Friday, September 30, 2016

Those were the days


So this is going to be a rare post where I disagree with Lucius Svartwulf Helsen, who earlier today posted As It Was In The Old Days... over at his usually-excellent Son of Hel blog.

See, I consider myself on the reconstructionist end of the pool, and as such I really don't have a particular problem with "our ancestors did it, so I'm okay with it" as a general principle. I think the specific examples the unis give regarding their anti-Folkish position are rubbish, but that doesn't invalidate the general principle that, basically speaking, our ancestors spent tens of thousands of years honing their understanding of the Gods through a particular, if ever-changing, cultural lens, and they are therefore going to have a more accurate view of what those Gods are like, and what They happen to find pleasing.

Now, this approach necessitates a certain bifurcation when it comes to classifying beliefs and practices. On the one hand, we have those things that directly relate to the Gods, and can therefore be classified as "religious" according to our modern understanding of the term. On the other hand, we have those things that deal with those things that are purely interpersonal, and thus fall on the "secular" side of things, again according to modern understanding.

That does not, of course, change the reality that our ancestors didn't see such a division. To them, there was no difference between those things that were done for the Gods (or other spirits) and those things that were done between men. But on a practical level, in a world and a culture where laws are in place that do not recognize the primacy of "but my ancestors did it this way" as an argument, such a distinction is necessary.

So, when Helsen provides a list of things he finds... problematic... I find myself nodding in agreement with a lot of them. Of course, being a product myself of a 20th-21st century post-modern, post-Christian, mostly-secular, liberal democratic culture that is ever-more obsessed with individuality rather than clan/tribal identity, I am programmed to find some of them personally distasteful. But when it comes to things from his list such as:
  • killing each other over insults
  • fucking at the dinner table
  • human sacrifice
  • wholesale slaughter
  • animal sacrifice
  • polyamory
I really don't see the problem (although I'm going to ask where he got the fucking at the dinner table thing, because I don't remember reading that in any of the Icelandic Sagas).

But killing each other over insults? Honestly, we could do worse than returning to a state of affairs when we didn't rely on an impersonal justice system that was more interested in slavish obedience to written law, rather than a situational system that was self-enforced. Holmgang isn't the worst thing in the world. But that's a social, not a sacral, thing. I don't see it as a religious imperative.

Fucking at the dinner table? I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do it myself, and as mentioned above I don't think that was a particular thing that our ancestors did, but I'm also not too concerned with Victorian mores concerning sex. As a rule, sex is a good thing, and the sooner sexual taboos that have been held over since the late 19th century go away, the better. But again, that's social, not sacral.

Human sacrifice? Bring it on. We already execute criminals convicted of heinous crimes such as murder. If society deems they are to die, I see nothing wrong with doing it in a sacral manner that gives their death some meaning beyond mere vengeance. Bearing in mind that the objects of such sacrifice were state-defined offenders such as criminals and prisoners of war* (so it's not just plucking random people off the street and hanging them), of all the things on his list, this is the first that deals with the Gods themselves.

Wholesale slaughter? I invite Helsen to watch any documentary about World War II. It is quite justifiable, and hardly confined to "the good old days." So we return to the social.

But animal sacrifice in particular I object to being on such a list. I've written before about the practice, and its centrality (and modern relevance) to Heathen religious religion. I've personally been to a swine-blot, and to this day it remains one of the most intensely spiritual rituals in which I've ever participated. It also falls in the category of "things relating to the Gods" rather than things relating to men.

In this case in particular, short of Odin Himself appearing simultaneously to every Heathen on the planet and telling them to stop, I'm inclined to err on the side of history, and accept the idea that this was pleasing to the Gods for thousands of years, and there is absolutely no reason to think that has changed just because humanity in the West has moved away from a largely agricultural lifestyle where such things are common, to a place where most people don't care where the hamburger-wrapped-in-plastic came from.

The Gods are not beholden to mercurial changes in human mores.

And polyamory? I'd never do it myself, but if someone else wants to do it, in full knowledge of what they're getting into, I don't see why my own jealous nature should prevent other people from trying it. Everything above-board, known to and with the blessing of all involved, then my personal preferences shouldn't be enough to stop them. Once more, social, not sacral.

Now, Helsen has made the distinction between that which is legal, and that which is morally right, before, and I don't disagree. Indeed, I think it has a very distinct impact on my own division between how our ancestors interacted with one another, and how they interacted with the Gods. But even there, it must be remembered that morality, as such, is a human invention, and the Gods are not held to the same standard as men. Thus do I make the distinction between the sacral and the social.

Again, the Gods are not beholden to mercurial changes in human mores.

If we accept the premise that our ancestors knew more about what the Gods wanted, based on their thousands of years of constant interaction with Them, and thereby honing their knowledge of what the Gods did and did not find pleasing (through observation of omens, comparison of outcomes, direct intervention, etc.), it stands to reason that we should defer to them in how we approach the Gods. And if the Gods find it pleasing to receive offerings of animals, or having capital punishment carried out by the State done in a sacral manner, then I'm frankly okay with it, as long as it can be done in the proper fashion.

I'll weigh ten thousand years of religio-cultural evolution that says such things are right, against forty years of human cultural change that says some people don't like it, any day.

__________
* The key being that the objects of such sacrifices are those already condemned to death by the laws of the land. Why not give their life a religious meaning beyond simple vengeance, or deterrent, or a cold calculation that it's cheaper to kill a prisoner than imprison them for the rest of their life? If I was, for some reason, on Death Row, I would petition the court for such a death, to give my execution a deeper meaning that mere secularism can't provide. Again, this is not about grabbing random (or even deserving) people off the street, hanging them, and sticking them with a spear.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

But the gods did it!

One of the arguments some Norse Neopagans raise against the folkish point of view is based on their reading of Norse mythology. Specifically, they make the claim that because the myths show examples of the Aesir taking wives from outside the tribe of the Aesir (the Vanir and the Jotuns), that somehow means that they are peachy keen with people of all ancestries worshiping Them. Here are just a few examples of this argument in action:
Our ancestors were not racists and neither were our gods. Keeping in mind that the Aesir and Vanir were seperate [sic] races of gods themselves, and that the gods intermarried with yet another race that was supposed to be their rivals, the Jotuns, hardly supports a racist point of view. (Magnus Odinsson)
Our Gods interbred, intermarried, and lived in community and harmony with many other races of spirits. (Odinsbrew)
I think that the Holy Powers consist of many races of beings and levels of their power, influence and existence. To me, making it so black and white just does not make sense and does not seem right! Some Jotnar who are the personifications of elemental forces may be more influential and powerful than what we know as gods! In my opinion, we should not be specifying levels where the gods are at the top, the jotnar lower, and alfur [sic] lower and so on. They mix! Some even intermarry! (The Asatru Community)
Let's break down some of the problems with this line of argument.

First, it assumes that the actions of the gods as recorded in the Eddas and other myths regarding the gods are intended to be examples for human behavior. While I agree that certain elements of human culture are reflected in the myths (ritual practices, for example), the general principle that "if it's good enough for Odin, it's good enough for me" is simply not reflected in the lore.

Witness the fact that Odin is a male who practices seiðʀ, which was most definitely frowned upon in Norse society. If Odin's behavior was to be emulated, then his practice of such effeminate magic would have been fine in the larger society.

That's also the same sort of dynamic that makes Thor dressing in a wedding gown so humorous; it's not something any normal Norse warrior would do, and thence comes the humor. It's not like we see stories of Viking raids being conducted by shiploads of warriors wearing dresses and bridal veils, "because that's what Thor would want us to do."

Second, it conveniently omits the fact that the Jotuns and Aesir were related by blood, to the point where they were at best cousins. Both tribes of gods are descended from Ymir. Odin is descended from Ymir via his mother Bestla:
He is named Búri: he was fair of feature, great and mighty. He begat a son called Borr, who wedded the woman named Bestla, daughter of Bölthorn the giant; and they had three sons: one was Odin, the second Vili, the third Vé. 
So the Aesir, who trace their line through Odin, all have Jotun blood. They're cousins. They share a grandmother, who is of Jotun blood. Why some people would think that for cousins to marry is somehow evidence of different "races" (in the sense of Europeans and Africans) marrying is... odd. They're better thought of as tribes, or clans. Not "races" (and aren't they the ones who keep saying that race is a social construct, anyway? Maybe it's only real for the gods...).

As for the Vanir? Their ancestry isn't mentioned in the lore. They just sort of appear, and then disappear just as quickly (although I have a theory about where they went...). So it's impossible to use them (or the dvergar, or alfar, for that matter) on either side of the argument.

So I don't think too highly of the "but the gods did it!" argument, when it comes to criticisms of the folkish perspective. Not only does it assume that men are expected to follow the gods' example in all things, but also that the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotuns should be looked at as different "races" in the modern sense of the word. Both of which are absolutely incorrect assumptions.

Unless the Lokeans want to use that argument to justify their own bestiality with horses. Because I would love to see that argument being put forth. :-)

Monday, September 26, 2016

No, not an Outlier

More specifically, the AFA, and Heathenry in general, is not an "outlier" in the neopagan community, as John "expressing-an-opinion-I-don't-like-is-worse-than-mass-rape" Beckett recently asserted in his most recent article on Pathetic Pagan:

Now just to be clear, it has nothing to do with accepting and embracing LGBTQ persons. With the exception of a few outliers, the Pagan community settled that debate a long time ago. 
With a link to an article about the AFA's recent statement on traditional families.

Of course, this is nonsense; Asatru in general, and the AFA in particular, never was part of the "neopagan community" and never wanted to be. We're a different religion, period. Just because a couple of Locutus-wannabes are trying to pull in all sorts of other religions under their precious neopagan "umbrella" doesn't make it so, and neither does it suddenly give them leave to try to tell those religions how to run themselves.


Which, of course, is the whole point behind trying to assimilate those other religions in the first place:
  1. "You're not a different religion; you're really under our huge and wonderful umbrella"
  2. "You know, you can't believe X and still be under our umbrella"
  3. "The people who don't believe X are the real members of your religion, because they're the ones under our umbrella; you're just an outlier"
Not interested in being under
your umbrella, thanks
Yeah, no thanks. Your "neopagan community" is just an excuse to impose some set of arbitrary "community standards" on people that never wanted to be part of your "community" in the first place. And then you feel free to appropriate all the stuff from those religions that you fancy, as your tray passes them in the eclectic buffet you call faith, assuaging your conscience that it's not appropriation, because they're already part of your "community", so borrowing within the community is just fine and dandy.

Asatru (real Asatru, not Norse Neopaganism) is a religion unto itself. It's not an "outlier" to any neopagan community, never was, and you don't get to police what I believe just because you say I'm part of your community.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Finding Folkishness in all the Wrong Places

Recently the Standing Rock Sioux staged a successful protest to halt construction of a pipeline near their territory that they claimed was going to risk their sacred sites and land. It's actually a worthy cause, and I happen to think the Standing Rock Sioux are on the right side of this issue. So do a lot of Asatruar that I know. That's not the problem.

Of course, this is exactly the sort of cause célèbre that would attract the SJW types, too. And so it did, with posts and articles about what was going on all over social media, as well as some enterprising chap putting together a website called paganindigenoussolidarity.org, which basically endorses solidarity between neopagans and the Standing Rock Sioux protest against efforts to bulldoze their land for some pipeline. There's a link to some progressives-only (!) petition of support, and general expressions of support for the Standing Rock Sioux whose fight against the destruction of their sacred land has scandalously not been reported in the mainstream media.

The list of people and organizations standing shoulder to shoulder (metaphorically speaking, of course; actually going there would take a lot more effort than signing a petition or forwarding a link on Facebook) with the Standing Rock Sioux is quite interesting. In particular, there are some names you might find familiar. Godless and Radical posted about the issue. Twice. The Troth posted a link to the petition, too. So did The Wild HuntThe board of CUUPS formally declared their solidarity with them. And the individuals who are listed as having signed it (it's not an up-to-date list, alas; it doesn't seem to have been updated with new signatories in weeks) is like a Who's Who of the SJW scene, with G&R Commissar Rhyd Wildermouth, all-around ass Gus diZerega, and atheist John Halstead leading the pack.

But did you know that the Standing Rock Sioux are actually more folkish than the Asatru Folk Assembly? Yup, you read that correctly. The group that the Rhyd Wildermouth, that rock-ribbed paragon of anti-folkish sentiment, has endorsed solidarity with a group that is more folkish than the AFA. One has to look no further than the constitution of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe:

ARTICLE II - MEMBERSHIP
The membership of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe shall consist of 1.) all persons of Indian blood who were duly enrolled on the official roll of the Tribe on June 15,1957, and all persons of Indian blood who were duly enrolled subsequent to June 15, 1957, in accordance with the ordinances and procedures adopted by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council pursuant to Article IV. & 1"r" of this Constitution and 2.) all persons of one-fourth (1/4) or more degree of "Oceti Sakowin" Indian blood from a Federally Recognized Tribe born after June 15, 1957 and prior to or subsequent to the effective date of this amendment, to a parent or grandparent who is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, shall be added to the official roll of the Tribe upon proof demonstrating: a) the parent or grandparent's membership in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; b) the person for whom enrollment is sought is of one-fourth (1/4) or more degree of "Oceti Sakowin" blood from a Federally Recognized Tribe and born after June 15, 1957; upon the affirmative vote of two thirds of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council then in office; and 3.) any person who is rejected for membership shall have the right to appeal to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court from the decisions of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council, and the decision of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court shall be final. Provided further, that prior to the distribution of any tribal assets to the members of the Tribe, the membership roll shall be approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
Yes, you read that correctly. The head of Godless and Radical is endorsing solidarity with an organization that actually has a blood relationship requirement for membership written into its constitution. You literally have to prove your lineage in order to join. Even the AFA doesn't do that. They just said they like white babies. They didn't go so far as to prescribe a percentage! But that's what the Standing Rock Sioux did.

Which, as an Asatruar, I have absolutely no problem with if that's what they want to do. It's a pretty folkish position, certainly on the folkish spectrum, and Asatru is a folkish religion. So, good for them. That's not the problem, here.

But from a blog such as G&R, which prides itself on its universalist ideology, and recently made several strong anti-folkish statements and pronouncements (not to mention the other SJW groups and individuals who support them), it's a painful example of the hypocrisy of those on the left. They don't have a problem with a Sioux tribe requiring blood tests and genealogical proof for membership, but when it comes to an organization for people of European descent, then it's somehow bad. Hel, someone saying white babies are a good thing not too long ago got roasted by these self-same SJW's who stand in solidarity with a group that requires blood tests for membership, and doesn't see the contradiction.


What is that word, that means treating people of different races according to different rules? I'm sure it'll come to me. Oh yeah. Racism.

And lest one think that this doesn't apply to their religion, the Standing Rock Sioux are quite clear on that front, as well. One of their official publications, the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy makes it plain that Sioux spirituality is for the Sioux:


Preserve and advance the culture and traditions of the tribe while increasing participation in traditional activities. ... Everyone [of the tribe] who is able should learn the traditional dances and participate in PowWows.
But here's G&R, supporting them. A blog that hates folkishness in white people and calls it racism, but which embraces it among the Standing Rock Sioux and supports them.

That's the real racism. Having different standards for different races. White people have to play by one set of rules, and Sioux get to play by another set of rules. That is the very definition of racism, not to mention hypocrisy, and that is precisely what G&R and a huge number of other neopagan organizations and individuals that have signed up to support the Standing Rock Sioux are doing.

They have one set of rules for the Standing Rock Sioux, and another set of rules for the Asatru Folk Assembly, because the first is for red people, and the second is for white people.

And that's the real racism.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Vice likes Folkishness

There is a terrific article up on Vice, of all places, by one Yomi Adegoke, entitled 'Jesus Hasn't Saved Us': The Young Black Women Returning to Ancestral Religions, which describes a growing trend among young black women to embrace African Traditional Religions (ATRs). I think it's not only a great article (it is), but it's also a fascinating look into another aspect of folkish religion completely unrelated to Asatru.

The article describes a very real historical phenomenon; the outlawing of traditional African religious beliefs and practices, both among blacks brought to the Americas as slaves, and those in Africa under colonial administrations:
For hundreds of years, colonialism saw Africa—the planet's second largest and second most populous continent—robbed and ruled by a handful of European nations. The only countries considered not to have been colonized are Ethiopia and Liberia—and even they were briefly occupied by others. No African nation hasn't been shaped by the process in some way.
But it's important to realize that before the growth of political-economic colonialism, there was another, far more insidious form of colonialism at work in Africa; the religious colonialism borne of Christian missionaries and Muslim dawah. And they were, of course, far more injurious to African religion than any mere colonial power, but do not forget that Islam attacked traditional African religion in north Africa as thoroughly as Christianity did in southern Africa.

But the best part is the attitude of those throwing off the shackles of monotheism and embracing the faith of their forefathers:
"[Christianity is] a distraction," Benedicte Songye Kalombo says emphatically. She is the digital editor of New African Woman magazine; her religious practice fuses together traditional faiths hailing from Congo, where her family is from. Like the others, she is passionate about destigmatizing the religions she feels have enriched her so much. "We need to stop building churches and start building institutions—Jesus hasn't done it in over 400 years. He hasn't saved us."
I applaud this. Anyone who calls themselves folkish should applaud this. This is the instinctive hearkening back to an ancestral faith by someone with a blood tie to those roots. Indeed, the article is positively dripping with phrasing that would feel right at home here, or in an AFA article, with the slightest tweaking of "Africa" to "Europe" or "black" to "white":

...the practice of [black] ancestral worship...
...Comfa, a religion where contact with ancestors is commonplace...
...indigenous [African] spiritual practices...
...Traditional African religions...
...the black psyche...
...Indigenous [African] religions...
...African spirituality...
...African spiritual cultures...
...black identity...

This whole article (and the movement it describes) is about strengthening black racial identity through the re-adoption of African traditional religion. Can you imagine the outrage and outcry if some other article contained phrases like:

...the practice of [white] ancestral worship...
...Asatru, a religion where contact with ancestors is commonplace...
...indigenous [northern European] spiritual practices...
...Traditional European religions...
...the white psyche...
...Indigenous [northern European] religions...
...Northern European spirituality...
...Northern European spiritual cultures...
...white identity...

Think the first list is fine and the second list is wrong? Congratulations! You're a racist. You have different standards for different races.

And let us not forget that before black Africa was targeted by those religious colonialists, those missionaries for the god of Abraham, Europe was targeted by them as well. Nearly a millennium before the Kanem Empire converted to Islam, the Roman empire was subverted and ultimately conquered by Christianity. More than five hundred years before the Muslim call to prayer was heard throughout the Ouaddai Empire and the Kingdom of Kano, Christian churches were being built atop Heathen holy sites across England, Germany, and Scandinavia, the ancient groves and pillars were chopped down, and the stories and rituals honoring our gods systematically obliterated, until nothing was left but scraps scattered throughout a thousand sources.

And, it should be mentioned, that the Abrahamic religions aren't the only ones peddling a "universalist" view of religion. There's very little space between Christianity saying "our God is for everyone" and some Germanic neopagan saying "our gods are for everyone." Indeed, doing so is just contributing to the sort of cultural imperialism that the article decries, enticing people from the faith of their ancestors to the faith of someone else's white ancestors. How enlightened. It's whitesplaining on a spiritual level.

So I, for one, think it's a spiffy thing that people of African descent are getting in touch with their pre-monotheistic ancestral faiths. And just as I am very sure that they would resent white people trying to muscle in on their spiritual heritage, so too would I resent it. People of European descent have their own array of pre-monotheistic ancestral faiths, many of which fall under the Germanic religious-complex, today known as Asatru. I think this is a great thing, and want to see the trend of people throwing off the bonds of evangelical, colonial, monotheism, continue.