Do they feel compelled to stick their unwanted noses into the big points of division of other religions, like the question of Apostolic succession, or infant baptism, or modern reinterpretations of halakha, or whether Mohammed named Ali as his successor? Nope. And yet they continually feel they have some sort of authority to tell Heathens how, and more importantly with whom, we should and should not worship.
The latest example of this unwanted advice comes from none other than our old friend John expressing-an-opinion-I-don't-like-is-worse-than-mass-rape Beckett, who was also the subject of my recent post on double standards.
Now let's take a look at his unsolicited opinions about how other people should practice their religion. Let the fisking begin.
As with the steering real estate agents, there are some folkish people who mean well, who only want to help others find the tradition that’s best for them. Others are flat-out racists. Maybe they don’t hate people of different races, but they don’t want them in their religion. And as you might imagine, folkish groups that are all or almost all white are very attractive to those who do hate people of different races.So right off the bat, Beckett starts with a factual error. The dictionary definition of racism is:
nounSo when he says "flat-out racists... don't hate people of different races, but they don't want them in their religion" that's completely the opposite of the actual definition of racism. Like so many on the political Left, he seems to have his own definition of certain words. But that's not how it works; words mean things. Saying that people of European descent should practice indigenous European religions, and people of sub-Saharan African descent should practice indigenous African religions, and Amerindians should practice Amerindian religion, and so on and so on and so on isn't at all a declaration of "superiority". In fact, it's exactly the opposite; it's saying that all indigenous faiths have equal validity, for the people whence they come.
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.
native European religions are inherently superior to other indigenous faiths. That's about the only way you can look at his statement, and the definition of racism, and come out with anything that remotely makes sense.
But let's be generous and just assume Beckett's just being an idiot, rather than a racist himself. Because I don't like racists, and I certainly wouldn't want to use that label unless I had iron-clad proof, not based just my own prejudices. Unlike some other people. Ahem.
DNA doesn’t matter. Those who say “the only race is the human race” ignore significant differences in the lives and living conditions of people of different colors and cultures. But biologically they’re correct – race is a social construct. With the exception of a very few small, isolated groups, knowing someone’s ethnic origin tells you nothing about their blood type. Trace your ancestry back far enough and we’re all Africans.
There is simply no physical evidence or logical argument sufficient to draw a connection between DNA and religion. None.
|Wait - bone structures are social constructs?|
As for the "we're all Africans" canard, if you go back far enough we're all Ardipithecus kadabba. But it is precisely as relevant; that is, not at all*. When modern humans left Africa around 100,000 years ago, they quickly isolated into different populations, which evolution forged into different racial groups over tens of thousands of years. Is relying on the proto-speciation that took place between the relatively isolated populations of homo sapiens over the last hundred thousand years arbitrary? I don't think so - it is the convention formed over the last three hundred years or more, and does a very good job of explaining a whole lot of differences between people belonging to different racial groups (remembering always that such things deal with averages, and there will always be outliers in any population).
|Race doesn't influence behavior?|
As for the straw-man of a connection between DNA and religion, no one on the folkish side has ever said that there was, to my knowledge, except perhaps in the most poetical sense (the reference to DNA in Stephen McNallen's essay on Metagenetics, from 30 years ago, is talking about reincarnation, not the details of religion specifically**). The connection we feel is based on ancestry and kinship, which is based on the Germanic concept of the soul, part of which endures in the family line through one's descendants. It's a mystical connection based on the construct of the soul, and nobody says the mechanism of transmission is literally molecules and chemicals. Unless Beckett is moving over to the Halstead camp and declaring that he is an atheist materialist? That would make his statement make sense. Nothing else about it does.
So much for science. Now we start getting into how he thinks we're doing our religion wrong with more subjective material. Here's how we're doing it wrong, according to Beckett.
Ancestry matters, some. One of the major elements of modern polytheism – and many other religions – is the worship or veneration of ancestors. It is good and right to honor our ancestors.
The folkish are correct when they say you should honor your grandparents and not someone else’s. But if we are worshiping together and we’re not close family, odds are good we’re all honoring separate grandparents. Go back enough generations, though, and we start to have many-great grandparents in common. Go back 100,000 years or so and we’re all the children of Mitochondrial Eve.I covered this above. Go back further than that, and we're all the children of dinosaurs. It's an irrelevant distraction. Physically and behaviorally, modern distinctions of race can reasonably predict membership within populations, although the Left is loathe to admit it. That doesn't make it any less true.
But as far as honoring grandparents (etc.) goes, Beckett is actually correct. We each honor our own ancestors. I raise a horn to my grandmother in sumbel, someone else raises a horn to his father, etc.
But what brings us together is our worship and honoring of the Aesir, who our written lore tells us were our ultimate ancestors. Odin, Freyr, Heimdallr; they are not only the gods of our ancestors, they are the gods who are our ancestors.
But more important is the arrogance of Beckett's first statement in this section. Ancestry doesn't matter some to me. Ancestry matters a whole lot. To all of us who call ourselves folkish. And frankly, Beckett doesn't get to tell us what does or does not, or should or should not, matter to me in my religion. We have the right to make that decision for ourselves as a faith, just as the Amerindians do, and the Japanese, and the Africans, and everyone else. Equally.
In practice, the folkish demand common ancestry within a certain time range and ignore different ancestry both before and after. At what point do you draw the lines? And who gets to draw them? These lines are completely arbitrary. If it’s OK to honor different ancestors three generations back, why not ten? Or thirty? Or fifty? On the other hand, if we need common ancestry why do our more distant ancestors not qualify?It would be arbitrary if every folkish group got together and established some sort of quota. But as I've written before, folkishness is a spectrum. Everyone, and every group, determines their own comfort zone (dare I say safe zone?) for where they draw the line. As they should. Everyone has the right to associate with whomever they want, especially when it comes to religion.
Just because Beckett (and others) choose to follow a religion that doesn't place an emphasis on ancestry does not give them a license to tell us that those of us whose religion does, are wrong. Any more than someone whose religion places an emphasis on the revelations of a particular prophet gives them a license to tell others that they're "doing it wrong".
Some Amerindian tribes require genetic tests to prove membership in the tribe. I don't know of a single folkish Asatru group that goes that far. But nobody calls the Ameridians racist. Having a percentage of DNA proves tribal membership and ability to participate in tribal religious rituals (wait - I thought that wasn't possible, since there wasn't any connection between DNA and spirituality - this is getting confusing) is arbitrary. Saying "we want to worship with people who we can be reasonably certain share our ancestry with Odin, Freyr, and Heimdallr" is simply defining.
SJW's love racial quotas, because that way they can monitor and "prove" just how much "justice" they're getting. So I'm not sure why Beckett would be against the idea. But whatever. Nothing else he's said so far has been particularly coherent, so I don't see why this should be any different.
The religion side is just as arbitrary. For anyone of mostly European descent (and that includes the vast majority of the folkish), our ancestors for the past thousand years or more have been Christians. If you want to follow the religion of your ancestors, why aren’t you going to Mass every Sunday? I’ve come across a few former Protestants who did a bit of genealogical research and decided to become Catholics, because that’s what their ancestors were.Setting aside the asinine idea that honoring one's ancestors would somehow require one to become a Christian, the idea that Beckett is panning arbitrary boundaries in religion is particularly rich. Beckett is a member of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. And what does OBOD do? It bases its spiritual path on those ancient "whose influence can be traced from the western shores of Ireland to the west of France – and perhaps beyond. Caesar wrote that the Druids originated in Britain."
Sounds pretty arbitrary to me. Basing one's spiritual practice on a particular group of people in a particular point in time? Damn. Almost sounds... folkish. It's certainly arbitrary. Almost like Beckett is used to employing a double standard. Nahhh....
Ancestry does matter some. I’m not a Druid solely because I love Nature. Many of my ancestors came from the British Isles – I want to explore their beliefs and practices, not the beliefs and practices of the Middle Eastern religion that conquered them. That piece of my heritage calls to me, even though it represents less than 1000 of the 70,000 years since my ancestors left Africa. But it is “my” heritage in the sense that I belong to it, not in the sense that it belongs to me.Let me turn that last bit around. Does African heritage belong to people of African descent? Does Japanese heritage belong to people of Japanese descent? Does Amerindian heritage belong to people of Amerindian descent?
When he says that my heritage does not belong to me, I tend to agree with Beckett. I'm not the final arbiter of what is or is not included therein. But my European heritage damn well doesn't belong to anyone else, either.
And if that heritage calls to someone who looks very different from me, who am I to question it?It's always appearance with these guys. It's always skin color. Or how someone "looks". Ancestry. Heritage. Blood. Quotas. That's what matters. The constant refrain of bringing up hypothetical "corner cases" ("what about someone who is 9/10th's African, but 1/10th European????? HUH?? WHAT ABOUT HIM?????") is just a distraction. Folkishness is a spectrum, as I've said before, and every person, and every group, needs to decide for themselves how any given individual fits into that spectrum. We treat people like individuals, not convenient groups that people can be put into like marbles into slots.
|Sorry, did I use this one already? Still applies.|
I'm going to skip his whole section on the connection with the land, except to make one comment to his statement:
For an American folkish group to attempt to exclude or steer someone on basis of a connection to the land borders on the absurd.Yes, it would be. That's why nobody ever does it. I myself have written about how I honor the local goddess of the Musconetcong river, who was known to the Lenape Indians who lived here before I did. I honor her according to the traditions of my ancestors, and have never seen any indication of discontent. But way to knock down that straw man, Beckett! Such grace, and style, and finesse. You're quite a manly man.
Culture matters, a lot. For almost 500 years, Protestants have told us that religion is all about what you believe. For most people in most of the world throughout most of history, religion is all about who you are, what you are, and whose you are.Yes. Agreed. Where is this going?
Religion isn’t about affirming a set of supernatural propositions. It’s shared stories and experiences. It’s shared clothes and music and foods – the ones you eat, and the ones you’re forbidden to eat. It’s common values and ways of expressing them. It’s common ways of understanding the Gods and interacting with the Gods.
|Dude, seriously. If you're going to|
contradict yourself in the same
frigging paragraph, you might want
to give up posting for a while.
Where does religion end and culture begin? I don’t know, and I don’t know if that’s a very useful question. Religion and culture are two different circles, but they overlap a lot. And they’re both passed down by instruction and experience, not by blood.How do you know? Beckett makes a very definitive, declarative statement completely without any supporting evidence whatsoever. "Not by blood". Why not? He says this like he has definitive personal experience to back it up. But no. He doesn't. He just has his own personal left-wing political opinions, that tell him that race, or ethnicity, or heritage, or blood is "just a social construct". And on that rock he builds his church.
|Wait, again? Yup. He keeps on doing it.|
It does not happen to be true according to the only people who actually get a vote. The ones who are actually practicing the religion.
This is why you can’t simply walk up to a Cherokee gathering and say “I’d like to join” the way you can at a Baptist gathering or even a Druid gathering. If you didn’t grow up in Cherokee culture, you can’t understand Cherokee religion. Unless, of course, the tribe adopts you and teaches you their culture, which they’re under no obligation to do.And here Beckett undermines his whole argument. Completely. With the single word:
The Cherokee aren't going to initiate just anyone into their sacred faith. Nor should they be expected or compelled to. In fact, I completely support the rights of Amerindians to fight to preserve their sacred religions against the deprivations of New Agers, Christians missionaries, and eclectic neopagans.
But if a tribe chooses to bring someone into their midst through a formal rite of adoption, then what they are doing is forming a bond that is, in essence, taking the place of a blood relationship. The Germanic tribes worked somewhat the same way, with the added complication of the institution of fosterage, and of course marriage works in there as well.
But the central point is that it becomes the conscious choice of the adopting tribe. Nobody can just come in, say "I want to practice your religion - adopt me!" and expect to get their whim granted.
Why should it work any differently for people of European descent? Why is our bar necessarily so low as to be "I saw 'Vikings' on History Channel" or "I bought a copy of Ralph Blum's 'A Book of Runes'"? Don't we get to pick and choose who we bring into our sacred tribes, the same as anyone else? Of course we do, and nobody gets to criticize our criteria for who we choose to bring in.
You show me a folkish Asatruar whose adopted kid was told he can't participate in a blot to Thor, and we'll talk. Until then, shaddup. We get the same rights as any other people to choose who we let into our fold. Adoption doesn't change that one whit; it's still done by a conscious choice, just as if one chose to marry someone. Choice. Freedom of association. We're entitled. It's not our problem Beckett doesn't like where we draw the line, and it's not for him to tell us we're "wrong".
Most of the folkish are attempting to re-create a culture that’s been gone for several hundred years. That’s a worthy goal – many polytheists are doing the same thing. But they’re doing so from a foundation of our common American culture.
[Based on Facebook comments from two knowledgeable people, I think the last sentence is unclear. I did not mean that contemporary polytheism is based on American consumerism – that we’re using that as a foundation. I meant that American culture is where Americans are. This is where we begin – you, me, and everybody else. This is what we bring to the table. And most relevantly to this post, this is the culture we all have in common, no matter what our race or ethnicity.]
Those who would exclude or steer away African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, or Chinese-Americans are ignoring the second half of the hyphenation. If you grew up in this country, you’ve observed Tyr’s Day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s Day, and Frigga’s Day. You may have driven a Saturn or a Mercury. If you haven’t danced the Maypole, you’ve certainly seen one. Your government buildings look like Greek temples, and you know Hercules as Steve Reeves, Kevin Sorbo, or a Disney musical.Yes, that is exactly, precisely what we're doing. Because American culture (and much of the culture in the West in general, I should add) as it exists today is not at all like the Germanic culture that we are attempting to recreate. The American mindset, with its mindless consumerism, its complete disregard for tradition and history, its multiculturalism, and its recent willingness to put economic collectivism and political totalitarianism above individualism and civil liberties, is not the culture we want to regain.
Congratulation, Americans of European descent – your culture dominates North America. That means it’s the common culture of all North Americans. That means it belongs to African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Chinese-Americans just as much as it belongs to you. So when these folks show up at your gathering and you say “wouldn’t you be happier exploring your own culture?” remember – they are.
Congratulations, lefty neopagans. You've got the culture you wanted. Don't blame us for wanting to have a culture of our own.
The Gods Call Who They CallAh, here we go. The infamous "the gods call who they want to" argument. Bring it on.
The Gods are greater than humans – that’s one of the reasons They’re Gods. While some Gods are associated with a particular group of humans, They are not the property of that group. They have agency, and They do what They want for Their own reasons, reasons that are often not clear to us.Absolutely. No argument. That's pretty much Odin's modus operandi.
I still have no idea why a primal Forest God wanted a nerdy engineer to be His priest, but He did. I have no idea why the Orisha of West Africa occasionally call pasty white folks to become part of Their family, but They do. And I don’t know why the Gods of Northern and Western Europe call people from the other side of the world to serve Them and Their communities, but They do.Okay, I'm going to stop you there. How do you know that is true? I'm going to go out on a limb and say you don't. You're just imposing your own modern, left-wing wish-list of how you think the world should work onto gods and goddesses and spirits that have literally been around longer than we as a species have been enjoyed self-awareness.
|Land-spirits never fuck with people. Nope. Never.|
The fact that deities of other folk might well do so is completely irrelevant. The idea that some west African deities want white worshipers is completely irrelevant to the idea that Odin or Thor or Freyja want black worshipers. They are completely different entities, from completely different cultures, and the behaviors of the one have absolutely no impact on the behaviors of the other.
There is also the completely real prospect that people who say they have been "called by the gods", haven't. They might be deliberately trying to seek attention, but it might also be the case that they are simply mistaking thinking "Vikings are cool" for "Odin called to me". I don't necessarily ascribe a bad motive to such people, but it's entirely possible that they are either being deliberately deceived by a malicious spirit, or they are simply deceiving themselves.
Or, if I may submit a perfectly subversive idea. What if the gods want both? What if they have absolutely no problem with there being some of us who want to worship and associate and blot with people who share our ancestry with them, but they are also okay with the opposite? What if having folkish Asatruar, and a couple of non-white people making offerings to Odin, is exactly what they want? It's a hypothetical, of course, but in the absence of definitive evidence it's certainly a possibility. I don't think it fits the evidence, but it's still possible, theoretically. But Beckett's world view cuts out this possibility entirely. The folkish position of "leave us the fuck alone" allows for both views.
So I ask Beckett, how do you know which it is? I have my own method. Yours seems to be "believe whatever anyone says". And that always works out so well.****
It would be the height of impious arrogance for me to ask someone “are you sure you belong here?” just because they don’t look or sound or dress like me. Like steering real estate agents, I would be usurping their sovereignty – their right to make their own religious decisions, for their own reasons.I say you're "usurping their sovereignty" (a wonderful turn of phrase which you may now consider viked) when you say that the gods are acting completely out of character compared to how our ancestors experienced them. You're trying to impose your own 21st century, left-wing political, modernist ideals on beings that, in your own words, "have agency, and They do what They want for Their own reasons, reasons that are often not clear to us."
Isn't it convenient that you think those self-same gods just happen to act in accord with your own modern political ideals? After thousands of years, they've finally come around to your way of thinking? Just listen to yourself. It's absurd.
Folkishness is a Dangerous Half Truth
Many of the folkish argue that they’re not racist, they just want everyone to honor their own Gods and cultures. But a long time ago, we in this country learned that “separate but equal” is mostly about the “separate” and not about the “equal.” The folkish who only want to honor their Gods and ancestors and who do not wish to exclude anyone because of race may need to find another term – perhaps they’re more tribalist than folkish anyway.I honestly can't believe that Beckett is equating here "everyone should be free to explore the pre-Christian/Muslim religion of their ancestors" with "people of one race should be put in a school with half the resources of a school with people of another race gets". It's such a canard, such a straw man, that it's barely worth acknowledging. It's also completely pig-ignorant of the actual state of affairs when it comes to the resources available to those who really do choose to revive or restore the religion of their pre-Abrahamic folk religions.
|Can you fucking imagine the reaction if an Asatru hof|
had a sign that said "you are now leaving the U.S."
Separate but equal my ass.
Separate but equal? You give me ninety thousand square miles of land, or a frigging town, and we'll talk about equal.
Yes, ancestry matters in religion. But it’s more complicated than the folkish make it out to be, and DNA doesn’t matter in the least. Ancestry matters less than culture, and culture matters less than the call of the Gods.Three distinct statements. Direct, to the point, and completely without any sort of support. Thanks for your opinion Beckett. It will be duly noted.
Let us honor and respect the many religions and cultures of the world. Let us be humble and courteous when approaching traditions with which we are not familiar, especially those of people who have been and continue to be oppressed. Let us draw necessary boundaries, to insure the integrity of our traditions.YES! Finally! A paragraph I can completely agree with! Including white (European-based) culture and religion!
But let those who stand at the gateways of our religions greet each seeker with a generous welcome and an open hand of friendship. Steering is an usurpation of sovereignty and a violation of hospitality, and it has no place in contemporary Paganism and polytheism.
|DARN IT, BECKETT!|
I will absolutely greet a seeker with a generous welcome and an open hand of friendship. And I will gently encourage them to explore the religion of their pre-monotheistic ancestors. Which isn't the same thing at all as saying, "maybe you'd prefer that house over there, with the school that gets half the budget that the school in this neighborhood does." At all. But to say "it has no place in contemporary... polytheism"***** is an act of unbridled hubris.
It may have no place in your religion, Beckett. It has a great place in mine. Ours is a folk-religion. It's not a religion of self-proclaimed prophets telling us how to do things. And you don't get to dictate to me what my religion is like, any more than someone like Halstead does.
* And it should be noted that many Amerindians get downright testy when one implies they haven't inhabited the landmass of North America since the creation of the planet. Sort of sends the "out of Africa" theory down the crapper, unless you want to be an awful racist imperialist and tell a noble Native American that science says he's wrong. Good luck wrestling with that one, SJW's.
** From the definition in the appendix of McNallen's latest book, Asatru: A Native American Spirituality, "The principle that there are spiritual or metaphysical implications to physical relatedness among humans which correlate with, but transcend, the known limits of genetics". As in, DNA isn't the chemical or molecular mechanism by which the connection is established, but there's a connection between DNA and spiritual descent in the same way that there is between DNA and being the blood relative of someone else.
*** I'm deliberately leaving Loki out of this discussion, because it seems that some of the most strident opponents of the folkish position just happen, purely by coincidence it seems, to be devotees of the god who will lead the sons of Muspell in the final fight against the Aesir. The whole question of the role of Loki in Norse mythology is a complex one, but it sure seems suspicious that Lokeans are leading the charge to fight against the idea that Asatru should be the faith of the descendants of the Aesir. I will leave the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
**** John Beckett - Quetzalcoatl told me you should send me a check for $10,000. He'll make the reason plain to you in a dream once it's cashed. Aren't you supposed to believe me when it comes to what the gods tell us?
***** I leave the "Paganism" fight to others; I'm not pagan, I'm a polytheistic Heathen. You're free to use my arguments, though. A link back would be nice. :-)