In the 19thand well into the late 20thcentury (through the 1990s in some areas), Native children in America and Canada were forcibly removed from their parents and forced into “Indian Schools,” where they were beaten, abused, forced to give up their native language and forcibly Christianized. This was governmental policy. It was law. The primary purpose of their “education” was, first and foremost Christianization. I always thought this was an abomination that happened in the New World. Today I learned differently.
I learned that when Charlemagne (may he be damned) conquered and forcibly converted the Saxons, the same thing happened to them.
I’m still processing this. I was assigned a book to read in one of my classes and the information was there, clear as day. Children were taken away from Saxon families and interned forcibly in monastic schools, which led upon adulthood to those children being tonsured and forced to take vows. It was slavery. Make no mistake, the Saxons did not go peacefully. They did not willingly or easily abandon their Gods. They were butchered, tortured, imprisoned, and forced into conversion by Charlemagne and his successors. Sound familiar?
A hundred years later, in condemnation of a monk Gottschalk of Orbais, a man who had been committed to the monastery as a child and forced against his will to take vows and who was now seeking freedom, his abbot Hrabanus blamed his quest for freedom on an inherent Saxon hatred of Christianity in general and monasticism in particular. Hrabanus made it clear he considered the Saxons at best, a subaltern people, underserving of liberty specifically on religious grounds:
Should those who are inferior by virtue and dignity spurn those superior and more eminent than themselves, and reject them as if they were unworthy of all honor, those to whom they were rightly made subject? For who does not know, living in this region of the world, that the Franks were in the faith and religion of Christ before the Saxons, whom they later subjected to their dominion by force of arms – being made their superiors according to the practice of lords and even more by their paternal disposition—and dragging them away from the cult of idols and converting them to the faith of Christ? But now these notions are spurned ungratefully by certain primates of this very nation according to the flesh against the law of heaven and the law of the court…(emphasis mine)
Because yes, we should all be grateful when the good Christians come to burn down our temples, destroy our religion, execute the faithful, kidnap our children, and force us into servitude. Even the author of the book (and translator, I believe, of these speeches) called this one of the “most blatantly imperialist” views in favor of forced Christianization to be found in the 9thcentury. (For both quotes see Matthew Bryan Gillis, Heresy and Dissent in the Carolingian Empire: the Case of Gottschalk of Orbais,” Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 40-41).
This is the way monotheism worked as it swept across Europe and then the Americas erasing religions and cultures. It was in every case, attempted annihilation.
This is why monotheistic colonization is so different from previous ones. The Romans, for instance conquered people and enslaved them and that was horrible but they didn’t try to completely change the internal landscape of the people, to tear away their language, to obliterate their Gods. Only with monotheism do we see this kind of conquest. It’s not a white problem. It’s not a black problem. It’s not a problem of any race. It’s a monotheistic problem, so when you ask me why I condemn monotheism so much, why I will never, EVER advocate peace with this system of corruption, take a look at our own history.
And no, not all individual Jews, not all individual Muslims, not all individual Christians – many of them are lovely people and there are many things about their traditions that are lovely as well–but the system is dehumanizing, because monotheism is not the belief in one God, it’s a rejection of all other Divinities and therefore the monotheist can never be at peace with his neighbors.
This is all the more reason why we should commit to honoring our Gods, honoring our ancestors, and rebuilding our communities always, always remembering that they can be destroyed again, if we’re not committed, if we’re not pious, and if we’re not vigilant.
In memory of the 4500 martyrs of Verdun and all those who have fought monotheistic obliteration before and since.
Someone commented in a facebook discussion that a friend of mine was inaccurate for stating in his recent piece that Christ was associated with Odin historically, assuming that Baldr would make a more logical syncretism and so my friend must be wrong. He’s not wrong, however and the comparison of Odin to Christ was one of the tools used to further the spread of Christianity in Northern Europe. We had a brief discussion on it and I thought, this is really interesting.
When finals are over, I’ll come back and flesh this out with sources, but for now, the key one that we should be looking at is the Saxon translation of the Gospels, “The Heliand.” (which is a hilarious text, omg, it really is). If you want to find a more muscular Christianity go no further than Christ sitting with his warrior thegns in the mead hall. Yes, you read that rightly. You see, apparently Jesus as he was presented in the Mediterranean world wasn’t all that appealing in the far north. (Our ancestors should have stuck with that idea, folks. Seriously). In order to attract people, following the dictum of Gregory the Great to Augustine (not Augustine of Hippo, the other one, from Cantubury, I believe), missionaries adapted things, just a little, to better fit the climate and culture. In other words, they took some liberties.
One of those liberties was syncretizing Odin with Christ. I agree that on the surface one has to look at that and go ‘huh?’ I mean it’s not the most logical choice, except it was. On the surface the comparison hinges on Odin hanging on Yggdrasil and Christ hanging on the Cross. In reality though, I think it goes deeper. Odin was (and is) a God of kings. It was a common part of the Christian missionary program to first convert the monarch or ruler of a particular community and then have him demand and execute conversion of his people. I think the focus on Odin is directly related to His associations with rulers. If He was the patron of the king then of course that is Who you’d want to mis-appropriate when trying to ease your own god in. It was part and parcel of the Christian agenda.
Now it may be that Baldr didn’t have the cultus during the conversation of northern Europe that Odin had, but I think the connection that was drawn between Odin and Christ had far, far more to do with kings and rulers and the desire of Christians to destroy the indigenous polytheism as quickly as possible.
One interesting book, before I sign off to get back to work on my papers for finals, is “The Germanization of Early Christianity” by J. Russell and when you read the “Heliand,” be sure to picture everyone in gold lame with too much hair like some strange made for tv movie 1970s style. It makes it so much more interesting and really emphasizes how ridiculous the usurping faith was.
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