Sailors on U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis have adopted a pagan religion and begun to hold heathen ceremonies in the ship’s chapel, according to the Daily Mail.
According to Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Joshua Wood, who serves on board the ship, the regular pagan ceremonies see sailors praying to Njord, the Norse god of seafarers, in the regular “sumbel” or heathen ceremony.
A “sumbel” is an ancient ritual in which worshippers make toasts to gods, ancestors and personal heroes. In scenes straight out of Game of Thrones, a horn filled with an alcoholic drink is often passed around. The worshippers can use it to hail a particular god and then either drink from the horn, make an offering by pouring it away, or use the liquid to anoint their head.
In another part of the ceremony, worshippers will toast an ancestor or hero, and explain how they have been inspired by them. During the toasting, they will also make an “oath” either to do something or to mark a recent personal success.
The key texts that underpin the Heathen worshippers’ beliefs are the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda. These two 13th century texts are the main sources on Norse mythology.
Wood is the lay leader on board the USS John C. Stennis and explained how he first encountered the heathen religion. He told the Daily Mail that while he grew up in a Roman Catholic family, his world mythology lessons at high school first attracted his interest to alternative religions.
But it was as a serving sailor that he first began to take things more seriously.
“[My crewmates] helped me understand the religion, and with their help, I transitioned from someone who was merely interested in the religion to someone who is well-versed enough to lead others in prayer,” he explained.
“I went through them to get certified to lead services on the ship,” he continued before explaining that anyone could attend the ceremonies even if they were non-believers or just curious about what was going on.
Another sailor who is involved in the regular ceremonies is Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Joshua Shaikoski. Shaikoski, who was born in Norway himself, explained to the Daily Mail that, “I went to Lutheran services with my parents when I was growing up, but it always felt forced. 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.”
Shaikoski also disputed the claims of some people that their beliefs promoted either animal sacrifice or white supremacy.
“Not only is it the farthest from the truth, but it is hurtful because Heathenry is a religion of peace and community,” he insisted.