Saturday, November 29, 2003

Gods of the Blood

How to meet the Asatruar at an academic gathering--walk around carrying a copy of Mattias Gardell's Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Gardell, a Swedish historian of religion, also wrote an earlier book on the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims), In the Name of Elijah Muhammed. Both are published by Duke University Press.

From the cover blurb: "Gardell outlines the historical development of the different strands of racist paganism--including Wotanism, Odinism, and Darkside �satr�--and situates them on the spectrum of pagan beliefs ranging from Wicca and goddess worship to Satanism."

To Gardell, both the racist Pagans and earlier groups such as Christian Identity arise from a version of the "cultic milieu," a shared basis of attitudes, beliefs, and assumptions, which is why he calls them more a counterculture than a movement. The actual groups keep breaking up, changing, and coalescing, but the counterculture as counterculture persists, because it embodies its own form of attitudes which are actually common enough in society at large: about nature, about government's misuses, about a reaction against modernity and for capital-T Tradition.

I think these people need some help with naming. You have to understand as a reader that Wotan's Kindred is not the same as Wodan's Kindred is not the same as Wotansvolk (USA) is not the same as Wotansvolk (Sweden).

It's a worthwhile book, but I did find one geographic howler, which shook my confidence a little. He describes the federal prison where David Lane is incarcerated as "deep underground in mountainous Florence, Colorado." Um, no. I watched it being built, and, granted, the maximum security complex surrounds inmates with so much concrete that they might as well be deep underground. But Gardell must be one of those who thinks that all Colorado is mountainous. About 40 percent of Colorado is the High Plains, and Florence is on the edge of that region, in a gentle river valley with the prison only slightly higher. (Hardscrabble Creek passes not far away after it emerges from the mountains). Considering that Gardell includes a photo of Lane taken in prison, I don't know how he came to write that sentence.


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