The Pagan-Fascist Controversy
The evidence I have encountered suggests these people were not practicing Pagans in our sense; they were cultural Pagans as an alternative to a Christianity they considered decadent and soft. They certainly were not Goddess-oriented, for those qualities were the opposite of the "manly virility" praised by the European right and their political fascist wing.
Pagans then and now
So how do we differ from the so-called "Paganism" of some European right-wingers between WWI and WWII?
- We come to it out of liberal culture, a culture the European right regarded as too soft and feminine to survive.
- Consequently, we are vastly more receptive to the Divine Feminine than were the European Pagans I have so far read about, who generally regarded themselves as manly critics of an overly feminine (!?) society.
- Our Paganism is primarily religious in focus, whereas the Europeans of that time saw what they did in primarily cultural terms.
These are very important differences indeed. They dominate despite an overlap in elements of their and our critique of secular modernity and a common use of the term "Pagan," albeit with different meanings. In a sense, I see most of them as appropriating the term Pagan as a tool in their attack on liberal modernity rather than as a description of their religious beliefs.
Today, this issue is not entirely past history. Elements of this European cultural focus remain within some European Pagan circles, and I am curious as to how they will work out. For example, Lithuania was the last Euro-Pagan culture to be crushed by Christian military might. It retains a strong Pagan cultural identity, and while under Soviet occupation many Lithuanians held fast to that identity. Lithuanians I know have told me most, but hardly all, Pagans there are Pagan for cultural reasons rather than religious or spiritual ones. If my argument is correct both we and they can benefit from increased contact. By example (and not by lecture), we can offer an alternative to the most reactionary political implications of their courageously maintained Pagan identities. They in turn can help us find ways of increasing the breadth and richness of Pagan culture in America. That sounds like win/win to me.
But most importantly, if this argument is valid, it helps us all appreciate the best parts of our heritage even while seeking to live more harmonious and peaceful lives ourselves.
Gus diZerega is a Gardnerian Elder with over 25 years practice, including six years close study with a Brazilian shaman. He has been active in interfaith work off and on for most of those 25 years as well. He has conducted workshops and given presentations on healing, shamanism, ecology and politics at Pagan gatherings in the United States and Canada. Follow Gus on Facebook.
Gus blogs at Pointedly Pagan.