• Ryan Smith

The Poisonous Roots of the Christchurch Shooting

There are no words that can convey the sheer horror and awfulness that was unleashed hours ago in Christchuch, New Zealand. I cannot even imagine the heartbreak and anguish the Muslim community of New Zealand and all others Muslims around the world are feeling in the wake of Brenton Tarrant's livestreamed attacks. Thoughts and prayers feel shallowly insufficient in the face of such brutality. Instead I offer is my solidarity and reaffirmation of unshakeable commitment to fighting the very things that cruelly ended so many innocent lives. Only by action can anyone truly make good on any intentions we have.


In the case of Tarrant's attacks you may be wondering how, exactly, this is relevant to a Pagan author or website. The hard truth is what happened in Christchurch is painfully close to our community thanks to the actions of the very community that radicalized him. The White Genocide myth which inspired him is as much a product of white nationalist Pagan propagandists, including notorious examples like Stephen McNallen's Asatru Folk Assembly and the Odinic Rite, as it is the work of other elements of the sprawling AltRight movement. He further proved this connection with his 8chan post where he signed off with, "See you all in Valhalla!". If all we do is offer our condolences or, even worse, condemn the act while public proclaiming the shooter wasn't a true Pagan of any sort then the toxicity that fed him will continue to fester.


Understanding this connection first requires understanding the myth that moved the shooter to kill so many. The White Genocide myth is an idea that runs through the heart of the modern AltRight movement. Promoters of this myth claim there is a global plot orchestrated by Jews to wipe out all white people by encouraging immigration from non-white countries into what they see as rightfully "white" nations. This idea is widely supported throughout the AltRight with many using it as a rallying cry for action. When the marchers at Charlottesville shouted, "Jews will not replace us!" they were invoking this piece of white nationalist propaganda.


The AltRight are far from the only proponents of this idea. Stephen McNallen's Asatru Folk Assembly has been pushing similar beliefs for years while cloaking their bigotry in the guise of religious practice. On the flip side many members of the AltRight have eagerly snatched up occult symbols like the Sonnenrad as part of their iconography. McNallen himself has promoted these connections most recently through his Wotan Network organization. Tarrant himself used the Sonnenrad as part of the logo on the cover of his 87 page manifesto as shown below. Simply using these symbols doesn't make people like Tarrant, who also claimed to be seeking the blessing of the Christian Knights Templar, Pagans. Their use of these symbols, invoking Valhalla and other similar tropes are part and parcel of a subculture that freely uses whatever it thinks properly represents "white culture" regardless of any contradictions or lack of consistency these acts of appropriation rest on. That such use is encouraged by White Nationalist Pagans helps spread these ideas.


Image from the cover of Brenton Tarrant's manifesto "The Great Replacement"

For some this appropriation is offense enough. It has been argued the problem this poses is one of making the rest of Paganism look bad through guilt by association. What this view misses is the greatest harm done by their mythmaking is measured in lives destroyed. This past October a gunman, fueled by these same hateful lies, burst into the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue and killed eleven Jewish people. In June 2015 Dylan Roof invoked the same story to justify his murder of nine Black Americans people at prayer in the Emanueal African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Thomas Mair claimed the same motives for justifying his June 2016 assassination of British Member of Parliament Jo Cox while Norwegian mass murder Anders Breivik, one of Tarrant's sources of inspiration, used the same claims to justify his brutal 2011 killing spree which claimed the lives of 77 people.


The White Genocide myth has also spawned two deadly near misses. In November 2015 two men, claiming to follow a white supremacist form of Asatru, were arrested in Virginia by the FBI for plotting a massive campaign of murders, assassinations and bombings all aimed at Jews, Black Americans and Muslims. Just this last February Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Paul Hansson was arrested for planning and stockpiling an eye-popping arsenal for carrying out an even more ambitious campaign of killing, all motivated by his belief that "liberals and globalists" were out to kill all white people.


There is no doubt these words have moved people to murder on three different continents. Their terror can only be stopped by tackling the problems they create on all sides and in all manifestations by replacing their bigotry with a vision for our spirituality and the world that embraces the best in humanity. Though White Nationalist Pagans are not solely responsible for inspiring all of these murderers we must do our part in confronting the damage they've done. We must leech out the poisons of patriarchy, white supremacy and fascism and heal the damage done with the medicines of inclusivity, hospitality, equity and true justice. This work will not be quick or easy but it must be done. The alternative, as the events from earlier today show, is simply too awful to accept or compromise with.


As for Tarrant and his ilk the sagas make it quite clear what awaits them is not reward in Valhalla but something far more suitable for them:

38. A hall I saw, | far from the sun, On Nastrond it stands, | and the doors face north, Venom drops | through the smoke-vent down, For around the walls | do serpents wind.


39. I saw there wading | through rivers wild Treacherous men | and murderers too, And workers of ill | with the wives of men; There Nithhogg sucked | the blood of the slain, And the wolf tore men; | would you know yet more?


Voluspo, Henry Adams Bellows Translation

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