Winterhammer

A Progressive Heathen Blog

I Forbid Neo-Nazis the Symbols of My Faith

First and foremost, I want to make something clear. As a person of Western and Northern European descent, I condemn and repudiate Neo-Nazism, Neo-Nazi ideology, and President Donald Trump’s support of them both. Neo-Nazis and other racists aren’t saving the world for me, and I never want to benefit from what they’re creating.

I’ve been Pagan for thirty-two years, so I’ve weathered my share of misunderstanding as a result of my faith. But I wore the symbols of that faith proudly even so; the pentacle when I was practicing Wicca in my twenties, the Celtic cross when I practiced Druidry in my thirties, and the Thor’s Hammer I wear now as a Heathen. I always believed, and still do, that it was important to be the Pagan in the room and to answer any questions my non-Pagan family, friends, and colleagues might have with clarity and kindness.

In the wake of the Neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, I believe strongly that I need to be a Pagan in the room again. Fortunately, I’m one among many whose minds and hearts have been moved to speak out both against Neo-Nazis and on behalf of the sacred symbols they’ve desecrated with their hateful ideology. I’m writing now to add my voice to theirs.

If you’re not Pagan, you might recently have seen Neo-Nazis use symbols you don’t recognize. Here are a few I do recognize and a brief usage description of each. Please note that these descriptions are not intended to be comprehensive.

Elder Futhark: A runic alphabet once used among Germanic and Scandinavian people. Among contemporary Pagans, it is often used as a system of divination.

Othala Rune: This is a letter in the Elder Futhark. Among contemporary Pagans, it represents family, culture, and heritage.

Valknut: A symbol associated with Odin in the historical record, it continues to be associated with him among contemporary Pagans.

Thor’s Hammer: A symbol associated with the protection of Thor in the historical record, it continues to be associated with him among contemporary Pagans.

Celtic Cross: A symbol associated with both early Paganism and early Christianity, varieties of the Celtic cross are worn by both contemporary Pagans and contemporary Christians.

As a contemporary Pagan, all of these symbols are sacred to me. I make and use rune sets for divination, of which Othala is a part. I wear either a Valknut or a Thor’s Hammer (usually the hammer), and I have worn the Celtic cross. Indeed, many Gaelic Christians of my acquaintance wear the Celtic cross as well, and this blog entry also stands in defense of that symbol for them.

None of these symbols is inherently hateful, either in their historical or contemporary contexts. Rather, they have important cultural significance to the people whose ancestors created them, and they have both personal and sacred significance to contemporary Pagans. If you’re Christian, think about how horrified you are to see the cross burned as an act of racism. If you’re Muslim, think about how horrified you are to see your declaration of faith on an ISIS flag. That’s how it feels to have the above symbols used by Neo-Nazis. It breaks my heart and leaves me weeping as I write this. It is a desecration I cannot and will not stand for.

I am only one voice. But I forbid Neo-Nazis the use of my sacred symbols. If you are a Neo-Nazi who uses my symbols in this way, you are desecrating them and bringing shame upon my faith and upon the ancestors of people who hold these symbols as cultural artifacts. I demand that you stop right now, and I call upon all Pagans of good conscience to make the same full-throated, public statement. At the very least, we help non-Pagans understand that these symbols are not inherently hateful. At most, we reclaim them for use by ourselves and our descendants.

“Where you recognize evil, speak out against it, and give no truces to your enemies.” — Old Norse proverb, from the Hávamál, st. 127

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25 Comments

  1. Arie Farnam

    Thank you. I learned the Runes at my mother’s knee more than thirty years ago. We’d walk up on top of the ridge in the wildflowers and rocks and sit under a tree to rest and draw a rune from her cloth bag. Then we’d read and talk about what it meant. I never imagined then that somewhere people might use these beautiful symbols for evil or hate. I do understand the history now and it makes me sad. We have to stand up and speak about it. We are not used to pushing our faith on others, so we tend to be quiet. Unfortunately, I think we can’t be quiet about this anymore.

    • I love that you learned the runes as a child. What a cool story. I also agree with you that while we aren’t evangelical, we do need to be vocal now.

  2. AriesOmega

    That last part….“Where you recognize evil, speak out against it, and give no truces to your enemies.” — Old Norse proverb, from the Hávamál, st. 127

    Very powerful. I got goose bumps reading this article. Thank you. As a non-Heathen, but very Pagan hearing this makes me happy.

  3. Laurel

    Ceallaigh,

    Here, here. I’m sharing this on Pinterest and on Facebook to boost it’s signal. Thank’s so much for writing it.

  4. Leta Desert Witch Dungan

    I’m an eclectic pagan. I use runes and other symbols in my stones that I carve and paint as charm stones. I hurts my heart and soul to see these and other pagan sacred symbols used and perverted by these racist piles of filth.

  5. Bre

    Thank you for putting into words exactly how I felt… seeing the symbols of my faith painted on their helmets and gear while spouting such ignorance and hatefulness and committing such horribly violent acts made me sick beyond words.

  6. Penemuel

    Thank you for this post – I am so angry and upset over the racists’ continued appropriation of our symbols and this explains that reaction far more eloquently than I’m capable of at the moment. If it’s okay, I’d like to share on my FB.

  7. sven hedegaard

    I agree completely,abouth the Neo-Nazi,Neo Liberals,Neo-Globalization…..Its all completely sick mentality of hate and ignorance.
    the Nordic culture is very weak,and very few keep on with the noble task to keep the flame alive,other few to make it grow,and a few like me are trying to figure out the deepness ,of the loss and conection with our ancestral culture.
    I found out that with my own offspring,there is the chance to give a new start,to the old principles in this modern world,creating our own clann.After that everything is possible.The Nordic pagans are alive forever,maybe!!!

  8. michael fletcher

    Well said.

  9. I am not a Pagan or Heathen, just a student/lover of history, mythology and stories, but I have been sickened for some time by the misuse of ancient symbols by these reprehensible groups. The Nazis already tainted the swastika for all time, they cannot be allowed to do the same to other symbols who many have held, and still hold dear.

  10. Paul Waechter

    Well said. I support you and share your view on this 100%. It’s at times like these that we need, more than ever, to be the “pagan in the room” and not let our identity be stolen.

    • I’m glad you liked that phrase, and I agree. We need to be the Pagans in the room now more than ever.

  11. Lea pierce

    Excellent article. I will also share it to get the truth out. Blessed be.

  12. As one who walks both the Red Road and the Green Road, I get sick seeing symbols I hold dear used in such a hateful way. I have Hopi friends who also hate what was done with their sacred sun symbol that the Nazis reversed and made into a symbol of hate and destruction. All of us need to stand together and stand up against this terrible perversion of our sacred symbols!

  13. blitsi

    I think you have your history wrong. This isn’t something the neo-Nazi’s co-opted in the last few years, this is something that was a big part of the WWII Nazi’s ideology and aesthetic, drawing lineage from the Thule Society, Ariosophy, and Völkisch movements before them. There is a direct line of racialist/nationalist Germanic neo-paganism going back 200 years. The peace-loving, sanitized versions only spring up with the New Age movement of the late 60s, 70s. I believe you paint a disingenuous picture, and are white-washing by not acknowledging the more complex history.

    • This is a contemporary blog entry about a contemporary problem, not an academic paper on the history of Northern European symbology. However, if you’re interested in reading my academic work on the history of Northern European symbology, I invite you to read my paper on Mjölnir, which you can find on my Academia.edu page.

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