Theodish Thoughts

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

Category: news Page 1 of 3

The Troth Says Loki-Dokey!

Well, at least nobody could say this was a surprise. The Lokeans have been applying steady pressure on the Troth for years, even through their Warder of the Lore, who is married to a Lokean.

The Troth, the bastion of Universalist Asatru in the United States (and elsewhere) made their official announcement the other day that the ban on honoring Loki at Troth events was lifted.

But more than that, there will be a Loki blót at the next ten Trothmoots, “in primetime”. Presumably that means Friday or Saturday night. This is supposed to be some sort of Schuld* in recompense.

The whole ideology of “everyone should be able to do whatever they want, and if you don’t agree you’re a bigot” has the Troth firmly in its grip. It will be interesting to see if the Troth actually makes it to the ten-year mark after this decision. I predict… chaotic times ahead for them.

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* Which I presume means shild in Rob Schreiwer’s never-ending campaign to convince people that his Amish Heathenry is actually equivalent to Asatru in popularity, like the use of the word “Sege” which means nothing outside the context of his couple of dozen followers. You’d think the Troth of all groups wouldn’t let someone who appeared publicly in blackface to have such influence, but not my circus, not my monkeys…

Freya Aswynn and the Troth

The Troth took a rather extraordinary step the other day, formally and publicly throwing out Freya Aswynn. For those unfamiliar with her, Freya has been around the Asatru community since its early days. She authored one of the more influential books, Leaves of Yggrasil, which was later revised and reprinted as Northern Mysteries and Magic.

She’s a character, to be sure. I met her twice, and have heard many stories from people who know her better than I. She was nice enough to me, and has a reputation for being “out there”, but her passion for the Gods really stood out.

The Troth’s statement leaves it unclear as to why, exactly, they took this step. Apparently it had something to do with her promoting “racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, ableism, or any other form of prejudice”, but the specifics were not given.

Looking on social media, it’s pretty clear that she was drummed out of the Troth because of some social media posts about Islam. Because of that, she was deemed “uninclusive” and they decided not to include her in their organization.

The Troth’s march towards suicide proceeds apace. I know there are a lot of great people who are members of the Troth, but the leadership seems more and more set on imposing a radically progressive vision on the organization as a whole, to the point of siding with people who want to see them killed. Literally.

Beards and Asatru

A few days ago, the Army Times reported that a soldier was given a religious accommodation to wear a beard, in deference to his “Heathen; Norse Pagan” beliefs.

Now, I’m all for religious accommodation when it’s needed, but I confess I’m not sure where the soldier in question, or his superiors, got the idea that there is some sort of religious compunction to wear a beard in Heathenry.

If anything, the wearing of a beard seems quite inconsistent in contemporary art works. In such things as the Bayeux Tapestry, there are figures with beards, mustaches, and those who are clean-shaven. The Lewis Chessmen are similarly shown having various styles of facial hair, or none at all. The Torslunda Helmet Plate (at the top of this article) clearly shows a man in a horned helmet, possibly Odin due to the punched-out left eye, without a beard. The Salians (the tribe whence the Merovingians came) were noted for their long hair, but not their beards, while the Franks were known for short hair. The Langobards, of course, got their name from their long beards, but it is that very thing that makes them distinctive and thus unusual.

Now, I am not an expert on religious accommodations in the US military, but it would seem to me that what’s being granted is a personal exemption. If having a beard was necessary, we’d certainly see it more consistently in the contemporary art, and have it mentioned in the sources.

Germany: Externsteine defaced

Out of Germany comes very disturbing news. Apparently on New Year’s Eve some enterprising but misguided people broke into the nature reserve at Westphalia that contains the historic Externsteine rock formations, scaled a 180′ pillar of stone, and erected a 20′ tall wooden Irminsul painted red, white, and black. It was removed almost immediately.

Links to the news (in German):

Let us be blunt. This is a defacement of an historic site. As such, it is an abominable act, and the people responsible need to be caught and punished to the fullest extend of the law, period. There’s no telling the damage that could have been done in hauling a 20′ Irminsul up a 180′ rock face, which could have rock carvings, artifacts, etc. that could have been damaged in the attempt.

Naturally, the Norse Neopagans here in America and some German media are predictably focusing on potential connections with right-wing pagans in Germany. While this is a connection which, it must be conceded, quite likely given the colors of the pillar, which echo those of the Nazi and Imperial flags of pre-1946 Germany, it’s not at all the point, and those who are using it as a political club to hit their political opponents should be ashamed. This sort of thing transcends politics, and should be something that everyone can agree is wrong.

Personally I don’t care about the politics of the idiots who did this. I care about the stupidity of defacing an historical landmark to make some sort of statement. It would be just as wrong if a Norse Neopagan took a pick-axe to one of the mounds at Uppsala because Loki told him to. Politics is no excuse for stupidity.

And this stupidity is compounded by the fact that the connection between the historical Irminsul and the site at Exernsteine is completely spurious. The image found there is a palm tree, bent over to represent nature weeping over the death of Christ. It is not the Irminsul, which was described in the sources as a pillar. Not a pillar with wings. Hel, for that matter, the sources say that there were many Irminsuls, each the center of worship for a particular local group. Not one at some great pan-Germanic cult center that is otherwise completely unattested, and especially not one at Externsteine.

That makes this act all the more tragic. These idiots broke the law and endangered an historical archaeological site to haul a 20′ palm tree painted in the colors of two failed states to the top of a mountain. All that effort and risk for an unintentional joke. Morons.

Update: here’s a photo showing where the Irminsul was planted.

 (© Torben Gocke)

Odinist prisoner news: Freeman v. Budnick et al

Out of Arkansas comes the case of Freeman v. Budnick et al, wherein the plaintiff alleged that “while in punitive isolation he was denied various items needed to practice his religion such as a Thor’s hammer, a set of runes and rune cloth, an Odinist text, an altar and altar cloth and a wooden statue.” (Details from Religion Clause, as I was unable to find court documents detailing the case that aren’t behind a paywall.)

The case was dismissed without prejudice.

Asatru Prisoner News: Leishman v. Patterson et al

Out of Utah comes the case of Leishman v. Patterson et al, where an Asatru prisoner claimed he was denied rune tokens made of wood (he was offered cards or runes made out of some synthetic material, probably plastic) and was not allowed to perform blót for more than ten years, apparently because blót is a communal ritual and prison rules require a non-inmate to “monitor or lead” such a ceremony, and no volunteers are available (the prison apparently is trying to get a Wiccan in to do the job, but one wonders how getting a Mormon in to do a Catholic mass would fly).

The use of wooden runes was disallowed because small pieces of wood can be used to jam locks and the like (but apparently small pieces of plastic cannot do that?), even though Amerindian prisoners are allowed to do so thanks to a special exception carved out in a different case. The prison officials also enjoy qualified immunity.

Case (against the prison officials) dismissed.

Mr. Leishman is in a maximum security prison after pleading guilty to the 1997 murder of two rival gang members in West Valley City, UT.

On Town of Greece v. Galloway

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. The case stemmed from the practice of the town of Greece, NY, to start its town council meetings with a sectarian Christian prayer, often invoking “Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,” and similar phrasings. After some local residents complained, the town brought in some non-Christians to give the prayer, but returned to all-Christian prayers after a year or so.

Although many are characterizing the ruling as a victory for the conservative wing of the Court, I must disagree. It is, in fact, a victory for the Christian wing of the Court.

Consider the religious affiliations of the Justices in the way they voted:

FOR Christian prayer before government meetings:

  • John Roberts (Catholic)
  • Anthony M. Kennedy (Catholic)
  • Antonin Scalia (Catholic)
  • Clarence Thomas (Catholic)
  • Samuel Alito (Catholic)
AGAINST Christian prayer before government meetings:
  • Stephen G. Breyer (Jewish)
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jewish)
  • Elena Kagen (Jewish)
  • Sonia Sotomayor (Catholic)

Bear in mind that, although Kennedy votes more often with the conservative wing of the Court than the liberal, he is by no means a party-line ideologue like Scalia or Thomas. He is the “swing vote” on the Court, and could have gone either way on this question. But… it’s easy to say that majoritarian prayers don’t have any harm if you’re in the majority.

Notice who voted against this. All of the non-Christian members of the court, and Sotomayor, who would probably burst into flames if she ever voted with Scalia and Thomas on any issue. The non-Christian Justices know what it’s like to be in a country that “tolerates” people whose religion isn’t the majority, and they (rightly) said that there is a very real sense of exclusion and coercion that attends such activities when they’re undertaken in the context of an official government function.

Make no mistake. This was not a conservative victory. This was a Christian victory. A victory for those who think that the views of the majority can and should be forced on the minority, who think that the minority should simply shut up and be thankful that we’re allowed to practice our blasphemous faiths in this country at all. And that point of view transcends party. Bigotry practiced by a majority and endorsed by force of law is no less bigotry.

Odinist Prisoner News: Smith v. Governor for the State of Alabama

Out of Alabama (obviously) comes a ruling in the case of Smith v. Governor for the State of Alabama. The plaintiff, Tony Lee Smith, was apparently denied permission for a dedicated Odinist worship space (he could use the regular open worship space) and a fire pit (he could use a small candle), and refused to place him in a faith-based “honor dorm”. The prison stated concerns about Odinism’s racist connections. He further claimed that artwork was impounded and destroyed, and that he was retaliated against because he practiced a non-Christian religion.

After wending its way through a couple of lower courts, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals finally denied his appeal, essentially stating that he had no expectation of privacy in his cell, and that he was not treated in a discriminatory fashion. Earlier dismissal of the charges is upheld.

Asatru Prisoner News: Godbey v. Wilson

Out of Virginia comes a ruling in a case, Godbey v. Wilson. The plaintiff alleged that the prison had refused to allow him to drink alcoholic mead during ritual, and to wear a hlath (headband with runes) outside of the prison chapel. The case was dismissed as moot.

I have to confess on this one I agree with the court. There are all sorts of contemporary Asatruar who don’t drink alcohol for one reason or another, and I can see how the prison would have a compelling interest in making sure inmates don’t get drunk. Too, I had never even heard of a hlath before I read the particulars of this case. Sure enough, it’s made its way into the Federal BOP guidelines on Asatru and Odinism, but damned if I can figure out where it came from. The word doesn’t mean “headband with runes” in Old Norse, and a quick Google search for “hlath Asatru” comes up with next to nothing outside of a prison context. Anyone have any more background on it?

Home Worship Under Attack in Dallas

There’s a story out of Dallas that should be of interest to every Pagan and Heathen out there. A Dallas man, Rabbi Yaakov Rich, has been holding Jewish worship services in his home twice a day. His neighbor, David Schneider, who lives across the street and who happens to have just been elected as president of their homeowner’s association, is suing the rabbi for $50,000, claiming that the home-synagogue is hurting his property values.

The implications for Pagans and Heathens are obvious. If the courts uphold that the RLUIPA doesn’t protect the use of one’s private home for religious purposes here, then it’s pretty obvious that it wouldn’t protect such use for a Wiccan or Asatru worship service, either.

Now, granted, holding services twice a day seems a bit much, and one can only hope that the congregation is doing everything it can to get a permanent and dedicated temple space as soon as it can. But depending on the wording of the eventual court decision, this could have dramatic impacts on anyone holding a blot in their back yard. Think of the mischief a decision like that could instigate, especially with a neighbor who has a grudge against “those weird people across the street who practice that strange so-called religion”.

We see similar push-back against people holding Bible Studies in their homes. Again, in that case, the defendant tried to push the issue and there were ancillary questions about his use of a building on his property as a church when building inspectors were told it was a shed. But these cases do form a pattern, and could, in the hands of the wrong judge, bring about a disastrous precedent that would harm Heathens and Pagans even more than it would Christians and Jews, given the relative state of our religious infrastructure (buildings, land, schools, etc.) compared to that of the Peoples of the Book.

Keep an eye on these. They’re important.

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