Soldiers that consider themselves part of the many religious traditions that make up what we call modern Heathenry have had the option since 2013 to have their military tombstone marked with a Hammer of Thor, instead of the traditional Christian crosses and Stars of David that most often adorn the stone markers. It seems only fitting then, that a soldier who still draws breath should also be able to mark his faith while serving his country. This seems to be the logic that the U.S. Army used when it created a new exception to the Army's uniform and grooming standards.
According to The Army Times, the U.S. Army authorized Sikh soldiers to wear beards – beards are an important tenet of the Sikh faith. As it turns out, the change in military grooming standards now applies to soldiers of all religions: if maintaining facial hair is apart of your God-thing, then you've got a right to rock a beard. That said, in order to do so, you'll have to ask permission to do so.
The latest accommodation granted for a religious group is for those who consider themselves to be heathens – adherents to any number of pagan faiths.
There is, however, some contention over whether or not the wearing of a beard is an important tenet of Heathenry. From The Army Times:
According to the Open Halls Project, an advocacy group for heathens serving in the military, the beard is a beloved tradition, but not a requirement.
"There is no religious requirement for beards in Heathenry," according to a 2017 post about beards. "Sikhs are allowed to wear beards and turbans because it actually is a religious requirement of their faith that they do so. Kesh, or "uncut hair," is one of the five religious requirements of baptized Sikhs. We, as Heathens, have no such religious requirement with regards to hair."
I'm not sure how I feel about this blanket response to whether or not beards have a place in Heathenry. The word heathen is used, as a blanket statement, to describe a wide number of faith practices. To say, definitively, that a particular tenet isn't in the mix, feels… wrong. Granted, I'm not an expert on the subject. But I have a friend who is. I'll have a chat with him this week and share what I learn.
Also, if I don't see at least one grooming standard or moose-stash meme in the comments on this post, I'll be deeply disappointed.
Image via Wikipedia Commons