Crafting the web: Canadian Heathens and their quest for a ‘virtuous’ self
Harmsworth, Joshua James
Focusing primarily on a number of small Heathen communities known as ‘kindreds’ and their ‘kith’ near Ottawa, Toronto and Montréal in Canada, this thesis approaches Heathenry as a potential means of ‘everyday’ self- and world-making. It examines the ways in which the ‘virtuous’ words and deeds of my interlocutors helped them to actively effect certain formations of self and world, and attempts to capture the significance of Heathenry as a practical process of formative interpersonal engagement and self-fashioning. Paying special attention to the ‘playful’ character of this process, it explores Heathenry as an aesthetic and ethical project of self-making – a project that produces and underpins particular kinds of ‘excellence’ and ‘authentic’ subjects. Emphasizing the creative poiesis entailed in this project, my thesis explores the ways in which Heathenry enables people to locate and orient themselves within a shared field of potentiality as subjects and agents questing for a ‘virtuous self’. I argue that both the end and means of this quest entails a reorientation in people’s aesthetic sensibility and personal ethical quality. The thesis concludes by illustrating how this highly personalized yet shared process of self formation facilitates people’s continuing journey to become increasingly ‘worthy’ Heathen subjects; that is, selves realized through their own virtuous acts of narrative objectification and those of others. As skillful and skillfully fashioned subjects, I suggest that my informants became able to experience their own potential virtuous development as a development of the ‘cosmos’ itself – a development, that is, of the very realms their quests embodied and manifested, and throughout which their virtuous selves came to be projected.