South African Heathens and Declaration 127

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa –  In May this year, South African Vitki Brad McMahon, founder of Ensamvarg, publicly acknowledged his support for Declaration 127.

For readers not familiar with Declaration 127, it is described as “a denunciation of, and disassociation from, the Asatru Folk Assembly.”

The Asatru Folk Assembly (hereinafter referred to as the AFA) has a long and well-documented history of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity. In a recent statement, the AFA declared point blank that non-white and LGBT Heathens were not welcome in their tradition. [Source: Declaration 127]

Declaration 127 is so named as a reference to 127th stanza of the Hávamál : “When you see misdeeds, speak out against them, and give your enemies no frith.”

In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center added the AFA to its list of hate groups. The SPLC described the AFA as a “Neo-völkisch hate group.”

[Brad McMahon – courtesy ]

TWH asked McMahon why Ensamvarg had added its name to the declaration, already endorsed by over 180 organizations in over 20 countries.

“Declaration 127 is of vital importance for our community as practitioners of the Northern ways. Throughout the ages, religious symbols have been used and misused by various communities to achieve their own aims. I feel that it is important for all followers of the Northern Traditions to stand behind Declaration 127 if they truly have the hearts of the Gods in them.”

“There is much noise out there from far-right organisations which would seek to convince people that symbols and beliefs in the Northern Gods is a ‘Whites’ only, European decent only, religion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of the Gods in the Northern Tradition have their origins in Indo-European beliefs, and our fore-fathers were definitely not a pure ‘Aryan race’ as the far right would like us to believe. Our Gods do not care for our color, they care for our belief in them, and work with us in building stronger connections.”

McMahon added, “As a South African, I have an even stronger motivation to show my allegiance to the declaration. We have a very checkered past in South Africa with relation to racial prejudice and racial segregation. It hurts me to see local South Africans using the Northern Gods as an excuse to assert their white supremacy ideology on others.”

In April 2019, a local South African group named Volkswachstum Kindred formally and publicly affiliated itself with AFA. We asked Brad what he thought of the group and its ideology.

“It is specifically because of the establishment of Volkswachstum as a kindred under the AFA, that I felt a strong desire to make a clear statement as to my personal belief, and that of Ensamvarg Runic Mysteries. I find it deplorable that they go around stoking the fires of hate in the name of the Gods.

“If you look at the AFA website you will see that Volkswachstum has chosen to support the old South African White Nationalist flag. That speaks volumes. People who cannot let go of the past will also choose to live in the past. The use of the Northern Gods to bring division and racial hatred back into our nation sickens me. I am of Northern decent, but born in Africa. I choose to honor not only the Gods of the North, but also the Spirits of the Land of my birth, South Africa.”

Within South Africa’s broader national Pagan community, which is reasonably estimated to number less than 10 000 people, public Heathens and Asatruar constitute a small but growing minority. Kindreds remain closed and private. Apart from Ensamvarg, other notable public Asatru/Heathen groups on Facebook include Heathens South Africa, described as a “Folkish Odinism religious organisation” that welcomes persons with white Afrikaaner lineage and whose members and supporters express sympathy with the Asatru Folk Assembly, and with AFA’s newly affiliated kindred Volkswachstum.

TWH approached newly appointed South African Pagan Council Convener, Adriaan Roos, for comment on developments. The Pagan Council is currently the largest representative Pagan organisation in South Africa. Its members include affiliated covens, groups and other Pagan organisations such as the South African Pagan Rights Alliance, as well as solitary practitioners from virtually every Pagan religion, across the country. Roos responded to our request with the following statement.

“The South African Pagan Council has been observing the developments around the creation of the Volkswachstum Kindred. We also have Heathen members in our ranks but our feelings regarding the formation of this Heathen group, is a mixed one. We are pleased about having new groups that keep the Northern ways, however, on the other hand, if one looks at the AFA and what the organization stands for, we cannot support this affiliation.

“The South African Pagan Council embraces all who self-identify as Pagan, regardless of their race, sex, or sexual orientation. Our historical past and our present make this a matter of serious concern. The SAPC will not support movements which put race in the forefront, instead of the spiritual path. If a race-related incident should happen (in a country that has been marred by racial discrimination) by a group that proclaims to be pro “Aryan”, the wider Pagan community will be negatively affected by it. The South African landscape is diverse, and as a Pagan people, we cannot accept claims of supremacy or dominion over anything or anyone. We are all born of this Earth. We are all one people. Our stance and vision is one of Unity in Diversity. One Nation, many People.”

Correspondent Note:  The leader of Volkswachstum Kindred, Christo Le Roux, was not approached for comment prior to the publication of this article.