Virtue Mine Honor: On History and Context

I had originally intended to post something relating to wolf cultus and on rage as a devotional act, but I found something in my reader feed that I feel needs to be addressed in a large scale because it’s a common sentiment in neo-pagan circles and it reeks of inflammatory, ill-informed, racist and anti-Semetic rhetoric.

For this to have the true weight that it needs to, you need to know a few things about me. I am Sami, and I am actively involved in my community though I’m located in the US and far removed from my people. I was raised with an inherent cultural shame born out of the marginalization that was inflicted on them and I have had to fight long and hard against a secondary “white shame” that I battle against since my skin color affords me a certain amount of privilege in the current climate of the world. The reality is that the Sami are one of the most disinfranchised indigenous groups that no one knows about and it’s hard for us to even enter into the liberal “POC” discourses because our skin is “white.” I’ve linked the Wikipedia article above, because I’ve edited it myself and know for a fact that it is accurate and well-sourced. To that end, I have my family traditions that I grew up with and the cultural worldview that I still hold. Of anyone in the world, I’ve got a bone to pick with Christian conversions- especially since the Lutheran Church in Norway was attempting in 2014 to make our traditional dress and singing illegal. On the other hand, I know my history.

The Christianization of the Western World is not this story of oppression and hatred that neopagan groups are so fond of spouting off. Especially inside of “anti-monotheistic” sentiments. The conversion of Ireland was spectacularly peaceful, because Gaelic polytheism is an elevated form of ancestor worship and Patrick was able to align Christian theology with their existing practices and fold into it. The “myths” about St. Patrick driving the snakes from Ireland are more akin to mythopoetic epics like Beowulf, The Illiad or The Epic of Gilgamesh. The true story of St. Patrick is actually pretty interesting and inspiring, even if you have an anti-Christian bias. His influence on the Gaelic conversion to Catholicism bred a very interesting form of Christianity that still included the old gods as saints, and kept the pagan practices intact right up until the Reformation, in which the political body of the Church built an idea of cultural shame that pushed those traditions away. The Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael, published originally in 1900 has a very interesting perspective on this and I strongly encourage anyone following a Gaelic path to read it.

So, now that we’ve established that I come from an indigenous group that has every right to be anti-monotheistic, here’s the second clincher. I am an Ashkenazi Jew. Yep! That’s right. A Jewish Heathen. My family came to the US slightly before WWI and changed our name to something more officially “Austrian” sounding in order to escape discrimination. We stopped practicing and moved on in order to hide from the dangers that existed for us in Europe. That was my great-great-grandfather. My great-grandfather, who was a just under pre-teen, when we immigrated became a surgeon and then enlisted in the Army Medical Corps as a trauma surgeon to go serve at the hospital base in France for the last 4 years of WWII after the Allies took it back. At the same time, my grandfather (who had no idea about his heritage) was 19 years old and serving in the Navy on the Japanese front. His sister passed away this year and left me all of the documentation of this saga which really cleared up some confusion and concern that I had had when I discovered an Nazi SS officers sabre tucked into a closet at my grandparents house when I was 15. It’s been kind of an interesting experience to have had one cultural experience and then to find out that I have another incredibly unique one from a completely different perspective.

That being said: lets talk about Judaism. It is one of the the oldest monotheistic religions in existence. It was established (this is a general estimation) around 1800-2000 BCE. The first Jewish temple was destroyed in 587 BCE in Babylon. This puts Judaism existing in similar spheres with the Epic of Gilgamesh (which shares a similar set of mythos and my dear friend Banshee has some fantastic articles about the developments of Judaism) and the polytheistic practices of the Mesopotamian Crescent (technically speaking Zoroastrianism predates even Judaism and it is a monotheistic faith as well.) What that means is that there have been monotheistic practices in existence long before the Gaels, the Picts, and the Norse even became cohesive societies. That’s not to suggest that there were not hunter-gatherer protohistoric groups in those areas, but historical record in Ireland doesn’t begin until 400CE. Which is almost a thousand years after the first Jewish temple was destroyed. The Viking Age didn’t even begin until the Middle Ages. (as an aside, Judaism actually was at least duotheistic with worship of the Asherah, but this gets into Zionist Judaism which is not something I’m generally prepared to discuss or debate currently and it’s ultimately irrelevant to the discussion that I’m having since the sentiment remains the same. To get that information and perspective, I recommend my dear friend Banshee.)

By that logical and historically proven record: it’s pretty clear that monotheistic traditions have existed in conjunction with polytheistic ones at least as long as we have had recorded history.

So when I see rhetoric like the commentary that Ms. Krasskova dictates, from my cultural perspectives- I am offended by both ideas. It marginalizes the legitimacy of people who have been on the earth longer than the ones who worship the gods that she is devoted to. In the long history of Jewish marginalization, it is the kind of rhetoric that led to the US turning away Jewish refugees seeking asylum in WWII that led to the massive eradication of millions of people. Don’t get me wrong, there were other victims of the Holocaust. But the very pointed purpose of Hitlers actions was to eradicate the Jewish race. And lets be quite honest, his Teutonic fixation with a “true race” was strongly born from Henrich Himmlers obsession with Nordic mythos and ideals. As a practicing Heathen, I’m never going to suggest that our faith is inherently racist, but we are very responsible for the way that we speak on the subjects that we do.

It is arrogant, irresponsible, narcissistic, and foolish to snip about ancestor worship and tinge it with an anti-monotheist bias. If anything it strongly suggests that the individual speaking has no concept of legitimate historical record or they are intentionally white-washing (and I’m using this in the dictionary definition, not the race-based one) history in order to absolve themselves from an “ancestral sin,” while being able to look down their nose at others. To me- that is an insult to every ancestor we have ever had as humans. And it is a personal affront to me, given my cultural and family history and ties. It is not a matter of opinion about the offense I take to this rhetoric.

It is factual. It is provable. And I’ll distinctively choose not to use the buzzwords of “bigot” or “racist” because they’re incendiary and that is not the point that I’m choosing to make here. I am pointing out the Neopagan inclination to hold to a singular tangent of discourse that is based on sensationalized and incorrect history built by individuals like Gerald Gardner who cut and pasted pieces of mythologies without context into a religion that he created which has since run absolutely amok in polytheistic communities and poisoned any ability for them to grow because the leaders in these communities are completely hung up on their anti-Christian sentiments.

And ultimately, to victimize oneself or to vilify ones ancestors for “converting” to “aggressive monotheism” because of a bias and anti-Christian agenda is to ignore the responsibilities of ones own polytheist ancestors who committed the same acts of war and violence against a singular monotheistic group. There has been no culture so demonized and attacked as the Jews. So, this conversation no longer becomes about “bigotry” or “racism” or arguing about whether or not “folkish” practice is problematic or not: It is anti-Semetic pure an simple. Anti-Semitism has been a norm for my people for thousands of years, and you’d really think that someone claiming a Norse practice after the horrors of WWII would be a little more aware of that reality.

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