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Make All Mankind Your Tribe

By Maelstrom

[Snip] Something I have observed and reflected on with growing concern for many years is a tendency in certain forms of modern-day Paganism to not merely value and seek to revive and revision religious traditions of the pre-Christian past, but to also idealize the social forms and norms of those past times. I am very comfortable with the religious motivation, but quite uncomfortable with the social agenda. Specifically, there is the idea, detectable in some forms of Asatru-Heathenry but also elsewhere, that the best thing for Pagans today is to return, to whatever degree possible, to the kind of tribal society of the medieval past or earlier. This society is romanticized as more heroic and more honorable than that of today, but is also valued, implicitly if not explicitly, for its more narrowly circumscribed ethnic horizons: “the good old days when we could be with people of our own kind.” This often ties in with a sense of ethnic or ethno-national identity: “the religion (and society) of the Germans, the Swedes, the Russians, the _____ “(fill in the blank with ethnic or national group identity of your choice.)

What concerns me about this retro-tribalism is how well it lends itself to racial and ethnic exclusiveness, and ultimately, racial animosity. I know a good number of Astruar and other Pagans who do not see themselves as racist, who bear no particular grudge against people of other racial or ethnic backgrounds, who may be kind and warm with people of such backgrounds, but who fail, in my view, to grasp that despite their own good hearts and good intentions, their concern with ethnic identity and the tribal life of times past has a dangerous potential to function as a building block for the most hateful forms of racism, including such ugly developments as Nazism and neo-Nazism.

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