Given the state of affairs currently in America, it’s evident that there unfortunately exists a similar divide among Norse Pagans as there does in the greater United States. This divide could be unique and problematic to the United States, reflecting the general situation in the United States at large, but at least among American followers there are some who believe that in order to practice Ásatrú, Norse Paganism or Heathenry, one must be of Norse blood. This ideology is known as “Folkish”, and it is not in line with Hrafnarfjall’s ideals.
Why? First and foremost, Hrafnarfjall is in Minnesota. Winters last 8 months of the year. When you’re facing 8 months that can reach -30 f or WORSE on a bad year, not counting wind chills, you’re seeing snow that can fall in every month but August, sitting at USDA gardening zone 3B with 3 good growing months, you don’t have room or time for worrying about someone’s skin color or if they maintain some percentage of Norse blood. We all freeze and starve just the same. If you think our ancestors gave a shit staring Skadi in the face, here is a modern day association to assure you the only thing that they worried about was staying alive. If you don’t know cold like this, let me tell you, it changes things real fast. If you don’t experience it, you won’t understand it, it’s okay. Take my word for it though.
Unfortunately, the Folkish ideology (and some ideologies even worse) is becoming mixed with the Norse paths in the public view. The Folkish path is a – problematic – practice at best when we consider the idea of excluding anyone based on blood percentage. This becomes especially so when one considers that as a result, some people claiming that path use the concept to tell people with melanin in their skin that they can’t practice, because of course it’s impossible they could actually have Norse blood.
We see, however, Norse blood in almost any culture of any part of the world (exceptions being some of the most isolated, naturally) but in discussions I’ve seen and been part of with those following a Folkish belief, I have heard Folkish followers say ” ‘They’ have their own beliefs, let ‘them’ follow their own ways”. This is in disagreement with Hrafnarfjall’s stance, which is that we don’t have any right to tell another what path to follow (provided it is an open path). I’ve then seen the discussion turn to what are called closed paths, such as Native American, asking why it’s ok in their paths to exclude people. I can’t speak for those paths. What I do know is that the Norse associated closely with other cultures, and they learned, and adapted, and we at Hrafnarfjall respect that practice. We believe diversity is strong. Adaptability is survival.
We believe that to close the Norse ways would cause them to stagnate for a reason that has no historically accurate basis to begin with. Some claim a tracing of humanity back to the gods from the Old Norse, but even then, the Norse blood had, since long before our time, spread through so many peoples of so many cultures and continents that by now I fear to count the descendants. The Norse themselves saw to that, being unbelievably widespread travellers (for many reasons, good and bad). They eventually figured out trading was a better and safer occupation than raiding 😉 Their trade routes were expansive, detailed and frankly impressive. We see their routes and their goods and find goods from quite distant places in Norse lands. Their trade routes were so expansive they tied into the Silk Road (though they themselves did not venture that path).
The Norse shared customs with Ahmad Ibn Fadlan (yes, yes – ignore the 13th Warrior crap and read)….and we know inter-cultural marriages occurred. The culture one was of, one’s tribe, held more significance than the color of one’s skin. Thus I do draw a distinction between “Folkish”, and “Tribalist”. Anyone has the right to walk any oath they choose, right up to the point they are discriminating based on blood percentage or skin color, and putting emphasis on one skin color above the other. For examples of such, do see the Ásatrú Folk Assembly, NORSKK, and their branch, Forn Sidr America. Their webpages and Social Media make their true ideologies clear. They are why I believe Hrafnarfjall’s stance on such ideology must be clear: We avoid Folkish ideology because it provides too great an opening for determination of worthiness to walk this path being made based on skin color. Simply, because we believe anyone who wishes to may follow this path, as long as they respect it.
Ultimately, I’ve heard it put best this way. If the Gods call someone to walk with them who are we mere mortals to tell them that they can’t? I choose to put who someone is – their spirit, mind and heart, their willingness to respectfully learn – above such trivialities as skin color, or whether they have Norse blood. My Co-founder and I have thus modeled Hrafnarfjall’s policies and stances to reflect that ideology. Misinformation and misuse of education merely hurts us all. Ultimately, this divide is greater than any one group to heal, but to ignore it allows it to fester and certain stances to spread. So we choose to make clear our stance, share our thoughts, and trust that in time, the hurts will heal.
If you would learn yet more, please see us at http://www.kohrafnarfjall.org