Folkish Heathen group moves into the Bible Belt

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A folkish Heathen group, Wotans Nation, received significant media coverage in the Chattanooga Times Free Press after its members purchased 44 acres in Meigs County. As state records show, the property was purchased March 30, 2017 by Angela Meadows, the wife of Eric Meadows. According to the media report, the local police warned the director of schools that the new neighbors have had a history of contacts with white supremacists.

Wotans Nation flag

Meadows’ reported involvement with white supremacist groups

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights watchdog agency, has reported extensively on Eric Meadows’ involvement with the League of the South. That group describes itself as a Southern nationalist organization and favors eventual independence. In 2014, the League of the South attempted to set up what SPLC called a “secret paramilitary group,” with Meadows named as head of training, presumably drawing upon his 12 years of service in the U.S. Army and Navy.

It is not clear if this was rhetoric, or an actual attempt to form a paramilitary organization.

The SPLC continued to report connections between Meadows and various white supremacist groups and related activities up to the end of 2016. From 2017 on, the watchdog organization had no other published reports on Meadows’ involvement with such groups.

In a 2017 interview, Meadows claimed to have severed his ties with white supremacist organizations; the reason is unknown.

Within those older reports, SPLC notes that Mr. Meadows has allegedly used several names over the years, including Erik Thorvaldsson. A Facebook page, owned by an Erik Thorvaldsson, did bear the Wotan’s Nation flag image. However, the page was removed as of March 5, and it remains down.

As noted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the group erased its online presence almost completely after the news outlet published the original story. According to reports, the original Facebook group had over 300 members.

Thorvaldsson’s own Facebook page was removed several weeks later.

Wotans Nation website

As reported Monday by the Wild Hunt, the SPLC recently identified 28 folkish Asatru groups as hate groups; Wotan’s Nation was not among them.

The Wotans Nation website identifies the organization as a theologically-based folkish Heathen community. It will offer “training programs in all aspects of natural living, theological study, ceremony, tradition, self-reliance.” It was first established as a “project” in 2017 after the land was purchased.

The group plans to offer rental cabins in the future, and its website reports that Wotans Nation has applied for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a church.

In an email with The Wild Hunt, an anonymous representative of Wotans Nation said that they hold traditional ceremonies, rituals, and blots.

The website includes the message that “Wotans Nation offers membership within the nation to folkish Heathens that meet the requirements and are willing to move into the nation and become active participants in the community.”

When asked more specifically about membership the unnamed spokesperson said, “First and foremost, be a practicing Heathen. As with most religious organizations, it is a step-by-step process rather than a simple submit an application and obtain a membership card.”

The interviewee said that German or Norse ancestry is not necessary.

The group’s website goes on to say that it will check the backgrounds of prospective members “for safety of the community as a whole.” Wotans Nation wants to become the spiritual center of the Heathen religion in this country, according to the site.

The most recent blog entry, published Feb. 21, reiterates its theological orientation to Heathenism. It read that the group rejects politicians and political parties, and will not hold political rallies.

The entry goes on to state that Wotans Nation will provide food, clothing, and other supplies to 50 to 100 people. The entry also states that they will distribute these provisions regardless of “race, sex, or spiritual beliefs.”

The spokesperson added that the group’s events, such as Celtic or Norse festivals, would be open to the public. Wotans Nation will only hold such events on their own property, they stated.

The group representative also said that Wotans Nation is developing an educational component. This component would be used to educate those new to Heathenism and “to further the understanding of what Heathenism is.”

Wotans Nation is not reportedly affiliated with any national or international Heathen organizations.

Smokey Mountains [James St. John/Flickr].

Racial dynamics in Meigs County

Meigs County, where Wotans Nation is located, was not particularly diverse before the land was purchased. The U.S. census estimates that, in 2016, Meigs County was 94.7 percent white, 1.5 percent Latino, and 1.3 percent black. Mixed-race people, Asians, and Native Americans made up the rest of the population.

Meigs County, however, is not a bastion of wealthy landowners either. The U.S. census estimated that the median individual income for adults over 25 was $20,484 in 2016, and about 18.8 percent of the population lived at or below the poverty level.

The initial Chattanooga Times Free Press article that broke the story included a reaction from one of the few African-Americans in Meigs County. Dakota Ricker said he is not worried about the group. “It’s Meigs County. Everybody’s racist in Meigs County.”

Ricker said, “I’ve dealt with it all my life. I’m not going to leave just because these people are moving up here.”

We will continue to follow this story and update as needed.