• Seth

Racism, Labeling, and the Landscape of American Heathenry

If you believe that based solely on the physical features, or melanin content of one’s skin, that individual cannot practice Asatru, or any other form of heathenry, then you are the problem with modern-day Asatru. You are what we strive to remove.

My name is Seth Chagi, also know by the pen name as Seth Alföðurson. I am the President and Founder of The Asatru Community Inc., known as TAC.

I am very honored that so many people around the world have trusted both The Board of Directors and myself to lead this organization in its mission to better the world for heathens, all heathens. As President of one of the largest Asatru organizations in the United States, and the world, I talk to hundreds of people and see the words of thousands, both positive towards what TAC does, and to just down right wishing we never existed, daily. And something, which has always been an issue but always lurks in the shadows, seems to be coming more and more into the limelight within Asatru and the broader heathen communities.

To what do I refer? Well, if you have not already guessed, that would be racism – and almost more importantly, the misconceptions on what racism actually is, and what our ancestors, the people of Europe, would have believed.

Today, we at The Asatru Community Inc. would like to make a statement on this topic. Now, it is important to keep a few key things in mind before reading the rest of this article:

  1. The views written about, expressed, or obtained from this article, in no way express the A) “Correct Way” of doings things, B) “The Only Way” nor are they the way that other organizations may conduct operations. This is the way we, at The Asatru Community Inc. do things

  2. These are the generally agreed upon views of the TAC Tribunal; this does not mean that every member of TAC agrees with these views.

  3. You may see this post on the various sites of our partners, of our supporters, and of our naysayers – it is once again important to keep in mind that these views are those of The Asatru Community Inc., not necessarily those of our partners, or affiliates.

So, now that all of the formal fluff is out of the way, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty. I think it is first important to describe the current landscape of modern day heathenry, specifically in the form of Asatru. Now, please remember I live in the state of California in the United States – all views and opinions of the current heathen landscape are reflective of those that I deal with on a day to day basis as a United States resident and participant in American heathen communities. Building upon this even further for background information, this article may be different than any you have read before on the similar subject. Why? Well, I may be able to provide a point of view that you may not have had before. Is it more correct than someone else’s? No, but it’s mine, and I want you to understand it.

I have been a heathen for almost ten years now. For almost half my life I have been involved within this community: hearing, seeing and learning. Outside of Asatru, I am studying paleoanthropology, which is human evolution, where we come from. So, with my combined views of the American heathen community, and from a scientific standpoint, I will try to explain the views of The Asatru Community on racism, as well as the current heathen landscape.

Within American heathenry, it is generally agreed upon that there are three main groups, or ways to organize practitioners: those who are “folkist,” those who are “universalist” and those who are “tribalist.” Before defining what these are, let me start by saying it is my belief that these terms are outdated and only cause more strife within the greater heathen community, and that new terms, if any, should be used – but that is for an entirely different essay. I will only define these briefly, as this is not the focus of our discussion today. Keep in mind, these are my definitions.

Folkist: To believe that one should follow their own roots, honor their ancestors, and their beliefs, before looking to the beliefs of others’ ancestors. Folkism is often confused, and intertwined, with racism. This is simply incorrect. While there are of course ranges of folkist believers, in general they are not racist, nor anything resembling a racist. We will get to why later. Some folkists will accept those of different ancestry, after that individual honored and respected their own roots first; on the other side, there are those who believe if you do not descend from the North, then you have no place honoring those gods.

Universalist: This one is more easily explained, and would hold the majority of American heathens. Be it Odin, Thor, the Aesir or Vanir – if the gods of the North call, then it is your choice to answer. Heritage, culture, and ancestry play no role (aside from the ever-present ancestor veneration) in who can practice or not practice Asatru. If you want to explore the Northern tradition, Universalists believe that is your right. One would consider them on the “left,” with folkists leaning more on the “right.”

Tribalist: This term is lesser known than the other two, and many heathens either do not understand it, nor have even heard of it! One who believes in a tribal community will believe that it does not matter what background you have; if you want to join the community, you must prove yourself to that community. It doesn’t matter what other communities think of you or what you have done before: if you prove that now that you have made up for your mistakes, that you are an honorable person, that you deserve to be a part of that community – then, and only then is when you are accepted into the community. To me at least, it is almost more about your kin, folk, and a functioning community vs. grouping people by religious belief, or a racial moral compass. If anything, this is what the ancient people of Europe would have believed, as this can still be seen in unbroken tribal communities today.

So now that we all have a general understanding of what is going on today in Asatru, it’s time to get to facts. What is racism?

Racism, as defined by Oxford Dictionaries, is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior,” as well as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” So, allow me to make something clear: to call someone racist because they do not think an African American can honor the Norse gods is not racist; it is something else entirely. Is it right? Well, that is for you to decide – but is it “racist?” No. At this point I would like to mention that The Asatru Community Inc. accepts, and supports heathens from all sides of the spectrum, regardless of your belief, unless you are in fact racist. Then, we plain and simply do not want you. There are many people who like to confuse, and accuse, folkist heathens of being racist. Are some? Of course; it would be unrealistic to not think there were. Are they all? Of course not! Are there racist universalists? Well, that would not make too much sense; however, there are those universalists that are so aggressive against what they think folkism is that they themselves are no better. Racism is based off of race, that is all; not culture, not heritage. Whether or not you believe that race is a different thing is a separate discussion. As an anthropologist, it is the consensus in the field of study that race is a social construct – however, there are physical features that may differentiate groups of people. You may hear this argument for the support of racists. It does not work. These physical differences occur due to physical location and dependence upon the environment. Not superiority, or mental differences. Period.

Is racism a problem in heathenry? Yes. There are those who pervert and tarnish the true beliefs of heathens for their evil, hateful acts, and belief systems. But at the moment, that small majority is given the focus, and the majority of attention, because they are the loudest. Is it possible that the bigger issue is the mislabeling (and some would say the labeling in general) of heathens? If you don’t agree, you’re a racist after all, you know.

Now that we have a better understanding of where we are coming from, I think it is now time for that statement that I mentioned prior.

The Asatru Community Inc. is an organization dedicated to the advancement, furtherance, and bettering of the heathen community worldwide, in ways in which said community see fit. We support anyone who also supports this goal, excluding extremists of any kind.

It is our goal and belief to connect heathens and Asatruars of all kinds together, regardless of race or specific belief system. We do not have belief requirements; we let our members practice the old ways the way they wish, but they join to connect. We support any heathen organizations, or individuals who also think this way – those that do not tell others that they are wrong, or that their way is the only way.

There is no “right way,” and TAC embraces this, as well as the differences within the greater heathen communities. We do not dictate how to practice. We support all members, be they hard universalist, or strong folkist. If you follow our by-laws and are an honorable person, then we want you as a member of our organization. These rules and beliefs are allowing us to quickly take the place as the world’s largest Asatru organization, yet we do not value quantity over quality. We strive to provide our members with that connection, both locally in kindreds, and abroad as a greater, close knit organization. As an organization, we want to support each individual heathen we can, while also bolstering the growth of local, and larger communities. We want to see Asatru events all over the world, and heathens connecting and uniting like never before.

However, the second a member, an associate, a partner, or any other part of our communities, both at home and at large, express ideas or ideals that align with the above definition of racism, then we denounce you: we cannot tolerate you, and we will remove you from all influence to the best of our ability without our networks, in the real world and online.

If you believe that based solely on the physical features, or melanin content of one’s skin, that individual cannot practice Asatru, or any other form of heathenry, then you are the problem with modern-day Asatru. You are what we strive to remove. Those who believe this in Asatru are the minority, and they must be dealt with. We at The Asatru Community Inc. detest nothing more than those that denounce and judge others off of baseless accusations or physical features. Since our formation, this is what we have stood for, and what we will continue to stand for, until our last breath. Equality. We believe in everyone’s right to speak what they wish, to believe what they wish, and we support them. But it is beyond our compassion and understanding to forgive, and allow racists to be involved within our communities.

It is time for heathens to cast down labeled barriers, such as universalist or folkist, and to unite upon what we agree on, for you would be surprised on how much more we see the same than different. It is time for heathens, and Asatruar, those true to the morals and beliefs of our ancestors, to unite against the true racist plague found in Asatru. This infighting, the “I am right, and you’re wrong because I read one more book than you,” it needs to end. We need to come together as a community of heathens, for are we not a minority already? Do we really need to be fighting amongst ourselves?

These Nazis – true Nazis, racists, extremists, whatever you want to call them – they are not heathen. They are not Asatru. And it is time we unite against that image of our faith, of our way of life. This is what TAC believes.

Judge a person by that person, not by what their great-great-grandfathers may have done. It does not matter. “By his deeds he shall be known,” it says in the Havamal; why do we not observe this more? We are missing out by excluding certain groups, and I am not talking about “folkist not allowing other races.” None of that. I am referring to one Asatru group being against another; the resourses and knowledge that we as a group, as a community, are losing is astounding! Do you realize that? Excluding anyone based upon their looks or beliefs is not the way to move forward. It is time to realize this. It is time for us to come together.

To those who would argue with our stance, to argue with what we are doing, by our own beliefs, you are entitled to that. But do not think we will allow anyone, of any color, or ethnicity, to harm any other, physically, mentally, or verbally.

Our ancestors did not have a conception of race. If someone was different, then they were; this did not mean they were any less, or better. They were just them – they were judged upon their deeds, and their actions. Superiority was who had more silver, whose family was better fed, who could shoot a bow better, not whose skin was lighter and eyes more blue. This is a modern idea, one that has no place in Asatru, and will have no place in TAC.

Our ancestors, long before, during, and well after the “Viking Age,” traveled, colonized, and spread their genetic information around the world. They did not discriminate, or even choose mates based upon nothing but physical features. Were they important? Of course. Were there some who disliked groups of people based on these features? Of course. It was no different than it is, or rather should be today. But for these individuals, if they could not keep their hateful ideas to themselves, they were usually on the outskirts of the communities, as they should be today – if allowed whatsoever.

To those who claim 100% Nordic blood, or DNA, or 100% anything: false. Sorry. Try, and get back to me. There is a term called “genetic flow:” the influx, and outflux of genetic material within a given population over a set period of time. If this does not happen, a few things can happen: inbreeding causes mutations to occur within the genome, causing changes, or the population dies out. Homo Sapiens Sapiens, us, our species, has never been 100% anything. Argue with me if you would like, that is your right: but these are the views that The Asatru Community Inc. stands by, and how we will conduct ourselves.

Is it not time that we, as heathens come together to provide ourselves, and those around us with better lives, both spiritually and otherwise than owrrying what everyone else is doing? Let us stop the infghting, the constant going against one another, and let us come together for a better Asatru.

Just as what our ancestors did affect what we do today, so will our deeds affect our deendants, do things that will make them proud.

Racism and judgement based upon physical features are a plague upon modern heathenry, and it needs to be put to an end.

We are all humans.

We are all children of the gods, kin of the divine. We do not bow to our gods, but they are family.

Hail Asatru

Hail the Folk

Hail The Asatru Community

If you made it this far, I thank you! What are your thoughts? What do you think?

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