Friday, October 8, 2010

Non-White Asatruar: Do They Exist?

Dear readers, I have been receiving many responses to my separate surveys on Asatru and non-Asatru political attitudes, and the results are quite interesting. I intend to post a discussion of initial results in the near future, but today I want to pose a question of critical importance to my resarch just now. In attempting to analyze attitudes about race and ethnicity in Asatru, I have encountered a range of opinions, from the view that Asatru is only for people of European (white) background, to the belief that it should be open to anyone, to the middle-ground view that it is mainly for people of European ethnic background, but could also be open to people of other racial or ethnic backgrounds who have high interest and motivation. I realized that there was another way to approach this issue, to ask you, my thoughtful readers, if you know of any non-white Asatru members. Do they exist? Or are they as mythical as Bigfoot?

As an Asatru supporter who would very much like to see evidence that this religious movement is moving away from racial exclusivism, I am extremely interested in any input you have on this issue.

Thanks in advance to all.

If you would like to participate in my Asatru or non-Asatru Pagan surveys, see the previous post.

49 comments:

Jack said...

I know more than one Hispanic heathen, but not many.

Maelstrom said...

Could you say anything more about the ethnic identity or national origins of these Hispanic Heathens?

Anonymous said...

I know
2 Black heathens
1 Hippie Asian girl who is probably one of the wiccatru types who will give up the religion.
and a few Mexican guys.
Location is Sacramento, California I don't know how important that is but I know the religious and racial attitudes of California are significantly different then other parts of the nation.

Maelstrom said...

Thanks for that info. I know there is a Yahoo group called Black Heathens, which I joined to see what was happening there, and found that there was zero activity there. I would be curious to know how these black and Mexican Heathens were received by the Sacramento Asatru community.

Farawisi said...

Every major Asatru event (i.e. more than 40 people) that I have been to over the last 20 years has had at least one, and a few times many more than one, identifiably non-white person (i.e. dark skinned Hispanic, African American, identifiably Asian, etc.), and I assume if there are identifiably non-white people there are probably others that are less obvious. Since I do not care to go around asking people to show me their Ahnenpass, I cannot be sure. You might find that if you were to get off the computer and actually show up at heathen events and interact with real heathens, you would not have to go fishing for these things. For instance, you would already have an answer to your question if you had been at East Coast Thing this year.

Maelstrom said...

Thanks, Farawisi, for the input.

dscarron said...

Honestly, where exactly are you going with this?

They exist and are welcome to Blots and events. And? Why is that news or a revelation?

I really have to ask how many Asatru events you have been to? Especially recently.

Asking the same question a dozen times kinda makes it seem like you are not interested in the answers. As a result, I wonder if your agenda puts your political interests over the religion.

Please tell me I'm wrong.

Wes Thu Hal
David Carron

Anthony Arndt said...

Hey, I'm in Stockholm, Sweden now. Not sure where I was when last we chatted.

I know of a Black Heathen somewhere out east, Ohio I think, though I've never met him face-to-face. I know of a growing Heathen movement in Mexico that IIRC draws mostly on the history of the Vandals and the Lombards. But my Spanish is horrible so it's all second-hand knowledge. As far as personal experience though, when I lived in Minnesota, one of the kindreds had a regular member who was Puerto Rican.

In contrast, outside of the US (Ireland, Iceland, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden) I've never met a Heathen who wasn't "white". Though, personally, when discussing religion and culture I find the idea and concept of "white" to be useless trash created by simple minds.

As a Heathen, I have more cultural commonalities with a other people practicing traditional, ancestor-based, polytheistic religions than I do with "white" monotheists. Whether they are Yorubans, Malagash (Polynesian), Hindu, Mongolian, or Shinto, I have far more in common with any of them than I do with a "white" Italian Catholic (which in terms of generalities have always been as much an enemy to my culture as Surt was to the AEsir) or a "white" Iranian Muslim.

Getting back to my time in Minnesota, it wasn't exclusionary, there was just little to no serious interest in Heathenry for most people regardless of color. Minneapolis is one of the most multi-ethnic cities in North America and there were Neopagans of varying traditions and degrees of scholarship all across the board and an ethnic and cultural mix to match. Most of the Indians were Hindu; most of the American Indians followed their tribe's practices (mostly Dakota and Anishinabe); Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Siberian-style Shamanism, and others were popular among the Asian community; and West African practices were popular among the African-American community. But like the mix that the region was, so were it's practices, the vast majority of Neopagans were as eclectic as the cities were.

Minnesota Heathens always hosted a table at Pagan Pride (and often did rituals and workshops), weekly coffee moots, the occasional public blot or sumble, and the occasional parade, so Heathens could be found if anyone was even just casually looking. There just wasn't anyone.

Anonymous said...

I know personally of one hispanic (Mexican, I believe) Asatruar, one African American Asatruar, and two Asatruar who are also Native American.

Maelstrom said...

David, I am very serious about two things. I am a strong supporter of Asatru as well as other Pagan religious movements, and I am also unapologetically committed to a liberal vision of a society free of racial inequality and social injustice. In my experiences over the years, the Asatru emphasis on Northern European heritage has a positive potential for celebrating and modernizing the spiritual traditions of the European past, and making them available to the whole world, not only to those with white skin or European ancestry, but a negative potential for confusing race with heritage and creating an environment in which non-white, non-European people may be excluded or discriminated against. My survey is part of my ongoing effort to understand the different atttitudes toward race and heritage in Asatru. My academic goal is to create presentations and publications that discuss this issue in an intelligent manner, with representation given to different points of view. My personal, spiritual goal is to advocate for an absolutely, unequivocally, non-racist Asatru. I hope this helps allay your concerns. In the last several years, I have found that by being open about these concerns and intentions, I have earned the hostility of many Asatru. I guess polite people don't talk about these things, and I am just not willing to be so polite.

dscarron said...

Heilsa M,

"...I am also unapologetically committed to a liberal vision of a society free of racial inequality and social injustice."

That's fine. But you are taking the appearance as more and more of an outsider who doesn't have the interests of the religious movement in hand. That is hurting your cause. I echo and agree with the statement above. But your actions are not helping your cause. You have already alienated yourself from the North East Yahoo list. We are a reputation based community. You should know that and your actions have not helped.

"My survey is part of my ongoing effort to understand the different atttitudes toward race and heritage in Asatru."

I have not seen the concerns about your survey be addressed, as stated from the One Eye list. So, again, I have to question your motives.

"My academic goal is to create presentations and publications that discuss this issue in an intelligent manner, with representation given to different points of view."

That's great. I would wish you luck in that venture, if I could believe that your stated intentions met your actions. Others from academia (Gods of the Blood) have looked at Asatru with colored glasses and painted us in a very bad light. I do not wish to see the religion sacrificed so that a person could make their name and/or career.

"My personal, spiritual goal is to advocate for an absolutely, unequivocally, non-racist Asatru."

How? You note that you are a "supporter and participant in modern-day Paganism". You can certainly make change from the outside of the religion and that's fine. But attempting to blur your identity as to your name and/or religion does not help support your arguments for change, while attempting to cloak yourself as a insider member of Asatru.

"In the last several years, I have found that by being open about these concerns and intentions, I have earned the hostility of many Asatru. I guess polite people don't talk about these things, and I am just not willing to be so polite."

Again, while you claim insider status, your actions suggest otherwise. You know that such matters of identity are important, which is your cause to begin with. It's not about being polite. It's about truth. You come across as being duplicitous.

The community has been ripped apart by those interested in destroying the Racists within by destroying everyone in Asatru. There are those who continue to attempt to do so from outside for their own purposes. Your words suggest that you are not interested in that path but I question your actions.

I have defended you in the past. Honestly, for me to attempt to do so in the future would short change those professed goals you have stated.

Wes Thu Hal
David Carron

Maelstrom said...

I should also say I am very grateful to those coming to this site to offer comment and criticisms and share their own experience. It is definitely true that I do not get out as often as I should to Asatru events to take the pulse of the people. Some of my e-interactions in recent years have left me feeling very discouraged. I am very happy to hear reports that there is indeed growing ethnic diversity in Asatru in America, and this will have an impact on my writing. I still find traces of ugly racist attitude her and there, and my challenge is how to put this all into some reasonable perspective without "white"-washing or "black"-tarring anyone.

Maelstrom said...

Hi again DS. Let me address a couple of point that you raise.

One, I have never claimed to be an official member of Asatru or an "insider." I have always said what is true: that I am a scholar, a supporter, and a sometimes participant--none of which exclude me from also being at times a critic. I have never made a full-fledged commitment to any Asatru association, because I have not yet been able to find one that I really felt comfortable with, and most of what has caused me concern have been political and racial issues.

I am sorry if I failed to address some issue raised on the One Eye list. I have tried to answer as many comments and questions as I can, but I have been bombarded and may have not been able to answer every single one.

I am sorry you see me as a dishonorable, duplicitous person. I feel I have been very upfront and consistent about my interests and values from Day One. You express concern about academics who make their career attacking Asatru, but let me remind you of something on my behalf. In my past academic writings, I have bent over backwards to defend Asatru from charges that it is nothing more than a racist, neonazi movement. I have always taken the stance that such elements are a sad minority within the Asatru commuity. I have not made a career out of slandering anyone.

I have however noticed occasional expressions of what seemed to me racist or quasi-racist attitudes in recent years, and just as important, I have noticed that such attitudes seem to be tolerated rather than criticized or condemned in a lot of American Asatru discourse. This is what most concerns me, and is now leading me to take a more critical and discouraged view of American Asatru. I still intend to give a positive report on the more ethnically open, clearly anti-racist forms of Asatru, but I will also express my grave concerns about racist, quasi-racist, and racist-apologetic elements in Asatru. I will also note what I see as a predominant political conservatism (including libertarianism)in Asatru.

You can judge me dishonorable and duplicitous if you like, though I regret that you would do this without having met me. What strikes me, and which I hope you will ponder, is that I only began to encounter hostility and earn a "bad reputation" from the American Asatru community when I began to talk about being a liberal and express my concerns about racist elements and attitudes. Immediately I was subjected to vicious attacks. I concluded that being a liberal and an anti-racist were not welcome within some Asatru quarters.
This is what led to the creation of this blog.

Though we may have to agree to disagree, thanks for expressing your point of view clearly, plainly and respectfully. I have tried to respond in the same spirit.

ianphanes said...

I can't remember the last time a person of color showed up at any of the public rituals in my pagan community, which shows that using the visible race of participants at heathen rituals is not an effective measure of racist attitudes.

ianphanes said...

Regarding the survey:

I dearly hope that you don't plan on sharing the results of your survey in any academic writings. The survey, as you yourself acknowledged, was fundamentally flawed. Therefore, to present those results in any academic setting would be intellectual dishonesty.

For example, the majority of choices I made do not represent my positions. Since the only possibilities were extremist liberal or extremist conservative, I ended up selecting extremist liberal options because they were less wrong.

It is not merely conservative heathens who have problems with the survey, but at least one radical transgender Witch cum Hermeticist cum Celtic retropagan.

Maelstrom said...

Ian, thanks for your comment and criticism. I have to say that despite the flaws and limitations of this survey, I do indeed intend to use it in an academic paper, for even with its flaws, it is showing patterns of contrast between Asatruar and other Pagans that are consistent in the results from day to day. My preferred mode of inquiry is person-to-person interviews, but I see this as an additional tool which provides an additional perspective. I will certainly note that a fair number of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the limited choices provided in the survey, but this is not different from what happens with any survey. For example, if a poll asks if you are for or against a woman's right to have an abortion, with one or two intermediate options, you might well wish there were additional, more nuanced options to provide a position closer to your own. However, such a survey would serve to separate those who oppose abortion with NO exceptions from those who would allow women to choose to have abortions. The choice I present in one question between loving and completely trusting the military, versus perceiving the military as too large and wanting to reduce it, is another such choice. Probably many people would prefer a variety of intermediate positions, but the question as worded forces a choice between a completely trusting stance toward the mlitary, and a more critical stance. So I will cite the survey, along with some discussion of its flaws and limitations. I would also tell you this is my first time ever using a survey of this type, and so it has been a learning experience. I am thus far most impressed by how, early on in the process, the two surveys took on different characters which have since remained amazingly consistent, providing some support to my hypothesis that the two groups of Pagans have some fundamental differences in their social and political views and ideology. As stated before, I will post results and provide my own interpretation at a future time.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am black American (with African, Irish and Seminole Indian ancestry) and identify spiritually as 'eclectic pagan' for want of a better label, and the word among my fellow black pagans is that the Asatru tradition is ethnically exclusivist and full of racists. So yes, we stay away because you all have a bad reputation. I don't know if this reputation is warranted or not, but I personally do not want to chance finding myself in some remote location surrounded by a bunch of hostile white people.

So I personally would not even check out a gathering, and I say this as someone who in my long spiritual history has frequented all manner of religious worship events, including Jewish seders, Buddhist meditation retreats, Hindu temples, Wicca circles, Greek Orthodox churches, and Rastafarian nyabingi gatherings, not to mention the black Baptist churches of my own upbringing. In other words, I am comfortable with all different kinds of people. Except for the ones who openly say they don't think my kind belongs.

That said, I do have a strong affinity for Skadi and I enjoy the tales of the Norse gods. But who wants to go where they feel they will not be wanted?
-Lisa

dscarron said...

With regards to Lisa (Anonymous):

The fact of the matter is that one finds racists/extremist types in all religions. Would it surprise you at not getting a warm welcome at the next KKK rally (unless you were tied to that cross)?

And I do acknowledge that it's a problem. However, I disagree with Maelstrom as to both the extent and the application of his data.

There are national organization like the Troth that affirmatively go out of our way and highlight that it's not an issue. Asatru is a community religion. I'm sure that you would be able to find something, should you seek it.

Maelstrom said...

Lisa, thank for adding your perspective to our discussion. Though it seems you have not encountered any actual hostility from any Astruar, your comment does go to a point that I often get criticized for bringing up. The focus on (white) Northern European heritage in Asatru does at the very least create an image problem, and may at worst provide aid, comfort and shelter for people with racist sentiments or ideas. It is important to note, as many contributors here have stated, that ethnic does not equal racial or racist, but more work is needed to ensure that devotion to a certain religious or cultural heritage does not shade over into white separatism. In the future, I would like to have more discussion of spiritual eclecticism as a dimension of Paganism, and hope that you, Lisa, will chime in again at that time if not before.

Anthony Arndt said...

Hey Lisa, based on my personal experience, I would say the reputation is unwarranted. Your concern really sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy based on hearsay. Do you know many black Pagans who have actually met Ásatrú who are involved in their local community? There are racists of every color and creed so meeting the occasional “lone wolf” (with no pack to back him up) is really just a case of a nutter using his religion-of-the-week to justify his insanity.

I've met many black Pagans over the years but they weren't Ásatrú for any other reason than they weren't interested. They new I was Ásatrú and most were happily eclectic in their practices and even if they were interested in the Nordic gods, they weren't interested in Ásatrú. If black Pagans don't act interested in Ásatrú, then the local groups aren't going to pay much attention to them. Ásatrú is probably even less interested in evangelizing than Wicca and other modern Pagan traditions.

Another issue is that the American Pagan community is unique in that there is an often pronounced separation between Ásatrú and the greater Pagan community. This is something I've never seen in any other Northern European country I've lived in (Ireland, Iceland, Russia, German, and Sweden so far). I've seen many American Ásatrú say at every opportunity that they're “not Pagan”, which seems to really confuse our European co-religionists. In English, we have both “Heathen” and “Pagan” most other languages (German, Swedish, Icelandic, etc) don't. Chances are, for many Ásatrú groups, the hurdle wouldn't be that you're black, it's that you're eclectic. Even for the most conservative of the “Folkish” Ásatrú groups putting great importance on ancestry, you (as someone of Irish descent) would be more welcome than a white eclectic Pagan of Italian descent (with possible exceptions made for Lombards and Norman-Sicilians) or even a white European from anywhere west of the Rhine. As a note, yes, Irish is a Celtic country but there is pretty heavy trade (economic, cultural, and genetic) between Ireland, Norway, and Iceland. The Irish side of my family still looks like they stepped off the boat from about the Trondheim area of Norway after nearly 1000 years of being “100% Irisih.”

In my experience working with Pagan Pride International a lot of the local organizers in the US were Ásatrú and PPI is hardly known for being exclusivist or racist. Even one of the most conservative Ásatrú groups in the US, the AFA, is headed by a man who has devoted considerable time and energy towards helping the people of Tibet (who are neither white nor Ásatrú).

Regarding gatherings, you're not likely to find yourself at a gathering of people you don't know. Most Ásatrú gatherings aren't open to the public (unless done at something like Pagan Pride). They're often held at people's private homes with the whole family taking part (I've been at Blots conducted by 7-year-olds). They're not going to welcome any stranger in regardless of color, ethnicity, or religion. Most Ásatrú groups I know of meet people through things like coffee nights, pub moots, and meet-ups. Sometimes hosted by local Ásatrú, sometimes hosted by an eclectic bunch of locals. Once they've gotten to know someone and if both sides are comfortable, then a new person might be invited.

And as a closing thought, by the standard you set forth regarding exclusive vs. inclusive, most Native American tribal religions are just as racist as you think Ásatrú is reputed to be.

Maelstrom said...

Anthony, I generally enjoy and respect your perspective, but I disagree about your comparison between Asatru and Native American traditions. First of all, their social and historical circumstances, and their positions of power in the world, are quite different, and the differences are not trivial.

Native Americans have faced many forms of oppression, from dispossession of land to genocide, that do not pertain to white northern Europeans. If the Native Americans feel a need to protect their tradition from ethnic others, it is because they have really been under threat as an oppressed minority. Heathen religion was suppressed, certainly but not the people, as an ethnic if not a religious group, whose descendants have thrived and become dominant in many regions of the world. Native Americans have never sought to exterminate or dominate other racial or ethnic groups in the way that northern European whites have, up to and including the Holocaust. When white northern Europeans exclude or fail to include those of other ethnic or racial backgrounds, this is not an innocent choice. It is connected to a long history of white racism.

Furthermore we should not "whitewash" that some, perhaps much, of the renewed interest in European ethnic traditions in the nineteenth century that forms one foundation of modern Asatru was very much racist and white supremacist in its attitudes toward others peoples of the world. Some late 19th to early 20th century writings still cited by some American Asatruar as reliable secondary sources have an implicit if not explicit racist ideology, typical of their time and of the milieu that gave rise to the eugenics movement and Nazism. Therefore modern Asatru, to the extent that it carries on the ethnic romanticism of the nineteenth century without undertaking an intelligent, self-clarifying critique of these racist elements, falls under suspicion by annoying people like me who care deeply about opposing racism, even when it is uncomfortable or embarrassing.

I would also note that Native Americans have a long history of allowing other people to join their tribes, for example welcoming African Americans feeling slavery, which is why many Native Americans today are racially mixed people. Most white groups in America have never been particularly welcoming to Native Americans. White attempts to appropriate the tradions of people they ahve long suppressed naturally meet with resistance based on this painful history.

I wish that American Asatruar put as much energy into denouncing racism and quasi-racism within the religious community as they did into denouncing those who bring up the issue. I bring it up because I care. I would like to be part of an Asatru that makes a clear break with racism. I do believe that most Asatruar are NOT racists, but I worry about how their ethnic focus provides aid, comfort and shelter to racists. I don't want to go to gatherings where some of the people MIGHT be harboring white supremacist or white separatist notions, and no one knows for sure, because there is a "gentleman's agreement" to not speak of such distatsteful things. In my opinion, such a "frith" has little honor.

Maelstrom said...

Anthony, I generally enjoy and respect your perspective, but I disagree about your comparison between Asatru and Native American traditions. First of all, their social and historical circumstances, and their positions of power in the world, are quite different, and the differences are not trivial.

Native Americans have faced many forms of oppression, from dispossession of land to genocide, that do not pertain to white northern Europeans. If the Native Americans feel a need to protect their tradition from ethnic others, it is because they have really been under threat as an oppressed minority. Heathen religion was suppressed, certainly but not the people, as an ethnic if not a religious group, whose descendants have thrived and become dominant in many regions of the world. Native Americans have never sought to exterminate or dominate other racial or ethnic groups in the way that northern European whites have, up to and including the Holocaust. When white northern Europeans exclude or fail to include those of other ethnic or racial backgrounds, this is not an innocent choice. It is connected to a long history of white racism.

Furthermore we should not "whitewash" that some, perhaps much, of the renewed interest in European ethnic traditions in the nineteenth century that forms one foundation of modern Asatru was very much racist and white supremacist in its attitudes toward others peoples of the world. Some late 19th to early 20th century writings still cited by some American Asatruar as reliable secondary sources have an implicit if not explicit racist ideology, typical of their time and of the milieu that gave rise to the eugenics movement and Nazism. Therefore modern Asatru, to the extent that it carries on the ethnic romanticism of the nineteenth century without undertaking an intelligent, self-clarifying critique of these racist elements, falls under suspicion by annoying people like me who care deeply about opposing racism, even when it is uncomfortable or embarrassing.

I would also note that Native Americans have a long history of allowing other people to join their tribes, for example welcoming African Americans feeling slavery, which is why many Native Americans today are racially mixed people. Most white groups in America have never been particularly welcoming to Native Americans. White attempts to appropriate the tradions of people they ahve long suppressed naturally meet with resistance based on this painful history.

I wish that American Asatruar put as much energy into denouncing racism and quasi-racism within the religious community as they did into denouncing those who bring up the issue. I bring it up because I care. I would like to be part of an Asatru that makes a clear break with racism. I do believe that most Asatruar are NOT racists, but I worry about how their ethnic focus provides aid, comfort and shelter to racists. I don't want to go to gatherings where some of the people MIGHT be harboring white supremacist or white separatist notions, and no one knows for sure, because there is a "gentleman's agreement" to not speak of such distatsteful things. In my opinion, such a "frith" has little honor.

Maelstrom said...

Anthony, I generally enjoy and respect your perspective, but I disagree about your comparison between Asatru and Native American traditions. First of all, their social and historical circumstances, and their positions of power in the world, are quite different, and the differences are not trivial.

Native Americans have faced many forms of oppression, from dispossession of land to genocide, that do not pertain to white northern Europeans. If the Native Americans feel a need to protect their tradition from ethnic others, it is because they have really been under threat as an oppressed minority. Heathen religion was suppressed, certainly but not the people, as an ethnic if not a religious group, whose descendants have thrived and become dominant in many regions of the world. Native Americans have never sought to exterminate or dominate other racial or ethnic groups in the way that northern European whites have, up to and including the Holocaust. When white northern Europeans exclude or fail to include those of other ethnic or racial backgrounds, this is not an innocent choice. It is connected to a long history of white racism.

Furthermore we should not "whitewash" that some, perhaps much, of the renewed interest in European ethnic traditions in the nineteenth century that forms one foundation of modern Asatru was very much racist and white supremacist in its attitudes toward others peoples of the world. Some late 19th to early 20th century writings still cited by some American Asatruar as reliable secondary sources have an implicit if not explicit racist ideology, typical of their time and of the milieu that gave rise to the eugenics movement and Nazism. Therefore modern Asatru, to the extent that it carries on the ethnic romanticism of the nineteenth century without undertaking an intelligent, self-clarifying critique of these racist elements, falls under suspicion by annoying people like me who care deeply about opposing racism, even when it is uncomfortable or embarrassing.

I would also note that Native Americans have a long history of allowing other people to join their tribes, for example welcoming African Americans feeling slavery, which is why many Native Americans today are racially mixed people. Most white groups in America have never been particularly welcoming to Native Americans. White attempts to appropriate the tradions of people they ahve long suppressed naturally meet with resistance based on this painful history.

I wish that American Asatruar put as much energy into denouncing racism and quasi-racism within the religious community as they did into denouncing those who bring up the issue. I bring it up because I care. I would like to be part of an Asatru that makes a clear break with racism. I do believe that most Asatruar are NOT racists, but I worry about how their ethnic focus provides aid, comfort and shelter to racists. I don't want to go to gatherings where some of the people MIGHT be harboring white supremacist or white separatist notions, and no one knows for sure, because there is a "gentleman's agreement" to not speak of such distatsteful things. In my opinion, such a "frith" has little honor.

Maelstrom said...

Anthony, I generally enjoy and respect your perspective, but I disagree about your comparison between Asatru and Native American traditions. First of all, their social and historical circumstances, and their positions of power in the world, are quite different, and the differences are not trivial.

Native Americans have faced many forms of oppression, from dispossession of land to genocide, that do not pertain to white northern Europeans. If the Native Americans feel a need to protect their tradition from ethnic others, it is because they have really been under threat as an oppressed minority. Heathen religion was suppressed, certainly but not the people, as an ethnic if not a religious group, whose descendants have thrived and become dominant in many regions of the world. Native Americans have never sought to exterminate or dominate other racial or ethnic groups in the way that northern European whites have, up to and including the Holocaust. When white northern Europeans exclude or fail to include those of other ethnic or racial backgrounds, this is not an innocent choice. It is connected to a long history of white racism.

Furthermore we should not "whitewash" that some, perhaps much, of the renewed interest in European ethnic traditions in the nineteenth century that forms one foundation of modern Asatru was very much racist and white supremacist in its attitudes toward others peoples of the world. Some late 19th to early 20th century writings still cited by some American Asatruar as reliable secondary sources have an implicit if not explicit racist ideology, typical of their time and of the milieu that gave rise to the eugenics movement and Nazism. Therefore modern Asatru, to the extent that it carries on the ethnic romanticism of the nineteenth century without undertaking an intelligent, self-clarifying critique of these racist elements, falls under suspicion by annoying people like me who care deeply about opposing racism, even when it is uncomfortable or embarrassing.

I would also note that Native Americans have a long history of allowing other people to join their tribes, for example welcoming African Americans feeling slavery, which is why many Native Americans today are racially mixed people. Most white groups in America have never been particularly welcoming to Native Americans. White attempts to appropriate the tradions of people they ahve long suppressed naturally meet with resistance based on this painful history.

I wish that American Asatruar put as much energy into denouncing racism and quasi-racism within the religious community as they did into denouncing those who bring up the issue. I bring it up because I care. I would like to be part of an Asatru that makes a clear break with racism. I do believe that most Asatruar are NOT racists, but I worry about how their ethnic focus provides aid, comfort and shelter to racists. I don't want to go to gatherings where some of the people MIGHT be harboring white supremacist or white separatist notions, and no one knows for sure, because there is a "gentleman's agreement" to not speak of such distatsteful things. In my opinion, such a "frith" has little honor.

Anonymous said...

"Native Americans have never sought to exterminate or dominate other racial or ethnic groups in the way that northern European whites have, up to and including the Holocaust."

This is a fallacy. First nation people could be just as brutal and bloody as northern European cultures.

The Aztecs and Incas were quite militant in the expansion of their empires. The Aztecs themselves reported that they sacrificed 84,000 human beings at the reconsecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in a period of 4 days in the year 1487.

At Mound 72 of the Cahokia site in St. Louis the remains of nearly 100 people were found a grave offerings of a chief dating to around 950 CE.

PERVERSIONES said...

Well, there is a lot of Asatruar groups in Latin America, specially Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina and Chile. The issue here is that some of this Kindreds are universalist but some (may be most of them) are Folksih and only admit White Latin American, not admiting non-Whites like Blacks and Natives.

They also try to recue their Goth and Lombard heritage from the Gothic-descendent Spanish.

Obviously the term "White" is relative, there are some Latin Americans as White as some Germas, but some have darker skin. some Latin American Asatru groups may not acept Mestizos, but probable most do, otherwise will be impossible to find members.

Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and some areas of btoh Mexico and Colombia tend to be more White, racially speaking, that other countries of the region.

Maelstrom said...

Perversiones, thank you for an interesting insight into Norse-Germanic Paganism in Latin America. I am curious if the Latin American Asatru groups tend toward a more right-wing or left-wing political viewpoint, or, if this is not relevant. I am especially interested if there is more focus on nature-worship or war-worship.

Anonymous said...

The liberal-left universalist view of Asatru is really just Marxists and Wiccans trying to fit a their square peg into the round hole of all ancient European heritages. I guess once you are done spreading cancer in one religion, you move to another.

Olafur Odinson said...

Look, I am a devout Asatru, My family is from Scandinavia as far back as there have been people with tongues to worship the gods, I follow mostly the path of Odin, the traveler among many other well-deserved names. I am not a member of any American heathen official group because of allegations of discrimination or because I disagree with interpretations of "organized religion" when in reality, or at least, in my reality Odin and the Aesir just want us to live honorable lives for the great glorification of the gods, and for the betterment of our own souls. I am bisexual and have been discriminated against before by Asatru groups, but that does not shake my beliefs which have been passed down in my family since the dawn of the runic era. My two cents are that if any person, white, black, asian, gay, straight, or any other form of self-identification feels the unmistakable call of the Aesir, then they DAMNED well better be able to heed that call and they should immediately begin the worship of the hardy Aesir. If you fall under the category of one of the aforementioned groups, then you can find me by asking the gods where I am, and I have legitimate faith that one day our paths will cross. Thor has worked one legitimate miracle for me, I prayed to the great god of thunder during a lightning storm and he returned from extreme peril a close friend of mine believed by many to be dead. I believe in the existence of every god that is worshiped, and I glorify all gods from across the cosmos worshiped across the globe, but I prefer to worship the gods who so greatly helped my ancestors and they will answer the prayers of devout Asatru regardless of your race, they who are great judge not on skin but on strength of spirit.

Anonymous said...

I am Oglala Lakota Sioux, I follow the All-Father. I was led to to him though dreams and the staves. So yes, we do exist. I am still Lakota, but soul and mind i follow his ways.

Maelstrom said...

Thank you. It would be great to hear more of your story, how you came to this point in your life, what the circumstances were, as I have rarely heard of a Native American person taking up Asatru.

Anonymous said...

I am a Mohawk of the Iroquois Nation and I am a proud Heathen as well. I am a strong believer in Odin, Frigga, Thor, Freya, Tyr, Loki, Hela as well as all the other spirits of the Nine Worlds. I am very proud of my heritage as well but I feel my soul is strongly drawn to the Gods and Goddesses of the North. I hail all Gods and Goddesses and all pagan kindred as well.

Xara Eleni Pascha said...

I am an Asatruar of mixed heritage. I believe in and honour the Aesir and Vanir. Heimdal is my main god and I would love to go to a Pagan/Heathen event near me.

dscarron said...

Tough to help you Xara, without knowing where you are.

That said, the Troth has stewards all over the country that can help you out. And the East Coast Thing is happening at the end of August in MD.

dscarron said...

Oh and as an aside, there is a kindred in Puerto Rico. They sent a friendly and awesome pic of "hello" to the Troth last week.

Anonymous said...

I am a natural born Witch. It's taken me a few years to find my path but I have come to my own spiritual understanding that I am a Heathen/ Asatruar, having been called by my own Goddess out of nowhere. I am very happy to have found this particular blog with so many diverse opinions on the subject. I am of mixed heritage and find the worries of being excluded because of my skin color are not unfounded. In my search for more information on such an ancient, obscure tradition my past experiences have raised certain questions and concerns.

1) Will I be excluded from and discriminated against by my brothers and sisters because of my skin color?
- While my heritage would say I have more Native and European blood in me, my skin color does not. My personal relationship with the Aesir and Vanir grows daily but I am reluctant to seek out others of my same beliefs as I'm not sure of their reactions. My lessons as a Heathen have taught me to never run from a fight. I go forward with courage and confidence until my fears are gone. I choose to not call upon my Gods in vain but to honor them in my actions and deeds of my words. Yet good old common sense makes me wonder what I would encounter should I decide to open my world to others who are unaware of the lessern known group of Heahens who are not of fair skin? Which I believe is even bigger than most would expect. I think most of them keep under the radar for fear of safety and ridicule. But we wouldn't be true to our ancestry if we didn't stir shit up every once in a while now would we? :)

- Lady A.M.S

Anonymous said...

I had a dream of a blur of light colors and chant of a language i couldnt understand. In the end I heard in a long drawn out raspy whisper odin. I looked it up the next day and have been devoted since then. I have a mix of cultures in my bloodline and though my dad is white, my skin is brown. Odin is the allfather and creator so I see no race and all are brothers and sisters. I've been a soldier for 13yrs and have had some close calls in my life. I don't scare or get intimidated by what people say about my faith. Its not up to them. Only the allfather

Klara said...

What drew me to heathenism is that it's part of my heritage. I'm not just drawn to my fathers' gods, but to everything: the land, the language, the myths, the ocean, the warlike nature, the art, the clothing, etc. It does not bother me if I see people of color identifying as heathens, but I don't understand why they do. Until the middle eastern plagues of christianity and islam spread outward, just about everyone of any color, from any continent, was a pagan of some variety. Apart from possibly Buddhism, which I know absolutely nothing about and can't comment intelligently on, I don't know of any monotheistic religions (except Judaism, but since they didn't go around forcibly converting pagans I have no quarrel with them). Almost everyone of any ancestry has their own pagan path to follow. A black person identifying as Asatru seems just as odd to me as it would be for me to identify with the old Mayan gods. I don't know why a Mexican person would follow European gods, that seems odd, but it doesn't offend me. I don't go out of my way either to include or exclude anyone, regardless of race. I don't tend to concern myself with others' actions unless they affect me. So I don't go out of my way to spread Asatru, nor to keep it exclusive. You either hear the call of the old ways, or you don't. I will say, though, that you sound more interested in racial issues than religious issues. Just because someone is interested in our own ancestry does not mean that we feel others' ancestry is inferior, just different. It's like school subjects - I have no interest in math, but that doesn't mean I hate math and want to wipe it off the face of the earth so everyone can come join me in history class. Other people have other skin colors and other folklore and other gods and that's fine. It's sad that in this country, every race is encouraged to be proud of their heritage except whites, because if you're white it's racism. The people going around trumpeting about diversity are the ones that seem to want to destroy it and make us all the same. If you really value diverse cultures, let them be what they are. In other words, everyone should be proud of their heritage.

As an aside, I feel that "pagan" is an all inclusive word describing anyone who believes in multiple gods, while "heathen" is more specific to Asatru/Forn Sed. So all heathens are pagans, but not all pagans are heathens. I'm sure it's confusing to those in other countries.

Anonymous said...

I am American Indian, Comanche and Ojibwe. I know a great many pagans of various ethnic backgrounds. Though I am Asatru, I can't claim to know many Asatruar, and none besides myself who are non-white. However, the first knowledgeable person I ever spoke to about the faith, the head of the Denver Kindred, once said to me, "We have no right to question who the gods do or do not call." His basic thesis was that yes, the majority of Asatruar are of northern-european descent, because it is a heathen religion. But Odhinn may be heard by anyone, not just someone whose lineage is connected to the faith. That's my two cents.

~Ken

Anonymous said...

Interesting how different people's perceptions on what non europeas are. I know 2 Puerto Ricans and an Argentinian who took up Asatru. They are of Spanish decent, therefore they are of European background as far as I am concerned. I also know a girl of mixed heritage (English, Italian, and native Indian) who embraced Asatru. The God's will call who they will.

Winter Witch said...

I have recently been researching Asatru. I am a non-denominational witch. I am also an atheist. I have googled just about as much as I can and can not seem to get the direct answers I am seeking. I happened to come across this blog and found some pretty good conversation. I am german/scottish/french-canadian. I love the idea of kinship and celebrating my heritage. I apologize in advance if I am off topic here. I just feel this group of commenters may be able to answer my questions without a blanketed agenda of white supremacy. 1# Is much of asatru sexist? Are women considered equal. I come across a lot of "brotherhood" but not "sisterhood". 2# is it possible to follow asatru and not "worship" idols? I do not believe there is a god or goddess. I feel I am my own god. I worship the earth moon and sun. I am from earth and I will go back to earth. I do however love the stories of norse religion. Even my sons name is Odin.3#What is there issue with homosexuality? I have found there is a lot of anti-gay mindset. Why? I would imagine that heathenry would be open to this. Do what makes you happy. Induldge on the pleasures of flesh. I have always been atheist…mostly against organized religion…mostly christianity. Asatru is however appealing due to the community of like minded folk that want to keep their heritage alive. Any thoughts? Thanks for reading my way to wordy comment.
Winter Witch

Esteban Sevilla said...

Well, I am the gothi in Costa Rica, most of us are mestizos, some are not white or close to white. We accept others, we are not universalists nor folkish, we are tribalists and we accept people based on their social compatibility.

Maelstrom said...

Dear Esteban,

Thank you for this news from Costa Rica! Very interesting and I wish you and your group best of luck.

John Dread said...

I'm a Norse Pagan, and a democratic Communist (I believe that volk is not an ethnic concept, and the Norse considered volk those who they identified with and owed loyalty. Numerous historical anecdotes show us unrelated individuals being considered volk based not on skin color but social circumstances which caused them to bond with a given community. I am a volkist, and my volk are the international working class, regardless of race). I once dated a half haitian, half Moroccan girl who worshipped Freyja fervently and honored the Norse Gods. She also practiced West African Vodun alongside this, and had come into Paganism from her grandfather who practiced Vodun and taught her faith, but she had been taught by him that any Gods or spirits might call her,and felt a connection to the Norse gods. I know this isn't traditional Asatru but I thought it might still be relevant. In addition, I once saw a black metal head wearing both a pentacle and a Mjollnir at a Type O Negative concert, but I didn't ask him about how he saw his faith.

Maelstrom said...

Thanks for your thoughtful contribution, John. I am amazed that five years after it was written, this blog post still generates discussion. I believe this shows that the issue is still important and that debate continues about who Asatru is for and to what extent racial or ethnic identity should be a condition of Asatru involvement. I am also intrigued by your political affiliation. If you are in the USA, you must be aware that left-wing political views are not so common among Asatru Pagans in America, which is what led me to start this blog in the first place! I wish you well and invite to continue to contribute comments.

Frog1427 said...

Me n my boyfriend are white heathens i have 2 biracial sons. Is it allowed to introduce my sons to our belief

Maelstrom said...

Frog, I am not an authority to tell you what you should or should not do. In my personal opinion, the gods are not obsessed with race or ethnic identity, as they are beyond those things. The gods mixed freely with giants in the myths, and the Vikings mixed freely with non-Vikings in history. It is only in recent times that people have become obsessed with the illusion of racial purity. As I see it, you are free to love those you wish to love and share your belief with those you wish.

Conrad said...

I was born in Beijing, China and I am Chinese. Although I was raised in America by caucasian non religious parents. I used to follow the Asatru faith for sometime and would wear multiple variations of Thors hammer. Therefore there are other people who do follow the Asatru faith who have absolutely no European and Northern European blood. Although I stopped following the religion because in the years I was part of the religion I have never actually met another person of the same faith and my family thought I was kind of weird for following Asatru. It does not help that most people do not even know about paganism, let alone Germanic Neo-paganism or Germanic Paganism. I lived in Colorado when I followed the faith, that being said I currently life in California. I still like to follow some of the ethics and values of Asatru because that is what I loved about Asatru when I joined. Maybe someday I might get back into the religion although, for now the religion contradicts my scientific beliefs.

Ellie said...

I joined asatru specifically because of it's reputation as ethnically-focused. That said, I would be happy for people of any race or religion to come along to meets. They are certainly welcome among the asatru followers I know. But I don't see why a non-european would have any desire to actively celebrate european ancestors and european folkways in much the same way that I find other cultures and religions interesting and respect them (and have gone to their festivals), but do not have any reason to follow them personally.

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