Uncomfortable Truths, Part 2: Folkish and Universalist

My FaceAside of being words that both confuse spell-checking programs, folkish and universalist are some very loaded concepts within the Norse worshiping faiths.  While there is nothing inherently wrong with either of these schools of thought, you’d think they were gearing up for a dance battle ala West Side Story the way they bicker back and forth.

Let go back a month or so, and pull out something that seemed to get somewhere with things; The Uncomfortable Truth.  Lets try and see if we can’t look at the arguments, and find a way to dismantle one of them before I see rows of Larpers doinlook at why the fight between universalists and folkish is a loosing battle for everyone.

Austin Powers_FolkishWhat Seems to Be Agreed Upon: Utilizing genetics, ancestry, or culture in any sort of way is a “gateway philosophy” to racism, and suggests a closed mind.
The Uncomfortable Truth: Unless you want to classify Ancestry.com as a hate group, this is a ridiculous argument.  If you can’t see that, you may be the one with the closed mind.

If someone identifies as folkish, that does not imply that they are racist.  I’ll even go one step further and say it shouldn’t be a red flag.  Yes, there are racists who say “folkish” because they lack the strength of their own convictions to admit their own biases.  In the same vein of logic, there are homosexuals who are pedophiles, but this anecdotal situation doesn’t validate the stereotype.  If we act on a witch hunt mentality here, we are no better than the people who automatically assume all models of modern Norse worship involve racism.

If I am proud of my Germanic heritage, it doesn’t offer the automatic implication that someone else should be ashamed of their heritage unless it’s identical to my own.  Indeed, the best folkish Heathens I know are delighted to hear anyone being proud of their heritage and knowing their ancestors.  They will talk, eagerly, about the differences between cultural practices.  There is no inherent suggestion of inferiority,  because they celebrate the things that make them great; they do not need to downplay others in order for the greatness to remain.

There is usually no hardline stance amongst folkish Heathen in regards to those who choose to worship the Norse pantheon even if they lack Germanic/Scandinavian ancestry.  At most, they simply ask if the person in question has looked at the Gods and Goddesses of their ancestors.  “Is it not possible that they miss you, just as much as our Gods may have missed us?” they ask, showing that truly folkish Heathens care about all ancestry, not just their own.

WLiiA_Uni HeathenryWhat Seems to Be Agreed Upon: We should seek to emulate our ancestors in all ways.
The Uncomfortable Truth: If I did this, I would be Catholic…and most everyone who is going to read this will have a similar issue

My mother and father were both raised Christian and/or Catholic, a tradition that goes back a few generations on both sides.  If I wanted to look at my immediate ancestry and emulate them, I’d likely be the same.

Yes, I get it; somewhere, long ago, my ancestors weren’t Christian.  Well, some of them were….specifically, the ones I know best and who influenced me the most.  My Grandfather on my mother’s side?  A decorated veteran and a master craftsman, who taught me lessons that I still keep with me today.  His wife, was a nurse; a lady who could be tough as nails if she wanted, and was stubborn enough to grow up racially  tolerant in a coal mining town.  To not be Christian is, in effect, telling a majority of my ancestors that the moral and religious centers were not good enough for me.

People can bang on about forced conversions if they like, but I would make an educated guess and say you’d find no such example within my family lines for a number of generations.  To state I should follow the example of my ancestors in all things but what they cared for most is laughable.  We cannot, and should not, be the mirror images of our ancestors.  If we did so, we would be disrespecting their legacy and their deeds.

40232275What Seems to Be Agreed Upon: Showing veneration to non-Norse Gods makes you inherently non-Heathen.  Using practices not found within the areas where the Norse pantheon was originally worshiped makes you inherently non-Heathen.
The Uncomfortable Truth: There is a complete lack of evidence that suggests any of our ancestors felt that way, and more than a little that suggests their perceptions were exactly the opposite.  Lastly, there is so little information on some things that we have no definitive idea of what was practiced in this respect and what was not.

There is a paragraph in Gronbech’s “Culture of the Teutons”, a book which is treated by high esteem by many, which sums up my thoughts on this subject quite effectively.  I’ve quoted it before, but let’s just take a moment to look at it again.

“He does not face the world with open arms; far from it, he is all suspicion and reserve toward strange gods and ways and values, that he feels incongruous with his own self-estimation. All that is alien he holds aloof, until he has probed its secret, or wrung from it a secret satisfying to himself. All that cannot be so dealt with he shuts out and away from him; is hardly aware of it, in fact. But wherever he can, by adapting himself at first to an alien atmosphere, extract its essence for his own particular use, there he will draw in greedily all he can, and let it work in him.”

The emphasis is mine.

Our ancestors (at least, the continental German ones), didn’t welcome new concepts with open arms.  They weren’t inherently afraid of them, either; they simply distrusted what they didn’t understand.  Once they understood it, t was as good as their own if they could find a use for it.  A good Universalist does the same thing when they consider adding to their own praxis.

They research it.  The meditate upon it.  The try to better understand and grasp this thing, whatever it may be.  They’re not just shouting about Thoth or Zeus for the hell of it; in many cases, these are connections they struggled to develop in the same ways our ancestors would have.  Lastly, a very simple statement from the writer Tess Dawson recently found it’s way to my hands; what can be said of our own piety if we do not regard the piety of others as sacred?

When we scoff at universalism’s methods and techniques, there is a good chance that we demean the very way our ancestors would have practiced their faith.  A need for a “pure” tradition isn’t something that, to my mind, comes from our ancestors.  Rather, it is a hold over from other faiths and philosophies…ones we’d do well to get great distance from.

Eke FryWhat Seems to Be Agreed Upon: All folkish organizations have prejudicial and stereotyping elements within them, making all members sympathizers to racists agendas.  There needs to be a zero tolerance stands towards this stuff, and we must all do our part.
The Uncomfortable Truth:  You realize that’s a stereotype, right?  Also, witch hunts are always a bad idea.

Okay, let me tell you something personal here.

My 6 year old daughter is not my biological daughter; she comes to my family by way of my wife’s previous marriage.  For all purposes I care about, that is my daughter.  She is my child, and it’s my intention that she never gives this status a second thought. When my wife gives birth to our second daughter, my first daughter will just have the strange stroke of luck to have two dads.  It’s that simple.

In addition to being the little girl who made me understand what fatherhood could mean, my step daughter is half Puerto Rican.  I am ashamed that elements within my faith would consider her or her mother lesser for their “multi-cultural contamination”.  I have no reason to tolerate or show sympathy to racism within my religion; these elements would view my family as an abomination, and that’s something I have every reason to take personally.

I know members of the AFA who are not racist, and have no sympathy for that mentality.  They don’t stay because they feel a sense of half-heated kinship to such platforms; they stay because they believe in the good parts of the organization and don’t want to see it become the exclusive domain.  They stay because they believe that it could be something better.  The stay because they haven’t read the works that make the AFA so troubling, because the would never think that their friends and colleagues would stoop to those philosophies.

Some stay, knowing that it damages their names…simply because they want to leave it better than the found it.  They want that to be apart of their legacy.  This is not true for everyone within such organizations, but we disregard the existence of such people to our own detriment.

You may not agree with their reasoning, but that doesn’t make them racist.  If you still want to drag these people through the mud because their viewpoint of how to resolve the situation doesn’t match your, than you have officially stared at the void until you’ve become it.  Congratulations!  You now have more in common with the racist elements of the AFA than they do.


3 thoughts on “Uncomfortable Truths, Part 2: Folkish and Universalist

  1. It’s fascinating to me because the Gods do grow and change, and yet from time to time I’ll get something that is very recon and heathen and Loki will get very excited.

    I don’t personally have an issue with folkishness so long as it’s not racist. That said, I am not particularly folkish and sometimes I have trouble braining it. The Gods pick up new followers, or perhaps there’s some kind of wyrd sharing going on because Goddess X thinks Freyja can teach Y better than She can? IDK. And on some level I just don’t think it’s my business; the Gods can and will call who they call.

    In my own genealogy research, I realized that Odin was not exaggerating at all when He said He was the God of my ancestors. I am German, Anglo Saxon, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian. So I probably could be folkish, but I’m not.

  2. rlbfitzy says:

    Reblogged this on Country Road and Maple Leaves and commented:
    A really good post sheading a very interesting perspective on such a much debated and fought over subject in certain parts of Heathenry.

  3. […] if the concepts are self explanatory.  I am guilty here as well, as I have had an instance where I tried to calm the tensions between two sides.  How foolish; trying to bring peace to two factions, neither of which truly […]

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