Confronting Privilege in Pagan Circles: The Shit on our Backs

•February 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s kind of weird that I actually have to talk about the types of bullshit that is tolerated pagan and anarchist circles but after learning about the cissexism that went on at PantheaCon and after reflecting on a past post on Sisters of Resistance, I felt that this is an approprpiate time to talk about the fucked up shit that shouldn’t be tolerated at all.

 

Racism in Heathenry:

 There are those within the ranks of Heathenry who use our faith as a means to forward an archaic lifestyle; that is, to use the faith to forward their racist agenda.  Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich bastardized many things about the Northern European Tradition to justify the notion of Aryan superiority.  All one has to do is look back in history to see he was trying to recreate a Norse Empire using various tactics to do it.  Just as an example he used several of the Runes to gain power in his effort to dominate Europe.  The swastika is a very powerful sun-wheel.  The Sowulo Rune, used in the SS, is a very powerful Rune to use in order to gain victory.  Much less to say he used portions of our lore to forward his own brand of racism and hate.

These same concepts are used to gather and protect white people together in prisons.  Many within the penal system are presented with a distorted view of what Heathenry/Asatru is meant to be.  There is nothing wrong with coming together under the banner of Heathenry; however, to use our faith to justify murders, racism and bigotry should tell you it will take a considerable amount of work to reclaim Heathenry in the form used in the outside world.

Cissexism and sexism in general

The theme of fertility and hetero sex between a cis man and a ciswoman (or, at the very least, the theme of body parts and secondary sexcharacteristics associated with being cis) is ever-present in neo-pagan and particularly Wiccan (or eclectic Wicca-based) symbolism and practices. The “triple Goddess”symbolism of Maiden, Mother, andCrone defines a woman (or the Goddess) by what point she is in her life’s reproductive cycle. Putting motherhood as the focal point on that trinity is also telling. While it is definitely empowering and important for many women to identify withtheir own fertility (especially often for womenwho have categorically been seen as those who“shouldn’t reproduce,” such as poor women,women with disabilities, and women of color) it is problematic to assume this as the default or ideal. Cis and hetero people do not own fertility, child-bearing, or child-rearing. Let’s go beyond even the fact that there are likely manychildfree, asexual, and/or infertile cis women who may want to take part in an Earth-based religion but feel alienated by the idealization of  take partin an Earth-based religion but feel alienated by the idealization of human fertility — let’s consider that many trans women and non-binaryAMAB* people have been turned away from taking part in Wiccan andneo-pagan groups because they were not cis. Let’s consider that manytrans women go through deep depression and a sense of loss ormourning due to their inability to carry a child within their own bodies.Let’s consider that the essentialism that equates woman with uterus isoften very upsetting and triggers body dysphoria for many trans menand non-binary AFAB people. Let’s also consider that some trans menand non-binary AFAB trans people have carried and given birth tochildren (Thomas Beattie was neither the first nor the only one to doso), and that some trans women and non-binary AMAB trans people have been the “sperm donor” of a child that was carried to term by someone else, and are now proud and loving mothers. This is, of course, not to imply that no cis woman should feel empowered by fertility and motherhood. In a world where men have so much institutional power and privilege over women, and where women’s bodies are medicalized, violated, and policed left and right, women(whether cis or trans) certainly need to be able to take back their own bodies and have room to reclaim what agency has been taken from them. But creating and reinforcing the essentialization of bodies and reproductive status has great power to oppress many people, especially those who experience intersecting oppressions such as race, class, ability,trans status, and sexual orientation or family structure.Other essentializing symbols frequently used by many neo-pagans include the chalice, cauldron, athame, and wand. The chalice andcauldron are typically “feminine” symbols, and are receptive, hollow forms. In contrast, the athame and wand are “masculine” phallic symbols.Both further reinforce cisnormativity via the idea that Woman = Vagina, Man = Penis. The athame and wand are “active” tools, contrasting withreceptive “containers” that symbolize femaleness.

* AMAB = Assigned Male at Birth
AFAB = Assigned Female at Birth
 

Link: Right to Rebel, Duty to Resist

•January 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

Source

 

Frankly I like this:

To first understand the importance of resistance and rebellion one must first examine the cyclical nature of Germanic cosmology as presented in the Eddas. In the beginning of the sagas there was nothing but fire, ice, and a great void. One day the fire and ice boiled out into the gap, collided, and from the primordial void and chaos a new order emerged centered on Ymir. When Odin and His two brothers, Vili and Ve, struck down Ymir They used his body to create a new order where the Gods and humanity would flourish. Throughout the sagas They do battle with destructive giants and monsters like Fenris and the Midgard Serpent to keep Midgard and the Nine Worlds safe. In the Final Battle of Ragnarok the Gods take the field against their old foes one last time in spite of their pre-ordained doom. From the destruction of Ragnarok, as it was when fire and ice collided and Ymir fell, a new bright world will come from the ashes of the old.
 
In each cycle of destruction and rebirth new, more prosperous worlds are built from the bones of the old ended in chaos and destruction. The new worlds are born because of an upset of the existing status quo. The great yawning void, which had existed for time unknown between the realms of fire and ice, had been the center of the existing order until the great elemental forces poured in and filled it. Ymir and the frost giants had lived in relative prosperity unchallenged until Buri’s grandsons Odin, Vili, and Ve struck him down and used the body to create a new world(1). Ragnarok begins with a three year ice age ending with Surtr’s immolation of the World Tree. Every great cosmic change is catalyzed by disruption of the existing order. These changes are used as the means to initiate greater, more meaningful transformation.
 
I just thought I’d share this and I’ll get back to regular posting soon.

Dealing with Prejudice: Progressive Religion and Anti-Religious Leftists

•December 13, 2011 • 2 Comments

Sometimes, it’s difficult being a religious leftist and progressive. Despite identifying as an anarchist and feminist, there’s one thing that makes it very difficult for me to get my attitudes taken seriously or even seen as anarchist or feminist and it’s often my religion. Usually, it’s not a big problem, most people are open minded and have a sort of morbid curiosity with religion and alternative religion. They’ll let you believe what you believe and it’s all good. I can live with that. I have issues with people that seem to exclude others for their beliefs on the nature of the universe. This is a problematic attitude. There is a lot of fertile ground between serious religious progressive types and anarchists on principle. Anarchists believe in simultaneously anti-oppression and freedom as the basis for their philosophy, and has at times spoken against religion as a deeply inhuman ideology. Looking at my own religious attitudes about things like communal duty and frith, I have a lot in common with anarchists who are all about the community, even if I didn’t identify as an anarchist.

So what gives? Well things are not that simple. Not all religious people are revolutionary in their actions or attitudes, and in accepting this to be a fact, I can turn to modern strains of right wing religious people and point out the bigoted and un-progressive attitudes promoted by these people. I can reject those attitudes. Simply put, a person’s views about the nature of the universe should not imply how they feel about social issues. There can be feminist and anarchist religious people, just as there can be reactionary anti-religious people. Religion is not a factor, unless someone justifies bigotry or oppressive attitudes/systems through their religion. Dealing and coping with the prejudice can be difficult. However, I am who I am regardless of what others might think of my beliefs. I would not be Heathen in the genuine sense of the word if I did not openly admit to raising a horn to the gods and goddesses of my religion.

There is a difference between ideology and politics too. My politics are anarchist and focus on practical ways to promote my politics. Ideology is stickier, no one in reality is ideologically pure. Ideological purism is also the same thing I am against. There are nuances to the theory that everyone interprets differently. I like libertarian Marxism and incorporate some of it’s ideas to my overarching ideology, the same goes with my personal beliefs/faith, different things I’m an activist for, and my moral positions and how I incorporate these various ideas into my overarching anarchism and my personal ideology. Difference of opinion and religious views – important as it is from a philosophical point of view – should in no way prevent us from uniting in the struggle against earthly oppression and injustice. Do I believe that religion will shrivel up and die after a socialist revolution? No. I think it will flourish in healthier ways, but that is besides the point. It is critical that we criticize and attack oppressive beliefs (sexist, racist, classist, and so forth) while recognizing that Bob might believe in the Cheese Sandwich God. Telling him that his belief is “filth” or irrational is a good way to alienate Bob. In fact, I think revolutionary organizations should be agnostic about these issues, and make no definitive statement on them except religious institutions and the negative effects they have on laws and the society in which we live. It is incredibly important that we work with non-communist or anarchist religious people(especially for our religious comrades to do this) and try to get them to see politics our way.

In short: I am willing to work with anyone regardless of religious differences. The enemy is oppression not religion itself. Capitalism, organized religion, the state; these are blights that cause many oppressive things to persist but not faith itself.

Pick up the Bones

•December 1, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There were demons with guns
Who marched through this place
Killing everything that breathed
They’re an inhuman race — Alice Cooper’s Pick up the Bones 

Veteran’s day was a couple of weeks ago and while I was having issues with the day and feeling conflicted about it and what it means to be a pacifistic anarchist and Heathen. It’s also apparent that we have a growing militarized police force and a growing state power. That bothers me. Both protect capital in insidious ways. We send our brothers and sisters, our children, and our friends off to war to protect freedom. But at what cost? They pay for that freedom with their lonely, unmarked graves and the graves of innocent people.

We need to admit that we live in a violent, depraved, and indifferent culture.  I am also not confident in our so called “progressive heroes”. That said… I am not going to bash on the dead soldiers. They like my dead comrades, fought for something they believed in. That demands a lot of courage, I can respect that.  I am not condoning the actions of them. It is unacceptable. The pro-war attitudes that ironically is anti-American we have here in America are kind of disgusting and makes me ashamed to see apologists for the military exist.

Should Heathens be anti-war? I believe so. I believe Heathens should be in the anti-war movement, while fighting for our veteran’s rights. My position isn’t probably that unique, but I think it is imperative that Heathens should not be engaging in war and that every single attempt should be made to convince others not to join or support the military and its imperialism. Not only do I think these wars are unjustified, I think there are better ways to handle conflict.

Religious Anarcho-Humanism: A Contradiction?

•November 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

It is a fact that there are religious anarchists(I’m one of them) and it is a fact that many anarchists would describe themselves as humanists. Humanism is often described as a secular ideology, however I reject this claim. Most reasonable and sensible people would claim to be humanists if pressed or questioned about their views. Fundamentalism is a problem, those promoting violence is a problem, positive and affirming beliefs are not. Traditionally religious humanism has been overwhelmingly Christian, however many religions emphasize aspects of social behavior that we can call humanist. I have disagreements with some aspects of secular humanism as described here but this is a moot point. I agree with a majority of humanist ethics.

What differentiates religious from other types of humanism involves basic attitudes and perspectives on what humanism should mean. Religious humanists treat their humanism in a religious manner. This requires defining religion from a functional perspective, which means identifying certain psychological or social functions of religion as distinguishing a religion from other belief systems.

The functions of religion often cited by religious humanists include things like fulfilling the social needs of a group of people (such as moral education, shared holiday and commemorative celebrations, and the creation of a community) and satisfying the personal needs of individuals (such as the quest to discover meaning and purpose in life, means for dealing with tragedy and loss, and ideals to sustain us).

For religious humanists, meeting these needs is what religion is all about; when doctrine interferes with meeting those needs, then religion fails. This attitude which places action and results above doctrine and tradition meshes quite well with the more basic humanist principle that salvation and aid can only be sought in other human beings. Whatever our problems might be, we will only find the solution in our own efforts and should not wait for any gods or spirits to come and save us from our mistakes.

I started identifying myself as a humanist because of all the times I came across a copy of the Affirmations of Humanism (a list of principles which secular humanists generally consider descriptive of their position) and realized that I already accepted just about all of it — even the part which says that appeals to Divinity are not necessary in order to live a moral life.

Admittedly, it’s a rather odd philosophical niche to occupy: a  humanist theist. Some might argue that it’s impossible to be both theistic and a  humanist . Regardless of my beliefs on divinity, I find that my reasons for accepting humanism are wholly secular, so in that sense I think the term applies. This is not as big a stretch as you might imagine, however. Perhaps the biggest reason to see theism and humanism as incompatible involves the nature of morality: is it derived from divine mandate or human experience? Yet if you are a theist, all you have to do is ask yourself honestly:

If God told me to kill somebody, would I do it?

Now, this question requires a few disclaimers. First, no copping out and claiming that the god you believe in would never ask such a thing of you — this is hypothetical, after all. Second, the person to be killed does, in fact, want to live: s/he did not request this, this is not euthanasia, nor does s/he deserve it for crimes committed. This is cold-blooded murder, with no mitigating circumstances or hidden aspects that would make everything all right in the end.

So, would you do it?

If the answer is yes, then perhaps you won’t gain much from reading further — we obviously have deep philosophical differences about the value of human life. But if the answer is no, then I submit to you that you may already have what it takes to be a  humanist theist, even if you’ve never considered it before. If you can’t bring yourself to kill someone on God’s orders because you cannot get over the idea that it’s wrong, then you are of necessity appealing to a higher moral standard than God (higher in the sense that it supercedes God, the way one court is higher than another). Never mind where this sense of wrongness comes from — yourself, society, universal compassion, etc.; never mind that your moral take on the issue may actually be in error. The fact of the matter is, you are defying a direct imperative from your god by saying “I disagree.”

I don’t believe that I am unique in this position, even among theists. Simply believing in the existence of God does not require us to therefore believe that any orders apparently coming from God must be followed. Accepting moral responsibility for ourselves and our actions entails being willing to judge an action independent of whether God wants us to do it or not.

When we read up on humanism, however, we find that such independent moral reasoning is one of the hallmarks of humanist philosophy — one of the things which separates it from traditional religious morality which presumes that whatever God orders must necessarily be correct.

Many well-meaning theists are concerned that without God, or at least the fear of God’s retribution, to enforce the moral order, people would simply do “whatever they felt like doing.” I suggest that this may not be as bad as people think. I can’t now locate the source, but I read recently that 30% of college-age males in a particular survey would murder if God told them to. Some might find that statistic depressing, but to me it says that fully 70%, a strong majority, would not kill if told to. And that’s just among the young males. If so many people would refuse to do something they consider wrong even when commanded by the ultimate authority in the universe, then I think that gives a powerful reason for optimism about the potential strength of human morality and human moral reasoning. No, people will not always behave perfectly, and there are certainly still some very antisocial personalities out there who cannot be relied upon to restrain themselves. But if poor, frail human beings who are supposedly sinners to the core can choose to be compassionate even when strongly motivated to do otherwise, then what might they choose when their freedom is not hampered by outside coercion?

The Revolutionary Power of Love

•November 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

It’s not the net worth of one’s life that’s important. It is the day to day concerns, the personal victories, and the celebration of life… and love! — Terra Branford, Final Fantasy 6

Hate has an interesting way of creeping into our lives. It’s such a powerful emotion and it can drive people to act in ways that they normally wouldn’t. I have struggled with hate for a long time and it has creeped sporadically back into my life, especially recently. Hatred is regressive and with hate being the basis of anything positive we will not progress. I have betrayed principles that made me become an anarchist in a first place and to that end… I am ashamed. I came into anarchism on a similar boat filled with rage and anger, hate for those I thought who killed my brother. It wasn’t until I started reading Jung and Tolstoy that I became a pacifist. Yes, I am morally a pacifist. I think Jung said it best: “Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.” That is a very profound statement.  One that had a  very profound impact when he stated that people are the evil in the world.

Love is a very courageous thing to do. It’s easy to give in to hate and identify with it, it’s much harder to love. There will be those who will angrily howl with rage and destroy an inherently violent system. Violence begets violence. Hate begets hate. I’ve had enough violence and hate, I’ve had enough of bigotry and intolerance, and what we don’t have enough of is… love. My ancestors believed that frith is essential for communities. I happen to have written on this subject before and at this time I strongly agree that frith-weaving is a very revolutionary and powerful statement. What is frith weaving? You might ask. However, we understand this today as community building, we can call it mutual aid and solidarity all day long but it is what it is — frith weaving.

Frith weaving strengthens communities and empowers communities for a secure and peaceful society. This is observable. Look at small communities where everyone knows everyone, there tends to be a lot of community aid when something bad happens, there’s a lot of I’ll watch your back and you’l watch mine. The feeling of community is something that is revolutionary. The revolution always begins with you. We are familiar with this concept, and we call it prefigurative politics, “be the change that you want to see” and that is something that I think people ought to do. Opposing capitalism, bigotry, oppression, and the state does not mean it will be non-violent, I can accept that, but it doesn’t mean that I am non-revoluutionary — far from it! I can organize strikes, non-violent protests, organize mutual aid projects, work with children, and do other things that improves the love in a community.

Ancient Heathens, Gender, and LGBT people

•November 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I was looking at some old files/links in my own personal warcraft file when I debate Wotanists and their ilk and I reread this, so I thought this would be interesting to share, here because of it’s subject matter. Hrafnkell’s thoughts are here:

Take for example my own Norse ancestors. While a boy might be born with male sex organs, that simple fact did not in itself make him a man. Gender categories were not fixed and manhood was something that had to be earned – and maintained – through the activities normally associated with that gender category. This meant that while a boy and his penis could aspire to manhood, so could a woman. By laying aside one set of gender roles and embracing another, a woman could “become” a man. Conversely, a man could “become” a woman.

<snip>
“This is a world in which ‘masculinity’ always has a plus value, even (or perhaps especially) when it is enacted by a woman,” writes one scholar.[6] It was “a society in which being born male precisely did not confer automatic superiority, a society in which distinction had to be acquired, and constantly reacquired, by wresting it away from others.” Because women had no theoretical ceiling and men no theoretical floor, gender categories were flexible and movable.[7]

My thoughts: This made sense when I first read it and it makes sense now. My research into the Norse indicates that gender was not percieved as it is now at least in with the ancient Norse. Gender was obviously a spectrum to the Norse, but at some point(possibly when the Norse began to be Christianized) they began to see gender being set in stone based on your equipment. During the Viking age you start to see the concept of ergi, which to call someone an argr is probably the worst insult you can ever give a man, as it was seen as an attack of their character.

The Old Norse word used in the law code and literature for an insult was níð , which may be defined as “libel, insult, scorn, lawlessness, cowardice, sexual perversion, homosexuality”. From níð are derived such words as níðvisur (“insulting verses”), níðskald (“insult-poet”), níðingr (“coward, outlaw”), griðníðingr (“truce-breaker”), níðstông (“scorn-pole”) , also níða (“to perform níð poetry”), tunguníð (“verbal níð“), tréníð (“timber níð“, carved or sculpted representations of men involved in a homosexual act, related to niíðstông, above). Níð was part of a family of concepts which all have connotations of passive male homosexuality, such as: ergi or regi (nouns) and argr or ragr (the adjective form of ergi) (“willing or inclined to play or interested in playing the female part in sexual relations with another man, unmanly, effeminate, cowardly”); ergjask (“to become argr“); rassragr (“ass-ragr“); stroðinn and sorðinn (“sexually used by a man”) and sansorðinn (“demonstrably sexually used by another man”). A man who is a seiðmaðr (one who practices women’s magic) who is argr is called seiðskratti.

The Grágás(Grey Goose) law code states:
“There are three words—should exchanges between people ever reach such dire limits—which all have full outlawry as the penalty; if a man calls another ragr, stroðinn or sorðinn. As they are to be prosecuted like other fullréttisorð and, what is more, a man has the right to kill in retaliation for these three words. He has the right to kill in retaliation on their account over the same period as he has the right to kill on account of women, in both cases up the next General Assembly. The man who utters these words falls with forfeit immunity at the hands of anyone who accompanies the man about whom they were uttered to the place of their encounter”.

The evidence of the sagas and laws shows that male homosexuality was regarded in two lights: there was nothing at all strange or shameful about a man having intercourse with another man if he was in the active or “manly” role, however the passive partner in homosexual intercourse was regarded with derision. It must be remembered, however, that the laws and sagas reflect the Christian consciousness of the Icelander or Norwegian of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, well after the pagan period. The myths and legends show that honored gods and heroes were believed to have taken part in homosexual acts, which may indicate that pre-Christian Viking Scandinavia was more tolerant of homosexuality, and history is altogether silent as to the practice of lesbianism in the Viking Age.

The key to the problem of interpreting Germanic attitudes towards homosexuality seems to be the relationship of passivity/receptivity to the feminine gender role. Of the variants in homosexual behavior– berdache; boy-man pairings; and the pairings of macho men– I would speculate that the one which was most common in the ancient North was transexuality, because of later references to effeminate dress in a religious context, and because sexual passivity is used as an insult later on.

The culture was less concerned with the behavior of women. One would assume, however, that the tradition of valkyries and the prohibitions against women dressing like men indicated some tradition of women at times adopting a masculine role. The spakona Thorhild is said to have girded herself like a man with a helmet on her head in order to prophesy. As far as sexual behavior was concerned, it is likely that same-sex preference became a problem only if it interfered with serving the interests of the kin-group by marrying and bearing children.

Clearly in a traditional culture the criminality of sexual behavior depends less on the gender of the partners than on their relative social status– their freedom to refuse. Whether any act (of sex or magic) is considered shameful depends on the status of those with whom it is typically associated in that society. If women are defined by a culture as submissive, and if one considers women inferior, then it becomes shameful for a person of socially superior status (a male) to submit sexually.

In a society in which women are considered to be equal to men, or even to have abilities which though different from those of men are equally valuable, there should be far more tolerance for a man who takes a traditionally female role. When the relationship is not one of submission to a social superior, but a free association of equal partners, then even the conditions of Viking homophobia become irrelevant. Ethically, one should not force sexual attentions on anyone, be it man, woman, or sheep.