On Sunday, Matt Flavel, Alsherjargothi of Asatru Folk Assembly, posted the following:
Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning. Hail the AFA families, now and always!
In response to this statement, many voices in the Heathen and Pagan communities spoke out, including Diana Paxson who wrote:
Some seasons bring people together, in others, whatever influences are active in the world seemed determined to drive them apart. This year has been one of increasingly passionate, even virulent, polarization. This might explain why the new leader of the Asatru Folk Assembly has abandoned obfuscation and proclaimed their identity as an ethnically European, cis-gendered organization.
Paxson then added:
My kindred, Hrafnar, has been meeting for over twenty years. In that time, I think we have welcomed individuals with almost every possible variation in gender identity and DNA. Many of us were drawn to heathenry because we have some Germanic ancestry. More come because, whatever our background, we have been called by the northern gods. We stay because the way the values and culture of those peoples are evolving in our branch of the heathen community has become part of our emerging “ethnic” identity.
This is a tough one for me in many ways as I am folkish-leaning and the Libertarian in me feels like an organization should be free to operate within the guidelines of their faith as they see fit so long as they are respectful of other cultures and beliefs.
That being said, I have problems with Alsherjargothi Flavel’s choice of words and thought processes. One, he is clearly ignoring the gender fluidity of many of the gods he professes to honour. Two, he is confusing the concepts of sexuality and procreation. And three, he stepped right into one of my pet peeves by using the word “white” to describe their ethnic identity.
I don’t identify as “white”. I am predominately of Northern European stock, with Scots, Irish, English, and Scandinavian blood swirling about in my veins. I identify culturally, not ethnically, as did our ancestors.
I honestly doubt Odin gives one fig beyond what lies in a man or woman’s heart.
I was first drawn to those ancient gods when I still measured my years in single digits, thanks to a book by Padraic Colum called The Children of Odin. I’ve been wearing Thor’s Hammer around my neck for 32 of my 50 years.
It seems natural that the gods would sound the horn and call out to their children. On a personal level, who am I to deny any that would answer it?
Let the AFA do as they see fit, but the eyes of the Pagan and Heathen communities are now more firmly upon them. Stephen McNallen has just recently stepped away from AFA leadership, leaving the group he founded in the hands of Flavel and others. It’s a shame to see it so soon unraveling.