Friday, September 01, 2017

American Odinism and the Dangers of Monotheism

One aspect of Germanic mythology which has always fascinated me is the nature of the relationship between two of our most important deities-*Wodanaz and *Thunaraz. I use here the Proto-Germanic terms out of convenience to embrace the various names that they are now known by today's Germanic nations.

There are various terms which Germanic heathens use to label their religion-Odinism, Wodenism, Wotanism, Asatru, Vanatru, heathenism, paganism etc and often the label which is used has a tendency to define the nature of our beliefs and acts as a comparison towards other branches of the ancient northern religion.

One issue that I have with the terms Odinism, Wodenism, Wotanism is the way in which it gives an almost exclusive primacy to one single deity when the truth and the facts are far more complicated than this. I was prompted to pen this article after reading the profile of notable Odinist Wyatt Kaldenburg on 'Twitter'. This is how Mr Kaldenburg defines Odinism:

"I am an American Odinist. Odinism is the belief in Odin as the supreme God who rules over the other Gods and Goddesses of the Germanic peoples."
I am a little troubled by this definition as it suggests almost (but not quite) a form of heathen monotheism and monotheism is a way of looking at spirituality and religion which I utterly reject. I do not and never have obtained the impression from the many years that I have studied the history of Germanic heathenism  that "Odin" (is) "the supreme God who rules over the other Gods and Goddesses of the Germanic peoples." This almost equates Germanic heathenism with classical Greek and Roman paganism where one powerful deity-Zeus/Jupiter is said to rule over all other deities almost as if the other Gods and Goddesses were mere appendages or perhaps hypostases of the one 'chief' deity. It almost has the feel of the semitic Jehovah/Allah, a supposedly 'supreme' being who rules over an angelic hierarchy.

This causes me to ask the question are we who live in this post-Christian age somehow remodelling our ancient religion upon a semitic paradigm, albeit unconsciously? Are we still victims of an ingrained and centuries long pattern of viewing religion, that we are merely substituting one supreme deity-in this case Odin for another 'supreme' deity-Jehovah/Allah?

My study of the Eddas does not lead me to the conclusion that *Wodanaz should be viewed in the way that many (American) Odinists view Him, as a Germanic subsititute for the Christian 'god'. The tendency to view Him in this way does appear to be a particularly American one and I cannot but help compare this development with what I have many years ago termed the Pilgrim Fathers' Complex

Although the USA is technically a secular nation where state and religion are separate (unlike the United Kingdom) it is still a deeply religious one and this is mainly due to the strongly held Christian convictions of many of the country's founders. Even in 'white nationalist' circles many who are supposedly racialist and even vehemently racist (I apply a qualitative difference to these two apparently similar terms) still cling to their childhood semitic fairytales, failing to see the obvious contradiction and dichotomy in worshiping a jewish anti-god. Many attempt to reconcile this mental aberration by following the religion of Christian Identity creating even more mental and spiritual confusion. Many view Christ as non-Jewish, even Aryan and the Aryan peoples as the 'Hebrews'. Christian Identity is a modern American version of 19th century British Israelism.

*Wodanaz is of course a primary deity as is clear not only from the Eddas and traces of His cult in the place names of England and Germanic Europe but He should not be viewed as those who view Zeus sitting upon Mount Olympus treating mortals as pieces in a chess game! The reality of *Wodanaz is very very different. He is a God of mystery, of the hidden, the arcane, the unknown. He is a seeker of knowledge and wisdom and delights in many things whether it be poetry, communing with the dead or welcoming heroes into Walhalla but He is not imperious in the sense of Zeus or Jupiter. Indeed He does not even correlate to these classical deities. The nearest counterpart is of course *Thunaraz who originally was the leading deity in the North until the mysterious appearance of the later cult of *Wodanaz.

In some ways these two Germanic Gods are quite similar. They are both deities related to the elements, storm deities if you will but they also have clear differences. *Thunaraz is a God of tremendous power, electrical power as He demonstrates in the flash of lightning and the thunder bolt. He is both a defensive deity and a God of war as is *Wodanaz of course and *Tiwaz. He is a God who cares for His followers and one in which I invoke several times a day. *Wodanaz of course inspires us to uncover that which is hidden, that we seek wisdom and become like him-that we emulate Him. However we must be careful if we ask anything of this deity as He has (in my experience) a tendency to play games and tricks upon us but this is always in order to teach us an important lesson about ourselves.

*Wodanaz seems to be a latecomer to the North and His cult appears to have originated with the Saxons or at least they popularised His cult and brought it further north where *Thunaraz still had primacy. Indeed *Thunaraz retained the loyalty of His followers even following the Christianisation of Scandinavia as many of the sagas indicate.

The Hárbarðsljóð in the Poetic or Elder Edda reveals an apparent conflict or tension between *Wodanaz and * Thunaraz. This tension reveals itself in a contest of 'flyting' or a verbal contest between the two and I believe this to be a poetic reminder of the apparent competition and rivalry between the older and more established cult of *Thunaraz and the more recent one of *Wodanaz.

Rather than view our religion as a heathen form of monotheism as American Odinism has a tendency to do we must learn about the qualities and characteristics of all of our Germanic Gods and it may be that we as individuals are drawn to one or two specific deities and there is nothing of course wrong with this but we must not attempt to build a monotheistic structure out of a clearly polytheistic worldview.

4 comments:

Víðarr said...

Odin was probably a much more localised deity before Christianisation, lacking the kind of sovereignty he later possessed. Once touched by Conversion, the Germanic aristocracy likely had a very influential role to play in culting Odin on a large scale. Influenced strongly by the Christian interest in the Greco-Roman classical studies Odin was transformed into a Zeus-like figure.

Steed said...

It's an important concern. An American Heathen friends of mine has expressed the same to me whenever she's returned from more national/general moots such as the AFA one. She said that, particularly under the new leadership, it comes across much more as a bunch of conservative Americans trying to substitute something for the Christianity they grew up with and rejected.

Wotans Krieger said...

Hello Steed. Hope all is well. Yes the tendency does appear to be American rather than European and likewise I put it down to the ingrained belief in 'one God' that Americans still have in their collective psyche. That is why here in Europe we must always filter what we read and hear from America via a European lens!!
Hope to see you again in November.

Wotans Krieger said...

Hello Vidarr. Yes you are probably right. At the time that Odin in Scandinavia rose to prominence the Viking Age was underway, prompted at least in part by a possibly subconscious desire to take revenge on the Christian kings who often in a violent manner introduced their Christ cult into Germania. Odin was transformed into a more martial deity-fitting the needs of the Age.