Friday, January 2, 2015

The Homecoming Movement

This situation might sound familiar to you. Picture an Indo-European polytheistic religion, whose members over the centuries have been converted to Christianity (and Islam). Many if not most of those conversions were done not for genuinely spiritual reasons after years of reflection and study, but for the promise of free food or other giveaways, or out of fear of violence if they refused. Most of their previous cultural and religious identity was wiped away, and a new religious identity imposed, to the point where all memory of the fact of what they were in the past was forgotten.

The ghar wapsi ceremony
Now picture a group of empowered and organized folk who are fighting back against those conversions. They're even staging their own mass reconversions, and are pushing for legislation to outlaw what they term forced conversions.

And they're Hindus.

The movement is called ghar wapsi, and is naturally the subject of some controversy. What constitutes a "forced conversion" is a matter of some dispute, for instance. Holding a knife to someone's throat and demanding they recite the shahada is an easy one. But is it a "forced" conversion if it's done in order to get regular meals? Or access to education? The ghar wapsi advocates say yes:
"About 90-95 percent of Christians and Muslims in India were originally Hindus as their forefathers or they themselves were either forced or lured into conversion. Now we are only trying to reconnect them with their roots and the land. We want to rekindle their attachment with their land and bring them back" - Surrendra Jain, 2014
But the Christians and Muslims beg to differ. Go figure.

Destruction of the Irminsul
The parallels with Asatru are obvious. The various Germanic tribes and nations were converted in exactly the same way - they "were either forced or lured into conversion." Of course, that happened quite longer ago than the conversions the ghar wapsi Hindus are dealing with, but it remains no less true. Our ancestors were forced to abandon their tribal Gods and their Folkways under threat of death if they refused, or by the much more gentle persuasion of the threat of economic boycott.

It should also be marked that the notion of bringing the Folk back home to their native faith is one that's integral to the AFA's mission (specifically, Goal #4). This is something that leaves a bad taste in a lot of Asatruars' mouths; understandably given their experiences with Christianity in the past. But this sort of "homecoming" (ON heimkoma), bringing the Folk back home to their ancestral ways and Gods, is not just a good thing for Asatru or the AFA. It's good for the people who make their way back home.

It's not about conversion. Conversion is going out and roping people into a religion that's alien to them and their ancestral ways. That's what the "universalist" religions do, like Christianity, Islam, and Scientology. They think one faith fits all. But a religion like Asatru, that contends that ancestry is relevant to faith, has no need of conversion. It is not insecure enough to need to go out and convince new tribes that it's right. It is concerned with its own Folk, whose ancestors cleaved to the Gods and Goddesses of the North, and assumes that other Folk can get by well enough with their own faith.

I say it's time for an Asatru Homecoming movement. Let's start getting serious about bringing the Folk back home.

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