Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) doesn’t like the Norse gods. He thinks Odinism is a “comic book religion in a lot of ways”. It makes sense he (and they) would think so. White supremacists love Odin. That gives Ásatrúar a bad name. And throughout Europe (and much of America) neo-Nazis and the radical right love Julius Evola.
The SPLC charter includes monitoring hate groups and other extremists. They added Neo-Volkisch pagan groups, including the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), to their list of hate groups in 2017. No surprise. Short version,
“Born out of an atavistic defiance of modernity and rationalism, Völkisch adherents and groups are organized around ethnocentricity and archaic notions of gender.“
On the surface, that seems a bit harsh. There is certainly a hefty dose of hyper-masculinity in the way some moderns romanticize the ancient Norse. And really, it is comic. But it’s hard to see how that’s a sin.
The real issue that got them black-listed is their racial separatism. Often, these groups are centered around “survival of white Europeans and the preservation of dead or dying cultures they presume to embody.” And in some groups that turns into an explicit endorsement of White supremacy (although I don’t see Stephen McNallen and the AFA going that direction).
I see some of this very differently. Euro-Americans seem to be preoccupied with turning themselves into a tribal people. (More on that some other time.) And, it shouldn’t be a surprise when tribal people have tribal gods and are descended from those gods.
In Europe, ethnic paganism is a natural fit for arch-conservatives and reactionaries. But in America? No, it doesn’t have to be that way. In America someone can participate in romanticized ancestral identities without ever becoming anything but American.
The past is malleable enough to support whatever ideology someone wants to find buried there.
- Dorothy Kim, “White Supremacists Have Weaponized an Imaginary Viking Past. It’s Time to Reclaim the Real History” (Apr. 12, 2019), Time, visited Oct. 28, 2019.
- Racism on the Edge (Oct. 8, 2017).
Updated February 11, 2019; revised Oct. 28, 2019 to add links.