Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Category: Islam

On Those Muslim Vikings

Last week headlines rocked around the Internet with an amazing discovery by Annika Larsson of Uppsala University. Apparently in a Viking-era grave, there was Islamic writing showing the name of Allah in gold thread. The Independent wrote a very lengthy article describing the news. Even the Drudge Report linked to the story. It was a Big Deal – there were Muslims in Viking-era Scandinavia, and that meant their views of the afterlife – their very religious and cultural identity – was influenced by, and beholden to, Muslims:

“It is a staggering thought that the bands, just like the costumes, [were] made west of the Muslim heartland. Presumably, Viking Age burial customs were influenced by Islam and the idea of an eternal life in paradise after death.”

Needless to say, there was a certain crowd of the regressive left that absofuckinglutely loved this news. Enter the Pathetic Nonreligious channel, with the blaring clickbaity headline, Some Vikings Were Likely Muslims, and White Supremacists Hate It:

This is welcome news to historians and people who enjoy learning new things. But white supremacists — who have leached on to Vikings and their symbols as representative of pure white power — are not happy.

If learning new information offends you so much that you have to write off archaeological evidence as fake news, you might have a problem.

This isn’t a cut-and-dry declaration that all Vikings were actually Muslims, but it is evidence that some likely were. At the very least, it’s proof that these Vikings appreciated the culture of Islam, and did their best to imitate it and incorporate Islamic beliefs into their own. They shared ideas, instead of blindly hating Muslims. And that’s something white supremacists just can’t handle.

Wow, an atheist putting up a straw man argument? Who’dathunkit? Well here we have two, plus an enormous leap of illogic that would make Benny Hinn blush.

First, the idea that the only people who met this news with skepticism are “white supremacists.” As if it were not possible to be a perfectly mainstream academic and find the evidence and/or reasoning questionable.

Second, the idea that those who find fault with the theory think that it means “all Vikings were actually Muslims…”. Nobody said that. That’s not at all the point of the criticisms. It’s a meaningless straw man, and a channel that prides itself on its logic and reasoning should be ashamed to have included that.

Third, and most damning (if I can be permitted to apply that word to an atheist), we have this gem:

“…it’s proof that these Vikings appreciated the culture of Islam, and did their best to imitate it and incorporate Islamic beliefs into their own.”

Really? A single scrap of tunic-trim that one person (who has been known to make unwarranted and discredited claims in the past) says something, so that counts as “proof”? The Vikings did their best to imitate … Islam???

Are you out of your mind? 

Now, I’m no expert on medieval Islamic burial customs. But I do claim some familiarity with Norse concepts of the afterlife. I’m trying to think of this “eternal paradise” of which she speaks. It’s not Hel, which is more of a quiet, misty resting place. It’s not Valhalla, since entry is extremely limited (and has a very different set of criteria), and while it possibly comports to a Viking warrior’s view of paradise, with the fighting and the feasting, it doesn’t seem very much like the Muslim Jannah:

“… They will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold, and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade.  They will recline therein on raised thrones.  How good [is] the recompense!  How beautiful a couch [is there] to recline on!” (Quran 18:31)

But most of all, because it’s not eternal. Even the afterlife in the Germanic conception has an end. At Ragnarok. Nothing remotely like the Muslim idea.

Nobody is saying the Vikings didn’t have contact with the Muslim world. Of course they did, for centuries, as traders, raiders, and explorers, in both directions. But that’s a far cry from the claim that one scrap of cloth is, in this jackass’s mind, “proof that these Vikings… did their best to imitate [the culture of Islam] and incorporate Islamic beliefs into their own.”

Which beliefs are those, exactly?

The Islamic paranoia about idolatry? That would be odd, considering the Viking penchant for carved idols, graven images, runestones, representational art, and all the rest.

It would also be odd considering the Vikings’ polytheism. (Hint for the moron: Islam tends to frown on that.) The Muslims freaked out at the Christians’ concept of the Trinity. You think that having dozens of gods, and landwights, and giants, and all the rest, counts as “doing their best to imitate the culture of Islam”?

Are you really that stupid, or just so blinded by your reflexive “white supremacists oppose it, so I have to support it” ideology?

Which is especially dunderheaded, considering that the people who have come out to criticize this theory aren’t white supremacists at all. They’re experts and mainstream academics.

First we have A String Geek’s Stash, whose author knows a lot more about the technical aspects of weaving than I do, apparently from personal experience. This is what we call experimental archaeology, and she completely destroys the notion that this is what Larsson claims it is:

Larsson’s “discovery” is predicated on unfounded extensions of pattern, not on existing pattern. 

She then goes into (very technical ) detail why this is significant, and why the underside of the weaving pretty much makes this a non-issue. At the same time, she goes out of her way to say she has no problem with the idea that the design is kufic (a form of Islamic writing), because that’s not her specialty.
Well, guess what? It is the specialty of others.
Stephanie Mulder, who is indeed a specialist in medieval Islamic writing, makes the case quite definitively that the kufic writing that Larsson claims to see in the cloth is, in fact, 500 years later than the cloth itself.
Ouch.
So the weaving itself undermines the claim, the pattern she bases her idea on is her own invention, and the script itself cannot possibly be what Larsson says it is without re-writing pretty much all of Islamic script history. But it’s not like she’s ever come out with some radical crackpot theory that’s been discredited before, right?
Well, yes, she has.
About ten years ago, she tried to make the claim that the brooches that are well-known adornments for woman’s clothing in the Viking Era were, in fact, worn way lower than anyone previously thought, and dresses were worn differently than everyone else ever thought, all in a feminist “lookit me I’m sexy” thing. Groundbreaking! Exciting! But, unfortunately, dead wrong. Her theory was laughed out of academia for lack of any evidence other than her own desire to be in the news.
And that, I think is the heart of this. We have someone desperate to have a Big Insight attached to her name in the field of Norse clothing. If nipple-brooches didn’t do it, maybe Muslim Vikings would. 
And of course the regressive left loves the idea because of the well-documented problems in Scandinavia because of Muslim integration. If the ancient Vikings had a place for Islam, and even based their whole religious beliefs on Islam, well, then, it makes sense that the modern-day Scandinavians should, too.
Except it’s all horseshit.

Islam to Asatru: Convert or Die

Islam is quite obviously in the news lately, and discussions of whether or not Islam is compatible with Western values are commonplace. But what often gets lost in the shuffle is the fact that Islam treats “people of the book” (Jews and Christians) very differently from we Heathens. The people of the Book have three choices; convert to Islam, pay the jizya (a tax intended to emphasize the submission and humiliation of conquered people), or die.

Asatru is a polytheistic religion, however; we have many gods, such as Odin, Thor, Freyja, and so forth. And Islam has a shorter menu for us; convert or die. Don’t believe me? Check out the following video (the money quote is around the 1:35 mark):

If he is of the Book (Christian or Jew) we give him three choices. One, you become Muslim. If he accepts, we don’t take jizya from him. If he remains a Christian, and that’s his right, we tell him, “Give me jizya”. If he refuses jizya, we FIGHT him! But if he is a polytheist, we give him ISLAM OR FIGHTING! That’s not just my opinion, it’s the opinion of all five Islamic sects.

So yeah, the rise of Islam and the threat of jihad has a bit more urgency for me, as an Asatruar, as a polytheist, than it does to my Christian and Jewish friends and neighbors. At least you get the choice to pay a humiliating tax and still practice your religion. To a Muslim, I don’t even rate that consideration. And since I won’t ever convert…

The Verse of the Sword

I was watching PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, as is my wont, and they did an interview with Carla Power, author of If the Oceans Were Ink, which is apparently up for a National Book Award. I’ve not read the book, and this post isn’t about her book, but specifically about something she said on her PBS appearance (this quoted text starts at 1:38 on the video):

Narrator: She cited a verse from the Koran with the words “kill the idolater.”

Power: Its called “The Verse of the Sword,” and it’s… it was a favorite of [Osama] bin Ladin’s, it’s a favorite of jihadis who want to foment religious wars against non-Muslims. What often gets written out is the second part of the verse, which says “…but, if they repent, and do good, and give alms, and pray, then let them go on their way, because Allah is merciful.” 

Really? That makes it okay?

What about the millions of us who don’t want to “repent” because of our “idolatry”? For us Asatruar, and Wiccans, and Druids, and myriad other types of Heathens and Pagans, idolatry is a part of our religion, as is polytheism. My own house has dozens of Gods and Goddesses represented in statues and other forms of art, and I have two God-poles in a sacred space on my property, and I make sacrifices to them regularly. To say nothing of Christians with their crucifixes, Hindus with their thousands of Gods and Goddesses, and so on.

We have no interest in “repenting” of our idolatry. But you said, on national television, that folks don’t have anything to worry about the “Verse of the Sword” that Osama bin Ladin liked so much, because the next sentence says, “but if you convert to Islam, and give up the faith of your ancestors, you can live.”

Convert or die. That’s the meaning of the verse you’re defending, by your own words.

No thank you.

I love my Gods, and my faith, just as much as you do, and “your sheikh” does. Saying “Allah is merciful because his followers won’t kill you if you give up your religion” is bullshit. And you need to understand that there are many of us who won’t meekly surrender to your sheikh’s god and his sociopathic insistence on total obedience.

Your sheikh, and the god he loves so much, wants to exterminate me because I am an idolater, and proud of it. You’ll forgive me if I’m somewhat miffed at the prospect, and at you, who is carrying his water and trying to defend that genocidal verse.

We are the Mushrikeen

The recent events in Boston have pointed out, yet again, that there is a problem within the Muslim community that does not figure in most other faith communities. We don’t see many headlines that feature Mormons setting explosives at the end of marathon races, and the videos of Methodist neighborhoods cheering planes flying into skyscrapers in New York City are not to be found.

While many Pagans and Heathens in the United States and Europe are focused on Christianity as a perceived threat, the truth is that Islam is a much more real and present danger than even the most radical Christian sect aspires to be. And while there are indeed Christians who would like to see a theocracy established in the United States, they are a pitiful handful of fringe kooks, while there are hundreds of thousands, even millions of Muslims who support the aims of Islamist organizations who would impose their puritanical vision of Islam over the whole globe.

This is not to say that all Muslims are terrorists, nor is it to say that all Muslims support or are terrorists. But it can’t be denied that for the last two decades the majority of terrorist attacks have been inspired by Muslim ideology.

And this fact poses a particularly vexing problem for Pagans and Heathens.

One of the things, historically, that Islam was a reaction to was the perceived “polytheism” of Christianity. But even so, Christians and Jews are, as a group, given special status under Islamic Sharia law. In a Caliphate (the once and possibly future pan-Islamic state), Christians and Jews, and in some schools of Islamic jurisprudence Buddhists and Hindus as well ( all collectively called dhimmis) are allowed to practice their faith, as long as they do so unobtrusively and pay the jizya (a tax on non-Muslims).

This distinguishes them from Pagans and Heathens. We, as outright idolaters and polytheists, are not dhimmis. We are the mushrikeen. We are guilty of the crime of shirk, or worshipping Gods and Goddesses other than Allah. In saying that Odin is a source of wisdom, I am guilty of shirk under Islamic law, and by saying that the Goddess is a source of life, many Wiccans are, too.

“Shirk is devoting acts of worship to something or someone other than Allaah, such as one who seeks the help of the dead, those who are absent, the jinn, idols, the stars, and so on, or who offers sacrifices to them, or makes vows to them.” (Source)

As someone who maintains an altar to his ancestors and honors them in hall, who has idols to which I make offerings, and who makes oaths to the Aesir, I certainly fall into this category.

And what’s the penalty for shirk? What fate awaits we mushrikeen that doesn’t apply to the dhimmis?

Death:

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”

Merciful indeed. Convert or die.

While a lot of effort has gone into trying to explain away this verse of the Quran by saying it’s taken out of context, the reality is that the context doesn’t mitigate this at all. Indeed, it only reinforces it.

So when we see these cowardly crimes committed by those who want to spread their vision of Islam across the world, don’t shrug and say that it’s a war between Islam and Christianity. Don’t make excuses, such that Christianity is the “worse problem”. It’s not. There are millions of Muslims who take that verse in the Quran to heart, and they are not at all above putting that edict into practice. The Quran is not our friend, and Pagans and Heathens should wake up to that reality before they really do get a chance to put its commandment into practice.

Which One is the God of Love, Again?

(Cross-posted at PaganSquare.com)

Over at the PJ Media Lifestyle section (who knew PJ media even had a lifestyle section?), Dave Forsmark has a piece extolling the virtues of a new self-published novel from one of his PJ Media colleagues. I’m not going to get much into his review of the book itself, mostly because I haven’t read it and have no plans to do so, but his essay leading into the review is so rife with misinformation and unsupported assumptions and conclusions, mostly at the expense of the Norse Gods, that I felt it necessary to respond.

Please note that this is not intended to be a Christianity-bashing article. Rather, the intent is to point out that Christianity is not some pure and good religion, and the Christian God is not somehow on a unique moral plane compared to other Gods and Goddesses, as Mr. Forsmark claims. The various crimes and failings of other faiths that he brings up are to be found in Christianity in spades, and so Christianity doesn’t enjoy any special place among the world’s religions. If anything, it has more than its share of wrong-doing.

Americans have a naïve view of religion. The religious freedom that is so ingrained in our tradition — and our Constitution — has morphed beyond tolerance to a sort of anthropomorphic acceptance of pretty much anything.

Basically, acceptance of anything religious that isn’t Juedeo-Christian is somehow naïve and beyond the scope of the First Amendment. Now that the implicit Christian hegemony over American culture is being eroded, Mr. Forsmark is terrified that somewhere, someone worships a different God (or Gods) than he does. Why does that terrify him? Because he views it as an implicit criticism of his own choice to worship Jehovah, and he’s not used to that assumption being questioned (although it’s fine for him to question other peoples’ choices in regards to their choice of faith).

In other words, in order to prove how tolerant we are, we take our basically Judeo-Christian view of what religion and God should be, and assume all other religions share the same goals, have the same values and are just differing manifestation of the same loving and just God.

It is true that all too often we hear the insipid canard that “all faiths lead to the same place”, or “we all worship the same God”, or somesuch.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Agreed, but the problem lies not in the fact that not every God is like the Christian God, but that so many people make the assumption. My Gods aren’t like his God? Good!

In fact, the God of the Bible is unique in the history of the world’s religions. From Baal to Zeus, from Jupiter to Allah and Odin, the gods of paganism are capricious masters, not loving fathers. Control is their goal — when they think of humans at all — not justice or peace.

The goal of God of the Bible is justice and peace? The justice afforded to slaves who know their place, perhaps. The peace of the dead, without doubt. Just ask the firstborn of Egypt. Amalek and his people. The Midianites. The inhabitants of Jericho, Shion, Og, Ai, Makkedah, Lachish, the Gibeonites, the Libnahites, the Eglonites, the Hebronites, the Debirites, etc. etc. etc. And their crime? They were in the Israelites way. They had something the Israelites wanted. So the vicious God of the Israelites told them to slaughter them to get it.

And justice? Christians are famous for performing a curious bit of philosophical gymnastics. “If God said to do it, it is by definition good and just.” Uh-huh.

But saying so is sooooo judgmental!

No, it’s simply factually incorrect. Jehovah, the “God of the Bible”, sets the standard for being petty, vindictive, jealous, capricious, and not only directly but indirectly murderous as well.

Marvel Comics master storyteller Stan Lee took the most interesting of the Norse gods, Thor, the God of Thunder, and made him a crusader for truth, justice and maybe even the American Way… or at least Western values.

I might argue that, from a literary and mythological standpoint, Odin is far more interesting than Thor. But then again, I don’t base my religion on a comic book, so it’s something of a moot point.

But think of it from the view of the Vikings — what could be more capricious and destructive than the god of the weather?

Thor was indeed connected with the weather, but not in the simplistic way Mr. Forsmark describes. Thor is God of the winds; the same winds that drive ships on their far voyages for trade and exploration. He is the God of the rain; the same life-giving rain that is vital for the growth of crops. His hammer is used not to punish humans, but to protect them from the hostile Jotuns (giants), against whom Thor wages a never-ending war for the protection of both Gods and humans.

But of course, a self-centered destructive superhero who loves war and longs to be worshiped would make for a crappy comic book.

“Longs to be worshipped?” Mr. Forsmark has Thor confused with his own Jehovah (not surprising, since above he seemed to think that the “God of the Bible” was the gold standard against which all other divinities should be measured). Was it Thor who demanded “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me”? No; that dubious and insecure command comes from Mr. Forsmark’s God, not mine.

On the serious side, though, a misunderstanding of a leading world religion has serious implications for most of the current world conflicts.

Indeed it does. Such as Mr. Forsmark’s self-serving and almost blind misunderstanding of his own religion. He seeth the speck of sawdust in other peoples’ eye, but the hypocrite seeth not the plank in his own eye.

Even George W. Bush, who may have done more to physically confront jihad in the world in the last century or so, mouthed the diplomatically convenient canard, “Islam means peace.” Yes, and Pravda means “truth.”

I believe the actual quote from President Bush was “Islam is a religion of peace”; the word itself means “submission”. But then again, one might make the same complaint against those who say that Christianity is a religion of justice and peace…

A non-rebellious slave is at “peace” with his master, too.

Mr. Forsmark should have no problem with that. Does not his own Bible say “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear.  Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.”? Well, as long as the slave is beaten properly; just enough to cripple him for a few days, rather than kill him.

Now, I know full well that the Christian Bible also has passages that can be interpreted as being against slavery. But the good doesn’t erase the evil…

<snip a whole bunch of Islam-bashing stuff; I’ll let the Muslims sort him out here if they care to>

But Allah is much more like every other pagan deity… no matter how far flung.

Technically speaking, using the dictionary definition of the term, Allah isn’t pagan. But, you know, facts always have a tendency to get in the way of a good zinger.

I talked to PJ Media contributor Brian Cherry, who, under the pseudonym Brian James has recently published Ragnarok: The Hammer, Book One in a planned trilogy of novels set in the present day about the Norse prophecies of Apocalypse — hey, unlike the Mayans, the Vikings actually predicted one, you don’t have to infer it by when they calendar [sic] happens to end.

Since the end of any religion is one’s eternal destiny, we started there. Brian told me that Odin and Allah agree on the surest — and quickest — way to heaven. Not through faith in a Savior, but through sanctified violence.

“Although I’m sure the original myths many of Odin’s circumstances are borrowed directly from the bible, his personality is much closer to that of Allah. The first thing that comes to mind is that he would have loved suicide bombers.

Really? That’s more than a bit of a stretch. The slain that Odin chooses in battle to reside in Valhalla and fight at his side at the battle of Ragnarok aren’t chosen strictly for their ability to kill other people. Nowhere do we read in the sagas or Eddaic poetry about valkyries plucking someone up simply because they burned down a building full of people (we do have plenty of examples of people burning down buildings full of people—they just don’t get rewarded with being drawn into the ranks of the einherjar for doing so).

Those who went to Valhalla didn’t go there based on a belief in a savior, enlightenment or good works. You went to Valhalla based on a good death in battle. Odin would have adored warriors who killed thousands of their enemy by crashing an airliner into a building. Dying during the act would have assured their place in heaven.”

Nonsense; those who are chosen are on a battlefield. Fighting against other capable warriors; in many cases the best fighting the best, and Odin (and occasionally other Gods and Goddesses) intervening to pull their chosen. That’s not slaughtering innocent people, that’s not putting a sword through some defenseless child or old man. The chosen of Valhalla are chosen for their valor and strength of arms; the only way that is demonstrated is against other warriors. Slaughter of innocents? The God of the Bible has that down to a science, and not only commands his followers to engage in the gruesome practice, but rewards them handsomely for doing so. Neither Odin nor Thor are ever recorded commanding the Danes to wipe out a city because the Gods promised it to them. Jehovah brags about it, more than once. It’s his modus operandi throughout the entire Old Testament.

As for not needing a savior, once again, just because something isn’t Christian doesn’t make it wrong.

The Vikings also had their own 9-11, as Cherry explains.

The Vikings were also the world’s first (and arguably most successful) terrorists. They would appear quietly out of nowhere and often someplace that was undefended…a soft target. The attack on the Lindisfame monastery in 793 is not only an act of overt terrorism, but accepted by most as the start of the Viking age. 

Do Mr. Forsmark and Mr. Cherry actually believe there was no carnage before the 8th century? We might go back to the many, many examples of the Israelites in the Old Testament noted above; surely killing 3,000 Philistines is more of an act of terror than putting a few monks to the sword.

They did what they did in Odin’s name, and they believe with his blessing. 

Considering the only sources we have are the Christian targets of the raid, and they didn’t record whether the Vikings who sacked the place were shouting “For Odin!” or “For Thor!” or “For Tyr!” or “For FreyR!” or “For Freyja” or whatever, this is just a completely unsupportable assertion. But assume it’s true for the sake of argument. So what? The Israelites did much, much worse in the name of Jehovah.

That is not much different then Allah smiling on his followers for killing the helpless in his name.

Again, I’ll refer this to the Muslims. But the “if it’s not Christianity, it’s eeeeeevil” is starting to wear thin. It’s certainly a crappy form of argument.

Lindisfarne was the home of the famed monk Saint Aiden, a center for evangelization throughout northern Europe, and known for an illustrated copy of the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John known as the Lindisfarne Gospels. When Thomas Cahill wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization, he had in mind people like the Lindisfarne monks.

To the Vikings, followers of Odin, the Lindisfarne Monastery was as major a symbol of Christianity as the World Trade Center was a symbol of the capitalist West to certain followers of Allah in 2001. And there was little booty to be gained from the raid, which was conducted in as bloody a way as possible and sent shudders through Christendom. The scholar Alcuin wrote, “The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets.”

This is a misconception that I’ve even seen repeated among Heathens. The Vikings who sacked Lindisfarne did not do so because of any sort of ideological crusade against Christianity. Monks’ blood notwithstanding, the reason Lindisfarne was attacked was because it was a soft target with lots of loot to be had, not because it had any sort of religious significance. In fact, didn’t he make the very same point a few paragraphs above? (“They would appear quietly out of nowhere and often someplace that was undefended…a soft target.”)

Of course, then, as now, Christians had a need to see themselves as persecuted martyrs, so it’s not surprising that Alcuin saw the raid as a sign of tribulation in response to the sinfulness of the English. Symeon, on the other hand, provides a more prosaic and more detailed account: “On the seventh of the ides of June, they [the Norse raiders] reached the church of Lindisfarne, and there they miserably ravaged and pillaged everything; they trod the holy things under their polluted feet, they dug down the altars, and plundered all the treasures of the church. Some of the brethren they slew, some they carried off with them in chains, the greater number they stripped naked, insulted, and cast out of doors, and some they drowned in the sea.” – Symeon, History of the Church of Durham.

Just because the Christians were upset that some Christian relics got looted doesn’t mean that the Vikings who did the looting did so out of any motive other than plunder.

The followers of Odin did not start their war on Christianity with the attack on Lindisfarne, as Cherry explains.

War on Christianity? If anything, the reverse was true. It was the Christians who consistently spread their foreign faith into the Germanic lands, by persuasion when convenient, but by trickery, compulsion, blackmail, torture, and even mass executions if necessary. It was Charlemagne in 782 (ten years before Lindisfarne!) who slaughtered 4,500 Saxons who refused to abandon the faith of their fathers, and that was merely one in a near-endless string of atrocities committed by the expanding Christian church against those who refused to bend before it. And that is just one example out of literally hundreds if not thousands.

Odin and Allah both seemed to have a major problem with Christians. Before the Viking age of the Norse started with the attack on the Lindisfame Monastery, the pagan followers of Odin persecuted and purged Norway of Christians. This started in late 772 or early 773 AD. 

Tossing out missionaries or slaughtering thousands of innocent captives who refuse to convert. Which is the atrocity, again?

The Quran (as the inspired word of Allah) also shows an intolerance for Christians and Jews.

About this time I can hear someone who had the same history teacher as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton yelling, “Hey! What about Crusades?”

Since you bring it up, sure. I could just as easily bring up the pogroms, or persecutions of Pagans under the Christianized Roman Empire, or the multiple genocides chronicled in Exodus, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, etc. But if you want to go with the Crusades, I’m happy to play on your field.

Look, like Odin, Allah made his first appearance somewhere around the 7th Century. 

The evidence points to Odin being a very old deity amongst the Germanic peoples; Tacitus associates him with Mecury in the 1st Century work “Germania”, and there is linguistic evidence that goes much further back than that.

Conversion was more by force and violence than by rhetoric. While Obama seems to adopt the Third World position that Islam is the organic and legitimate religion of Arab regions, it’s worth remembering that Alexandria, the great city of Egypt at one time was a central city of early Christianity.

And before that it was a great center of Hellenistic civilization. In 440 CE Bishop Theophilus ordered the destruction of Pagan temples, idols, and religious works, among which was most if not all of the contents of the great Library of Alexandria. That wasn’t a Pagan, that wasn’t a Muslim. That was a Christian. So don’t pretend that the Christians are somehow blameless in all this; their hands are just as dirty as everyone else’s. If it’s bad that the Muslims took Alexandria away from the Christians, it’s just as bad that the Christians took it away from the Pagans.

So, while the Crusades, whatever their wisdom or excesses, took on the mission of “liberating the Holy Land,” to act as though it was some imperialistically religious, unprovoked attack is to pretend Normandy was an act of aggression against a peaceful country.

Most mainstream historians would disagree with that interpretation. Indeed, the very fact of the foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099 CE demonstrates that it was precisely an “imperialistically religious… attack” to beat back the advances of Islam. But don’t take my word for it; here’s Pope Urban II on the objectives of the First Crusade (and he should know—it was undertaken at his urging): “Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. … They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. If you permit them to continue thus for awhile with impunity, the faithful of God will be much more widely attacked by them. On this account I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ’s heralds to publish this everywhere and to persuade all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends.” (Urban II, Council of Clermont, 1095 CE)

Now, as with most things, the motives for the Crusades were varied and complex. But to state that they weren’t motivated by the desire to re-establish the control of Christendom over the lands that the Muslims had conquered is simply incorrect.

Perhaps the most remarkably specific similarity between Odin and Allah is how women are used to welcome the slain warrior into Heaven. Everybody knows by now about the famed 72 virgins made available to the man who dies in the service of jihad. (What happens to these apparently specifically created creatures whose sole reason for existence is to service the jihadist after they are no longer a virgin is not spelled out, however…)

Odin has his own version of this. Valkyries meet the warrior who is killed in battle and escort him to Valhalla. Any other role is not spelled out, though Valkyries are certainly not presented as asexual creatures in any interpretation of Norse myths. Cherry speculates, “Valkyries guided/carried the hero to Valhalla. Servicing then was presumably the in flight entertainment.”

Then Cherry shouldn’t be talking about things he obviously knows nothing about, let alone writing novels about them.

The sexualized version of the valkyrie is a relatively recent phenomenon. Originally, the valkyries were envisioned more like the Greek furies; fearsome bloodstained hellions who are much more at home on a bloody battlefield than in some Asgardian sex palace. There is talk of them offering cups of wine or mead to those who arrive in Valhalla, but that’s all.

But then sex plays a central role among all the gods in Brian’s modern interpretation of the Viking’s gods, and their interactions with modern American culture.

Indeed; it should also be pointed out that if sex were envisioned as any part of the (very complex) Norse conception of the afterlife, it would likely be in Freyja’s home Folkvangr. She is said to have her pick of half of those chosen, and no definitive connection exists between her and the valkyries.

So enough serious stuff. Time to talk about Brian Cherry’s (aka Brian James) Ragnarok — easily the most fun way I can think of to get a good idea of the various personalities of Norse mythology (yes, we can call it that now, since darn few Swedes believe this stuff anymore, unlike the other religion we have been discussing).

I don’t know the exact numbers for Sweden, but tens of thousands of people still worship the Norse Gods in the United States. You know; the U.S. with the First Amendment that guarantees freedom of religion (even if that religion isn’t Christianity)?

First, forget everything you absorbed from the (really terrific) Avengers movies. Starting with the Hammer, Mjolnir.

Unlike what Marvel Comics had to say about the Hammer of Thor (or what any other myth describes regarding the use of powerful, supernatural weapons) using Mjolnir had nothing to do with the purity of one’s heart or the strength of their convictions. If morality truly dictated what tools one could use, none of the Gods would be able to pick up a Craftsman screwdriver from Sears without bursting into flames.

…and Jehovah would fall to dust from a socket wrench.

That gives you a flavor for Cherry’s tone here.

Indeed it does, and I have to say that his book rings a bell somehow. Norse Gods and Goddesses living in America? Now, where could I have heard something like that before? Oh, that’s right…

At least he got one thing right. Avengers was a terrific movie. Everything else… not so much.

Pagans and Blasphemy

(Cross-posted at witchesandpagans.com)

I dare mock the gods. 
I believe that Freyja is a bitch, 
And that Odin in a dog, 
Or else the other way around.
–Hjalti Skeggjason, ~1,000 CE

I’ve been working on this post for a while, but now that the Wild Hunt has opined on the subject, I thought it was probably time to get this off my chest. With the violence that has gripped the Islamic world over the last two weeks, it seems appropriate to discuss the issue of blasphemy. How was it viewed by our ancestors, and how might we view it today?

In pre-Christian Iceland, the Christian poet Hjalti Skeggjason was outlawed for the bit of doggerel at the top of this post. Socrates was famously put on trial for blasphemy and impiety. The ancient Athenians also put to death many hundreds of people on charges of impiety for desecration of statues of Hermes during the Peloponnesian War; Anaxagoras and Alcibiades were among the victims. Clearly, the notion of blasphemy or impiety as a punishable offense is not something unique to monotheistic religions or unknown to Pagan faiths, and punishments for what we today might consider mild expressions of free speech could be met with harsh penalties.

I happen to think that modern Pagans and Heathens should not hide it when those of other faiths say things that are offensive to us. We should feel free– nay, obligated– to speak up and react accordingly. Different people will have different reactions, of course; some will calmly explain why something is offensive to Pagans, and ask for understanding in the future, while others will match rant for rant and show righteous indignation. As long as the reaction is peaceful and legal, we should not be afraid to make use of the tools that the law provides us; chief among them is the court of public opinion. When we look calm and rational, and our detractors look like kooks and fanatics, we win in that particular court, but sometimes you need to show you won’t knuckle under to bullying.

In modern times, although many nations have blasphemy laws on the books, the United States explicitly does not. The First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits such things under the umbrella of the freedom of speech, which was called out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1952:

“from the standpoint of freedom of speech and the press, it is enough to point out that the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them which is sufficient to justify prior restraints upon the expression of those views. It is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine, whether they appear in publications, speeches, or motion pictures.” (Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson)

Thus, those that are calling for prosecution of the people responsible for The Innocence of Muslims, or for cartoons of Mohammed, or whatever are pretty much out of luck. (Breaking news flash: they may be out of luck if they’re expecting charges of blasphemy, but apparently it’s good enough to get you arrested for an alleged probation violation.)

The problem with blasphemy laws is that they must fall into one of two types. Either they are specifically geared to protect a specific religion (such as those in Saudi Arabia, which go even further and protect a specific form of Islam), or they must perforce be worded so broadly as to practically ban anything that anyone finds offensive for any reason.

To take one example, even the tolerant Netherlands has a law that makes “scornful blasphemy” a criminal offense punishable by three months in jail plus a fine. Does such a broad prohibition include offending the religious sensibilities of Pagans, Heathens, and Wiccans? Would publishing Hjalti Skeggjason’s poem cross the line? How about Piss Christ, or a showing of The Innocence of Muslims?

Israel makes it a crime, punishable by a year in the hoosgow, if “one publishes a publication that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others”. Would it be possible, for example, to undertake a prosecution of the Tel Aviv edition of the New Yorker, on the grounds that their “Yes, Wiccan” cartoon was offensive to Witches? Unless you’re out to specifically protect a single faith, you end up protecting them all, and it’s only a matter of time before Pagans and Heathens start to exercise their rights in countries that do have such (in my opinion overly-) broad blasphemy laws.

One wonders what Bill Donohue (the head of the Catholic League, whose appearance on Fox News when the slightest irreverence towards Catholicism shows its head) would say if the Catholic Church were prevented from claiming that Pagan and Heathen faiths are inherently “false” and anything to do with magic and the occult is Satanic?

Part of the problem with the modern push for anti-blasphemy laws is that the loudest calls are coming from people who have absolutely no compunction against publishing and saying the most vile, heinous, slanderous lies about other faiths. It is a stark and obvious case of “protection for me, but not for thee”. Does anyone seriously expect to see anti-blasphemy prosecutions in Saudi Arabia against people who mock and spew opprobrium against Judaism or Wicca? And don’t forget that even Satanism itself would find itself protected by some of the broader definitions of blasphemy that are currently on the books in certain countries.

Personally, I am dead-set against laws that punish blasphemy, whether that is blasphemy against Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Asatru, Wicca, the Religio Romana, or whatever. The freedom of speech, and the freedom to express ideas is fundamental, and ultimately trumps anyone’s claimed right to live without being offended or mocked.

Even the crudest expressions of hate and scorn are, ultimately, the right of the person making them to make, and even obvious crudities can have their place to shock the complacent members of dominant religions that not everyone shares their faith, and that some resent the assumptions and privileges that go with it. Sometimes one needs to be crude and shocking to get the message through to someone else that “I don’t hold the same things sacred that you do.” Reminding others that people believe different things is not hate speech.

Naturally, this freedom does not extend to violence, whether against persons or property. Words can be hurtful, but ultimately they are only words, and can be overcome with more (and better) words. Violence is destructive, and should be punished with all the force appropriate and necessary to ensure that it is not repeated. Hold up a sign in front of a Pagan bookstore saying “You’re going to Hell”? Yes. Throw a brick through that same store’s window with that tied to it? No.

Of course, I reserve the right to be marching on that same sidewalk with my own sign. Such is the nature of speech– it should encourage more speech. That’s a good thing.

Islam Is Not A No-Ridicule Zone

Today a mob in Cairo violated international law and stormed over the wall surrounding the U.S. embassy to Egypt, in a scene eerily reminiscent of what happened in Iran after the Islamist revolution there. The American flag was torn down and in its place a black flag with jihadist slogans was raised in its place. This was, apparently, due to Egyptian television inciting the riot by playing clips from some video that they knew would incite the barbarians among their viewership that showed Mohammed in a bad light. Apparently, it’s not even an American video, but a Dutch one. Mobs are not known for their subtle interpretation of facts, however.

Now, how did the U.S. Embassy react to their staff being forced to retreat from the embassy grounds and the American flag being desecrated? Why, they condemned the video that was used to incite the mob, of course:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

How many times do we need to be shown that Muslims are emotionally stunted as a group, that they demand special treatment for themselves that they don’t even make a pretense of showing towards other faiths (or lack thereof), and that they have such a non-concept of the true meaning of the freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion that their first go-to strategy when they feel offense is to kill people, burn down buildings, and destroy property.

Those are not the reactions of civilized people, and they are not the reactions of a confused fringe group within their numbers. These are the reactions of a majority of Muslims around the world, who even if they don’t personally participate in such barbarism applaud it or turn a blind eye to it.

Worst of all is the reaction of the American government, through its Egyptian Embassy, which doesn’t condemn the violence against the embassy itself, but tries to make the case that the Freedom of Speech enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution somehow doesn’t apply if that speech offends someone else’s religious sensibilities!!!

Well, Hel! That’s certainly a new twist on things.

So, when Pat Robertson said that witchcraft is inextricably linked to abortion, divorce, feminism, should we have expected Wiccans around the world to lose all control and start stabbing people and burning down churches?

When the Pagan religious space at the United States Air Force Academy was vandalized within days of its being opened, should we have expected all Air Force installations around the globe to go on lockdown, against the inevitable and expected backlash from hordes of outraged Pagans determined to kill as many Airmen as they could before they entered the Summerlands?

Every time that a Muslim says “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet”, every Christian within earshot should be expected to grab any handy bludgeon and beat the offender to a pulp, perhaps also slicing off their head in outrage that the divinity of Jesus is being questioned?

That every time a Jew hears someone say the word “god”, they should immediately be expected to go into a killing frenzy, because the offender has violated what they think their god has commanded?

When my car has a bumper sticker that says “My God Wields a Giant Hammer. Your God Was Nailed to a Cross. Any Questions?” I should expect that it will be vandalized and set on fire (preferably with myself inside) because reasonable Christians just can’t be expected to respond any other way?

No! Of course not! There’s only one religion that everyone tip-toes around because its followers are so irrational, so barbaric, and so self-righteously demanding that they expect everyone to not only respect their beliefs, but also to refrain from disagreeing with them, lest they be the subject of violence.

Islam.

No more special treatment for Islam. No more tip-toeing around it. It’s a monstrous, barbaric religion must be stopped before it’s able to impose a silence of fear across the planet.

The First Amendment affords me the right to worship, and the right to speak. It does not afford anyone the right not to be offended by my speech, nor does it carry with it any implication that I should temper my speech or my beliefs accordingly.

Muslims are going to be offended by the fact that I have God-posts at my home, and that I make offerings to them on a regular basis. They will be offended by the fact that I worship multiple Gods; Thor, Odin, Freyja, etc. etc. etc. They will be offended by the fact that I drink alcohol as part of my worship, in the sacred rite known as sumbel.

And you know what? The fact that they’re offended does not mean I’m going to stop, and it most certainly doesn’t mean that the U.S. government should in any way tell me that I should stop doing, or saying, anything just because Muslims will be offended. You can’t handle ridicule? Can’t handle cartoons, or videos, or speech that “offends” you? Shut up. Everyone else can.

Muslims don’t get a special pass. They get to be offended like anyone else. And if they just can’t handle that fact, that somewhere, someone is behaving or speaking in a way that doesn’t show their weird barbaric beliefs respect, they don’t get to act out like children, killing, maiming, burning, and destroying. If they try, they should be put down. 

Anti-Muslim Priest Assassinated, Police Blame Pagans

Admittedly, I don’t know much of anything about Rodnovery (Slavic neo-paganism) in Russia, but this article from Interfax has me more than a little perturbed:

Moscow priest Daniil Sysoyev most likely has been killed for his missionary activity among the non-Orthodox Russian population, a source at law enforcement agencies told Interfax.

“He had recently received constant death threats from some extremist organizations. Daniil Sysoyev complained about it several times to the Federal Security Service,” the source said.

Fr. Daniil said he received anonymous phone calls and e-mails promising to “have his guts for garters,” he said.

“Sysoyev received the last threat in early October. Someone called him and said he had been sentenced to a death penalty,” the source said.

Rev. Daniil is known as an experienced theologian who had been in constant dispute with the extremist branches of Islam. He began receiving threats four years ago after holding a public debate with Vyacheslav Polosin, the former Orthodox priest who converted to Islam.

Fr. Daniil might also have been killed by members from the so-called sect of Rodnovers (Slavic Neo-pagans), the source told Interfax.

Investigators are following all lines of inquiry but this theory remains the main one, he said.

This is evidenced by the fact that the perpetrator did not leave the weapon at the crime scene, he said. “Rodnovers are not professional killers, which is why they count every barrel,” he said.

The Rodnovers organization mainly consists of young pagans.

Earlier Rodnovers staged an explosion at one of Moscow’s churches.

Okay, so we have an Orthodox priest, who makes a calling out of aggressively confronting Islam, and whose series of death threats began after his public debate with a Muslim convert, who converted more than 80 Muslims to Christianity and two years ago wrote a book condemning Islam’s treatment of women, who just so happens to turn up dead…

…so the authorities are looking at the local neo-pagan community because the assassin didn’t drop his gun at the crime scene.

Now, granted that this zealot didn’t win any friends amongst the Rodnovers because he was, well, doing what Christians do; i.e., condemning any religion that isn’t their particular brand of Christianity. I’m not sure where that last line in the Interfax article comes from; I can’t find any other reference to the church-destruction incident outside of it (if anyone reading this knows of a corroborating source, please let me know in the comments), but last I looked it was the “religion of peace”(tm) that was so collectively insecure that its members went around beheading infidels and condemning authors because of what they wrote.

I don’t see the Russians as being particularly Politically Correct, though, so this might just be an excuse to deal with a pesky and annoying problem (the Rodnovers). I just hope in their zeal to convict the pagans, the Russian police don’t let the real culprit stay free.

Saudi family sues genie, alleges harassment

I came across the following story on CNN from a few days ago:

A family in Saudi Arabia has taken a genie to court, alleging theft and harassment, according to local media.

The lawsuit filed in Shariah court accuses the genie of leaving them threatening voicemails, stealing their cell phones and hurling rocks at them when they leave their house at night, said Al-Watan newspaper.

An investigation was under way, local court officials said.

“We have to verify the truthfulness of this case despite the difficulty of doing so,” Sheikh Amr Al Salmi, the head of the court, told Al-Watan. “What makes this case and complaint more interesting is that it wasn’t filed by just one person. Every member of the family is part of this case.”

The family, which has lived in the same house near the holy city of Medina for 15 years, said it became aware of the spirit in the past two years.

“We began hearing strange noises,” the head of the family, who requested anonymity, told Al-Watan. “In the beginning, we didn’t take it seriously, but after that, stranger things started happening and the children got really scared when the genie began throwing stones.”

A local charity has moved the family to a temporary residence while a court investigates, the newspaper said.

In Islamic cultures, a belief in genies, or jinns, is common.

Genies not only appear in pre-Islamic fiction such as “Arabian Nights,” but are also mentioned in the Quran.

Many Saudis believe invisible genies live among them and are capable of demonic possession and revenge.

Now, I can’t say that I have any direct experience with genies per se, but I do have quite a bit with land-spirits and house-gods in a Northern European context. Noises? Small items disappearing? Stones being thrown? Sounds like classic poltergeist activity to me, and if this was someone I knew, I would recommend starting a regular habit of making a small offering. It’s quite obvious that the genie is looking for attention.

Why now, when the family has been living in the house for 15 years? Well, I would not be a bit surprised if one or more of the children had just entered adolescence. The timing certainly seems to support that notion. Spirits (both of the dead and land-spirits) seem to be drawn to the various emotional and physiological changes brought on by adolescence.

But a lawsuit? How do they serve papers to a genie? And can they accuse a genie of contempt of court if it fails to appear, or doesn’t obey an injunction?

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