Folkism and Racism vs. Personal Pride [Part 2]

I’ve wanted for a while to get a photograph of all of my Grandma’s grandchildren together, post it somewhere “folkish” Heathens can see it, and ask them who they think, by the proposed definition of “Folkism”, has a right to honor Odin. Most likely answer? A definite “yes” for the two redheaded girls, the blond girl, and the blond boy, “maybe” for the two dark-haired boys, and a definite “no” on the two dark-skinned boys. The correct answer is of course “every single one”, even by their own standards.

Now, there is another definition of “folkist” I’ve heard used.** “Loyal to my folk” i.e. those considered family to the one speaking, by choice or blood. Most folks I know call it “tribalist”, and while the insularity implied worries me a bit, I don’t find it an innately racist practice. Sure, loyalty to your chosen kindred and kinfolk is admirable and honorable. If you just happen to only choose white people, though, I’m unimpressed by your sleight of hand.

This gets into why I often have a problem with those lists of “9 Noble Virtues”. The list rarely includes “compassion” or “empathy”, and often includes “honor” and “loyalty”. “Honor” should mean right behavior, but all too often it’s used to say that only reputation matters – what people know about me – and thus as long as people don’t know that I’ve been a total asshole, my honor is intact, and thus it’s not dishonorable. Loyalty is supposed to be about keeping my promises and commitments to the people I care for, but is all too often used to draw lines in the sand and excuse us from caring about people on the other side of the line. Honor and loyalty without compassion and empathy lead to exactly the kind of insular folkish bullshit that makes everyone outside Heathenry demand that we each, individually, assure them that we’re not racist assholes.

It doesn’t help that there’s an awful lot of borderline behavior even amongst our more reasonable folk. I’ve met members of the AFA, or AFA-associated Kindreds who as far as I can tell aren’t folkish themselves, yet are apparently willing to associate with those who are. I try to be understanding because I don’t think it’s useful to go around attacking people just because I disagree with them, but sometimes I don’t know where to draw the line. If you’re not yourself racist in practice, but you spend all your religious time with people who are folkish, do I really want to spend time with you? How many layers of removal do I have to get before I’m far enough away from the bullshit to avoid getting splattered?

I’m honestly not sure, but one thing I do know? If I can’t bring you home to Thanksgiving and have you smile as sincerely to my cousins as you do to me, I don’t want to be in a Sumbel with you. I heard somewhere my kin should come first.


** [Edited to Add (May 2015)] Since I wrote this post, there is another definition of “Folkish” that has come to my attention: A “Folkist” practice meaning practices handed down within families and local cultures – mostly used this way in Europe, I gather. I’ve never heard an American use it this way.
That seems fine, but it only applies to continuous practices, most of which modern Heathens need to be aware are practiced by people who consider themselves Christian. If (like me) you are a Reconstructionist Heathen, then this can’t apply to you because your traditions are not continuous folk practices you learned from your family.

About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
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