Interview: Dr. Karl E H Seigfried talks Ásatrú, Heathenry and beards

A few weeks back, we pushed out a post about the fact that Heathens serving in the U.S. Army are now allowed to sport a beard as part of their faith. In the story, I mentioned that a group that stands for heathens serving in the military stated that the growing of a beard wasn’t a tenet of Heathenry. Given that Ásatrú, Heathenry and Paganism have been used to describe a wide number of belief systems and religions, I wasn’t sure if making a basket statement like this was factually correct. Fortunately, I know someone who does.

Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried was the first Ásatrú to earn a graduate degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School. While at the university, he was President of Interfaith Dialogue and served on the Spiritual Life Council, the advisory board for the Spiritual Life Office. He holds degrees in literature and music from University of California at San Diego, University of Wisconsin at Madison, and University of Texas at Austin. He studied literature and art history at Loyola University Chicago, Rome Center, in Italy and took Icelandic language courses through University of Iceland's distance learning program.

Dr. Seigfried currently works at the Illinois Institute of Technology as an Adjunct Professor in Humanities and as a Pagan Chaplain. He’s Goði (priest) of Thor’s Oak Kindred—a Chicago-based organization, dedicated to the practice of the Ásatrú faith and a member of the Troth Clergy Program. Previously, Dr. Seigfried taught Norse mythology and religion at Loyola University Chicago, Carthage College, and the Newberry Library Seminars Program. Read the rest

Heathens serving in the American military can now sport beards as part of their faith.

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.

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