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An Eye For An Eye Makes The Whole World Blind

All art and words by Connla Freyjason for Iaconagraphy. Please click this image to open a new window and support us at Patreon.

In war, it is unwise to use your sword arm to pat yourself on the back.  Yet I look around at the current “war on discrimination” that is raging within the better half of the Heathen community, and over the past two days, I have seen a lot of people doing exactly that. In fact, I have even seen some people encouraging such behavior through memes suggesting that we all take credit for the Facebook ban of the AFA, even if we were not actively involved in making that happen.  On the flip side, even as this “victory” was taking place, I have sat back and watched as many of those same Heathens who espouse complete anti-discrimination policies (and I am firmly on the side of no discrimination of anyone ever) attack Christians and Christianity as a whole, and attack people for the virtues they are oathsworn to protect (even when they began their post with a caveat patently stating they didn’t expect everyone to uphold those same values).   We cannot pretend, as a group of people, to make war on discrimination while we vehemently maintain our own ways of discriminating against people.  When we do that, the only thing we’re patting ourselves on the back for at the end of the day is hypocrisy.

For those on the outside of the Heathen community, here’s a brief snapshot of what has been going on for the past year:

In September of 2016, Huginn’s Heathen Hof published Declaration 127, which is based on stanza 127 of the Havamal (literally: “Sayings of the High One”, from the Codex Regius, 13th century; believed by Heathens to be the sayings of Odin All-Father):

“When you see misdeeds, speak out against them, and give your enemies no frith.”–Translation on the HHH website

“When you see evil being done, call it out as evil, and show the evil-doer no peace.”–My Translation

This Declaration is accompanied by a sort of “petition”, which people and organizations may sign to demonstrate their complete denunciation of, and disassociation from, the AFA (the Asatru Folk Assembly).  Those who support Declaration 127 are essentially binding themselves to an oath that:

“While [we] 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.”

Further, Declaration 127 states:

“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 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.”

I wholeheartedly supported Declaration 127. 

Why? What had the AFA done that was so wrong as to spark all of this?

The AFA has its roots in the Viking Brotherhood, which was founded by Stephen McNallen in 1972.  This, in turn, became the Asatru Free Assembly in 1974, which gave birth to two other major Heathen organizations: the Asatru Alliance and The Troth.  In 1986, the Asatru Free Assembly was disbanded because McNallen was apparently “too busy” to keep it going. Then, in 1994, he formed the Asatru Folk Assembly (the AFA of today), founded upon a Declaration of Purpose which includes, among other things:

2. The preservation of the People of the North (typified by the Scandinavian/Germanic and Celtic peoples), and the furtherance of their continued evolution;

10. Working to secure the existence of our people and a future for white children. (emphasis mine)

A brief visit to their website (yes, I went there!) sheds further light on the AFA worldview.  Their statement of ethics includes the following (and I really couldn’t begin to make this stuff up):

“Healthy families are the cornerstone of folk society and its strength and prosperity is derived from them.  We in Asatru support strong, healthy white family relationships.  We want our children to grow up to be mothers and fathers to white children of their own.  We believe that those activities and behaviors supportive of the white family should be encouraged while those activities and behaviors destructive of the white family are to be discouraged.” (Again, emphasis mine.)

So, clearly, the AFA is not only racist, but also anti-LGBTQ.  

Which is why it became blatantly obvious to me that I should support Declaration 127.  I mean, clearly, there is zero room in my heart for frith for anyone or any organization who is discriminatory towards people of color, other cultures, other faiths, or members of the LGBTQ community.  And the AFA not only discriminates against these groups that they consider “outsiders” (utangard), but they also muddy the waters for the rest of us who patently do not.  I have experienced this “muddying of the waters” firsthand: to many people outside of the Heathen community, the AFA represents what we all believe, even when they patently do not.  Add to this a large dearth in Heathen publications that are not either advocated by, published by, or have publishing rights owned by the AFA, and you have a recipe for situations in which simply carrying a book in a shop which is remotely associated with the AFA becomes grounds for accusations of Neo-Nazism. (It happens. It has happened. I witnessed it with my own two eyes.)  Such also becomes grounds for those who support Declaration 127 to not give those shops their business, even when said shopowners are in no way, shape, or form remotely affiliated with the AFA.

It’s a slippery slope that has been built, to say the least.

That slope becomes even more slippery when one ventures into the dogmatically Reconstructionist world of many of my fellow supporters of Declaration 127.  I personally reached a point where I no longer shared my writings or my art because “daily crucifixion” is not my idea of a “good time”. I have sat back and watched, stunned, as other people were attacked (to the point of fleeing a group) for having values (to which they were oathsworn) which mirrored the Nine Noble Virtues, purely because those virtues were supposedly first espoused by McNallen and his compatriots, and supposedly not directly derived from historical sources (even though every single one of the virtues in question appear directly in the Havamal).  I have read through countless posts railing against the dreaded “Christian-grafting”, and Christianity and Christians on the whole, even while also espousing a “show it to me in the lore, or it isn’t valid” attitude: when our lore is all a product of Christian authors, written in the post-Christian period.  In short, I have observed those very same people who were so opposed to discrimination constantly discriminate: against those who are “less Reconstructionist” than they are; against Judeo-Christianity on the whole (which, when you think about it, can border on Anti-Semitism, in and of itself), and against anyone who is so “misinformed” as to accidentally promote something which has ever been “tainted” by the AFA whatsoever (in a world where, until about a decade ago, the AFA was pretty much “the only show in town”, and largely remains such when it comes to quality published source material apart from the Eddas and Sagas themselves).  

Many among the supporters of Declaration 127 see this recent Facebook ban of the AFA as a victory, and on many levels, they are not wrong to feel that way.  However, I keep coming back to those last words of Declaration 127; those last words that were still floating in my head as I signed it myself almost a year ago:

“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…The AFA is free to stand for whatever principles it sees fit. They are free to stand alone.”

Actively working to get an organization banned from Facebook is neither fully recognizing their right to govern themselves as they see fit, and with full autonomy, nor allowing them to be free to stand for whatever principles they see fit.  Actively working to get an organization banned from Facebook, while supposedly upholding the above principles, is bullying at its basest.  One cannot stop bullying simply by being the better bully!  Yes, there are places within the corpus of the Havamal that suggest “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and bust their heads open while you’re at it”: a thrice-fold sort of vengeance, to make sure things really get sorted and your enemies fully know “who’s boss”.  There are also places within the corpus of the Havamal that say “never trust a woman” and “beguile women with soft words”. We tend to downplay those latter verses, with the argument that we’re living in the twenty-first century, and such sexism has no place here.  Well, there is no place in the world in which we are presently living for thrice-fold vengeance, either. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves the whole world blind and toothless, and that is all such attitudes accomplish.

Maybe we have won a battle, with Facebook actively recognizing that the AFA fosters hateful attitudes and hateful speech, but we have not won the war.  So long as we are shackled to our own hypocrisy while at the same time patting ourselves on the back with our sword arms, when the next battle comes, we will have no appendages left available with which to fight!  A zero tolerance policy for discrimination needs be exactly that: a zero tolerance policy.  So long as it is still socially acceptable to point an accusatory finger at someone based on a difference in faith (anti-Christian, anti-Judeo-Christian), or to argue the concept of ergi as anti-LGBTQ as a point of historical fact within our faith-base that still holds true, we patently are not maintaining such a zero tolerance policy.  Instead, we are merely ignoring our own transgressions and shortcomings by loudly focusing attention on the transgressions and shortcomings of others. Until we stop doing that, we will never win this war; we will only serve to perpetuate it.

Declaration 127 is a great ideal, but like most “high ideals”, once you throw actual humans into the mix, things have a way of going terribly, terribly wrong.  I commend its author for what he was trying to do, when he created it, and put it out there to gain the support which it has gained.  I admire him for having the cajones to do something like that, because it took some serious cajones.  Anytime one voice rises up against the Darkness and tries to get others to join them in that fight, it takes courage.  I hope that you will all keep that in mind after having read this post….




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Everything’s Coming Up….Poopy?

“Get your head outta your ass!”  Pardon my language, but this colorful New England phrase, which you’ll often hear shouted at people who seem to be walking around (or driving around) with their head full of cobwebs instead of seeing clearly, has a lot of truth in it, and is actually great advice for many of us who perpetually focus on the negative, and then wonder why our lives never get better.  Let me give you an example of how this phrase is used up here in Massachusetts:  You’re driving down the road, and you come to a stoplight.  The stoplight turns green, and yet the person in front of you doesn’t budge, because they seem lost in their own little world, completely oblivious to the fact the light has changed.  The average Yankee then bears down on their car horn at the offending driver, leans out the window of their car, and shouts: “Get your head outta your ass!”  And, bingo, that wool-gathering driver steps on the gas and finally moves forward. It’s like magic, but that magic isn’t just great for defensive driving, it’s also valuable advice for all of us, so that we don’t wind up so focused on the negative that our lives effectively get flushed down the toilet of life.

We’ve all gone through times in our life when everything seemed to come up “poopy” instead of roses, sunshine, and puppies.  I’ve personally endured periods where it felt like everything I touched came up covered in sewage, too (or, as they say in New England: sewerage).  For the past couple of years, I’ve been struggling to make my way as an artist and writer.  I’ve been told by plenty of people that I’m brilliant at both: that I make fantastic art, and that my writing should be winning awards. Yet, in the past year, I’ve only made $325 via my art sales, and $10 via book sales.  There are days when I get out of bed and feel like everything I create is covered in poop–surely, it must be, because nobody wants to bring it into their lives!  On those days, I tend to stick my head fully up my own ass, and guess what happens when I view things from that perspective? Everything I survey is colored by poop-covered glasses!

When you’re walking around like that–with your head up your ass, poop-covered glasses fully taking charge of your view of the world–even the blessings in your life start to feel like curses.  Somebody loves you and supports you? Well, you should be giving back to them, shouldn’t you? So then you feel guilty because you can’t.  Your kid wants to talk to you about something really important, and maybe, just maybe, make you smile in the process? But they’re interrupting your work schedule–you know, that work schedule that might result in you making  a whopping seventeen cents on the sale of a piece of your art at Cafepress! How dare they?!  See what I mean? It’s a downward spiral, and pretty soon, just like that other poop-filled downward spiral–the flushing of a toilet–your life goes swirling.

So how do I cope, when it gets like that? I follow the advice of that colorful New England phrase: “Get your head outta your ass!” And once my head has been effectively extracted from my lowest orifice, I take off my poop-colored glasses, and actually look around at my life.  Yes, I am, in fact, as we say in the South, “broke as bedbugs” financially, but insofar as the things that really count in life, I am extraordinarily rich: I have two people who love me deeply and support me in everything I do; I have two children who were gifted into my life and constantly teach me new lessons every single day, when I let them; I have dear friends who likewise support and uphold me and try their best to keep my “head outta my ass”; I have a Mother who would do anything to help me feel successful and whole; I have a cat and a dog who volunteer for cuddles when I have that “gee, the poop-colored glasses are coming on” look in my eye; I have clients who remind me on the daily that I am changing lives for the better. And I have faith that things will, in fact, get better!

When you don the poop-colored glasses, faith effectively goes right down the proverbial toilet, along with everything else good in your life.  You can be one of those people who sits around and talks about God all day and posts a million times on Facebook about how great God is, and if you’re wearing the poop-colored glasses, all of that is complete hypocrisy, because you don’t actually believe  or live a single word of that!  You want to get your faith back? Take off the damn glasses! Get your head outta your ass!  Even the Bible tells us that’s what we need to do:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious–the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.  Put into practice what you learned…what you heard and saw and realized.  Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies. –Philipians 4:8-9, The Message

Even if you don’t consider yourself a Christian, this Bible verse teaches some really important lessons about the Law of Attraction (which is a very real thing!): what you put out there comes back to you. If you constantly put out negativity, all you’re ever going to get back is negative stuff.  On the other hand, if you constantly put out positivity, eventually you’ll get positive stuff back.

So, what is true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, the best, the beautiful, and things to praise? In case the answers to that aren’t obvious for you in your own life, let me give you some examples from mine. What is true is that I got up this morning, the sun is shining, the birds are still singing, my puppy and kitty want cuddles, and my fish really enjoyed his Tuesday feeding.  All of those are positive things.  What is noble is that I’m sitting here, writing this blog post, and consciously trying to make people’s lives better.  What is reputable is that I try to always practice what I preach.  What is authentic is that I readily admit that even I am human, so sometimes I still don the poop-colored glasses, too.  What is compelling is that I still have the breath and the energy to actually sit here and type this: every single breath you take is an opportunity to do something in this world!  What is gracious is that I am actually sitting here, as I write, counting my myriad blessings: that I have heat in the room in which I’m sitting so I’m not freezing my butt off; that I have soda here in front of me so I’m not thirsty while I write; that I have beef stew downstairs in the refrigerator that is probably going to be my lunch in a few minutes so I’m not gonna starve.  What is best is that at some point today, no matter how little or how much of an impact this blog post, or my art, or my writing, or my Tarot has on anyone else, I will get to curl up with my very best friend and my other soul mate and drift into semi-peaceful slumber while crowding into a bed full of kitty and puppy.  What is beautiful is the view outside my office window, full of grey sky and changing leaves.  What is worthy of praise is the Universe (God/dess), which permitted me all of these wonderful things to get me through my day.  See how that works?  Once you’re operating from that place in your mind and heart, poop-covered glasses become impossible, you start to put out there only the positive, so you can attract back to you positive stuff, and (for those of you out there who believe as I do), Deity is right there beside you, working your life into “excellent harmony”!

Until you remove your head from your ass, all you’re ever going to see in this world is the poop!  So take some advice from St. Paul, and take off those poop-colored glasses for good! Change your perspective, to focus on what is true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious, the best, the beautiful, and worthy of praise so that you can put out only the positive, and get the positive back in return. Get your head outta your ass! The light has turned green, and it’s time for you to put your foot on the gas, and move forward!

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