Declaration 127-A Stand Against Hate

A few years ago, “180 organizations in over 20 different nations” created a repudiation of the Asatru Folk Assembly’s (AFA) policies of discrimination against people of color and LGBTQIA people. Read about this here, at Huginn’s Heathen Hof, which sponsored the Declaration. After the specific language concerning the AFA, the following paragraph is relevant and significant.


“…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, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.”


D127stickerBNow, because this Declaration 127 was written and then signed by a number of Heathen and Asatru, or otherwise Norse or Northern-identified spiritual groups and people, a denunciation of discrimination against people of other religions wasn’t included. That’s because this was a statement of acceptance of all people wanting in, not all people in general, but I like to think that the general principles of inclusivity and non-discrimination are implied in Declaration 127 and that solidarity with people of all religions is therefore also implied.

That’s a terribly important point to ponder. As are critiques of Declaration 127 which “does not go far enough,” as Snoof Madrune Obline blogged in 2016. We need actions as well as “dissociation.”

Even so, yesterday I signed Declaration 127 as an individual, and also in the name of the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. I am a member of The Troth and am in the Heathens Against Hate Facebook group, but in my mind, my signing Declaration 127 puts ME on notice that I’d better step up my game. My statement below doesn’t mean that I now get to sit back, satisfied that I’ve done my share in “speaking out.”


I, Amy R. Marsh and the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, fully support Declaration 127 and am completely opposed, now and forever, to racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, discrimination against immigrants, and all other barbaric superstitions and acts of injustice, violence and hate.


These times are too dire. And people are dying–have been dying for decades, centuries!–as a result of (1) acts of violence and (2) acts of complacency.

There’s a lot to unpack here. I can’t do it in one blog. What I can offer, and it is a poor, outdated document at best, is the Real Zombie Apocalypse Resistance Handbook which is chock full ‘o links to good organizations to support. I did it in the first month after the 2016 election, and though I meant to make monthly updates, I just…couldn’t…keep up… with all the atrocious developments in the new…regime. But go there, find even more organizations to support as you (and I) gather our remaining strength and wits, leverage our community ties, and try to figure out how to stop this horrific slide into utter, reactionary, barbaric fascism.

1. Resistance Handbook – First Issue

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Slut Shaming in the Lokasenna

I have to admit, I have struggled with the Lokasenna, an Old Norse poem in the Poetic Edda, sometimes known as “Loki’s Flyting” (or “truth telling”) delivered as an exchange of insults with the rest of the Aesir deities.

Le_fête_d'Aegir_(1861)
1861 Painting, Le fete d’Aegir. Artist unknown. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Jackson Crawford’s video on the Lokasenna is quite helpful in explaining the content and some of the cultural underpinnings. Dagulf Loptson’s explanation of Lokasenna, in the chapter segment called “Loki’s Battle Rap,” is also key to my understanding (pp. 164-167). He cites Karen Swenson’s Performing Definitions: Two Genres of Insult in Old Norse Literature (Camden House Inc., SC, 1991, pp. 58-59). What I’ve gleaned so far is that the Lokasenna is an account of Loki’s ritual battle of wits and words designed to win back his place in Aesir society by exposing hypocrisy, “pointing out that the gods are guilty of the same crimes that make Loki an outcast,” thereby “resetting the social standard” (Loptson, p. 166). It should be noted that none of the gods or goddesses deny Loki’s claims.

It’s an incredibly bitter exchange, no matter which translation you read. I have Lee M. Hollander’s 1988 version, but plan on ordering Dr. Jackson Crawford’s translation of the Poetic Edda in the near future. For me the most disturbing element in Lokasenna is Loki’s slut-shaming of the goddesses, some of whom were his own clandestine lovers. And if some goddesses weren’t actually his lovers, he exposes their other private love affairs (often with relatives) or ridicules their exchanges of sexual favors for jewelry or property.

If I get the gist correctly (using Hollander’s version),  Loki indirectly outs Freya as one of his ex-lovers when he says that “all Aesir and alfs within this hall, thou has lured to love with thee.” Since Loki is among the Aesir in the hall, I assume he’s counting himself too. Loki says Tyr’s unnamed wife, plus Sif and Skathi, have also been his lovers. Loki does not name the goddesses Ithun (Idun), Gefjon, Frigg, and Beyla as his conquests, but he shames them for other illicit sexual activities. (However in his video, Dr. Crawford remarks that it sounds like all the goddesses have been with Loki at some point, but I haven’t read his translation.)

To be fair, Loki also “slut-shames” Frey and Njorth’s for incest with their sisters.

Now I know it’s ridiculous to attempt to graft 21st century feminist standards or moral interpretations on a poem produced in a “hyper-masculine” culture (Dr. Crawford’s word for Old Norse society) and written in either the late 10th (Hollander) or 12th century (Crawford). However, because I am a mortal cis-gal of this era and Loki is my “most trusted one” in my polytheistic practice, I still have to make my own peace with this content (along with the homophobic elements–ack!) and I’m not sure I can.

Except to try to understand this ritualized “truth-telling” in the context of Loptson’s interpretation.

And also, perhaps in a more emotionally personal way, by trying to imagine the frustration and anger of a god who is not just rejected by friends (such as Odin) but also by former lovers, not one of whom puts in a good word for him (even though the sex must have been fantastic!). Sif’s cowardly offer of mead in exchange for Loki’s silence must have been the last straw–rather than being proud of their liaison, or even just honestly admitting to it, she begs to be excluded from his flyting. Loki’s not having any of it. He exposes Sif just as he’s exposed all the rest. And so the Aesir circle their wagons against Loki and he can only hurl himself against their collective hypocrisy. Still, Loki might have won the ritual “battle rap” if Thor hadn’t shown up to spoil the party by threats of force. Loki flees but is captured. This stamp from the Faroe Islands illustrates the rest of the story.

Faroe_stamp_498_Djurhuus_poems_-_Loki_Laufey's_Son
Stamp from the Faroe Islands, 2004, showing Loki bound and Sigyn holding the bowl to catch snake venom.

Loptson says “Loki is a very modern-minded god” (p. 8) and these days many artists enjoy rendering Loki in hipster garb. I like to think Loki’s au courant with more than fashion. For one thing, he’s become a favorite god of people who are diverse in gender and sexuality, so how did he mutate from pre-12th century slut-shamer to 21st century sexual and gender human rights ally?

In a purely intellectual exercise (not to be confused with UPG), I like to imagine that the Western world’s sexual revolution of the 1960s-1970s might have shattered the last remnants of Loki’s Old Norse misogyny. After all, slut-shaming is itself a despicable form of hypocrisy and I feel Loki has enough self-honesty to realize this, once his anger cools.

I like to imagine him wandering through the “Swinging London” of the 1960s. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco too! I can imagine him getting drunk with Janis Joplin on one memorable evening, and as she pours out painful tales of her Port Arthur adolescence, how she was called “pig” and “whore” and “the ugliest man on campus,” Loki begins to understand his own marginalization and sexual complexities through the lens of her passion and despair. And perhaps while staggering down Haight Street at 2 AM, sobered by the brisk wind and fog of the “cool grey city of love,” he reflects on his famous “flyting”–perhaps wishing a few things unsaid. Unfortunately, by the time he calls Janis back for another tryst, she’s no longer alive in Midgard. But Loki doesn’t forget.

I can imagine Loki’s intellectual and sexual encounters with an array of 20th and 21st century change-makers. I see him spending a few nights with gay filmmaker Kenneth Anger, after attending a private screening of Kustom Kar Kommandos. He has tea with Quentin Crisp and parties with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. He’s been known to leave flowers on the graves of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and  Pete Burns and to watch the sunset from Stinson Beach, thinking of Janis’s ashes scattered off-shore. He’s visited Alan Turing’s memorial and whispered greetings from Christopher. I can imagine Loki trading Anais Nin stories with Henry Miller after attending one of Nin’s feminist lectures. I can imagine Loki shapeshifted into an ordinary 1970s housewife, attending her first “consciousness raising” group, or volunteering on a rape crisis hotline. He’s been at the side of a gay-bashed teenager, offering solace. He inspired Robert Mapplethorpe to take up photography. He’s cheering, not booing, Sylvia Rivera’s speech. Later, he attends Pride Marches all over the world and donates to the UnSlut Project. He has read every name on the Transgender Day of Remembrance website. Twice.

He gets it. And we love him for it.

After all, what’s the point of being an ancient primordial being–part wave, part particle, part cosmic force, part sugar dandy–if you can’t partake a bit of the life and times of the mortal morsels in Midgard? I imagine immortality could be awfully dull, otherwise.

I like to imagine that Loki knows now how easily the human spirit can be broken by sexual and gender shaming, that among humans it has become a fascist technique for control, and that he and the rest of the gods could set a better example by not going there, even in their own present and future conflicts. 

In other words, I like to feel that Loki continues to evolve, as we all should, and that as Worldbreaker he also challenges himself to break his own prejudices and conditioning.

It’s only that very last sentence, above, that I might claim as a “UPG.” And maybe that’s how I make my peace with the content of Lokasenna.

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Standing Against Bigotry and Hate

Even in some pagan and heathen circles, Lokeans are said to be “outcasts”–partly because our gender-bending, trickster deity has a bad reputation as spun in Christianized lore–and perhaps also because Lokeans themselves tend to be a diverse bunch. While this may limit our social acceptance overall, it also makes our god, Loki, less likely to be co-opted by Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups. As a shape-shifter, Loki has been a salmon, a mare, and who knows what else. He’s fathered and mothered children. In humanoid shape, I assume he’s not limited to a white skin or “Nordic” features*, though he’s mostly depicted that way. In other words, he is just too fey, too queer, and not close enough to the butch, cis, heteronormative, patriarchal stereotype that’s so very dear to the Neo-Nazi/white supremacist heart.

This “Pride Loki” artwork (based on “Marvel Loki”) by DKettchen conveys so much to me. Here’s the link to DKettchen’s Tumblr post. (There is a statement on the post that seems to indicate it is okay to use this image.)

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Now in the last few weeks (when I wasn’t worried about my house burning up in CA’s Ranch Fire), I’ve been basking in just this kind of rainbow-colored bliss of devotional adoration, getting to know this newest addition to my eclectic, polytheistic “family.” However yesterday I stumbled across this August 17, 2017 blog by Lokavinr. It’s called What the Heathen Community Needs to Know. Lokavinr concludes:


“So you want to worship the heathen gods and not be a racist? Don’t spread the idea that white culture is endangered. Don’t act like heritage should be instantly divorced from the hate it fed for centuries. Don’t put frith over calling out goddamn Nazis. And think real hard about the groups, people, and beliefs you are standing beside. Because even if you aren’t out there driving your car into protesters or using a religion to actively recruit people to the racist far-right, if you look the other way, if you care more about the heathen community’s reputation or your right to wear a symbol without “being mistaken as a Nazi” than the real, tangible oppression PoC, Jewish people, Muslims, and the LGBT community face in this country, then there’s blood on your hands, too.”


It’s not like I haven’t been aware of these complexities. Years ago I read The Well of Remembrance by Ralph Metzner and felt attracted to “something” about Northern mysticism, but I still couldn’t approach Norse/Germanic deities and lore as a spiritual path because of the Nazi and Neo-Nazi use of some of these same traditions and symbols. (And it’s only gotten worse in this country since November 2016.) It wasn’t until last year, when I also began to work on ancestral lineage healing via Daniel Foor’s work (author of Ancestral Medicine), that I found I could begin working with Frey, Freya, and Gerda. (Loki is a recent arrival in my life and for some reason is much more “present” and compelling.)

These days, Daniel Foor’s work is key for me. As a teacher and ritualist, his purpose is entwined with activism for social and earth justice, and his humility and integrity have been evident in every communication I’ve ever experienced, whether in his book, online class, or Facebook posts. He directly addresses issues of settler colonialism, racism, transphobia, sexism, and more. Here is a page with some of his online interviews and talks. Check out “The Role of the Ancestors in Social and Earth Justice, November 2017.” You’ll see what I mean.

I’ve never been interested in “navel gazing.” For me, there has to be engagement with both “spiritual pursuits” and outer activism. For me, each feeds the other. I was involved with environmental health activism at the same time I was engaged with anthroposophy. I tried to bring greater social justice awareness to the tantra organization I was associated with (and eventually left). And I tried to be a decent “ally/accomplice” for the causes of sovereignty and the preservation of Mauna Kea and other sacred spaces from 2002-2017, while heavily engaged in learning about Hawaiian culture (and trying to avoid cultural appropriation). Admittedly, I’ve been more focused lately on inner work, as I’m still healing from some pretty hefty crises and major life changes in the last three years. (And, as always, I deal with the health and logistical challenges that arise from multiple chemical sensitivities and chronic fatigue.) But, Lokavinr’s blog is a call to action for anyone who is casting runes, worshipping a Northern deity, or possibly even doing Thor cosplay!

So I gladly make space in this blog for discussions, resources, and also for centering the voices of people of color on topics of race, hate, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, spiritual colonization, etc., especially as these issues pertain to paganism and Northern European traditions. And of course, I will make sure that my Lokabrenna “tiny temple” is blatantly inclusive and emphatically anti-hate.

These are good first steps, but it’s clear I must take others.

Expect this list of resources and organizations to grow, as I will add to them as I find them.


U.S. Resources

• Anti-Defamation League Hate Symbols Database.

• Anti-Defamation League Runic Writing (racist). Many people use and study Norse runes who are not associated with hate groups. If you see Loki’s name spelled out in runes (below) be not alarmed. It is highly unlikely that this would be used for hateful purposes. Quite the contrary, due to Loki’s association with people who are queer and/or are of varied genders.

Cropped Loki RunePainting copy

Another article on runes and other white supremacist hate symbols.

Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map.

Inclusive Heathen and Northern Tradition Organizations/Websites

Declaration 127 – International denuciation of Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) as racist, etc. Quote from website:

“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, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.”

The Troth – an “inclusive heathenry” organization with stated policies against racism and other forms of discrimination. From their website:

“The Troth is open to all who seek to know and to honor the Gods, ancestors, and values of the Germanic Heathen traditions, regardless of gender, race, nationality, or sexual orientation. The Troth stands against any use of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy, or any other form of prejudice.”

Heathens Against Hate – Part of The Troth. From the page.

“Heathens Against Hate functions under the Public Relations Team, with officers appointed by the Rede from among the Heathens Against Hate membership. The group Heathens Against Hate will serve the broader Heathen community under Troth sponsorship to build cooperation amongst inclusive Heathen groups, to counter the misuse of our faith, its gods, symbols, or lore to promote racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia or any other form of willful hatred against identifiable minorities in our society.”

Hrafnar – Northern CA inclusive heathenry group founded by Diana L. Paxson. Here is their “Declaration of Support for Inclusive Heathenry.” Here is their “Statement in Support of Solidarity with Black Pagans and Heathens.”

Vendors Who Do Not Support Hate

[To come]

International

• “As Neo-Nazism, White Supremacy Spread, People Must Unite to Prevent Normalization of Hate”–UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at a ceremony marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, in New York, Jan. 31, 2018.

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*[Apparently the image I used in this blog post was an anti-Semitic attempt by the artist to make Loki–as the “Norse Satan”– look Jewish. I need to do more research on that, and quote a reputable source. I originally used the painting because it was in the public domain. Such portrayals are probably the topic of a whole other blog.]