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So, we’re on the second week of I in the Pagan Blog Project. Not the most fruitful of letters, I suppose, but one must make do with what one has. So here we go.
Indigenous means belonging to a place. A lot of people, Pagans in particular, like indigenous ways. Native American tribes often get hit with people who come to them wanting to learn the “old ways” that are “indigenous.”
Most Native Americans, however, aren’t really that happy to share. Because their ways are indigenous, and belong to the tribe, and why should they share with those who are not of their tribe? Ask almost anyone (except perhaps the on wanting to get to those ways) and they will say that after all the Native Americans have suffered, it’s pretty much their right not to share if they don’t want to.
Of course, the thing so many Pagans tend to forget (or ignore, most likely) is that we have our own Indigenous ways. Of course, this is complicated (at least for those of European origin) by a few things.
Christianity really did a number on us, and a lot of people can’t seem to fully get over the barrier of “false gods/fake gods” which I think is why we see a lot of “soft” polytheism. It’s a way to have non-Abrahamic gods without having to face a lot that comes with actually accepting the Norse, Celt, Roman, Greek, and other Gods and Goddesses are real.
Part of it is Racism, in that because in the past some people who were of European origin were racists, now anything or anyone that takes pride in their European heritage is a racist (oh Gods do we Heathens get hit with that by everyone thanks to the Nazis, but it really happens to any of those who base in European practices). Let’s face it, pretty much no one likes to be called a racist. And we all know in our hearts that if we went around being proud of where we came from, and what our people did, there would be hundreds of people or more jumping on us screaming we were racists and evil. And despite the fact that those calling us evil would be coming from a place and ideology we don’t believe in, for some reason so many Pagans give them the power to dictate belief and action.
Another is that the old ways of Europe (at least to a lot of people) are long gone a thousand years or more. I once read a joke that to an British person, 200 miles is a long way, while to an American 200 years is a long time. When we deal with history in class, a thousand years can pass in just a few hours of material. It gives us a distorted view of time. A thousand years of Christianty seems like forever, but few people ever really note that the Roman Republic/Empire lasted pretty close to a thousand years itself, and was pagan through out most of it. Most Pagan religions can be traced back to the origins of their respective peoples, if not before.
So Pagans scatter all over the place. They look at Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Native Americans, and everywhere else but Europe. And those that do look at Europe, tend not to look at indigenous ways in Europe. They tend to look more at the High Magics and stuff, Hermetics and the like, or stuff based off of mysticism that tends to have a fair bit of the Abrahamic thrown in.
And when confronted with anything indigenous (or at least indigenous to the Norse/Teutonic) they scream: “Ieee!! New Right! Racist! Facist! Run! Run! Runnnnn!!!!!” Or “Ieee!! Facist! Racist! Evil! killkillkilll!!!!!!!”
At least that the impression I get. Maybe I’m hanging out in the wrong places.
I really wish people would stop that. It’s bad enough we get it from the non-Pagans. We really shouldn’t have Pagans doing that to fellow Pagans. Then again, those that do so are often more political than Pagan, and make their Paganism fit their political view point, rather than the other way around. I think I’ve talked about that other places.
Steve McNallen, head of the Asatru Folk Assembly, had a blog post up the other day: Asatru is About Drinking From Our Own Well which I really liked. It’s about his experience at a Pow Wow where he met a Native American Elder who told McNallen that “You’re not going to find what you’re looking for here. You need to drink from your own well.”
I think there’s a lot of truth to this. I don’t know if its because our ancestral ways came from our spirit, or our ancestors bred for those most capable of holding to their ways (civilization as evolutionary factor). Maybe it’s a mix of both. The Celtic ways are beautiful and fearsome. The Roman ways are glorious and powerful. The Greek are thoughtful and strong. The Egyptian are elegance and mystery. But as wonderful as they are, none of them fit me like the Norse. The Norse is where I come from. It is my well. My personality, my ways, my abilities and natures, they don’t fit anywhere else as well (though I will admit I probably could do okay as a Roman if I had too). And I think it’s that way for everyone. You can believe as you wish, you can even put together hundreds of different things to try and make a way that fits you. But that’s like taking hundreds of different puzzle pieces and using them to make a new puzzle. Sometimes it works, sometimes it even makes a very pretty picture. But it will never be what it would have been if you’d used all the same pieces. And while there are pieces missing from the old ways of Europe (the least from the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Slavs, and Norse, more for the Celts) you can still make an educated guess about what the missing stuff would look like. You might even find that the answer rises naturally to you if you practice long enough. It has for me at times.
And as for the whole “we’re so inter-bred that we can’t tell/it won’t matter” thing, so what? I’m only half Scandinavian. Just look at where you come from, and look at the ancestral, indigenous ways of your ancestors. Study all of them. You’ll find a place you fit.
Happiness lies in drinking from your own well, not in taking water from someone else’s.
I feel the same way. There are wonderful things to be learned from the various cultures of the world, and I would never say mine is “better” than any other. But, well, it’s mine. And I honor it. I appreciate that you referred to Celtic paganism as “beautiful and fearsome.” There seem to be a lot of folks in the pagan community who like to leave out the “fearsome” part, and I think that does us all a disservice. Like your Norse forebears, we were warriors struggling to survive in a harsh place, and we succeeded, and it shaped us. We could all cherry pick the bits of a thousand faiths and end up with something happy and smiling (and toothless), or we can accept that, without darkness, light is irrelevant, and without the warrior, the weak are powerless.
Lucius Svartwulf said:
Lol, well, I’ve read and heard some of the stuff the druids did. And while I mean no offense to the druids of today, well….they don’t always follow the old ways as much. Considering that the Romans found them so violent and insain they felt the need to try and exterminate them, and my own Norse Ancestors basically said “theses F*****ers are crazy.” I will never think of the Celts as anything other than fearsome.
Being a cultural “Mutt,” I have had a great time researching my ancestors. I can claim many different cultures, most of which are European. I am proud of my ancestors. They have taught me much and I honor them for bringing me to where I am today. I see nothing wrong in that.
Lucius Svartwulf said:
Yeah, it’s always awesome to research our ancestors and their ways, because there is so much variety. Yet, at the same time for us Mutts, I find it kinda nice that we can still break it down into just four groups: Germanic (which includes Norse), Celtic, Roman, and Slav/Baltic. It certainly makes it easier finding your “Well” that way. 😀
You and I have had our talks on this before, and I was thinking a bit more on it the other day. I think one thing that bothers me about “white pride” proponents is that they include all white people, without any regard to their tribal or indigenous cultures. Italian, French, English, etc all fall under that banner to a WP’er, and it seems to connect more to a Christian Monotheist ideal than an actual tribal heathen one. You know what I mean? Caucasian Europe *was* united under God and became a singular ‘thing’, but the Goths, Vandals, Franks, Suevi etc saw each other as separated. They never would have nurtured a “white pride” among them, it would have been pride for the small and local tribe/culture from which their ancestors came.
Lucius Svartwulf said:
I get where you’re coming from, but I think I might be able to help you there as far as how the White Pride thing works.
In Europe, as best I can tell, there was never really much of anything as a White Pride, even under the Christians. It was always an ethnic pride. Even with the Nazis, it was an ethnic pride, not a “color” pride.
White Pride, as we know it, came from two distinct things. The first was the Civil War/Reconstruction in America. Despite what we were taught about White Masters, Black slaves, most of America was divided as much along Ethnic lines as it was any Racial lines. At the top were the Anglo-Saxon English, and then everyone else under them. This element lasted all the way to the Sixties. The largest push for the first wave of White Pride was the fact that the South viewed it’s rebellion as an issue of their being able to self govern, while the Government ended up painting it as a racial slavery matter. The fact that during the Reconstruction, where the Southern states were made powerless (at least the native “whites”) and taken from great wealth to terrible poverty, then had it waved in their faces that it was all for the “Black people” bred a great deal of racial hatred. As this was a different generation, they took pride in the reason they were being persecuted (at least in their minds). So they came to hate those they were told were the reason for their suffering, and take pride in who they were.
The second part really, was the 60’s and the Civil rights movement. We know that upto this point “Whites” were still ethnically divided, because of the election of JFK, the first Irish Catholic President received much the same shock and adoration as Obama did in his first election. I cannot stress how big a deal that was to people. The election of an Irish man in the 60’s was a big a deal as the election of a black man in the 00’s.
So what happened and why? The answer to that, in my mind, is very simple. Black Americans (or African Americans, or whatever the proper term is these days) have no Ethnic backgrounds. This, admittedly, is because such things were forcably taken from them, and they are so (to put it indelicately) interbred that ethnic lines would mean little to nothing at this point. All they have is Race and Skin color. Since they had not Ethnic lines, they didn’t frame the Movement in terms of Ethnicity. They ignored the fact that there were dozens of European ethnicities, or Indian ethnicities, or Asian ethnicities, or Hispanic ethnicities (more on that in a minute). There was only Race. They didn’t care that the Irish and Italians and Germans had all faced grave ethnic persecution. All they saw was Skin color. So they made the debate about Skin color. And as the decades have passed, media and education have done the same thing. They ignored European ethnic Diversity in favor of blanket statement colors. In response to this blanket statement of Black vs White, you saw Whites of all ethnicities (some of whom had not gotten along all that well before) join together in the face of what they believed to be a threat (real or imagined). The Civil Rights movement was a unifying force, blurring previously Ethnic lines into a Racial line. Remember, as far as the American South was concerned, they’d just started getting any real political power in the last decade or so, and now here was something that looked like the second wave of Reconstructionism where their rights and self governance would be stripped away again in favor of the same group that said rights and self governance were stripped away in the first place.
This is how I understand their view point.
There is a side part that in the fifties and sixties, you had a lot of young people leave their ethnically homogonous areas, where their ethnic lines and culture were gathered together, to go out and mix up a lot. That’s where a lot of our modern American Mutt comes from. PBS can occassionally be fun.
This is how we have the modern “White Pride” movement.
Further proof of the instance of why I think the whole Racial vs Ethnic thing has come out of the Black Civil Rights movement (really, how can it be anything else when all it’s leaders are African American, but that’s for another post I think) is the way the Hispanic issue is treated. The Civil Rights movement of today paints the issue as one of race, and Hispanics as racially homogenous. However, if you talk to Hispanics, they don’t see themselves as Racially Hispanic. They see themselves in terms of Ethnicity and Nationality. And they will get very, very mad if you say they are of a different ethnicity or that ethnicity doesn’t matter. And there is a struggle about how they will be imaged. (The fact that some African Americans are willing to outright ignore this Ethnicity in Hispanics is also rather distrubing, as we can see in the Zimmerman case, where Zimmerman declaires himself a Hispanic, looks Hispanic, and by all accounts is a Hispanic American, but is declared “White” because his skin is paler than Martins. I can’t say I’m well in touch with the Hispanic Community, but I can’t imagine that they are please to find out that their status as a Hispanic or White is based purely on the expediency and need of African Americans in politics). This is not counting the fact that many Hispanics want to have the success of the American dream and get to the middle and upper classes, and aren’t always happy to be place in the same category as the African American community as I have read that many Hispanics view African Americans in very unfavorable terms. But that is something I cannot comment very well on.
And that’s where White Pride really comes from, as best as I can analyze it. So the next time you hear people talking about (or dismissing things) as White Pride, these are things you need to keep in mind.
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