Stunning Hatred

I am just stunned by the nonsense that has been happening in the last month or so in Heathen and polytheistic circles. It’s been one madness after madness. Normally I would be entertained to some degree, but I’m getting worried for what it means in the future.

The biggest was the brouhaha regarding the AFA’s announcement of supporting its own people:

afapost

Somehow this meant that the AFA was irredeemably evil in the eyes of far too many people. But why is it that Europeans are not allowed to have any interest in their own wellbeing while practising a European religion? And why is it an issue that an organisation take a traditional, scientifically accurate view regarding gender?

Truthfully, the answer is simple: the regressive left is incredibly intolerant of any who disagree with their current whims and has successfully trained many people to see the world in such a distorted way. Their endless march to the left has left me politically on the right even without changing much over the years. Being respectful of others and accepting of the existence of differences were once the supposed hallmarks of the left, but now it’s essentially a value of the alt-right alone. What interesting times we live in.

Of course, people love clutching their pearls, but why even make a scene about it? These same people already hated the AFA for being a successful organisation that cared more about its own people than making mindless platitudes to supposed diversity. They already hated that there might be Europeans who care about themselves at all. But that’s somehow racist, even though every other group is allowed to do it.

I don’t see people attacking other ethnic religions for limiting their exposure to unwanted elements. Shinto isn’t attacked. American Indian religions aren’t attacked. But this is the true hilarity: the AFA never said that they weren’t allowing non-Europeans to join. For that matter, they also never said that gay or transgendered people can’t join. Straight Europeans are, however, the primary target demographic one way or another. And haven’t we always talked about the need to grow the religion? People are generally opposed to proselytising, so that really only leaves breeding. Oh, how gauche! What were they thinking in [current year]?

Lucius Helson has done a lovely job pointing out the nonsense of people:

Joseph Bloch also did wonderfully in response:

Even Galina Krasskova had her fun.

Obviously this nonsense couldn’t stop, though. The Troth has been throwing a fit the whole time and has lied every step of the way. Their mind-numbingly stupid, initial response was rather passive for them (archive 1, archive 2):

The Troth is open to all who seek to know and to honor the Gods, ancestors, and values of the Germanic Heathen traditions, regardless of gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation. The Troth stands against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, or any other form of prejudice.
While we are aware that there are some Asatru organizations that are not inclusive to all people, the Troth’s doors are open to all those who may have been excluded due to their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or ability. The Troth stands against the AFA’s vision of what Asatru should be, and we do not recognize their beliefs as representative of a majority of American Asatru (Heathenry). There are no arbiters of who can and cannot worship our deities, but the Gods themselves. We are a family religion, and to the Troth that means all families.

Good for them, but they aren’t actually doing anything differently really. They were just using this as a cheap tactic for recruitment, which, if I understand correctly, hasn’t been so great. It was just such a tiresome thing to read, even when written so shortly. There was some amusement in a comment from a certain “Acid Queen”:

So what will you do about AFA members who are also in the Troth?

Incorrect thoughts! Must purge!

But the Troth did not fail me. They had a far more entertaining post just tonight (archive 1, archive 2), of which I will quote the first two paragraphs:

Racist or homophobic actions or speech are considered to be violations of military discipline under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) article 134, and the Canadian Queens Regulations and Orders 103.60. Recent statements from the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) that Asatru or Heathenry is only open to those who are white, heterosexual gender conforming are in fact untrue. This represents their internal policies, not Heathen belief. The AFA present the US and Canadian military a clear-cut, but false, statement that those service folk who express Heathen or Asatru religious beliefs are in contravention of UCMJ 134, and QR&O 103.60. Because the Department of Defense guidelines specifically prohibit this sort of prejudice (http://diversity.defense.gov/About/), the statements of the AFA, if accepted as true, would appear to put Heathen or Asatru soldiers in breach of the policies of the forces and nations they are sworn to serve. This has severe career implications for all Heathen service folk, as well as being a slur upon countless good and worthy men and women who are forbidden by existing regulations to advocate for themselves.

It falls to organizations like The Troth to provide the strong and clear message that Asatru and Heathenry as a whole strongly condemn racism, homophobia, and similar forms of discrimination. For those Heathen men and women who now serve under arms, and who are forbidden to speak in their own defense, let us be as clear as possible.

What delightful lies, hyperbole, and stupidity! Of course, the AFA said nothing of the sort, but why let facts get in the way? They’re so burdensome and inconvenient anyway. Playing pretend is so much more fun, after all.

I just don’t understand how someone can write such a plainly and factually incorrect statement about the AFA. They merely stated their positions, which are not falsifiable. Gender is not a social construct, after all.1In fact, claiming otherwise would undermine the very goals and hopes of transitioning for any transgendered person, as there would suddenly be no point because there’s nothing else there to become. Feminine women and masculine men are the norm. Children are cherished things. Being of European descent cannot be incorrect. Loving your own people is not a crime. None of this is somehow wrong. Supporting these does not make you a bad person.

I am a gay man who is married to another man. I celebrate my English and German heritage, just as my husband celebrates his Swedish heritage. We plan on having kids, which have been otherwise delayed because of financial constraints. I support all of the AFA’s statements. I am not banned by them in the slightest. This does not make me or anyone else homophobic, transphobic, or racist magically. The Troth’s shrieks about military discipline simply do not apply, although it would not take much to level such allegations of racism against them due to their (often self-)hatred of Europeans.

The AFA and the Troth differ a lot. While I have had issues with the former in the past, I consider the latter to be rather unhinged much of the time. But neither is my concern, as I am a member of neither. I have no ties to any organisation. I mind my own business. I don’t force my values onto others.

Sadly, shoving one’s values around seems to be the biggest thing in the eyes of many on the left. It’s an issue that will only hurt Heathendom ultimately.

EDIT (11:20 PM): Joseph Bloch has already penned his piece on the Troth’s latest failure. I rather like one particular paragraph:

The level of self-contradiction here is just incredible. First they say nobody can speak for all Heathens, and then they proceed to… speak for all Heathens. Especially when what the AFA said was neither racist (it is not, by definition, racist to say that all races should have the same opportunity to worship their ancestral gods), nor homophobic (because it’s not homophobic to say that heterosexual relationships are normal and good; doing do is not an implicit or explicit condemnation of non-heterosexual relationships, no matter how hard they want to say otherwise).

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. In fact, claiming otherwise would undermine the very goals and hopes of transitioning for any transgendered person, as there would suddenly be no point because there’s nothing else there to become.

A Supposed Fascist

I am a fascist.

Or at least I am according to the rag Gods & Radicals in Rhyd Wildermuth’s “Confronting the New Right” (archive) and “The Uncomfortable Mirror” (archive) and again in Shane Burley’s “Rainbow Heathenry: Is a Left-Wing, Multicultural Asatru Possible?” (archive).

When this nonsense started, I was stunned. I’m accustomed to fools saying dumb things; it’s the Internet, after all. This, however, was on a new level. The first thing to catch my eye was how poorly these people understand what fascism is. To them it’s just anything that is seemingly contrary to their own beliefs. This is not unlike how socialism is an evil thing in the US, as it is supposedly contrary to the American way of life. It’s clear that Rhyd did not mean to refer to a totalitarian government with tight controls on the economy and collectivist ideals being placed over individual rights.

No, it’s really just about how anything that vaguely smacks of traditionalism is bad because having roots at all is somehow bad to Marxists. What a wonderful world these people see around them.

The initial article is focused on the Alt Right (named the New Right throughout) and professes to out them for their fascist beliefs. These supposedly are:

  • A belief in the decay of society.
  • Being pro-European.
  • A return to sacred traditions that have been otherwise disrupted.
  • Protection of one’s land and thus nation.
  • Defending against external threats in the form of a common enemy.

I must say that these don’t seem too bad. All polytheists want a return to our ancestor’s sacred traditions. Protecting one’s land and nation should never be taboo, but apparently it is now. And it’s true that it’s usually a thoughtcrime to be pro-European, but, hey, it’s okay for everyone else to approve of their own people, so let’s do away with the double standards for once. All in all, though, none of this is remotely fascist. Darn.

Let’s not stop there. Rhyd goes on to list which things are subsequently prone to this evil, evil Alt Right:

Before continuing, it is important to note that the presence of New Right ideas in any Pagan or Magical Tradition does not mean the tradition itself is part of the New Right. Often times the adoption of these ideas is unconscious, particularly since many advocates of New Right ideology do not present their ideas as part of a political stance. In fact, many ideas are presented as overtly ‘apolitical,’ deriving from common sense, tradition, lore, or the will of the gods.

  • Dianic and Goddess Spirituality: Most adherents of Dianic Witchcraft and goddess spirituality are fiercely feminist and egalitarian.  There is some danger of potential crossover with the New Right through ‘essentialist’ ideas of gender—and the ‘sacred’ right of people to exclude transpeople from their circles.’

  • Druidry: While groups such as the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids are fiercely egalitarian, smaller groups (including the ADF and AoDA) sometimes have overlaps with Traditionalist and Tribalist thought, particularly in ADF’s focus on Indo-European ‘hearth cultures.’  Also, the ideas of Oswald Spengler (a favorite amongst many New Right theorists) have gained popularity through some “Long Descent” druids.

  • Reconstructionism: One of the more significant places where the New Right intersects with Pagan beliefs. Emphasis on returning to ‘reconstructed’ traditions, older (and poorly understood) social forms and hierarchical structures, as well as an emphasis on recovering European heritage are often problematic. Further, nationalistic and racial exclusionist tendencies are often justified as being part of ‘the lore.’

  • Devotional Polytheism: Similar to the problems in Reconstructionism, but with an extra dimension. Because some Devotional Polytheists place final authority in ‘the gods’ and emphasise hierarchical relationships (between human and god, priest and devotee), ethical questions cannot be challenged by concerned people because ‘the gods will it.’

  • Heathenism, Asatru, and ‘Northern Traditions’: while generally considered the most problematic, Heathenism is one of the few large Pagan traditions which also has a vibrant opposition against New Right ideology. Also, because of the constant media attention white nationalists within Heathenism garner, non-racist Heathens can draw on greater support from the communities around them.

  • Occult/Witch/High Magic Traditions: Because of their emphasis on obscurantism and secret mysteries, it is often difficult to discern the political leanings of leaders within occult traditions. Here, ‘association’ tends to be much more useful. Mentions of Evola or other ‘esoteric fascists’ should be considered warning signs.

My, my, how broad! I especially love how reconstructionists apparently do not understand the societies that they’re studying. This will really come as a surprise to those involved in Hellenismos and Cultus Deorum Romanorum. And someone should tell the Celtic Reconstructionists that they’re racist and “problematic” just by virtue of their name and methodology.

He then expands on these sins by listing more things that the Alt Right believes in:

  • Hierarchy (as opposed to egalitarianism)1Impressively Rhyd claims that hierarchies are unnatural and do not exist in nature. It’s an amazing display of stupidity.
  • Tribalism (as opposed to “interconnectedness”)
  • Self-determination for all people2This is outright mocked by Rhyd, going so far to say that it’s okay for others, but not for Europeans. Furthermore it’s claimed that this belief is just a lie anyway.

At this point Rhyd should just come out as racist against Europeans, but in his world there’s no such thing as racism against Europeans due to some fantastical belief that only people with ill-defined “power” can be racist. So very convenient.

In his second piece, Rhyd tries to weasel his way out a bit by saying:

I am also not accusing all polytheists (or anyone else) of being Fascist. If I were, then I would also be a Fascist. The piece I wrote draws no equivalency between specific Pagan-aligned traditions and the New Right. Rather, I draw attention to places where New Right ideology intersects, could influence or currently influences Paganism, including the traditions I am a part of.

And further down in the same piece:

The presence of ideas espoused by the New Right in any Pagan tradition or belief system does not mean the tradition or belief system is part of the New Right.

But such journalistic integrity was to be found:

Is there a leftist infiltration of Polytheism? And am I—and the writers of Gods&Radicals—leading it? Or did I, by gathering information about the New Right hold an uncomfortable mirror up to a tradition I am a part of? Have I violated sacred traditions, or merely revealed their political aspects?

After all, he’s only insulted a vast portion of polytheists baselessly and with incorrect definitions, especially so for Heathens. Theodism is really targeted, though never named.

Let’s actually bother to look at the Alt Right’s beliefs. I’ll summarise The Right Stuff’s article on this very topic:

  • Meritocracy
  • Tribalism and the protection of one’s own
  • Europeans have a right to self-determination like everyone else3Self-determination is specifically mentioned in the United Nations Charter under Chapter 1, Article 1: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”
  • Gender differences exist and are complementary, which are in turn expressed by gender roles
  • Unrestrained democracy is bad4This, of course, bears a striking resemblance to the issues of mob rule and the tyranny of the majority.
  • Optional: Jews have a disproportionate influence on the West and do not have the best interests in mind for Europeans5This issue is contested on multiple sites in my research. For some this is a mandatory tenet, while others disagree. The former have great contempt for the latter. This issue is further exacerbated by Israel having a habit of demanding that the West change its ways and open its borders to everyone, yet Israel won’t do the same.

More information can be learned from Allum Bokhari’s and Milo Yiannopoulos’ “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt Right6During my wanderings on Alt Right websites, opinions were thoroughly divided about this article. Some absolutely hated it, saying that the authors portrayed the movement poorly or that Milo Yiannopoulos was trying to position himself as some sort of leader. Others said that it was broadly good. I did not see many in between.:

  • A great respect for history
  • A love of culture
  • A distaste for so-called cultural appropriation

There shouldn’t really be a problem with these tenets for the most part, yet opposition by the regressive Left is intense. They consider meritocracies to be discriminatory and demand instead quotas. They despise Europeans thinking of themselves; only guilt and monetary reparations should be witnessed. In the extreme they don’t believe in gender or think that it’s a spectrum or think that it’s an infinite collection.7It’s really rather amusing when regressives clash about which is the politically correct answer here. The only real similarities are a dislike for unrestrained democracy8While the Alt Right is often more concerned with uninformed voters holding massive power over informed voters, the regressive Left is horrified by votes that don’t agree with them and will decry the results. One might argue that this is similar in that the regressive Left feels that all those who disagree are uninformed voters. and cultural appropriation.9But the regressive Left does not believe that Europeans have cultures and thus only complains when a European dresses or acts in a manner that they dislike.

Throughout all of this, however, it’s been forgotten that the Alt Right is the result of the regressive Left. For years regressives have been telling Europeans that they don’t have a right to self-determination, that they’re racist no matter what, that they’re evil from birth, that they have no culture, and that they are inferior to others. Is it any wonder that people have fought back against these ideas? Some will go the opposite direction and form a counter, while others will simply give in to what they’re told and become the very things of which they are accused. After all, why does it matter what you do if you’re already guilty by some original sin?

Now it is evil that polytheists have any sort of love or respect for what they reconstruct or have otherwise built. It’s somehow morally wrong that they do not seek to destroy everything in the name of intersectional feminism, Marxism, or anarchism. Tradition and heritage are just so horrible, especially if it relates to Europe in any way! What crimes they have committed just by expressing wrongthink! And those Heathens are just the worst bunch of the lot.

This pains me. I was a Democrat for years.10Nowadays I am a member of the United Independent Party of Massachusetts. They have a convenient “what we believe” page. When I visited Washington, DC, in eighth grade for a class trip, I bought a miniature license plate that said “Democrat”. It hung in my bedroom throughout my teen years. I voted for Democrats for nearly a decade. In my teens I attended gay rights rallies and protested in front of the State House. I was in the newspaper for being a part of a signature campaign for gay rights in my high school; I still have the clipping and I cherish it. I remember excitedly sitting in front of the TV with my rainbow flag as marriage equality became law in Massachusetts and thinking about how I could marry someone in the future. I was vice president and later president of the gay-straight alliance in my high school. I helped in various environmental groups throughout university.

I was quite simply a progressive. But it was for nothing. I watched as the Democratic leadership voted poorly or actively hurt itself in some failed bid for bipartisanship.11I mean, really. The Democrats have the worst negotiation techniques. You don’t drop several of your demands on literally the opening move for fear that you might be rejected anyway! I watched as so-called progressives kept going so far left that I couldn’t even recognise their goals. I watched as I became the greatest evil in the world just because I’m a white male. Most recently I’ve witnessed the rise of the belief that I’m this horrible misogynist because I’m gay and not sleeping with women. Or, even better, that I’m gay by choice and thus even more terrible because of my apparent hatred for women.

The regressive Left is embodied by people like Rhyd Wildermuth, Shane Burley, and the social justice warriors who infect Tumblr, schools, and online “journalism”. They’ve gone so far over that the world itself is the enemy. They are intellectually dishonest and hold beliefs so stunningly radical that to implement them would be to burn everything until nothing remains. They’ve tried to destroy atheism, gaming, open source projects, and education. And now they are here for polytheism in this quest to burn. It is useless to try to reason with them, as ideological purity is their sole goal and everyone else must be smashed aside with their cries of racism, original sin, and heresy.

I have not moved much politically since I was a teen. I was taught that all peoples deserve the same rights and opportunities. I was taught that merit is important. I was taught to respect history and culture. I was taught to love my heritage and to embrace it. I was taught to help others and to extend these beliefs to others in good faith. And yet I am not on the Left anymore. The Left is unrecognisable and barely even visible from where I stand. For what I was taught and believe, I am labelled harshly and comically inaccurately.

The regressive Left does not want me. I am guilty and sinful to them. My very religion is now offensive to them. But the Alt Right wants me. They respect my love of tradition and heritage. They support me. They approve of my goals in history and religion. All without moving an inch politically, I already have a foot in their camp.

The regressive Left made me what I am.

Further reading:

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Impressively Rhyd claims that hierarchies are unnatural and do not exist in nature. It’s an amazing display of stupidity.
2. This is outright mocked by Rhyd, going so far to say that it’s okay for others, but not for Europeans. Furthermore it’s claimed that this belief is just a lie anyway.
3. Self-determination is specifically mentioned in the United Nations Charter under Chapter 1, Article 1: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.”
4. This, of course, bears a striking resemblance to the issues of mob rule and the tyranny of the majority.
5. This issue is contested on multiple sites in my research. For some this is a mandatory tenet, while others disagree. The former have great contempt for the latter. This issue is further exacerbated by Israel having a habit of demanding that the West change its ways and open its borders to everyone, yet Israel won’t do the same.
6. During my wanderings on Alt Right websites, opinions were thoroughly divided about this article. Some absolutely hated it, saying that the authors portrayed the movement poorly or that Milo Yiannopoulos was trying to position himself as some sort of leader. Others said that it was broadly good. I did not see many in between.
7. It’s really rather amusing when regressives clash about which is the politically correct answer here.
8. While the Alt Right is often more concerned with uninformed voters holding massive power over informed voters, the regressive Left is horrified by votes that don’t agree with them and will decry the results. One might argue that this is similar in that the regressive Left feels that all those who disagree are uninformed voters.
9. But the regressive Left does not believe that Europeans have cultures and thus only complains when a European dresses or acts in a manner that they dislike.
10. Nowadays I am a member of the United Independent Party of Massachusetts. They have a convenient “what we believe” page.
11. I mean, really. The Democrats have the worst negotiation techniques. You don’t drop several of your demands on literally the opening move for fear that you might be rejected anyway!

Problems in Heathendom

I like Lucius Svartwulf Helsen over at Son of Hel. I disagree greatly with him at times, but his posts are nonetheless interesting.

He’s having a crisis of faith in a manner of speaking. Not in the gods, but in how the religion operates itself.

Heathenism has grown over the years. It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this stuff for almost fifteen years now (Gods does that make me feel old, lol), and back when I started, there really wasn’t much of anything in my area. Now, I meet another Heathen every couple months, pagans every week, and I see temples and kindreds starting to pop up everywhere.

While there was some stuff online, I can’t say there was as much as there is now. Most of how I learned to be a Heathen came from reading about the Gods, and some history books. It was my birth heritage, my grandparents came over straight from Scandinavia. The myths were amazing, the Gods so relatable, and it didn’t judge me for all the violence, anger, and pain I felt at the time.

Of course, I didn’t have any other heathens to hang out with, or even really talk to. That’s part of why I started blogging back in about ’08 I think. The Heathenism I learned, that I knew, was about brotherhood, family, honor, integrity, hospitality, and so forth.

But the heathenism I knew, sadly, is not really the heathenism that is.

I don’t see an issue in some of the things that he sees, but it’s nonetheless good to read. The comments are also worthwhile. I can agree that the so-called online community is not what it once was, but I’m unsure how to fix that. Do we declare an Asa-Pope one day to help in unifying us in such matters? It’s very, very unlikely, especially in light of the ego-driven nonsense that comes from the leadership of the Troth and the AFA. Of course, just ask the Catholics how well the Pope unifies the faith; sedevacantists may have a few words to say.

Local Cultus

Lately people are really getting into local cultus. All in all, I’m very excited about that, as its lack has been something that annoyed me for years. Over a year ago, I was having lovely conversations with “obsessiveheathen”, a Rhode Island Anglo-Saxon Heathen who has since disappeared from the Internet, in regards to worshipping rivers and giving them offerings. Why don’t more do that? They should! It’s attested throughout Europe and it gives a good reason to throw apples into rapidly moving water, among other things.

Much of the current incarnation of local cultus, however, has been giving epithets to well attested deities. That’s a more complicated matter. My idea for such things is fairly simple: the practices of a particular region’s cultus should be one standard deviation away from the norm, at least when it comes to the divine. This is quite obviously a subjective thing, as you can’t really expect statistics to apply perfectly in such things, but it gives an idea about just how out of the way something may go before it’s just silly.

I would be inclined to say that some people have been a little too excited and instead went several deviations off the norm. Some are considerably off the charts or completely misunderstand how local cultus works.

A few days ago I noticed a particularly bothersome post on Tumblr about local cultus for Boston, outside of which I live. (Archived here in case the post disappears.) I’ll quote the relevant portion:

Demeter of Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall
– of the Emerald Necklace

Persephone of the turning leaves
– of the Boston Common

Hades of the Granary Burying Ground
– of the financial district

Hekate of the Salem Witch Trials

Hermes of the Marathon
– of the MBTA
– of the Isabella Stewart Gardner art theft

Dionysus of Provincetown
– of Martha’s Vineyard
– of the state house pinecone!

Athena of the Boston Public Library
– of the science museum

Poseidon of Spectacle Island
– of the New England Aquarium
– of the duck tours

Zeus of TD Garden
– of Fenway Park and the Red Sox
– of the Hancock

Ares of Bunker Hill memorial
– of the Freedom Trail
– of the Boston Tea Party
– of the race riots

Aphrodite of the Prudential Center
– of Newbury Street

Hephaestus of the Big Dig

Hestia of the North End
– of Southie
– of Firefly

A few of those aren’t too bad. Hermes of the Marathon works well in my mind due to his associations with travelling, roads, and athletic activities. Even  his association with hospitality works well here; many people along the marathon route offer runners water and other sustenance. Likewise, Hermes of the MBTA, our mass transit system, seems tenable, though a little specific for my tastes.

And that’s where everything falls apart. Things become too specific. Poseidon of the Duck Tours? Duck Tours is a private company founded in 1994. And what’s the association here? Because the amphibious vehicles are in the water? That’s weak and comical.

Hekate of the Salem Witch Trials? You don’t have a local cultus for a very particular set of events in the past. That’s utterly silly. And it’s not as though Hekate did anything for those who were killed during that time. If anything, the name implies to me that Hekate was somehow the source of the trials.

Zeus of TD Garden? How? Why? I can’t even fathom this one. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s an arena with a history of corporate sponsorship being more important than having a real name.

Aphrodite of the Prudential Center? That’s just a mall. I don’t see the association. Why not Hermes in his role as a god of merchants and trade?

Hephaestus of the Big Dig? Again, an event in the past. And let’s not forget that the construction project was a significantly delayed nightmare that had a cost overrun of 190%. And the costs continued to climb after the fact due to deaths and leaks! Why would you ever want to associate Hephaestus with that?

I could go on and on. In the author’s excitement, he or she failed to understand associations. Most of these just don’t make any sense. Some can be assigned to a different deity entirely; a laughable number can just be assigned to Hermes due to their being business ventures. And a few made me chuckle at how absurd they are.

Heathendom isn’t immune to these problems. Sian wrote about vocational cultus in regards to biomedical research. (Archived here.) Let’s pull out a few.

Óðinn of Humanised Mice? Frigg of Phylogenetic Trees? Loki of the Unexpected Band on the Western Blot? Sif of the Neglected Diseases? Freyja of Protein Purification? I can’t even call these silly. These are just downright idiotic. If anything, these might point more toward Eir, who is so often ignored in Ásatrú.

The closest that these ever get to being reasonable is, for example, Óðinn of Basic Research or of Longitudinal Studies. But that doesn’t scream any particular cultus. That’s just Óðinn being knowledgable. That’s it.

I’m honestly disappointed in how people are handling these ideas. People are misassigning concepts to deities who just don’t handle such functions. It’s one thing to see examples of slow development toward functions that aren’t the norm elsewhere, but people don’t want development over centuries. They want everything now, even when they often lack a firm grasp of the basics.

These things take time. Development is slow. Jumping the gun gets us nowhere. I’ll quote ThorinRuriksson on the matter of developing a Cascadian Heathendom:

But it’s difficult. It’s time consuming. It’s not as simple as picking things you like out of a grab bag of heathen ideas. Things have to make sense in a cultural way. They have to make sense in relation to our ancestors and our gods. This isn’t the heathen version of eclectic paganism… It’s the taking of everything I have ever learned, and everything those close to me have learned, and trying to make those parts into a new and functioning whole. This isn’t creation of the new, but synthesis of the old, of the learning and wisdom that I and those others involved have gained over many combined decades of study and worship. I don’t know if it will work, or if it will survive, but I do know it needs to be attempted. So, myself and a couple of other users from this sub who live nearby are doing it.

These are wise words that could serve many well.

Rather than simply being dismissive of everything, I have some examples for Þórr that I find quite possible and worthwhile. These all use Norse lore as a base.

  • His association with goats could be emphasised. He is known in Old Norse as hafra dróttinn “lord of goats”, after all.1Hymiskviða 20 and 31 From there it’s not much a stretch to see him as a god of farm animals. The loss of farm animals is a devastating and costly affair. One might think of him as being concerned with a farm’s wellbeing.
  • His association with oaks could become greater. From there one might associate him with forests in general and the wealths that can be found within. As a god of the wild places, he would be related to lumber and game, in turn providing homes, tools, meat, and furs. Once more he is helping humanity. This form could go by simply Bjǫrn “bear”.2Nafnaþulur 17
  • His association with farming could become more important. He provides the rain that we need for our crops. He could be the cornerstone of a farming community, perhaps to the exclusion of his other attributes. This form could go by Hlóriði “loud rider, loud weather-god”3Hymiskviða 4, 16, 27, 29, 37 4Lokasenna 54 5Þrymskviða 7, 8, 14, 31 6Vellekla 15. This is particularly interesting, as Vellekla was written in the late tenth century, far earlier than the other sources. or perhaps Rymr “noise, roaring”7Nafnaþulur 17, both on the account of storms.
  • His associations with combat, strength, and protection might be more important for some areas. He could become a god of militiamen, police, and armies. This form could easily go by the name Vingþórr “battle-Thor”8Nafnaþulur 17 9Þrymskviða 1 10Alvíssmál 6 11Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (2007) pg. 71. I should note that the meaning is disputed, but may be related to Old High German Wigiþonar, whose prefix is from either *wīgian “to hallow” or *wīgan “to fight”., Reiðitýr “angry god”12Haustlǫng 20 13Petra Mikolić, The God-semantic Field in Old Norse Prose and Poetry (2013) pg. 20, or, to use it again, Bjǫrn “bear”.14Nafnaþulur 17

These are logical and not a great leap from Þórr’s existing attributes. The last two are arguably already present; consider how many Heathens cheer during a good thunderstorm after a drought or have tattoos of Mjǫllnir while serving in the military.

We needn’t stop there. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s best to start honouring the environment in more concrete ways. Honouring the wights is one thing, if also a nebulous one, yet very obvious rivers are ignored.

For me, this takes the form of the nearby Charles River. It has a long history of supporting industry. More recently, a great deal of recreational activity happens in it, such as rowing and sailing. Its watershed contains around 13 square miles of protected wetlands. As luck would have it, the name is Germanic in origin, making it very easy to integrate into our habit of using older languages. So if Charles isn’t a desired name, I could easily go by Karl or Carl, but also Old English ceorl (> Modern English churl, but with a sense change) and even Proto-Germanic *karlaz or *karilaz.

To the north is the Merrimack River, whose name is of uncertain origin. It is immensely important. It runs 117 miles through many major cities that had been founded to take advantage of the available power for mills. Its watershed is around 4,700 square miles; this is a huge environment for an impressive array of life.

Both of these deserve respect and worship as powerful wights, if not outright as gods. Should one not wish to go that route for whatever reason, think of the countless wights that would inhabit these places and the ones farther afield whose homes are supported by the presence of a nearby river.

It goes beyond this, though. Every area has activities that are very important. In Massachusetts, cranberry production is a large industry. Cranberries are harvested in the fall, typically using wet-picking, which involves flooding the beds with six to eight inches of water, then disturbing the vines so that the fruit comes off and floats to the surface, at which time it is corralled.

This makes for a fine regional event, which would not be available in much of the world, let alone even most of the US. A Heathen in California or Florida does not have access to such an event, for example. Why not imbue this event with spiritual significance? The harvest as a whole is important, which many vaguely celebrate already. This is a good place to start local practices, as well as community involvement. And is that not a foundational element of Heathendom?

In the end, there are many ways of developing local cultus. It won’t be quick. Traditions aren’t formed overnight, after all, but everything starts somewhere. We have so much available already, so let’s use it. Don’t just abandon our roots as religions with homework; we can grow from an informed base.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Hymiskviða 20 and 31
2, 7, 8, 14. Nafnaþulur 17
3. Hymiskviða 4, 16, 27, 29, 37
4. Lokasenna 54
5. Þrymskviða 7, 8, 14, 31
6. Vellekla 15. This is particularly interesting, as Vellekla was written in the late tenth century, far earlier than the other sources.
9. Þrymskviða 1
10. Alvíssmál 6
11. Rudolf Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (2007) pg. 71. I should note that the meaning is disputed, but may be related to Old High German Wigiþonar, whose prefix is from either *wīgian “to hallow” or *wīgan “to fight”.
12. Haustlǫng 20
13. Petra Mikolić, The God-semantic Field in Old Norse Prose and Poetry (2013) pg. 20

A Christian Apology

The Wild Hunt just posted an article titled “Should the Catholic Church apologize to Pagans?“, which is in turn inspired by Debra Macleod’s “Should the Catholic Church Acknowledge the Destruction of Classical Pagan Culture?” The original article is interesting, even if the author seems to notice only Vesta and even links to the questionable New Vesta organisation.

I’m not terribly impressed by the articles. The original article and the non-quoted sections of the Wild Hunt article don’t seem to understand the complexities of Christianity at the time. The Orthodox Church isn’t even mentioned outside the later quotes of the Wild Hunt article. The Patriarchs of the time aren’t mentioned in the slightest. The Catholic Church is the focus because it’s the standard Big Bad™ used in such discourse.

I grasp why these people are wanting an apology, but what will it accomplish? The religions, of which only Hellenic religion is mentioned by the Wild Hunt, were crushed. Countless, irreplaceable things were destroyed. We lost centuries and millennia of development that we must start over. Any complexities were washed away. An apology will do nothing to fix these losses.

Let’s think about financial reparations. Where does the money go? Who controls disbursement? Does the money go to academics who will conduct new research, but are not part of the religions in question? Will it go to local governments for conservation efforts for which they care nothing? Or will it go to religious organisations who love to serve themselves? I don’t think that I want, for example, the Troth or the AFA to receive money to do as they please. I have enough issues with them solely in regards to their clergy programmes.

Would a new umbrella organisation control the money instead? Who would lead this? How are they chosen? Will money be given out fairly? To whom? For what? How will expenditures be tracked? What is considered a worthwhile expenditure? What if money is stolen or mishandled? How would officers of this organisation be held accountable outside of local law?

Questions are many, yet answers are startlingly few.

The one thing that I want and is simultaneously more likely to happen is to have greater research conducted in the Vatican Library, the Vatican Secret Archives, and any other archive controlled by Christianity. Countless documents reside there. Ignored and forgotten information is there for the learning. To have everything searched for the smallest scraps of information would be astounding and a boon for us, while also allowing Christian leadership to dance around the issue of culpability.

But it’s not enough to read the texts alone. The information must be public and easily available so that the knowledge isn’t controlled by a handful of historians with their own biases and faults. Every little thing must be searched, too. The bindings of books, for example, often contained older books that were recycled; bits of information can be found in that manner.

It’s not a small undertaking. It would take many, many years and willing, sympathetic historians. Never mind the major turnaround required for Christian leaders even to accept this, let alone maintain the generosity. And that’s why, even with its being one of the likeliest things, it will probably not happen any time soon.

Þórbeorht Línléah’s “Of Ghosts and Godpoles”

In November 2014 Þórbeorht Línléah published Of Ghosts and Godpoles through Lulu. The reviews were immediately glowing and it was well received in various corners of Heathendom. For example:

It is a fabulous work with great insight and wisdom regarding our Elder traditions. Challenging and thought provoking and destined to be a Classic, if not already.

Or another:

This is the best book to come out of modern Heathenry in a long time, possibly ever. Rather than another “101” book or dense academic wankery with no practical value to Heathen praxis, “Ghosts and Godpoles” presents obscure (to many) information in a learned yet enjoyably readable manner. It may be open to criticism on academic grounds, as other reviewers have said, and everyone should read everything critically, but Linleah makes it clear that his objective is not the elusive ghost of “academic objectivity;” he clearly states he is writing from a Heathen position for Heathen readers. I believe this book is not only important for the information it represents, some of which dispels many of the uncritically accepted modern myths of Heathenry, but as a challenge to Heathen writers to step out of the paradigm of Neo-Pagan publishing and focus on output that furthers the growth of Heathenry past simple rehashing of beginner’s instructional materials. With extensive annotation, bibliography, appendices, and the author’s own translations of hard-to-find texts, “Of Ghosts and Godpoles” belongs one very serious Heathen’s bookshelf, regardless of culture or focus.

Or this excerpt of a review from Heathen Harvest:

This book is not for beginners; there is a fairly high level of assumed knowledge, as the author freely admits. However, for those who are comfortable with the tools of historical research—linguistics, archaeology, mythology, reportage, historiography, cross-cultural comparison, and aesthetics—it represents a tour de force, and really throws down the gauntlet for contemporary Heathen authors to ground themselves deeply in the historical record and its interpretation.

Reconstructionism—the view that contemporary Heathen praxis must be grounded on historical evidence as far as practicable—is often pigeon-holed as being stodgy, unimaginative, self-righteous, or gratuitously restrictive. In contrast, Of Ghosts and Godpoles shows just how inspiring and evocative the reconstructionist approach can be, and stands as a great demonstration of reconstructionisms’ ability to enrich our understanding  of both historical and modern Heathenry. Mr. Línléah is a poet as well as an academic, and the poetic vision that guides his rigorous analyses is what makes all the difference and lifts his brand of Théodish reconstructionism into a heightened realm.

This is certainly high praise.

The book itself is 246 pages with a casewrap hardcover. It’s surprisingly sturdy and I see no issues with the binding, which is good. In theory the book should last for quite some time.

The contents are divided into an introduction, six essays (split across two sections), nine appendices, and a lengthy bibliography. The essays are largely unconnected and stand on their own; some were previously published. But it is this disconnectedness that hurts the book initially. The author rehashes arguments occasionally that were already covered in previous chapters. A thorough editing is desperately needed to bring the book together.

To be perfectly blunt, I’m not impressed. The author wanders off topic frequently and needs to reassert the essay’s subject every so often. He views this style as being thorough; I view it as being disorganised and in need of a dispassionate editor.

As is said by the Heather Harvest, he does certainly use “linguistics, archaeology, mythology, reportage, historiography, cross-cultural comparison” in his arguments. It’s important, however, that these tools be used correctly. On the linguistics front alone, he makes painfully wrong connections. He translates incorrectly, while also having a penchant for using archaic words that will themselves require translations for many readers.

Perhaps my favourite issue with words is in his mishandling of Muspilli. In the original:

doh uuanit des vilo ….. gotmanno
daz Elias in demo uuige    aruuartit uuerde
so daz Eliases pluot    in erda kitriufit

He translates this as:1Page 93

But weeneth many that [are] god-men
that Elias in the war slaineth will be.
So that Elias’ blood into the Earth dripeth

Ignoring his frequent, hilariously wrong usage of –eth, he fails to understand Old High German pluot “blood”. In his expert opinion, pluot is cognate with Old English blōt and Old Norse blót “sacrifice”. From here he builds a theory that this whole section is a reference to sacral kingship, upon which the remaining chapter rests by his own admission.2Page 94 But pluot is cognate with Old English blōd and Old Norse blóð “blood”, while the Old High German cognate of blōt and blót is plōz (or *pluoz). This mistake shows that he fails at basic dictionary usage and to understand the High German consonant shift.

A second striking issue is his essay on Seaxnēat.3Pages 29 – 44 This section alone has received more praise than anything else and was, indeed, my initial draw in buying the book. After a dry, unneeded forward for the essay, he launches into paragraph after paragraph of saying why others were wrong about Seaxnēat and why his pet theory is correct, but without the decency of even feigned neutrality.

His arguments require absolute acceptance of Dumézil’s trifunctional hypothesis, which I reject already. It is in his opinion that the statues of Þórr, Óðinn, and Freyr at Uppsala are indicative of all worship elsewhere, thus making Seaxnēat a southern byname of Freyr in the context of the Old Saxon baptismal vow. As supporting evidence, he brings up three other instances of the Norse trio being mentioned together.4Page 43 But his own, limited evidence also lists Njǫrðr twice and Freyja once. It’s hardly compelling. He could have renamed the essay “Dumézil and Turville-Petre Are Divinely Inspired and Grimm Is Wrong” and at least then you would know in advance that you were reading a hagiography instead of a supposedly scholarly work.

Irminsul as popularly depicted

The author did point out one useful thing in his essay, “Poles, Pillars, and Trees”. He showed how the common image of Irminsul is actually just a palm.5Pages 50 – 53 I had wondered where the ornate design had originated and never connected it to the Christian stonework at Externsteine. The original person to make the claim that the palm was Irminsul, Wilhelm Teudt, provided no actual evidence for the connection. It’s a pity that so many groups have taken up the imagery as a symbol for our cosmology.

Despite the useful bit on Irminsul, the book is overall a failure. It provides little of worth and is by no means a classic for the ages. The author is too willing to indulge in pan-Germanicism, even for things centuries and many kilometres apart. This issue extends into things where there isn’t the slightest bit of evidence, such as briefly mentioning the Vanir as being present outside the Norse. It goes so far that he makes up a word for them: the Uuani. For a group whose etymology is unknown and very existence as a distinct entity even among the Norse is up for debate6Simek, Rudolf. “The Vanir: An Obituary.” The Retrospective Methods Network Newsletter, December 2010, pp 10-19., I find this inexcusable.

I do not recommend this book. It is poor. Though it is rather cheap, especially with the author’s current sale and Lulu’s frequent discounts, a reader will not gain a serviceable addition to his library. If anything, it has caused people to have ahistorical reconstructions and incorrect beliefs of the past, which in turn hurts all of us in Heathendom.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Page 93
2. Page 94
3. Pages 29 – 44
4. Page 43
5. Pages 50 – 53
6. Simek, Rudolf. “The Vanir: An Obituary.” The Retrospective Methods Network Newsletter, December 2010, pp 10-19.

Capitalisation

I’m very late to this party, but it has bothered me for a while that people insist on capitalising pagan and paganism. The reasons for it are aggravating at best.

The typical reasoning goes:

Pagan and Paganism are now the well-established chosen self-designations and internationally-recognised nominal identifiers of a defined religious community. The same terms are appropriately lower-case only when they refer to ancient “pagans” since, in that context, the term does not refer to a discrete movement or culture. In short, “Pagan” and “Paganism” now function much as “Jew,” “Judaism,” “Christian,” and “Christianity” do.

But this is wrong. “Pagan” is no more a discrete movement than monotheism collectively. It’s not a single religion in the slightest and some groups—especially us Heathens—want nothing to do with the term often enough, let alone the other religions forced into the label. Rarely do I wish to associate with Wicca, for example.

Worse yet, it’s a term defined what it is not: we’re not a part of an Abrahamic religion. That’s an awful way of defining oneself.

But let’s move on:

Thus contemporary Paganism (sometimes referred to as “Neo-Paganism” to distinguish it from historical pre-Christian folk traditions) should be understood as a revival and reconstruction of ancient nature-based religions, or religious innovation inspired by them, which is adapted for the modern world. Paganism is also called “The Old Religion,” “Ancient Ways,” “Nature Worship,” “Earth-Centered Spirituality,” “Natural Religion,” and “Green Religion.”

Ouch. These other terms are stunningly incorrect. While one could argue that Fyrnsidu is semantically similar to “The Old Religion”, I’ve never used the latter, nor have I ever heard anyone other than Wiccans use it. I am amused that the term is brought up in the same paragraph to mention “religious innovation”, so nothing old in and of itself necessarily.

Donna Bianca sums this whole issue up nicely on a post by Sermons from the Mound:

The word ‘Christian’ refers to one single religion, with many distinct sects or denominations – such as Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. It’s proper and fitting that the name of a specific religion should be capitalized, as well as the names of its various sects or denominations. But we already have that: ‘Wicca’ as one specific religion is capitalized; and so are the various sects of Wicca, such as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Georgian, Majestic, Cymmry, Stregheria, etc.

But the word ‘pagan’ is an umbrella term – just like monotheist, pantheist, polytheist, mystic, etc. Paganism does not refer to one single religion, like the words Judaism or Wicca or Asatru or Hinduism do.

If someone is advocating the capitalization of the term ‘pagan’ then logically they should also be advocating for the capitalization of words like pantheism and monotheism and many others. There are many umbrella terms out there; where would it all end?

No matter what happens, though, I’ll be stuck seeing people posting comments like the following from Terra Gazelle:

Please capitalize the word Pagan..as you would with the word Christian.

And there’s just no way to fight people like this without derailing conversations. How unfortunate.

Education

It’s an odd thing when someone responds to something with only “educate yourself”, plus maybe some insults afterwards. That’s not exactly a good way to garner support for yourself. Worse yet, it often comes from people who do no understand the issue at hand, yet still manage to come across as self-righteous and aggressive.

Why not write up a lovely response with links to informative things?Maybe the original person doesn’t have access to the same information as readily or doesn’t know where to look. And I do mean actually informative things. Provide people with peer reviewed studies, books with proper citations, and the latest news on discoveries. Don’t give them Tumblr posts filled with vitriol and the worst of self-serving UPG.

Trying to teach people about important topics can be hard, I admit. I spent two years trying to combat misinformation on Tumblr, only to see people ignoring my information often enough and instead wanting ahistorical tripe. It hurts a bit. But I still want to share information where I can. There are still silent people out there who love what is provided. They stick to the shadows and absorb what they find. I was like that when I was a teenager and, looking back, I realise that I learned a surprising amount that way. I became able to stand on my own and help others in turn.

If you’re too tired of people to provide a useful response, don’t respond at all. Let someone else deal with it. Or maybe come back to it later once you’re feeling better about it. You’ll only scare away people or anger them if you’re immediately coming off as an awful person.

Halloween

As is always the case in October, lots of Americans and Canadians make posts about Halloween and ask if it’s okay to participate as a Heathen or a Hellenist or any other number of things.

Yes, my dear people. It’s okay. For a long time now it’s been a secular holiday enjoyed by many. If you wish to add religious flair to it, by all means honour the dead or do whatever you feel to be appropriate at the time.

Or don’t do anything! If you don’t want to get involved, don’t. Pass on it.

It’s as simple as that.