The Reconstruction of the Asatru and Odinist Traditions

Chapter (PDF Available) · December 1996with 143 Reads
In book: Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft, Publisher: SUNY, pp.193-236
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Abstract
The article traces the history of racialist Odinism and its differentiation from Asatru, which shares both pantheon and rituals, but which rejects racism or exclusionary beliefs. It includes both archival and field work, including interviews with adherents of both camps.
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    The introduction gives a short overview of the various far-right groups and actions in Australia over the past decades, arguing that far-right movements have not been as visible in Australia as they have been in Europe and North America. The contemporary era, however, has witnessed a rising moral panic around the place of Islam in Australia, which has created a fertile environment for the emergence of new far-right groups. The resurgence of an emboldened far-right in Australia has been a development that has taken communities and policymakers by surprise. Australian scholarship was also ill-prepared, with research on the Australian far-right remaining conceptually and empirically underdeveloped. This introduction outlines how the individual chapters seek to address these academic knowledge gaps and contribute to making sense of the far-right in Australia.
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    The guiding principles for this four-volume collection of reprinted articles and chapters are straightforward and were reached by consensus among the editors. First, in addition to those classics that are rightly known and respected, we have sought to also include studies of an equal standard that have been neglected or have otherwise failed to reach the deserved broad audience, usually as a result of initial publication in obscure journals or small print-run edited volumes and conference proceedings. Second, we have aimed for a balance between the usual emphasis upon either a broad theoretical orientation, or conversely, a bias towards case studies, with an equal and complementary focus on both. Third, we have selected works that are representative of the academic study of new religious movements (NRMs), with a range of methodological approaches being included, including sociology, cultural studies, anthropology, and psychology. Thus, we hope that the methodological rigour of the content is matched by the empirical richness of the panoply of new religions examined.
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    Arguing that the Australian far-right is comprised of fringe and institutional actors, violent and non-violent activists, this chapter discusses the electoral performance of far-right political parties, the importance of Odinism in Australia’s far-right (and globally) as well as right-wing extremist terrorism in Australia. These themes are examined through an internationally comparative political opportunity structure framework. The analysis demonstrates that, while far-right political parties have remained rather marginal, compared to many European countries, Australia has had an enormous impact on the development on Odinism, which is among the most significant faiths within far-right movements globally. Moreover, Australia’s political opportunity structures appear to be a factor in the comparatively low level of Australian right-wing extremist terrorism. The chapter concludes by highlighting that far-right institutional actors and the fringe subcultures are not always poles apart.
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    This article examines the American radical right’s fascination with apocalyptic millenarianism through the apocalyptic literature the movement has either generated or, as with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, adopted as its own. These works are not all of a kind however; there are distinct categories into which these works fall. These are: 1) Literature of the Crossroads in which the apocalypse can be averted if the nation follows a prescribed path; and 2) Post-apocalyptic literature which sees no alternative to the End, and therefore embraces the inevitable cataclysm in the faith that the millennial future will bring at long last perfect peace and terrestrial perfection. Moreover, there are two distinct courses of action which this body of literature prescribes: 1) revolution now; or 2) a quietist withdrawal to an enclave where the White Race can safely sit out the apocalypse to come.
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    Set against the threatened ecological backdrop of Ulrich Beck’s Risk Society (1992), there has been a dramatic upsurge in numbers of self-proclaimed nature religions in the West (Albanese, 1990, 2002; Pearson et al., 1998). These heterodox spiritual movements venerate nature as the locus of life, divinity and magic. Invoking Gaian sensibilities and attempting to transcend anthropocentrism, they seek to locate humanity within a sacred and interdependent, though endangered, global ecosystem (for example, Pearson et al., 1998). Contrary to theses of radical de-traditionalisation (see Heelas et al., 1996: 3–7), the spiritual expression of these religions is marked by a return to the symbolism of pre-modern myth, often couched within the Dionysian practices of pre-modern indigenous earth spiritualities, and an emphasis on the sensual. Indeed, Catherine Albanese (1990) traces the roots of contemporary nature religions to the colonial meeting of Protestant settlers and indigenous cultures in North America and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of these nature venerating cultures. She, therefore, sees two distinct strands within the Western experience of contemporary nature religiosity: First, indigenous peoples who wish to reclaim their indigenous animistic practices, in doing so politicising and universalising their struggles as critique of modern excess — indeed of late modernity’s relationship to risk.
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    This article surveys European neo‐Pagan and Native Faith movements that have emerged in the context of pan‐regional developments, new political configurations, environmental concerns and globalisation. While all engage with indigeneity, two broad trends are identified under the Pagan/Native Faith umbrella: (1) the adaptation of Anglo‐American Pagan traditions (e.g. Wicca, Druidry, neo‐shamanism, Goddess spirituality) to local contexts, thereby indigenising them in various ways, (2) the reconstruction of indigenous European religious traditions in connection with contemporary identity politics. Against this backdrop, the paper discusses the indigenising project of Maltese neo‐Pagans, a project characterised by adaptation and inventiveness within the local Catholic context.
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    Contemporary theorists have hypothesized that individuals seek to maximize feelings of ontological security against a modern background of increasing risk, fragmentation, and uncertainty. For some, modernity has become an epoch of death denial consciously divorced from nature through the legacy of the Enlightenment project. Conversely, celebrations of mortality are central to contemporary paganism, particularly where linked to the honoring of the regenerative cycles of nature. For pagans, mortality is often linked to carnivalesque celebration taking place in ambivalent spaces, termed heterotopia, where symbols of life and death meet. In these spaces death is sublimated into a nurturing, rather than life-denying force, strengthening pagan identity and solidarity. Effectively, death becomes interiorized by pagans. Ritualization around “death” becomes not merely a way of assuaging fears about one's own mortality, but an opportunity for insight and self-transformation.
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