What’s Pan-africanism got to do with Marxism?

“The fight against Eurocentrism, a thing which does not allow for a life with dignity, is a struggle against the naturalization of racial oppression in the social condition of the worker. For this reason, Pan-Africanism is a necessary understanding of class struggle.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Texto em Português (BR) aqui.

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A wall with all white male presidents of the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), and the day’s lecturer Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida.

In the second to last week of August, the Faculty of Law of the Federal University of Bahia, in Salvador, hosted the first cycle of a course on Marxism and Pan-Africanism. This course will be a recurring initiative to discuss concepts and disseminate knowledge not only for law students in the university. From the 20th to the 23rd, the doors of the main auditorium were open to everyone with an interest in the event, free of charge. It was not just a lecture on the perspective of black women, on the history of white supremacy and capitalism, or on the meaning of Pan-Africanism. It was a meeting of exchange that brought together speakers, teachers, poets, students, writers, artists and more, many of whom were not always welcome in that space. Due value must be given to the initiative to address anti-capitalist and anti-racist issues and practices in the academic environment where Brazilian Law is researched and enforced.

On the first day of the course, before the lecture of Dr. Lindinalva de Paula, there was a warm welcome from the table and exciting performances of theater and poetry. The topic of the lecture, the perspective of black women on Pan-Africanism, was fully expressed in everyone’s chest when Sophia Araujo stepped on stage and presented her poetry- in the presence of her daughter named Dandara (also the name of a notorious enslaved woman of the 17th century). The bridge between the reality of the streets today, and the theoretical debate of centenary ideologies, has materialized in an environment that has been historically hostile against both.

One of the participants at the beginning of the event stated not only the relevance of us being there, but the obligation we have to occupy that space. She reports that in that same room she has been booed for defending affirmative action, and many have been booed for trying to address anti-racism. Combating institutional racism needs the production of anti-racist knowledge, bringing other non-European rationalities to the academic environment. This means not only studying, but transforming.

“Until the lions have their own historians, hunting stories will continue to glorify the hunter.” (Eduardo Galeano)

Leno Sacramento, from the Olodum Theater, presented a shocking performance on police oppression, addressing the psychological and physical violence that compose our incessant denunciations against the genocide of black people. Nor can we forget the invisibilisation and ideological silencing of black and indigenous peoples, reinforced by epistemic-genocide, which brings us the famous phrase “death begins before the shot” (Pedro Borges).

The event was not restricted to the urban context, a link between the rural area and the urban area was also forged. There was a representative affirmation of Union power in contrast to the corporate one. And the presence of members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) brought to the table the struggle of black peasants. Therefore the symbiosis of land, class, and race was demonstrated in theoretical and practical ways.

“I am landless / I am poor / I am black / I am a revolution” (Raumi Souza, musician and MST member)

Dr. Lindinalva de Paula’s talk had a simple and indispensable message: Together, black women go further. Alone they may walk fast, but even with all their titles, it is a trap. “Our steps come from afar,” she said, referring to all the black women who came before us, and made our way possible today. They were part of a feminism that was not Eurocentric, that burned no bras, and was not ignorant of Africa. They had different guidelines; for example, daycare, which was not a white feminist agenda because they had access to basic health, and when they got pregnant they could hire a black woman to help. In the periphery, and before, black women were already feminists.

“We did not become feminists, we did not know we were doing feminism all along.” (Dr. Lindinalva de Paula)

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The following day, the lecture by Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira also addressed the issue of the black movement’s dialogue with whiteness, only from a more Marxist perspective. In contrast to the previous speaker, who at no point demonstrated any value in the political collaboration between black women and white feminists, he argued that despite the position of undeniable whiteness from which Marx and Engels spoke, they did not reproduce the racism of their time. At least not after a certain point in their careers. Therefore, for him, there is no contradiction in adopting the philosophies of these thinkers in the anti-racist or Pan-Africanist struggle.

Before the course began, attendees received an email with a video of a debate that clearly shows the tense divergence within the Pan-africanist movement between Afrocentric and Marxist thinkers. Eurocentrism, as a worldview where racism is put into practice, has no place in Pan-africanist doctrine. While Afrocentrics believe that adopting Marxism means giving space to a Eurocentric doctrine, Marxists such as Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira believe that Marx and Engels overcame their inherited Eurocentrism and fought against racism.

“Were Marx and Engels racist?” To the lecturer, no. They undoubtedly studied the texts of people contaminated by ‘ethnocentrism’, such as Hegel, who believed that world history was an evolutionary process from the East to the West, concluding that Africa, having a stateless people, had no history. They were not only European intellectuals, but they were German, in a colonial and enslaver period that oppressed even the peripheries of their own continent (the Slavs), but eventually they joined the struggle against slavery and against colonialism.

If Marx and Engels’ struggle against slavery and colonialism was indeed an anti-racist act, it remained open. They stood in favor of anti-colonial revolts in India and China, defending them as strategies proportional to the violence of capitalism and colonialism. They also defended the North in the U.S. civil war, denouncing biased journalism in Britain that had economic interests in cotton production in the South. Marx even “let” his daughter marry a Haitian of Afro-descent. That is what it means to be anti-racist in the 19th century, even if these are no longer our standards for determining whether someone is racist or not today. Unfortunately, the lecturer hinted that racism was once more palpable back then, and that our criteria for categorizing racism today is subjective; it is enough to say that African paganism is “of the devil”.

This reading does not work for everyone. A member of the audience questioned whether these arguments are enough to determine whether or not someone was racist. Being abolitionist, at that time, was a position held by many who had interests far from being the destruction of white supremacy. Having a black relative also means nothing, since even Bolsonaro tried to use this argument to reassure that he is not racist. Others have brought the question of how racism persisted after socialist revolutions in Cuba and Russia. And the Afrocentric Pan-africanist organization React or Die asked to have their flag removed from the event, but maintaining cordial relations and organizers of the course demonstrating full support for their VI International March Against the Genocide of the Black People that happened 4 days later, August 25th, and to the “Don’t Vote, React!” campaign.

Since the 19th century, racism has not ceased to be palpable and real. From medical genocide, necropolitics, mass incarceration, to police violence, our criteria for denouncing racism still holds immense weight on the bodies of black people in Brazil. A Marxism that is not anti-racist is possible, but for the speaker, being a Marxist without being anti-racist is an appropriation of the term. An anti-racism that is not Marxist is unquestionably embraced, since our goal is human emancipation and we fight against all forms of oppression. We do not have to be Marxist to be anti-capitalist. Other anti-capitalist guidelines are more than welcome.

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Soviet Poster (1960)

Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, the speaker the following 3 days of the course, presented a different perspective on the relationship between Eurocentrism and Marxism. What Marxism and Pan-Africanism have in common is that they are effective ideologies in dealing with historical moments of conflict. It’s not possible to essentialize the two ideologies. There is no homogeneity, there is history. The movement of history is one of transformation and conflict.

Some say they don’t want to read white writers, but those who kill us have only what to gain from that. “They are horrible indeed,” he said, but it is not consistent to read Fanon without reading Hegel, for example. Even though Hegel had extremely ethno / Eurocentric rhetoric, and undeniably racist stances, he also introduced us to the dialectic between the master and the enslaved.

W.e.b. Du Bois was the first black man with a Harvard doctorate. Without theory, practice submits itself to the immediate. But Marxism has nothing to teach the worker. “Theory of the Strike?” Uniting theory and practice, intellectuals and politicians, means joining the agenda of thought with political practice, since the transformation of the world depends on us understanding the world.

At the same time, the act of transformation transforms the practitioner: Praxis. The future must be built and can be transformed. In the midst of many fantastic examples and analyzes, perhaps the most striking example of the union of theory and practice, praxis, and transformation, was the presentation of the concept of naturalization of the condition of exploitation.

Naturalizing the social condition of the worker happens through the Capitalist ideology. Their condition is naturalized within the system by the social division of labor, which depends on race and gender. These social relations are concrete. They are social relations that give meaning to things. Therefore, the relationship between Africa, race, slavery, and blackness is a socialization. Race itself is a historical creation. Racism created the black, and created its antithesis, the white. The fight against Eurocentrism, a thing which does not allow for a life with dignity, is a struggle against the naturalization of racial oppression in the social condition of the worker. For this reason, Pan-Africanism is a necessary understanding of class struggle.

Jal Souza, one of the attendees, explains this phenomenon wonderfully from his personal perspective:

“While the children of the elite study to develop critical thinking, young working-class people are committed to increasing the small profit of the family, and thus are not allowed intellectual development. I remember a youth, poor financially, where to open a book was seen as an act of pure entertainment and laziness, for there is no value recognized in those words but rather contempt. Time spent reading should be employed in paid work. The irrelevance of the study and relevance of basic manual labor makes it difficult for boys and girls from the peripheries to see themselves in educational institutions. Therefore, they occupy the positions of worse remuneration and greater physical effort, without representation in political organizations, and without knowing how to claim and conquer rights. Rich and white men, those who are most interested in keeping the mechanisms of the system in place, decide the future of all.” (Jal Souza)

While Marxism makes contact with reality by piercing to ideology, structural racism is the social fabric that sustains institutions. We can advance in isolated institutional contexts, without even beginning to change this structure. Racism consists not only of conscious actions, but also of the unconscious ones, those in the economic, political, and subjective level. In fact, the “demonization” of African cultures leads black people to lose identity and to accept the structure as natural and immutable.

The last day of the lecture took place in the Brazilian Bar Association, the institution where the abolition of slavery was discussed in Brazil. Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida again shared a moving and inspiring speech, this time on the legacy of the thinker, artist, and now officially lawyer, Luiz Gama.

Slavery has different moments, and Luis Gama lived during the most brutal of them. He was a lawyer for enslaved people, and accused the public power, the empire, putting it in the press and using public opinion in his favor. In 1881 there was a lynching of 4 enslaved whom he considered heroes. Those people were lynched because they killed their “lord.” Luis Gama boldly stated publicly that it is important to be radical against an evil that is even more radical, and that these enslaved men killed in self-defense. Killing the master is self-defense. This led him to be persecuted. His story is active resistance.

Luiz Gama is an idea. An idea that materialized there at that moment, in that room in the Brazilian Bar Association. “His story is in each one of us.” (Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida)


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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Para Além dos Muros: A Academia e o Debate Antirracista

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Na penúltima semana de Agosto, a Faculdade de Direito da UFBA hospedou o primeiro ciclo de formação do curso de Marxismo e Pan-Africanismo. Esse curso será uma iniciativa recorrente de debater e disseminar conhecimento, não só para alunos(as) de direito na universidade. Do dia 20 a 23, as portas do principal auditório estavam abertas para todos e todas com interesse no evento, gratuitamente. Não foi apenas uma palestra sobre a perspectiva de mulheres negras, sobre a historia da supremacia branca e do capitalismo, ou sobre o significado de Pan-africanismo. Foi um encontro de aprendizado e troca que reuniu palestrantes, professores(as), poetas, alunos(as), escritores(as), artistas e mais, muitos dos quais nem sempre foram bem-vindos naquele espaço. Devido valor deve ser dado à iniciativa de abordar os temas e práticas anti-capitalistas e antirracistas no ambiente acadêmico onde pesquisa-se e aplica-se a Lei.

No primeiro dia de curso, antes da palestra da Dr. Lindinalva de Paula, houve um caloroso bem vindo da mesa e apresentações emocionantes de teatro e poesia. O tópico da palestra, a perspectiva das mulheres negras sobre o Pan-africanismo, foi expresso em completo no peito de todos e todas quando Sophia Araújo subiu no palco e apresentou suas poesias- na presença de sua filha chamada Dandara. A ponte entre a realidade das ruas hoje, e o debate teórico de ideologias centenárias, se concretizou em um ambiente que foi historicamente hostil contra os dois.

Uma das participantes da mesa no inicio do evento afirmou não só a relevância de estarmos ali, mas a obrigação que temos de ocupar aquele espaço. Ela relata que naquela mesma sala ela ja foi vaiada por falar de cotas, e muitos já foram vaiados por tentar abordar o tema de antirracismo. Combater o racismo institucional demanda a produção de conhecimento antirracista, trazendo outras racionalidades não européias pra conjuntura acadêmica. Isso significa não só estudar, mas transformar.

“Até que os leões tenham seus próprios historiadores, as histórias de caçadas continuarão glorificando o caçador.” (Eduardo Galeano)

Leno Sacramento, do Teatro do Olodum, apresentou uma peça impactante sobre opressão policial, abordando a violência psicológica e física que compõe nossas incessantes denúncias contra o genocídio do povo negro. Também não podemos esquecer da invisibilisação e silenciamento ideológico de povos negros e indígenas, reforçado pelo epistemicídio, que nos traz a famosa frase “a morte começa antes do tiro” (Pedro Borges).

O evento não se restringiu ao contexto urbano, um vinculo entre a zona rural e a zona urbana também foi forjado. Houve afirmação representativa do poder sindical em contraste ao corporativo. E a presença de membros do MST trouxe à mesa a luta de camponeses e camponesas negras. Portanto a simbiose de terra, classe e raça foi demonstrada de forma teórica e prática.

“Sou sem terra / sou pobre / sou negão / sou revolução” (Raumi Souza, músico e membro do MST)

A palestra da Dr. Lindinalva de Paula teve uma simples e indispensável mensagem: Juntas, as mulheres negras andam mais longe. Sozinhas talvez andam rápido, mas mesmo com todos os seus títulos, é cilada. “Seus passos vem de longe”, ela falou, referindo-se a todas as mulheres negras que vieram antes de nós, e possibilitaram esse caminho hoje. Winnie Mandela, Amy Jacques Garvey, Lélia Gonzalez, Assata Shakur, Anna Júlia cooper são algumas delas. Unir mulher e raça significa reconhecer que existem feminismos (em plural). Existe um feminismo que não era branco eurocentrado e que queimava sutiã, já que haviam mulheres que nem usavam sutiã. Esse feminismo completamente desconhece a África, e não tem as mesmas pautas. Creche, por exemplo, não é pauta da feminista branca porque que ela tem acesso à saude básica, e quando engravidava tinha como contratar uma negra pra ajudar. Na periferia e antes, as mulheres negras já eram feministas.

“Não nos tornamos feministas, não sabíamos que estávamos fazendo feminismo o tempo todo”. (Dr. Lindinalva de Paula)

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No dia seguinte, a palestra do Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira também abordou a questão do diálogo do movimento negro com a branquitude, só que de uma perspectiva mais propriamente Marxista. Em contraste com a palestrante anterior, que em momento algum demonstrou valor na colaboração politica entre mulheres negras e feministas brancas, ele argumentou que apesar da posição de inegável branquidade da qual Marx e Engels falavam, eles não reproduziam o racismo de seu tempo. Pelo menos não depois de um certo período de suas carreiras. Portanto, pra ele, não ha contradição alguma em adotar as filosofias desses pensadores na luta antirracista, ou Pan-Africanista.

Antes do curso começar, inscritos e inscritas receberam um email com o video de um debate que mostra claramente a tensa divergência dentro do movimento Pan-africanista entre Afrocêntricos e Marxistas. O Eurocentrismo, como uma visão do mundo onde o racismo é colocado em prática, não tem espaço na doutrina pan-africanista. Enquanto Afrocêntricos acreditam que se reivindicar Marxista significa dar esse espaço para uma doutrina Eurocentrica, Marxistas como Dr. Muniz Gonçalves Ferreira acreditam que Marx e Engels superaram seu Eurocentrismo herdado, e lutaram contra o racismo.

“Marx e Engels eram racistas?”, pra o Dr. não. Sem duvida eles estudavam textos de pessoas contaminadas pelo “etnocentrismo”; como Hegel, que acreditada que a história mundial era um processo evolutivo do oriente em direção ao ocidente, concluindo que a Africa, por ter um povo sem estado/civilização, não tinha historia. Eles eram dois intelectuais não só europeus, mas alemães, em um período colonial e escravagista que oprimia até as periferias de seu próprio continente (os eslavos). Mas eventualmente eles se uniram à luta contra a escravidão, e contra o colonialismo.

Se a luta de Marx e Engels contra a escravidão e o colonialismo foi de fato um ato antirracista ficou em aberto. Eles se posicionaram a favor de revoltas anti-coloniais na India e na China, as defendendo como estratégias proporcionais a violência do capitalismo e do colonialismo. Também defenderam o Norte na guerra civil Norte Americana, denunciando o jornalismo tendencioso na Inglaterra que tinham interesses econômicos na produção de algodão no Sul. Marx até “deixou” sua filha casar com um afro-descendente haitiano. Isso é o que significa ser antirracista no século 19, mesmo que esses não sejam mais nossos padrões para determinar se alguém é racista ou não hoje. Infelizmente, ele insinuou que o racismo antigamente era mais palpável, e que nosso critério pra categorizar racismo hoje em dia é subjetivo; basta falar que “o Candomblé é do diabo”.

Essa leitura não funciona pra todos. Um membro da audiência questionou no bloco de perguntas se esses argumentos são o suficiente pra determinar se alguém era ou não era racista. Ser abolicionista, naquela época, era um posicionamento mantido por muitos que tinham interesses longe de ser a destruição da supremacia branca. Ter um familiar negro também não significa nada, já que até Bolsonaro tentou usar esse argumento pra afirmar que não é racista. Outros trouxeram a questão do racismo que persistiu após revoluções socialistas em Cuba e na Russia. E a organização Pan-africanista Afrocêntrica Reaja ou será Mortx pediu para ter sua bandeira removida do evento, mas mantendo relações cordiais e organizadores do curso demonstrando completo apoio à VI Marcha Internacional Contra o Genocídio do Povo Negro que aconteceu 4 dias depois, dia 25 de Agosto, e à campanha “Não Vote, Reaja!”.

Dês do século 19, o racismo não deixou de ser palpável. Do genocídio hospitalar, necropolítica, encarceramento em massa, à violência policial, nossos critérios para denunciar racismo ainda segura um peso imenso nos corpos de negros e negras no nosso país. Um Marxismo que não seja antirracista é possível, mas para o palestrante, ser marxista sem ser antirracista é uma apropriação do termo. Um antirracismo que não seja Marxista é inquestionavelmente abraçado, já que o nosso objetivo é a emancipação humana e lutar contra todas as formas de opressão. Não precisamos ser Marxistas pra ser anti-capitalistas. Outras pautas anti-capitalistas são bem vindas.

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Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, o palestrante não só do dia seguinte mas dos 3 dias seguintes do curso, apresentou uma perspectiva diferenciada sobre a relação do Eurocentrismo com o Marxismo. O que o Marxismo e o Pan-africanismo tem em comum é que são ideologias eficazes ao lidar com momentos históricos de conflito. Não é possível essencializar as duas ideologias. Não existe homogeneidade, existe história. O movimento da História é de transformação e conflito.

Alguns falam que não querem ler autores brancos, mas “quem nos mata só tem a ganhar com isso”. “Eles são horrorosos mesmo”, ele disse, mas não é coerente ler Fanon sem ler Hegel, por exemplo. Mesmo Hegel tendo seus posicionamentos extremamente etno/euro-cêntricos e inegavelmente racistas, foi ele também que nos apresentou a dialética entre mestre e escravizado.

W.e.b. Du Bois foi o primeiro negro com doutorado de Harvard. Sem a teoria, a prática se submete ao imediato. Mas o Marxismo não tem nada a ensinar ao trabalhador. “Teoria da Greve?” Unir teoria e prática, intelectuais e políticos, significa unir a pauta de compreensão com a prática política, já que a transformação do mundo depende de nós entendermos o mundo.

Ao mesmo tempo, a ação transformadora transforma o praticante: Praxis. O futuro deve ser construído e pode ser transformado. Em meio de muitos fantásticos exemplos e analises, talvez o mais impactante exemplo de união de teoria e pratica, práxis, e transformação, foi a apresentação do conceito de naturalização da condição de explorado.

Naturalizar a condição social do trabalhador acontece pela ideologia Capitalista. Naturaliza-se sua condição dentro do sistema pela divisão social do trabalho, que depende da raça e do gênero. Essas relações sociais são concretas. São relações sociais que dão sentido para as coisas. A relação entre África, raça, escravidão, e negro, portanto, é uma socialização. Raça em si é uma criação histórica. O racismo criou o negro, e criou sua antítese, o branco. A luta contra o Eurocentrismo, uma coisa que não viabiliza uma vida com dignidade, é uma luta contra a naturalização da opressão racial na condição social do trabalhador. Por isso, o Pan-africanismo é uma compreensão necessária da luta de classe.

Jal Souza, um dos ouvintes da palestra, explica esse fenômeno maravilhosamente a partir de sua perspectiva pessoal:

“Enquanto os filhos da elite e dos pequenos burgueses estudam para elevar o pensamento crítico, os jovens da classe trabalhadora estão empenhados em aumentar o pequeno lucro da família, e portanto, não se permitem ao desenvolvimento intelectual. Recordo de uma juventude, pobre financeiramente, onde abrir um livro era visto como um ato de puro entretenimento e preguiça, pois, não ha valor reconhecido naquelas palavras, mas sim desprezo. Aquele tempo gasto com leitura deveria ser empregado em um trabalho remunerado. A medição da sabedoria é medida pela capacidade de ganhar dinheiro, não pelo conhecimento. A irrelevância do estudo e valorização do trabalho básico e braçal faz com que os meninos e meninas das periferias não se enxerguem em instituições de ensino. Portanto, ocupam os postos de trabalhos de pior remuneração e maior esforço físico, sem representação nas organizações políticas, e sem saber reivindicar e conquistar direitos. Permitindo assim, que os homens brancos e ricos, os maiores interessados em manter os mecanismos do sistema vigente, decidam o futuro de todos.” (Jal Souza)

Dia 23 de Agosto foi o lançamento do livro O Que é Racismo Estrutural? do Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida, na Senzala do Barro Preto.

O espaço cultural Senzala do Barro Preto é sede do bloco afro Ilê Ayiê, “uma entidade carnavalesca que funciona como centro cultural no bairro do Curuzú, ensinando e difundindo entre os moradores da localidade e regiões próximas à identidade africana, mostrando com orgulho o poder da ancestralidade, religiosidade e construção dos negros no Brasil e internacionalmente.” (Jal Souza)

Enquanto o Marxismo faz contato com a realidade furando a ideologia, o racismo estrutural é o tecido social que sustenta instituições. Podemos avançar em contextos isolados institucionais, sem nem começar a mudar essa estrutura. O racismo não constitui apenas de ações conscientes, mas também das inconscientes, as do nível econômico, político e subjetivo. Aliás, a “demonizaçāo” das culturas africanas leva o negro perder sua identidade e a aceitar a estrutura como natural e imutável.

A performance do grupo indígena Ybytu Emi trouxe a pauta artística, musical, e teatral como expressão das raizes entrelaçadas da comunidade indígena e negra brasileira. Nítido ficou o entrelaço dos índios na vanguarda da proteção da cultura africana no Brasil, no passado, e das religiões afros preservando a cultura indígena, no presente.

E por fim, o ultimo dia de palestra aconteceu na Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil, uma instituição onde discutia-se a abolição da escravatura no Brasil. Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida novamente compartilhou um discurso comovente e inspirador, dessa vez sobre o legado do pensador, artista, e agora oficialmente advogado, Luiz Gama.

A escravidão tem momentos diferentes, e Luis Gama viveu durante o mais brutal deles. Ele era advogado pra pessoas escravizadas, e acusava o poder público, o império, colocando na imprensa e usando a opinião pública no seu interesse. Em 1881 houve um linchamento de 4 escravizados que ele considerava heróis. Aquelas pessoas foram linchadas porque mataram o “senhor”. Luis Gama corajosamente afirmou publicamente que é importante ser radical contra um mal que é mais radical ainda, e que esses escravizados mataram em legítima defesa. Matar senhor de engenho é legítima defesa. Isso o levou a ser perseguido. Sua historia é uma resistência ativa.

Luiz Gama é uma idéia. Uma idéia que se materializou ali naquele momento, naquela mesa na AOB. “A história dele esta em cada um e uma de nós.” (Dr. Silvio Luiz de Almeida)


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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é militante anti-fascista/decolonial, e feminista interseccional. Ela edita o site Gods and Radicals.

The Tragedy of Brazil’s National Museum Started Much Before the Fire

If we’re gonna talk about the carelessness with which we deal with valuable artifacts, we must also talk about how we attach value to those artifacts, and the undeniable Ethno/euro-centrism involved in that process.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Texto em Português (BR) aqui.

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“It’s a National duty to rebuild it from the ashes, even if it is not the original it will forever be a memory of the royal family that gave us our independence.” (Marcelo Crivella, Rio de Janeiro’s Governor)

It’s safe to say the whole country of Brazil was dumbfounded watching the National Museum literally go up in flames, as if it was our turn to be destroyed by the aliens from Independence Day. When it was over, we were all left oscillating in the range of emotions between rage and sorrow, mourning the loss of irreplaceable objects, and 200 years worth of people’s work.

We’ve been careless with our material History and irresponsible in preserving memory for as long as this Museum existed, why are we so upset now? Our indignation seems to come from shame for not living up to an European standard of possessing History.

Ten years ago there was a criminal fire that destroyed an indigenous community not far from where the Museum is, and virtually no one took to the streets. We talk about all the records of Indigenous languages that were lost inside this Colonial building, but what are we doing to the Indigenous people alive here now? We don’t see them as having history, we see them as obstacles for development. This is what truly makes me oscillate in the range of emotions between rage and sorrow, year after year.

Part of the fascination we had with that Museum wasn’t necessarily all the valuable objects that were inside, it’s about who attaches value to these things. The royal atmosphere of the space comes from it being one of the few places with authentic European style architecture in our country. One of the people in their fundraising video from last year said that when you walk up the stairs of the museum you can easily imagine walking into a Gala from the Royal Family, which is why she fell in love with the place.

The National Museum is the oldest scientific institution of Brazil. Let that sink in. Academia, alongside the Monarchy, and the Catholic Church, were Medieval institutions introduced to us hundreds of years ago, that today we still feel the desperate need to preserve without properly accessing the genocidal role they’ve played in our lives. While I see the tragedy of the event and feel the horror of the loss, I think it’s important to address our internalized Eurocentric views that lead us to believe Europe and European institutions are the havers and holders of History.

The concept of what it means to be a Human being, as developed in Western Europe in the 16th century, was very much tied to the idea of Having history, and therefore of being civilized. The loss of this “History”, these artifacts, brings up from our colonized idiosyncrasies the feeling of being less human. Tragic is how we still treat our Indigenous and Quilombist communities as less human, as not really having History, or not worthy of having their land and their homes preserved.

Haven’t we seen what happens when we leave History in the hands of European Institutions? They steal, then whitewash, distort or destroy. Egypt, for instance, has wanted its treasures back for years. They were colonized and Europe has profited from what they stole ever since. We as a society are still struggling to unlearn the teachings of an ethnocentric campaign that created the idea that Africa has no History. We learned that the evolution of humanity has been Northwards and Westwards, and we conveniently forgot that Egypt is black and African, not white and Northern Mediterranean like Greece.

Brazil also had its memory distorted, and we go along with it. Indigenous peoples were massacred and portrayed in Europe as savage animals. To this day European museums proudly display the works of white men who painted naked Indigenous women alongside made-up animals and plants. Here we internalize that rhetoric, we whiten ourselves, and reject all other ancestry.

If we’re gonna talk about the carelessness with which we deal with valuable artifacts, we must also talk about how we attach value to those artifacts, and the undeniable Ethno/euro-centrism involved in that process. As, if not more, important than rebuilding this institution is combating epistemic-genocide which has been annihilating our people and our History for hundreds of years.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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TRADUÇÃO PORTUGUÊS

A tragédia do Museu Nacional começou muito antes do incêndio

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O país inteiro ficou perplexo ao ver o Museu Nacional literalmente em chamas, como se fosse nossa vez de ser destruídos pelos alienígenas do Independence Day. Quando acabou, oscilamos entre emoções de raiva e tristeza, lamentando a perda de objetos insubstituíveis e 200 anos de trabalho de muitas pessoas.

Fomos descuidados com nossa história material e irresponsáveis com a preservação de nossa memória desde sempre que este museu existe, por que estamos chateados agora? Nossa indignação parece vir da vergonha de ter falhado em alcançar um padrão europeu de possuir História.

Dez anos atrás, houve um incêndio criminoso que destruiu uma comunidade indígena não muito distante do Museu (em Camboinhas), e praticamente ninguém foi às ruas. Nós falamos sobre todos os registros de línguas indígenas que foram perdidos dentro deste edifício colonial, mas o que estamos fazendo para proteger os povos indígenas vivos aqui agora? Nós não os vemos como tendo história, nós os vemos como obstáculos para o desenvolvimento. Isso é o que realmente me faz oscilar entre emoções de raiva e tristeza, ano após ano.

Parte do fascínio que temos com o Museu não é necessariamente todos os objetos valiosos que estavam ali dentro, é sobre quem atribui valor à essas coisas. A atmosfera Real do espaço vem do fato de que é um dos poucos lugares com arquitetura de estilo europeu autêntico em nosso país. Uma das pessoas no vídeo de “Campanha para a requalificação do Museu Nacional” do ano passado disse que quando você sobe as escadas do museu pode-se facilmente imaginar um baile da família real, e é por isso que ela se apaixonou pelo local.

O Museu Nacional é a instituição científica mais antiga do Brasil. A Academia, juntamente com a Monarquia, e a Igreja Católica, foram instituições medievais introduzidas aqui centenas de anos atrás, e que hoje ainda sentimos a necessidade de preservar sem analisar adequadamente o papel genocida que elas tiveram em nossas vidas. Embora eu veja a tragédia do evento e sinta o horror da perda, acho importante abordar nossas visões subconscientemente eurocêntricas que nos levam a acreditar que a Europa e as instituições européias são detentoras da História.

O conceito de o que significa ser humano, desenvolvido na Europa Ocidental no século XVI, estava muito ligado à idéia de ter história e, portanto, de ser civilizado. A perda desta “História”, esses artefatos, traz de nossas idiossincrasias colonizadas a sensação de sermos menos humanos. Trágico é como ainda tratamos nossas comunidades indígenas e quilombolas como menos humanas, como não tendo realmente história, ou não dignas de ter suas terras e seus lares preservados.

Não vemos o que acontece quando deixamos a História nas mãos de instituições europeias? Roubam, depois embranquecem, distorcem ou destroem. O Egito, por exemplo, quer seus tesouros de volta há anos. Eles foram colonizados e a Europa lucrou com o que eles roubaram desde então. Nós, como sociedade, ainda estamos lutando para desaprender os ensinamentos de uma campanha etnocêntrica que criou a idéia de que a África não tem História. Aprendemos que a evolução da humanidade foi em direção ao norte e ao oeste, e convenientemente esquecemos de que o Egito é negro e africano, não branco e do norte do Mediterrâneo como a Grécia.

O Brasil também teve sua memória distorcida, e aceitamos. Os povos indígenas foram massacrados e retratados na Europa como animais selvagens. Até hoje, os museus europeus exibem com orgulho as obras de homens brancos que pintaram mulheres nativas nuas ao lado de animais e plantas inventados. Internalizamos essa retórica, nos embranquecemos, e rejeitamos nossas outras ancestralidades.

Se vamos falar sobre o descuido com qual lidamos com artefatos valiosos, devemos também falar sobre como atribuímos valor a esses artefatos, e o inegável Etno / eurocentrismo envolvido nesse processo. Tão importante quanto, se não mais do que, reconstruir esta instituição é combater o epistemicidio que tem aniquilado nosso povo e nossa história por centenas de anos.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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é militante anti-fascista/decolonial, e feminista interseccional. Edita o site de Gods and Radicals, é filósofa e professora.

Anti-fascism and the Left’s Euro-Secular Arrogance

Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And that cannot be done without interrogating the secular arrogance of the left’s “founding fathers.”

An editorial, from Rhyd Wildermuth

Perplexity, shock, and a revulsion she tried to temper with all else she knew of us rippled across her face after we said the words to her:

“We’re pagan.”

“But you two…you’re both anarchists and anti-fascists! How…how can you two also believe that stuff?”

We’d met through my partner. Both were in the same graduate history program; her work focused on the Nazi extermination of Jews during the Shoah and the ways those histories have been written since; his focus was upon the alternative occult and queer communities in Berlin that the Nazis both crushed and appropriated in their march to power.

Most of our bonding came from our life experiences, however. We were all anarchists, had done anti-fascist work, were all queer, and had lived similar counter-cultural lives. Despite all we shared, despite already being good friends, my partner and I had been quite scared of telling her what we believed.

The conversation which followed our confession was long and sometimes heated. But it was around a table on a balcony overlooking a lake, with food and tea and German beer, and because we were all friends who genuinely wanted to understand each other (rather than merely wanting to be heard), we not only stayed friends but became better friends.

I remember what she said to us that night, because it was the first time we’d ever heard anything of the sort: “this goes against everything I have known, but I believe you that it’s possible to be Pagan and not fascist.”

Especially to those with shorter histories in anarchist and anti-fascist spaces, this conversation might not seem very significant. But for me, more than ten years ago, it felt like pure freedom and hope. Before then, whenever I told other anarchists or communists in the US or Europe that I was a Pagan, the response was almost always something along the lines of: “Wait…you’re a fascist?” Those who didn’t immediately make that conclusion instead responded with words less accusatory but no less dismissive, such as “that’s all nonsense.”

I’d been derided enough times that I learned to keep my beliefs as private as possible. I learned to smile pleasantly when atheism and anti-religious dogma was repeated in speeches at protests and organizational meetings. “No gods no masters” was an unquestionable foundation of every anarchist gathering, never to be challenged. And though my entire experience of the living world ran counter to the secular-scientific atheist consensus in the anarchist and socialist groups I worked with, keeping silent about what I believed was better than being lectured, laughed at, or more often: labeled a fascist.

So when my friend (herself an atheist, an anti-fascist organizer, and later a curator of anti-fascist and anti-nationalist museum exhibitions in Germany) accepted my apparently contradictory positions (being against fascism, being deeply Pagan), relief flooded my soul.

Her acceptance gave me the confidence to broach the subject with others in political spaces. Though most of the conversations repeated the same dismissals (or worse) that I had experienced before, I was able to slowly find others who would cautiously confess that they themselves also held similar beliefs. I remember an IWW and Solidarity Network organizer telling me in an anarchist bookshop (after looking around herself first to see who might hear her say it) that she read tarot. I remember a leftist social worker who also did sex work admitting she kept an altar and did protection magic. And I remember meeting a burnt-out anarchist magician coming to life again upon finding someone he could finally talk to about his work.

European Leftism, European Atheism

There are several reasons we had all felt both embittered and scared of being open about our beliefs.

Most of these reasons are historical. Anarchism and communism were both first articulated in Europe during a time when being anything other than atheist marked you as anti-intellectual and aligned with bourgeois values. Proudhon, Marx, Stirner, Bukunin–pretty much all of the early philosophers of anarchism or communism (with Tolstoy a significant exception) were not just dismissive of spiritual beliefs, but aggressively hostile.

Any astute reader of the aforementioned paragraph, however, will note that the philosophers of whom I am speaking are all of European origin or derivation. This is an important fact, because the atheism that was carried into leftist thought was a European atheism. Being European, it bore with it utterly unnoticed colonial conceits. While many were influenced by indigenous (including Iroquois) forms of autonomous self-government and anti-colonial struggle, the European narrative of progress (which posits that all societies eventually “progress” from animist and polytheist beliefs into monotheism and finally atheism) prevented these philosophers and theorists from accepting the metaphysically animist nature of the cultures that inspired them.

This arrogance is what then allowed communists, anarchists, and socialists to argue that indigenous cultures would need to relinquish their non-scientific (that is, non-European) beliefs and worldviews in order to achieve full liberation. No gods no masters was not just a rallying cry but an imperative, and this has in no small part led many indigenous cultures to reject some leftist ideologies as continuations of colonial oppression.

This arrogance was rarely subtle in the leftist spaces in which I moved. I listened to socialists, anarchists, and communists (sometimes to crowds of thousands) say that First Nations and indigenous peoples of other continents must eventually come into the 21st century and “throw off the chains” of shamanic and other traditional beliefs. Never once did I hear this challenged in those spaces.

As non-indigenous adherents to reconstructed Pagan beliefs, my partner and I had even less ground to stand upon in these arguments. Though the “backwardness” of indigenous people gave them some time to change, we were white, which meant we were supposed to have moved beyond such beliefs centuries ago. We were “lifestylists,” according to the worshipers of Bookchin and  “immature” according to the Scientific Socialist currents birthed by Trotsky and Lenin. But worse than this, we are also “crypto-fascists.”

There is another root to this accusation. The history of Paganism and occultism in Europe during the 19th and  20th century is unfortunately rife with fascist forms. Esoteric fascists such as Julius Evola evoked Pagan forms in their writing, Theosophy and the Golden Dawn both had adherents who were sympathetic to fascist forms, and of course some Nazis attempted a re-invigoration of ancient Germanic religious beliefs. But socialists and anarchists also evoked Pagan forms, and the aformentioned occult traditions (Theosophy and the Golden Dawn) had more intersections with leftist groups than they did with the right (*a good source for more on this is Affective Communities by Leela Ghandi). Further back, as Peter Linebaugh has shown repeatedly in his works, leftist and anarchist resistance to Capitalism in Ireland and England often evoked ancient pagan gods (particularly the Whiteboys in Ireland and the Luddites in England) and pagan forms (such as May Day) as part of their resistance.

So while a case can be made that Pagan, esoteric, and occult forms are fascist and do not belong in leftist or anarchist movements, the exact case can also be made that they were important parts of leftist and anarchist movements from the very beginning. Thus, leftists who label Pagan beliefs as fascist by pointing to historical connections are only ever looking at half of the evidence, if they are even looking at all.

Why they would appear to miss that evidence has been addressed succinctly by post-colonial historian Dipesh Chakrabarty in his work, Provincializing Europe. Basically–European secularism is an artificial narrative, and it is one which attempts to overwrite its own non-secularism. Erasing traces of folk traditions and religious beliefs within European (and generally Western) societies helps European societies and intellectuals see themselves as more “advanced” and “modern” than the rest of the world. That is, this secular-atheism is a product of its own colonial arrogance.

The continuation of this arrogance in Anti-fascism

Anarchism, Communism, Socialism, and especially Anti-fascism has never really interrogated this arrogance. This becomes a particular problem now that we are seeing increasingly public displays of aggressive white nationalist, anti-immigrant, and extreme right rhetoric in the United States and Europe.

This rise is absolutely cause for concern. Unfortunately, the violence of their ideologies and their actual physical violence has initiated quite a few panicked and uncalculated responses to their threat, some of which spread patently false information. In such a panicked state, we can clearly see the symptoms of this un-examined arrogance.

For instance, consider this image from the U.K. group Brighton Anti-Fascists:

Text reads:” Know your enemy–NeoNazi symbols & codes Nazis and white supremacists often use codes and symbols to disguise their true politics. Memorise these symbols–if you spot one (of[sic] more) of them, you’ve probably got yourself a fascist!”
I encountered this image with great dismay after it was shared by another anti-fascist group. Dismay might not even be the correct word: I was horrified by the inclusion of one particularly image–that of the Valknut (third image from the left on the bottom row).

The Valknut is an ancient Nordic symbol found on stone work and textiles, and while its precise original meaning is unclear, it’s usually thought to have indicated the procession of ancestors and to honor warriors who died in battle. Currently, its most common uses are amongst those who adhere to Heathenism or Asatru, religions derived from Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. Some followers of these religions profess racist, exclusionary, and even fascist beliefs, but many more do not. I personally know several antifascist organizers who use this symbol, including one who has it tattooed on his body.

Claiming that the presence of the Valknut indicates that “you’ve probably got yourself a fascist!” is, therefore, no more true than claiming that a person wearing a cross is a child-molester or a person carrying a prayer mat in order to pray towards Mecca is a terrorist. That is, while there are Heathens who adhere to fascist beliefs, and no doubt there are fascists who adorn themselves with the Valknut, there is no correlation between the symbol and the violence of the extreme right.

The presence of the Valknut in this list of “NeoNazi symbols and codes” is not only misinformation, but it has other effects as well:

  • It damages the credibility of the anti-fascist organizations who disseminated it. Any reader aware of the much larger non-fascist and even anti-fascist uses of the symbol immediately understands that Brighton Antifascists don’t actually know what they’re talking about. People are thus less likely to take anything else they say seriously.
  • It causes unfair and damaging defamation of people who use the symbol and are not fascist, putting them into situations where they have to “prove” themselves not to be fascist.
  • It makes anti-fascism in general elsewhere lose credibility among those who are not yet politicized. Anti-fascists are often criticized for being “alarmist,” “fanatic,” and otherwise unable to distinguish symbolic meaning from actual threats; lists of symbols and codes that signify someone is a fascist increases this perception, and when those codes are demonstrably false such accusations become irrefutable.
  • It undermines years of work that anti-fascist Heathen groups (like Heathens United Against Racism/HUAR) have done to prevent their religious beliefs from being co-opted by white nationalist, supremacist, authoritarian, and explicitly fascist groups.
  • Perhaps worst of all, it increases the already-high fear and anxiety felt by oppressed peoples in a damaging way. The trauma experienced by those against whom the marches, rallies, and repeated identity-based violence of the various extreme-right groups occurs is already deep; inflating their fear through false information only helps those who wield terror against them.

The importance of this work

The Valknut is hardly the only symbol that that has been recently mis-labeled (see my previous critiques of such panics regarding the Tyr rune, red boot laces, the Black Sun and egoism, and the wolfsangel.)  And some of these mistakes can be ascribed to mere panic or a puerile fundamentalism that mistakes the symbolic for the real, much in the same way that Christian fundamentalists publish lists of “signs” your child is into the occult.

But a larger criticism is necessary.

The larger issue is that leftist, anarchists, and anti-fascist spaces in European and Anglo-American contexts have too long failed to re-evaluate their inherited Euro-atheist arrogance. The Valknut is an artifact of the pre-Christian cultural existence of Europe, one which has persisted into the present through folk customs and art. It’s part of the paganism that European secularism–especially now in its Anglo-American leftist forms–tries to forget it ever was. And by forgetting, it gives over those who find meaning in such things to the very fascists it claims to fight.

Much has changed already regarding the arrogance against Paganism and magical traditions in leftists spaces.  Some of this change is on account of my work and the work of other writers at Gods&Radicals, as well as more clear-thinking anti-fascist theorists such as Shane Burley. This collective work has brought us to a place where Paganism, witchcraft, and occultism are now much more accepted as authentic expressions of autonomy and resistance.

Heathens unfortunately remain too often smeared as crypto-fascist by anti-fascist groups and the larger public. Worse, these smears and misinformation campaigns comes at a time when white supremacists are actively recruiting in Heathen communities, making it much harder for Heathens to fight off their advances.

Knee-jerk assumptions, simplistic reductions of symbols and beliefs, and a willingness to discard spiritual and cultural symbols in our fight to stop a nebulous Fascist threat will not only lead us nowhere good, but will aid the recruitment efforts of the people we are claiming to oppose. It not only shows us as ignorant but willfully arrogant: our “enlightened” European-derived secular-atheism is the only true way, and any who find meaning in spiritual symbols are at best foolish or, more often “fascist.”

Fighting fascism cannot be done with cheat-sheets, graphics, or slogans ; it must involve building vibrant, tolerant, and culturally-rich communities that refuse to discard spiritual meaning. And importantly, greater acceptance of non-Christian and non-Atheist cultural and spiritual beliefs supports a much larger work: abandoning the colonialist arrogance which still sees European-derived civilization as superior in its secularism.

As this arrogance is abandoned, indigenous and colonized people will able to claim more space to articulate their animist and ancestral beliefs, without being dismissed as uneducated or backwards in leftist spaces. It’s this larger work we must be committed to, a work that cannot be accomplished by sacrificing the beliefs of others on the altars of purity or the fight against fascism, nor can it be accomplished without interrogating the secular-atheism of the left’s “founding fathers.”


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is one of the co-founders and co-editors of Gods&Radicals. His recently released collection, Witches In a Crumbling Empire, is available now. You can support him on Patreon, and listen to his podcasts with Alley Valkyrie, Empires Crumble.


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Place of Discourse and Folklore of the African Diaspora

On being white and talking about racism. How to learn about Afro-Brazilian stories of resistance, through lenses free from the objectifying effects of the white gaze.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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“To get rid of the curse, the community called for good spirits to take to the streets in the month before August to ward off the evil spirits and attract good ones, managing to save the community from the great tragedy of Death. Initiating thus the apparitions of the mandus and Caretas (grimaces) on the streets of Acupe on Sundays of July.” (Wiki)

Each Sunday of July, a small Brazilian town called Acupe hosts street theater folklore of the African Diaspora. People come from all over the world to witness this unique cultural manifestation, and to support the community’s effort to reclaim its history. Nego Fugido (the play’s title, which I’ll roughly translate as “runaway black guy”) represents the long overdue opportunity for Afro-Brazilians to tell their own stories of resistance, spirituality, and ancestry. This way, they combat invisibility and the twisted white gaze of recorded history and western anthropology.

This play is about enslaved Africans who ran away, then were chased and killed by their master. This master was trying to avoid bankruptcy by offering the lives of enslaved runaways to Ikú (an Orixá, a force of nature, Death itself in the Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé), and planting a banana tree over each grave. Eventually, there are no more lives to be offered, and Ikú curses the whole town. Every year, good spirits must be sent out to chase away the bad ones and break the curse. Caretas, the masked children that roam the streets, symbolize the “insertion of blacks and their culture into Brazilian society” (Jamilson Oliveira). Ultimately, the enslaved are granted freedom, and the town manages to arrest and auction out the King. Today, the skirt made out of dried banana tree leaves worn by the performers holds immense spiritual power, symbolizing the sacrificed lives of their ancestors.

“The banana tree leaves themselves are used in Candomblé terreiros to scare away eguns (spirits). Every terreiro has a babá of the house, a good egun that prevents other eguns from disrupting celebrations and rituals.” (Jal Souza)

The story, which comes from oral tradition of a couple hundred years ago, is remembrance of colonial power dynamics, the brutality of the struggle for freedom, and the primordial strength of Ikú. Acupe is a Quilombola community at the “Bay of All Saints” (Bahia de Todos os Santos), a region with a long colonial history, and land with deep ancestral roots. The combination of lifelike reenactments, on the Land where the story took place hundreds of years ago, and the sacred ritual to rid the town of evil spirits makes for a breathtaking experience.

Unfortunately, the swarm of white photographers overpowers not only the audience, but also the performers. There is nothing inconspicuous or ordinary about those giant lenses being shoved at all angles and in all directions. These hybrids between tourists and professionals felt no shame in interrupting the performances to direct the actors into ideal poses. The drone hovering over us witnessed hostile arguments between photographers who fought over an ideal viewpoint, or between audience members that just couldn’t take those people’s entitlement over some cubic meters of aerial space.

Perhaps the the lack of a formal theater setting caused uncertainty over of what would constitute etiquette. Or perhaps they felt that this was a once in a life time opportunity to register that moment. What is certain is that the colonial gaze, and the historical form of racism being depicted in the play, was also manifested in its modern form, making people very anxious.

The population of Acupe is predominantly black. So, when there are white people there they are seen as outsiders. In fact, a lot of white people show up only to document this event, and the objectifying effects of the white gaze are palpable.

I believe there is a level of entitlement that comes through when white people act like being there and documenting the event is a favor they are doing for the community, as if their presence there is what gives the event value. There is absolutely no way that a photographer would interrupt an actor’s performance with “psssst! pssst!” while aggressively pointing to where the actor should move for a better shot at Shakespeare at the Park in NYC.

The “epidermalization of inferiority” may or may not come at play in response to this, but it is easy to imagine that many black people feel that the “social cost” of calling out white people’s insensitive behavior is too high, aside from having to deal with a likely outburst of white fragility. What I can say is that a hand full of black people in the audience were pushed too far and lashed out at arrogant gazers who were clueless and disrespectful.

I was taking pictures with my phone… the costumes were beautiful and designed to be photogenic. The problem isn’t visiting the town for the event, watching the performance and taking pictures. The problem is treating the Other as there to serve You.

One extremely insensitive thing you can do as an audience member is to treat those performers as objects, as if their purpose for being there was for you to make a fantastic photo. The parallels between history and modernity are distressing. The community is passing down a tradition to their children, honoring their ancestors on the very land where their blood seeped into the ground. Being able to witness it should be taken as a humbling learning experience.

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Place of Discourse

As someone who is not black or of the African Diaspora, I tell this story partially. I don’t, nor will I ever want to, speak for anyone. I speak about them, and about myself, because we exist in relation to each other, dialectically. My place of discourse is not, and doesn’t claim to be, impartial. That doesn’t mean I have no right to speak.

“[W]hite people cling to the notion of racial innocence, a form of weaponized denial that positions black people as the “havers” of race and the guardians of racial knowledge.” (Robin DiAngelo)

It’s my responsibility to address my white passing privilege, and to address how my own community might be reproducing classism and colorism. As white (passing) people, we must listen and learn (and read), but when we demand the unpaid emotional labor of racial education from Afro-descendants, we fall in the trap of reproducing the very thing we want to eradicate.

Support the community, don’t take from them. Learn without demanding labor. And attend when you’re invited. This is the etiquette we can establish.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

23844610_10155972276622372_5754996345436383112_n

is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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This is America’s Enslaver Culture

It’s no surprise that, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, enslaver culture is still very much alive.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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There are about 30 million pets abandoned in the streets of Brazil. Cats in particular are treated as a plague, killed and tortured indiscriminately.

Helping take care of street cats has been my way of dealing with the occasional helplessness many of us activists feel. I can’t always stop an armed policeman from telling a Candomblé worshiper dressed in white to lay on the floor with hands on the head for no reason. I can’t always stop a pack of drunk men desperate to prove their masculinity to each other from violating a trans woman on the street. But one thing I can do is clean the eyes of motherless kitties so they can see for the first time.

This coping mechanism recently lost its effectiveness when the dynamic at the cat shelter revealed a serious political issue: Enslaver culture.

It’s no surprise, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, that enslaver culture is still very much alive. One example of this is the donor/volunteer relationship.

When I go to the shelter, once a week, I clean, feed and give medicine to cats. I’m a light skinned Latina, with a job and a house, so I’m considered a volunteer. People with means in the group donate a little money to buy whatever is needed, and there is also lunch for whoever is working.

For years, one young homeless black man goes there everyday, twice a day, to clean, feed, medicate, and build little houses for the cats. He even monitors who is coming to abandon and who is coming to adopt. In my eyes, he is the boss of the operation. To the donors, however, he’s a lazy employee.

When I receive lunch, it’s a donation. When he receives lunch, it’s a salary.

One of the donors had an abandoned house, and decided to allow the homeless young man to stay there. This gesture turns out not to be as generous as it sounds. He has the responsibility to renovate and maintain the home (which is in poor condition), and he takes dozens of the most vulnerable cats home with him to care for overnight. Now that donors offer him food and shelter, they feel even more entitled to demand more labor, and the laborer is dependent while earning no wages.

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Land demarcation efforts by Quilombo Quingoma

It’s hard not to see the connection between this situation and our colonial history. Salvador, as the world’s capital of the African diaspora, is the land on which to witness, not the demise but, the development of colonialism and its deeply rooted white supremacy. Here, much of what is now urban residence used to be Quilombos.

Quilombos were communities formed by enslaved Africans who ran away. They were highly organized, militant, autonomous, and posed great threat to the Portuguese and Dutch authorities of the time. Today, there are much more than a million Quilombolas still fighting for their right to territory throughout the country.

Records show that there were compliant enslaved people who had stable relationships with their owners and did not want to join Quilombos. Some claim that abolishing slavery left the “freed” in worse conditions: “jobless”, homeless, and helpless (as some may say about my friend at the cat shelter). How reliable are these accounts? Not very, since those who kept records were the ones interested in using them for their advantage.

Arguments on the subject in literature in general have little empirical basis and tend to focus on the interplay of interests that would be associated with the diffusion of that interpretation. Several authors have considered the thesis of benignity a mere expression of the ideology of the ruling classes in the nineteenth century; its dissemination, especially abroad, would be part of the imperial government’s efforts to disseminate an amicable image of slavery and thereby oppose the abolitionist movement.

Flávio Rabelo Versiani (Economist, Brasilia) comparing enslavement in the U.S. and in Brazil.

On the other hand, in economic terms, not using “coercive force” (meaning, here we didn’t have as many lynchings) was a matter of efficiency, as was eventually abolishing slavery altogether. So, using words like “amicable” and “benign” to describe displacement, dehumanization, forced labor, murder and torture of black people is only considered empirical when described in economic terms. This, to me, is one good example of the rotten core of Academia.

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Today, some academics use this shaky empiricism to argue that the resistance against slavery was hypocritical. José de Souza Martins, one of Brazil’s most famous sociologists, claims there was slavery in the Quilombos. Dissociating the term “slavery” from “race” became his professional mission; white supremacy wasn’t the problem, according to him, rigidly stratified societies were.

His broad use of the term “slavery” can be compared to the broad use of the term “Nazi” when describing a feminist. José Martins says that because of the spread of “Islamism” in Africa, Africans enslaved themselves at a much higher rate than the Slave trade to the Americas, and that Islamic polygamy is also a form of slavery. The fact that he uses the term “Islamist” as synonymous with “Islamic” speaks volumes to the racial insensitivity of his rhetoric. But his use of biased (white) “empirical” evidence to delegitimize an organized resistance movement of the African Diaspora speaks even louder.

There is little denying that hierarchy existed in Quilombos, and that they used violence against enslaved people who chose to stay with their white masters. We have to understand that they were at war, and the decision to be compliant turned them into an enemy. So much so, that those compliant Africans were sent to the Quilombos as an army to defeat Quilombists. This practice hasn’t stopped, and is perpetuated by the military police force to this day.

Zumbi‘s opposition to Ganga Zumba, and the consequent shift of leadership at Quilombo dos Palmares, is symbolic of all anti-colonial resistance because it was a refusal to submit to Colonial authorities, and a declaration that no enslaved African would be free until all would be free. This fight is not over yet. There is still enslavement, displacement, incarceration, genocide, and struggle for land demarcation. We must acknowledge that, because not picking a side, being compliant, is in fact siding with white supremacist forces.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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It takes a village, not a European, to raise a child

“White people, through systematic oppression, actively create, profit from and maintain a market that institutionalises children throughout Africa.”

From Jacqueline Tizora

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Ethiopia announced earlier this year that it has decided to ban foreign adoption on its soil. This is a brazen move, especially because the country was the second most popular country, after China, for adoptions. This decision was prompted by a high-profile case of abuse in 2011 where an adoptee died of hypothermia after being left in the cold by their adoptive parents in Seattle. Ethiopia, following this incident, proceeded to make the adoption process more stringent, which has now ultimately culminated in the total ban we see today.

The government’s motivation for this bold decision is that it believes Ethiopians taking care care of their own as a valid possibility. Furthermore, policy makers are only now wary of the permanent psychological effects any trauma faced abroad could have on the children. Ethiopia’s stance on adoption shares parallels with Rwanda’s model on orphanages. African countries’ shift towards deinstitutionalising childcare is a welcome process as it is severs the parasitic colonial as well as neocolonial relationship Europe has with Africa. The process, however, is an intricate one that this article will be illuminating a small fraction of.

In 2012, Rwanda decided to close all its orphanages. After the 1994 genocide, the number of orphanages skyrocketed from four to well over thirty as more than 95 000 children were orphaned by the genocide. Foreign aid organisations in response to the devastation of the genocide, opened institutions across the country, institutionalising Rwandan childcare. However, Rwandan president Paul Kagame noticed that those orphaned by the genocide had ‘outgrown’ orphanages, yet they still existed. This is when Kagame initiated a rehoming process. This decision was based on the Swahili saying, ‘asiye funzwa na mamae hufunzwa na ulimwengu’- a deinstitutionalised approach to childcare, which equates to the infamous proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

Rwanda’s rehoming process is now in full swing and the government aims to close all orphanages by 2020. Rwanda’s National Commission for Children’s director reported earlier this year that 3,323 children were in orphanages when the initiative took off in 2012, and now only 235 have yet to be rehomed with family, adopted or placed in foster families (unremunerated).

Then there are countries like Mauritania, Djibouti and South Sudan where in order to qualify to be a legal guardian of a minor, the applicant has to be a blood relative that is either Muslim and or lives in a Muslim environment. Prioritising the child’s religion here results in some preservation of the child’s culture. In addition, Mauritanian law prohibits non-family members from leaving Mauritania with adopted children. Similarly, in Djibouti, children with Djibouti citizenship are ineligible for adoption. Implying that transnational adoption from these two countries is not a possibility, even if one meets the first two criteria.

From the above examples, it is clear that many African countries are in fact deinstitutionalising childcare, a previously heavily institutionalised system and reverting to more culturally appropriate alternatives to child rearing. This, however, prompts one to question what in fact has changed along with the implementation of these new regulations and, ultimately, how this is affecting orphans in their respective countries. Coming from a family where the ‘village’ approach is adopted vastly, and also understanding that for most households, taking on an extra mouth to feed is no easy task. It also prompts one to enquire which changes need to be made that would effectively allow orphaned children to continue on to lead a normal life after losing one’s biological parents.

The first enquiry that comes to mind is the process of conception right to birth. We live in a patriarchal society that polices women’s bodies and also places value in women’s fertility. Rape culture is also ever pervasive; the fact that only in 1993 did the UN declare rape a war crime, demonstrates how deeply politicised women’s bodies are. Additionally, access to contraception in Africa, according to WHO in 2015, is only 33.4%. So almost 70% of the continent cannot implement effective family planning. The intersections of institutional restrictions that meet systematic poverty introduced by colonialism and maintained by neo-colonialism has rendered African women voiceless on issues regarding their own bodies!

In essence, policies that currently police and politicise women’s bodies and subjects them to systematic oppression and trauma has created irreparable damage and play a key role in the current vicious cycle of systematically creating orphans. Orphaned children, of course, come from somewhere. The responsibility or blame does not fall on the woman, but society has socialised us to internalise gender roles that further subjugate us. By politicising our bodies, even the unborn children our bodies can host preside over our bodies. The fact that approximately 93% of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with laws that in some way restrict abortion shed illuminate another way orphans are produced systematically. Additionally, even in countries where abortions may take place under special circumstances, very few women have access to a safe procedure and often seek out more clandestine methods that can be life-threatening.

The second enquiry regards the fact that the implicit and explicit bans disallowing women to have autonomy over their bodies have not been lifted. What then of the children that are born as as result? The inescapable reality of women being treated as chattel on one hand, and the rise of the white saviour industrial complex on the rise on the other, only means that there will always be orphans and therefore a market for foreign adoption and orphanages. An estimated 21.6 million unintended pregnancies occur each year in Africa, and of these, only 38% end in abortion. To white liberals all these statistics mean is that there is a market to exploit and therefore ceaseless giving back for them to do in Africa. This is a crass mentality and approach that does not even scratch the surface of the issue that they created. If only they could put two and two together, they would realise it equals white supremacist capitalist patriarchy- that they introduced to the continent and that has now politicised and othered the bodies of black women, giving birth to the issues we are faced with today.

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Personally, I’m of the opinion that uprooting children from their home country, with the exception of abuse, is not in the child’s best interest as the grass is not actually greener in Europe. Uganda’s first lady, Janet Museveni, in a keynote address made her case regarding transnational adoption. Her stance is that transnational adoption, specifically the Africa to Europe pipeline, can be likened to the slave trade. To a large extent, I agree with this statement. Also interesting to note the countries from which most adoptions hail from have the biggest legacies of atrocities inflicted on African people. So, it would appear that white people employ the saviour complex and adopt African children to ease their white guilt. Not only do they rid themselves of dissonance permanently, adopted children ultimately serve as a trophy of their colourblindness and apparent non-racism. A buy-one-get-one-free coupon white people redeem when they engage in transnational adoption (read institutional abduction).

Realistically, if we are going to look after our own children, there is going to have to be reform. Expecting the burden to fall on family members or communities whose consumption increases exponentially the minute they agree to become a child’s guardian. Without assistance from government, this only translates itself into deeper poverty. Though orphanages and adoption organisations came into existence to alleviate the aftermath of centuries of dispossession, research has shown that growing up in orphanages can have lasting negative impact on children.

Through extensive research, risk patterns and vulnerabilities have been identified, now all that is lacking is their amelioration and this can be done through policy. Interventions need to happen on multiple levels, this includes and is not restricted to: the orphans, fostering households as well as their communities. Not all vulnerable children share the same history or even face the same issues despite sharing the same label: being orphan. These considerations all require differentiated policy responses. These then differ further, according to geography for example. Different regions are exposed to different forms of vulnerability. The AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa, Swaziland being the most hard-hit, requires a response that includes better access to ARVs and promotions aimed at deconstructing the stigma around the illness- another barrier that stops people from seeking treatment even when ARVs are made available. As a result of inadequate intervention, AIDS has become responsible for the swelling numbers of orphans in the region. The logical questions that then follow are the financing of such interventions as well as their rolling out: both of crucial importance.

A needs analysis needs to be conducted for all concerned parties: the orphan, the fostering household and communities, mapping out the levels on which the interventions need to take place within. Lastly, we need to consider how the intervention should play out and which funding channels are feasible. For example, whether a uniform/needs equivalent grant system needs to be introduced. Just by highlighting the first steps that need to be taken, one soon realises that differentiated policy responses required are dependent on so many factors that are, above all, culturally sensitive and appropriate.

White people, through systematic oppression, actively create, profit from and maintain a market that institutionalises children throughout Africa. They currently plunder Africa by opening NGOs, orphanages and, a personal favourite, voyeuristic volunteer agencies that we actually fund with photos they take of us for free to be used for their poverty porn PR strategies. Europe remains benefactors in this market with these photos, by reproducing the colonial narrative that any European can save this godforsaken continent. This is both short sighted and pompous. There is, however, a way Europe can acknowledge and settle their long outstanding debt to Africa and also upend their current and futile methods: reparations.

This is not even a foreign concept to Europeans, after all they paid slave owners out after the abolition of slavery. Slaves, like those in the Haitian Revolution, even had to pay for the inconvenience abolition caused.

Whilst no amount of financial compensation can ameliorate the impact of the violence inflicted on Africa. The institutionalisation abduction of children through transnational is a clear indication that Africans are still being removed from their country’s hundreds of years after the abolition of slavery, a symptom of neo-colonialism that continues to illicitly extract resources and abduct children for the enjoyment of the west. To sever this umbilical cord a fresh start is needed, which in this case would mean total economic freedom to enable Africa to restore its idiosyncratic deinstitutionalised approach to childcare.


Jacqueline Tizora

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Zimbabwean born and South African bred Black radical
feminist with a keen interest in African feminist thought and affairs.


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The Apocalypse Will Be Brought To You by Car, Not Truck

“Cars are bourgeois and trucks are proletarian.” An analysis of the truck-driver’s strike and diesel crisis in Brazil.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

You can hear this article read by the author here:

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Cars

In high school, I failed an economics class. Now, 11 years later, I look back at that situation as symbolic of the capitalist indoctrination in the public school system.

The assignment was to develop a business plan. It was 2007, so most students came up with online businesses that could maximize profits by not having storefront rent draining money.

My idea was a bike sharing system integrated with the metro, where people paid a small fee monthly or yearly for unlimited access. The goal was to make cars obsolete, improve personal health and urban life standards (by minimizing all kinds of pollution, and death).

The class voted against the plan because it would definitely not be profitable. In fact, it might drain money with people breaking or stealing bikes. What I didn’t know at the time was that I wasn’t in an economics class, I was in a Capitalist economics class, because in “America” there was no other type.

Unlike everything else in high school, I actually got invested in this project. Public transport was awesome to me. Taking the bus alone made me feel free, in control, and in harmony with my surroundings. The metro pulsates through the city, and gives life to the urban organism. Adding public bikes to the mix would be next level awesomeness (I even made a cheesy youtube video).

Cars, on the other hand, are the embodiment of capitalism, and its sickening properties. Those that make us forget that we are a part of a community, of nature, and trick us into believing it’s possible (and desirable) to be at the driver’s seat of personal property, crushing everything on the way (the planet and everything on it). Even people’s temperament gets toxic in traffic.

Six years after receiving my memorable failing grade, my mom sent me a picture of herself on a Citi Bike (in New York) with the caption “Look, your idea”. Now these bike stations are in several major cities, I’ve just signed up to the one in the city where I live for 3 dollars a month.

A community owned not-for-profit initiative sounds pretty anti-capitalist, so how come are they all sporting Bank logos?

Because, as activists of React or Die have put it, we’ve become minimally content with symbolic gestures of generosity by Capitalists and the State; pacifying and trapping those with the slightest inclination for dissatisfaction with the system.

“We do not trade our pains as cheap merchandise from the colonial period, we do not bargain for crumbs.” –Winnie Mandela Tribute

There is a difference between smashing a capitalist state, and helping capitalist institutions improve. This here might be a third option. Neither revolution nor reform: revitalization. Or what urbanists call: make-up (in this case for tourists).

If we were to paint these Bank Bikes white (covering the logos) and keep them always unlocked, they would be outlawed and reduced to a teenage vandal art project (Provos).

I took this picture yesterday at the supermarket near my house in Salvador, Brazil.

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This week, the streets had the post-apocalyptic vibe you would expect from any tasteful Sci-fi pilot. The grim atmosphere of scarcity, and the controlled anxiety of people becoming aware that things have not yet turned into the Walking Dead- but might next week.

Lines for gas are growing around the few places that still have it, people praying at gas stations, some flights are not taking off, there are almost no fresh vegetables at supermarkets, the few street markets left are 7 times more expensive than usual, the T.V. is fuming with sensational stories about medicine not arriving at hospitals, people who “might” die and right-wing propaganda…

Indignation is widespread. While the left blames Temer’s failure at managing inflation and protecting people from Petrobras’ price fluctuation, the right blames the truck-drivers for not prioritizing the people who need food and medicine over their own “profits”. Of course the truck-drivers that get no wage readjustments based on the outrageous price spike are pissed, and so is anyone else who just wants to drive to work.

A place like Brazil, with such abundance of food and oil resources, not having enough for its own people reveals the catastrophic potential of the global Capitalist system. The middle class can’t imagine going to work by bus or bike, and had to be reminded of how supermarkets are stocked and the true power of workers.

These workers on strike are not representing any political party, no grand scheme coordinated by politicians on election year. This is a fairly mild wake up call, reminding us of how fragile the (in)balance of power is, and how our relationship with foreign markets is not in the best interest of the masses.

“A good pricing policy for fossil fuels should have two focuses. First, encourage biomass fuels and discourage fossil. Second, make a division between individual fuel and cargo fuel and public transportation, discouraging the former.” Caio Almendra

Unfortunately, individual fuel is still a priority in many people’s minds, and most of the the upper and middle classes have not learned to respect truck-drivers. Things will have to get a lot worse before we wake up to the reality of our daily exploitation and submission to foreign currency.

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Anti-development

“Development” is often reduced to road building. The higher the number and quality of roads, the more advanced and modern a place is; meaning, car and cash flows go hand in hand. This is not only an issue of class struggle and Capitalism, it’s about White Supremacy as well. We must not underestimate the affect this aspect of Capitalist development has on Indigenous and Quilombist communities.

Our Western lifestyle and backward politics make their way of life virtually impossible. Roads in particular play a major part in suffocating Indigenous and Quilombist land.

A leading figure of the Quilombo Quingoma told me she hates it when massive groups of motorcycles and random cars drive through their territory, and that paving roads is not good for their horses. Suburban “development” surrounding their land is directly connected to their lack of agency towards the preservation of the forest, and therefore the resources they need for autonomy.

Colonialism (and capitalism) have lead to the Western belief that being of the land is “less developed” than being on the land. The concept of ownership lead us to stop seeing ourselves as a part of our environment, to becoming people on or in property. That’s why the American dream is reduced to owning land of your own, and by doing that earning true freedom (meritocracy).

The tribal concept predates this capitalist concept, and it’s no surprise that after so many years of racism in the field of anthropology, that the term has had the derogatory connotation of underdevelopment.

The “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” shows well the ways in which the tone of anthropological research of tribal behavior is deeply problematic (Eurocentric). The Othering of Navies shows our inability to look at ourselves as ritualistic, and utterly nonsensical in our own behavior.

“While much of the [Nacirema] people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity.” -Horace Miner

The way we deal with our property is savage. The way we treat each other is horrific. Honestly, we have enough ways to kill, torture and enslave to make anthropophagy look honorable and humane. Still, somehow an incredible amount of people have the audacity to look at Natives as underdeveloped, just because their lives don’t revolve around screens, cars and money the way ours do.

If there is one thing we can do, in this seemingly helpless situation, is to unlearn what has been taught to us about order and progress, and learn what it really means to be a “developing” Nation.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

1527654533485_photois site editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


Support our work here.

 

Ohitica and the Rez Dogs of Standing Rock

During the six months that I spent at Standing Rock, I learned about the life of the rez dogs and their relationship to the people they live with. It’s not the tidy house-dog life of city dog… Instead, the dogs of the reservation are their own people. They are relatives in their own right.

From Lisha Sterling

When I first arrived at the Water Protector camps in Standing Rock, I lived in the Sicangu camp on the south side of the Cannon Ball river, by highway 1806. My days were spent busy on Media Hill in the Indigenous Environmental Network’s media tent or talking to folks in the Legal tent, or else running back and forth between the different camps, the place we came to call “Hop Hill”, the Prairie Knights Casino, the town of Cannonball, and the town of Fort Yates. I’d often roll back into my home camp at 10 or 11 o’clock at night, exhausted. That didn’t leave much time for being social in a non-work atmosphere. But when I could, I’d sit by the sacred fire for a bit to listen to the elders talking.

One night, I rolled in late and parked my van near the kitchen tent. I could see that there were people inside, so I went in to join them. A large pot of chicken soup simmered on the fire. Two young men and one young woman were in there, talking and eating left over food from the evening’s dinner. They offered me some food, but I wasn’t hungry. I just wanted to listen in on the conversation.

After a little while, another young woman came into the kitchen. She had a baby sling across her body, and a couple of bottles in her hand. She asked if there were any measuring spoons in the kitchen. Her voice had a worried, nearly panicked tone to it, “I need to measure out a teaspoon of this medicine for the puppy!” She turned and we could see the limp German shepherd puppy in the baby sling, “He has worms really bad. The vet says he isn’t going to make it. She wanted to put him down, but I made her give me the medicine. But now I can’t find a measuring spoon!”

I noticed that one of the bottles in her hand was a prescription bottle and the other was an herbal tincture bottle, “You have something to measure with right there,” I told her. “One dropperful is ¼ teaspoon. Four dropperfuls is one dose of his medicine.”

She looked from me to the dog and then to the bottle in her hand, surprised, “Really?”

She put the bottles down and began to open them both. The other young woman jumped up to help her get the medicine measured and dropped into the dog’s mouth. The puppy barely moved.

The young woman with the puppy explained what her day had been like. She’d been at a friend’s house, and they had this puppy. It was the last of a litter but had never been picked by anyone who came by. It had started to get sick, and the family had just figured that it would probably die. She asked if she could have the dog. Her friend’s family said yes, and she immediately drove up to Bismarck to find a vet and see what she could do to help the dog. “But he hasn’t moved the whole time. He didn’t move when I picked him up. He won’t eat. He didn’t move when the doctor checked him. He’s just been like this all day.” By now she was at the edge of tears.

Now, let me take you on a tangent here for a moment to tell you that, under normal circumstances, it is said that you should never mix Lakhota medicine with any other kind of medicine. There have been some major exceptions made in terms of “Christian medicine” in the sense that these days even many čanupa (sacred pipe) carriers are also Christian, but on the whole the admonition not to mix Lakhota medicine with anything else still stands. However, we were in a different situation than usual. The elders and the holy people had specifically called on people of all nations and all religions to bring their prayers to Očeti Šakówiŋ camp. And with those prayers comes some of the other practices and medicine of those other nations. It was in that context that it seemed wholly appropriate for me to mention a bit of Jewish folklore to the young woman for the benefit of her puppy.

“In Jewish tradition, if someone is very sick and it looks like they are probably going to die, we sometimes change their name. It is said that changing their name can trick the angel of death. Other’s say that changing the name gives a person a new job to do in life. It’s common to rename a person in such a situation ‘Chaim’, which means ‘Life’, but sometimes the name is something else. It can be like a wish or a prayer for what you want in that person’s future.” I told her.

“I like that tradition. It sounds good. He doesn’t have a name yet.”

Just then, one of the wise old ladies of camp walked into the kitchen tent. She’d barely stepped inside when she was asked by the woman with the puppy, “What should I name my dog?”

Theresa Black Oak looked at the puppy, a bit confused, and asked why she was naming the puppy. So, we explained the situation to her. Then she looked closely at the dog for a moment and thought about it.

“Ohitica. His name should be Ohitica, which means Brave.” Theresa announced.

The young woman repeated the name, “Ohitica. You are Ohitica!” She told the puppy.

As this interaction was going on, one of the young men prepared a bowl with a little bit of the chicken soup in it. He suggested that she should try feeding the dog some of it. She took the puppy and put him on the ground in front of the bowl. He stood up a little wobbly at first, but then he was stable on his feet. He sniffed the bowl and began to drink the broth. Then he ate the pieces of chicken. He finished the whole bowl of soup, and then he began to run in circles and bounce around like a puppy does.

Everyone’s eyes were wide with surprise, not least of all the woman who had brought the puppy in.

“Wait, he didn’t move all day?” Someone said in surprise.

“Not at all,” She answered with wonder.

“Well, a little bit of medicine and a brand new name, makes good medicine!” I laughed, so relieved.

About a month later, I drove up to Media Hill to meet with someone at the Indigenous Environmental Network tent. As I arrived at the fence around the IEN area, there was a German shepherd puppy tied up next to the entrance. I bent down to say hello, “Oh my goodness! You are so cute! You look just like Ohitica, only you are much bigger than him!”

Just then, the woman who had walked into the kitchen with a tiny, sick puppy in a baby sling walked up. I saw her feet first, but when I look up and saw her face I nearly whooped in joy, “You ARE Ohitica!”

And so he was, and that healthy young dog left Standing Rock a few days later to a new home far away.

Dakota and her puppies say,
Image by Kelly Kai Botak all rights reserved

In February 2017, amidst all the other indignities of the expulsion of the Water Protectors from the camps at Standing Rock, we had to see news reports about how the good people of Bismarck, North Dakota had to go down and rescue dogs that had been left behind by “protesters”. It was true that the people who came down from animal rescue agencies found dogs in and around the town of Cannonball, but it was absolute privileged, self-righteous, colonialist White ignorance to believe that these were dogs left behind by the Water Protectors. Like so much else that was reported by the White press in North Dakota about the camps and the people in them, the prejudice and refusal to acknowledge the people and culture of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation was at the root of problems invented for the sake of the pro-pipeline narrative. Those “abandoned” dogs were, in fact, rez dogs who were moved off their rightful home just as their Native human companions had been before them.

During the six months that I spent at Standing Rock, I learned about the life of the rez dogs and their relationship to the people they live with. It’s not the tidy house-dog life of city dog who gets adopted into a quaint idea of a “forever home”. Instead, the dogs of the reservation are their own people. They are relatives in their own right.

Most of those dogs go inside when they want to and stay outside when they want to. Some never go inside at all, even in the coldest part of the winter. Some dogs have more than one family, and they travel between houses when they feel like it, spending a day or a week with one set of humans before visiting their other set of humans. Other dogs prefer to roam around most of the time in little packs, though they’ll show up on their family’s lawn when it’s time to eat.

In the autumn there were several litters of new puppies born in the vicinity of the Water Protector camps. When the puppies were old enough to be weaned, several families walked around the camps with their surplus puppies to see if anyone wanted one. Every puppy that came through camp in that way got adopted and went home with a new Water Protector family.

In the depths of the winter when the Cannonball recreation center became both the Očeti Šakówiŋ Camp Media headquarters and the Standing Rock emergency shelter, there were a number of local dogs who decided that all the bustle of the rec center was their preferred place to be. We let the dogs come and go for a while, and even fed them if they looked hungry, but then some of the elders of the tribe made it known that they didn’t want the dogs in there. “They have homes. If you feed them they won’t go back to their families and then we’ll have a pack of dogs who think that the Rec Center is their new home.”

So, we kept the rez dogs out of the Rec Center, and most of them went back to their normal routines. Most, but not all.

One big, fluffy white dog who was probably about four or five years old curled up outside the front door of the rec center for days. If you didn’t happen to come out when he got up to go find food elsewhere, and if you didn’t notice that he never had more than a few hours of snow over top of him, you might be forgiven for thinking he’d just frozen in place there.

A very sweet and gentle health care worker stood in the Rec Center in tears because she was afraid for this wonderful dog. I reminded her that this dog had obviously lived through other North Dakota winters. He knew how to survive out here. This was his home. He had long fur, so he probably wasn’t nearly as cold as she thought, and he knew how to snuggle into his own little shelter in the snow bank. I also showed her the signs that he had been moving around and wasn’t just frozen to the spot. She calmed down, but she was still concerned. A few days later she tracked down the family of that dog. He was fine.

Another large golden retriever mix kept insisting on coming into the Rec Center, long after he’d been officially kicked out. In January, his family showed up at the center when they’d heard that their dog was over there. We discovered the dog’s real name was Cinnamon, and that his family had thought he’d died since they hadn’t seen him in two weeks.

“Did you try to look for him?” someone asked.

“No. He’s old. If he felt he needed to go find a place away from here to die, that’s his right. If he was well, we knew he’d come home eventually.”

The folks running the Emergency Center insisted that the family needed to take Cinnamon home. They did, but two days later he was back at the Rec Center. This went back and forth a few times.

Another Water Protector who was getting ready to go home spoke with the family and asked to adopt their dog. They agreed. Cinnamon went off to a new city with a new name and a whole new human family.

In reality, quite a few rez dogs adopted humans from among the non-local Water Protector population. But many rez dogs stayed on the rez where they had always lived. Their lives are not the lives of city dogs, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad lives. They are just different lives.

And yes, many dogs came to Standing Rock with Water Protectors, too, but none of them was left behind. Once the population of the camps grew in late October, even the dogs who had previously been able to run free in the camps were required to stay on leash or in a tent or structure at all times. Any dog seen wandering without a human in camp would be taken to the sacred fire where an announcement would be made that the dog had gotten loose. If the dog’s owner did not agree to keep it under control, the camp security said that they would take the dog away and send it to a new home or an animal shelter. As far as I know, no dog was taken from its humans in that way. Instead, camp dwellers kept their dogs well under control, leashed or in their makeshift homes. And when they left camp, their dogs went with them.

After the camps were cleared, a bunch of White people who were full of their own certainties about the world went down to the reservation in search of the abandoned dogs that they “knew” Water Protectors would leave behind. Perhaps law enforcement had something to do with it. Maybe the many sheriff’s deputies and federal agents from across the country had seen the rez dogs in Cannonball and told people about them. Either way, they assumed that these dogs were homeless, and that irresponsible, dirty hippies and Indians who had spent as much as nine months living in tents through every kind of weather the prairie can dish out had just left without them. No one bothered to ask the people in the houses on the reservation about the dogs wandering around the area in packs or by themselves whose dogs these were. The White people “knew” and so they took the dogs to shelters and made a big deal about showing how righteous their cause was.

The difference between reality at Standing Rock and the ideas that White settler culture in Bismarck imagines is as stark today as it was a hundred fifty years ago.


Lisha Sterling

Lisha Sterling

Lisha Sterling is a crazy nomad woman who works on humanitarian technology, spending lots of time in low resource areas and disaster zones. She talks to plants, animals, gods and spirits. Some of them talk back.


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Binding the Wolf

Editor’s Note:

Because of the length of this important essay, we’re making it also available as a downloadable .pdf file. Also, please note: as this a research essay, it contains extensive quotes from white nationalist and white supremacist writers and websites. We believe it’s important for readers to know precisely what such people are saying, but advise that some of the content is potentially unsettling.


Addressing the Odinist Issue Within American Heathenry.

From Syn, Frigga’s handmaiden

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Introduction

Modern-day Heathens have become increasingly frustrated with various hate groups’ cultural “misappropriation” of our sacred symbols; and, while we keep asking ourselves as well as one another what we can do, the answer eludes us. That is because the very soul of our religion as we know it today was and continues to be born out of the ashes of a racist ideology. That racist ideology “pre-appropriated” (before our present time) our chosen gods and our symbols in an effort to raise one specific group up over another and to annihilate those who did not “fit” within their ideal world. It continues to be used by some to further their agenda of racial superiority [1].

That is the raw ugly truth that we wrestle with; and while we can each deny that we are not “that”, for many people, specifically those who are affected by these hate groups, it doesn’t matter. Because to them, we are all the same until we demonstrate that we are not.

Although there are no actual numbers to support this, it is my perception that more Heathen groups than not have adopted a “universalist” perspective, which holds that the religion is open to all, irrespective of ethnic or racial identity. A minority of others (who tend to be louder and garner of all of the negative media attention) adopt a racialist attitude—also called “Folkish” within the community.

For those not familiar with the term, “Folkish or Volkish” people and groups view Heathenry as a religion with inherent links to a Germanic race that should be reserved explicitly for people of Northern European descent [2].

The term “The Folk” is not in itself a racist term and just because you may hear someone refer to a group gathered as “The Folk” it does not mean that they are racist. For Universalist Heathen groups, the term may refer to their Kindred, the people who are attending the ritual, or believers in the Heathen religion or folkways. “Folkway” is a sociological term that describes the traditional behavior or way of life of a particular community or group of people.

Also, while the term “Heathenry” is used widely to describe the religion as a whole, many groups prefer different forms of designation, influenced by their regional focus and their ideological preferences.

Heathens focusing on Scandinavian sources sometimes use Ásatrú, Vanatrú, or Forn Sed; practitioners focusing on Anglo-Saxon traditions may use Fyrnsidu or Theodism; some of those emphasizing German traditions might use Irminism; and those Heathens who espouse folkish and extreme-right perspectives tend to favor the terms Odinism, Wotanism, Wodenism, or Odalism [3].

Additionally, some of these folkish Heathens further combine the religion with explicitly racist, white supremacist, and extreme right-wing perspectives, although these approaches are repudiated in various ways by most Heathens.

This document is meant to be thought-provoking and freely shared. It is hoped that rather than poke holes in my scholarship and references that you will read it, share it and have meaningful discussions with your Kindred and other Heathens as to how best to implement the suggestions that are provided at the end. Hopefully, you will also come up with some creative solutions unique to your own situation.

It is my intent to provide a high-level summary of the origins of the White Supremacy Movement in the United States and show how that movement became combined with modern-day Heathenry.

There is no attempt to provide suggestions for alternative reading material or organizations.

This article seeks to identify the major players and organizations historically affiliated with the racially-centric offshoots of Heathenry; and, focuses mainly on Odinism within the United States while identifying the central figures linked to these groups and offers what I see as some practical steps that universal/independent Kindreds and Heathens can take to:

• Combat the overall appearance of collusion with the Odinist racist ideology by no longer keeping a shameful silence, and,
• Ensure that our sacred symbols are not further co-opted by the Odinist racist agenda by taking them back.

But, first, a little history of the White Supremacist Movement and how the two (White Supremacy and Heathenry) became combined.

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History

According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START),

“White supremacy operates on the belief that Whites are intellectually and morally superior to all other races. This belief is based on a mix of religious, socio-cultural and pseudo-scientific assertions that phenotype—including differences in skin tone and physiognomy, among other things—equate to differences in intellect, moral virtue, and social sophistication.

While traditional targets of White supremacist rhetoric and violence have been Jews and African Americans, the movement has broadened its focus to include other ethnic and religious groups, including Latinos, Asians, Middle Easterners, Muslims, and Sikhs. They have also targeted individuals of different sexual and gender identities, such as gay/lesbian and transgendered individuals.

White supremacy groups advocate for what they perceive as the appropriate and natural racial hierarchy, which places the Aryan race above any other racial groups. More specifically, they promote practices and policies that are supposed to ensure the privileged status of the “Aryan” people and their social control over (what they perceive as) lesser races, particularly within the United States.” [4]

White Supremacy has ideological foundations that originated within 18th-century scientific racism, the predominant paradigm of human variation that helped shape international and intra-national relations from the latter part of the Age of Enlightenment (in European history) up to and through the current time (the 21st century).

The author, Simon During, in his book, Cultural Studies: A Critical Introduction, states that “Scientific Racism became such a powerful idea because … it helped legitimate the domination of the globe by whites” [5].

This was certainly true during the colonialization period in England, France, Spain, Portugal, and to some extent the United States. In every case, the people who were being colonialized were seen as inferior in every way. Over time they lost their own cultural identities as they adopted the customs and religions of their conquerors in order to survive.

The outbreak of the Civil War saw the desire to uphold White Supremacy being cited as a cause for the state of Texas (and others’) secession; in its Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, it states:

“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable. That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.” (UCS Louisiana)

In L. Frank Baum’s “Editorials on the Sioux Nation” (1890) the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels wrote:

“The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.” [6]

The denial of social and political freedom (based on race) continued into the mid-20th century, resulting in the civil rights movement… and brings us to the nexus point at which American Heathenry was born. The following figures and organizations emerged during the same time period:

1969: A Danish-born Nazi activist from Florida, Else Christensen, created the Odinist Fellowship and The Odinist magazine. The term Odinist originates in its current form from Christensen and her writings. She espoused the establishment of an anarcho-syndicalist society composed of racially Aryan communities [7].

The term “Aryan Race” is a racial grouping used by the proponents of such a grouping to describe people of European and Western Asian heritage. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or sub-race of the putative Caucasian race [8]. It should be also be noted that the languages (or branches) allowed to be included as Aryan can be very subjective and may have additional modifiers such as language root, bone and muscle shapes, skin tone, eye color and shape, hair color and texture, and, given modern science, your DNA. “Aryan” is a loaded word given its use during the Third Reich where it was used to define whether one looked a specific way and therefore had the right to live and procreate while one who did not possess these traits was inferior and must, therefore be eliminated.

Christensen also came to be known as the “Grand Mother” among racially oriented Odinists, with many paying homage to her even if they had sought out a more aggressive approach to racial issues than that which she adopted. Alternately, many in the Odinist community know her as the “Folk Mother”. A number of her ideas proved to be key influences on the American Odinist movement, most notably her political and economic “tribal socialism,” her emphasis on recruiting people through prison ministries, and her emphasis on a Jungian archetypal interpretation of the Norse deities [9].

Mattias Gardell in his book, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, states that:

“Christiansen upholds as ideal a decentralized folkish communalism modeled on self-sufficient communes like those of the Amish… Christensen claims that tribal socialism allows freedom of “self-expression”, private enterprise and encouragement for every member of the tribe to reach its fullest potential while also addressing the socialist concerns and sharing resources responsibilities and caring for the young the elderly and the disabled of the tribe. The concerns for the community as a whole and the welfare and the future of the tribe are of paramount importance, superseding those of the single member of the tribe.” [10]

There is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with referring to your group as a “Neo-Tribal” group if, in fact, you are. Just be aware that the term “Neo-Tribal” can be a loaded term and may require an additional explanation, depending on your audience.

Else Christensen subscribed to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews control the Western socio-political establishment, and believed that this would prevent the growth of any explicitly political movement to spread racial consciousness among those she deemed to be Aryan. Instead, she believed that Heathenry – a Pagan religion that she termed “Odinism” – represented the best way of spreading this racial consciousness. In 1969, Christensen and her husband Alex founded a group called The Odinist Fellowship. Following the death of her husband in 1971, Christensen continued her work and relocated to the United States. That year she began publication of a newsletter called The Odinist, which continued for many years.

Early 1970’s: From Arizona, Michael J. Murray (a.k.a. Valgard Murray) came to Odinism / Asatru through Elton Hall, the Arizona organizer of the American Nazi Party (ANP). Murray was involved with the ANP into the late 1960s [11]. He later became the Arizona organizer of the ANP [12] as well as a vice-president of Else Christensen’s Odinist Fellowship [13].

1972: From Texas, Stephen A. McNallen created the Viking Brotherhood after reading a novel, The Viking, by Edison Marshall. He wrote a “Viking Manifesto” in which he stated that the Brotherhood was “dedicated to preserving, promoting and practicing the Norse religion as it was epitomized during the Viking Age, and to further the moral and ethical values of courage, individualism, and independence which characterized the Viking way of life, and, placed greater emphasis on promoting what McNallen perceived as the Viking ideals — “courage, honor, and freedom” — rather than on explicitly religious goals.

This fact is mentioned in several books: Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft by James R. Lewis (1997); Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah by Jeffrey Kaplan (1997); and, Jung’s Wandering Archetype: Race and Religion in Analytical Psychology by Carrie B. Dohe (2016).

Gods and Radicals has an excellent article that is worth reading in order to gain a better understanding of McNallen’s controversial ideology of metagenetics. The article states in part that:

“The core of McNallen’s Folkish ideology is the belief in a concept known as metagenetics. Metagenetics claims culture is passed on genetically within specific groups of people. Such genetic connections to culture also determine what deities one can connect to.” (Weaponization of folkish heathery)

While McNallen’s own words seem banal, the implications of his theory are not:

“The idea of metagenetics may be threatening to many who have been taught that there are no differences between the branches of humanity. But in reflecting, it is plain that metagenetics is in keeping with the most modern ways of seeing the world. A holistic view of the human entity requires that mind, matter, and spirit are not separate things but represent a spectrum or continuum. It should not be surprising, then, that genetics is seen as a factor in spiritual or psychic matters. And the ideas put forth by those who see consciousness as a product of chemistry fit into metagenetics as well- for biochemistry is a function of organic structure which in turn depends upon our biological heritage.” (Metagenetics)

McNallen claims these ideas are based on, “intuitive insights as old as our people” but then proceeds to cite no sagas, sources, or examples to back this claim up (in other words, it’s his version of unsubstantiated personal gnosis). The closest he gets is when he claims reincarnation by bloodline was a universal belief among the ancient Germanics saying, “A person did not come back as a bug or a rabbit, or as a person of another race or tribe, but as a member of their own clan.”

He cites Carl Jung as justification for his theories and concludes:

“No doubt, on an earlier and deeper level of psychic development, where it is still impossible to distinguish between an Aryan, Semitic, Hamitic, or Mongolian mentality, all human races have a common collective psyche. But with the beginning of racial differentiation, essential differences are developed in the collective psyche as well. For this reason, we cannot transplant the spirit of a foreign religion ‘in globo’ into our own mentality without sensible injury to the latter.” (Stephen Mcnallen part one)

1973: From/in England, John Gibbs-Bailey and John Yeowell founded the Committee for the Restoration of The Odinic Rite or Odinist Committee [14]. Yeowell had been a member of the British Union of Fascists in his teens between the years of 1933–1936 [15].

“Established in the United States in 1979, the organization changed its name to The Odinic Rite after it was believed that it had gained enough significant interest in the restoration of the Odinic faith in 1980.

Today The Odinic Rite defines Odinism as the modern-day expression of the ancient religions which grew and evolved with the Indo-European peoples who settled in Northern Europe and came to be known as “Germanic”. The Odinic Rite shuns such descriptions as “Viking religion” or “Asatru” insisting that the Viking era was just a very small period in the history and evolution of the faith.” [16]

While you can go to their website and read some of the essays posted by some of their members and you can infer a lot from these essays, there is really very little information in terms of what the organization is about, the contents of their organizational meeting minutes, moot agendas, etc. They are behind a “locked, members-only” web-wall” (Odinic rite).

1976: McNallen created the Asatru Free Assembly (AFA).

Late 1979 – early 1980: Also from Texas, and a member of the Asatru Free Assembly (AFA), Stephen Edred Flowers, commonly known as Stephen E. Flowers, and also by the pen-names Edred Thorsson, and Darban-i-Den, founded The Rune-Gild, an initiatory order focused on “the revival of the elder Runic” tradition, advocating runic magic [17]. From 1978 to 1983 he led the Austin Kindred of the AFA [18].

Writing as both Stephen Flowers and Edred Thorsson, his prolific books have been instrumental in the advancement of a unique aspect of Heathenry. While it has been argued that his methodology for rituals, runic magick, and its derivatives, may not be purely Germanic and may have borrowed heavily from other magickal traditions; he is unquestionably the one who “got there first” in terms of being in the right place at the right time to get the concepts and words out there. Consequently, he is credited with advancing what has become standard Heathen practice for many people interested in both a magickal system and ritual practice that was separate and apart from the Western Mystery Tradition of calling quarters calling and circle drawing.

Into the present day, Edred Thorsson as a prolific writer, continues to support McNallen and his organization(s). All royalties from his books go to a racist organization: “Since 2013, the AFA has owned rights to many of Edred Thorsson’s books.”

1986 – 1987: From Arizona, Valgard Murray and his Kindred founded the Ásatrú Alliance (AA), which shared the Asatru Free Assembly’s perspectives on race and published the Vor Tru newsletter [19]. He invited other Kindreds to a formational Althing in 1988 [20], and also served on the Board of Directors and as General Manager of the Ásatrú Folk Assembly [21]. In 1987 he served as General Manager of the AFA, and in 1986 founded World Tree Publications [22].

Here are the By-Laws of the Asatru Alliance (from their website):

(As approved by Althing, September 21st. 2263 Runic Era)
• Asatru is the ethnic religion of the indigenous Northern European peoples.
• The Asatru Alliance is a free association of Independent Kindreds seeking to preserve and protect the ancient faith of our ancestors.
• The Asatru Alliance is organized along tribal democratic lines, permitting the full expression of our religious opinions, opting for the sanctity of our Asatru faith.
• The Asatru Alliance does not espouse a priest class. Each Kindred is free to determine its own spiritual and tribal needs.
• The Asatru Alliance will promote the growth of Asatru through the sponsoring of national and regional Things and Moots. We will also publish magazines and books as needed to achieve our goals.
• A Thing Speaker will be chosen for AlThing by the host Kindred(s). The Thing Speaker may convene the Thing as needed. AlThing Delegates of Record shall serve as a standing legislative body with full authority of the Thing until the commencement of the next AlThing. The Thing Speaker or any Delegate of Record can call for a caucus of delegates for suitable cause.
• The Thing/Law Body has absolute authority in dealing with By Laws or other issues of the Asatru Alliance.

Kindreds
• The Asatru Alliance will promote the establishment and growth of Kindreds.
• The Asatru Alliance will not interfere with the functions of Kindreds unless petitioned by a majority of members of said Kindred for aid.
• Kindreds are free to apply for membership in the Alliance, or leave the Alliance, as voted upon by a majority of the subject Kindred membership.
• A Kindred shall consist of at least 3 adult members and meet on a regular basis.
• Each Kindred is expected to send a delegate to the AlThing each year. No attendance, no vote. Kindreds may address the Thing by proxy.
• Any Kindred can be removed for cause by the Alliance by the majority vote of the Thing delegates after a fair hearing.

Membership
• Any member of an Alliance Kindred is a member of the Alliance.
• Three or more individuals of the Asatru community can band together and form a Kindred and apply for membership in the Alliance.
• The Board of Directors of the Asatru Alliance shall be responsible for the screening of new Kindreds. There are three levels of membership in the Alliance. Formational, Probational, and Full Voting Kindreds. Formational Kindreds must send a delegate to the Thing to petition for Probational Kindred status. Probational Kindreds must attend a future AlThing and petition the Thing to attain Full Kindred status.

Approval
• These By-Laws are to be approved or amended at each Althing.

1987: In November, the Asatru Free Assembly disbanded (reportedly over whether or not neo-nazis could be admitted) [23], and on December 20, Edred Thorsson founded The Ring of Troth along with James Chisholm. The Ring of Troth defines itself as belonging to the Universalist and inclusive sector of Heathenry. Taking an inclusive, non-racialist view, it soon grew into an international organization.

In the Preface to the Special Yrmin-Edition of Thorsson’ book, A Book of Troth, (2003), Thorsson states that “when it was first published in 1989, it was at first to be the official text for The Ring of Troth. After a few years, it was ousted from that position in favor of a more politically correct and collaborative effort called Our Troth by Kveldulf Gundersson” [24].

Thorsson goes on to state, “It was thought that a book contributed to by several authors would be more to the liking of those who’d like to build consensus rather than follow a vision.” [25]

1989: Thorsson was expelled from The Odinic Rite (OR) following his “Open Letter to the Leadership of the Asatru/Odinist/Troth Movement” wherein he detailed his involvement with the Temple of Set.

1994: McNallen founded the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), an ethnically-oriented Heathen group headquartered in California.

1995-ish: Ron McVan, Katja, and David Lane created Wotansvolk, a white nationalist, neo-folkish, Neo-Nazi organization. David Lane, now dead, served a 190-year prison sentence in connection with the white separatist revolutionary domestic terrorist organization group The Order, (and for violating the civil rights of Alan Berg, a radio talk show host) [26]. (Alan Berg was killed.) The Lanes founded 14 Word Press in St. Maries, Idaho to specifically publish David’s writings. McVan joined 14 Word Press in 1995 and founded The Temple of Wotan (co-writing a book by that name). 14 Word Press – Wotansvolk proceeded to publish several books for the practice of Wotanism before becoming defunct in the early 2000’s [27].

The 14 Words: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” [28]

1995: Ron McVan, originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [29], became involved with white separatism in the 1970s after reading the works of Ben Klassen [30], a Republican Florida state legislator who supported George Wallace [31]. During this time, Wotansvolk published monthly pamphlets and operated a prison outreach program [32]. While Wotansvolk is one of many groups active in prisoner outreach, it seems to be (far more) successful in its outreach efforts than other Asatrú / Odinist programs” [33].

The term Wotanism in modern times emphasizes white nationalism, white separatism and an ethnocentric, pan-European interpretation of modern Paganism. “WOTAN” is also an acronym for Will of the Aryan Nation. The followers often selectively cite Carl Jung’s theories of an “Aryan collective subconscious”, specifically his 1936 essay “Wotan” [34].

Present Day: One of the others convicted with David Lane, Richard Scutari, has become a frequent contributor to extremist publications. His definitions of a political prisoner and prisoner of war have become the standard definitions used by most white supremacist groups, and have been printed in numerous publications, including the skinhead magazine Hammerskin Press (now defunct) and Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance newspaper. Scutari writes letters to the extremist newsletters and magazines to which he has access, including the National Alliance-owned Resistance magazine and Fenris Wolf (also defunct). Scutari also actively promotes Nordic paganism as a form of racist religion [35].

Order member Richard Kemp, also a copious writer, has become a “spiritual leader” at the U.S. Penitentiary in Sheridan, Oregon, where he is serving a 60- year sentence. As reported by David Lane’s 14 Words Press, Kemp is now the “gothi” of the Wotansvolk at Sheridan. Because of his involvement in Asatru, Kemp was invited to speak at the Nation of Islam’s Day of Atonement program at Sheridan and has also been instrumental in organizing a “Midsummer Solstice” celebration and weekly Asatru services at the prison [36].

While Heathen Universalists and some non-folkish Odinists have rejected what they perceive as an attempt to appropriate the revival of the ancient native faith of northern Europe for political and racial ends [37], folkish Odinists, such as McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly, generally support Lane’s version of Wotanism and the Fourteen Words [38].

In 2016 McNallen turned the reins of the AFA over to Matt Flavel, Allen Turnage, and Patricia Hall [39]. The AFA then “declared point blank that non-white and LGBT Heathens were not welcome in their tradition.”; which then triggered the drafting of Declaration 127.

Conclusion

Knowledge is power; and, with that power comes great responsibility. A central division within the Heathen movement concerns the issue of race and there have been numerous “calls” for Heathens to address the sordid aspects of racism affiliated with our religion that have become progressively bolder over the past several years. The images and tragedy of Charlottesville, Virginia’s Unite the Right rally in August 2017, followed by the neo-Nazi rally in Newnan, Georgia on April 21st of this year (2018) disturb us. So, what are we as Heathen’s to do? A recent article in the Atlantic provides the following advice:

“Unfortunately for heathens, there are racists who have also adopted the Ásatrú faith. This, in turn, can create the impression that the racism issue represents the faith’s central feature. The struggle of heathens today is ultimately not just about rescuing their symbols from racists, but also about dismantling the broader idea that this rescue mission is what defines them.”

“There’s more to heathenry than just the fight against racist groups,” (Ulrike) Pohl said, adding that to get this point across, heathens need “a combined strategy” that blends internal theological work, public political activity, and education geared at non-heathens. As for educating heathens with racist leanings, the most important thing is to be able to offer them a richer, more compelling vision. “If we can offer a sense of community and a sound theology, I think it’ll be easier to explain to people why the blood-and-soil idea makes no sense historically or spiritually,” she said. “The best way to get people to come over to the bright side is to simply be cool.” (The Atlantic)

From what you have just read, while you know that what Ulrike Pohl states is correct, her advice doesn’t go far enough.

Here are the suggested “12 Steps to Bind the Wolf”:

• Compose and publish statements on all of your social media sites (or your personal profiles) that proclaim that you are: inclusive (if you are), independent of all other Heathen groups (if you are) and most importantly, fly the “Heathens Against Hate” flag.

I first became acquainted with the Heathen’s Against Hate banner via Woden’s Harrow on Frigga’s Web in 2003 and its “Heathen’s Against Hate” banner campaign. While Woden’s Harrow is now apparently defunct, I have an old copy of the document, which says in part:

“It is a sad necessity that requires me to make this page, but because of a few racist, Nazi, and Satanic websites that have a relatively high profile on the WWW, I feel this disclaimer must be placed on my website. The sites to which I refer claim to be Asatru or Norse Heathen while promoting Heathenism as white supremacism or a kind of Satanism. Of course, the practice the Old Northern traditions and other forms of ancient Paganism — the ancestral religions of much of Europe and the world — has nothing to do with race hatred or with Satan.

Heathens Against Hate is a banner campaign I started after seeing the Pagans Against Fascism banner created by the Wolfshof of Germany. Many legitimate Asatru and Pagan organisations in Europe have had such problems with the negative publicity given to Heathenism by the violent actions of racists, that they have had to put strong anti-Nazi and anti-fascist disclaimers on their Pagan Web sites. These disclaimers let visitors immediately see the orientation of the site. I think that this is a good way to educate the public and encourage non-Pagans to find out the truth about our religion. I originally made this statement as a disclaimer for my own site.”

Directions were then included on how to link to the Woden’s Harrow Heathen’s Against Hate banner campaign or which words to use to declare that you supported the Heathen’s Against Hate banner campaign.

Re-creating the banner for your social media site(s) is fairly easy: using a freeware picture of a raven (or two or three); write the words “Heathens Against Hate” under it and post as appropriate.

• Become acquainted with Declaration 127, and, actively support its tenets, as stated here and on the website:

“The Asatru Folk Assembly (hereinafter referred to as the AFA) has a long and well-documented history of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, sexuality, and gender identity. In a recent statement, the AFA declared point blank that non-white and LGBT Heathens were not welcome in their tradition. While the undersigned organizations listed here fully recognize the AFA’s right to govern themselves as they see fit, and with full autonomy, we hereby exercise the same right.

“We will not promote, associate, or do business with the AFA as an organization so long as they maintain these discriminatory policies.

“The AFA’s views do not represent our communities. We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do. We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frið (frith), to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.

“The AFA is free to stand for whatever principles it sees fit.
“They are free to stand alone.”

Implementation of Declaration 127 will vary by individual and Kindred. It’s a tough conversation to have and you may be surprised how others view Declaration 127.

• Refer to Odinists as White Supremacists and Nazis — because that is what they are.

• Refer to these groups as being domestic terrorist organizations, because they are.

While “Domestic Terrorist” is a state-definition which also includes the American Indian Movement, The Earth Liberation Front, and many indigenous and POC justice movements, it is not my intent to disparage these groups. I am just not sure what else we can call a group of people whose sole aim is to eradicate a group of people based on their DNA and sexual orientation. I am open to suggestions.

• Shun them (similar to what is outlined in Declaration 127). If you currently go to moots that host both Odinists and Universalists together, request that another moot be created (or actively work with other Kindreds and do it yourself) and exclude those individuals and groups from the new event(s). Keeping Frith is no longer acceptable. We don’t keep Frith with domestic terrorists!

• Examine your group’s origins. If you are modeled after another group, and, if you don’t know, inquire where they got their organizational model. Look at the titles of your organizational officers and clergy. If you are using terms that originate from an Odinic or similar group, consider changing them. As the Wiccan’s say, “Lineage is important!” Know the lineage of your group.

• Examine your ritual material; where did it come from? Simply saying “The internet.” or “Out of some book.”, is not the correct answer. It is incumbent upon all of us to sift through everything we are reading and doing, including the words that come out of our mouths to ensure that they don’t originate from an Odinist group. This includes how you celebrate your Sumbels, your Blots and your holidays. If you decide that nothing needs to change, make that a conscious decision and know why you are not making the change; be able to articulate that to your Kindred and guests.

• To circumvent supporting McNallen, his successors and his / their organization(s), (when purchasing material from author Edred Thorsson / Stephen Flowers), consider buying your material from used booksellers since the profits generally go to the bookseller, not the author.

This is something that I have wrestled with as a magickal practitioner. It’s not easy to just “not buy his books” and purchase something from a more current author. If you look in the bibliography of most books on the Northern Mystery Tradition, they reference Thorsson. Part of the reason that Runic magick works is that the people who are using the Runes (for writing and magickal purposes) have all agreed that they mean what they mean. (This is the Magickal Law of Names.) To make a shift away from Thorsson will take time, if that is indeed what we must do. Just sit with that for a moment…

• Consider stripping out any words or language of Odinist origin and further personalize each of your Blots by adding readings, poetry, meditations that are centric to the agricultural calendar. Look to modern England, Germany, and Scandinavia to see what holidays they celebrate and borrow some ideas from them. All of them center on family, food, and alcohol! Look around you and take seasonal cues from your own “backyard”.

The beauty of practicing a “living religion” is that the Gods and Goddesses we worship speak through us and we are FREE to create ritual and liturgy that resonates with us. That includes allowing our gods to inspire us to create something that is uniquely ours.

• Depending on your comfort level with magickal rituals, consider creating recurring rituals in your tradition (perhaps the same months as Yule, Summer Finding, Mid-Summer and Winter Finding) that explicitly focus on banishing whatever protection that these Odinist individuals and groups enjoy by working with Tyr and “binding” them; much as Tyr bound the embodiment chaos, the wolf Fenris. By focusing solely on the groups within your state or locale, Heathens as a whole can be more effective on a larger level [40]. Do this quietly and with only the most trusted members of your Kindreds. In the spirit of a gift for a gift, be prepared to offer copious amounts of ale, mead and other suitable sacrifices as part of this ritual. At the same time, TAKE BACK OUR WORDS, OUR SYMBOLS, and OUR GODS! Where ever possible and safe to do so, find ways to use our sacred language, symbols, and gods. Conduct cleansing rituals to free them from hate. Share those rituals with others. Collaborate with other Kindreds and do similar rituals around the same time that focus on the same things.

• If people confront you about your jewelry, tattoos, mode of dress, gently tell them that you, your ancestors and your gods don’t support terrorists and that your gods are working on a solution. Have a short elevator speech ready with a few talking points about what you do believe and a little bit about your Kindred (if you have one) and invite them to a Blot. Open your heart and try not to be defensive. Seek to understand that they don’t understand and that some people, based on their personal experience may be fearful.

• If practical and you feel comfortable, “do the work” within your community; work with a disadvantaged school, a shelter, or other collaborative projects with your local Unitarian Church as a Heathen. Wear your hammer and be proud. Talk about yourself and your group’s ideology and share something about your religious traditions. Host a coffee or a workshop at your local pagan bookstore to talk a little bit about your religion.

If enough people take these 12 Steps to Bind the Wolf, we will prevail. Together we are stronger than when we are standing alone as rugged individualists. By talking to one another, organically the movement will catch fire (the rune Kenaz) and we will prevail. When we prevail, our Gods and Goddesses and our Symbols will also prevail and we can bind the wolf with ice (the rune Isa).


  1. von Schnurbein, Stefanie (2016); Norse Revival – Transformations of Germanic Neopaganism.
  2. ibid. p. 2.
  3. Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. p. 2.
  4. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism; Research Brief, Key Concepts To Understand Violent White Supremacy.
  5. During, Simon; Cultural Studies: A Critical Introduction; Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005; ISBN 0-203-01758-7; p. 163.
  6. L. Frank Baum’s Editorials on the Sioux Nation”. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-09. Full text of both, with commentary by professor A. Waller Hastings.
  7. Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
  8. Mish, Frederic C., Editor in Chief Webster’s Tenth New Collegiate Dictionary Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A.:1994–Merriam-Webster See original definition (definition #1) of “Aryan” in English–Page 66.
  9. Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
  10. Ibid. p. 172-173.
  11. “A racist brand of neo-Paganism, related to Odinism, spreads among white supremacists”; Splcenter.org. Archived from the original on April 18, 2014.
  12. Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, page 261.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Pagan Resurrection by Richard Rudgley (2006) p.240
  15. Osred, “A multi-faceted life”, obituary originally (2010) published in the Friends of Oswald Mosley newsletter, re-published in This is Odinism,
    Renewal Publications (2016), p. 105.
  16. “Odinism – A Defining Moment”. A talk by Hengest Thorsson, later published in Odinic Rite Briefing, issue 113, 2009.
  17. Chisholm, James Allen; Appendix A, The Awakening of a Runemaster: The Life of Edred Thorsson, from Thorsson, Edred; Green Rûna – The Runemaster’s Notebook: Shorter Works of Edred Thorsson Volume I (1978-1985), 1993, second improved and expanded edition 1996.
  18. Thorsson, Edred; A Book of Troth, Runa-Raven Yrmin Edition, 2003.p. xii.
  19. Kaplan, Jeffrey (1996). “The Reconstruction of the Ásatrú and Odinist Traditions”. In Lewis, James R. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. New York: State University of New York. pp. 193–236.
  20. Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, page 262.
  21. “World Tree Publications: Valgard Murray Biography”; worldtreepublications.org; 2014-02-20.
  22. “World Tree Publications: History”; worldtreepublications.org; 2014-02-09.
  23. Kaplan, Jeffrey (1996). “The Reconstruction of the Ásatrú and Odinist Traditions”. In James R. Lewis (ed.). Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. New York: State University of New York. pp. 193–236.
  24. Thorsson, Edred; A Book of Troth, Runa-Raven Yrmin Edition, 2003.p. xii
  25. Ibid.
  26. “Extremism in America: David Lane”. Anti-Defamation League. 2007.
  27. Gardell, Mattias (2004). “White Racist Religions in the United States: From Christian Identity to Wolf Age Pagans”. In Lewis, James R.; Petersen, Jesper Aagaard. Controversial New Religions. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 387–422.
  28. Dunbar, Edward; Blanco, Amalio; CrËvecoeur-MacPhail, Desirée A. (2016-11-21). The Psychology of Hate Crimes as Domestic Terrorism: U.S. and Global Issues. ABC-CLIO. pp. 91.
  29. Back of Book Jacket Cover.
  30. Gardell 2004, p. 205–206.
  31. Hesser, Charles F (7 Dec 1967), “Wallace Men Feud in Florida”, The Miami News, p.6-A.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism.
  34. Gardell 2004, pp. 208, 210–212.
  35. Anti-Defamation League: Dangerous Convictions – An Introduction to Extremist Activities in Prisons; 2002. p 33.
  36. Ibid. p. 34.
  37. Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism.
  38. “New Brand of Racist Odinist Religion on the March” Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. Winter 1998.
  39. “About Stephen A. McNallen”. Asatru Folk Assembly. (Archive link is broken.)
  40. The most current list state by state can be found here.

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