(Updated September 2016)
About a 20 years ago, after having studied Wicca for several years but never quite feeling at home there, ì began learning about Ásatrú (which is now most often called Heathenry.) One of the biggest stumbling blocks I ran across involved the various viewpoints on race that I found among people claiming to be Asatruars.
To try to help clarify things – largely for myself – I wrote down descriptions of the main variations I’d run across. I received some positive feedback from friends I shared it with, so I decided to polish it up and post it for anyone who was interested.
At the time, I was known first as Jarnsaxa Falki-Geraldsdottir, which quickly changed to Jarnsaxa Thorskona (like I said, I was a former Wiccan and a newbie 🙂 ) and I was pretty much a “universalist” (probably level 2 on the scale below). Any kind of association – even an indirect one – between “my” Ásatrú and what the most blatant racists were preaching made me extremely skittish. It had taken me almost 5 years to be willing to even acknowledge that Ásatrú was the path that fit me best because I didn’t want to be inadvertently thought of as a racist. When I wrote the scale, I had included viewpoints at both extremes because I wanted people to be aware that they might run into people claiming they were Ásatrúars promoting those viewpoints, but it never occurred to me that anyone would try to use the scale to “validate” their viewpoints. Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered some of the most virulent racists were posting messages about how ‘even a ‘universalist’ was saying that their viewpoint (#6) was a valid variant of Ásatrú’!
So, of course, I did what any panicky newbie would do, and tried to get the scale off of as many websites as I could, changed my name to Kriselda Jarnsaxa and did everything else I could to disassociate myself from the damnable thing.
I’ve grown a lot since then, and after a recent period of walking away from any kind of active spiritual life (another story for another time), I’ve returned to the fold, so to speak, and have decided that one thing I’m going to do this time is own my work. Interestingly, I’ve found that after years of periodically checking search engines to make sure the scale was staying “dead”, I’ve discovered several new references to it and even some conversation threads about it on places like Beliefnet – and part of me has felt really proud that it seems there are those who have found it to be a useful tool to help explain their own beliefs to others. I never really thought of it being used that way, but seeing it, I think it’s really pretty cool.
What is it?
As in all organized religions, there are issues in Ásatrú where not all of the practitioners are of one mind. Sadly, one of the most contentious issues in Ásatrú revolves around how open the religion is to people who are not of Northern European/Teutonic racial and/or cultural heritage. Not surprisingly, this is an issue that is very emotionally charged, and it is often difficult to conduct civil discussions on the various positions that are held. To try and remove some of the overt emotionalism that often accompanies this topic, and to try to help clarify what the range of viewpoints are, I have created a fairly basic scale that provides summaries of the most common viewpoints I have encountered or been otherwise made aware of. I would like to thank Doug from Texas who has provided assistance in editing and refining this scale. The descriptions are written from the perspective of one who holds that viewpoint. It should be noted that at the furthest ends of the scale, the beliefs held may come across as more extreme, and I have tried to indicate this without belittling the holder of the viewpoint or the viewpoint itself. I have also tried to eliminate as much inflammatory language as possible, and to avoid implying any judgments or personal feelings I may have about any particular viewpoint.
Validity of Included Viewpoints
Inclusion of a viewpoint on this scale does not mean that it is in any way generally accepted as a “valid” viewpoint by the Ásatrú community in general, only that there are people who call themselves Ásatrú and hold that particular viewpoint.
- Ásatrú is an open religion which anyone can join. There are, however, certain things that must be done in certain ways, certain points of theology that must be strictly adhered to and certain beliefs that must be held. Anyone who doesn’t agree with all of these points simply isn’t Tru and can be deemed “traitors” to the Gods. One of these points that everyone must agree to is that Ásatrú is open to people of all races, and those who believe otherwise are not welcome and should be actively denounced so that there is no confusion of their beliefs with those of real Ásatrúar. I will only worship alongside those who follow the same beliefs.
- Anyone who wants to become Ásatrú can, regardless of racial or cultural history. Individuals have the freedom to choose any religion to follow, and I will defend and uphold that right. All are welcome to my Kindred and I will worship alongside any Tru man or woman.
- As the ties to the Aesir and Vanir are often ties to our ancestors (racial, cultural or ethnic), it is more unusual for those of non-Northern European heritage to be Ásatrú, but it is not impossible. I accept that the Gods and Goddesses will call to them whomever they choose and will worship alongside any Tru man or woman.
- Only those of Northern European background can truly follow the path of Ásatrú. This does not imply that people of other races are in any way “less” than those of Teutonic heritage, only that they are different. All races and ethnic groups are equal in freedom to make a life of worth, and the theologies and pantheons that are connected to a non-Northern European heritage are every bit as valid and important as Ásatrú. By the same token, all non-Teutonic ethnic paths are just as closed to me as Ásatrú is to others. I feel it is of greatest value to follow the path of the your cultural and ethnic background, as these forces have had a great impact on who you are. Because I acknowledge and respect the validity of the various paths, however, I am willing worship with those who respect our Gods but are not of our path or ethnic group, and will certainly worship with any Tru man or woman.
- Only those of Northern European heritage can be Ásatrú, and Northern European races should separate from all other races. This does not imply that people of other races are in any way “less” than those of Teutonic heritage, only that they are different and that we have an obligation to keep the Northern European blood pure in honor of our Gods. There may even be merit in allying with other races who also value the separation of racial and ethnic groups and religious paths. I will only worship alongside those who are also of Teutonic heritage.
- Only those of Northern European heritage can be Ásatrú and the European races and ethnic groups are superior to all other races and ethnic groups. Aryans are the only true humans, and as such have an obligation to keep the racial and ethnic blood pure. If the only way to achieve this is to rid the world of the lesser races, then so be it. Only true Aryans can worship the Aesir and Vanir.
Well, for better or worse, there it is. It’s mine, and I’m going to “own” it. Just as an FYI, I’ve made one small edit. On level 3, I’d originally writeen that “it is more difficult for those of non-Northen European heritage to be Asatru, but it is not impossible.” Following a suggestion posted in the discussion at Beliefnet, I have changed it to “it is more unusual….” I thought the poster made a good point in that “difficulty” wasn’t really the best way to express that.