Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Would the Vikings Use the Euro?

One of the things I find most fascinating about modern-day Paganism is the attempt to re-imagine and re-construct the spiritual pathways of the European past (note: for my purposes, I define Paganism as pre-Christian European religious traditions and their modern revivals, though this is not to meant to disparage spiritual traditions of other regions), and also to adapt these bygone traditions to modern society. Thus I am blogging on a computer instead of carving a runestone, for example.

With regard to Asatru/Heathenry and the revival of pre-Christian, Germanic-Nordic-Scandinavian religious traditions, something I find very interesting is how many modern day Asatruar in the USA are deeply involved with reimagining and reconstructing the lifestyle and religious beliefs of Viking era Scandinavia, but often seem to have no interest in the further evolution of Scandinavia beyond the Viking era. Now I know one way to explain this is to say, post-Viking, Scandinavia was Christianized, so who cares about it after that? Well, I do.

I have traveled to all the Scandinavian countries, most recently Sweden in spring of 2009, Iceland and Norway in spring of 2007, and also lived in Iceland on a Fulbright graduate student fellowship in 1996. Modern Scandinavia is extremely admirable and impressive, in my view. Strong economies; healthy people; beautiful landscapes; progressive social policies; cultures that retain the old and embrace the new, from rock-carvings to Nokia. It seems to me that the industriousness, imagination and sense of curiosity of the Vikings of the past did not go to waste, in fact never went away at all. These countries have continued to evolve, and the modern-day "Vikings" are just as worthy of respect as the legendary ones of old. I do not know if many American Asatruar share my feeling, and I think part of the reason is politics. In my experience, many American Asatruar are small-town, rural-oriented folks, either by birth or by later in life choice, and they tend toward a conservative, right-of-center political viewpoint that is opposed to the kind of quasi-socialism of the modern-day Scandinavian nations, where "social democracy" (the more respectful term) provides much more security and support to the population than what we see in the USA. I wish we could learn more from the modern Vikings, but I suppose the current health care debate shows how threatened most Americans are by strange, foreign ideas like universal health care. Just call me "Lefty the Viking."


Seeing Eye Chick said...

You can say it. They are like Heathen Southern Baptists in some cases.

I wish we could be more like modern Scandinavia. They have some wonderful stuff going on over there. Their education system is nice.

My mother lived in Denmark for a time as an adult exchange student and she just loved it. I myself never made it past Germany and Austria, but still enjoyed the visits, the food, the art and just walking.

I wish America would create Bike Lanes and Walking paths like that, parallel even with rural roads. And everyone was so polite--even when you could tell that they were in a bad mood. To me that is an admirable personal self control.

I wish we had their Health Care System. But half of America is too stupid to figure out how bad things are. They call it socialism and vote against it, and then when they fall catastrophically ill, you hear them whining all over the air waves. I am sure the NeoCons will find a way to blame Mexicans for that too.

At this point, if I had the money and knew that I could make a good life for my family in one of the Scandinavian States, or even in Iceland, I would consider immigrating.

I live in true fear that our current sitting President will be assassinated by Racist nutbars, and that a large percentage of Gun Owners will follow them right round the bend of crazy--and go bonkers in the streets. See Gun Toting idiots at AZ and NH Rallies--

Anonymous said...

"Now I know one way to explain this is to say, post-Viking, Scandinavia was Christianized, so who cares about it after that?"

I think this sentiment sums up one of the problems of Reconstructionism in general. I find it to be an unfortunate truth that many American pagans quickly ascribe themselves a culture based solely on genetic inheritance. However, even though the American cultural experience is broad, it is rarely Scandinavian, or Celtic (unless you belong to a family of very recent immigrants) in it's outlook.

I would argue, in fact that this cavalier appropriation of culture based on interest can be a form of cultural rape when one is dishonest about their personal cultural influences.

You cannot pretend that a culture was good and admirable up to the point of being Christianized and then ignore those who still belong to that culture. Those living in modern day Scandinavia understand Scandinavian culture it in ways American reconstructionists never will. I see this as the reason why many hardcore recons exhibit such big political and social differences with their "mother" countries.

Celtic Reconstructionists tend to be very politically liberal, whereas Gaelic Traditionalists are not. Both, in my opinion, are shaped more in outlook socially and politically by American culture than Gaelic. Yet many of them will happily speak for it.

Matt BP said...

I would say that the American cultural experience is dominated by the modern Celtic worldview. Just to sum up a few of the ways that Americans are seen by the world that parallels with the Celtic nations on each side of the North Atlantic (yes I'm including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland as they both have official Gaelic names), Americans are;
Negatives Isolationist, militant & ultra religious, intolerant, exploitative, rife with inner division, worshipful of youth
Positives Diverse, capable of great things, personable, largely egalitarian

These are things I would say are indicative of all the Celtic nations, where every corner of the country wants its local culture dialect held high as the paragon of truth, where religion has ruled in hand with government for thousands of years, but capable of works of art and poetry and now movies and books that are beautiful and moving.

Point is, the War of Independance was described at the time of being little more than a successful Irish Protestant uprising.

I am, of course, forever an outsider looking in.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Many Southern families and hillfolk held onto their Irish, and ScotsIrish identity. Keep in mind that each generation had to retranslate that family lore/Identity in context to their current living situations, their personalities, experiences, etc., So naturally there may be kernels of Authentic Celticism and those pieces/parts have powerful meaning to the people who claim them, but that being said, obviously, people living in Southern United States are not in Ireland, Scotland or anywhere else that might be considered indigenous to Celtic peoples. In addition as these peoples intermarried with other cultures, Native, or other Europeans etc., other elements blended or clashed with that Celtic heritage. Some Native peoples have clan systems that are similar to the Celtic Clan systems, at least at first glance. It can lead to some confusion when trying to untie the gordian knot that is most American's ethnic heritage.

In America people can often feel that their Genetic Phenotype isn't reflective of their internal model of an ethnic identity.

Honestly I observe that for some Americans, they feel rootless and sometimes rejected by the cultures they descend from because they were not born on the "right" soil. They are neither fish nor fowl, and are forever trying to fly or swim often at the wrong times, through life, when navigating ethnic identity issues. I believe this in part is what leads to reductionism, or is mistaken by some as reductionism.

I also believe sometimes that character is wrongly equated with ethnic identity as well. But that might be another discussion.

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