With the recent widespread news of the murders of black men by police officers who are not even brought to trial, there has been a combination of outraged voices, tired and despairing voices, victim blaming, and silence. I wish I believed any of this is new, but I know it’s really not. It may be news to those of us with enough privilege to have wandered through a safer world until now, but I know from the discussions I have had with those who don’t share my advantages that the only thing that’s really new is our ability to spread awareness about it.
Awareness is good. Let the word continue to spread until nobody can conveniently ignore it anymore. But awareness is not enough by itself. We can’t just know, we have to do something.
Closer to home, it has been said in the community recently that pagans of color experience a serious lack of support from their fellow Pagans. In particular, despite a frequent focus on social justice in many Pagan groups, there’s an echoing silence among Pagan organizations when specifically racial injustice arises. Paganism is overwhelmingly populated by people of European descent, and there is still too prevalent a tendency to dismiss as insignificant any problem that doesn’t seem to affect us personally. Once again, in our community, as in society at large, people of color find themselves repeatedly ignored and marginalized, and now, just when they need extra support, they are met with nothing at all.
This is totally unacceptable.
So let me say this: The Vanic Conspiracy is open to all kinds of people, no matter one’s ancestry, or gender, or orientation, or ability, or age, or income. This absolutely includes people of color, and we have indeed had members over the years from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. If you are interested in the Vanir, our hospitality is yours.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as frith without embracing diversity. There is no such thing as frith without social justice. There is no such thing as insular frith, intolerant frith, hateful frith. Frith – social harmony – requires active efforts to reach out and understand those outside of ourselves.
One of the things that too often marks Heathenism is a tendency to use loyalty to friends and family as an excuse to care less about those outside the group. Many argue that the Aesir exemplify this concept, and it is thus a rightful Heathen value. I disagree, but even if the Aesir are interpreted that way, what is quite clear to me, and every other Vanatruar I have ever met, is that the Vanir do NOT operate that way at all. They seek to understand and make allies among ALL the denizens of the Nine Worlds. As Vanatruar, we are similarly obliged to seek allies among all kinds of people in our own lives.
We are certainly permitted boundaries, and indeed, healthy boundaries are necessary for maintaining frith and good hospitality. The ability to tell someone else when they have crossed a line is necessary for our health and growth as individuals and as a group. But those boundaries are individual and behavioral, not categorical. If your boundaries cause you to exclude people based not on who they are and how they behave, but on what they are, whether they have chosen to be or not, then we challenge you to re-evaluate.
As a group, I admit, the Vanic Conspiracy hasn’t spent much of our time organizing together for activist efforts. It’s often all I can manage to keep us organized for simple monthly meetings the last few years, so we haven’t had many extracurricular gatherings for any purpose. But we do gather money for charity twice a year (for a charitable organization in the summer, and a local household in need in the winter), and ethics, especially interpersonal ethics, are a frequent topic of discussion. Social justice activism isn’t something we’ve tended to pursue as a group, but it’s something we encourage in our individual members when we can.
Perhaps it is time we discussed pursuing social justice activism as a group. We may be a small, very local organization, and I will grant you that our silence probably hasn’t echod much, because we’ve rarely if ever said anything publicly in the first place. But every little bit counts, and if a small collection of voices in solidarity from our corner of the Pagan community can help then let us speak up now. I will bring it up to the group and see what we can do.
For now what I can say with confidence, as the Gythia of the Vanic Conspiracy, is that if you are interested in the Vanir, if you are a person of color, or of non-binary gender, or disabled, or any other kind of marginalized, and you need somewhere safe to be, you are welcome among us. All we ask of anyone, all we’ve ever asked of anyone, is respectful behavior. That includes respectful behavior towards you, whoever you are.
P.S. Here is a collection of related statements from other Pagan organizations:
See Also: Heathens United Against Racism