Fighting White Supremacy With Norse Mythology

Image for post
Image for post
An expy of the Great World Tree Yggdrasil

White Supremacy — the misbegotten belief that there exists a clearly-defined “white” race bestowed with special qualities and a “right” to rule people of other races — is the great tragedy of European history.

Every place this horrible ideology has touched it has utterly corrupted, and thanks to centuries of European colonization few parts of planet Earth remain unaffected. As insidious as a virus, it is ever eating away at the foundations of all European-descended societies — but it has had and is having especially brutal impacts in the United States.

Worse, White Supremacy is not simply a product of conservative values, despite appearances. Liberal voices who hold themselves to be allies of the victims of White Supremacy routinely also advance its wicked tenets because the pernicious ideology has embedded itself into the very heart of what is often called “Western Civilization.”

Western Civilization, students are taught beginning in primary school, originated in ancient Greece with the development of a kind of proto-Democracy in Athens. There, in public spaces, prominent men would debate matters of philosophy and ethics and law using the best arguments they could construct, with onlookers judging which should be held as True by all.

This process produced the polis, whose willingness to commit to the process defined them as citizens. The Athenian Greeks, so the mythos holds, were unique in this development, and the underlying rightness of the process was so compelling that elements of it were incorporated into the Roman Empire.

From there the seed of Western Civilization was sown across Europe — first by Roman legions, and later, after Rome’s fall, the Christian Kingdoms that sprung up after. After a long period known as the Dark Ages, a time when barbarians ruled most of Europe, the spread of Christianity and with it the practice of writing — a habit the Greeks had adopted after learning it from ancient Mesopotamia.

This in turn led to the Renaissance and later the Enlightenment, when learned men began using rigorous systematic methods to understand the natural world. Their work produced, in time, the foundations of Modern Science, which has slowly come to supersede religious Faith in most matters of Truth. Whether you are speaking of the economy, society, or politics, in any given situation there is a Truth to be revealed, and most arguments are driven about either what that Truth is or the right tools to use to build arguments about it.

The mythos of Western Civilization makes for a compelling narrative if you accept it at face value. And most do, since it is taught pretty much like this at all levels of formal education through the end of college. Conservatives may dispute how much scientific, empirical Truth can or should replace Faith, but their opposition to the “Liberal” view of historical progress is only a matter of degree. Conservative writers and pundits use the same Greco-Roman heritage to define Western Civilization, they just pick different points of pride to dwell on.

But the trouble is that there is no scientific basis for the myth. It was a deliberate creation by powerful Europeans meant to elevate the European Kingdoms who conquered and colonized most of the world above those they enslaved. Western Civilization is part of White Supremacy and has been since its alleged origins in ancient Greece.

Ancient Athens was a brutal city state controlled by an Elite — a group of people with more power in their community than most — that was totally reliant on slaves. Neither slaves, women, nor men without property could be part of the polis or allowed into Academy. They could never be true citizens of Athens, just like they were never true citizens of Rome or the Christian Kingdoms that succeeded it.

The question of slave-holding in ancient Greece and Rome is essential to understanding the reality of Western Civilization and its core tenets. At no point in human history has control of chattel slaves of the sort that built and maintained the foundations of Athens and Rome — chattel is derived from the same root as ‘cattle’ and indicates status as pure property with no inherent humanity — been possible for any but Elites.

This is because no matter what legal status a community applies to a person, they will always have the ability — so long as they have legs — to resist. The history of chattel slavery in the United States is one of constant attempts to escape or resist. In the South, educating slaves was prohibited precisely because of the widespread fear of slave revolts on the plantations.

In ancient times, controlling slaves would have been even more difficult, as an escaped slave could easily survive by living off the land — and if they got far enough, their “legal” status as a slave became irrelevant. Only powerful landholders or political leaders were able to prevent this, usually by forcing those in the lower strata as enforcers.

And here is where the term barbarian becomes critical. It derives from an ancient Greek term meaning anyone who spoke another language.

It is much easier to enslave a person who has no nearby friends, family, or allies to help them escape. Barbarians were natural targets for wars that would produce more manageable slaves than you could get by enslaving members of a rival city-state.

And thus the seeds of White Supremacy were sown. To sustain chattel slavery — thanks to the natural human tendency to empathize with other living things — it is always essential to erect fundamental, lasting social divides between us and them. For thousands of years, exclusion of some group from the protection of the broader community has been used as a tool of domination. Western Civilization has always required barbarians in order to function — and history has proven that they will always be found.

This remains equally true in modern times.

The irony is that there exists little empirical evidence that what we think of as ancient Greek or Roman “civilization” was in any way unique. In fact, most of what is known about ideas discussed in Greece and Rome only passed into the knowledge base of Europe thanks to the work of Islamic scholars on the other side of the Mediterranean.

There’s a reason the first Renaissance took place in Italy — it was closely connected by trade to the intellectual centers of the Dark Ages and Medieval Eras in West Asia. Goods came down the Silk Roads for centuries before Europeans began sailing across the oceans, and so did technology — the Age of Exploration was made possible by Chinese, Indian, Persian, and Arab achievements that European scholars learned about and adapted, often from the work of Jewish scholars.

Ideas move along trade networks and have for thousands of years. There is in fact no evidence to suggest that those debated in Athens were unique to the city-state. Democracy, far from being a Greek invention, is better seen as a potential form of organization that most communities come to embrace to a greater or lesser degree. Ancient Chinese and Indian sources are rich with philosophical ideas that so strongly resemble those of Greece that it appears likely they derive from something universal about humanity.

The reason we are taught to believe the Greeks and Romans — or more accurately, the wealthy and powerful among them who were able to ensure the ideas they liked were written down as their own — is that this narrative is a convenient one for a great many people in positions of power in the modern day. People who, just like the ancient Greeks and Romans, have a vested interest in carrying the mythology forward.

At the core of the idea of Western Civilization is the belief that individuals must be educated into it. The allegory of Plato’s Cave encapsulates this belief. Only those who leave their comfortable surroundings and explore beyond can bring the Truth back to those who are still in the darkness.

The proponents of Western Civilization have always presented it as this Truth. Barbarism is the antithesis, and if Barbarians reject Truth they are subject to some degree of discrimination and exploitation — liberals like to offer them lots of chances, conservatives fewer. If the citizens at large fail to uphold the Virtues of Western Civilization, they are warned, it will collapse into Anarchy — a state of disorder held to be synonymous with Barbarian status.

Naturally, people with a personal, vested interest in the mythos are the ones who cling most strongly to it. Most politicians, journalists, professors, and pundits embrace it because it elevates them — these are defined public roles in the mythos. They are also disproportionately white men, exceptionally wealthy relative to the majority, who ensure that the only people who aren’t their race and gender who beat the odds and rise to the top become so indebted to the system they will never act to change it. And these wealthy white men find it convenient as well as personally satisfying to think of themselves as the inheritors and guardians of an ancient tradition — as do all high priests of any Faith.

Ironically, this mythology of Western Civilization only came together in the last two to three centuries. It is very easy to forget — particularly for those of us who have dedicated a considerable part of our lives to formal education — that the historical record is spotty in the extreme. Especially where the main records are accounts from individual writers — who can’t be trusted to remain any more objective than the average pundit today — we simply don’t have any scientifically valid idea of what really happened.

Luckily we can make good inferences by combining written and archaeological sources with modern-day advances in modeling and simulation — the last step taken by too few so far. But what even the most basic consistent model will reveal is an astonishingly far more complex and nuanced story of the past than most people realize.

Civilizations don’t really exist — they are convenient classifications we use to delineate arrangements of apparent facts from the past that matter to us. The same is equally true of Barbarians — virtually every people describes the others beyond their direct knowledge exactly the same way, just as we are probably doing with aliens.

In reality, humans are a fundamentally tribal species that can only ever hope to interact with a tiny fraction of the other humans out there. Humans create — through language, custom, and written laws — a general description of reality that works reasonably well, and communities and tribes sort themselves out over time according to what groups of people think works the best.

Organized structures like Kingdoms and Nations emerge and appear distinct both to an outside observer as well as one another, but under the surface they are always in a state of flux. Individuals move between tribes, tribes shift across the landscape, everyone trying to minimize the suffering they experience in life while maximizing their gain. Tribes, peoples, and nations mix, merge, and divide all the time — though slowly, usually over many generations, producing a new synthesis that decays with age before shifting to a new form.

We perceive almost nothing of the past states of this vast system — of true History. Tales passed down from old are all we’ve got, and they have to be interpreted carefully, knowing that we’re not able to see everything of relevance. Stories and myths are easily distorted over time, each new generation tending to remake them, repackaging old tropes to better fit with contemporary tastes and beliefs.

That’s what Western Civilization truly is — a story, a myth, constructed by a group of self-interested rich white men. Athenian Greeks wrote scathingly of their neighboring Spartans, worse of the more distant but still-too-near Persians, and even worse of the peoples to their north. Romans used the Barbarians of the North as useful enemies and paradoxically as paragons of certain virtues they wanted Romans to emulate. Here lies the origin of the “noble savage” that was reborn in the 19th Century to justify the alleged “White Man’s Burden” to lift up Western Civilization’s barbarians of the day — everyone they had colonized and enslaved.

So what on this good Earth, you may be wondering, could Norse Mythology have to do with this? Why would the pagan practices of a bunch of vicious Vikings have any relevance?

Because it is a bitter irony of history that the people of Northern Europe were and remain bound to this cornerstone of White Supremacy, the ideology of Western Civilization. Because they ended up in power across the world, what they believe matters.

Many people around the world wonder why white Americans are so obsessed with genealogy and their family heritage. The reason is that our heritage was stripped from us long before we became the brutal colonizers, that vanguard of Western Civilization who rampaged across the planet for five long centuries.

Consider for a moment how you probably think of Vikings, when you hear the word. Horned helmets, axes, savage raids, right? And even if you’re into Viking stuff enough to know that their helmets did not have horns and that they traded as much as they raided, you probably imagine a bunch of bearded heathens in leather pillaging defenseless monasteries.

This is a natural product of what Edward Said termed Orientalism, which represents perhaps the most essential component of Western Civilization: the ability of the powerful to portray the Barbarian. The habit of using a particular set of tropes to describe Barbarians in a such a manner that they lose all personal agency in the eyes of the Civilized.

Orientalism is why racial and ethnic stereotypes are common in mass media. It is a root of gendered portrayals too — women are only now, in 2021, beginning to be routinely cast in roles stereotypically seen as masculine, like military officers, largely because of an old Greco-Roman distaste for women that became bound up with the fabric of society.

The truth about the Vikings is that they weren’t special, either. In fact, what is called the “Viking Age” simply represents a period of time where the writers in Anglo-Saxon England were feeling the pressure of a new wave of incoming migrants.

Europe is a continent — really, a peninsula sticking off a true continent — that has been defined by successive waves of human migration. After the end of the last Ice Age, tens of thousands of years ago, hunter-gatherer communities spread north from refuges in places like Spain.

Then about eight thousand years ago, agriculture developed in China, Mesopotamia, Africa, and South Asia. With food surplus came expanding populations and soon migration, with family groups spreading up fertile river valleys. They brought with them the knowledge of how to directly cultivate the land, and over time assimilated with the hunter-gatherers — at least, those groups living in hospitable terrain. Groups near the Arctic Circle like the Sami may represent a remnant of that traditional way of living distinct from the synthesis culture that occupied the lowlands.

About four thousand years after that — four thousand years in our past, to give a sense of the timescales involved — humans domesticated horses somewhere on the Eurasian steppe, dramatically expanding their speed of movement across the land. And during one of the many periods of cooling that naturally occur across western Eurasia every few centuries, many of these mobile peoples began moving.

This third people herded cattle and rode horses and moved west in a series of great waves now known as the Indo-European Migrations. Not a single people but a collection linked by language, these semi-nomadic steppe-herders moved into Europe whenever the climate cooled, bringing their lifestyles and practices into the region — and others too. Persia — now Iran — and what is now a densely-populated swath of land between the Indus and Ganges Rivers all took in untold numbers.

Ancient Hindu texts like the Vedas and ancient Greek works are linguistically related, a bit like cousins. Hindi, Bengali, Farsi, and the Slavic, Germanic, and Romantic languages — English is mostly Germanic — are all connected by the movements of these horse peoples from the Eurasian steppe. They also, incidentally, appear to have brought to Europe the genes for fair skin, blonde and red hair, and the ability to drink milk past childhood.

The peoples of Ancient Europe — Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, Nordic, what have you — all emerged after thousands of years of constant migration. Their mythologies and languages adapted locally, diverging over time, but retaining a common core.

And up until very recently, the vast majority of European peoples lived pretty much the same as one another — except in Greece and later Rome, which were closely connected to Mesopotamian cultures and constantly imported their ideas — including concepts like monotheism, Manicheanism, and imperialism. Everywhere else people were too scattered to live in huge cities or manage plantations full of hereditary chattel slaves.

But far from being lawless Barbarians, they all had their own legal codes and complex relationships with neighboring groups. In fact, until the Christian Kingdoms of Europe began to consolidate about a thousand years ago, each mimicking Rome and seeking to replace it, most Europeans lived lives that were nearly indistinguishable from those of anyone in the Americas, Africa, or most of Asia.

People generally lived in scattered villages, traded with neighboring tribes, and sometimes fought with them. Folks plied their trades as the land allowed, had families, and worked to store enough wealth, often in the form of cattle, to not have to worry as much about the future. They paid taxes in the form of physical service or the product of their labors to a chieftain who typically had a reciprocal bond with members of the community and the responsibility to ensure anyone in need was well taken care of. Feasts were a means of spreading wealth around the community, as were dividing the spoils after a successful raid.

It wasn’t an idyllic existence by any means — there was no plumbing, medicine, or guarantee your chieftain wouldn’t start a foolish conflict and get everyone killed or enslaved. Old Europe had slavery, just like most of the world, though it wasn’t of the chattel variety — it wasn’t hereditary. It was more like indentured servitude or even wage-labor under a strict contract, with individuals having rights as members of the community — just, the ones assigned the worst jobs.

But there was a degree of mobility reflected in the oldest stories from the age, like Beowulf and the Icelandic Sagas. By no means accurate historical records, they do still portray life in those days in wholly recognizable ways. People lived then much as they do now, seeking what they personally value while winning the esteem of their community, with brave warriors — and there was no authority to tell women they couldn’t be warriors or traders — responsible for protecting the community against threats. Servants were routinely freed after working for a certain time or doing something of particular value for the household they served, becoming freeholders with the right to cultivate their own plot of land.

The Vikings, for their part, weren’t much different than the Anglo-Saxons had been during the centuries after Rome’s collapse when they moved across the North Sea to settle in England. Both were carrying on with an ancient tradition common to many peoples: hear about a land of opportunity, travel there and see for themselves. Certainly many Anglo-Saxon and later Viking warrior bands rampaged in pursuit of wealth and power, but the same is true — perhaps especially so — of the armies of self-defined civilizations.

Greece and Rome were on the whole far more brutal than the Vikings — the Greeks liked to slaughter entire towns, while the Romans simply perfected the technique of the endless raid through an ever-expanding frontier populated by settler-colonies called villas pretty much every place they conquered. Rome’s collapse is mostly evident in the shift during the misnamed “Dark Ages” from villa agriculture to a more traditional pattern of scattered settlements, and was likely accelerated by unsustainable demands it places on the land.

Slave societies require a constant influx of new labor, and so the imperial frontier must always be moving outward. And so Barbarian was leveraged by the Greeks and Romans as an excuse to attack and enslave as far as their galleys could take them. Once Europeans discovered the Americas they used terms like primitive to describe the peoples they found, carrying on the tradition

Western Civilization birthed the explicit, virulent racism of White Supremacy as a direct continuation of the long process of colonization and exploitation. Whiteness was created to establish an artificial social barrier between the lighter-skinned Europeans and the darker-skinned Americans because this was dreadfully useful in ensuring the latter was deprived of the basic rights virtually all Europeans, even in what remains of their pre-Christian mythology, view as naturally granted to all people.

Before Christian Europe did this to Indigenous Americans, it practiced it on Muslims. The Reconquest in Spain that led Columbus’ journey across the Atlantic to the “New World” involved differentiating between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in a part of the world that had long been diverse in the extreme and a side of profitable exchange between the Muslim Moorish and Christian Frankish Kingdoms. With skin tones being lighter further north on average and the Catholic Church stoking tensions between Christian and Islamic tensions to help keep the fractious European Kingdoms from warring with one another, the association of darker skin with “bad” and lighter with “good” was perhaps inevitable.

Colonization of the Americas took it to the next level, and the Scramble for Africa in the nineteenth century tied White Supremacy directly and publicly to Western Civilization at the exact moment the first comprehensive national education systems were being established, open to everyone, not only the wealthy. Suddenly millions of people were being educated in a mythic history — and this project continues to this day.

Defeating White Supremacy will not be possible until this chain of mythic reproduction is broken. Yet at present most of the prominent voices calling us to do battle with this monster appear unwilling to challenge the rot eating away at the foundation of the project of Western Civilization.

We are called to “educate” ourselves and “do the work” but without any clear endgame. Broadly speaking, the Liberal solution to the problem of White Supremacy is, more or less, to bring all voices into the Academy. Once everyone is represented in the institutions of government, White Supremacy will lose its power.

But what they don’t admit out loud is that this amounts to a never-ending process of educating our peers, especially those who don’t accept the reality of White Supremacy in the first place. A constant, perpetual social effort to replicate a mythic version of ancient Athens on a dramatically broader scale.

In short, Liberal voices are telling us to trust the process. Education itself sufficient to bring about change, because once all possible arguments are in play the Truth will become clear — who could reject it… but a barbarian?

In most of the English-speaking world, everyone is caught between this ineffectual Liberal pole and the utterly brutal Conservative position that White Supremacy is either not a problem at all or worse — in the case of Nazis — somehow the natural order of the world.

The danger of the Liberal position is that anyone who doesn’t personally feel connected to education in a positive way is very prone to feeling they have no place on the anti-racist team. Education is always a process of acculturation, teaching people what they are supposed to believe is real, and it often comes as a kind of package. That is, people who are Educated typically hold a set of beliefs, and if you don’t agree with most or all you can’t be part of the club.

This leaves a big chunk of society vulnerable to either active hostility to anti-racist efforts or simple indifference, which is as fatal in the long run. Outside the anti-racist bubble the movement appears increasingly tied to groups more interested in making a profit than bringing about change — the same is true of too many groups who claim to support feminism.

There has to be an alternative. A way for white people to support anti-racism without facing a choice of perpetually feeling guilty about their heritage — this is too often what (usually white) anti-racists seem to demand — or turning a blind eye to the evils of racism. A new kind of identity rooted in their true heritage, not the lie that has been forced on them.

And that is where Norse Mythology comes in.

In truth, Celtic and Slavic mythology is equally as valuable and the trio should be integrated — but the Norse mythos has one advantage over its brethren: a comprehensive cosmology.

Cosmology is important in mythology because it deals with the stories people tell about their imagined origins. Most groups develop origin stories, tracing heritage back to an ancient founder or founders — this is why proponents of Western Civilization constantly cite dead Greeks, after all. The Greeks and everyone else did the same thing with their forebears, who were said to descend from gods.

This sense of a group’s place in the broader world is very important. It links myths directly to the oldest forms of science, which aimed to understand the movements in the heavens above. This provides a common secular linkage to empirical science that we can use to — as our predecessors have done across the generations — reinterpret the mythos of old to inform our lives today.

Norse mythology begins with a universe that is void, Ginungagap, until (precise details vary) the fires of Muspelheim and mists of Niflheim mix. Then all things are born, including the ancient gods who physically shaped the world of humans, Midgard, from the remains of one of their own, Ymir.

More importantly the universe will end in a great tumult, Ragnarok, before giving rise to a new rebirth from the ashes of the old. This life and death cycle is common throughout most world mythologies, to the point that it frankly ought to be taken as one of the universal symbols of human society.

The Norse myths represent a preservation of one branch of what was likely a near-universal set of European mythological beliefs, each flavored by the local climate and languages. They offer a window into the worldview of the physically mobile traders and raiders and herders who characterized the majority of people in pre-Christian Europe outside of Greece and Rome.

Celtic and Slavic myths only seem substantially different because what was written down by the first scholars in Eastern Europe and pre-Anglo-Saxon Britain differed in nature. These both contain — often as folklore, which is generally best seen as a locally popularized form of mythology — more of the character of the settled agriculturalists who comprised the bulk of the rest of the population.

But taken as a whole Germanic mythology is a fertile ground for a total re-imagining of the heritage of white English-speakers. In my fictional saga, Bringing Ragnarok, I infuse Norse Mythology with a great deal of the kind of Celtic flavor Tolkien infused into his own work. In fact, if you want to look for an excellent distillation of European mythic traditions, look no further than The Silmarillion, in which Tolkien lays out a full cosmology and mythology for Middle Earth.

One of my goals from the start was to outline a kind of alternative heritage for Europeans, create a connection to our oldest myths and gods. It is rooted in my own read of the Poetic Eddas, augmented by other scholarly and online sources and of course Tolkien, leavened with a character-focused narrative that ought to be familiar to anyone who has ever read James Clavell’s Shogun.

And as someone who completed the last two books of the six-book saga while an active Black Lives Matter protestor, I present these European myths in a new light, reclaiming them from the colonizers and offering a different way of thinking about our world. Most people aren’t racist because they want to be, but because they’re trained and incentivized to be. Those of us in Western Civilization need to reconsider what that actually means, and stop falling prey to the old false Civilized/Barbarian divide.

Further, as someone who also hates fascism, I feel a strong need to reclaim Norse and Germanic mythology from another group of colonizers, the very worst of Western Civilization’s many evils: Nazis.

There exists an unfortunate and misbegotten association between Nazis and Norse mythology. They came to power at a time when Germany was still a young nation — it only came together formally around the time the United States was embroiled in its Civil War, and the question of a pan-German identity was actually quite open to interpretation.

The Nazis believed that while Europeans were special, Germans were the specialist of all, uniquely Aryan and capable of ruling the world better than the decrepit democracies of Western Europe, like France. And many of them — though it appears always a minority, as most Nazis were devout Christians — embraced their own mythic vision of history, derived directly from Roman writings about the people they first called Germans.

Although ostensibly a rejection of Western Civilization, Nazi Germany was in fact an attempt to take it over and reshape it with Germany in charge. The Third Reich means Third Empire in German, with Hitler’s monstrous creation being the natural successor to the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages, which was a successor to fallen Rome.

Nazis rejected the democratic aspects of Rome, but kept the racist bits and jammed in antisemitism to boot. It built on a tradition in Roman writing dating to the period immediately before Rome’s collapse that scorned contemporary generations for not living up to Caesar’s legacy, and lionized the Barbarians only as a mythic Noble Savage, their alleged brutality to be emulated but not their rejection of Roman authority.

They seized on anything remotely related to Germanic mythology, sending archaeologists to Asia to try and locate the supposed Aryan homeland — failing, of course. Though there are today a few Hindu Nationalists who claim the same thing — that the Indo-European Migrations began in India — this has been solidly debunked. People probably did move back and forth over time, but there never even was a defined Aryan people — it’s just another label created by historians to describe a few common characteristics.

North America in recent years have witnessed an upsurge of right-wing paramilitary activity, with neo-Nazi groups growing in size. And many media reports have noted their affinity for certain Norse and Germanic symbols — just as their Nazi forebears stole the Swastika from Hinduism, so they seek to appropriate Mjolnir, Yggdrasil, and the Valknut.

To someone like myself, this is an atrocity that must be counteracted. These inhuman cowards have no right to take symbols from my heritage and use them to foster hate. It goes against everything I stand for.

The appropriation of Mjolnir, Thor’s Hammer, is particularly galling. Unlike Odin, Thor was always a god of what would now be called the lower and middle classes. He ceaselessly labors to protect Midgard and Asgard from threats, but rarely takes any interest in human wars. Thor is portrayed as being kind to the poor, though vengeful when they damage one of his he-goats.

All indications are that Thor was looked to as a guardian of the people, while Odin was respected and feared as a wise, aristocratic presence. His weapon, a short-handled hammer, is totally unsuited to the role of a warrior in the Norse conception, who is traditionally armed with a spear — like Odin. Thor rides in a chariot pulled by goats — not an aristocrat’s animal, like the horse and cow.

And Thor, of all the gods, was also least likely to have pale skin. Were he a human Norseman, he and certainly his ancestors would have come into contact with people from Africa and the Middle East, and physically reflected that heritage.

Wherever people could sail in the old days, they went — sailboats can cross whole oceans even today, and sailing made trade far more profitable. The Vikings — and probably many peoples before them — sailed around the western fringe of Europe into the Mediterranean, and they built river-boats to make their way through modern-day Russia to the Black Sea.

Black Norsemen are almost certain to have existed — perhaps not a common sight in a Jarl’s court, but given that there are common appellations in the old Sagas like ‘the dark’ or ‘the black’ and ‘pale’ shows up sometimes as well, a range of skin tones was seen as normal even in far-northern Europe. Their monsters too come from the mountains or sea, and do not bear physical characteristics common to nearby human peoples. Only in a few poems written down in later centuries when fear of Moors was already being amplified by the Catholic Church allude to a connection between lower social status and skin tone.

Thor would have stood against Nazis and their ilk, because he was a patron of the kind of people who were just trying to get by in a difficult world. Caught between aristocrats and the threat of raids across the stormy seas, their steadfast resolve is encapsulated perfectly in Thor, god of Thunder.

Nazis, by contrast, are cowardly trolls — the sort of creature Thor can always be counted on to slay. Norse Mythology has no inherent connection to racist or fascist ideologies — the opposite is true, whatever the appropriators think.

This is why I retell the Norse myths the way I do. In honor of the old gods, in honor of my ancestors — and as a way to stand against the colonists who would defile it.

You can’t beat an ideology like White Supremacy without separating it from its roots. Western Civilization has always been a myth — but it need not define our heritage. Nor do we need to accept its proponents’ insistence that there is no alternative, no other way to construct an ethos and a worldview compatible with science.

After all — there is only so much room in the Athenian forum for everybody. There will never be true equality between people so long as a few set the rules for everyone else.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store