Folkish Heathenry, by contrast, finds beauty in the vast diversity of human cultures and indigenous faiths practiced around the world. We believe all peoples should be free to practice the faith of their ancestors, and wouldn't think of implying, even unconsciously, that someone should adopt the faith of our ancestors before they explored the faith of theirs, any more than we would co-opt the beliefs and practices of other peoples into our own religion.
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It should come as no surprise to my regular readers that I've gotten to really enjoy Lucius Svartwulf Helsen's blog, Son of Hel. He's both a Heathen and a practitioner of the Religio Romana (aka the Cultus Deorum), so we've got a lot of shared roots, even though my interest in Roman paganism these days is more academic than practical (especially given Nova Roma's complete implosion recently).
Roman Universalist Religion
So when he wrote A Cultor Deorum Looks at: Folkism vs Universalism the other day, naturally I was intrigued. In fact, I agreed with almost all of his points. I just came to a completely different conclusion:
The Cultus Deorum is both Folkish and Universalist.
I suspect jaws are no doubt hitting the ground. “How can this be, Lucius!” some people are no doubt asking. “Exclusionary and Inclusionary at the same time! Impossible!!”
The key words though are “Supremacy” and”Assimilation.” Worship whatever gods you please, but Rome’s Gods have supremacy if you wish them included. The Olympii are to be privileged above all other pantheons in the worship. Make your offerings to Odin, if you want, but remember that it is Jupiter who is King, and Olympus whose people have conquered. Praise the Morrigan if you so desire, but remember that on the field of battle, it was Bellona who was victorious and triumphant. You can be of any people by birth, but remember, you must be Roman if you wish the privileges and rights of Rome.
Folkism and Unversalism, living together in harmony.I agree completely with his characterization of the Religio Romana. Rome, by its nature, was universalist in that it not only allowed, but expected, its citizens and subjects to at least pay lip-service to the fact that the gods of Rome were supreme, because Rome itself was supreme. The one was evidence of the other, so why not?
|A Mithraeum. Mithras was a|
Persian deity imported into Rome
All that, of course, was in furtherance of its imperial power and ambition. The very notion of taking away a god or goddess from a conquered city, specifically inviting them to leave and come to Rome because Rome was stronger, is in and of itself evidence of an imperialistic mindset.
Now, Lucius is trying to forge his own Cultus Deorum Germanica, by his own admission, and more power to him.
Universalism in Heathenry
But in a strictly Heathen context, however, the problem becomes acute, specifically because historically the Germanic peoples did not act the same way that Rome did (and before it, Greece under Alexander, who spread Hellenism as Rome spread its own religious predilections, and largely for the same reasons). There's no evidence at all of the Germanic tribes -- Goths, Burgundians, Saxons, Franks, etc. etc. etc. -- spreading their tribal religions to others. To be sure, they conquered, and were conquered by, other lands and peoples. But the sort of "religious imperialism" evinced by Rome (first under paganism and later under Christianity) was alien to them, at least until they embraced Christianity. Before that, they had their tribal religion (min þeodisc gelefa, in Anglo-Saxon), and other tribes had theirs, and all was good, even if one tribe subjugated another.
Here's the kicker, though. In a modern Heathen context, when someone of a non-European ancestry decides they want to be Asatru, they're really responding to having been raised in a culture dominated by Europeans. They're implicitly saying that European culture, and native European religion, is somehow superior to their own! And that's something that Folkish Asatru has been pointing all along, if not in so many words. As Lucius said in another post on his blog:
After all, we all have our ancestral cultures. As a rule, these ancestral cultures are really, really awesome. So why would you not go with your own super awesome culture, why are you wanting in on mine? Do you feel there is something wrong with yours?
So…it’s actually kind of the opposite of racism. It’s not saying “A Black man can’t worship Odin.” It’s more often saying “You’re a black man, why aren’t you worshiping Baron Saturday, that dude is fucking rad, man!!!! He’ll probably speak to the things you lived way better than Thor ever could.”And that's exactly it. If there's one misconception about folkish Heathenry I'd like to correct, it's the idea that we say "you can't worship our Gods." It's exactly the opposite! We say, "Why would you possibly want to worship the Gods of our ancestors, when you can worship the Gods of your own ancestors?"
And Lucius, I think, has hit on the answer to that question, even if he didn't realize it.
"Europa über alles" - The Universalists' unwitting battle-cry
When a universalist Heathen says, "Come on and worship our Gods and Goddesses! Germanic culture is so great and wonderful, of course you should want to, no matter what your ancestry is!", when they're really saying is, "Yeah, I sortakinda know you've got an ancestral culture of your own, but mine's much cooler, and it can apply to you just as well as it does me, because of course everyone wants to do like my ancestors did!"
|"Let me 'splain why Asatru is just as good for you as it is for me"|
That is nothing less than an institutionalization of cultural imperialism by the universalist Heathens out there. After all, Europeans spent the last few centuries trying to convert the world to their adoptive faith, Christianity. The unspoken assumption is, if everyone thought that European religion was so much better than their own ancestral faith, then surely they'd find this older European religion to be better, too.
Or, to put it another way, when was the last time you heard a universalist Heathen tell someone of primarily African descent, "Hey, I hear the gods of Yoruba are really awesome. Have you thought to check that out first?"
Of course they would never say that. Because pointing out that other races and other tribes have their own cultures and ancestral faiths, and those faiths are totally just as cool and appropriate for them, would be... somehow racist?
Wouldn't it make sense for those who find value in multiculturalism to champion the efforts of non-Europeans to embrace their ancestral faiths, rather than "helpfully" guiding them into a European faith merely because it happens to be the only thing that is even remotely known to them? Because we Europeans did such a great job of obliterating their native traditions, and they might think that's the only route to something even remotely ancestral, and the universalists are only too happy to oblige.
I submit the best thing that someone who is truly liberal could do, when someone of non-European ancestry comes to them asking to participate in a native European faith, is to encourage them to rediscover their own ancestral faith. Overcome the Christian cultural imperialism that has gripped them for generations, and stripped them of their tribal identity, and infused them with the idea (undoubtedly purely subconscious) that "European is better".
Otherwise, my universalist friends, that is precisely the message you're sending.
At least we folkish Heathens have the honesty to say that all pre-Christian faiths and cultures should be embraced by those whose ancestors practiced them. By adopting this "Asatru for all" attitude, you are quite literally contributing to the cultural genocide of non-European cultures. Congratulations.