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Walking a Razor’s Edge: Folkish Beliefs

Walking a Razor’s Edge: Folkish Beliefs

A fan of mine and supposedly long time reader took umbrage on my statements about folkish beliefs in Heathenry.  Never mind that I’ve been stating what I have been stating as long as I’ve had this blog, which puts me in direct opposition of folkish beliefs.  Why?  Because scientifically, archaeologically, anthropologically, and historically, none of the folkish beliefs have any basis in fact. Unless you count the past 100 years as a reason to be folkish, i.e. Nazi beliefs, there is no record of exclusion from Heathenry.

Anyway, the fan deleted our conversation, left in a huff, and unliked my page (There!  That showed me!), giving me plenty to think about why folkish beliefs are a bad idea.  So, without further ado, let’s get talking about what folkism is, why it’s racist, and ultimately in league with white supremacists.

What Folkish Beliefs Are

Let’s talk about the root of folkish beliefs.  People who believe in folkish beliefs hold that Heathenry is only for those who are of Northern European descent.  That our gods can only be worshiped by those whose ancestors lived in the Northern European lands.  That our gods do not call to those who are not from those lands.

In other words, they do not believe in a multicultural religion.  They believe that people should worship the gods of their ancestors, whichever those are.

Now, let’s talk about the fallacy of their arguments.

First, Some Evolutionary Facts

Let’s look at the human race, that is Homo sapiens.  Our race came out of Africa at least 200,000 years ago, according to scientists, although latest findings suggest that our species came from there before that.  I don’t want to quibble over time frame.  The point is that we all came from a small group of humans.  Those who eventually made their way up north eventually became Norse.

It’s not like humans beamed in there. It took a fair amount of time, walking, and generations of living in one place for a while before pushing on.  We know that many of them were most likely black (even though there isn’t a specific gene for being black) due to the genetic material that we have found.  Our species is black in Africa to provide some protection against the sun’s rays.  As humans moved up north, our skin lightened to adjust to the lack of sunlight so that our bodies could make Vitamin D.

Genetics also shows that humans, as a species, nearly went extinct at least twice.  We’re inbred apes, pure and simple, because of bullshit patriarchy and polygamy as well as sticking with kindreds.  Yeah, I get that kindreds were needed back then to survive, but our genetic diversity as a species is sorely lacking because of it.

Racism as We Know it Today Was Nonexistent

Racism–that is, judging people on their physical appearance and skin color–was virtually nonexistent in Viking and Early Medieval times.  People were judged according to their belief system and their allegiances, not their skin color.  We know this because Marco Polo seldom mentioned skin color unless it added something to the story.  Race was considered as religion.  You were considered a different “race” if you were Heathen, Jewish, Christian, or some other religion.  That gave people the excuse for barbaric acts (like they seldom needed an excuse?).

Not All Vikings Were White

We know that there was at least one “black” Viking, and yes, there are people who have Mongolian genetics in Iceland from him. We know that our Viking ancestors explored, traded, raided, raped, and pillaged all the way south to Africa, east well into Asia, north to Greenland, and west to North America.  They found wives and husbands among indigenous folk and settled in those lands.

Some of our northern ancestors added the gods and religions to our pagan practices.  Some fully adopted the other religions.  We have Viking hoards with Buddha statues and other religious objects.

Heathen Religion in the Grand Scheme of Things

Now, given the facts I’ve presented (and if you have the doubts as to the veracity of my statements, I back them up in the links provided above), Heathens were pretty willing to take in others who swore allegiance to their leaders and their gods.  It made a kindred stronger.

Our northern ancestors practiced a religion that came from an offshoot of a Proto Indo-European religion.  That evolved from a much earlier Nostratic pantheon. The further back we go, the fewer religions we have.  The fact that there are so many similarities in the Indo-European religions suggests that the ideas and gods came from a central source going back tens of thousands of years.

So, Let’s Talk Folkish

So, how does folkishness fit here?  If you say it doesn’t, you get a star.  Our northern ancestors didn’t differentiate where you came from.  What they did care about was your religion and your loyalties.  What was your kindred and whether you were a friend or foe.  Given the overall dissemination of Nordic genes, we can assume that everyone had ancestors that lived in the overall Viking sphere of influence, including African tribes and Mongols.  Even if this weren’t so, if someone who joined up with the Vikings, raided with them, and worshiped their gods, you can bet they would’ve had status in a kindred.

Segregation or Apartheid, Anyone?

If you take a chapter from history, what the folkish people are doing is the “separate but equal” bullshit that we saw in the United States in the form of segregation.  Or the South African Apartheid.  They’re saying, “Our religion is for white Europeans, but you have your own traditions.  Go do those.”  They  shut out people just because of the random chance that they were born with different colored skin.

You are on the Razor’s Edge with this if You’re Folkish

Folkish people, you may not be Nazis, but you are so on a razor’s edge with this.  What you are doing is racism, pure and simple.  If a black person hears the call of Thor, shouldn’t he or she be allowed to practice Heathenry?  If the answer is “no, because of their ethnicity” then yes, I am calling you a bigot.  Why can’t a black person be a Heathen?  Don’t give me that’s not their religion — they should stick to African religions.  That is complete and utter bullshit.  Separate is NOT equal.  We know this from history.  People fought hard to end segregation, and you’re dragging Heathenry down with your bigoted beliefs.

Furthermore, separate but equal is bullshit because we’re all the same race.  We’re the same people with minor genetic variations.  We are Homo sapiens, people. Most of us have a small amount of Neanderthal and Denisovian genes in our DNA, making us not even pure Homo sapiens but a mutt of different races.  Hel, that makes Neanderthals more enlightened than you.

Okay, I’ve railed enough on this.  If you’re folkish, I hope I’ve enlightened you why you’re racist even if you think you’re not.  If you are looking at anyone’s ethnicity and determining whether someone can do something based on it or not, you are a fucking racist.  Period.

 

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

11.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

12.
Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

13.
A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

14.
Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?

Should We Tear Down Confederate Statues?

Should We Tear Down Confederate Statues?

As usual, the Rational Heathen goes right at controversy head-on.  Which will probably get
someone’s panties in a wad.  My opinions may surprise you.  Furthermore, the reasons for my opinions probably aren’t what you would expect. So, let’s get to the post and see how many hate letters I get, huh?

Nazis and Charlottesville

The Alt-Right, AKA the Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists, are evil.  Period.  If you’ve read any of my posts, this statement comes as no surprise to you.  I abhor that we’ve attracted those elements in Heathenry and I really wish they would go back to their Christian roots and have those people deal with them (instead of us).  My dad helped liberate Jews right after WWII — he saw the concentration camps. I don’t mince words about what I think about Nazis.  They are horrendous.

Charlottesville was a terrible tragedy because three people died, including one civilian who was protesting the evil when an Alt-Right drove his car into a crowd of protesters.  The other two were police officers whose helicopter crashed. Nineteen people were injured when that car ran through the crowd.  The sad part is that none of this should have happened. All this was allegedly over a damn statue.  A hunk of metal.

Over a Damn Statue

Of course, it wasn’t just the statue that people were protesting. It’s the ideology behind what the statue is. Robert E. Lee was a famous southern general, which makes his statue a natural lightning rod for those who want to make him the poster boy for the Alt-Right bigots. (As an aside, Lee wasn’t pro-slavery, but he wasn’t outspoken against it.  He turned down serving in the Union against the South because of his loyalty to Virginia. I think he would probably be horrified over his legacy as an Alt-Right poster boy. Furthermore, he was against Civil War statues.)  The statue in question is still to be removed, just as there have been other statues removed. The descendants of  Lee, Davis, and Jackson have already said they want them removed.

Oddly enough, I don’t think removing the statues are a good idea.  Let me explain…

The Problem with Removing the Statues

It seems like a great idea to remove signs of hatred from public viewing.  The problem is that you don’t get at the root cause of the problem: the hatred, itself.  Instead, you remove a piece of history that could be used as an object lesson for those generations that follow.  It’s rather Soviet-esque to remove the existence of statues because you don’t like the person or ideology it represented. After all, if no one talks about it openly, surely it goes away, doesn’t it? (That was sarcasm, for those who don’t get it.)  That really worked for the Balkan states (sarcasm, again).  When the threat of the Soviet fist was lifted, fighting resumed.  Gee, I guess that’s one for the USSR, huh?  Never mind all the oppression there. (Sarcasm, folks)

Imagine, if you would, that everything anyone found offensive were to be removed. We would have few historical monuments.  People, both past and present, are incredibly flawed.  What would happen if Auschwitz and all the other concentration camps were destroyed instead of preserved?  We already have holocaust deniers–how many more would we have? What about Nazi buildings?  What about the Custard memorial at Little Big Horn?  What about the Battle of Culloden?   What about the Trail of Tears?  What about Columbus?  Should we remove those statues and memorials because they’re incredibly painful to someone?

Most of the founding fathers of our country owned slaves. Our Viking ancestors owned slaves.  Europeans owned slaves. Africans owned slaves. It has been a blight on humanity since the beginning of agriculture–and possibly before. Do we censor Mark Twain because he used the N-word (when he was incredibly anti-racist)?  Do we tear down those things that symbolize slavery?  Just because we remove something, doesn’t mean it no longer existed, or exists now.

I believe they need to be there.  Not as a place for the Alt-Right to congregate, but one that we can use as a way to educate people as to the atrocities of the past.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

Where the Problem Lies

The problem isn’t the statues.  They’re chunks of metal and stone. The problem is the underlying hatred and bigotry that exists.  Destroying monuments won’t eliminate the issue–in fact, as we’ve seen in Charlottesville, it actually adds fuel to the fire.  The problem is the way that our society treats minorities to this day.  Somehow because of genetic variations, some people are convinced that they’re better or superior to those without those variations. Those in the Alt-Right are convinced that they’re “pure,” when in fact, they just aren’t.  Genetics do not lie.  History and archaeology has further demonstrated that there have been incursions into Europe since humans first arrived. Our ancient ancestors didn’t care about “racial purity” — they only cared about whether or not the invaders were going to kill them.  And the invaders were more into acquisition of wealth: land, gold, food, and slaves.

Somehow, as a society we’ve become fucked up to the point where statues mean more than human beings.  (And Christians accuse Heathens of idolatry?) I believe we’re at a turning point in history where we can either stand up for the equality of all humans regardless of their ethnicity or skin color, or we can let the thugs take over.  I do not advocate violence while there is still some shred of the rule of law.  Right now we need to work on fixing the inequity and protecting our fellow human beings,  Because, we’re all in this together now.

 

Is it Time to Abandon the Irminsul?

Is it Time to Abandon the Irminsul?

Oh, boy howdy.  I know I’m going to get flack for this post, but the question has been brewing in my mind for some time. Every time I see stylized depictions of the Irminsul, I feel uncomfortable. Not because of the original meaning of the Irminsul, but what it has grown to represent due to the blatant misappropriation by the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists.

So, before I get into the reasoning behind my question — and with all honesty, I do not have an answer to the question — let’s get into the history behind the Irminsul and why it is important to heathen beliefs.

Where the Irminsul Comes from

The Irminsul or Ermensul comes straight from the Saxons. Arguably it’s named after Irmin, a
presumably main Saxon god who is linked either with Tyr or Odin, according to early 20th century historians.This is a largely reconstructed god and may or may not have existed.  Many later scholars do not think there was such a god, instead thinking that the Irminsul was more likely a representation of Yggdrasil or the World Tree.

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried mentions the destruction of the Irminsul in this post, and also notes that the author who writes about it wrote the account 88 years after the fact.  He furthermore adds:

“The Saxon Poet writes that the Irminsul “was fashioned in the form of a huge column and contained a corresponding wealth of adornment,” but his account was written nearly 120 years after the destruction of the site. Such later sources must be treated with caution; sources contemporary with the Saxon war do not clarify whether the Irminsul was a carved column or a natural tree.”

So, not only do we have a questionable god, but also we don’t know if the Irminsul was a post or a tree.  And while it had a huge temple surrounding it, we really don’t have any archaeological evidence determining what it was.  While we do have one possible image of it, it is a Christian depiction and not pagan art. This piece of art appeared somewhere between the 9th and 12th centuries, most likely by an artist who had never seen an Irminsul.

The Axis Mundi, or Pillar of the World

The Irminsul, and Yggdrasil, for that matter, is a form of the axis mundi, or the pillar of the world. The concept appears time and again throughout most religions. The axis mundi is the link between the heavens and the earth, forming a bridge like the bifrost from the mundane to the supernatural. Too many religions to name have this conduit, and the Irminsul appears to be a representation of the conduit. I agree with later historians, (rightly or wrongly), that it was the Saxons’ form of the World Tree.

Corruption by the Nazis

It didn’t take long for the Nazis to point to Irminism and Wotanism as their own religions due to the evolution of Heathenry in northern Europe. A great deal of emphasis was placed on the site of Externsteine where, I kid you not, a psychic Nazi archaeologist, claimed there was an Irminsul, even though there is no physical proof of one. Look up Karl Maria Wiligut sometime. This guy created the SS logo and was a spiritual counselor for Himmler.  Fun times.

The sign of the Irminsul and the meaning had been adopted by men such as Heinrich Himmler, who was big into the occult. During these dark days, heathens saw their images such as teiwaz, othala, algiz, and sowelu become part of the Nazi symbols. The Irminsul was offered as an alternative to the Christian cross.

 

Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist Symbols

If you check out the JDL’s hate symbol database, you’ll be dismayed to find images such as othala, teiwaz, and other heathen runes to be part of the neo-Nazi symbols. You also may see something that looks like a skinhead crucified on a teiwaz rune. 

Oddly enough, it looks like an Irminsul. And I suspect it’s intentional, as is the crucified skinhead looking like a mockery of the White Christ. Although I have no love for Christianity, the blending of the two images from two different beliefs, combined with the overall hate message has left me uneasy.  (Yes, I know Odin hung himself on the World Tree for nine days, but that was upside down. I really think this is a Heathen and Christian blending in a perverse way.) This combined with the obvious Nazi history of the Irminsul has corrupted it to the point where I’m not certain we can ever win it back without the soiled context. Look at the swastika and tell me that it is free from the Nazi taint, even though it was an ancient rune and symbol. It’s foolish to think otherwise.

If you don’t think it is still considered by the Nazis as part of the symbolism, I’ll point to the recent vandalism at Externsteine by the neo-Nazis. They consider it part of their beliefs in a big way.

So, Where Does that Leave Us with the Irminsul?

So, where does that leave us with the Irminsul?  With all honesty, I haven’t a fucking clue. It’s the World Tree, the axis mundi, and a symbol of the Saxons. But do we use the stylized Christian depiction, or go with something else?  Do we even bother with the term Irminsul and call it the World Tree?  Given the shaky ground we’re already on historically, do we even bother with it?  Or do we take it back somehow?  Maybe others will have a better idea which way to go with it, I sure don’t.

My own instinct is to let it die and stick with the World Tree.  It may not be the best solution, but it is one I am more comfortable with.  Either that or come up with a better depiction of the Irminsul which may be more historically accurate, and less, well…, Nazi.

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