Nazis: Why we can’t have nice things

Neopaganism has always had a racism problem (I’m looking at YOU, Wiccans),  but the current incursion is something new, though not unheard of in history. A new branch of the neo-Nazi “alt-right” movement has taken yet another page out of Hitler’s book and misappropriated traditional symbols and beliefs as a framework for their white supremacist agenda. Radical Christianity somehow isn’t white, patriarchal, warlike, colonizing, and genocidal enough for these monsters, and they have created a revolting and delusional appropriative version of Odinism, also known as asatru , to justify their hate-mongering world view.

Hitler knew that he needed a mythology to help link his people to an ideal. He very carefully chose the Wagnerian operas and idealized traditional Odinism, or the traditional beliefs of Scandinavian areas, to communicate the concept of a Master Race. Even before the War, those who advocated his beliefs were often identified by an idealized version of traditional dress or hair style. Though most Germans considered themselves Christian at the time, Valkyries and other mythological figures were re-interpreted and appropriated to symbolize the blond hair, blue eyed ideal Warrior cult.

Nowadays, a reClaimist tactic to denote support for traditional culture. In the 30’s, this kind of fashion displayed support for the Nazi narrative, which misappropriated those beliefs.

These neo-Nazis have taken up that mantle and embraced the idealized concepts of a White Warrior race that destroyed everything in its path, that current western culture and Christianity create “cucks” and “homos” and that these traditional “men” were Alpha Males, which are totally refuted creations of the PUA culture. They use the symbology of Odinists and other traditional Northern European groups to identify and provide a framework for this worldview, to the horror of actual pagans everywhere. NeoNazis are attempting to re-create these idealized “values” in the modern world.

It’s particularly ironic, considering that Norse, Viking, and other peoples of that area would have no idea what Nazis are talking about. Though there were thousands of tribes, European Aboriginals were usually far more egalitarian than most modern Western culture, within their own groups. So the Nazis have to be rather selective in their interpretations. There were obviously LBGT pagans, and most cultures provided respected space for them. Though rarer, there were always People of Colour in Northern Europe, but most folks identified by *tribe* and not by something as random as skin or hair or eye colour. (The Last Kingdom depicts this beautifully.) Unfortunately for their narrative, Danes and other groups only went “a-Viking” occasionally. It’s hard to maintain group resources for this pretend “warrior” class. The rest of the time they were farmers and craftpeople, just like everyone else. Ya gotta make a living, folks…

As a fairly recent trend, this new incursion into heathenism hasn’t met with much resistance in the neo-pagan movement – largely because it’s not a legitimate spiritual offspring, and kinda in hopes that they just go away. Modern heathens and Asatru have few tools to cope, since this new version is unlike anything they have ever seen, and it doesn’t come from them. It’s more of a hostile takeover. Much like the Skinheads trying to brand themselves as Punks in the 70’s and 80’s, this new sub-group of Neo-Nazis has embraced their own version of heathenism to promote their hate-mongering agenda.

A few answers have already been suggested, but it is far less than the current threat warrants. Like the Punk answer to the Skinhead incursion, it requires decisive and extreme public action – in part to dissociate from this narrative, and to demonstrate in no uncertain terms that it will not be tolerated in our spaces. Action can include statements, such as declarations, but it also needs to be effective. Zero tolerance of all such concepts should be maintained, and concerning issues or policies must be policed and removed. Check your group for equity, and anti-oppressive stances. Any lapse in those is a chink in our armor that these deplorables can take advantage of, as we have seen in many other groups already. (“The theme of intense male comradeship nourished by violence…has deep roots in the history of fascism.”) As there are many links with the alt-right, PUA, and MRA culture, the recent resurgence of misogyny in our ranks is just one such vector that these fascists have found to worm their way in.

Real warriors fight for the vulnerable. They do not prey on them. We need to root out this new threat to our spirituality and our identity from those who would corrupt our worldview into framework for something deeply destructive.

To that end, our group has embraced a more inclusive name and identity. Though we greatly debated our choice of name and symbology originally, and embraced the concept of the traditional Mother wisdom of our Northern sisters, we have always been diverse and inclusive. Our founders and Directors have been Rabbis, Oriental spiritualists, and pagan priestesses. Keeping that in mind, we have shifted to a more inclusive image and symbology. We will continue to fight with our heathen siblings to eradicate this menace, and will promote solutions to the struggle. Our group has eagerly signed on to the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance (though, really, we should come up with something better than mere “toleration”) and Declaration 127, which specifically denounces a particular group in it’s neo-Nazi world view.

So we have changed our name and image to more accurately reflect our values and our diversity. We have committed to actively make our spaces safer for marginalized and oppressed peoples and help make this a more just and equitable world, since that has always been what we are about. And though they are useful tools, it won’t just be with Thoughts and Prayers and Declarations. We will fight these Nazis. They will not dishonour us, our ancestors, or our traditions by hiding behind those in a narrative for their agenda. We will push them out of paganism.

You have our word on that.

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9 Comments

  1. From Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu’s Facebook comments on the topic. Quoted with permission.

    “Interesting article. I’m curious about the choice of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister for the picture. She’s a lot of things, most of which I don’t especially like. But I don’t see any evidence that she’s actually a Nazi, neo or otherwise…

    “She came from a Russian-speaking family in central Ukraine and was the beneficiary of Russian gas contracts. But she straddled the political spectrum by appealing to those who wanted Ukraine to differentiate itself from Russia by reaching into its distinct roots. At times, she has been Putin’s preferred alternative, so the braid is not indicative of any real hostility to Russia. But Ukrainian nationals loved it.

    And in that way, it does feed into exactly the kind of thing you’re talking about – there is an interesting interplay between those, on the one hand, who are interested in ancient culture because it’s interesting, because it can reveal deep cultural biases, because it can be reclaimed and renewed with modern messages and on the other hand those who absorb ancient cultural symbols to stoke nationalism.

    Tymoshenko was definitely stoking some nationalism. But not to the level of nazism….

    “I’m also interested in the vastly different impact of cultural marker in marginal or minority groups under threat and dominant groups. Having tiny minorities stand up for their uniqueness by continuing with ancient cultural practices can be unifying and can help them face dominant political forces. But when it’s used to unify dominant cultural groups, it can be a part of a brutal cudgel.

    Ukraine is a particularly interesting lab for all of this kind of stew. On the one hand, it’s definitely a vulnerable colony still emerging from under the thumb of its previous overlord. On the other hand, any kind of nationalism has the potential to grind Ukraine’s minorities down. I don’t worry much about Russians in Ukraine. Russian language still dominates in Ukraine, though that is changing. More importantly, worrying about Russians in Ukraine is a little like worrying about the British in India after India gained its independence. But I do worry about real minorities in Ukraine. The Roma, for example.”

    I’m grateful for the comments. Those are *exactly* the issues that modern and reClaimist paganism are struggling with. We need more insight into some of the answers. The situation is becoming far more dire and urgent than past decades.

  2. Sometimes this also involves ceding the “nice things” to alt-right (or insert label here) people. I keep seeing “oh we can’t use X symbol anymore because group X uses it, and the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation league have it listed on their website. It’s called being a minority. Crosses can be used as symbols of hate, but do Christians stop using them? Nope. They have that luxury. So don’t give in and let people completely take over a thing.

    1. In part. That’s why we are fighting back, so they won’t be able to control this narrative. However, more than just “we get to use it” is the imperative here. We have to make an active and conscious decision to delineate from the Bad Guys, and show them the door.

  3. Wat was the name before? I came to this article from WitchVox, linked from another post on FB. I’m just curious what the earlier name was and how much it might make people think of nazis. I have Sowilo on my right arm and sometimes get questions if I’m a nazi. I see it an an opportunity to educate.

    1. The old name is included on our original forms of incorporation. https://paganhumanismcanada.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/485/

      Educating is of course always important. However, more important than that is harm reduction, and there are many oppressed ppls to whom these alt-right groups are a constant and escalating concern. We already lost some folks who were very interested, then hit the website, and refused to contact us again. Even after we asked! And we were getting seriously worried ourselves, in part because nearly all of the new inquires or Likes came from almost exclusively white men, with more than a little alt-right in their profiles. So, we are being proactive in our name change, and we are already thrilled with the results! Far more diversity and less worrisome profiles.

      As much as I prefer education, and I do, this was totally something we could fix. So we did.

      Thanks for commenting!

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