As I laid in bed and groggily scrolled through my facebook feed a few mornings ago, I was confronted with an article that deeply saddened me. The Asatrúarfélagið, an Icelandic group considered by many to be the founders of modern Asatru, had been receiving hate mail about their new temple. Not from fundamentalist Christians, not from people upset about zoning or any other issue, but from other Heathens. Specifically, Heathens from the United States who were upset that the Asatrúarfélagið was championing the cause of gay marriage in Iceland.
Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson, the high priest of the Asatrúarfélagið, said there is “gushes of hate-mail from abroad, for example due to our respect for gay rights and for our fight to be allowed to marry same-sex couples.” This breaks my heart. The members of this group are doing an amazing thing for Asatru and Heathenry, raising an unbelievably beautiful temple, and the same ‘internet warriors’ I’ve run across are sending them hate mail for their noble actions in the fight for equal rights. I don’t think I have ever experienced such a moment of sadness for my community.
Thankfully, the outpouring of support from non-Icelandic Heathens and Asatruar for the Asatrúarfélagið has been tremendous. A Facebook event was posted just a few hours after the news broke, which now has 1,700 members showing their support for the Asatrúarfélagið, and various petitions expressing solidarity have been circulating as well. My fellow Patheos writer Yvonne Aburrow has written her own letter of support. I am proud of my community for reaching out in this way, and Hilmarsson is grateful as well:
“You always take most note of the loudmouths and yappers. But we know we have many friends around the world. But we usually hear less from them, they keep to themselves. So, it has been really pleasant to see the overwhelming support we have received since the article ran on Tuesday.”
This event serves as a wake-up call and a reminder to me, and to my fellow Heathens who share a view of an open religion where all people are granted equal rights. We must make our voices heard. If all people hear of Heathenry are the racists, the misogynists, the homophobes, the toxic and violent machismo of much of online Heathenry; then that’s what people think we are. Speak up. Talk about your Heathenry. Send letters to foreign groups to congratulate them on successes in the battle for equal rights, or even their everyday life successes. Of course this isn’t possible for everyone – but if you can, do it. Do not let the toxic corner of our tradition take it over.