heathendom is only superficially similar to that of Christendom. Whereas Christendom views morality in very black and white terms, a Heathen views the concept with a far greater spectrum of options; there are many shades of grey in between. Things are relative. An invading nation may be evil to those being conquered, but the invaders may view this act as good, for they may have secured more farmland and other resources, thus allowing the nation to prosper. Another nation may view this as allowing for new trade opportunities, but also with wariness of an expanding power; it’s a mixed bag. Likewise, fire is a joy on a cold night and is good, but an arsonist may rob a family of its home and livelihood and thereby making the fire and the arsonist evil. A neighbour may be saddened for the loss and the damage that it does for the community, but with this he may find new work while the victim recovers and help his family.

Morality is not simple. It is a matter of how something impacts a family or a community. If it is helpful to the group, then it may be good. If it is harmful, then it may be evil. It is important to keep this in mind. Few things are very clearcut.