Sailors Hold Heathen Religious Services Aboard Deployed Aircraft Carrier

Lifestyle

Editor's Note: This article by Hope Hodge Seck originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

If you're deployed aboard the carrier John C. Stennis and consider yourself a practitioner of Norse paganism, you're in luck. The carrier, now operating in the Persian Gulf, is holding lay services in the ship's chapel to serve a "small, committed" group of sailors identifying as Heathens, according to a recent news release from the carrier.


The development is the latest in a series of boosts for Heathenism in the U.S. military, a little-known religion with roots in Viking mythology that has gradually gained recognition in the services. A 2013 non-scientific "census" poll by the Norse Mythology Blog identified nearly 8,000 Heathen respondents in the U.S. and more than 16,000 worldwide. A 2018 estimate from religious author Jefferson Calico suggested there may be up to 20,000 American Heathens.

According to the Stennis release, Aviation Electrician's Mate 2nd Class Joshua Wood, a practitioner of Heathenry for more than five years, was appointed Heathen lay leader for the carrier. This distinction allows him to facilitate sumbels, or informal Heathen religious services, within the ship's chapel.

Religious lay leaders must be appointed by commanding officers "on the basis of volunteerism, high moral character, motivation, religious interest and a letter of certification by the appointee's religious organization," according to the release, which cites the Military Personnel Manual.

While the release did not state how many sailors are regularly joining Wood for services, it includes quotes from one other Navy practitioner, Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Joshua Shaikoski.

Shaikoski was born in Norway, where Heathenism originated, but grew up Lutheran, he said.

"I never felt like I connected with anything spiritual until I visited Norway and discovered a group of Heathens who opened my eyes to their religion," he said in a statement. "When I returned to [the United States], I met a kindred that aligned with my beliefs, and I've been with them ever since."

Deployed at sea since October, Heathens aboard the Stennis pray to Njord, the god of seafarers, one of many deities recognized by the religion, Shaikoski said. He added that rumors of practices such as animal sacrifice are not credible.

"Heathenry helped me connect with people on the ship that I would have just passed by," he said.

While Christianity remains the most common religious affiliation for service members, the military has taken steps to become more pluralistic in recent years. In 2017, the Pentagon more than doubled its list of recognized religionsto 221, compiling faiths already recognized by various service branches into a master list.

Heathenry, in particular, has seen a number of advances in the military. In 2013, Arlington National Cemetery approved the Hammer of Thor, or Mjölnir, as an accepted religious symbol to adorn military headstones. Mjölnir is a popular religious symbol for Heathens.

In 2018, a soldier was granted a grooming standards waiver in order to wear a beard to symbolize his Norse Pagan faith.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com:

WATCH NEXT:



On Nov, 10, 2004, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia knew that he stood a good chance of dying as he tried to save his squad.

Bellavia survived the intense enemy fire and went on to single-handedly kill five insurgents as he cleared a three-story house in Fallujah during the iconic battle for the city. For his bravery that day, President Trump will present Bellavia with the Medal of Honor on Tuesday, making him the first living Iraq war veteran to receive the award.

In an interview with Task & Purpose, Bellavia recalled that the house where he fought insurgents was dark and filled with putrid water that flowed from broken pipes. The battle itself was an assault on his senses: The stench from the water, the darkness inside the home, and the sounds of footsteps that seemed to envelope him.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Army/Pvt. Stephen Peters)

With the Imperial Japanese Army hot on his heels, Oscar Leonard says he barely slipped away from getting caught in the grueling Bataan Death March in 1942 by jumping into a choppy bay in the dark of the night, clinging to a log and paddling to the Allied-fortified island of Corregidor.

After many weeks of fighting there and at Mindanao, he was finally captured by the Japanese and spent the next several years languishing under brutal conditions in Filipino and Japanese World War II POW camps.

Now, having just turned 100 years old, the Antioch resident has been recognized for his 42-month ordeal as a prisoner of war, thanks to the efforts of his friends at the Brentwood VFW Post #10789 and Congressman Jerry McNerney.

McNerney, Brentwood VFW Commander Steve Todd and Junior Vice Commander John Bradley helped obtain a POW award after doing research and requesting records to surprise Leonard during a birthday party last month.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Andrew Ochoa)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Hundreds of Marines will join their British counterparts at a massive urban training center this summer that will test the leathernecks' ability to fight a tech-savvy enemy in a crowded city filled with innocent civilians.

The North Carolina-based Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, will test drones, robots and other high-tech equipment at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center near Butlerville, Indiana, in August.

They'll spend weeks weaving through underground tunnels and simulating fires in a mock packed downtown city center. They'll also face off against their peers, who will be equipped with off-the-shelf drones and other gadgets the enemy is now easily able to bring to the fight.

It's the start of a four-year effort, known as Project Metropolis, that leaders say will transform the way Marines train for urban battles. The effort is being led by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, based in Quantico, Virginia. It comes after service leaders identified a troubling problem following nearly two decades of war in the Middle East: adversaries have been studying their tactics and weaknesses, and now they know how to exploit them.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Carlos Barria)

WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) - President Donald Trump imposed new U.S. sanctions onIran on Monday following Tehran's downing of an unmanned American drone and said the measures would target Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Trump told reporters he was signing an executive order for the sanctions amid tensions between the United States and Iran that have grown since May, when Washington ordered all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil.

Trump also said the sanctions would have been imposed regardless of the incident over the drone. He said the supreme leaders was ultimately responsible for what Trump called "the hostile conduct of the regime."

"Sanctions imposed through the executive order ... will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support," Trump said.

Read More Show Less