Asatru and the Alternative Right

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  April 5, 2010 — 126 Comments

Back in March I highlighted an editorial posted to the new site Alternative Right, in which assistant editor Patrick J. Ford said some pretty historically ignorant things about pre-Christian religion, and its contributions to what we now refer to as Western civilization.

“…nearly every aspect of the western world worth saving is a product of Christianity, not Paganism. Even the distinctly non-Christian things are Christian in origin. While Christianity absorbed most of the worthwhile aspects of pagan society and made them its own, Christianity has left its fingerprints on every aspect of the West. A rejection of Christianity in favor of a false pagan faith would be antithetical to the defense of the West.”

You might think this would have gone over gangbusters at a politically conservative web site, but there was actually a great deal of dissent and debate in the comments section. You see, the folks behind Alternative Right are (largely) adherents of what is called “radical traditionalism”. What is radical traditionalism? Well, it’s a school of thought that originated with the Traditionalists, and influenced by philosophers like Nietzsche, Julius Evola (here’s an AR exploration), and Alain de Benoist, founder of the French New Right, and author of “On Being A Pagan”. The immensely Pagan-friendly journal Tyr describes itself as a radical traditionalist publication. The common threads within radical traditionalism seem to be a shared hostility for modern culture, a desire to return to a more tribal-based system of social organization, and a hostility to modern forms of liberalism and conservatism. The heavy “blood and soil” (and outright racist) elements within some radical traditionalist camps have some critics saying it’s a sanitized neo-fascism (though there are tensions between traditionalists and fascists).

I didn’t give that preamble last time I mentioned Alternative Right, since I didn’t, at first, notice that it was a radical traditionalist-based site. Ford’s anti-pagan and pro-Christian attitudes on the site especially threw me off of the scent, since the radical traditionalist crowd are usually pretty down with (some) forms of modern Paganism, or at least a certain sort of philosophical polytheism. Which brings me to the reason for today’s post. After the debate and controversy of Ford’s editorial, the site has posted a series of pro-Pagan rebuttals, including one from Stephen McNallen, leader of the Asatru Folk Assembly.

“‘Pagan,’ as I use the term, does not mean lacking a moral code. It does not mean rituals mixing Isis, Thor, and American Indian beliefs, with a little lesbian-feminist philosophy thrown in for good (or bad) measure. It is not a hobby, a pastime, or an affectation … Generally, I avoid using the word “pagan” because of the nonsense done by some people under that name. (The primitive and puerile are, unfortunately, out there.) Usually, I call my practice “a native European religion.” I’m only using “pagan” in this essay because most of you will be familiar with the word in the context of the Alternative Right and Radical Traditionalism … There are only two kinds of religions in the world. One kind, like Christianity, Islam, or Scientology, lacks any roots in blood or soil … The other category includes the ones we call pagan, or native, or indigenous religions.  They are innately tied to a specific people and cannot be transferred to another group without losing their truth, power, and integrity. Such religions are the distilled experience of a specific biological and cultural group from its very beginning.”

So what are the advantages of belonging to a religion with “roots in blood or soil”?

“Obviously, such a folk-based religion has strong advantages for any group trying to preserve its physical and cultural existence. Continuation of the people in question becomes a religious imperative. It creates a strong in-group, encourages healthy families, elevates a heroic ethic, and teaches the hard virtues of loyalty, courage, and honor.  I don’t think anyone reading these words is likely to have a problem with that.”

That’s pretty boilerplate stuff from groups like the AFA that try to walk the “folkish” line while rejecting the idea of racial supremacy. So instead of getting into the mire that is the folkish/racist debate, I wanted to focus more on his opening comments, where he strives to distance himself from the larger modern Pagan community.  That too is nothing new, many Asatru refuse to use the term “Pagan”, preferring to call themselves “Heathens” instead, and are often quite dismissive of other Pagan groups, with their greatest ire saved for the dreaded “Wicca-tru”, that is, Wiccans who worship Germanic gods/incorporate Asatru elements into their practices. Which again, is fine. We don’t all have to hold hands and sing “kumbaya” with each other. What I’m wondering is if Stephen McNallen wants to be part of the larger Pagan rights coalition or not.

He certainly seems to want to join forces with the larger modern Pagan community when it suits his interests, but then pretty much says he doesn’t even consider whole swathes of modern Pagandom to be Pagan. So does he simply bite his tongue when he shakes hands with Selena Fox, or what? I point this out because it seems he’s telling the radical traditionalists he’ll have nothing to do with “those Pagans”, the ones who include a little “lesbian-feminist philosophy” in the mix (which would place Feri and Reclaiming outside of McNallen’s “Pagan” zone), but “those Pagans” are often on the front lines of legal battles that directly benefit all Pagan religions. They are often the activists, organizers, and structure-builders, and like them or not, are an integral part of the larger modern Pagan movement.

In the end it comes down to this. I don’t have to like all Pagans, I certainly don’t have to practice with all Pagans, and I’m long over the notion of any sort of real “Pagan Unity” ever being feasible, but a broader idea of solidarity is important if we are to capitalize and build on the legal, political, and social gains we have made. When we trash each other to impress other groups or individuals, we don’t damage the integrity or utility of those other religions and traditions, but we do harm the vital solidarity necessary to get the things we all want. This doesn’t mean you can’t draw distinctions or even civilly criticize paths different from your own, but when folks start implying that you shouldn’t be in the larger movement, that’s counter-productive and drains enthusiasm from the activists working for the rights of all Pagans.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    McNallen clearly has no use for Pagans who are exploring their own individual paths, responding to whatever calls to them. It makes me wonder where he comes from. Was he born with his current beliefs and attitudes?

    • eveghost

      Nobody was born with them, they're socialized in, unfortunately. I wonder if he realizes how utterly tolerant modern Scandinavian countries are…

      • MNEA

        I wonder if you realize that it makes to difference either way?

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    But isn't it deliberately at odds with pluralism and multi-ethnicity?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/LJRich LJRich

    This, right here, would be my opinion on it as well.

  • http://www.sweartfenntheod.org Travis

    An independent local kindred/hearth that is not affiliated with any of the national/international organizations.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt Jason Pitzl-Waters

    How far would I take it? It's solidarity, not a binding contract that all Asatru must obey.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt Jason Pitzl-Waters

    How far would I take it? It's solidarity, not a binding contract that all Asatru must obey.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Thank you! It really is "weasel-wording". Well-said.

  • Jake

    Wow, what intelelctual engagement…

    • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

      Ummm, if you hadn't noticed, I stated that such was unworthy of my engagement. So no, such crap will receive no further airtime from moi.

      • Jake

        Figures. Can't fathom the world any other way…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Apuleius Apuleius

    "Feminism is the radical idea that women are human beings."

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

      If only that were true. Read the link.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Both Hinduism and Hellenism contain elements of universalism, should they all become UUs?

  • Karlsefni

    Everyone is getting trolled by the racists.

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    Right. But Wicca and Neo-druidry and New Ageism aren't primary religions at all. They're new religious movements.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Crystal7431 Crystal7431

    "Special privileges"? Oh yeah, you mean when women are treated like you. How dare we?!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

      Yep. Special privileges. Read the link.

      Feminists live in deathly fear of being treated like men are.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Souris_Optique Souris Optique

        When there's something at that link, I will certainly try.

  • Ivy

    "She also told me Freyja = Bast, apparently because both have cat associations."

    *head-desk*

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  • Tomb

    Hmm rather hard for me to be EuroCentric when I am a Greco-Egyptian.

  • Tomb

    Greco-Egyptian Polytheist

  • JamesK

    It always amazes me how narrow-minded Wiccans are. Wiccans hate any religion that does not echo their own world view.

  • Jake

    That's all it is, imagination. Fantasy. Nonsense.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Teaa Tea

    You're welcome Vermillion! I await his response.

  • Ash

    That was lovely, thank you for posting it Cara. May we remember that we are allies in religious freedom, even as we hold differing values and theologies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cara.schulz Cara Schulz

    Heh. You have just written the most perfect essay on why I am politically Conservative.

  • Odinson
  • Jake

    I concede.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/whateley23 whateley23

    That link is broken.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Bullshit. Stop trying to hide behind words.

    • MNEA

      Siegfried Goodfellow- would you have someone say something they don't mean? Trying to grease the testimony in your favor? Your mind is already made up.

  • MNEA

    Interesting, your enthusiasm in proclaiming cowardice online.

    • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

      Yeah cuz if this was in person, you'd kick his ass, right?

      Good racist…I mean folkist.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Word.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

    I'd say that you've hit the nail squarely on the head with this.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Wonkateria Wonkateria

    (cont) Hey, I know! New peoples–new gods! Wicca, New Age, etc…syncretism! QED!

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

    Whew, Thank you for the good sense.

  • Dreaming Mountain

    Ahhh…very well.

  • http://xkcd.com/285/ Eran Rathan

    Nah, I'll back down from it :) Though the whole history of the Northern Crusades is fascinating.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Wonkateria Wonkateria

      Yup. Fascinating and horrifying. Like much of history, I suppose.

      • http://xkcd.com/285/ Eran Rathan

        Can't disagree with you there.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Teaa Tea

    On second thought, after reading more of these comments, I don't even know why I bothered.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    If that's really true, then Christianity should have never left the hands of the Jewish population of the middle east.

    • MNEA

      That is absolutely correct, and not all of the apostles sought to preach to Gentiles.

  • lonespark

    Holy…wow.

    I came to this discussion proudly identifying as a Heathen, and Asatruar, but I am beginning to see why people are hesistant to do that.

  • lonespark

    I guess that's one good thing about this kind of ugly rhetoric; it gives good sense and decency an opportunity to shine.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    Somehow, I get the feeling that Heathens of MNEA's stripe want to be the giant in that particular example.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Teaa Tea

    Thank you Siegfried, I appreciate that!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Crystal7431 Crystal7431

    Siegfried, I kind of love you.

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    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

      Bullshit. Unlike the 'men's rights' groups, this author actually supplies references and statistics.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

    Gee, that's kind of like Northern tradition Pagans not wanting to be tarred with the same brush as the Nazis and going out of their way to distance themselves from them.

    • Bridey

      Um, did you really mean to draw a parallel between women and Nazis, or is some rephrasing in order?

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

        I meant to draw a parallel between Feminism and Nazism. They have some very disturbing similarities.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Teaa Tea

    You make some very astute points.

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    Of course, that should be "note" proper spelling but I'm sure you'll get a giggle as well from my typo, Mr. Godhi.

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    No one cares about the bullshit book. Try formulating your own argument if you want to convince people…

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    So the gods only respond to bloodlines, eh?

    • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

      It's a ridiculous concept, isn't it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    *claps*

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    I'm a Zen Buddhist so, yeah, I think universalism is just dandy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    I'm sorry that the idea that women are equal to men is offensive to you. I hope that you get over this issue some day.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    What specifically do you mean by "Nazi drinking songs"?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Vermillion Vermillion

    Thanks for explaining, I appreciate it.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Jeez. The more this can of worms gets opened up, the more nidingdom crawls out. It's just disgusting.

    • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

      This was in 1995, I believe.

      • MNEA

        What "AFA kindred"? As far as I know, the AFA is open only to individuals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/albill Al Jigen Billings

    Oh, I remember you, Eric. When you fix your name/handle, I'll listen you on education.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow
  • MNEA

    Haha… See what I mean by hypersensitive?

    :..( *sniffles*
    http://www.kleenex.com

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

    What does being or not being raped have to do with equality?

    What's with this scary obsession with violence towards women?

  • eveghost

    I myself have withdrawn from the larger Asatru community precisely because of people like McNallen. I come from a multi-ethnic family, only a part of my bloodline is Teutonic and my family is comprised of every race you can think of (welcome to America, folks!) But I was raised in Minnesota, an area with a strong Scandinavian link and I feel very drawn to the Norse gods. I tried to become involved with a kindred but was alarmed at how much right-wing discussion dominated the gatherings. I felt completely out of place and to be honest, downright scared to be myself in that setting. I practice alone now, I have total distrust of even online forums where I’ve seen this kind of attitude dominate and those who dare pose a differing opinion getting torn to shreds. I would like there to be a day where I don’t feel the associations with my beliefs are mostly negative and where positive discourse can take place between rational adults.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    Ohhhhh, so it's purely from the "attention whore" angle you're coming from?

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    That would be coming from the "unalterable cultural programming from da good book" style of living.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    Maybe the Easter Islanders, but they had sheer distance for an excuse.

  • MNEA

    Have you actually read Snorri? Not the best source of information available, that's for sure.

  • MNEA

    … the internet is a morning and night thing for me. I've got crops and livestock to tend to, as well as actual PEOPLE in PERSON to share my ideas with.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Wonkateria Wonkateria

    Just to say…I love the D&D Connection. Oh, yes.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Um, sure, but that's exactly the point here : Volkism makes religion subservient to cultural nationalism and even racism.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Well, once again, we face the "we are our deeds" philosophy, and thus have the capacity to cry bullshit.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Wonkateria Wonkateria

    Rock the Casbah! Word! Hear! Hear!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Wonkateria Wonkateria

    Wow. All I can do is bang my cup on the table in agreement and approval. Very well put.

  • MNEA

    Right… I bet.

    So we've got a Roman/Egyptian Hermeticist, and at least two Loki worshippers, huh?

    Ha. Wow.

  • MNEA

    No other pagans I've ever been around think I'm a racist. Only you.

    What makes you so completely sure we even waste time talking about shit like that?

  • MNEA

    "Historically the US is a very "white" nation compared to the rest of the western hemisphere"

    As compared to what in which time period?

  • MNEA

    And you are complete totalitarians in demanding others do likewise. As noted in another comment, you're like the antifas who are more fascist than the fascists.

    • Lilith BlackDragon

      Agan, MNEA, I say BRAVO!!

  • MNEA

    Where in that did he say anything about hindering the advancement of another's people? Are you implying that anything that is "good for A" is "bad for B"?

  • MNEA

    The Bible says that too. Mythology cannot be interpreted literally. We have a different understanding of things in modern times.

  • MNEA

    Haha, oh man. I swear, you just can't have anything these days.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Wonkateria Wonkateria

    Okey dokey, we'll drop the tapeworm business. How about the substance of the post?

    • MNEA

      Which one? I've explained everything in more detail elsewhere.

      • Ananta Androscoggin

        No, you've applied the theory of "Baloney baffles brains" in this topic.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Keep talking, pal. You just keep proving yourself more and more of an ass. I'd offer you a shovel, but you're doing a great job yourself.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    The more who do so, Ann Groa, the stronger we will all become, realizing that an obnoxious minority is just that — an obnoxious minority.

  • MNEA

    I believe those connections have largely dissolved. Even if they weren't, one kindred never represents all kindreds.

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  • MNEA

    Agreed.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    And we get to read yet another declaration of "racial superiority" of his "people" over all others.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Vermillion Vermillion

    I am amazed that this conversation is still going on. There definitely is more to this from both sides then what I originally thought.

  • http://newoldtraditions.com Onalistus Reveler

    Triple yes on that.

  • eveghost

    How is calmly stating my point of view and experiences attacking, MNEA?

  • eveghost

    oops spelled your name wrong. sorry!

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    It is sorely needed.

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

    Al, I'm so glad you're back. I've missed you around here.

  • MNEA

    "I find the moniker of Five Civilized Tribes ridiculous and potentially racist"

    Of course you do.

  • MNEA

    I didn't have one personally. I grew up in one.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ananta_of_Maine Ananta_of_Maine

    Folkish 'culture' in the U.S. of A. is a long, very very long, way from being a "native culture" here.

    • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

      Thank the Gods!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Ananta_of_Maine Ananta_of_Maine

    Let us not forget the French army with emperor Maximilian.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    Sure, but it just sounds like mixing apples and oranges to me.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    You don't subscribe to the Big Moo theory of origins??

  • Brisi

    Told by who? "Not sure about" what? I'm confused as to what you are actually asking.

  • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

    And some a hell of a lot more than others.

  • Sarenth

    Agreed.

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  • Ralph

    I was hoping Brisi would get it. Thanks for all your good work here Siegfried.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lokisgodhi Lokisgodhi

    Ruly Mob

  • Lilith BlackDragon

    MNEA: BRAVO!!! :stands and applauds:

  • Geo

    Hailsa Sir or mam, Could you please provide me with the unrefutable proof that Steve McNallen is a "Racist"? What actions define him as "racist"? Please find the time to humor me, exactly how do you define "racist"?
    Thank you in advance for your time responding to my inquiry. For Faith, Folk and Family. Geo