Little Common People

“Acknowledging and strengthening your supportive web of equals is Right Action. Not putting value on large status symbols is Right Thinking. Be quietly comfortable; if you are well ahead you should not aspire to enter the ranks of the wealthy but be sharing more.”

From Judith O’Grady

 

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I was presenting recently about the divination system I use, Ogham.

No, this essay isn’t about Ogham but in my introduction about them/me I touched on the way that my Druidry differs from many other modern Druids:

In Olden Days, Druids studied for 20-25 years to become literate in several languages, to memorize laws and teaching stories and then recite them, to play an instrument and sing, to make extemporaneous poetry, and other things. ‘Druidry’ was not a religion; ‘Druid’ was a title.

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Some modern-day Druids consider that achieving a Masters degree gives them approximately 20 years of education, or that being head of a Grove or well-informed about the old mythos and lore gives them the title. Or they just consider themselves as such because of their inherent status and importance.

Then they make assumptions about how things were in the Older Days and say,

“The Druid informed the people when the Holidays came, decided what the law stated, passed on the lore……”

I have no clear idea how Druids acted, believed, and worshipped in the Olden Days; not much instructional lore exists because Druids had a gease

(like a taboo but which was something that they might have to do as well as being forbidden to do and also varied from person to person)

against writing down their religion, dogma, beliefs, rituals, etc.

But I have read about history.

Before Modern Times common people mostly stayed where they were born all of their lives. Even as late as Pre-Industrial Age most non-noble, ordinary people travelled 15 miles or less from their home-place in all their lives. Travel was difficult and news disbursal was slow; so only what happened in your neighbourhood was well known. Then Market day would permit news from the surrounding area and near villages and towns to be traded along with speciality goods. Big fairs once or twice a year brought further news, imported goods, and professional performers.

More classes of people went to big fairs so the news would be different in scope. On market day you would talk over your own tradespeople, farmers, and miscreants but at a Fair the news would include kings, far-away wars, clan fights, all that constitutes history. Before Common Era you might see a Druid or hear what the Druidic opinion was about the history.

But it wasn’t that you existed in a sort of formless void between the occasional, accidental, fleeting contacts with the Big People. Common people had a rich and meaningful life that had its own complete history; just one that has never made it into the books. It needed no Druid to tell you what to think or do, you could decide on your own. You might consider your family or community history; if you felt you needed advice, counsel, or Magic you need not search out a titled person. In your real, small world there were Fairy Doctors, Wisewomen, Cunning People, and storytellers (seanchaí). Although people might travel quite a distance (in their estimation, not ours) to consult a Healer or Soothsayer those people continued to be viewed as people much like the applicant but with a skill…. something like making good cheese or excellent beer. A skill with a little mysterious to it— people in touch with the Other World or wise in healing were like blacksmiths, dealing in Magic but a common-sense kind, not too dangerous.

The stories the Seanchaí told (or, failing that, the stories that came from your neighbours in gatherings) were about the high people and had larger Magics and bigger events in them and (imo) were considered to be a little inflated for the grandeur of it. But the story about your neighbour being dropped in a bog by a Will O’the Wisp was taken as told if not connected with having a drop taken.

So having a skill, even being very very good at it, didn’t change your status. You still lived down the road and traded elixir for shoes or foretellings for a chicken. Maybe if word of mouth spread enough a lady might come for a Magic Potion and give a little bit of jewellery in exchange but you were still a small person, rooted in your own countryside, associated with your own people, secure in your own identity.

In the Pagan community there is a status than many aspire to— being a Big Name Pagan (BNP) which would (presumably) make you larger than life. You might be able to live, possibly live large, on your Pagan earnings! You could be fortune-teller to the stars! But no, if suddenly my readings of Ogham went viral or people flocked to hear me give out about Irish lore or Socialist Druidry (none of these is really viable even as a daydream) I would not become a BNP, I would still live the same small life as now and just share more.

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Because I want to live a small life as a goal. I don’t say to myself that perhaps I’ll win the lottery or get a fabulous job or be elected as Empress of the World and this small life is just for now. ‘Where I Am’ (the fifth direction) actually defines me and not ‘where I wish I was’. I want to be in the web of common people and connected to my many equals; this is the Right Place. I am a skilly-person; my skill is Magic and God-Speaking but I am not a religious leader, I am just religious. People can ask me about what the Gods are saying, what is Right Action and Balance in a given situation, herbal preparations and Magic, divinatory advice…… but I will ask for help in their skill in return.

So what about the coming End Times when all Small People should rise up?

In more recent Irish history there were the Troubles; that part of the island not included in the Irish Republic was at war. From my admittedly biased point of view the Freedom Fighters/Soldiers of the Republican Army/terrorists (small people) were engaged in an unequal war with a Great and Domineering Empire. Many other small people saw those soldiers as part of their community, equals and compatriots. Even if circumstances kept them from playing an active, fighting part the people actively fighting were still neighbours. Soldiers who were retreating from a losing battle could run through any unlocked door and have it locked behind them and, if necessary, answered afterward by homeowners who had seen nothing.

When the armoured cars drove into a supportive community the small people living there (part of the Great and Domineering Empire‘s battle plan was unequal hiring and pejorative housing allotments to ensure that their enemies stayed small) would stand outside their homes and clang the trash can lids on the pavement as the cars rolled by thus locating the enemy for the soldiers. If ordered to stop they could readily stop and leave the clanging to the person on the other side of the street.

There is no stigma in being small, quite the opposite. Small, taking up less room, is the Right Place. Acknowledging and strengthening your supportive web of equals is Right Action. Not putting value on large status symbols is Right Thinking. Be quietly comfortable; if you are well ahead you should not aspire to enter the ranks of the wealthy but be sharing more.

If you can fight, fight. If illness or age or family or fear keep you from fighting, stand in solidarity and bang your trash can lid.


Judith O’Grady

image1is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).

How to Buy a Religion

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Source

What’s wrong with Sephora’s witch kit?

Is it crass to reduce a religious practice to $40 of mass-manufactured perfumes and Tarot cards? Probably, but haven’t Pagans been debating “pay-to-pray” back and forth for years? Sure, an independent Etsy artisan needs to make a living. But doesn’t Sephora also have to tap new markets to survive? The scale’s different, but what about the essence?

Is the mall any worse than the metaphysical shop?


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

Karl Marx

Capitalism alienates.

It takes parts of you and makes commodities out of them. Your time, your physical activity, and your mental energy all get sold on the labor market like Tarot decks and perfume. Your body contains more than itself – it carries your community, the work and care of your loved ones, everything they do to keep you physically and psychologically functional. Without all that, how would you make it out of your door every morning with enough resiliency to work? After all, capital is hungry. A business needs to grow, or else other companies out-compete it in the market and force it into bankruptcy. The ones that can grow, survive. The ones that find more ways and things to eat, grow. They need your ability to work, to produce goods and services they can sell. All of the ingredients that go into your work, they consume.

Capital imposes its needs onto the dispossessed, the ones who don’t own businesses or rental properties and so have nothing to live on but their ability to work. The whole community depends on the money its wage-workers earn, so it has to organize its collective life in whatever way maximizes their employability. Wage-workers are exploited, and they incarnate entire communities of labor, exploited alongside and through them.

Religion is one way the dispossessed survive. Capitalism cuts you off from your basic nature: your capacity to flourish, to form relationships as a free being. It demoralizes in both the current and the older sense: the mindlessness and futility of wage-work, housewifery, and unemployment teach despair and induce depression, but when capital reduces you to an instrument, it de-moralizes you in a larger sense. The more of you that goes to satisfy capital’s hunger, the less of you is left for self-cultivation, creativity, and relationship-building. You are alienated from yourself.


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Pop-culture resurgence: Internet tabloid Vice offers dozens of witchcraft-themed articles. Source

Sephora sells to women.

The social base of religion (Pagan and otherwise) is not only the dispossessed in general, but specifically the specially-oppressed along racial, national, and gender lines. Even when the ministers and bishops are men, it’s women who cook meals for sick parishioners, clean up after services, teach Sunday school, and fill most of the pews. Capitalism, by definition, only pays for waged work. But, the health and functionality of wage-workers is costly; it takes a vast expenditure of unpaid work in the home and the community to feed and support wage-workers, take care of their kids and elders, and ease the emotional strain of their alienation. So, there’s a division of labor between paid and unpaid work, and it falls along the lines of gender. Culture, ideology, and discrimination harmonize with the pervasive reality of anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence, forming an elegantly self-reinforcing feedback loop; gender roles both flow from and reinforce the overall social system. Those who don’t fall in line get hurt.

Religion sits at a key point in the cycle. It allows the racially and nationally oppressed to rely on each other for support, fellowship, and existential meaning without their oppressors in the room for a few hours each week (is it a coincidence that in the US, Black people report being “absolutely certain” of God’s existence at a higher rate than self-identified Christians do?). Religion takes the edge off of alienation, offering a relationship with something bigger than you, your job, and your daily life – a bedrock of connections and values deeper and older than capitalism. At the same time, it transmits gender roles and racial social segregation from generation to generation, helps the dispossessed stay psychologically healthy enough to work, and gives bourgeois clergy a medium to preach patience and forbearance towards oppression rather than revolution and collective action. From time to time, though, it takes on an opposite role, providing mass movements with a moral language and the institutional infrastructure they need. Religion is politically contradictory. It keeps the dispossessed in line – except when it’s helping them liberate themselves.

Paganism has an even sharper gender skew than most religions. After all, it actively encourages women to take on sacerdotal and leadership roles (not to mention its historical ties to lesbian feminism and LGBT culture). Sephora sells to women, so selling women’s religion is an intuitive next step, especially given that pop culture is currently more infatuated with witchcraft than it has been since the 90s. When Sephora sells Paganism, it’s offering more than a deck of cards and some quartz.  Sephora is no less responsible for capitalism’s crushing alienation than any other business. It helped create the ailment. Now, it’s promising a $40 cure.


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Metaphysical shopfront. Source

Unlike most religions, modern Paganism’s basic institutional anchor isn’t the congregation. Rather, it’s the metaphysical shop. Jonathan Wooley explains:

The authors, makers and the shops that stock their wares could operate without moots and open rituals; but moots and open rituals – in their current form – could not exist without the “Pagan Business”.

The point here is not that those who make their living through Paganism are being greedy or venial. On the contrary, writing words, speaking spells, crafting holy things, and making ceremonies that heal, enlighten, and empower is important work, and those working in these ways cannot survive on mere air and good wishes. The problem arises from how we are currently supporting the work that they do, and the centrality of this (commercial) arrangement in our community. Before all else, you have to pay. By relying upon the Market to directly transmit our lore, to fund our gatherings, to supply our goods, we become complicit in it. It means the fortunes of our traditions turn not with the wheel of the year, but with the shifting fashions and stock prices of the global publishing and wellness industries. Our community is directed less by the will of the gods, and more by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The heartbeat at the core of our living traditions becomes the ring of a cash register.

This dominance of the logic of the Market within Paganism is not surprising, even if it is disquieting. Paganism is one of the few religions to have arisen within the Modern Age, when Capitalism was in its ascendency. This has very real consequences for us all. Let us not forget the prototypical “gateway experience” for a seeker – traditionally – was buying a book from an occult book shop. The fact that the internet and Amazon have replaced the knowledgeable local bookseller is to be lamented; but it is not so meteoric shift as we might suppose. Whether your spirituality is expressed through buying knowledge from a kooky shop on Glastonbury High Street, or from Amazon, your spirituality is still being expressed through shopping. Equally, this shift demonstrates the extent to which our infrastructure is dependent upon the vagaries of the market to survive: the rise of the internet has caused many Pagan bookshops to close; depriving local communities of an invaluable opportunity to meet, learn, and socialise. Indeed, it is precisely because we have relied on the Market that this transition – from a friendly, in-community, low-profit enterprise, to a distant, global, high profit one – has taken place. The very means by which our lore is spread has been transformed for the worse by the dictat of the Market.

In other words, Sephora and a PantheaCon vendor don’t differ in essence – only in scale.


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The nitrogen cycle. Source

When Paganism is commercial, it’s filling religion’s conservative role, reconciling the dispossessed to their oppression. After all, if shopping is the way out of alienation, then capitalism, if not benevolent, is at least neutral. Collective action isn’t even on the radar.

But that’s not the only Paganism.

We’re all of us embedded in a living relational web – humans, the biosphere, the land and sea and sky, the gods and the dead. The nitrogen cycle and the water cycle have a sacredness. It’s holy when through death, an organism becomes food, transmuting into new life. The Sun is slowly spending itself. It feeds plants and algae with its energy, and that energy sustains the same animals who then nourish plants when they die and decompose. Gods are at once embodied in and emergent from each nexus of the process, standing at the fulcrums where nature moves humans and is itself moved. Paganism is what the mutually-conditioning cycles of ecology and evolution teach you when you pay attention to them, learn their rhythms, find where you are inside them. Prayer, devotion, myth, and ritual all orient you towards that ground of your being and make a sacrament of your participation in it. Reciprocity is cosmic, both an imperative and a fact. Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is at the heart of both polytheist sacrificial theology and the Mystery that governs the process of life.

You were born with a capacity for eudaimonia: balanced, all-sided human flourishing, the Greatest Good of ethics and philosophy. You can develop eudaimonia if you cultivate virtues: self-knowledge, self-control, justice, and right relationship. Capitalism is a social process that alienates you from that capacity, but it doesn’t destroy it. It does, however, determine the form that it needs to take.

Self-development, ritual and political practice, and reverence for the Gods, the dead, and the natural world are the foundation stones of revolutionary virtue. Paganism holds a radical seed: given the reality of capitalism and empire, the communist organizer, the Stoic sage, and the nature-mystic devotionalist must all become the same person. Each component of revolutionary virtue is incomplete by itself. They need each other, just like plants, decomposers, and nitrifying bacteria.

And it’s all unbuyable. The people trying to sell you Paganism are promising to cure your alienation with more alienation, only in disguise. They can sell you a Scott Cunningham book, a handmade pewter pendant, or a $40 “starter” box, but do those contain the Mystery? At best, they’re dispensable props. At worst, they’ll actively mislead you; like any religion, Paganism can teach you to accept your oppression or it can teach you to fight it.

If you really want to buy something, get Marcus Aurelius or an ecology textbook. Read myths. Go out and see how mosses and lichens grow on trees and how trees that die feed mushrooms and bacteria, fertilizing the soil. The relational web spreads out from there. It reaches to the sun, the atmosphere, the microorganisms, and the gods who take their embodiment in that dynamic interplay. Find your nature, your inborn potential for virtue, eudaimonia, and right relationship. You are in the web. Root yourself. Capitalism uproots you and disrupts your nature. It’s throwing the whole world’s processes so off-kilter that if it isn’t stopped, the ecosphere will endure – but it will be so changed that humans won’t be able to live in it.

Paganism lives in that knowledge. It’s a method – you learn the context of human life and you choose to act accordingly. Sephora can’t sell it to you, but neither can the vendors at Pagan Pride.

You can’t simply opt out of the alienation capitalism imposes. But, you can choose what to do about it; you are existentially free. Paganism can be a path to knowledge and revolutionary virtue, or it can be an “opiate of the masses.”

Sephora wants to sell you one of those. But you’re free to choose the other.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


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Of Gods and the Aftermath

It is rare that I find myself of the belief that the Gods will step in and shape your path. But in this case, I believe it is possible to make an exception.

From Prosper Bonhomme


My great comeback was supposed to be a review of a week-long festival. It would have been about revelry and dancing, about community and friendship. It was supposed to be a poetic ode to a population of pagans forging itself in fire, blazing new trails, carousing with the Gods in wild nature.

Now, surrounded by broken glass and shattered dreams, I am screaming on the side of the road.

“That’s not creepy at all.”

I look haggard, worn down and tired. The bags under my eyes are going to need to start paying fees for the extra checked weight I’m carrying. The run up I-75 north from Atlanta is extensive for anyone; going through the misty mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky is an even longer haul when you’re towing a trailer.

The thought was to catch some rest inside said trailer at a rest stop in southern Ohio, within spitting distance but past the perilous traffic of Cincinnati. But on my way to the facilities, the leery gaze of a gaunt truck driver was convincing me otherwise. I wet my hair in the sink and slide my bandanna back over it; the shower I had taken that morning at the RV Park seemed ages away.

This is the truth of traveling, the grit of it: you will sit in your own sweat and soil for hours, and you will have to live with that.

Leaving the bathroom, the truck driver is still there, still flashing me what would be a toothy smile, if he had teeth to fill it. “Hello, darlin’.” He drawls. Normally, I’d bristle. But I am too tired and too far from home to fight on foreign soil, so I cut a shy smile, raise a stiff hand to wave, then duck out and away.

Climbing into my trailer, I am awash in foreboding, with a soundtrack of rumbling, hissing semis surrounding me on all sides. It is only a little past two in the morning; the clock in my trailer ticks the seconds off for me. I have stayed up later, driven farther. “If you keep driving, you can make it home by six, maybe seven.” I announce to nobody as I stand, pulling a water bottle from a depleted 24-pack.

“If” is a relative term for me. I am Romani in my roots; given the choice between taking a break or continuing onward, I will always chase the sun.

There is a checklist I complete every time I take to the road; it only grows with the trailer attached to my vehicle. Is the step to the door folded back? Is the flap to the stove’s overhead fan sealed? Is the propane tank cover secure? Are the doors locked, windows and vents shut, tray tables up and the seats in the full upright position? Three pins to hold each moving thing in place, electrical plug secure and dry, battery covered—it’s an ordeal to feel safe enough just to get into the Jeep, let alone turn it on.

I pause every time, before the key hits the ignition, and rub the talismans hanging from my rearview mirror.

The first is a crow, for Morrigu—she is my patron, and I carry her with me always. Life is full of tactical choices, having a war goddess around doesn’t hurt your chances.

The second is a dog, for Hecate. She rules the crossroads and the liminal spaces in travelling. I do most of my work on the road, prepping spells before my journeys to toss out my open windows on the highway, petitioning her for whatever I hope awaits me at my destination: love, hope, prosperity, glory. She is the reason why I love to drive at night. Under the moon and stars, I feel safer than in sunlight.

The third is a cord, woven before I was born. That is all anyone needs to know about it. The secrets of what is in it, and what it stands for, are closely guarded in the sort of way that is left unwritten and whispered from ear to ear.

When the engine turns over, the sense of foreboding lingers as I toggle my brake control, disengage my overdrive, and test my trailer’s lights. When I pull away, it settles over me like a damp blanket. I decide that maybe instead of driving through the whole night, I’ll come to rest a little further north, at the rest stop in Piqua. I know the place. It’s better lit. It’s closer to home. It’s safer.

I just have to cross through Dayton first.

When the dust settles, I am facing south, and I am still screaming.

I was screaming when the trailer began to fishtail. I continued when it flipped and dragged itself across two lanes of the second longest north-south interstate highway in the United States, jerking my Jeep along behind it rather than the other way around. Which was worse, the harrowing, haunting sound of rending metal, squealing rubber, and crunching plastic on concrete, or the deathly loudness of the following silence—both overlaid with my shrieking vocals—is still a matter for debate.

Both still haunt my dreams.

I lunge for the car door, ripping it open before half scrambling, half stumbling out of my vehicle, falling to my forearms and knees on the ground. My phone breaks free of the electrical umbilical cord attaching it to my car’s radio and skitters across the shoulder, Siri shocked into silence for a few moments before he remembers his purpose:

“Recalculating!” He pings in a British accent, insultingly cheerful.

On the other side of the concrete divider I’m knelt in front of like the follower of a merciful, powerful God, is an off ramp. Siri thinks I have taken the exit.

For a second, I am stunned, because I thought for sure, in my screaming, that I would be taking a very different sort of exit.

When I turn my head to my left, my screaming becomes sobbing as I see it, still and silent in death: my trailer, only a month insured, twice driven, lying on its side and prone, like the deer carcasses I scavenge for my work. The air conditioning unit has been ripped off the top completely.

There is a vague, calm voice in the back of my head, calling for me: “you have to call 911. Call 911.”

Cars and semis rush by without stopping as I dial with shaking fingers, as I recount what happened to the 911 operator, who soothes me with dulcet tones, telling me a truth that should have been calming, but chilled me further.

“The police are on their way.”

I look to my Jeep, remembering the cases of bones in the trunk, the close to $500 stored in a lockbox under my back seat, and most importantly, a container—tucked away in my glovebox, for safekeeping—of prescription pills that are not mine, but are needed nonetheless, the effects of a healthcare system that was not made to help people like me.

I should have felt comforted, but in the current state of the world, I felt like a butterfly pinned to a board, waiting for an axe to drop. In the tarot, Judgement was never a kind card to me. So soon after The Tower, when its agents showed up, would they be true to nature? Or would they be reversed?

I watch as they survey my vehicle when they arrive, sauntering up like it’s a barbeque, not an accident. They ask me only if I have a license and registration—not if I am alright, that’s not their job to know—before joking with each other about morning shifts and their exploits of the previous weekend.

I fumble with the glovebox to retrieve my registration, pushing prescription pill bottles aside. The rustling doesn’t draw any attention, they are too busy laughing, except for one. The older one is jotting notes down on a pad—he is obviously pissed off, and the other two young cops keep prodding him. He picked up a split shift for tomorrow morning, because he wasn’t expecting, and I quote, “to be doing this all night.”

I slam the glovebox shut with a little too much force when I am done with it. The officer looks up, squints, but then decides it’s not worth his time to ask questions. I am saved by lazy incompetence.

“So, you were going a little too fast, huh?” His voice is deriding, decisive. He has already decided that I’m reckless and young. I’m impressed they haven’t made me take a breathalyzer yet. I guessed my cards right once again—it’s Judgement reversed. Confrontation. Weakness. Lost affections.

Joke’s on Judgement: for police officers there are no affections of mine to be lost.

“No.” I tell him, my voice flat, staring at the overturned trailer, unable to tear my gaze away from it. My baby, my baby—“When I’m towing, I can’t go above 60. It burns out my transmission.” The speed limit is 70.

The cop huffs, displeased with the lack of an easy solution. He will, indeed, be doing “this” all night.

There was a car. I remember it then, in the aftermath. Black, shiny, sleek and new. The symbol, the sigil carved onto its trunk is hazy in my memory, was it four interlocking circles? Was it a single circle, with an oval inside, crossed through with another curved line? What do those lines mean? I can’t tell a Honda from a Hyundai in full daylight when a vehicle is stopped, much less on a curve going sixty in the dim glow of orange streetlights.

It swerved into my lane. I swerved to avoid it; the trailer fishtailed. “No, no, no, NO!” The echoes rattle as the firefighters arrive with EMTs, they find me collapsed back on the ground in shock. I see more than one man roll his eyes at the uselessness of the police.

To this day, I have never met a firefighter I didn’t like.

They inspect me along with my vehicle and suggest I go to the hospital for the neck and upper back pain I’m in. One of them tells me to breathe. Up until that moment, I’m panting like I’m in labor. Processing catastrophe is a difficult birth.

One shines a flashlight to my face: in my screaming, I ruptured one of the delicate blood vessels in my sclera, and as a result my right eye is painted a gauche—or is it gouache?—bright red on white canvas. Another fireman approaches as they fit me into a neck brace for transport, asking about my car keys. In doing so, he tells me a chilling statement before I’m placed on the gurney.

“That hitch extender saved your life.” His tone is matter of fact as I direct him to the Jeep; the keys are still in the ignition. He explains that the hitch extender I had been so annoyed with purchasing, because my hitch jack crank kept scraping my mounted spare tire, had put the two centers of gravity for my vehicle and my trailer further apart. The extra length to twist, and that, had kept the Jeep from rolling with it.

“Good thing, too. Without you braking,” he points to the black line of burnt rubber leading to my vehicle and beyond it, “you would have hit the concrete there.” And if I had flipped the same way the trailer had, it would have been the roof of my car making that connection.

“We would have had to cut you out—”

“—But you’re fine now.” Another fireman adds, shooing his coworker away with a mutter. “You had to tell her that? Jesus, man…”

And with that revelation, I am loaded into an ambulance, and events begin to blur together—the ride, hasty calls to my father hours away, CT scans, and finally, blissfully, sleep.

Aftermath is a tricky thing to navigate.

It comes in the orchestra starting up every night when you close your eyes, to the tune of rending metal, squealing rubber, and crunching plastic on concrete, in the finale of screaming, even when you awaken. It comes in images of your car flipping, extra traffic in the right lane that sandwiches you between the front of a semi’s grill and your trailer’s kitchenette sink.

It comes in the sobs that choke you when you clean your trailer out, in the clothes pried from your fingers to go in trash bags, because you winterized your toilet with antifreeze, so it spilled and soaked into your favorite things, things that cannot be replaced.

It comes in the trickster mask you put on for your friends and family when they ask, because they will ask. You laugh and make jokes about the phantom car that sped away into the night, about how they’ll have to hire better hitmen next time if they want to kill you off so badly; did they think a mere car accident would do the trick? Your Romani family called you “thrice touched” now.

You have to stamp down old wounds that rear up, because you love to roam. You can’t linger on how many times your passion has tried to kill you.

It comes in the mail once insurance totals the trailer and the check is cut like a game of cards, dealt out in a shit hand. It’s money, but not nearly enough. It could never be enough, but they could at least try not to show how they stack the deck against you. It’s not just your money, it’s your family’s. It’s Daia’s hard work at odd jobs for just a little to help, it’s your younger sister cutting coupons because maybe, if we save on groceries, it can help—

Their disappointment is a heavier burden than your own, even when they try to tell you it doesn’t exist. But it does. It does.

It comes in frustration that the only thing sparing your life was four feet of a road’s shoulder and six extra inches of metal on your hitch, and of course, the tow company has stolen even that.

You call them every day, practically begging them to find it. Where did they take your tow hitch? It wasn’t in your car, it wasn’t on the side of the road. It shouldn’t have been removed anyway. Your messages languish, never returned, never acknowledged. Thieves, and state sanctioned at that. It’s a government contract keeping them afloat, plus exorbitant fees.

They make you pay just short of two hundred dollars to get your car out of impound, and they can’t even give it to you in one piece. Money lost and peace of mind stolen. The bastards.

You have a lot of people to hex in the aftermath, but you make sure to save strength for them.

However.

It also comes in whispers, reminders. You rub your fingers on your talismans when you get in your Jeep and remember how, on a hot afternoon three weeks and a thousand years ago, you put the bones from the convention you were vending in your trunk rather than back in your trailer—the way you had placed them when you had driven down—because you had a feeling. Thus, they are left untouched. In the trailer they would have been crunched into dust and ruined.

You remember the foreboding you felt when you left that dimly lit pit stop in southern Ohio, spitting distance past Cincinnati.

It’s nothing short of fate; the whole damn thing.

My great comeback was supposed to be a review of a weeklong festival. It would have been about revelry and dancing, about community and friendship. It was supposed to be a poetic ode to a population of pagans forging itself in fire, blazing new trails, carousing with the Gods in wild nature.

Instead, it’s about my own forging. It’s about how a strange feeling from a man in a rest stop marked me for a crash, about how a couple of swipes of my thumb over a talisman might have marked me not to die in it.

It’s about how seeing a crow in an Atlanta parking lot changed my packing plans in a way that saved my business. It’s about how the trail I’m blazing has suddenly shifted and changed, a metamorphosis that is less metastasizing and more mutation. It’s evolution.

It is rare that I find myself of the belief that the Gods will step in and shape your path. But in this case, I believe it is possible to make an exception.


Prosper Bonhomme

Conjured with the remaining detritus of the Great Black Swamp and a handful of teeth, Prosper Bonhomme is a nonbinary anarcho-queer witch. When they aren’t busy scouring the highway for bones to clean up and sell, they can be convinced to write for Gods & Radicals. Their own blog, Bonhomme Rouler, is woefully underappreciated. Bon is also on twitter, when they aren’t deemed too dangerous to be left unsuspended-er, unattended.


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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

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


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Fire from the Gods on Evildoers

“Let us call to them to enter into, as is Their mandate, this iteration of the never-ending fight against the Powers of Wrongness;
the stealing and imprisoning of children.
Send down Your power to help us stand for Right Action.”

From Judith O’Grady

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At our MidSummer Ritual, the Deities addressed are Archetypical Seasonal Personifications rather than Deities of a specific Pantheon. They are the Oak King, Warrior for Right and for the Powerless (a modern analogy is King Arthur), and His Warrior-Band Leader, a sort of Joan-of-Ark figure without the visions and eventual burning-at-stake (Scáthach, if you’re familiar with Irish lore).

In the wake of recent news and responding to a Sending from the Gods, I made some changes.

This is how it came about:

I was in the depths of Morning Meditation (dozing) and the thought came into my head that our Druid Grove doesn’t have a specific processional for MidSummer (this is one of my ongoing projects). Suddenly my head was singing a protest song from my teen years (I was in the March on Washington in 1967).

“Hardly appropriate to Longest Day.” I thought.
…more singing, with Fierceness added. I listened harder.
“O, You have volunteers for the fight against the caging of children….. I see.”

Our processional song is now ‘Like a Tree Standing by the Water, We Shall Not be Moved’ with some new topical couplets in the verses. I also changed the Statement of Purpose:

Guiding Druid: Why are we here?

All: We are here to honour the Gods!

Guiding Druid: As our ancestors once did, so do we do today, and so will our children do in the future. This is the Holiday of Midsummer.

Come in good faith and with strong and open hearts for the Ritual of the Longest Day!

This is the time of Greatest Light, let it shine into our lives!

This is the triumph of the Oak King, Warrior for the powerless, Protector of the oppressed. He rides into battle; the Warrior Maiden, his War-Leader, at His side.

Together they ride the turning wheel up into brightness.

Let us call to them to enter into, as is Their mandate, this iteration of the never-ending fight against the Powers of Wrongness;
the stealing and imprisoning of children.
Send down Your power to help us stand for Right Action.

Unlock the cage doors, this sorrow vanquished with this day’s battle won.

Let their light shine into our lives today and always!

Bíodh sé amhlaidh!
All: Bíodh sé amhlaidh!

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I re-wrote the in-ritual invocation and thanks a little:

Guiding Druid:
Will the Oak King and the Warrior Maid also come?

Druids of the Occasion:
Triple, Triple, flow and ripple,
Praise and Honour; not a mickle

The Gates are open, as You see-
Cross here, with Fire, Well, and Tree

Without the Gods we fail and wither;
With thanks and love we ask Them hither.

Oak King’s Druid:
King of Summer, Mighty Oak,
Your triumph is the Longest Day!
Strong, You help the weaker folk.
Bright, You shine to point the way.

Shine Your brightness, we invoke;
Here, where we have come today.
Praises to You rise up like smoke,
And Offerings in glad array.

Warrior maid’s Druid:
Lead us victorious through the heat,
Warrior Maid, to Harvest Home.
Even cold in Winter’s deep,
As Your kerns we’re not alone.

You know the tiredness of Duty,
The loneliness of standing guard;
Let it all resolve in Beauty-
Led home by You, the way unbarred.

This is Your time, green and warm,
To bring all things to their fruition.

Your mighty tasks You will perform,
And we will send You our petition.

*suitable offerings are made*

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The Deities of the Holiday are thanked:
All that comes will surely pass,
Thank You for coming here today.
We, to you, are blades of grass,
We will go and You will stay.

Warriors, we thank you both;
Bold and sharp! Nevertheless,
You will help us, nothing loath,
‘Gainst the Powers of Wrongness.

But the biggest change was to add a Working, which in this case is an invocation to the ghosts of historical killings and a call to the Gods for intervention:

Now do the strong oppress the weak.
Rise again, Drogheda’s shadows,
No kingdom’s given to the meek.
And there are lies to be exposed.

The echo of history will ring,
Ghosts created at Culloden,
And ephemeral warriors bring,
To right wrongs done by evil men.

St Louis, ship of souls, sail on;
Now is the time for a crusade.
Come, whole and sound, from where you’ve gone,
Your memory has not decayed.

Powerful men have called up war,
To be waged on little children.
Memories! Clans!Allies and more,
All Beings for Good from now and then!

Bring Mighty Voices, even the odds,
I call Holy Fire down, Gods.

In my belief system the invocation for action on the part of humans changes the enforcement of the Second Precept (‘EveryBeing has Free Will’) to allow more direct action on people by the Gods. I am, to a certain extent, abrogating my free will to the use of the Gods but also I believe that more manipulation of events is available after invocation. So even though I no longer an American citizen, have no representatives, and cannot think of what I can do to help or change, the Gods will act on my request. And, I am sure, the petitions of many other saddened people like myself.

Bíodh sé amhlaidh!
Which is, roughly translated, ‘Let it be so!’ and is our Grove’s ‘Amen’.


Judith O’Grady

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is an elderly Druid (Elders are trees, neh?) living on a tiny urban farm in Ottawa, Canada. She speaks respectfully to the Spirits, shares her home and environs with insects and animals, and fervently preaches un-grassing yards and repurposing trash (aka ‘found-object art’).


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Bargaining Even With the Spiritual

“Rules to be followed in order to achieve something desired, exchange favors, the human mind is so materialistic that it bargains even with the spiritual.”

From Jal Souza

English Translation Here

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Barganhando Até Com o Espiritual

Regras a serem seguidas com o intuito de alcançar algo desejado, troca de favores, a mente humana é tão materialista que barganha até com o espiritual.

Não se trata de um texto didático, baseado em livros de pessoas celebres ou de status reconhecido, mas sim um relato de uma simples alma, que aprendeu na pratica, sendo liberto do crime, das drogas e da ignorância política, através da fé, vendo a força dos ancestrais, filhos da grande mãe África, dos impérios de Oyo Yorubá, Kongo, Aksum, a quem somos herdeiros e guardiões legítimos de sua sabedoria, livrar o povo preto da morte, em todas as formas que ela se apresenta aos jovens de periferia, e escutando os ensinamentos de uma ialorixá, não uma com iniciados famosos ou com terreiro gigante em algum bairro nobre, citada em veículos de comunicação, mas uma de baixa escolaridade e muita sabedoria conquistada nos seus 27 anos de feita, iniciada na religião, que perdeu muitos filhos, vê os iaôs como nascidos dela, para a política assassina racista do estado brasileiro, mas salvou muitos, esse texto é uma prova.

É triste ver como as pessoas, até mesmo praticantes da fé africana, não entendem a força dos nossos antepassados, não conhecem a essência dessa crença tão rica de sentimentos, onde não é preciso ser o mais letrado ou endinheirado, vivemos do resplendor dos impérios da terra natal ao cativeiro do solo americano, e nem isso nos apagou da sociedade e do crescimento. Fé significa verdade, se encher um copo na torneira, colocar em uma prateleira e crêr que ali está uma energia sagrada, o que chamam água, chamamos Oxum, se tomar um banho na praia e acreditar que ali foram tiradas todas negatividades, o que chamam de água salgada, chamamos Iemanjá, ao dar de comer a um semelhante faminto, ali está a terra que nos da o alimento, chamamos Omolu, Obaluaiê, o que chamam natureza, chamamos Orixás, seres de luz, guias, aqueles que não mudam o planeta, mas mudam a nós, para agirmos pelo mundo. Não se trata de oferecer e receber, a experiência de colocar um simples prato de milho branco na pratileira, após usar cocaína, e nunca mais usar novamente, dá essa certeza, e até mesmo não adepto do candomblé, mas que fez o bem a si mesmo e ao próximo, está rodiado das energias positivas, pois, o vento não se vende por bens materiais, Iansã não precisa, e sopra o agô, misericórdia, também aos que erram, pois nos erros que aprendemos, mas pesa o martelo da justiça aos maldosos convictos.

O mal existe? Sim! A personalidade do ser humano faz parte da natureza, temos positivo e negativo, não chamamos os deuses dos outros de demônios, ou quem não segue a crença de perverso, cada um tem seu papel e aprendizado nesse universo, que chamamos Oxalá, Obatolá, e só o Grande Criador sabe o que cada um passou, e passa, em sua caminhada, o diabo é nossa própria escuridão. Cultuamos seres malignos? Opcional de cada um. Se alguém lança uma praga contra outro, seja acendendo uma vela, em oração, e até mesmo pura palavras, o maligno se apodera, para prejudicar a todos, mas, a natureza é justa, não mau, assim como um animal predador só caça a quantidade de presas de que precisa para sobreviver. Dificuldades todos passaremos, conheceremos o melhor e o pior de existir, faz parte do aprendizado, mas o senhor da guerra, o sangue dentro de nós, Ogum, tem as chaves das portas da prosperidade para quem merecer, lutar por si e por seus semelhantes. As entidades não farão milagres do acaso, mas, como o ar que é vital a vida, te dará a energia para vencer na luta, as ruins não vão segurar seus braços, pernas, não há melhor ferramenta que a própria preguiça, desatenção.

Não é preciso ser adepto do candomblé, umbanda, quimbanda, para ser agraciado pelos grandes reis e rainhas do oculto, do não palpável, cada tempo que vivemos é um novo conhecimento, senhor Tempo ensina, basta abrir a mente para o que é mostrado, se apropriar do que faz bem, distribuir amor, com justiça. O espiritual não é capitalista, não está a venda, só entende quem conhece a gratidão e paz interior.


Jal Souza

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 17.41.25Um brasileiro de 30 anos, nascido e criado nas periferias da capital do estado da Bahia, candomblecista e esquerdista, me descobrindo tarde, após vencer preconceitos e senso comum aprendidos desde infância.


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English Translation

Bargaining Even With the Spiritual

Rules to be followed in order to achieve something desired, exchange favors, the human mind is so materialistic that it bargains even with the spiritual.

This is not a didactic text, based on books of selected people or of recognized status, but rather an account of a simple soul, which he has learned in practice, being freed from crime, drugs and political ignorance, through faith, seeing the strength of the ancestors, sons of the great mother Africa, of the empires of Oyo Yoruba, Kongo, Aksum, to whom we are heirs and legitimate guardians of his wisdom, to rid black people of death, in all the forms that it presents itself to the peripheral youth, and listening to the teachings of an ialorixá, not one with famous initiates or with a giant terreiro in some noble neighborhood, mentioned in vehicles of communication, but one of low education and much wisdom conquered in his 27 years, initiated in the religion, who lost many children, sees the iaôs as born from her, to the murderous racist politics of the Brazilian state, but saved many, this text is proof.

It is sad to see how people, even practitioners of the African faith, do not understand the strength of our ancestors, do not know the essence of this belief so rich in feelings, where one does not have to be the most literate or wealthy, we live from the brightness of the empires of the homeland to the captivity of American soil, and not even that erased us from society and from growth. Faith means truth,

if you fill a glass on the tap, put it on a shelf and believe that there is a sacred energy, what is called water, we call Oxum,

if you swim at the beach and believe that all negativities were taken, what they call salt water, we call Iemanjá,

when giving something to eat to a famished fellow, there is the land that gives us the food, we call Omolu, Obaluayê,

what they call nature, we call Orixás, beings of light, guides, those who do not change the planet, but they change us, to act for the world.

It is not a matter of offering and receiving, the experience of putting a simple plate of white corn on the shelf, after using cocaine, and never again using it, gives that certainty, and even those not adept at Candomblé, but those who did good to themselves and the neighbor, is surrunded by positive energies, because the wind is not sold for material goods, Iansã does not need it, and blows the agô, mercy, also to those who err, for in mistakes we have learned, but the hammer of justice weighs on the vicious convicts.

Or does evil exist? Yes! The personality of the human being is part of nature, we have positive and negative, we do not call the Gods of others demons, or who does not follow the belief of perverse, each has his or her role and learning in this universe, which we call Oxalá, Obatolá, and only the Great Creator knows what each has passed through, and passes, in his walk, the devil is our own darkness. Do we worship evil beings? It depends on each one. If one hurls a plague against another, whether by lighting a candle, in prayer, or even in pure words, the evil one seizes itself, to harm everyone, but nature is just, not evil, just as a predatory animal only hunts the amount of prey it needs to survive.

Difficulties we will all endure, we will know the best and the worst to exist, it is part of learning, but the warlord, the blood inside us, Ogun, has the keys of the doors of prosperity for whom deserves, to fight for him or herself and for his or her fellows. Entities will not perform miracles of chance, but, like the air that is vital to life, they will give you the energy to win in the fight, the bad ones will not hold your arms and legs, there is no better tool for that than your own laziness and inattention.

It is not necessary to be adept at Candomblé, Umbanda, Quimbanda, to be graced by the great kings and queens of the occult, the unpalpable, each time we live there is a new knowledge, Lord Time teaches, just open the mind to what is shown, to appropriate what is good, to distribute love, justly. The spiritual is not capitalist, it is not for sale, understood only by who knows gratitude and inner peace.


Jal Souza

Screen Shot 2018-07-09 at 17.41.25A 30-year-old Brazilian, born and raised in the outskirts of the capital of the state of Bahia, Candomblé and leftist, discovering himself late, after overcoming prejudices and common sense learned since childhood.


Summer Here and Winter There

Summer here and winter there
My longest day your darkest night’

From Lorna Smithers

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I. Gwyn’s Hall

It’s midsummer 2013. I’ve just got home from my packing job. It’s not a particularly hot solstice, but the noise of the sun-stand-still and my conflicts with my life and the world are burning in my brain.

I haven’t been one for festivals, dancing all night until the sun comes up, since my madder years. I want silence, solace, darkness. I plan to go the Leaning Yew where I met Gwyn ap Nudd, my Winter God, make an offering of mead to him in his frozen castle in the depths of Annwn.

I open the mead. Several sips later I’m composing a poem. One of those poems that writes itself. Inspired contrarily by bees and sunshine and the ice of a demand from another world:

Summer here and winter there
My longest day your darkest night
Hoar frost drapes your haunted fortress
Whilst swallows ride my glowing sunlight.

Summer here and winter there
My brightest day your longest night
Whilst blackbirds sing my endless fanfare
Crazy owl streaks across your vaunted midnight.

Winter there and summer here
And I between them like the song
That lies unsung between the years
Between your hall and my brief home.

II. Contraries

‘Without Contraries is no progression’ wrote William Blake in ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’ (1790).

‘Summer here and winter there,’ I’m mouthing those words again, thinking of the contrasts between the Global North and the Global South, Thisworld and the Otherworld. Of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, Ice Ages and Interglacials, Snowball Earth and her molten beginnings.

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It was the hottest May on record here in the UK and the first two weeks in June have been scorching. It’s clear we’re experiencing global warming, but scientists are unsure what the outcome will be. Will the earth continue to warm or will her adjustive measures flip instead to global cooling? It’s said our computer-generated models are flawed and cannot predict the future.

Science has its limits. One of our oldest myths from northern Britain tells that Gwyn and Gwythyr, Summer and Winter, will battle until the Day of Doom, the end of the world. Of course, the apocalypse, the day of uncovering and revelation, gyrates eternally between the poles of always and never.

Our drive toward progress has led to devastation, the rubble piling up at the feet of the Angel of History, our seasonal gods being blown on the winds of our folly into an unpredictable future.

III. Uncertainty

“Will you walk with me through mist, darkness, and uncertainty?”

This was the question Gwyn posed the day before I got the tattoo of his hounds, a pair of Cwn Annwn, on my right shoulder as a symbol of my devotion to him last year for my thirty-sixth birthday.

Certainty is, perhaps, the reason people join a religion. We like to have answers about the ends and beginnings of the world, the existence of God/the gods, what will happen in the future, when we die.

Religions answer these questions. Science, our new religion, provides the answers, but for how long?

Gwyn, the Gatherer of Souls, makes no promises. Perhaps he does not know when someone will lose everything – their mind, their life, their soul, and he’ll be called to convey them to the Otherworld.

The debris of Thisworld keeps piling up in Annwn, the living keep dying, and it makes no sense at all.

IV. Too Many Souls

Fire and ice. The sun on my skin. The knowing that one day my flesh will be cold. Summer and Winter. Life and Death. Too many moths are gone, too many butterflies, too many souls.

Elk, aurochs, lynx, bear, wolf, great auk, white stork, agile frog, blue stag beetle, horned dung beetle, apple bumblebee, mason wasp, large copper, flame brocade, mazarine blue, frosted yellow.

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Young men sent to fight in ceaseless wars. Revolutionaries gunned down by the law. Old women hung and burned for magic they may or may not have practiced. Those dead on the streets whose names we’ll never know, poets whose words we’ll never hear, children who never had the chance to live.

I try to catch the flies, the bees, the wasps, when they come in through my window, with a piece of cardboard and plastic cup, release them back to life, but still they pile up on my windowsill. I can’t help it.

Is that how Gwyn feels? Does he feel anything on a midsummer night asleep in the Castle of Cold Stone?

V. The Wintry Hag

In ‘In Parenthesis’ (1937) David Jones compares a ‘starving night’ on the Western Front to ‘Pen Nant Govid, on the confines of hell’ and notes the passage ‘has to do with the frozen regions of the Celtic underworld’ where ‘sits that wintry hag, the black sorceress, the daughter of the white sorceress.’

He’s talking about Orddu, ‘Very Black’, daughter of Orwen, ‘Very White’, the last of a lineage of ‘witches’: wise women, warriors, prophets, practitioners of underworld magic associated with Gwyn and the spirits of Annwn who held a powerful position in northern Britain until the sixth century.

On a cold winter’s night Orddu was slaughtered by Arthur and her blood was drained and bottled. What would the world be like if our Annuvian traditions had not been destroyed? If Arthur had not claimed dominance over Gwythyr and Gwyn, Summer and Winter? Would we have a better understanding of the wild unpredictability of the seasons and deeper awareness of the effects of our actions?

If Arthur had not succeeded in his raid on Annwn, his oppression of the old gods, the ancestral animals, the giants, the witches, would we have this Empire to which after his long sleep beneath the hollow hills he has returned as the Once and Future King, all guns blazing, with his hawkish knights?

VI. Dig Deep

I go to seek advice, not from Orddu or Orwen, but from Eira, ‘Snow’, the first of that lineage of inspired ones to return to Pennant Gofid, ‘The Valley of Grief’, which I believe was earlier known as Pennant Gaeaf, ‘The Valley of Winter’, after sojourning further south, at the end of the Ice Age.

She and her descendants also lived through a time of unprecedented global warming – as the glaciers melted herds and people moving further north, new trees and plants marching in, sea levels rising.

Snow is dark-skinned. Her hair is black and flecked with snow-like spots. She’s wrapped in wolf’s furs, her eyes are wolfish, and wolfish dogs are her only companions in the ‘hag’s cave’ where her lineage lived, passing on their wisdom and prophecies from the depths of Annwn for thousands of years.

She advises me to “dig deep.” As she knew the trees, plants, birds, and animals, the river of her valley, its weather patterns, its spirits and all the routes to the Otherworld, to get to know my own. To learn from them, from the ancestors who too have seen great change, to seek the perspectives of Others.

The next evening I’m deeply impressed by the resilience of the little brook who flows through Greencroft Valley and allows us to use her waters for the wildflowers and apple trees. Whilst the Ribble runs low she seems no lower, flowing from an underground source like the awen from Annwn, the cold breath of my god with which I’m blessed to write this essay in the summer’s heat.

Fish House Brook June 2018


Lorna Smithers

Lorna Smithers profile pic II

is a poet, author, awenydd, and Brythonic polytheist. She is currently exploring how our ancient British myths relate to our environmental and political crises and dreaming new stories. As a devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn, she seeks to reweave the ways between the worlds. She has published two books: Enchanting the Shadowlands and The Broken Cauldron, and edited and co-edited A Beautiful Resistance. She blogs at ‘Signposts in the Mist‘.


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A Journey Into Spiritual Resistance

“Mother earth will go on without us, one way or another. So get your shit together fellow earthlings because unless we collectively come together, there may not be another option to avoid becoming fossils like our Dino-brethren.”

From J.D. Lee

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Whether you are a Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Jain, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, or any other practitioner under the sun, you may acknowledge the fact that a portion (if not all) of what you have been taught was corroborated, co-opted, or used for malicious purposes. We’ll I’m here to tell you that it’s both okay, and not okay. Whatever you may believe, someone, somewhere started it all. Whether it was an oral tradition that was later written and collected into a book, or possibly chronicled as it was happening, chances are it was used as a manipulation tool at some point. But it doesn’t have to be that way more.

I grew up being preached at, with the southern Baptist gospel. Hellfire and Brimstone for those who disobeyed God, and a reunion with family and loved ones as a reward. As I aged I took an interest in learning about other religions and their effects on people. My grandparents thought I’d be a new age preacher, or a politician. Well, today I’m neither. And for damn good reasons. Although I quit going to church (going on 6 years now), I can’t help remembering the beautiful glass panes in the Lutheran church I attended for 2 years, or the Catholic Church I would visit later with it’s magnificent artwork and seemingly kind people. I still feel for those old bluesy hymns from that vitriolic Baptist church from so long ago. But as I learned about my heritage, (Cherokee, Inuit, Aleutian, Siouan, and Norse) I came to a realization. What if everything I’ve been taught in Sunday school and Mass was bullshit? Of course, not all of it was but if you look hard enough, there are overlapping features of all religions, good and bad. I could just no longer believe in something that I never really felt was true and full of so many contradictions. I don’t believe in A god. I believe in forces of nature which I cannot, and should not have to fully explain. To me, they are the ghosts, the energies, the surge of the wind after an incantation in the graveyard with a coven. They are what bind our reality together. The energy that leaves the body after death has to go some where. But where? That’s for you to decide!

Promises of an afterlife full of freedoms in exchange for your earthly life’s happiness sounds all fine and dandy. But why not be happy now, and when you’re dead? No matter your creed, each individual should be free to choose their own path. If the key to life and the afterlife is happiness, then why should we suffer now or later? I’m not going to claim that any religion or spiritual path is not worth pursuing, because I understand that each individual will find their own contentment in some form or another. I will say however that forcing a belief upon anyone will land you in the fire, so to speak. As with current conservative modes of thought, forcing people to give birth to a child which they either cannot take care of, do not want, or could possibly cause life threatening complication is very much wrong. Keeping people from accessing birth control, and other contraceptives aimed at decreasing STI’s is also WRONG. Telling your neighbors that they are an “abomination in the eyes of the lord” is not helping your standing in the community, no matter what your local corner preacher is telling you about butt sex.

My biggest qualm with organized belief systems is that of it’s automatic need to sustain itself and it’s order. Tithes and offerings are part of it, but so is obedience to authority. What human needs an authority figure to pass judgment? Are we not all our own masters? If I so pleased I would go against all teachings of the Christian religion, and nothing would stop me. Would an almighty god not smite me for even thinking of such things and threatening to disobey? The answer is no. One might argue this is the concept of free will, that the consequences of my actions would be on me and me alone. But how would this argument play out against God’s will? If he is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, he would know of my life and how it plays out regardless of my actions. I would end up in the same place no matter what choices I made. We all should know that this is false, we make our fates with our individual choices.

Suppose for a minute we are alive because the universe itself was alive and experiencing itself through all living beings. Would the actions you committed be an experiment? Or something necessary to the butterfly effect? The great spirit as some of my ancestors might say, is all around, or that God is all around professed by my family. GOD is in you, me and everyone and everything. It is everything and nothing. Even the vastness of space is filled with unique surprises, celestial beings, and massive unknown energies. The unknowable cannot be claimed to be known by anyone. So while the annoying atheist in the back of my head screams that there is no creator, no puppet master, no god; the preachy agnostic in me says to keep looking, observing, and learning. We are social creatures, looking to related and confirm ourselves. But more than that, we are dynamic, and more than capable of changing our circumstances to make things easier on ALL of us.

The supposed masters of our fates are in public office, employed as CEO’s, or behind the pulpit in front of a congregation. They give us the false sense of choice, they decide what we get to choose from. With all disrespect, I say FUCK THEM! We are free to choose however we want, whether that be what food we eat, our source of income, or our individual spiritual journeys. New England was formed by Puritans and Calvinists who we know burned suspected witches at the stake but had achieved more democracy than any prior European style government at the time. Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers, overran by Scots-Irish Catholics and Protestants alike, and ultimately ended up as a tolerant place for Christians of all stripes. Maryland was originally occupied and ran by Catholics. Even Salt Lake City was founded as a Utopia for the much hated Mormons who could not help but be chased out of every city and county they occupied for fear of ending up like their founder. People have been trying to practice their spiritual learnings freely without reprisal for thousands of years.

This Nation was founded on ideals that were not equally agreed upon at the time of it’s inception. For example, the dutch colony of New Netherlands had a policy to allow freedom of religion, so long as it’s inhabitants did not cause a commotion in public. That colony was since overtaken by the British, but the people in charge kept this policy as to keep the peace. The Puritans on the other hand mutilated Quakers as to distinguish them from “their own”, and were deeply opposed to this kind of tolerance. Whether or not our course of action should be to dismantle prior belief systems, or move into the woods and find our own beliefs with fellow spirituality seekers, I do not know. Do we form our own sects within pre-existing religions? Should we accept Scientology’s ghastly forms of social control? I say do what you will without forcing it onto other people.

While the practices, traditions, and perspectives of these religions has changed (or remained the same in the case of fundamentalists), we should not forget that many times religion has been pushed onto conquered peoples or mandated by a central authority figure. This was most definitely the case for Native Americans whose varied belief systems were thought brutish by European colonizers, and for the subjects of the Roman Empire during the transition period under Constantine. We have been systematically educated to believe what we are told and that if we don’t there will be consequences doled out by either the government or by God. Enough is enough of these laws of morality. Who is to say that premarital sex, homosexuality, idolatry, lying for a good reason, or killing in self defense is immoral? Our oppressors surely do not have the right to claim what is divine and good in the world, we as individuals must decide for ourselves.

I respect the various pagan religions more than any monotheistic religion simply because the gods spirits are supernatural representations of the physical world. Vikings may have raided, plundered, and murdered but they are no more evil than the Anglican church. Norse tradition is filled with tales of splendor, the people were gracious, and the drink was plenty. Native Americans may have warred, stolen from and conquered other tribes, but it makes them no more immoral than the Christians who enslaved, massacred, and raped the first nation peoples. Native tribes were much less savage than Europeans thought previously, having an Anarcho-Communist economic system with communication, trade, and a rich history of peace making. 

 No religion may claim superiority over another simply because all religions are based in concepts which seek to explain things that which we have no other explanation for. The Cherokee myth of creation bears resemblance to the Christian myth of creation in that the earth was created in 7 days, but that is where the similarity ends. In my limited understanding of Islam, Jesus was a prophet like Muhammad. He may not have been considered the son of god but the religion still has ties to Abraham, whom Judaism reveres just as highly. So how is it that these 3 mainstream religions still hold resentment for one another? While those practicing Judaism are still awaiting the messiah, the other two hold onto their beliefs that the savior has already came. The big 3 are certainly plagued with their own mishaps, and draconian laws. While I do not claim that less organized religion will make the world a more peaceful place, I still cannot help imagining that it would the case. If we were to abandon all traces of control from these preordained religions and cast aside all the new cults in favor of personal spiritual exploration, we would be better off. All attempts of recuperating for power under these existing structures should be thwarted by any means. Then again, that is just my BELIEF.

So what is the point of all this? I simply want to show that no matter what your beliefs, no one truly knows what happens after death. Whatever path you take, I hope that you come away with a sense of skepticism towards all organized religion (read as cult) and follow your inner being instead of blindly following a higher power. We all have conscience which tells us what to do, we all have that intuition. If yours, like mine, tells you we are all connected to each other and the universe around us through a shared consciousness, then that’s fine. If you think we are all separate entities fumbling around trying to find meaning in a possibly meaningless world, then you are not alone either. We must each blaze our own trails and hopefully we’ll all find intersections that correspond to our own at some point instead of just running parallel to each other all the damn time.

 These seemingly irreconcilable differences we all experience are just an illusion and we must recognize that before we wipe ourselves out. Then again, mother earth will go on without us, one way or another. So get your shit together fellow earthlings because unless we collectively come together, there may not be another option to avoid becoming fossils like our Dino-brethren. Go smoke a joint, take some LSD, pop some molly, go drinking with some friends, or read a fucking book for Christ’s sake. Just do something which fills you with happiness and brings you closer to an understanding with your fellow (wo)man. There is a thin line between life and death, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, eh? I’ll see you on the other side, wherever that may be.


J.D. Lee

Pilot MountainA Carolina Native who seeks to inform the community and world at large of the mass manipulation we face. This an-com hillbilly is not your run of the mill, bootlickin’, shitstain. Sure, sometimes he’s an asshole, but you’ve got to be when you’re literally surrounded by Klansmen. When he’s not trading his time for money, you can find him burning a sage stick and/or blunt while praying to mother anarchy to show all her children the way.


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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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