Paganism Has Some Dead Ends

I’ve always found folkish Heathenry to be a completely inane idea. It’s an idea that completely limits deity (only white people can worship Thor), discounts reincarnation, and completely overlooks how widely diverse most people’s DNA generally is (especially here in the United States). We also all come from the same place (Africa!) which makes the idea even more stupid.

(If you don’t know what folkish means be glad! But most groups today that describe themselves as folkish believe that to worship the Norse gods one must be directly related to the ancient Norse. Thankfully a majority of Heathens do not share these nonsensical views.)

DeadEnds

Folkish beliefs are often especially problematic because the racism they contain tends to be subtle. It’s possible to read something from a folkish group and on first glance overlook the casual racism latent in their words. Folkish racism is subtle, and oftentimes clever. I also think a great many people subscribe to folkish beliefs do not believe that they are racist and are generally good people. (For the record, racism is not a word I casually throw around.)

I’ve expressed my dismay before with both folkish Asatru and the Asatru Folk Assembly, but a posting on the organization’s Facebook page this past Sunday night was far from subtle and completely clear in its racism and transphobia:

Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning. Hail the AFA families, now and always!

I’m sorry, but what the fuck? “Our beautiful white babies?” “Feminine ladies and masculine gentlemen?” It’s racism, transphobia, and some supremely antiquated ideas about gender all in one neat little package! Excuse me while I throw up.

Earlier this year at Many Gods West there was a question during one of the panel sessions about racism and transphobia in our greater community. The answers in reply given by the panel were fine, but their answers also overlooked something I’ve noticed online over the last few years: we simply aren’t allowing the overtly racist or transphobic into our most public spaces. No one’s inviting Stephen McNallen to talk at PantheaCon or ConVocation, and there aren’t folkish blogs here at Patheos Pagan or Pagan Square either. When it comes to race and trans-acceptance many of us are far from perfect, but the majority of us are trying, and that’s a definite step in the right direction.

I think we’ve done a pretty decent job self-policing our spaces over the last few years too. That doesn’t mean every article here and at some of the other bigger blog spots are perfect (far from it, and I know there have been controversial and upsetting articles published here on occasion), but I think we get it right more often than not. I think the organizers of most festivals are aware of what’s acceptable and what’s not in public spaces, and I also believe they try and bring in speakers and ritualists whose values align with most of our greater community. Again, I’m not saying that we as a greater community don’t sometimes make mistakes, but when we do screw things up I believe that we try to fix them and then learn from our mistakes.

Because, seriously, folkish groups and the transphobic are dead ends in our community. Groups who hold these types of views might exist today, but I don’t think they’ll exist in thirty years. When we discuss Paganism when I’m in my seventies groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly are going to be dead and long gone. Racism will still exist in 2046, I’m not naive enough to think otherwise, but the people who hold such views won’t be standing anywhere near our umbrella. I just don’t think that we as a community will allow it.

In thirty years when something as wrong-headed and toxic as the Asatru Folk Assembly’s message above is posted in social media it won’t make my newsfeed or the Wild Hunt because none of us will have friends involved with such groups. The racist and the the transphobic will exist completely in their own little slimy cesspool and when people talk about the Heathen Community such groups will not be counted among that number.

We aren’t where we need to be yet, but we will be, and I think our lifetimes. There are dead ends in Paganism, the AFA are one of them.

________

The AFA is apparently doubling down on their stupidity. I just saw this on their Facebook page*: “You are not misunderstanding. The AFA is not in the practice of policing what people do in their bedrooms but we as an organization are clear in supporting the traditional family. And yes the Asatru is an ethnic religion of European people.”

Shared just in case anyone was wondering if the AFA was welcoming of gays and lesbians. Please go away AFA.

*And I wasn’t looking for it, it was a screenshot in a comment thread.

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About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.