The Dishonesty of Asatru UK
A comparative study of archaic cultures, lingering folk traditions and surviving so-called ‘primitive’ tribes from all across the globe, reveals the existence of various metaphysical systems with significant overlap and commonalities. These systems were not curated and organised by scholarly men, as it happened in the Abrahamic religions, and were always organic, bottom-up, based on oral traditions. As indigenous populations were gradually Christianised, these organic structures survived in various forms, while forming a symbiotic relationship with the cult, scholarly metaphysics of the Church and its priesthood.
THE MYTH OF THE ETERNAL RETURN
In the 20th century a significant number of ethnographers, anthropologists and historians of religion collected and tried to make sense of these various folk traditions. You might be familiar with scholars like Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, Joseph Campbell, Georges Dumezil, Claude Levi-Strauss, Radu Dragan. The ways in which these thinkers interpreted the myths, legends and folk tales of ancient and archaic peoples point to many commonalities. There is a clear link between the mythological language of all these cultures and aspects of the unconscious explored by Jung or Campbell. Furthermore, books like ‘The Myth of the Eternal Return’ by Mircea Eliade establish the fact that all these cultures believed in two distinct forms of existence: the eternal cyclical space-time of the Gods (being) and the transitory space-time of mortals (becoming). The sacred and the profane. Heaven and Earth. The parallels with neo-platonism or aristotelianism are undeniable. All ancient cultures linked their hopes and aspirations to the eternal, archetypal realm of the gods and founding heroes. The mortal plane was valuable only to the extent to which it was consecrated and infused with the Reality of the divine realm. Everything else was deemed profane, illusory and thus forgettable. Earthly civilisations were expected to follow a cycle of decline (sometimes symbolised by devaluing metals – from gold to iron) as illustrated by the myth of the ages of man, embraced by almost all ancient civilisations.
The Judeo-Christian tradition was the first to merge the two planes and sacralise profane history, with Yahweh becoming involved in the political matters of earthly kingdoms. According to Eliade, the Sacred realm of the gods was thus split into two halves, the first one (the garden of Eden) preceding human history, while the second one (the Kingdom of Heaven) being placed after its apocalyptic end. Later on, as European cultures secularised and abandoned their Christian beliefs, they abandoned any notion of a divine origin and placed their hopes exclusively in the far future. The various secular ideologies that followed – Hegelianism, Marxism, the Whig vision of history, Transhumanism – all shared in their utopian vision of history as an uninterrupted march of progress eventually leading to a state of perfection and wholeness.
THE CRISIS OF MODERNITY
It is undeniable that the new secular ideologies represent a rupture with every traditional metaphysics – structured or organic; written or oral; ‘civilised’ or ‘savage’. Modernity in all its forms represented a clear rejection of any gods and transcendental realms. It always attempted to sacralise and worship humanity either by redefining God as ‘the Zeitgeist’, the ‘spirit of history’, the principle of reason, Nietzsche’s overman (Zarathustra), technology, science, transhumanism etc. Mircea Eliade called this tendency ‘historicism’. At the end of his book, he predicted that every form of historicism – belief in linear qualitative progress, that is – inevitably ends up in nihilism or escapism; as humanity realises that it is not the master of its own destiny and artefacts, but rather that technology takes on a life of its own, leading to an unescapable arms race in which humans are harvested and preyed upon by the very technology that was supposed to liberate them. The mechanised wars of the last century have led many thinkers to lose hope in the myth of progress. ‘Black Mirror’ seems a lot more plausible in 2021 than any form of utopianism. Thus, with historicism proving to be a dead end, Eliade concludes that the only forms of religious belief still accessible to contemporary man will be Christianity (which is compatible with historicism, with its notion of divine providence) or Heathenry (a rehabilitation of the myth of eternal return and the end of linear history).
CONTEMPORARY PAGAN REVIVALS
Humans are not meant to anthropise and technologise every square inch of this planet. They are not destined to create AI and weapons of mass destruction. It is only a very late development that led to this state of affairs; seen in perspective, modernity represents only an infinitesimal fraction of our history as a species. A return to less invasive and less irreversible forms of technology coupled with a re-enchanted vision of the Cosmos could be possible at least in theory and if one had religious inclinations, this could be seen as a heathen project par excellence.
This has been attempted in the 19th and 20th centuries with various religious movements such as the Volkisch movement, perennialism, Wicca, Asatru and others. As the geo-political situation of the 20th century led to a conflict between the existing secular ideologies – Liberalism, Communism and Fascism, some of these heathens, horrified by the rootlessness and atomisation caused by the Industrial Revolution, sided with the Fascists, in the vain hope of an eventual return to a more organic and harmonious existence.
One could argue that Fascism was, just like the other secular ideologies, a creation of modernity, originating in the premises of the French Revolution, sacralising linear history (they were all enthusiastic Hegelians), rejecting any Platonic notion of an eternal realm of Being in favour of Becoming (‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ was provided to German soldiers as devotional reading instead of the Bible), worshipping ‘ethnos’ as a deity (whereas all traditional cultures resisted its politicisation, qualifying it as ‘zoe’ rather than ‘bios’) and subscribing to an enthusiastic vision of a futuristic, technocratic golden age of reason and fullness of will-to-power. Still, with the emergence of the post-WW2 truth regime, the surviving secular ideologies, liberalism and communism, naturally demonised the defeated fascists and framed every form of pre-modern belief system as a dangerous ur-fascist ideology, always lurking in the shadows of the collective unconscious and threatening to return humanity to a savage, pre-enlightened condition. Conservatism and orthodoxy became doomed projects. ‘Nostalgia’ was turned into a dirty word, as organic structures of liberal and socialist societies were gradually eviscerated. In the 21st century, every form of religiousness had to prove its absolute adhesion to the endless mutations and subversions of the civil rights movements, to the first, second and third wave of Feminism, to the LGBTQ ideology, to intersectionalism, grievance studies and any other emerging trends of radical social progressivism.
As different thinkers of the Frankfurt School subverted the preoccupation with heritage of every type, conservation, cultural continuity, these issues were framed as emancipatory struggles challenging some invisible default that needs to be overcome in order to ensure the autonomy of individuals or pay reparations to marginalised groups.
The implications for the modern reconstructions of paganism were, thus, fully predictable: contemporary heathens must shun any metaphysical notion, any clear belief system, in favour of a progressive-compliant simulacrum. The unconditional embrace of the Whig vision of history in one form or another is non-negotiable. This means that every such project is bound to fail miserably. To paraphrase Guenon, progressivism in all its forms is anti-religious because it is anti-metaphysical. If there is any common denominator to all religions in history, it is the belief in god(s) and realms that transcend the human sphere. If there is any common denominator to the various forms of historical heathenry, it is the belief in cyclical time, or the Myth of Eternal Return, as described by Mircea Eliade. All archaic and primitive cultures had it. All civilised pre-Christian polities had it. You take that away, you end up with nothing left. If you want to sacralise technology, progress, sexual liberation, the future of peoplekind, you are sacralising dirt. Every pagan in history would have thought so.
THE SUBVERSION OF ASATRU UK
About two or three years ago I joined the facebook group Asatru UK; a nordic group of pagans, all located in the UK, claiming to worship the aesir (gods of the viking Norsemen) in ways that are compatible with contemporary lifestyle.
It quickly became apparent – and an ever accelerating trend – that the group had been subverted by woke activists. The group’s description speaks for itself: ‘Our aim is to create an inclusive heathen community’. The group’s most visible public posts are about ‘Being Trans and Being Heathen’. ‘In honour of all the Trans Heathens out there in the community. We see you and we value you.’ Every single admin and moderator of the group is a true devotee of far left ideologies. Many ostentatiously identify as trans, genderfluid or pansexual, and it is clearly apparent that these are deeply held beliefs, not mere cautionary steps meant to prevent a potential banning from social media activists.
During my stay on that group I witnessed many gratuitous bans of wrongthinkers, with moderators gaining up on them with much sadism and ridicule. The bans always follow the same predictable pattern, ever present since Gamergate and Atheism 2.0. Some Social Justice poseur writes something deliberately inflammatory and baity. Most recent example, by some greek guy with no profile pic: ‘In Norse mythology, Loki was actively pansexual and genderfluid. I’m pansexual and genderfluid too! Does this mean Loki should be my patron god? :3’
The post is followed by a wave of congratulatory comments from active members and moderators: ‘thank you for coming out as [newspeak term]; you are stunning and brave; the gods love you’. But there is also the occasional angry reaction from the normie pagan member, who follows Asatru UK for the authentic heathen content, not for the political activism and left wing virtue signalling.
A middle-aged chap couldn’t resist replying to the poseur: ‘I know people will not like this but it seems like history is being interpreted to suit modern political agendas. Loki indeed gave birth to children after having sex as a female but, instead of being evidence of the Norse pantheon being a paragon of sexual liberalism, it instead is evidence of the opposite, as Loki was widely considered to be shameful for allowing himself to be cast in the female role. Homosexuality was still not accepted.’
This was all the admins and moderators were waiting for. They all flooded the chap with passive-aggressive, gaslighting replies. The most erudite type of answer came from admins and moderators, and was something along the lines of ‘cultures change over time, religion evolves; there was never in history such a thing as pure paganism; the norsemen were a diverse group with differing beliefs, some more inclusive than others; some were quite gay and gender fluid, others more patriarchal. These things are mostly obscure and unknowable anyway, and paganism is an individualist path; do what feels right for you and do not let anyone tell you what to think and believe’. This went on in parallel with posts about the queerness of vikings, the supposed sodomising of the genderqueer Thor and Odin which, though unpleasant and humiliating, was nonetheless fun and culturally liberating.
The dissenting chap respectfully left the group: ‘Thank you for those who engaged in some interesting discussions. However – I am in the wrong group. My interest is in understanding the history, culture and beliefs of the early Medieval Germanic tribes of north-western Europe. Some people here seem to be only interested in creating their own personal religions, with themselves in the centre, with no regard at all for what might really have happened in the time period. Have fun…but keep it real!’. This was followed by a wave of ridicule from various members; admins and moderators insinuated that, since any serious heathen revival is impossible, everyone inevitably cherrypicks whatever (s)he finds appealing in the old belief systems, ERGO the middle aged chap must be HOMOPHOBIC, otherwise he would have had no issue with the original shitpost. Everyone thanked the admins for the clear, enlightening explanation. The poast caught the expected bait; the bigot was identified, shamed and removed; the apes got to throw faeces and bite his balls, while genuinely believing that by doing so they were purifying the group of wrongthink and making the world a better, more inclusive place. I later looked at the boomer’s profile: pro remain; hashtag BLM. They had cancelled one of their own!
I wanted to confront one of the admins about the inconsistencies of their position, so I commented on the thread, saying that of course cultures change over time and everyone realises no artefact is pure and authentic. But despite this fact, having a religious faith implies the belief in god(s) and the transcendent; the realm of the sacred, Plato’s world of ideas, which must be eternal. The relationships inside the pantheon of gods are perennial, and so are their attitudes and expectations towards mortals. Even if the gods are headed towards ragnarok and will all be killed by Fenrir’s packs, the Myth will still occur ad infinitum, with the gods being reborn and whatever (no contemporary heathen falls for Snorri’s Christianisation of the mythos, and if they do – all the more reason to believe in God’s realm of eternal essences). Now if any contemporary heathen takes his religion seriously, and is not merely a LARPer, he will consult historical sources in order to gain the bird’s eye view that will allow him to spot the transcendental and perennial essence in the stories, and separate this core from the baggage of contingent culture and historical custom. If all the admins do is bash trad pagans whenever they object to progressive political talking points infiltrating the group, but actively encourage the latter, claiming that LGBTQ ideology is somehow under the patronage of Loki and other Norse gods – then the term ‘heathenry’ truly is an empty shell that can take any shape they desire.
LGBTQ is an exclusively modern phenomenon. Pretending there is no ideology underlying it is dishonest; every historian worth their salt will identify its roots in the 17th century puritan nonconformism, the humanism of the French revolution, the civil rights movement (a form of post-Christian deism), the early 20th century’s Transcendentalism, the soixante-huitard riots and the many philosophies that focused on gender issues (Judith Butler and others).
What these movements all have in common is a Whig (or Hegelian) vision of history; they reject any metaphysical structure as understood by all ancient faiths; they deny the existence of eternal gods or eternal Being, and glorify becoming, endless transformation, fluidity and flow. They only project the divine realm in the future, and history is seen as an arrow of uninterupted progress which will lead us to Utopia through a chain of emancipations. Thus, the gods are not in Vallhalla, but immanent within humanity; the zeitgeist or ‘spirit of history’. Those are the invisible implications of saying that religion is exclusively a matter of personal taste or feeling; by saying this, you have sacralised the individual ego. And why pretend this is contiguous with some form of ancient heathenry?
My comments were initially ignored by the moderators, then all of a sudden I received a warning that I had been temporarily banned from posting further comments for an entire month. The notification claimed that ‘group rules were violated by me being abusive to admins / mods, for non inclusive speech and being derogative to admin’. They also claimed I was being deliberately inflammatory and testing the limits of what I was allowed to comment. I confess calling them ‘admin cat ladies’ in the context of their unethical behaviour towards the middle aged chap, and labelling ‘pansexuality’ and ‘genderfluidity’ as ‘newspeak terms’ but nothing more outrageous than that; and only after they refused to engage with my initial points. About 15 minutes later, after reviewing my situation, they came to the conclusion that I was no Asatru material and kicked me out of the group completely, which means I will never be able to hear a scholarly reply to my serious concerns with pagan revivals.
Jokes aside, I knew I had it coming. I had witnessed too many despicable, cowardly acts from the moderators of that group to expect any clemency from the seething cat ladies. It is a sad spectacle to notice every kind of hobby group on the internet being subverted and turned into a mockery of its initial content; bending over backwards to the bien pensant ideology of social justice and the lazy worship of one’s unrestrained appetites, backed by draconic technocratic regulations, panopticism, close monitoring of human interactions and an ever more invasive state apparatus, all sold as radical liberation and return to nature. If a movement that was supposedly meant to find a way back to the myth of the eternal return, ends up fervently embracing its own negation, why continue witnessing the whole charade? ‘Inclusive paganism’ is as pagan as ‘Ze German Cat Magazine’ printed during the 3rd Reich was a magazine about cats; or dialectical materialism courses in Soviet schools were about dialectics and about material reality.
Asatru UK is not an escape or a countering force to the Matrix of modernity, but a reinforcement of it. And if anyone is tempted to restore some form of paganism without an underlying belief system, the only option left is plain old Nietzscheanism, namely – his twisted notion of cosmic eternal return; a paradoxical form of nostalgia that looks for fulfilment beyond metaphysics, beyond art and culture; ‘a monster of energy, without beginning, without end… a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without income… a sea of forces flowing and flushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back’. That, my friend, is either fascism, or fully automated luxury communism. Or however you wish to label this monstrous unholy superstructure. And after having bled your ‘heathenry’ dry of every residue of virtue, energy and creativity, it will proceed to its next victim.
‘But, further than that, let us ask, Where then will be the sum and outcome of their labour? If they wither away like summer grass, will not at least a result be left which those of a hundred years hence may be the better for? No, not one jot! There will not be any sum or outcome or result of this ceaseless labour and movement; it vanishes in the moment that it is done, and in a hundred years nothing will be there, for nothing is there now. There will be no more sum or result than accumulates from the motion of a revolving cowl on a housetop’ – Richard Jefferies, In The City.
* For having the audacity to write this article I was further banned from ‘Folk Horror Revival’ – another facebook group that happens to be controlled by the same moderator as Asatru UK – one Rich Blackett, a very tolerant and inclusive fellow