Asatru · Outreach · Paganism

The Mainstreaming of Asatru

I think it’s quite possible for Asatru to break through into the mainstream of American society. There’s a difference between being mainstream and being a majority, of course; Jews only make up around 2% of the American population, but they’re certainly part of the mainstream of society. That’s a good thing, in my mind.

*Not* the head of the local
Chamber of Commerce

It should come as no surprise that neo-paganism (which I’m going to use very loosely here to include things such as Wicca, Druidry, eclectic paganism, and the like) are considered by most, both within and without, to be part of the “counterculture”. The neo-pagan community seems to revel in its “outsider” status, and often goes out of its way to rub the mainstream’s nose in the fact that they’re different. It should come as no surprise when society looks askance at them.

One consequence of the deliberate cultivation of a countercultural ethos within neo-paganism is a marked (and often lamented) inability of the neo-pagans to get organized. Sure, there are some national organizations such as the Covenant of the Goddess, but their influence within the broader neo-pagan world is somewhat limited. The neo-pagans are thus caught in a self-perpetuating cycle; they attract those who are rebellious and resistant to authority, and thus find it difficult to organize on anything other than a local (and often ephemeral, due to interpersonal conflicts, aka “witch wars”) level, and tend to alienate the sort of people who would be good at such organization.

Some Asatruar wear ritual garb…

This inclination also has ideological and theological implications. There is a strong current today of villainizing wealth and success, and glorifying poverty, which in turn tends to put off the relatively wealthy and successful, and leads to fewer available resources.

The inclination towards individuality also leads to a propensity towards eclecticism (often derided as “salad bar religion”) which can put off those with strong ties to a particular culture or historical faith.

Asatru is, I think, uniquely positioned to escape the “counterculture trap” that neo-paganism finds itself in.

On a theological level, Asatru is much less eclectic than neo-paganism. While there are bands of variation on various issues such as the importance of ancestry, the role of Loki, and modernity vs. reconstruction, these are questions within a relatively well-established set of boundaries determined by history and the extant literature that has come down to us. This allows a certain level of consistency and conformity (no, that’s not a bad word), but still allows for a variety of opinions within its established boundaries.

That appeals to those who are looking for consistency and guidance, and not a “whatever makes you happy” philosophy.

…some wear ties…

On a social level, Asatru is noted for its family-friendly attitude. True, there are groups made up primarily of young men in their 20’s and early 30’s who are more aggressive and tend towards individualism, but as they age and “settle down” with girlfriends and eventually wives and children, they themselves most often transform into the family-friendly groups that predominate.

That appeals to those who are more inclined towards a family environment, rather than those looking to rebel against the normative social model for the sake of doing so.

On an organizational level, although there are numerous unaffiliated kindreds and associations across the country operating on a local level, there are two or three large national groups that, for all intents and purposes, dominate the organizational landscape and to some extent drive the conversation among the Asatruar in this country. In Europe, many countries will have but one or two such groups. “Lone wolf” Asatruar are relatively rare (compared to “solitary Wiccans”) and are usually alone not by choice but because they do not know of any other Asatruar in their area. Asatru is fairly well organized, both on a local and national level.

That appeals to those who are looking for stability and who work well in groups, rather than those who are more individualistic in outlook.

…others wear polo shirts

Those three elements, I think, set up Asatru to move from the edges of society into the mainstream. I think this is a good thing in and of itself, as it will allow Asatru to grow as it becomes more accepted as a valid (and even preferable) alternative to the monotheistic religions that currently dominate the landscape. And, I would argue, as Asatru grows as a whole, all Asatruar benefit, even those who don’t share every particular ideological point.

Asatru need not change in order to accomplish this. We can do this by emphasizing those elements which are already more “mainstream-friendly”; our love of family, our non-eclectic-but-not-dogmatic theology, and our willingness to play well with others in groups. Our culture, which emphasizes honesty, honor, and self-reliance  can be used to demonstrate that one doesn’t need to be a Protestant to have a good work ethic. No changes, no chicanery; just let everyone around us know that we really are, and live up to our own ideals, and we will prosper as a whole.

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