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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.

 

5 Reasons Why Heathens Don’t Get No Respect

5 Reasons Why Heathens Don’t Get No Respect

I was reading the pagan forums on Patheos the other day and I thought about how Heathens are underrepresented there when it comes to pagans. And then I started thinking about how much of paganism is really geared toward the Wicca crowd and maybe the Celtic crowd, if they’re lucky.  So, I started thinking about why Heathens (to paraphrase what Rodney Dangerfield used to say) don’t get no respect.  To this end, I’ve come up with five reasons why Heathenry isn’t represented in paganism more often, but I bet you can come up with more, if you put your mind to it.

Problem 1: We’re Tiny, Relatively Speaking

If you want to talk about a religion that has few numbers, Heathenism and Asatru are pretty small as a world religion.  Sure, there are a few census that suggest we have maybe 100,000 to 200,000 Heathens in the world, but seriously, that’s just a drop in the bucket. Consider the 800 pound gorilla in the midst (pun intended) of Wicca.  Wiccans may make up about 2 million in the United States alone, and who knows how many in the world?  It’s easy to see just by that number why Heathenry is  a footnote when it comes to paganism.

Problem 2: Association with Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and Folkish Organizations

Many Heathens aren’t racist, folkish, or white supremacist. But not all of them.  One only has to take a look at the Neo-Nazis and the Odinists who support a whites-only mentality. Other groups such as the AFA have excluded other ethnicities and the LGBT communities within their Heathen form of paganism. Even though a number of very good Heathens and leaders within the Heathen community have denounced this behavior, we see time and time again Internet and news stories featuring Heathens as bigoted, racist, and anti-LGBT.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Just because you don’t count those folk as “true Heathens” doesn’t mean that the rest of the world shares your opinions.  You can say “not my kindred” all you want, but the reality is the rest of the world is judging you.  Plain and simple.  If you don’t denounce them, everyone is going to take your silence as tacit agreement.

Heathenry isn’t for bigots.  Even our gods didn’t stay within their own kind when it came to their kindred. Our gods took in Jotunn, Vanir, Light Elves, and humans.  Many gods had Jotunn, Vanir, and Light Elf consorts and lovers.  Hel, even Loki mated with a horse.

Problem 3: Our Magic is Minimal

When Thor and Tyr called me to Heathenry, I was relieved to find out that magic played a minimal role in the religion.  That being said, a lot of people are more attracted to magic than I am, which is presumably why people are more attracted to Wicca than Heathenry. Oh sure, we have the runes and Seidr, but what else?  Maybe skinriding? We don’t usually do magic in the form of spells or enchantments.

Our magic is through our gods, ancestors, and wights. (The fact that I’ve never seen a wight is irrelevant.)  Many Heathens believe in the gifting cycle with gods and wights to obtain what they want.  Some use Seidr, runes, or other forms of Norse magic.  Others will blend in forms of magic from Wicca.  Reconstructionists and others derisively call those who add more magic from other religions “Wiccatru.”  More on that later.

So, people who are looking for magic tend to bypass Heathenry and go for something like Wicca that enables them to worship our gods while still adding magic spells.  Hmm.

Problem 4: We’re a Stuck Up, Exclusive Lot

When a person first looks into Heathenry, they’re often met with people who are quick to deride and denounce that person if they don’t immediately join the recon trolls.  In fact, you’ll find a bunch of misogynists and Asa-popes telling people how to practice Heathenry.  When the person balks (as they rightfully should), the trolls start calling them Marvel fanboys (or fangirls), Wicctrus, or Lokeans (never mind that being a Lokean is a choice and not an insult).  So, a lot of people with less commitment are going to leave and go elsewhere.

It stunned me when Tyr and Thor contacted me.  But I knew what I had experienced and even when I entered the ugly world of the Internet recon trolls, I knew I was right to stay and deal with them.  You see, the gods contacted me and (presumably) not the Internet trolls, so the trolls didn’t deter me.  I just had to figure out a softer landing spot, which I eventually did. And I started writing The Rational Heathen just to put down my thoughts and feelings, not to mention some of my experiences.  Apparently it resonated with some of you because you’re still here with me.

Problem 5: We Don’t Agree on Much and UPG is often an Ugly Word

A big problem in Heathenry is the overall ambiguity of our beliefs.  We really don’t have a lot of stories to go on — not like the stories we have from the Romans and Greeks about their gods and goddesses. Islamic and Roman historians as well as Christianized northern peoples who lived two hundred years later wrote down all of our stories.  We only have one depiction — and a Christian one — of the Irminsul.  We have tales which refer to other stories which were never written down.

So, in light of the lack of evidence, there’s a lot of conjecture.  And with conjecture is also Unverified Personal Gnosis or UPG which many people don’t take into account.  Some Heathens are outright hostile to UPG as well. So, there is no consensus on what is correct and what isn’t, except among the different factions between themselves.  That division and the accompanying hostility turns people away quickly.

So, there you have it: the five reasons why Heathens don’t get no respect.  Do you have some thoughts about why Heathens don’t get no respect?  I’d love to hear it in the comments.

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?