Content Note: Racism, Nazism, Trumpism
Authors Note: Nazism has close ties to Odinism and Asatru, and both Nazis and Neo-Nazis often use Heathen symbols on their images. We can’t afford to ignore this connection, because regardless of what happens, the impact on Paganism and Heathenism is either “bad” or “worse”. I am aware that my own Hellenic and Wiccan traditions struggle with racism as well, and this will be addressed in other posts, primarily because racism takes many forms which deserve their own discussions. I am also aware that not all Heathens, Asatru practitioners, or Odinists are Nazis or racists. However, I will point out that people who use “not all *blank*” tend to be part of the problem as well. For purposes of this post, I will refer to Odinism attached to the Nazi/Neo-Nazi movement as Nazi Wotanism, as Wotan is the High Germanic name of Odin and the name has strong associations with the white separatist movement. If you are a member of any racist or hate group and want to leave, Life After Hate is there for you. Please reach out for any help you need.
Barely a year ago, literal tiki torch-bearing Nazis marched in Charlottesville. They terrorized the town, and their actions led to the death of a brave Antifa activist Heather Heyer (may she return in power). If you paid any attention to the banners and have a passing knowledge of runes, you probably noticed some familiar symbols: elhaz/algis, othala, tyr, and the valknot. These are all symbols used by Nazis during the Third Reich and in use today by Neo-Nazis. Nazis love themselves some Pagan symbols and imagery, they loved the Pagan gods, and that love has been passed down to the Neo-Nazis of America. Which makes them our problem to collect and police.
Nazism and racism have long been part of Paganism’s dark underbelly. The much-admired Madame Blavatsky who influenced many Pagan traditions started it off by popularizing the swastika (seen on the emblem of the Theosophical Society) and endorsed the concept of a “superior race”. One of her followers, Guido von List Ariosophy, the philosophy of the supposed Aryan priest-kings. Von List was one of Heinrich Himmler’s greatest inspirations and he modeled the Schutzstaffel SS on that Ariosophy. The Thule Society, which was based on Blavatsky and von Lists teachings, is basically a who’s who of the Nazi leadership. The Thule Society’s influence extended past politics and into the private world: women were considered priestesses of the home, and popular holidays such as Christmas were re-branded as Pagan celebrations. This becomes important after WWII because Else Christensen, a housewife, peddled her toxic mix of white supremacy, sexism, and Wotanism in America.
If you recognize Ms. Else as a Pagan activist who pushed to have Odinism and Wotanism recognized by the prison system, good for you. That doesn’t negate her sins in the least.
Many Pagans think that because we’re a minority religion we can hide this association between Nazism and Wotanism. That because we’re often overlooked for things like a holiday, we’ll be overlooked for things like this. They’re wrong.
Nazi Pagan Facebook pages exist. And Facebook ignores it when people report the hate. I know that for a fact because while I was researching this, I reported several. And each one was ignored.
Wotanism loves a particular kind of toxic hyper-masculinity and sexualized violence. Scrolling through any of the hate pages on Facebook reveals a consistent pattern in their posts. Memes proclaiming the superiority of the white race and calling for the defense of the traditional family, white women, and children are mixed with Barbie doll Valkyries in impractical armor and near-nude Freyas’ posing provocatively with swords. The message is clear: protect the racist and homophobic ideas of Nazism and this is your reward. This is exceptionally dangerous in the era of Trumpism when calls for stochastic terrorism ring from every rally.
Regardless of how the next couple of months and years play out, Pagans are going to suffer from this representation. We live in a nation that firmly embraces White Evangelical Christianity. Make no mistake, the Wotanist Nazis are tolerated only so far as they can support the nationalist agenda. White Evangelical Christians will throw Wotanist Nazis under the bus when it becomes politically expedient; a movement that gleefully justifies separating children with the Bible isn’t going to make distinctions between the flavors of Paganism. In the event that the elections are free and fair and there is a blue wave, these Wotanist Nazis will just blend back into the Pagan crowd, hiding behind the idea of a progressive minority religion. A cancer hiding until it can grow unchecked again.
So what do we do?
If you are safe and capable of staying safe, we call them out where we can and when we can. And if you can stay safe, keep your connections to the people you know who are Pagan Nazis.
First, call out their behavior. Don’t let them hide in your communities. Don’t let them melt back into Pagan spaces without scrutiny. Don’t let them post their hate speech in your social media pages unquestioned. Circle is supposed to be a space you enter in perfect love and perfect trust. You can’t enter anything in perfect love and perfect trust when there are Nazis. Don’t let them hide behind the claim of minority status. We, as Pagans, are uniquely placed to call out their racist, Nazi, homophobic bullshit, because we hold space and status within their own communities. It’s hard for a Wotanist Nazi to claim they’re being discriminated against because of their religion when the person calling them out is from their own community.
Because it can be difficult to tell Wotanist Nazis from Odinists, Asatru practitioners, and other Heathens; be thoughtful in how you approach this. Educate yourself on what symbols and in what configurations these Wotanist Nazis use them in. And always, always, always keep your safety in mind.
Second, if you have connections to Wotanist Nazis, keep the lines of communication open. Individuals who leave cults and hate groups do so because they have connections to the outside world. You don’t have to help them yourself or approve of what they do. In fact it’s good if you make it clear that you don’t. But let them know that you have resources if they need help with their rage or hate. People can’t access resources they need if they don’t know those resources exist.
Or if neither of these options appeals to you, you can do what I did: plastered links to Life After Hate all over their Facebook pages.