In a Facebook thread, I came across someone asking who the gods reject and how we know that the gods reject them. He also asked if the gods accept offerings from those with white supremacist ideologies and whether those people can be considered Heathen given Heathen literature, mythology, and history. Basically, he wanted to know who determines this since we don’t have a supreme Heathen authority the way that Catholics have the Pope.
Honestly, I think he answered his own question – given our literature, mythology, and history, as Heathens, we are obligated to stand against racism. The history of Heathenry in the United States is not a pretty one, and it is something we must fight against so that we can improve it going forward.
The first Heathen organization in the United States was created in 1974 by Stephen McNallen, who headed the Asatru Folk Assembly until 2016 when it was taken over by Flavel. The Asatru Folk Assembly is listed as a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center. Rightfully so – it is due to McNallen, Flavel, and their volk’s rampant racism that Declaration 127 emerged.
Declaration 127 (http://www.declaration127.com/) is a firm stance taken against those who would use Heathenry to promote racism and other forms of hatred. It has led to groups like Heathens Against Hate being formed, and the most inclusive Heathen organization (and the only large inclusive one), the Troth, often issues statements against violence committed by white supremacists and raises funds to donate to charities that combat hatred.
The reality is that there is a history of racism in Heathenry, and, as Heathens, we are obligated to face that fact unflinchingly and then do something to fix it. We cannot prevent what has already happened, but we can definitely do something in the present to combat white supremacy.
As to the question of literature and mythology, many white supremacists have tried to use our lore to justify race-based hatred. That has always been warped and twisted logic, however, as nothing in the lore justifies racism.
White supremacists will look at the tribes of the gods and say that because the Aesir and Vanir so often fight against the Jotnar that it indicates a race-based problem. They forget that Odin, the chief of the Norse gods, is half-Jotun. Loki, who is included among the Aesir, is full-blooded Jotunn. The Aesir and Vanir gods intermarry with the Jotnar at a fairly frequent rate.
On top of that, the tribes of the gods are like familial clans – they aren’t races. The gods are gods, and gods can all take on whatever shape they need to for the purposes they serve; the very idea of racist gods is an extreme perversion of theology.
The question as to whether the gods take offerings from white supremacists is a harder one to answer – or rather, one with an answer that any anti-racist would find difficult to handle. The gods themselves are not human; they are not necessarily going to involve themselves in the politics of humans. They are not here to solve our problems for us; they are not here to get involved in human problems. It is very possible and probable that the gods take offerings from people of all sorts of violent ideologies – that, however, can be said of all gods.
There are white supremacists in all religions; white supremacy is a rising global threat; it is most prominently seen in the United States because the U.S. was founded on the tenets of white supremacy. That said, however, white supremacist terrorism is the most concerning rising global threat; it is on par with the threat of Islamic radicalism.
What makes terrorism so terrifying is the understanding that yes, there are Islamic radicals but that doesn’t make all Muslims terrorists. And yes, there are white supremacist terrorists, but that doesn’t make all white people terrorists either. The terrifying thing, though, is that terrorist acts serve to induce fear in targeted populations of those who *might* be a terrorist.
Turning back to Heathen lore, none of the gods I honor are ones that I can readily associate with supremacist ideology. This is, of course, just the way I see the gods, and people can and will see the gods in different ways. I always speak only from my own experience and vantage point, and I do not ever claim to speak for the gods. I just want to make that clear.
Odin is a god that wanders the world, seeking knowledge wherever it can be found. Racists often stop seeking knowledge and turn a blind eye to new truths. Odin never does that- he always seeks to know more. Would he accept an offering from a white supremacist? Probably, if he feels that the person can offer him knowledge he doesn’t already have or if doing so aids him in his quest to prevent the end of the world. Odin does what he does for self-gain that is meant to serve the world as a whole, and he has done and will continue to do things that humans find grievously offensive in order to prevent Ragnarok. He is very much an ends justify the means type of god, and that can be hard to digest.
That said, Odin is also a god that enjoys inciting war for the sake of war. It may very well be part of his intention to have the anti-racist Heathens fighting against the racist Heathens. I know that the war I feel called to fight against white supremacy is one that Odin issued to me – I am confident that the aspect of Odin I honor is firmly against any type of ideology that promotes hatred and thereby reduces the chance at gaining knowledge that can then be transmuted into wisdom. I will personally only associate with Odins-people who view Odin this way because I strongly advocate against hatred. To me, hatred for the sake of hatred is the most vile expression of humanity’s penchant for depravity.
The next god I honor is Loki, and I feel like I can say with a large degree of confidence that Loki abhors those who hate others without cause. His devotees, Lokeans, are very often comprised of social minorities and misunderstood individuals. To hate someone for an identity they hold is anathema to who Loki has shown himself to be. In my experience with Loki, he gets upset when people judge other people for arbitrary reasons. In fact, I would say Loki is probably one of the *best* gods among the Norse gods to invite to the fight against white supremacy. He understands what it is like to be hated without cause, and it is difficult to imagine Loki ever standing on the side of white supremacists due to his own backstory.
Freyr is a god of frith and peace, but he is also known as the field marshal of the gods. He is the god who will fight to ensure that peace happens. White supremacists threaten frith; they work to undermine peace in society, and they bring weapons into spaces where innocent people are just trying to live their lives. In the lore that we have about Freyr, he is one of the gods most easily riled to anger when peace is shattered – bringing weapons into his temples tended to result in an explosion of anger towards those who threatened his sacred spaces. Freyr is a god of sacral kingship, and he embodies everything good that is possible for a ruler to hold within them. He will protect his people even from himself. When it comes to the fight against white supremacists, Freyr is a powerful ally to have.
Tyr is a god of justice and honor, and he will sacrifice even himself to maintain the order of the world. When Fenrir threatened the gods, it was only Tyr who had the courage to step forward and do what needed to be done, even though Fenrir was his best friend. Tyr understands better than some of the other gods how hard it is to severe a relationship with a close friend due to the danger they pose to the world. It is hard to imagine Tyr willing to back white supremacists in this fight, as he is the god who allowed his relationship with his best friend to be severed for the good of the whole. He is a god that will easily sacrifice one for the sake of the many and place the good of all over the good of a few. White supremacists are a minority, threatened by the rising reality of a multicultural world – this is and has been true of most terrorist groups. They are comprised of the few fighting against the many. Tyr, then, is also a powerful ally to have in the fight against white supremacists.
There are many more gods and many more ways to interpret the stories, though most of the interpretations will demonstrate that the gods themselves have no reason to be found on the side of white supremacists.
Heathen lore and mythology is firmly opposed to the ideologies espoused by white supremacists – it doesn’t take much reading to figure that out.
The unfortunate and painful reality, however, is that people are notoriously bad at interpreting myth in an accurate way and incredibly good at twisting lore to suit their own purposes. No matter the religion at hand, that has always held true – Christians twist things they read in the Bible to suit their own political purposes. They aren’t the only ones – there are religious adherents in all faiths that do that, and Heathenry is no exception.
Heathenry also seems like it is filled with more racists than other religions because inclusive Heathens confront racism and speak and act against it. The truth is that all religions are packed to the brim with racist individuals, some of whom are radical enough in their views to support or become terrorists. The only reason Heathenry seems to hold more is because inclusive Heathens confront racism head-on. The history of Heathenry’s emergence in the United States requires we confront it, change it, and make the world a better place.
It is an issue that we can’t ignore and don’t ignore the way many other religions do. So far, the white supremacists who have committed terrorist acts have not been Heathen. If they have had religious ties, it has been to radical forms of Christianity. Many of them, however, have been secular or non-religious. This is not surprising, as terrorist ideology tends to replace and crowd out all other forms of ideology. Hatred becomes the driving force; the religion of hatred consumes those who come into contact with it if they are not already shored up against such hatred through strong ideologies of their own.
I will not fall into the trap of hatred because my personal ideology is one that promotes the interconnected nature of all people and the importance of life itself. If I am ever forced into a position where I must take someone else’s life to save my own or to save the lives of others – which is the only reason I would ever act in such a way – then I will do so but I will mourn the loss and the terrible situation which forced my hand. Life itself is far too precious to throw away or steal on a whim. In sum, then, life is my ideology. Hatred is anathema to life. Thus I will stand, forever, on the side of life.
4 thoughts on “Confronting Racism in Heathenry”
Ideology, philosophy, religion can and always will be used by some to twist to their own views to support their stance. Odin, I can absolutely see doing that and you are spot on with Lokeans. Tyr I have my own view of and has no place here. But you started off by asking who is deemed worthy (from a FB thread), and the answer is the Gods/Goddesses themselves. I can verify personally that these volkish truly believe that they are right in what they do and believe. That in and of itself is frightening and seems true for the white supremacy problem everywhere. We are not just fighting a movement or a sudden issue. We fight a foe that has been around for millenia and just adapts to a new era with new mouthpieces. Hatred. Plain and simple hate for anything different.
About 18 years ago I found myself drawn to Asatru. I read what I could and tried to find a community of practitioners. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that a substantial proportion of those who had adopted this tradition were either obsessed with a Lord-of-the-Rings aesthetic or were Nazi thugs.
I have just read the appalling racist screed of odinsvolk, which claims that spirituality and cultural heritage are somehow contained in the blood. It is Fascism, pure and simple. It should be illegal.