Racism on the Edge

I don’t know why so many heathens equate their religion with white supremacy, but they do. I think that’s an ideological mistake.

During the 19th century, Vikings were praised as prototypes and ancestor figures for European colonists. The idea took root of a Germanic master race, fed by crude scientific theories and nurtured by Nazi ideology in the 1930s. These theories have long been debunked, although the notion of the ethnic purity of the Vikings still seems to have popular appeal – and it is embraced by white supremacists.” (Downham)

It’s far easier to paint the ancient Norse as open, mobile, and eclectic. In modern terms their sin would be their elitism and patriarchalism, not racism.

Developments in archaeology in recent decades have highlighted how people and goods could move over wider distances in the early Middle Ages than we have tended to think. In the eighth century, (before the main period of Viking raiding began), the Baltic was a place where Scandinavians, Frisians, Slavs and Arabic merchants were in frequent contact. It is too simplistic to think of early Viking raids, too, as hit-and-run affairs with ships coming directly from Scandinavia and immediately rushing home again.

I was an early member of Stephen McNallen’s Asatru Free Assembly. Must have been somewhere around 1977 to 1979. I was quite taken with them, because it was the first time I had encountered modern pagan reconstruction. I wandered away, not for any ideological reasons, but because there was more social support locally for other interesting things to do and be.

Although McNallen is notorious now for his views I don’t remember any racism back then. If there was, it wasn’t obvious. But to me, the problem of racism lies exactly here. It’s a short step from identifying with Norse reconstruction because those are your own ancestors to becoming tribal and exclusive.

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Edited Oct. 28, 2019; Nov. 2, 2019 to add links.

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