What does it mean for me to be an anarchist Heathen?


Too often, the stereotype of Heathens is of an bloody group of Viking raiders, with no ethical standards other than “might makes right.” The truth is quite different.

Heathens do not believe in “original sin.” We can and do choose to do right or wrong but the idea that we are inherently flawed, and can only become worthy by humbly accepting divine grace that we can never truly deserve, makes no sense in a Heathen context. Our Gods dont rule us through our guilt they dont need to. Instead, we have the strength and ability and also the duty to act wisely, take responsibility for our actions, and become worthy of our Gods and ancestors. Our ethics are ultimately founded in personal responsibility, and in reciprocal obligations to ones community. They are not a long list of “thou shalt nots” to be followed blindly. They are intended to help us grow in strength and wisdom. No less importantly, they are meant to guide us in forming strong relationships and strong communities, in frith and troth both among ourselves and with our Gods.

If we look at the Nine Noble Virtues (which, is admittedly a shortcut to Heathen ethics), we see that the virtues don’t focus on “the ends.”  In fact, they largely focus on “the means.”   We’re to be true in our dealings with others, we’re to be productive individuals, regardless of our pursuits.

The virtues don’t say “become wealthy” or give you a goal.   They tell you how one should behave ina  community.

Now when we think of “being Heathen” we should also take into consideration that our actions can also be defined by what “segment” the individual falls into.   I’ve concluded there are six segments:

  • Ourselves
  • Our family and Hearth
  • Our Community
  • Our Friends
  • People we don’t know
  • Our Opposition, or people that are known to be hostile to us

So the question is, as a given person or persons “moves down” the scale, should are means/ends threshold change as well?

For example, if we’re dealing with our family, its my belief as a Heathen that the ends would probably never result a justification of the means pushing the edges of our ethics.

On the other hand, if its someone we are in opposition to, are “all bets off?”   Because we know they actively are hostile to us, when dealing with this group of people, does any ends justify any means?  It would seem that in today’s political environment, this is what is presumed.   Either that or we have to assume that politicians believe that their ends are so important they in fact justify any means.  Personally, I don’t think for many politicians this is truly the case.

So ultimately, when we’re looking at “pushing our ethical standards” we aren’t on a two axis “ends/means” chart, but rather a three axis “ends/means/who we’re dealing with” chart.   Fairly complicated, and each Heathen has to come to their own understanding of how any given situation sits on that chart.

However, what I would argue is that the “who we’re dealing with” axis, as we grow as people, should become less and less a factor.   It’s a bit idealistic, but that’s what we should shoot for.

The basic principles of all anarchism we believe can be summed up in two statements:

  1. That all shall be free and equal.
  2. That we shall extend mutual aid and solidarity where we can.

Of course, we have to define what freedom, equality, mutual-aid and solidarity actually mean. However, before delving deeper, note that the core principles of anarchism are all dependent on each other. It is not sufficient to talk about respect and solidarity if some aspect of it violates mutual aid or autonomy of the individual, and so on. None of the principles can stand on their own, but together they simultaneously narrow the definitions and strengthen each other.

It should also be said that these are not the only possible definitions of  anarchist principles. However, we believe that other definitions are simply reflections of each other and will produce the same analysis in the end.

There is also an unstated assumption in the principles is that are intended to be pro-active. To be an anarchist is to not be a passive consumer, but to actively create the society you desire. It is not sufficient to say that someone is your equal. Anarchists believe in challenging hierarchies in our relationships, especially where matters of access to power and resources are concerned, and this goes for both those at the bottom of the imbalance, and those at the top.

How we challenge imbalances will depend very much on the context. Sometimes it is through discussion and education; other times it demands a much more assertive or confrontational approach.

That all shall be free and equal.

This sounds self-evident, even trite, but in the anarchist analysis it becomes a very powerful tool. Often freedom and equality are only discussed within narrow parameters. For instance, the freedom to vote in a modern democracy, equality before the unforgiving power of the law, or through illusory concepts such as the “American Dream”, or the freedom to be a wage slave. Anarchists question why these parameters need to exist.

In most political systems freedom and equality are qualified rights, bestowed and removed at the whim of the elite who govern. Anarchists on the other hand consider them inalienable, and that it is the social systems that must be curtailed rather than freedom and inequality.

So what does that all mean for me, the anarchist Heathen?

It means a lot. I think my ancestors would approve of me  choosing to fight against oppression from the state, capitalism, or patriarchy. It means that I get up everyday and struggle honorably with a system that is meant to oppress me. Conflict is inevitable, it is something that I accept is going to happen. In my fight for real  justice, freedom, and equality, I do so with honor and perserverance. My ancestors were warriors and peace weavers and I bring both to the table when I work with fellow anarchists to organize.

I am not the most perfect anarchist that does everything right and I am certainly the greatest Heathen. I am not the fiercest woman at the meeting and I’m not always fearless. I do get paranoid and scared sometimes, sometimes I wonder if I am raising my son the wrong way, or that I am a terrible authoritarian.

But to me that is ok. It tells me that I am allowed to be fully human and that I am allowed to make human mistakes. If I make a mistake I can grow from it and and get on with my life. It’s ok for me to fail sometimes, but you know what? I am a ballsy feminist that opposes the subjugation of women, I am a vocal anarchist protesting the evils of statism and capitalism, and finally I am a person that gives to her community.

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~ by ladycat123 on August 16, 2011.

7 Responses to “What does it mean for me to be an anarchist Heathen?”

  1. I also identify myself as an anarchist heathen, and I am interested in your take on something I’ve noticed during my own intellectual explorations.

    A great deal of who I am is also concerned with anti-racist work. To that end, I’ve found myself crossing paths with a great deal of anti-racists that do still equate “asatru” or “pagan” or “heathen” with “racist.” I’ve also come across a similar amount of heathens who, while professing to be either non-racist or anti-racist, still express the opinion that “heathenism” is somehow only for persons of European descent. Naturally, I’ve also come across groups who practice the same form of double-speak– the AFA comes to mind– of not outwardly professing any racist ideology but whose leaders are very friendly towards non-members who *are* racist (or appear as featured guests at events organized by racist groups) and then play dumb when confronted on the matter. (“Oh, I never knew he was a leader of an organization deemed a hate group by the SPLC!”)

    What’s most worrying to me is that whenever I’ve asked groups about their position on racists or racism, I get dismissive form-letter style replies or evasive and defensive answers (i.e. “read our statement on racism!” or “I don’t know of any true heathen who is racist, and I wonder why anyone would pursue this suspect line of inquiry”). I’ve been given the “we practice frith, which means we don’t speak ill of of other heathens” line more times than I can count. This form of deliberate evasion strikes me as antithetical to heathen ideals, but my cynical side reminds me that this wouldn’t be the first time religious people conveniently “forgot” the ideals they are supposed to live by.

    So, what’s your take on this? There is a wide spectrum of racists who are attracted to the euro-oriented nature of heathenism, and I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile being an anarchist anti-racist with a growing population of people who are not only seeking to legitimize racial separatism under the guise of quasi-populist “opposing the global monoculture” rhetoric, but who are incredibly authoritarian, leader-oriented and Statist.

    • “So, what’s your take on this?”

      I have hope because I do see that many heathens such as yourself who are concerned with racism in Heathen circles. I’m not going to stop calling myself a Heathen because racist fuckwits are in the religion. I don’t really like folkish(I’m a universalist with tribalist tendencies) Heathens for that matter. I think they are a huge part of the problem. I’m sure you’re familar with “radical traditionalism”, it seems most of them are in support of that, and while it’s great that radical traditionalists are more tolerant of pagans, it’s fucking terrible that these groups are sanitized fascists.

      Ultimately, I protest the shit out of these groups and ideologies. Folkish heathenry to me is just racism given legitimacy with religion. Period.

    • You really shouldn’t worry unduly that groups give you insubstantial answers or just tell you to RTFM when you ask them about race. More often than not, the topic has been beaten to death many, many times before you came along. Lurking for a while will usually tell you all you need to know about that particular topic, anyway.

      Add that to the fact that a large number of “folkish” heathens are actually tribalists or have a very liberal definition of folkism that’s more about culture than race, and I generally don’t see a lot to worry about outside of asshole factories like Stormfront. The truly racist lot are relatively loud on the internet because nobody else’ll have them around, I find.

  2. This is really great. ❤

  3. Very interesting post.

    “So ultimately, when we’re looking at ‘pushing our ethical standards’ we aren’t on a two axis ‘ends/means’ chart, but rather a three axis “ends/means/who we’re dealing with” chart.”

    I think this is a very good point. Sometimes the mere existence of opposition can give people license to do things they otherwise wouldn’t, and can also be used as a justification using the “two wrongs make a right” fallacy.

    Subscribed.

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