Thor and his followers come to the Northern California hills

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Members of Asatru Folk Assembly raise carved beams with crossed horse heads and Norse runes on their new meeting hall in Northern California. Photo courtesy of Bradley Taylor-Hicks

Members of Asatru Folk Assembly raise carved beams with crossed horse heads and Norse runes on their new meeting hall in Northern California. Photo courtesy of Bradley Taylor-Hicks

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BROWNSVILLE, Calif. (RNS) Around one corner of a snaking two-lane road sits an old barnlike building newly decorated to invoke a Viking longhouse, with dragon-headed door hinges and a carved red "mjolnir" -- the hammer of Thor -- above its front doors.

  • Antiracist Scholar

    It is interesting to hear about the hof, and the article provides some good points of information, but the treatment of a very important issue is sadly lacking. The connection of McNallen’s form of Asatru with racist attitudes is a well-known controversy within the Asatru world, and for this reason many Norse Pagans who oppose racism disavow McNallen and his theory of “metagenetics” altogether. Though this is touched upon in the article, merely providing a link to a critical article, without addressing the content of that criticism runs the risk of –no pun intended–“whitewashing” McNallen and the AFA. Those who want to know more need to read serious scholars like Kaplan, whose words here do not reflect his generally much more critical scholarship, and Mattias Gardell, who did in-depth field work among American Norse Pagans/Asatruar and found a lot of racism there. Check out McNallen’s attitude toward Mexican immigrants and the picture will become more clear.

  • This is an enormously significant achievement. For the first time in 800 years, there is a large temple dedicated to the Gemanic gods that is open to a large segment of the public. It’s a wonderful thing to see happen.

    As for the spurious “McNallen is a racist” nonsense, Circle Ansuz has been singing that song for years, without evidence other than the weakest sort of guilt by association. I know for a fact that racists are not welcome in the Asatru Folk Assembly.

    There is an enormous gulf between being proud of one’s northern European ancestry, and seeing Asatru as the indigenous religion of the northern European folk (in the same way that Amerindian tribes have their own indigenous faiths), and being a racist. But those niceties are always lost upon those who just want to sing the “folkish is code for racist” song which is, quite simply, bull. See http://jonupsalsgarden.blogspot.com/2013/09/does-not-mean.html for some thoughts on that question.

  • Torin Drake

    Yet again, the American brand of paganism/heathenism is behind their European parents. European Heathenism has moved from the idea of your Race, tribe, or ethnic heritage determining your religious affiliation. It’s not only heathenism, but paganism too. Some of the Gardnerain Lineages in the US are still trying to figure out what to do with Gay and Lesbian partners that are initiates, something the European lines have dealt with and moved on.

    It should matter what your “Ethnic Heritage” is, if the Ancients Ones have called someone that person’s DNA shouldn’t prevent them from following them. American Heathenism and Paganism need to abandon their religious fundamentalism . People forget It almost destroyed Europe..

  • Glen

    I realize this was coverage of the new establishment but not a lot of homework was done on this article. If you are going to talk about the beliefs behind this organization or its founder then you need to do more than google the controversy and just take their words for an answer. Look deeper instead of trying to diminish the racism issue with this group and its founder. You also may want to look into what the term Odinist has come to mean and the origin of that term and branch of belief rather than just put (Norse Religion) beside it but also look into the racist beliefs there too. All this did was legitimize one of the loudest fringe groups that promote racist ideology and mix it with ancient Norse belief. That is neither the majority thought nor should it be so portrayed. Look beyond. You could even have looked to another similar accomplishment in Iceland They built their first Heathen temple and in a country with much stronger Norse roots.

  • Karen Carlson

    Dominic, I’m a heathen-friendly atheist and an honorary member of the AFA. While doubtless a few people are attracted by the recent interest in Vikings due to TV, movies, and comics, I believe those who stick around are not simply into role-playing or reenactment. Steve McNallen and other leaders of the AFA make a point of being open to modern life and technology; they are not trying to retreat into the Dark Ages. For me, the heathen mindset provides a more useful moral compass (emphasis on responsibility, honor, positive action) than other contemporary worldviews. I see the old gods metaphorically, as symbols of very real forces in the human character and elsewhere in nature.

  • First off, the AFA is not “racist”. It is “folkish”. It actively eschews racism, and hate towards other races is explicitly forbidden in its Declaration of Purpose: “Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race.” (http://asatrufolkassembly.org/about-the-afa/declaration-of-purpose/). To say otherwise is to equate pride in one’s ethnicity with being racist, which is complete and utter bunk. (It also has, as far as I’m aware, a larger membership than any other American Asatru organization, so it’s far from being a “fringe group”.)

    Second, the Ásatrúarfélagið in Iceland have not built a temple. They have acquired land from the government and are starting to build. The AFA’s temple is up and running right now. Like it or not, the Asatru Folk Assembly got there first.

  • Todd

    Hail the Gods and hail the AFA! This has been a long time coming. Great work, bringing this together in the USA.

  • Jen

    So, 97%, but no antisemitism here, no racism anywhere, except against whites you say. Where did your statistics come from,,Seana? Not a reliable or accurate source.

  • Politely Opinionated

    My sentiments exactly. When I saw the article’s title, I assumed that the article would substantively address NRM white nationalism–especially give the recent rise of the latter in U.S. political discourse. Disappointed in the tepid journalistic investigation here; it’s a disservice to readers.

  • Politely Opinionated

    (to clarify: I’m responding to, agreeing with Antiracist Scholar above.)

  • Derrick

    Europeans are supposed to be ashamed and conflicted about their history. Shame on you people for not being publicly shackled and wearing your ‘I’m Sorry’ t-shirts.

  • Bob

    Fran, the whole Jesus story that you keep trying to promote here is a steaming pile of nonsense. How is it again that your omnipotent being couldn’t do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus’ death a “sacrifice”, when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers? Not only that, but an omnipotent “god” would have known that Jesus wouldn’t really stay dead. That is no sacrifice at all.

    It’s also worth asking why such a claimed benevolent, wonderfully kind, “god” has to put us through thousands of years of anxious waiting before “saving” us from a flawed life that he supposedly created.

    Ask the questions. Break the chains.
    Join the movement. Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

  • Fran

    Bob,

    What man and his governments propose to fix the entire world is “complete nonsense.” But you will receive proof that Jesus is the King of God’s kingdom or heavenly government which will soon put an end to all the world’s problems, as prophecied truthfully by him when on earth.

    This will be accomplished after the nearing great tribulation and Armageddon take place, during which time all false religion, all wicked ones, and all of man’s political systems will be done away with (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 16:14-16; Daniel 2:44).

    You will then receive your required proof, along with the rest of all humans on earth. I can just definitely guarantee this will happen, since God cannot lie (Heb. 6:18) concerning his promises to man.

    As to your other questions posed, if answers from the Bible were provided to you here, you would still not believe them. You will need to see with your own two eyes what happens in the future to truly believe it.

  • You *do* realize that quoting the Bible as an authoritative source to people who don’t think the Bible is an authoritative source is just mental masturbation, right? We will not be swayed by arguments that rely on the Bible as a source of authority.

  • samuel johnston

    Dominic,
    Monotheism is the most agressive and intolerant theological idea ever created by mankind. In Judaism, it is is accompanied by the unprovable assertion that all other gods are false. This pair of imperialistic ideas was adopted by the official Christianity of Rome and became the only lawful view in the empire.
    Give me a gentile pagan god anytime. They only demand a limited bit of blood sacrifice, and a few lusty ceremonies.

  • Thorgrun

    About the comment that, “Iceland a country with much stronger Norse roots” : most Americans are un-schooled in the fact that half of Scandinavian’s population emigrated to N. America in the mid 19th century. True we are a minority European population, however, those that are aware of their ancestry and heritage as pioneers still have strong ties with our Norse roots. Church was in many Pioneer communities, was for support and survival..

  • James Calico

    Many people commenting on this article are speaking as if McNallen speaks for folkish heathens in general. He does not. Mr. McNallen does not even speak for everyone in his own organization. The McNallens are trying to give themselves some press where it is not due.

    As level-headed White American Heathens, proud of our roots, and our country, we must be willing to second-guess any political motivations that are being preached in spiritual terms, especially if we might not agree with their implications. Having had exposure to “nonothingesque” politic and new strains of “Segregationist” speak, it is troubling to me that many things Mr. McNallen says appear to contain a kind of White Nationalist “Shiboleth” of a sort. While this isn’t always intentional in conservitve circles like the AFA, it’s also clear that time and time again Mr. McNallen and some of his affiliates find themselves in the company of White Nationalist elements of the far right. We must feel free to…

  • ProWhite Scholar

    You say you’re anti-racist but what you really are is anti-White. Anti-Racist is a code word for anti-White.

  • Gregory

    If this guy isn’t a racist I’d love to hear an explanation for all the neonazi boneheads that were at the opening of the hall and the rumour the the white supremacist gathering known as Camp Commradery was held at the location.
    Judging from the photos available to the public on his Facebook page Mr. McNallen (Celtic paganism differs drastically from Norse and Germanic forms so how this is his ancestors’ religion is baffling) has no issue with neonazis and further based on his writings agrees with them at least in principle.

  • Gregory

    No anti-White is code for “I’m a Nazi but am afraid to admit it openly because I fear the backlash.”

  • Gregory

    Folkish is code for white supremacist/separatist/nationalist. It’s tightly linked to Nazism, fascism and neofascist.

  • Gregory

    Christianity isn’t based on the bible nor do Christians exalt it above Christ.

  • Sigurd

    Source please? “Folkish” simply means the religion is linked to a specific people (or folk), just like Shinto is linked to the Japanese, Chinese folk religion is linked to the Chinese, Yoruba to Western African people, Yazidi religion to Yazidi people etc.

  • Asatruar

    I was raised in a Christian home and went to church for nearly 10 years. However, I had always felt separated from the other church members. I had always enjoyed reading ancient lore as well as reading about the history of my ancestral people, the Germans. After several years of not going to church, I felt like something was missing. I had read the article about the temple in Iceland and began reading more about the people who hold Odin and the others as their Gods and Goddesses, which finally lead me to the AFA and declaring the Gods of my ancient ancestors as my own. In the relatively short time I have been with my ancestral Gods, I have felt and seen signs of their presence compared to a tenure of ignored prayers and guilt over natural emotions and feelings. This does not mean to say that my Gods are the ONLY ones, they are just the right ones for me. Think of it like shoes, what I wear may not fit on someone else but I shouldn’t deny or hate anyone else for not wearing my shoes.

  • CJ

    If you have “moved on” from tribe, you aren’t Asatru at all.

  • CJ

    You mean the temple in Iceland that isn’t built yet and is funded by the Icelandic state?

    NewGrange Hall exists now and was accomplished by a shared contribution of funds, material, and labor by Asatuar. We aren’t mooching off of the state to get our stuff done.

  • CJ

    I’d never heard of “Camp Comradery”, so I looked into it. Guess what? It was not held at the NewGrange Hof and it was held months before the AFA purchased the land and building the Hof is on.

    To be clear, it wasn’t even in the same town. Both towns start with a “B” and are in California. Maybe you should do some fact checking before regurgitating rumors? Here’s a neat tool that I used to find this information in under one minute: Google.