I’ve noticed a theme on tumblr, twitter, and elsewhere today: when some of us refuse to turn our religious practices and our traditions into a morass of social justice insanity suddenly we are faced with accusations that our entire religion is appropriative. Think about that: there are those who claim to be Pagan who are purposely trying to discredit entire religions because those religions honor the Gods. Think about that long and hard.
Here’s some of the unmitigated bullshit I’m seeing:
*Asatru is appropriating Icelandic culture (with at least one person asserting that Asatru was started in mid 20thC. in Iceland solely for Icelanders. Um, no. Do some research please. The term was first coined for contemporary practitioners in, I believe, Denmark, in the mid nineteenth-century and the revival of the religion began in the nineteenth century as well. I talk about this in my book “Trangressing Faith”).
*You cannot practice an ATR if you weren’t either raised in it or are a person of color. That’s not true at all as any santero or santera will tell you. There are numerous practitioners carrying licit initiations who are not people of color. They may have a steeper learning curve but they are welcomed by many Houses to the worship of the Orisha. It is not for any outsider to determine who may or may not seek them out.
*My favorite: if you say shamanism, you’re really referring to ‘animism.” Bitches, please, I know how to use language. If I were referring to animism, I’d say so. I do agree that Harner core “shamans” are garbage and this has certainly muddied the waters but anyone actually engaging in shamanism pays them as little mind as possible. We prefer competent people. Harner’s crew does appropriate and dangerously so.
*Then, finally, there’s this gem: you only use Polytheist, or Pagan because you want legitimacy Neo-Pagan doesn’t give you. Um, we use Polytheist because Neo-Pagan is a nebulous term full of half witted people who honor neither gods nor ancestors and who want everything watered down into meaninglessness. We, on the other hand, have traditions, traditiosn with roots going back into the ancient world, we give a shit about them, and prioritize the Gods over your human garbage.
So, maybe stop mentioning traditions and practices and religions that you A) clearly know nothing about, B) don’t comprehend, and C) and are using only to virtue signal for others. I find it quite telling, that the people engaging in this rhetoric are always, ALWAYS either non-theists, or those who think activism equals religious truth and tradition (but whose activism is also always a matter of slandering people with outright lies, posting online, and never actually getting out there and making a difference in the world), or they are solely animists who despise the concept of tradition and especially of initiatory traditions. Well, too bad, sister. Those things exist and they are good and holy.
What is actually going on here is those outside our traditions are spewing this nonsense in exactly the same way they call anyone who disagrees with them ‘nazi’ or ‘racist’ regardless of what political beliefs that person might actually hold. It’s an attempt to destroy our religious traditions because we won’t do it ourselves. It’s an attempt to undermine the people actually practicing, defending, and furthering those traditions. It’s an attempt to again ideologically speaking, smash our shrines, destroy our icons and statues, and condemn the Gods to the pages of history. Resist.
I never, ever thought I’d be writing something supporting the AFA. I’m not a member and I’m not folkish but over the last couple of weeks as more and more people in our communities dogpile on them, I’ve been watching from the side lines growing more and more concerned. Then yesterday, I saw this article and that the not so aptly named Camp Courage had, at the last minute, caved to pressure from HUAR and others who were calling in and refused to honor their contract to host an AFA harvest gathering. The AFA was left scrambling to find a new venue, which I’m told they did. That’s when I decided I had to say something.
Why are more people not up in arms about this? Seriously. Do you not see what is going on?
A group made a statement articulating its values. They never said that they spoke for all of Asatru or Heathenry. They specifically said they don’t monitor what their own members do or how well they adhere to these values. They made a statement about their core values on their own facebook page, to their own members. Whether or not you agree with that statement is beside the point. They have both freedom to speak and freedom to assemble in this country. Moreover, groups and traditions have the right to make decisions about their values and membership. If one doesn’t like the result, well the adult thing to do is to find a group or tradition more suited to one’s own values. That of course, predictably, is not what happened here.
Now, I rather expected the Troth to take a run at them. There’s been long standing tensions between the folkish and universalist camps within Heathenry and they are after all competing for the same demographic. There was never any expectation that the Troth would take the high road. (For the record, I am most adamantly NOT a member of either the Troth or the AFA. I have theological issues with them both). As you can see from the link, they’re not even responding to what the AFA actually said; they’re responding to what they would like us all to believe they said. What I didn’t expect was for everyone else to unthinkingly jump on the outrage brigade with them.
No one seems to have given a thought that this is polytheists attacking another group of polytheists – and not just verbally but with real world consequences; or more troubling, to the long term effects of such behaviors. I am old enough and have been a polytheist long enough to remember when gatherings were kept secret, when groups didn’t post about things, when there was a veil of secrecy over who was doing what and where, and on the way this stifled the growth of our traditions. Is that what we want to go back to?
Those attacking the AFA are doing so thinking that they are perfectly justified in doing so, and may even think they are doing a good thing. After all, these people think differently. They don’t tow the leftist party line. They don’t give a rat’s ass about what HUAR, Rhyd, G&R, tumblr or any other group of people might think. They have to be brought down. Well, it’s the AFA today but I think HUAR and co. are testing the waters, just as they were doing when they tried to brand me a racist for posting a video critical of rape gangs (really people, read my blog and make up your own mind there). They’re doing this to see A) how people react and B) if they can whip the communities up into a frenzy and take down this organization. What’s next? Are they going to go after John Michael Greer because he disagrees with Rhyd? Or will it be some poor group of Dianics who just want to be left to practice their tradition in peace? (I happen to think Dianics are ludicrous but you know what my response is to that? I don’t try to attend their gatherings). Whose livelihood are they going to destroy next? They’ve already managed to get a teacher at Cherry Hill to resign. It’s no longer enough to say “I disagree with their position on X and here’s why,” now the opposition has to be demonized (regardless of what their position actually is, mind you. Let’s call them far right, fascist, racist, homophobic, transphobic insert charged term du jour here). It’s no long enough to have one’s own space, now opposition must be silenced and brought to heel until they confirm ideologically.
Think about that. While you’re patting yourself on the back for protecting diversity, think really hard about that.
Think about who might be next. Think about your own gatherings disrupted because someone doesn’t find you ideologically pure enough. Think about the phone call to your boss outing you as Pagan, Heathen, pseudo fascist (even if you’re not). Rhyd is going around (most recently on John Beckett’s patheos column) talking about how there is no witch hunt from the anarcho-Marxist left. He’ll still be saying that I’m sure, when they come for you