No Far Right Haters, You Are Not Pagans

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Ever since I had the misfortune of seeing Jack Renshaw, the leader of proscribed hate group National Action, wishing one of his white supremacist members a merry Yule I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the links various far right haters have been attempting to make with Paganism.

In much the same way that Britain First have tried to co-opt Christian values and ISIS have tried to usurp Islamic values I am starting to see my own faith become associated with a misrepresentative and unwelcome element and one that I worry will cause the same confusion and controversy for Pagans that the idiots in Britain First and ISIS have done for the Abrahamic faiths.

To some extent it is easier to co-opt Paganism than it is Islam, Judaism or Christianity. We have no single scripture or doctrine that spells out what it is to be a Pagan or what our beliefs entail. The holy scriptures of the three Abrahamic faiths clearly detail what being a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim involves. Pagans enjoy no such clarity, to be a Pagan can mean something very different to every individual who identifies under the umbrella term of Paganism. This makes it hard to deny somebody as a part of the faith as there is no objective set of rules we can point to as being broken.

The far right have a definite need to identify with a faith. This is because a good deal of their prejudice is targeted at those with differing religious beliefs. Historically they have attempted to align themselves with Christianity in order to fuel their prejudice against Muslims and Jews but as the tactics the far right deploy in their persecution of UK minority faiths move further and further from the teachings of Jesus Christ they have increasingly started to usurp the Pagan faith as an alternative.

The fluidity of Paganism is one of the elements that attracts the far right. As a non-prescriptive faith there are no hurdles to overcome to self-identify as a Pagan. There are no mandatory rites of passage, no set holy days, no learning or memorising of scripture. There is no formal initiation into Paganism. It is therefore perceived by some as a faith that requires minimum effort to adopt.

The far right are attracted to Paganism as they perceive it in some way as being the traditional faith of the ‘English’ people. A faith that predates Christianity, Islam and Judaism appeals to their obsession with Nationalism and their white heritage. It is interesting to note however how inconsistent they are with this as those of the far right who do try to adopt Paganism focus very much on the Nordic Gods and Nordic mythology of the Vikings who, rather ironically, would have been the “invaders” and not the indigenous settlers of the British Isles.

On a base level the far right are drawn to Paganism for the Hollywood associations with the Occult and spiritual power.  Our ranting far right keyboard warriors enjoy the delusion of power that claiming to be Pagan gives them. Undoubtedly it boosts their false sense of self-esteem while tweeting hate speech to their 100 Twitter followers from their Mum’s spare room in their Superman pyjamas.

The modern definition of what it is to be a Pagan is very different to how pre Christians would have worshipped their Gods. When the far right talk about Paganism they are attempting to identify with the Pagans of old as justification for the use of using primitive tactics to destroy cultures that differ to their own. But this is too simplistic as it negates many hundreds of years of human growth and development. Just as we no longer do our cooking in holes in the ground we no longer see and perceive the world in the same way that our ancestors did. When the far right talk about the conflicts between pre Christian communities and how those conflicts were settled with violence they fail to understand that we have evolved as a society since then. Pagans in the modern world do not see violence and prejudice as constructive tools.

Interestingly, the belief that pre Abrahamic societies and in particular the far right’s beloved Vikings were all about violence is a myth. The Vikings were pragmatic and practical people who would usually attempt a trading relationship with other countries before involving themselves in any conflict. If the far right truly want to emulate the Vikings they would do better to involve themselves in matters of farming and trade than they would in violence and disunity.

I have said Paganism is a diverse and hard to define faith in modern times and this is true. Perhaps the one thing though that all Pagans would identify with is a reverence for nature. Nature is an all-encompassing term to mean both the planet and the living creatures on it. This includes fellow human beings. It is not in keeping with the spirit of Paganism to wage war and genocide against other humans. Hate has no place in a Pagan world view.

There is sometimes a misconception that Paganism lacks the morality of the Abrahamic faiths and that as such it offers more wiggle room for those wishing to speak hate against their enemies. Although there is no specific doctrine of morality, the values by which Pagans choose to live their lives are closely associated with liberalism and with the ideas of equality and social justice. This belief system is far more in keeping with a left wing political view than it would be the right wing and certainly has very little in common with the divisive beliefs of the extremist far right.

In summary, the ethos of Paganism is a poor choice of faith for those hell bent on disparaging and discriminating against their fellow human beings. Preach your hate if you must far right extremists – but you do not preach your hate in the name of my Gods.

Roanna is one of the founder members of Resisting Hate. She is the author of the majority of our articles, and also publishes a blog on Huffington Post UK

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The Comfort of Spirituality

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Guest article from a Pagan – Thank you to Brigantia for sharing these beautiful words with us.

After a day scouring the news for information, hoping beyond hope that this child is found or another gets home safe as more and more parents send out appeals for their missing children, I am sat in my room with the window open.

I’ve turned off the news, sick to my soul of the destruction, heartache, hate and grief that has rocked the nation. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has described this attack as the worst to ever hit the North of England but I say there has never been a terrorist attack of this type before. One that seemed to deliberately target innocent children; babies, who had barely begun to live.

My heart, my soul, reaches out wanting to give comfort and ease to the suffering families tonight but I can’t. All I can do is hold my children closer, hope for the best for everyone and trust in this nation of ours to take care of those in need.

So here I am, sat by my window, listening to the birds in the trees who are blissfully unaware of what occurred with the going down of the sun. I regulate my breathing, as is my custom, I concentrate on the sounds of the birds, the trees swaying, the leaves rustling. I take in the smell of the freshly cut grass and the newly watered flower beds, where my gladioli are almost ready to flower. I take it all in, bit by bit and this composes me enough to deal with my children, to stop the tears that have been falling all day. Then something struck me… Something I probably knew all along but somehow failed to consciously acknowledge…

I don’t want to repeat to you things that are obvious but I would like to remind you of something.

Religion, faith, spirituality, whatever you like to call it; this is our comfort. This is the soul’s solace. It’s not just a way of life, a practice you adhere to, a thing about yourself that you defend. It’s not the root of all evil, it’s not the obligation on a Sunday, it’s not the subject of heated debate. These are all things that try to disguise your faith.

Your faith is your comfort, your solace, your soul’s sweet relief.

Take that in for a second. No matter who or what you identify as; Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Jew, Atheist, Hindu, Agnostic…

Take that in. Your faith, your spiritual path, is your safe space…

In times like this we are told we need to stick together, to forget our differences and to forge a bond beyond the adversity… And of course that’s true, we absolutely have to do that… But we also have to go further… Or perhaps it’s closer… And look into ourselves and make sure that we’re not neglecting to remember that religion is not the enemy. Faith is not the cause.

Spirituality is there for us because it is ours, ours alone. We can share it with others, of course we can. We can spread the joy, we can strengthen each other with it… But, in the end… It is there for us and we mustn’t feel selfish for taking that time to calm our inner selves.

Some people don’t have that comfort, they don’t have that certainty that there’s something that is all for them, that nothing can take away… But you! You have it! Right there inside you! And I beg you, all of you, to use it.

Go outside and listen to the birds, listen to the trees, listen to the Earth. Listen to your families, your friends, your communities and bask in the knowledge that this, all of this, is yours! It’s not ours, not theirs; it’s yours! And when you’ve done that, when you’ve taken yourself and reminded yourself what you hold inside, what your faith has given you… I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much stronger you feel to share with the ours, with the they…

I hope these ramblings make sense to you… And I hope beyond hope that all of you are safe right now.

Whatever your faith, whatever your beliefs, whatever your practices… Be safe, be strong and remember… Nobody can never take this away from you…

Brigantia

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