Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From the Tribe to the United Nations

It has been very interesting to read the responses that have been posted to my recent critique of the emphasis on tribalism in much of the Asatru/Heathenry/Norse Paganism that has been developing in the United States. While some readers seem to agree with my viewpoint, others are clearly annoyed that anyone would dare question the importance of The Tribe. This dual response brings me back to why I first began this blog: the sense that there was a split in the Pagan community between people of a conservative-libertarian political orientation and others with a more leftist-liberal perspective, with the latter being my own preference, which I felt was in need of greater representation and advocacy. In regards to Norse Paganism, it seems clear now that those who embrace the tribal concept are generally of conservative bent, and those who reject the tribe tend to be the more liberal sort of Pagans.

The recent discussions have further validated my sense that tribalism is a dead end for Asatru and any other form of Paganism; indeed, for modern life in general. While it may provide the comforting sense of a tight-knit community to those seeking the safety of a small, closed circle, it seems to me to often lead to, or perhaps derive from, an "us vs. them" view of the world that comes uncomfortably close to racism and intolerance, and could easily be interpreted to support such hateful attitudes and ideologies.

I believe that a core fallacy of the tribal concept is the notion that the solution to the frustrations of modern life is to retreat into the past. This is perhaps a weird statement for a Pagan to make, especially one drawn to Norse Paganism, since much of Paganism involves a desire to reconnect with and revive portions of the past. Where I differ from those I will characterize as "tribal Pagans" is that I see the past as a place to visit, to seek inspiration from, to learn from, but not to blindly emulate in every instance. I believe we have to pick and choose from past Pagan heritage what makes sense to us and suits us, but not turn off our minds and become unthinking slaves of the past. Tribalism does not make sense to me living in the modern world, and so I reject it.

I believe that tribes did make sense once upon a time when there was no larger social unit or government structure to integrate into or rely upon. But in Scandinavia and in other regions too, people generally formed larger-scale communities that went beyond the tribe as soon as they could. Kingdoms; commonwealths; republics; you get the picture. Also, people began to mix with others as soon as they had the opportunity to travel and interact more freely. The situations where people have resisted forming larger, more mixed and tolerant social units are not especially pleasant places to contemplate: Nazi Germany; Apartheid South Africa; Ku Klux Klan America; you get the picture. The overlap between white supremacist groups and modern neo-Nazis, some of whom claim to be Norse-Germanic Pagans, is all the more reason to reject the tribal model.

While tribalism does not equal racism, and I should note that I know a number of tribal Norse Pagans who are fine people and by no means racists, the ethnic focus of tribalism, coupled with the sense of a closed, insular atmosphere, makes me highly uneasy. Others may not feel the same kind of anxiety about these matters, but for me, having lived abroad in lands where I was a distinct minority, having pondered the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe and the history of racism in the United States, a history which I do not believe is over by any means, tribalism rings bells of alarm. Even if all tribal Paganism, as it exists today, could be proven to be 100% racism-free, it might still provide aid and comfort to those seeking a religious basis for racism, and this concerns me as much as anything else. Unless the definition of tribe can be extended to the point of embracing all humanity, I cannot embrace tribalism.

Today we got to see President Obama and other world leaders addressing the General Assembly at the United Nations. I find this quite inspiring, even the droning weirdness of a Muammar Qaddafi speech. Why? Because it is the most amazing experiment the world has ever attempted in bringing all humanity together to articulate common goals and ideals and address common problems. Perfect? No, it certainly is not. Neither is humanity. There is much to complain and feel disappointed about with the UN; but that again is a reflection of humanity's own flaws and failings. However, the worst part of the UN is when you see naked tribalism on display; someone banging on about their own tribe or nation and denouncing the tribe or tribes they consider their enemies. Somehow, calls to common interest and cooperation tend to make for more inspiring speeches.

How does this relate to Paganism? Well, it so happens that the United Nations has been in the forefront of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples around the world, including their religious traditions, and through the UNESCO World Heritage program, their sacred sites. This is fantastic. Though "Paganism" as this writer uses the term is generally limited to pre-Christian European religious traditions and their modern revivals, these indigenous traditions of other regions are clearly close cousins of the Euro-Pagan religious traditions, and in fact, there is good reason to question making any distinction between "Pagan" and "Indigenous," and that distinction may well go by the wayside in the future; but that is a topic for another day.

This writer has participated in international meetings bringing together Pagans of different countries, and there was a wonderful joy and a great spiritual power in these different traditions coming together. Might such interactions possibly water down or "pollute" the purity of each Pagan tradition, by blending elements of each with the other? Perhaps, but this is nothing new. Norse Paganism was influenced by Celtic Paganism and Christianity, and if the Vikings had stayed longer in North America beyond the few summers they spent in Newfoundland, they no doubt would have intermixed with the natives and been influenced by their culture and religion.

In this regard, it is interesting to see the spate of recent films that explore that Native-Norse encounter of a thousand years ago, which seem to be conflicted about how to portray the Native Americans in relation to the Norse explorers. Were the Native Americans enemies, or "noble savages"? Inferior race or potential partners? I do not know a great deal of these films and their filmmakers, and I would be happy to hear from those who are better informed, but I believe that these ambivalent portrayals may show the influence of Pagan tribalism, just as tribal Norse Pagans may form the most enthusiastic audience for such films. Though the encounter of Norse with Native is an exciting topic for cinematic dramatization, there seems to be a wistful nostalgia for the possibility that the Norse might have been able to thrive as a separate people, or perhaps become European conquerors of the Natives, some 500 years before Columbus. Is this tribalism-- or racism? No doubt it can be interpreted in different ways.

Rather than rhapsodize about long-ago Vikings who often resorted to violence in interacting with other peoples, I like to think of modern-day Scandinavians who have often been involved in peace negotiations, aid to underdeveloped countries, and other distinctly non-tribal endeavors. I believe they show the Viking spirit evolving over the centuries to expand the concept of "tribe" to a much bigger community, that of humanity in general. I want to see a Paganism that celebrates humanity, not the tribe.

Perhaps the best symbol for this, from a Norse perspective, would be Yggdrasil, the World Tree. Its roots connect all worlds, and its branches shelter all beings, without favoring any particular race, tribe or species. The more I think about that, the more I like it.


Anonymous said...

Your pre-existing idea of what is right and wrong seems to trump in your mind any idea that might actually derive from ancient heathens. You come to paganism with a progressive/leftist world view, itself the bastard child of Christian ethics and eschatology and nothing like what our ancestors believed in (a world in a state of degeneration eventually to be repurified by cataclysm, possibly a cyclical process). You point to modern Scandinavians as if their ideologies have some heathen component, while in fact modern Scandinavians are post-Christians with centuries of Lutheranism and before that centuries of Catholicism behind them.

The ancient heathen world view was undergirded by a conception of the distinction between innangard and utangard. This distinction is to be found everywhere, from personal ethics to creation mythology to eschatology. It is an inescapably basic part of the ancient heathen worldview. If we really are in any sense reviving an ancient religion, we have to bring the worldview along. All else is external decoration. Certainly you can be a happy modern progressive and in some sens worship Norse gods, but this is not reviving the religion any more than Islam, which arguably worships the same god as the Jews, is a revival of Judaism. If this is what you want to do, be my guest. It is by no means my job to decide what you should be doing.

Of course, you feel differently, don't you? You clearly want not just to create some kind of alternative to mainstream (moderately tribal) and more seriously tribal heathenry (like theodism), but to prevent people from participating in those, in your mind abominable, forms of heathenry. You constantly equivocate between tribal and racist. Unless you are a complete idiot, you realize that accusations of racism today are serious things. Careers can be destroyed, lives torn apart by the results of such accusations. Yet you insist upon making them. Even when tribalists are not obviously racists, their ideology in your mind is likely to lead to nazism, the KKK, or whatever racist hobgoblin is presently hiding under your bed. Given such tactics, it is hard to take you seriously. It reminds me more than anything of the attitude of the anti-folkish people in the mid-'90's whose divisive and underhanded tactics managed to undermine a decade of previous progress for heathenry.

Of course, in your unacknowledged us/them mentality, on the one side there are us tribalists, “blindly” imitating the past, and you progressives, who refuse to do so. You fail to respond in any substantive way to people like my friend Travis, who I think made it clear that we may be following the ways of the past, but my no means blindly. All you can do with him is “agree to disagree,” then go on railing against the straw man you have created of tribalists being a bunch of intellectually stunted proto-Nazi luddite neanderthals.

By the way, it might be worth your time to note that Nazi Germany did not oppose the creation of a large integrated super-tribal system. German regional/tribal differences in Nazi Germany were downplayed on a cultural front and their political manifestations (in the form of local and state governmental controls) were eliminated as power was centralized and state governments and local governments eliminated or made irrelevant. There is a fundamental difference between tribalism and nationalism and the Nazi party was firmly on the nationalist side.

One last note, if you are so impressed with modern Scandinavia, you might want to look at their real spiritual roots. Lutheran churches are pretty easy to find.

Gerrit de Vries

Travis said...

"I want to see a Paganism that celebrates humanity, not the tribe."

Such a Paganism exists. It's called Wicca.

Travis said...

Perhaps you also apply the "racist" label to the Hopi tribal leaders who have recently excluded all non-Indians from the Snake Dance.

"While some readers seem to agree with my viewpoint, others are clearly annoyed that anyone would dare question the importance of The Tribe."

I'm open to thoughtful and well argued reasons why tribalism is something no thinking person would approach heathenry. However, I see nothing in your arguments that clearly demonstrate that. You use words like "seem to" or "may derive from" but if you wish to be convincing then you will have to produce something that is far more concrete than a vague allusion to what may be or could lead to.

Actually, what I'm annoyed about is that you seem to be saying that such an approach to heathenry is not only entirely an incorrect one but one that is dangerous and should be in some way purged and rejected by all heathens. I'm also annoyed by the fact that you seem unwilling to address in some clear and organized way why this is so.

"I believe we have to pick and choose from past Pagan heritage what makes sense to us and suits us, but not turn off our minds and become unthinking slaves of the past. "

Precisely, in what way, please give examples, where have tribalists "turned off our minds" in the pursuit of being unthinking slaves of the past? This is a rather bold statement and really a rather insulting one. It is also an assertion for which you fail to provide any sort of evidence.

"The overlap between white supremacist groups and modern neo-Nazis, some of whom claim to be Norse-Germanic Pagans, is all the more reason to reject the tribal model."

Since there are racists that claim to practice Norse religion wouldn't it be better just to avoid Norse religion all together?

The statement that you make is a rather large inferential leap. The logic here is: There are neo-Nazies (socialist nationalists- a decidedly a modernist ideology) who profess a Norse-Germanic religion and we should reject tribalists (small community minded and traditionalists) because racism is somehow a tacit element of being a community oriented traditionalist. A doesn't equal B.

Tribalism may not make sense to you. Let me be clear. I am in not way suggesting that anyone should accept or apply a tribal model to their practice of pre-Christian Germanic religiosity. I'm not trying to sell the concept or believe it to be the only valid approach. It is, however, one of a variety of valid approaches to Germanic heathenry.

I do take exception to the notion that tribalism is informed by an ideolog of any sort. The tribal approach to heathenry is informed by the study of Germanic religious practice and belief. Full stop. The tribal approach to heathnry is informed by the study of Germanic religious practice and belief.

If you would like to convince anyone that it is otherwise then perhaps you could provide some documented evidence of such.

B.A. said...

You wrote the following:
[T]here is good reason to question making any distinction between "Pagan" and "Indigenous".

I think it is essential to both recognize that the experience of indigenous peoples throughout the world is not the same as those of us who are part of the dominant culture, and simultaneously acknowledge that there are real commonalities between their spiritual/religious traditions and ours. My solution is to refer to "indigenous paganism" and "modern paganism."

Anonymous said...

Well done!

Maelstrom said...

I appreciate the thoughtful criticisms that are coming in, but I must say that I do not have the time to answer every point. I will try to answer a number of concerns raised by respondents in a more general way.

A complaint of several respondents is that I am bluntly accusing tribal-oriented Heathens of being racists. Let me be clear: I am not. I am expressing my concerns that tribalism may coincide with racist attitudes, or foster them, or give the appearance of such. A second criticism is that my use of qualifying terms like "may give rise to..." and "seem to..." amounts to intellectual dishonesty. In fact, I am using qualifying terms because I am trying to express my concerns in a nuanced way. So on the one hand I am lambasted for painting all Heathens in a negative light, and then I am pilloried for using nuance, even though that is my way of trying to avoid across-the-board judgments of diverse individuals.

My point of view is ultimately subjective, and I own it as such. I cannot point to voluminous social science research, other than to note that respected scholars like J. Kaplan and M. Gardell have found some very disturbing evidence of racism within American Asatru/Heathenry.

I--me--a guy with a blog--feel that there is something dangerous about tribalism, and this is my perspective. I have stated a number of times on this blog that I know that others find tribalism unproblematic and satisfying, and I say, more power to them. My point is, it doesn't smell right to me, it reminds me too much of racism. If you tribalists don't want to be accused of racism or indirect support for racism, you might want to try harder to disavow racism, such as is done on the "Heathens against Hate web site," rather than question the motives of those who raise the issue.

More in a second response.

Maelstrom said...

On another topic, about the fact that indigenous peoples like the Hopi who do maintain an exclusive identity, I agree that this is somewhat a contradiction of my position, and something I am also pondering and struggling to address. Below, I offer a first draft of some thoughts.

I suppose the issue comes down in part to the difference between modern-day Pagan movements and Indigenous traditions like the Hopi, and the power relations that pertain to both groups' positions within society. Insofar as most Euro-Pagans are caucasians living in caucasian-dominant societies, they are in a majority position with no threat to their dominance, in terms of their ethnic and cultural identity if not their religious identity. Hopis and other native peoples have been under several centuries of brutal oppression of their culture, identity and persons. When Hopis are exclusive and tribal, it is understandable that this is their only way to preserve their culture. When caucasians take up Pagan tribalism, is this equivalent to what the Hopi are doing? Here, personal and political perspective comes into play.

My tribal-oriented critics might say, Aha, we tribal Heathens are doing the same as tribal Hopi, and Maelstrom is ever the self-contradictory hypocrite. I look at it differently. While Pagan religion in Europe was brutally oppressed long ago, modern-day caucasians are not under great oppression that I can see. Their involvement in Paganism, and also my own, is somewhat of a luxury, something we can indulge in our spare time that gives us meaning and satisfaction, but is not life-or-death.

More, part 3.

Maelstrom said...

Continued, Part 3 of response.

In our current political-social context, excluding or discouraging non-caucasians is not a matter of survival, but a choice that correlates, even if this is unintentional, with the historic exclusion and oppression of non-caucasian peoples and their traditons. I know this is a line of interpretation that you might not find convincing, but for those of us who are committed to rooting out and opposing racism, the correlation is disturbing and not at all easy to shake off.

This is where I think political perspective really does inform how we approach Heathenry or any other Paganism. The left-wing view of the world, which I obviously support, holds that there is a long history of white power ideology and oppression of non-white peoples in American (and world) history. From this point of view, any movement that seeks to empower and separate caucasians from non-caucasians has to deal with that history in some manner.

From a right-wing point of view, as I understand it, the whole concept of "oppressed minorities" is overdone, and discussion of racism is just a lot of BS name-calling.

I do not deny at all that there is plenty of lore in Norse tradition that is related to tribalism. However, to repeat myself for what seems like the millionth time, reconstructionist Paganism like Heathenry involves selecting what elements from the past are to be recreated, and which are not, and also selecting how we interpret past traditions to suit modern times.

If you think recreating tribalism is core to Norse Paganism; fine, go for it, but please understand, that is just one version, and other versions are possible. I do not believe we have to recreate all aspects of medieval social structure, especially when such structures run counter to modern ethical ideals of tolerance and opposition to racism. I agree that there are inevitably going to be different versions of Heathenry as with any other Paganism. I am making my case for a certain version.

I don't care for Travis' suggestion that anyone who loves Norse tradition but opposes racism has no choice but to turn to Wicca. If you meant that as a witty joke, fair enough. I will say that my respect for Wicca has grown through these discussions, but I still like my Norse gods, thank you very much.

Finally, about the charge that I am making a fallacious comparison with modern-day Scandinavia because Scandinavians have been through centuries of Christianity, let me note that America is a rather Christian context as well, Scandinavia is less Christian than the USA in terms of modern-day religious preferences, and that I know a good number of Scandinavian Asatru members, who are in fact my main inspiration in seeking a form of Norse Paganism that is strongly anti-racist, and also seems disinterested in tribalism. In expressing some disdain for Scandinavia, I wonder if you are leaning to a view that the USA is the true homeland of modern Heathenry?

I think your dislike of Scandinavia points to a problem of not wanting to consider if Paganism could ever evolve from a medieval worldview and social structure. I do see the Scandinavian countries today as representing a further evolution of the original Norse Pagan mentality. I think that if all we do is recreate the past, it is a dead end.

I guess we will have to agree and disagree!

Maelstrom said...

I mean, agree to could I screw up such a basic concept?

Anonymous said...

"Their involvement in Paganism, and also my own, is somewhat of a luxury, something we can indulge in our spare time that gives us meaning and satisfaction, but is not life-or-death."

I suppose this is another difference in worldview. Many tribalistic heathens see religion as integral to everyday life and pervading the mundance. Religion is not a hobby, but a way of life, so the communal ties and obligations of the tribe are not something that can be merely compromised. It are communal ties and obligations that help give meaning and value to life and a person's activities. If religion to you is merely a hobby, then you can afford to keep or scrap whatever doesn't satisfy your passions and impulses.

Anonymous said...

As to Scandinavia, I don't think anyone here claimed to hate the place. I think that there is a lot to Scandinavia, but the idea that "Scandinavian=Heathen" is a gross simplification. Modern Scandinavian society is, as I understand it, predominately post-Christian secular. Although a higher proportion of modern Scandinavians are non-Christians than modern Americans, that hardly makes them heathen. That makes them post-Christian, just like most non-Christians in the US. Rejecting the Christian religion by no means is the same thing as rejecting its ethics or at least the more fundamental suppositions of those ethics, and I think it is quite clear that in most cases, in Scandinavia as well as America, secularism really is only Christianity without God or otherworldly concerns.

Still, there is a lot that is admirable in Scandinavian culture, as there is in American culture, and some of that (in both cases) has arguably heathen origins. Certainly the dominant cultural influences on the English-speaking US have heathen roots as well and archaic folk practices preserved in remote parts of the US are at least as worthy of consideration as those preserved in remote parts of Scandinavia. In fact, often colonies will preserve folk-practices in a more conservative form since they take on added perceived value as something brought over from the old world and thus worth preseving as a memory of origins.

I never argued, by the way, that US culture was any more or less inherently heathen than Scandinavian, either. Certainly, I am well aware that a lot of what we take to be quintessentially American ideals, like market capitalism, are more than anything outgrowths of the early modern British Protestant culture that the colonists brought with them to the New World. However, taking a critical view of American culture does not mean one should take an uncritical view of some European culture. Criticism is always necessary. Otherwise, you may find you are blindly adhering to some questionable ideal.

As to "Heathens Against Hate," I prefer substance over appearance. Why not add a "Heathens Against Murder" or "Heathens Against Theft" movement on to that, or a "Heathens Against Pedophilia" banner. The whole idea strikes me as silly. Racism is not the worst evil in the world and now that I am no longer 18 (and haven't been for a very long time), I no longer feel a particular need to express to the world as if I am being a radical that I do not approve of things that suck.

Frankly, I think your preoccupation with race says a lot more about you than anything else. For most of us in the real world it really is hardly an issue, except when people try to make it into one. There are indeed some racist heathens. There are a lot more racist Christians, and i am quite sure that the Christian Identity movement, who idolize hitler and regard the Europeans as the true Israelites and the ews as Satanic impostors, is a much larger movement than heathenry as a whole, much less racist heathenry, which in my 20 years experience with heathenry I have had only a few unpleasant run-ins with.


Matt BP said...

Travis says and Maelstrom alludes to (at length): "Perhaps you also apply the 'racist' label to the Hopi tribal leaders who have recently excluded all non-Indians (sic) from the Snake Dance".
The Hopi have been increasingly excluding non-Hopi from their Snake dance since at least 1900, as a way of preserving their own culture, but I would say that is less of an issue now than it was in 1900, seeing as Hopi land is an island in a sea of Navajo and cut off geographically from the rest of the US. I think the question here is not so much about the exclusion from the Snake dance, as much as 'can Hopi be racists?'. Well of course they can be racists - they're just human. How does this inform the way that Heathenism should be treated? The Hopi religion is based on avoiding war and working towards an inner peace as well as an outer one. Heathenism can hardly claim to be a religion based on avoiding warfare, whether now or in the ancient past. To bring in the Hopi is to cloud the issue and doesn't serve much to illuminate modern Heathenry.

BA wrote: My solution is to refer to "indigenous paganism" and "modern paganism.".
Well I for one am indigenous British, even though I was born in Australia. Does this mean I can or can't refer to Wicca as my "indigenous" faith* seeing as it originates in and eminates from Britain?
The same question can be further applied to the comment that modern Scandinavians are really just a bunch of Lutherans (my papraphrasing). Modern Heathenism originates in and emanates from modern Scandinavia. The fact that we have access to Asatru now (founded in Iceland by a mixture of Icelandic and English influencers) is testament to Scandinavians NOT being just a bunch of Lutherans. You can't really jump on Maelstrom for making wide sweeping statements then go along making wide sweeping statements about something else. You didn't even add a "seem to...".

*I am not a Wiccan but an Awenyddion. The point is still valid.

Anonymous said...

The idea that modern US heathenry has its origins in the Icelandic Asatru revival is a fallacy. Organized US Asatru, in the form of Steve McNallen's "Viking Brotherhood" was founded at about the same time as organized Icelandic Asatru (circa 1970) and there was no communication between the two until much later (I seem to remember hearing somewhere that McNallen's first encounter with Icelandic Asatru was in the form of a National Geographic article on Iceland that had a picture of Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson in it from around 1980, although I cannot remember where I heard that now). According to an article in Tyr vol. 2, McNallen did not get the term Asatru in imitation of the Icelandic revivalists, but in 1976 he read Magnus Magnusson's Hammer of the North where the term was used to describe the religion of the Norse, and thus the Viking Brotherhood became the Asatru Free Assembly. A. Rudd Mill founded his form of Odinism in the 1930's which influenced Else Christensen's Florida based Odinist Fellowship, starting again around 1970, and which again had no contact with the Icelanders. Theodism was founded in 1976 by Garman Lord, a man with no contact with either Icelandic or American Asatru who would only really come into contact with US Asatru in the '80's and had no communication with Icelanders until the '90's. Although there may have been some cross-fertilization of ideas between Icelandic and American Asatru in more recent years, neither can claim to be even remotely responsible for the existence of the other.


Travis said...

Exclusion of non-indians (their terminology not mine BTW) is a hot button issue right now among the Hopi and Sioux. Primarily because of frauds and plastic shaman appropriating native spiritual practices and profiting from it. There was an editorial about it in the Native Sun on August 19th.

Perhaps I should give a different example. Maybe the Old Order Amish are really some sort of Swiss Anabaptist Supremacists. They exclude us "English." They're all Caucasians. I've never seen a black Amishman. They even speak German! Surely their separatism and exclusion and all that Deutsch sprechen could lead to racism.

Whether you claim that we are trying to reclaim every bit of the past, taking up our practices in an unthinking way or have some sort of racist bias, you have yet to give any sources for these claims. Lets even lay aside the potential for racism issue. I'm not asking for a pile of ethnography studies. How about some quotes from tribalists themselves Lets say citations from 10 different tribalist groups from their websites that substantiate any single one of your claims. An afternoon's work maybe. The problem is that you can't because nothing like that exists. You've clearly made up your mind before you've seen prior to collecting a representative body of data. That is what i call intellectual dishonesty. I thought academics were supposed to come to conclusions after they had collected data, not before.

Matt BP said...

Thanks for clearing up that point about the origin of American Asatru. I think that it is still a valid part of this conversation that we can safely assume that Heathenism (if not Asatru in its entirety) emanates from Germanic Scandinavia and its close environs. The stories that inspire Americans to be Heathen are Germanic, as are the vast bulk of American Heathens by blood Germanic, ergo they recieved stories via Germanic parents and Grandparents and so on and so forth. I read about a year ago that some 70-90% of white Americans claim Germanic ancestry.
Of course Germanic covers a large array of cultures across northern and central Europe, but for our interests it can include English, non-Finnish Scandinavian, German and Austrian among others.

I also want to address what Anonymous said as the first response to this topic: "...a progressive/leftist world view, itself the bastard child of Christian ethics and eschatology and nothing like what our ancestors believed in (a world in a state of degeneration eventually to be repurified by cataclysm, possibly a cyclical process)."
This is bollocks.
Christianity has historically been associated with Europe, itself associated with conservatism and attampts to preserve both European dominace and the dominance of Christianity since the 11th century. Occasionally there have been moments of enlightenment in European history, but mostly the ideas came from outside and came in via the east through trade, at least until the 15th Century. It was the decay of Christian secular power after the Schism that led to generally more progressive politics and a 'leftist worldview' although I'm not sure what Anon meant by that exactly and I'm sure it is akin to bogeymen and other nebulous things hiding in darkness in preperation to takes peoples guns away and so deny them liberty to be idiots and shoot each other.
Theproblem with reconstructing a worldview that is defined by the acceptance of greys is that we are trained by modern Western culture to imagine that all things are black and white. You cannot resurrect a dead thing, but you can take inspiration from it and use the ideas to make right now a bit better for your children. The worldview of pre-Christian Norse people was more likely along the lines of this: I want to feed my family, if I make the appropriate abbasements to my god of choice, then perhaps they will feed us, but if it seems they won't, then I will get together with the other able-bodied men and raid a vulnerable place, taking their goods and trading those for food for my family, in which case I will thank the appropriate god of raiding. This is, of course, grossly over-simplified, but all things in this life come down to procreation of the species. It was the same with our ancestors and will be the same with our descendants. If you want to be revivalists, then you have to look at what is fundamentally important to you and take inspiration from your ancestors for that search. If you simply take what your ancestors may or may not have thought and done for yourself, then you don't own the faith, it merely is something you do by wrote, without understanding.
I have to go pickup trophies and stuff, so I'll finish this later after whatever troll eats my words.

Anonymous said...


If you want to know what I mean by leftist/progressive, you might try asking the owner of this blog "that comments on both Paganism and politics in the United States, from a leftist-liberal point of view" who has used the word "progressive" on this blog to describe his ideology.

Given that you seem to be incapable of responding reasonably to me, but instead are trying to pigeonhole me as some kind of moron reactionary, and since apparently my daring to disagree and express my disagreement makes me a "troll," I think I will stop disturbing the harmony in this happy little echo chamber for now. Bye.


Maelstrom said...

Travis, in your recent response, you call on me (Maelstrom) to come up with evidence and data of my various assertions and opinions. I will not be doing this, because I don't see this as the proper forum for that. That is not an afternoon's work; that is a major research project. It has been done by Mattias Gardell in his book "Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism," and Jefrrey Kaplan in his work "Radical Religion in America," and I will ask you to look there if you want scholarly evidence. Ironically, my own academic work has always been quite neutral if not apologetic regarding Asatru and any connections with Nazism and/or racism. I am starting to think I was TOO apologetic in my past work. My position on this blog, which is after all a forum for expressing opinion, not an academic journal, is based on personal experience over many years with conservative American Asatruar who I have found to often have either no interest or positive disdain for values that I hold near and dear, such as strong opposition to racism and positive appreciation of cultural and ethnic diversity. I have had quite different conversations with European Asatruar who did not find it ridiculous at all to worry about any possible associations with Nazism and racism, and who often showed a lot of interest in other traditions. I also sense that were I to come up with a few examples as you request,I doubt if you would be satisfied, because you reject my basic point of view to begin with. The purpose of this blog is to argue that there is a need for a type of Paganism that clearly denounces racism and intolerance. This may not be your priority, but this is mine, and from the comments I receive, it seems to be an agenda that a good deal of people find sympathy for. I have been hearing from a lot of people who have felt shut out of Asatru for the same reasons that I articulate. We have a right to our point of view. I am more interested in making common cause with these people than in having point-by-point arguments with people like you who are clearly coming from a different perspective. I fully support your right to champion that perspective, but I am working on something different. It may not appeal to you, you may find it foolish, but if so, I suggest you go your way and I'll go mine. I think it quite natural that there should be different sects with different views and values, in Asatru as in any other religion.

One last thing, you seem unwilling to understand that when I use words of qualification like "might lead to...", "seems to..", I am actually trying to be polite. I have NEVER baldly equated Asatru or Heathenry or tribalism with racism, nor with Nazism, nothing like that. I simply express, again and again, the concern that the ethnic focus and exclusivistic attitudes of some forms of Asatru/Heathenry MAY give rise to racism or MAY give aid and comfort to neo-Nazis. To me, this concern, even if it were only hypothetical and there were no examples anywhere in the world, is quite enough. I do NOT want to be involved with anything that could even REMOTELY be accused of such hateful attitudes. And to me, the antidote to racism and Nazism is not just to say "We are not Nazis, we are not racists, we just love Norse-Germanic-Anglo-Saxon heritage" but to be truly inclusive of different races and peoples so that there can NO QUESTION on where you or me or our organizations stand.

Perhaps The real core issue is inclusiveness versus exclusiveness. Tribalism tends toward exclusiveness, so it doesn't suit me, as I strongly believe in inclusiveness and openness to diversity. I do feel positive appreciation for the broad, inclusive nature of Wicca, and it may be that I am searching for a way to combine the religious heritage of Asatru with the open attitude of Wicca. If in your mind that means I am not a "real" Heathen or Asatruar, OK by me. You go your way, and I'll go mine. Peace.

Matt BP said...

I think that anyone who signs off as Anonymous then complains that they're views are not taken seriously and flounce off without answering valid opinions and objections to their views deserve to be called a troll. However I was referring to everyone who posts on here as a troll, kinda like a little knod to us all being on the net, on a forum, talking about Scandinavia, and disagreeing. FYI, Maelstrom and I have disagreed in previous topics. I just agree with him on this one.

Izzypop said...

"I do feel positive appreciation for the broad, inclusive nature of Wicca, and it may be that I am searching for a way to combine the religious heritage of Asatru with the open attitude of Wicca."

Ah Ha. Funny you should mention that. I have found that kind of match not in Wicca but in Druidry. I am starting to think of myself more as a Druid who honors the Asa/Vanir rather than the Celtic variety of Gods and Goddesses.
Perhaps I am leaning away from any formal Asatru organization because of my left of center environmental and moral leanings. Just my perspective. I enjoy this blog and there is great feedback here.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

I find that when Modern, Non Tribal peoples try to recreate Tribalism, that some interesting gender roles pop up. But then I would, because as an American Feminist, I am somewhat sensitive to attempts to box me in as a woman, limit my rights, freedoms, or when others define for me personally, what being a woman is, and expect it to stick, and therefore modulate my behavior as a sovereign female citizen.

I don't know if anyone ever noticed that Native Cultures have some very defined gender roles. So other than a superficial comparison for the discussion of tribalism in general, I find their examples to be inappropriate in that context, in terms of Modern Anglo social mores.

But then, I have obvserved that when the newest flavor of Utopian Tribalism emerges that women are either in total denial of their nuture, or boxed into a kitchen, with very little in terms of wiggle room for them--oddly enough. [You've come a long way baby...LOL]

In short, there is nothing to attract me to modern interpretations of Tribalism--not even Wicca.

Because Tribalism equals relinquishing Freedom of Expression to a very large degree.

I have no desire to be a Breeder {shades of Quiverfull} nor do I have to wake up every morning and pretend to be Xena Warrior Princess. And yet that seemed to be the choices ultimately.

But back to Native Americans:

Native Peoples are tribal, because that is how we found them. And like any normal group of people, they clung to their social and ethnic structure in the face of an all encompassing onslaught of foreign invaders intent on either: Killing them outright {genocide-see Great Walk or Trail of Tears JUST for starters} Breed them out, and usually that sort of assimilation was accompanied with mass, coerced conversions to foreign cults. Every attempt was made to cause these peoples to go extinct in one form or another and those efforts have not entirely subsided {see war of commodification going on right now}. Everyone it seems wants to be Native or like a Native, but oddly--no one wants to live on a reservation or deal with Racism. Funny thing that.

Anglos were way beyond that in most cases. Most Americans in N.America are the product of peoples who converted centuries ago to those self same foreign cults, who were bred out either through successive invasions, migrations, or some were killed off entirely like the original Prussians.

Natives have only to look at Paganism right now in the U.S. and see themselves 500 yrs from now if they don't hang on with all they have to their unique genomes, and their cultural heritage.

On the other side of the street; Right now, it seems to me however that the Anglo attempt to recreate these sorts of Tribal Utopianism appears to be more of a Rorscharch's diagnostic for a variety of desired and rejected *isms that are seen as panaceas or as virulent pathologies to Western Society.

Maelstrom said...

Taking into account the criticisms of some readers who felt that i was unfairly harsh or judgmental in some of my statements about tribal Paganism, today (Sunday, 27 Sept) I have revised portions of this entry to express myself more carefully and to not lapse into phrases that end up being insulting, where my motive was to provide thoughtful critique. Primarily the mid-section of the blog, just before where I discuss Obama at the UN.

Anonymous said...

Travis said:"Perhaps you also apply the "racist" label to the Hopi tribal leaders who have recently excluded all non-Indians from the Snake Dance"

You can't apply that logic in situations like this,it is not the same thing. The Hopi are in no way being racist because anti-white sentiment from an oppressed people is a reaction to racism from the oppressor. These people are trying to stop the exploitation of their history and culture by Beverly Hills shamans and other white culture vultures,and they have good right and reason to do so.

Travis said...

I will demonstrate precisely where my problem with this post lies by deconstructing a single paragraph from it. In this paragraph, you reject a tribalism that doesn't exist. If such were the arguments of tribalism, I myself, a tribalist, would reject it.

"I believe that a core fallacy of the tribal concept is the notion that the solution to the frustrations of modern life is to retreat into the past."

We recognize the anomie of the modern world and posit that it comes mostly from moral degeneracy, spiritual bankruptcy and radical individualism. We are hardly the only group of people to recognized this. Many religious thinkers and philosophers have seen this. No tribalist I know of argues the solutions to the frustrations of modern life is a retreat into the past. The frustrations of modernity were created by modernity and have almost no precedent in human history, except in very broad ways. The worldview of the ancient heathens could not have taken into account these issues. The tribalist ideal, at least in Theodish Belief, is mostly unconcerned with such things any way.

The tribalism of Theodism, as it exists today, is intended to address the issue of how to properly worship the gods. That's it. It isn't intended to address the ills of the world or our country. It is a context and a framework for worship of the gods. Taking it outside of that purview is projecting a purpose on it that does not exist.

"This is perhaps a weird statement for a Pagan to make, especially one drawn to Norse Paganism, since much of Paganism involves a desire to reconnect with and revive portions of the past."

Not strange at all. It is simple logic, perhaps even common sense.

"Where I differ from those I will characterize as "tribal Pagans" is that I see the past as a place to visit, to seek inspiration from, to learn from, but not to blindly emulate in every instance."

As a tribalist, I agree. It would be undesirable to do otherwise.

"I believe we have to pick and choose from past Pagan heritage what makes sense to us and suits us, but not turn off our minds and become unthinking slaves of the past."

There are limits to what we are able to reconstruct. There are limits to how much of that reconstruction we are able to apply in the modern world. I think tribalists and other strict reconstructionists take into account what those limitations are. There is nothing implicit in a tribal approach to worship of the gods that assumes that we have to stop thinking about how that form of structure does not require a cessation of thought. Indeed, it requires a great deal of thought about just how one goes about doing such a thing within the modern world.

" Tribalism does not make sense to me living in the modern world, and so I reject it."

I think what I see in this post and others is that you have begun first with a liberal leftist ideology and then pick and choose which Germanic heathen practices can be reconciled with that ideology. Tribalists go the other direction. We begin with the reconstructed belief and orthopraxy of the Germanic people and apply in a modern context as a model of how one worships the gods. Taking it outside of its purview as a way to worship the gods misses the point and purpose of tribalism all together. Whether one is a believer in the so called American left or right is immaterial to the the truth or falsehood of the theological argument that the ancients knew how to properly worship the gods better than we do and that emulating the religious practices and social structure is a way in which the gods prefer to receive our worship.

Just so I can really explode your presumptions and that of many your readers; I am not a conservative or a liberal but a localist. I am not registered any political party though I agree most with the Green party. I have left the "president" space blank in the last four presidential elections. I find much wrong with the basic assumptions that both major parties hold in common.

Travis said...

Anonymous wrote:
"You can't apply that logic in situations like this,it is not the same thing."
Actually, if you understand the reason why in Theodism we do not allow non members of our theod to participate in our rituals anymore, you can see that it is the same thing. At one time, even recently, we did open our religious rituals to outsiders but have found this to be problematic. Our exclusion is of anyone who has not been properly acculturated into the tribe and that includes Caucasians. I can't speak to the practices of other groups or their reasons, only my own.

"These people are trying to stop the exploitation of their history and culture by Beverly Hills shamans and other white culture vultures,and they have good right and reason to do so."

It has been our experience that those outside of Theodism, when allowed to attend our events or have been instructed in our orthopraxy or beliefs, have taken them out of context and blend them into their own syncretistic brand of neo-paganism and claiming them as their own. Some concepts that have been discarded by Theodism are still being picked up and used, out of their proper context, by people who do not understand what it is they are doing. In some extreme cases individuals have warped them into very dangerous and offensive forms and even used some cherry picked bits of our theology to justify such practices. In order to prevent the spread of such problems and appropriation, we have gone to the practice of excluding outsiders with very few exceptions.

B.A. said...

Gerrit de Vries wrote:
"Frankly, I think your preoccupation with race says a lot more about you than anything else. For most of us in the real world it really is hardly an issue, except when people try to make it into one."

Frankly, I think your perception that race is hardly an issue in the real world says a lot more about you than anything else.

B.A. said...

Dear Maelstrom,

As the tone of discussion becomes more strident, I have to wonder if you aren't falling into the trap you're preaching against. The old joke says "There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't." Can you argue for your vision of paganism without arguing against some other vision? I believe that it is possible--and incredibly difficult.

Maelstrom said...

BA: Thanks for the suggestion. I think you are right that it would be good to offer more positive statements and fewer criticisms. The problem is that it easier to criticize things that currently exist than to speak confidently of something that does not yet exist. I have tried to offer a little of this in certain comments about Odin, about the World Tree, and elsewhere, but hope to do more in the future. Your caution is duly noted.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Perhaps the tone becomes more strident because it is such a volatile issue for all involved.

It is after all, about issues of identity, belonging, and authenticity {case in point---Beverly Hill's Shamans}And too true.

I wonder how this debate might transform, if we were to cut and paste all these criticisms on Christianity?

How would that change the concept of race, gender roles, authenticity, social relevance, etc.,?

Or has that discussion already happened? And would it make a good prop for compare and contrast?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...