I just got off of a rather tense phone call with a representative of the Southern Poverty Law Center. I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for the work that this organization does. For any who don’t know, the SPL Center is a non-profit that tracks hate groups in the United States.
The reason for my tense phone call was that I was on their website and came across this page: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=1185 It is a listing of neo-Nazi and other hate group symbols and tattoos. On the first page is a tattoo of Norse runes on a scroll. Later pages include images of Thor’s hammer and Fenrir.
Let’s be honest a moment. These images came off of racist and neo-Nazi folk. The SPL can tell you where each picture came from. Modern Heathenry has a large contingent of supremacists. Racism is a part of modern Heathen traditions. Look at traditions of only allowing people with connections to the right bloodlines hold leadership roles in some communities. The gentleman I spoke to had had a similar conversation with a woman who sent him a book on Asatru, which ended up having an entire chapter on preserving the purity of the Tribe.
I don’t agree with his assertion that the majority of Heathens are racist or white supremacists. But it is fair to say that a very large number of neo-Nazis are in some way Heathens. More importantly, this gentleman did not really understand the distinction between Heathenry and the rest of modern paganism. It is his honest belief, backed up by research, that greater than half of modern pagans are racist or white supremacists.
The phenomena of non-racists or even worse, non-Heathens getting runic tattoos had never been brought to his attention. When he tried to explain that someone could have neo-Nazi sentiments but not share them with others I had to bring up my queer and trans friends (not by any names) who it is safe to say aren’t neo-Nazis but have runes marked on their bodies.
As things in the world continue to grow more and more concerning, it is shocking and horrifying to me to find that even an organization devoted to protecting minorities would be against us. It never once crossed my mind that to some my shaman marks would mean that I was a neo-Nazi. I believe more and more that as things break down in our world, we cannot assume even for a moment that someone or group will support us. When even the Southern Poverty Law Center believes us to be evil, we can take nothing for granted.
I have never heard the issue of how to separate ourselves in the minds of others from the neo-Nazis discussed in my community. Personally I think this stems from the fact that most of us would never imagine being associated with such filth. This is a conversation that needs to be had across the board in the pagan and Heathen worlds. It blows my mind to think that the SPL Center could look at a group like Asphodel for example, and declare it to be a white-supremacist organization. If they looked at the leaders in the community though, they would almost certainly identify at least Raven and myself as neo-Nazis if they were basing their judgments on our body modifications.