Tearing Off the Mask: Revealing the Gulf Between Fascist Spirituality and Pagan Practice
Updated: May 16, 2019
The presence of white nationalist and fascist groups in modern Pagan, Norse Pagan and Heathen communities is a serious challenge. Their constant claims of being a part of this broader movement and assertions of common ground have seriously muddied what should be otherwise crystal clear waters. At the heart of their arguments are constant claims that, regardless of political disagreements, they still honor the same Powers as other Norse Pagans and Heathens. Yet when one digs deeper into the historical sources used as inspiration in the Way of Fire & Ice, most Norse Pagans and Heathens along with the generally accepted practices in Paganism it becomes clear their ideas have almost nothing in common with what much of the modern movement follows.
For some this may seem like a rather esoteric concern. Debating the nature of the Powers and what this means may sound more like a purely academic matter than something that impacts the way people live, how they view the world and face the challenges of life. Nothing could be further from the truth especially when it comes to drawing a line between the fascist creep in our community and everything else. Viewing the Powers as autonomous beings with independent capabilities, wisdom and their own agency leads to viewing the world through a very different set of core assumptions than the fascist, neo-Volkisch view that enshrines blood above everything else.
The best place to start is with what the generally accepted views in Paganism, Norse Paganism and Heathenry are of the Gods, spirits of place and the dead. Generally speaking all of these groups are polytheistic. This means there are many Powers, ranging from the humblest spirit and deceased ancestor to the mightiest Gods, instead of just one all-powerful deity. These Powers have their own unique goals, associations, stories and agency. They are complicated beings who have their good aspects, mistakes and their own fair share of bad deeds. Regardless of the specifics they are independent from humanity and without exception existed before we did.
What follows from these core ideas is pretty straightforward. When Powers are independent entities with their own goals and means to pursue them practitioners need to work with them on a basis of building a respectful, equitable relationship. Working in such relationships reinforces the need to do the same with other people and ideas within your life, showing that life is something you live in conjunction with everything in the world around you. Their external, autonomous nature also means they offer a unique perspective that isn’t filtered through the realities of human existence. Sometimes this means their wisdom may be a bit confusing or difficult to understand but it also means they offer a fresh perspective.
Fascist theology, as much as it can be described as that, is even more distant and opposing to any form of polytheism than monotheism, pantheism or atheism. Regardless of which sources you point to, ranging from Stephen McNallen’s metagenetics to the Odinic Rite and David Lane’s Wotanism who also came up with the Fourteen Words, all neo-Volkisch, white nationalist and fascist forms of stolen spirituality draw their ideas from the writings of Carl Jung’s notorious 1936 essay “Wotan.” In this essay Jung, drawing on his broader theories on archetypes, claimed that Adolf Hitler’s rise was because Hitler had successfully awakened the archetype of the God Wotan in the collective blood-borne unconscious of the people of Germany. He claimed this awakening was turning Germany towards transformation and strife that was driven by hereditarily encoded imperatives they were powerless to resist.
In the hands of McNallen, Lane and others this idea has been taken to even further places from the polytheism of the ancient and modern practice. According to them the Gods are merely blood-based reflections of an ancient culture and nothing more. They have no existence outside of the psyches and tissues of the people they are allegedly associated with, an idea that has absolutely no basis anywhere in the ancient lore. The best expression of this is in the Asatru Folk Assembly’s Declaration of Purpose which states, in their second point, the demise of people they define very loosely and incoherently as “ethnically European” would lead to the demise of the Gods they claim to revere, leaving the prospect of “race war” looming foully yet unstated in the shadows. For fascists the Gods are mere playthings of their warped egos used to validate their darkest desires with only the barest of lip service paid to their passions and guidance.
There is little doubt these ideas are intrinsically at odds at every level. You cannot claim the Gods are only archetypal reflections of some sort of genetically mandated commandment while also citing the very sagas, like the Voluspo, which clearly show them as cosmic beings who created humanity free of decrees and gave us minds, life and breath to find our own way in the world to validate hatred. For those who follow the polytheistic norm practices by most Pagans stating the Gods only exist because of us and will cease to be without us is both at odds with what is in the lore and actively lessens their true potential. On the personal and moral level it encourages people to live in selfish arrogance, viewing the world around them in terms of what it can do for them instead of on its own terms. Such folly has been proven the swiftest path to destruction multiple times in history and most painfully in the present by a world that is dying thanks to the fruits of heedless greed. In reducing the Powers they diminish themselves and anyone they lure into following their twisted ideology.
Theologically and morally this makes the fascists who call themselves Pagans nothing more than shameless thieves. That said we can’t simply dismiss the problem they pose by saying, “they aren’t real Pagans or Heathens!” Their wholesale seizure of the lore, icons and Powers we revere is meant to camouflage their true intentions from broader society and unwary seekers they prey on for recruits, funds and as fodder for their hideous crusade. What makes this worse is some spaces, though not as many as there once were, openly welcome them and treat them the same as any other Pagan or Heathen even though what they practice is worlds removed from what the rest of the community does.
What this shows is there is no reason for anyone who honors the Powers to give any sort of space to these hate-filled bullies. They harm the innocent, attack any who dare oppose their cruelty and in their heartless march to domination trample on the very things they claim to be fighting for. For fascists the Powers of Norse Paganism are convenient tokens for justifying their actions and hiding their true intentions. There is no space in their ideology for compassion and no fascist should be given hospitality or safe haven in our communities unless they have conclusively, unquestionably and totally renounced their former affiliations while also making a genuine effort to heal the harm of their actions and former associates.