Note: Star Bustamante and Manny Tejeda-Moreno were contributors to the article.
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, a rally in support of U.S. President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud turned into a violent and chaotic insurrection. A group of far-right Trump loyalists attacked and breached the Capitol building in a puerile but violent effort to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Of the many rioters photographed during the assault on the Capitol, one in particular caught the eye of the Heathen community – a face-painted, shirtless man, wearing furs and a horned helmet, carrying a spear, and covered in tattoos related to Viking and Norse imagery.
The man, Jake Angeli, sometimes referred to as the “QAnon Shaman,” appeared in dozens of photographs shared by national and social media.
Angeli, whose legal name is Jacob Chansley, 32, is a QAnon supporter from Phoenix, Arizona, who has been active in far-right circles in the past year, appearing in his face-paint and horns at many rallies in support of Trump and QAnon. In 2019 he appeared, in similar costume, at a rally demanding action on climate change at the Arizona state capitol.
Despite some claims on social media that Angeli is affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement or Antifa, Reuters notes that Angeli has a detailed history of involvement with Trump rallies and the QAnon movement.
On Angeli’s now-closed Facebook page, he shared a variety of QAnon-related conspiracy theories, including claims that a cabal of Satanic pedophiles had infiltrated the U.S. government and was acting in opposition to President Trump. One post included a video that claimed to expose “the way that Communism is tied to Satanism & black magick spell” (sic).
Angeli’s Facebook profile also contained a mishmash of memes, images, and quotes that seemed to indicate support for multiple religious expressions. Some involved Pagan imagery, but many were affirmations of Christianity and devotion to Jesus. The phrases “God Wins” and “Jesus Amen” were frequent elements of his posts.
He also described himself as “a shamanic practitioner and energetic healer. I have been on the shamanic path for over a decade and have numerous different capabilities and gifts at my disposal.”
Until shortly after the riot at the U.S. Capitol, Angeli maintained a profile on Backstage, an advertising website for actors and entertainers. In the now-deleted page, he described himself as an actor, voiceover artist, and singer, “capable of performing over 30 different voices and numerous different accents.”
He also claimed to be “very skilled at embodying characters.”
Despite the mostly-Christian nature of his posts, Angeli is clearly aware of modern Heathenry. One Facebook post contained the Nine Noble Virtues, an ethical code created by John Yeowell and John Gibbs-Bailey of the Odinic Rite in 1974. Yeowell had ties to white supremacist and fascist movements, including, at one point, membership in the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists.
Angeli has three prominent tattoos on his torso, including a valknut on his upper chest, a stylized tree on his pectoral, and a large Thor’s hammer tattoo on his abdomen. The tree is potentially a reference to Yggdrassil, the world tree in Norse cosmology.
Angeli does not appear to be connected to any active Heathen or Pagan community. His appearance at the head of the charge brought swift reactions from the Heathen and Pagan community.
The Troth released a statement last night condemning the violence of the extremists and denouncing their appropriation of Heathen symbols:
Today, the world has witnessed an unprecedented scene of violence and terror in complete disregard for the safety of Congresspeople, law enforcement, and an entire city. These events were driven by bigotry and hate. Furthermore, several of those who have been most visible in these events have also been bearing symbols many of us hold very dear and even sacred.
The Troth condemns the events today by all who committed acts of violence and terror in the strongest manner possible. We support all who seek to voice disagreements peacefully, and condemn any attempt by governments to suppress peaceful protest. We condemn the misinformation and hateful rhetoric that drives these events. Our community stands available to assist those in Washington DC who may need to speak with clergy or have other needs due to this event.
Tonight, we join with faith leaders from around the globe in a prayer for peace to settle over the United States and that a calm and orderly transition of power continues.
Robert Schreiwer, Steer for the Troth, spoke to TWH this morning and offered the following statement:
Speaking on behalf of The Troth, Heathens Against Hate, Huginn’s Heathen Hof, Der Urglaawe, and myself:
I am sure all of you are as shocked and dismayed as I am by what the events in Washington, DC, today.
It is horrifying (although, sadly, not unexpected) that some nitwits turn up in the media who have connections to our religion.
The Troth, HAH, and HHH will be making a statement about this matter.
Those of us who honor ancestors and forebears can see the struggles of the generations who went before us being shaken to near insignificance by this appalling action taken by the extremists on the lunatic fringe of the political right.
Unfortunately, the lunatic fringe is becoming larger and larger, and the potential for a civil war, once unfathomable to most of us, becomes greater and greater. This truly is a shameful day in this country.
Schreiwer also noted that Angeli’s outfit “looked like the Heathen version of [the musical] Cats!”
Other Heathens have made equally strong statements roundly denouncing both the violent insurrectionist actions and the use of Heathen symbols.
“If you have been in Heathenry for a while,” Ryan Denison, founder of Heathen Men United and the Pagan and Polytheist Educational Research Symposium (P.A.P.E.R.S.) at the Mystic South Conference, told TWH, “you know the tie between white supremacy and Heathenry in America is from the beginning.
“You also know those original people were clueless on the actual history and clouded by social Darwinism, bad, biased and racist 19th-century scholarship, and appropriation of a religion and its symbols for their racist power grabs.”
Denison highlighted the Heathen community’s ongoing struggle against the appropriation of their imagery by white supremacists. “We modern heathens have to fight this constantly because that is not the history nor is it our faith. Most of those seen yesterday with our symbols on don’t even identify as Heathen.
“The most prominent, ‘Q-shaman’ or Jake Angeli, doesn’t seem to identify as Heathen,” Denison continued, “but as a Christian mystic type at least according to his FB. Why would he get those symbols tattooed? Probably because he’s a white supremacist and he identifies those symbols with the 14 words and any other Nazi white power bullshit that’s floating around out there.”
This morning the Pagan Federation issued the following statement:
The Heathen community works to move forward, combating the negative messages that are created by the appropriation of their symbols by white supremacists and extremists. “I came out of the ‘Mjolnir closet’ many years ago,” said Denison, “because I decided the only way to change popular opinion was to show myself and show that Heathenry isn’t that 19th-century hate. I know our country will heal from this horrid attempt to destroy our republic. But it’s going to take work. Heathens need to help in this and be more vocal in calling racism. Leaders in Heathenry have been doing this for years with initiatives such as Declaration 127.”
Declaration 127 is a statement signed by 180 organizations denouncing the Asatru Folk Assembly for discriminating against racial minorities and queer Heathens. It takes its name from verse 127 of the Old Norse poem Hávamál, which W.H. Auden translated as “If aware that another is wicked, say so: Make no truce or treaty with foes.” Huginn’s Heathen Hof, which hosts the Declaration, plans to expand its scope from beyond simply pertaining to the AFA.
“Associating our symbols with acts of treason and sedition by extremists is simply unacceptable,” said Schreiwer. “We have to continue to work harder to get our message out there even stronger.”