Sunday, November 5, 2017

Rescuing Asatru

A couple of days ago, one Sigal Samuel, associate editrix at the Atlantic for religion and global affairs, had another piece published at that venerable left-wing institution, entitled What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion.

This comes hot on the heels of her previous article, which frets that falsely attributing an Islamic influence on Viking-era textile decorations helps "white supremacists". So we have some context here; she is desperately afraid that "white supremacists" will use Viking stuff to advance their cause.

And thus she turns her lightly-researched eye towards Asatru. Here we go, kids. Strap in.

First, let's look at the three people from whom she decided to obtain quotes for her article. First up is Hilmar Hilmarsson, current allsherjargoði of the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið, the same outfit that is building a hideous Asatru temple in Iceland on public land donated to them for free, and who nearly wet himself at the thought that folkish Asatruar might set foot inside the place when it's done. He seems more of a deist than anything else, but he's all for using his religion to push a political agenda. Apparently when you do so with a left-wing agenda, it's fine. One bit of nonsense from him in this article; “The gods are of mixed races. We even have a crossdressing god.”

Yeah. If that's an allusion to the story of the theft of Thor's hammer, apparently he missed the part where Thor was entirely humiliated by the experience and all but refused to wear woman's clothing. It is not presented as a good thing, by any means.

Next up we have our old friend Karl "boom-boom" Seigfried, waving his PhD in Double Bass Performance around so fast people can't read it and think his doctorate gives him some cache to talk about Asatru. At least he's not trying to give respectability to ancient astronaut theories this time. Money quote from this article:

He takes inspiration from the social-justice-oriented Catholic theologians of Latin America who created Liberation Theology in the 1950s and 1960s.

Bear in mind that Liberation Theology was Communism. Communism100 million murdered. That should tell you all you need to know. That's who this jackass is.

Finally, we have Diana Paxson, fantasy author and Troth member who has single handedly done more to spread the false impression that seiðr is just like shamanism, but with Norse names. She also claims in this article that Ragnarok is related to global warming. But I'm not going to hammer her too hard, as I've met her and I like her, even if she's more than a little fluffy.

And although the word "folkish" doesn't appear anywhere in this article, based on the previous public statements of those whom it chooses to use as sources. I'm going to go with the notion that Ms. Samuel makes the false association that folkish = racist, because most of her sources do, and if she was talking about real, genuine, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, this wouldn't be an issue, because there are so pitifully few of them in Asatru.

Honestly, if these people were worried about the handful of real white supremacists out there who embrace Asatru (with whom I also vehemently disagree, even if I don't think it's my place to say they can't worship Odin and Thor, unlike others), it wouldn't be nearly as awful. But it's quite obvious that they lump together people who "just happen" to schedule a blot every April 20th with those of us who think that people of every race should be able to embrace their ancestral faith without others appropriating it too. Even people of European descent.

But the worst part of this article is its inherent contradiction.
As the modern iteration of pre-Christian pagan worship, Ásatrú is a very young religion. And it’s less a single codified religion than a loose cluster of religions: It has no central authority or agreed-upon dogma. Although many followers cherish this ideological openness, it may leave the religion vulnerable to misappropriation.
Right there, the stupidity of this article is laid bare.

If a religion "has no... agreed-upon dogma" how is it even possible to "misappropriate" it? If there is no set dogma (a statement with which I would disagree, by the way, but that's for another day), then how is it even possible, logically speaking, that someone could be violating that dogma?

Indeed, I've made the argument before that Asatru has, in fact, been hijacked and appropriated by the universalists. At least in the United States and the United Kingdom, it was a folkish religion for years before the unis got their hooks into it. That may well be different in Iceland, but, after all, there is no agreed-upon dogma in Asatru, and the Icelanders don't get to dictate to the rest of the world what is, and is not, acceptable in Asatru. They can certainly do so among their own group, but just because Hilmar Hilmarsson, or Karl Seigfried, or Diana Paxson says it doesn't make it Holy Writ among the rest of us.

There's also the fact that the article conflates two different things:

  1. Real, actual racists are Asatru
  2. Real, actual racists are using ancient Germanic symbols that are part of the common European cultural heritage, and Asatruar happen to use those symbols, too.
Take, for example, this oft-used photo:

Given that he's got the initials "N.S.M." on it, I'm going to say this guy is probably a true, actual, real white supremacist. (NSM standing for National Socialist Movement, one of the few actual neo-Nazi organizations out there.) And he has an odal rune on the shield. 

But let me ask you this: is he Asatru?

I don't see anything that particularly identifies him as Asatru. He doesn't have a visible Thor's hammer pendant. I'm going with the theory that, like many of his ilk (including the pre-1945 crowd), he's fascinated with pre-Christian Germanic symbolism. Which calls the question; why does the fact that a neo-Nazi is using a runic symbol somehow pose a threat to Asatru?

Indeed, to argue such seems to imply that Asatru somehow "owns" the runes. And, presumably, other pre-Christian symbols, like the swastika, black sun, and many others. If that's not the case, then why does "white supremacists are coopting Norse symbols like Thor’s hammer because they believe the Vikings were a pure white race" (to quote our Icelandic source in the article) present any sort of issue for Asatru at all?

If it were truly the case that any use of pre-Christian Germanic symbols is reflective of Asatru, then we should be equally incensed at their misuse by Wiccans, Bluetooth, or every jewelry stall at a renaissance faire. Do Asatruar spend their days denouncing the fluffy, the commercial, or the frivolous? Of course not.

If not, then we are forced to conclude that someone like that putz above doesn't really represent Asatru, merely because he happens to use a symbol that some Asatruar use, any more than those other examples do. And as such, no explicit denunciation is required.


  1. Quick admin note - anonymous comments aren't allowed. Have the balls to at least identify yourself. Thanks!

    1. All the easier for you to write one of your famous hit-pieces? Gee, I wonder why no one wants to deal with that shit.

    2. Then I guess they don't get to have their sterling opinions immortalized here. Don't worry about me - somehow I will manage to move past the loss. It'll be hard, but I'll find the strength somehow.

      But I wish someone would think about the poor readers, who are just aching to hear the whining opinions of a bunch of uni Norse neopagans.

      Won't someone think of the READERS???

    3. @Carl- If their ideas or convictions can't stand up to scrutiny, then they have no business here. Honestly Jon hasn't really censored my posts and honestly I have disagreed with him before. I haven't seen a "hit-piece" from him. I generally defend my point of view and if others can't then they should stay silent.

      @Jon- Yes, I am just aching to hear the whining opinions of a bunch of fluffy pagans who pretend to be heathen.

    4. Thanks, @N Hoover. In all seriousness, I really do welcome most comments here, agree or disagree. The only time I won't approve a comment is if it is anonymous (as previously noted) or simple name-calling.

      If someone has a real point to make, pro or con, I will gladly publish it. I think my views are solid enough to stand up to scrutiny, and I welcome such. And I've even been known to change my views based on new evidence. That's the recon in me. :-)

    5. @N Hoover
      Haven't seen a hit piece? Granted it's been a while, but here's the one he did on me.

    6. I have to laugh, Carl. As I explained when you first whined about my post, it was a reply to your comment, which I deemed worthy of a very lengthy and in-depth response.

      By definition a "hit piece" uses false information to sway opinion. There was nothing in that post that was factually incorrect, except one or two little jabs that no reasonable person would think were true. As I said at the time, if you can't take a little gamesmanship, you shouldn't be on the internet in the first place. It's no place for whiners.

  2. No place for whiners? Then why are you still here?

    1. Really? The best you come up with is "I know you are, but what am I?" (Read in a Pee-Wee Herman voice)

      Honestly, Carl, I like you personally even though we disagree on one or two important issues (and really, that's about all we do disagree on). I appreciate you coming here and commenting when you do disagree, but you need to step up your game and contribute something more substantive. You did (barely) in the first article you replied to, but you didn't in my specific reply to you, and you haven't here.

      That doesn't mean that your future contributions won't be approved (unless they become downright abusive or otherwise inappropriate), but unless you start actually replying to the substance, your comments have much less likelihood of being paid attention to. I would vastly prefer some meat on the bone to have a conversation, truth be told.

      So by all means, please do attempt to address the substance of the article. I promise you a careful reading and a response if I think it's warranted.