This comment was made on The Wild Hunt recent Pagan Community Notes in response to HUAR calling out Irminfolk as a racist religious group.
“If your definition of the word “hurt” means “Anyone who holds a belief that I don’t like” then I agree, racism hurts people. But of course that’s nonsense. What hurts people are *actions* and *policies* in the public area. A private religion having it’s own bylaws, charter, and mission statement is not hurting anyone. The moment they take those beliefs and try to diminish the rights and freedoms of others (remember you don’t have a right to join any religion you want) then we can chat about hurting others. I’m not surprised at the lack of critical thinking on these posts, it’s pretty standard for the modern Pagan community. And if you read my first post, which sounds like you didn’t, I said “have a right to define who can be a member and what the criteria is. If you don’t believe that you’re trodding on the very notion of religious freedom.” Note, I said if you don’t believe the above you’re trodding on religious freedom. I did not say, as someone implied, that simply criticizing them was doing so. I never called to ignore actions. Stop reading what you want into my words. But again, having read your comments loads of times, pretty standard fair for you so I expect you won’t.” -Danielle Amourtrance Verum
This kind of rhetoric shifts the goalposts of a conversation or downplays the legitimate concerns or complaints people have in an effort to claim that the effects of a racist religious organization are not harming the larger religious community they claim to be a part of and do not actively cause harm to that larger religious community. From personal experience with racists in Heathenry, I call bullshit.
I damned near did not become a Heathen because of racists. The first person I met who was Heathen was a racist. He worshiped Odin. I initially ignored Odin’s call because I was under the assumption that the community I would be looking to for guidance in following Him was racist. How could I join a community where my own family members were hated? Racism actively harms religious communities in where it is found not the least because it pushes people to turn away from it. Racism makes enemies where we could have allies.
Racism actively harms Heathenry because it is damned hard to shake the public perception that anyone who worship the Norse, Germanic, Ænglisc, and other continental and non-continental European Gods are racists. The tattoo I bear on my chest for Odin, a valknut on my left breast, is seen by many as a symbol of hate. The valknut I wear around my neck is seen by many as a symbol of hate. Even my son’s Mjolnir necklace is seen by some a symbol of hate. The symbolic representations of my God, and the Runes He sacrificed Himself to Himself for, namely the Runes Tiewaz, Sowilo, Algiz, and Othala are seen as symbols of hate. The Rune Othala is actively banned from display in Germany due to its use by the Nazis. The Rune Sowilo similarly is problematic as the SS officers used it in their insignia. Were a Heathen to seek to use the flyfot or swastika on a banner, as a tattoo, or in art otherwise, those who use it would be seen to espouse racism, genocide, and anti-Semitism.
Racism actively harms religions. It associates the religion with atrocities such as murder, genocide, discrimination, and hate. Racism denies our common humanity, indeed, it denies the humanity of other people outright. It limits the ways in which a religion can express itself effectively, pushing us to ignore, downplay, or outright restrict the use of certain symbols, or combinations thereof. It gives more leverage to those who would deny us our rights. It gives supposedly tolerant mainstream religions another avenue to attack our religious community’s right to exist.
Racism is what enabled America to be built on top of the bodies of countless Native and black indigenous peoples. Entire tribes of First Nation people wiped out and made into pariahs in their own homeland. Entire groups of black tribes and nations displaced, divided, abused, and murdered. Racism began as an idea, continued as a genocide, and has not stopped killing, maiming, displacing, and denying people their human rights.
Racism is what allows capitalism to keep on chugging as cheaply as it has. It, together with its usual cohorts of capitalism and imperialism, is what enabled United Fruit to set up shop in Guatemala under a military coup manufactured by the United States. Racism allows millions of people, children and adults, the world over to become so many numbers to those here, denied the reality of suffering under the weight of need and an exploitative global economic system set to prey on those needs.
Racism actively harms because it enables those who would use institutional, dog-whistle, and more covert forms of racist, ethnic, and other forms of discrimination to flourish. It encourages, rather than challenges and fights this filth. It engenders fear, hate, and denial of people’s needs, rights, and values. Look no further than Ferguson or Detroit to see what racism does when those in power enforce its ideas, and act on its beliefs. Look in your own town. Racist arguments are ready to hand that blames the immigrants for loss of jobs for white people, as if would-be middle-class white folks would sell fruit on the side of the road in 100ºF heat, or would work 80 hours per week to keep their HB-1 visa, only being paid for a fraction of it, in the end earning only a fraction in of what their American-born white colleagues make for a 40 hour work week.
Racism actively harms Heathenry by denying the most basic concept found in the lore regarding humanity’s origins: that we all descended from common Ancestors, brought to life and blessed by Odin, Vili, and Vé. Ask and Embla are the common Ancestors of humanity according to the Creation Story. Odin did not throw them back into the sea, but took Them up as They washed onto the shore, and breathed life into Them, and through Them, into us. He did not say “This tree is too brown” or “This tree is perfect and white”. He took our Ancestors as They were, washed up on shore; driftwood.
Racism hurts people, and harms the Heathen religions because it sets up the false premise that if one is not related ethnically or looks a certain way that they cannot be Heathen. It hurts the people who would join the various Heathen religions, and it turns people away from our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. It disrupts the cycles of Gebo, gift-for-a-gift, before it they can begin, by denying that anyone can reach out to the Gods.
Note: this is not saying that there should be no standards for religion. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time should know this. There should be standards for religion. Yet that standard should not be made on the color of a person’s skin, something so foolish as blood quantum or divisions of ethnicity. Are my eyes German? Are my legs Dutch? Is my left ring finger French? Are my teeth American? Can you divide up your body so easily according to your ancestry? Then how much harder for another human being. So much for ethnicity and blood standards.
Can you practice the religion? Can you respect the strictures of the religion? Can you understand what you are doing well enough that calling yourself a Heathen means something? Ancient Heathens intermarried wherever they roamed, whether trading or settling. They brought back wives from the places they visited, and assimilated with the people where they settled.
All of this being said, if Irminfolk wishes to continue imposing their ridiculous ethnicity and blood requirements, so far as I know they are free to do so. However, as they are not being censored and as I and others see they are actively harming our religious communities, we too shall use our right to speak against them and their racist, ethnocentrist policies. We shall continue to speak against them, and people like them. Their policies are insulting to Heathenry, and are harmful to the Heathen religious communities who believe that everyone, regardless of ethnicity, origin, blood ,etc. has a right to be in our communities.
When a group out in public to declare their policies and claim they are Heathen, you are no longer operating privately. When these policies are laid out for the world to see, this group opened itself up to criticism, rightly deserved. Irminfolk absolutely has a right to make these policies, and make these policies known as far and wide or as quietly as they wish. They are not immune to criticism, nor should they be.
For those who claim to follow the religion of the Heathen Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir who are racist, their words are nothing more than speaking out both sides of one’s mouth. They are lying to themselves, to the Ancestors, and to the Gods they claim to worship. They are lying to the public when they proclaim “This is Heathenry!” They are liars in denying our common humanity in Ask and Embla, in denying that all people are blessed with life by the Gods.
I ask all Heathens who believe in equality, the rights of others, and in our common humanity to stand up to the racists in our midst. Deny them platforms from which to speak. Denounce their lies when they are spoken. Speak out and speak strongly. Give them no comfort, and allow them no place in your halls or worship.
I give you rede, Loddfafnir, heed it well!
You will use it, if you learn it,
it will get you good if you understand it
If you know that someone is evil, say so.
Never give friendship to your enemies.” -The Hávamál