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Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism Paperback – June 27, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Nazi skinheads and other groups proclaiming white supremacy represent a disturbing and frightening challenge to those advocating toleration and equality for all races. Historian of religion Gardell (In the Name of Elijah Muhammad) draws on interviews with white supremacist leaders to provide a startling and revealing view of many of these groups and their religious motivations. He contends that the increasing multiculturalism in the United States has led these groups to seek a racial purity that can be found only in pagan cultures. According to Gardell, individuals in these groups become religious racists when they claim that the Divine created the elements of an ancient, pure race. Gardell shows that pagan Nordic culture provides white supremacists with a model of legendary times in which the Aryan race was uncontaminated by the evils of modern global society. Thus, groups such as Wodan's Kindred, the Odinist Fellowship and the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian/Aryan Nations, see themselves as heroes whose task is to restore the lost purity of this bygone era. Gardell argues that members of these groups cannot be dismissed as hopeless dreamers; he calls them "romantic men armed with guns and determination" who have been throughout history a "dangerous species." Although Gardell's academic tone and sometimes torturous prose make for slow reading, his well-researched book offers never-before-seen glimpses of the visions and goals of racist pagans.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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_GODS OF THE BLOOD_
Like many people, I've been awaiting the release of _Gods of the Blood_, the new book by Stockholm University professor Mattias Gardell. It arrived in the AFA post office box two days ago, and I've spent quite a few hours pouring over it since then.
Dr. Gardell came through our area back in 1996, when he questioned me for hours about my beliefs, the history and structure of the AFA, and a thousand other things. I was one of a score of people he talked to all across the United States. One of the best things about _Gods of the Blood_ is that it is the result of thousands of hours of work in the field. This book was not pulled together in front of a computer, or through the mail.
Ever since 1996, I've wondered if Gardell would treat us fairly or whether we were being set up for an attack. I can finally relax.
The author quotes me extensively and accurately, giving me a chance to explain the AFA's stand as well as my own opinions on a multitude of issues ranging from the nature of the Gods to metagenetics to support for other indigenous cultures.
But Gardell does something else that is very important. He draws a sharp distinction between "racist" Asatruar and "ethnic" Asatruar - and he puts us solidly in the ethnic category. To have a scholar acknowledge that the ancestral or folkish view is not in itself racist is a major breakthrough, and it greatly undermines the attempts of those who want to picture us as some sort of Nazi-related cult.
Almost as useful are the quotes from the hard-core racists denouncing the AFA and myself as "soft on race," "politically
correct," or just plain cowardly. Nothing could make it clearer that these individuals do not consider us in the same category with themselves. Their candid quotes specifically demolish the lies about our alleged "extremist associations" that, every now and then, get floated around the cyber-Asatru community.
But there's a lot in _Gods of the Blood_ other than the AFA and Steve McNallen. You'll find plenty of material on the Asatru Alliance and Tribe of the Wulfings, as well as a whole chapter on Wotansfolk and a fascinating exploration of "darkside" Asatru, Satanism, and occult National Socialism. There are also discussions of paganism in general, the racist counterculture, and much more. I do wish he had taken a look at Theodism, however, and how it fits into the larger scheme of Northern religion.
_Gods of the Blood_ runs 445 pages, counting the notes and bibliography. Twenty-six photographs, mostly taken by Dr. Gardell in the course of his extensive interviews, give faces to what otherwise would just be names in the text.
BOOK OF THE MONTH
We've made _Gods of the Blood_ our "Book of the Month" selection on the AFA website, and you can order it directly from there - go to http://www.runestone.org, then enter the main site, and you'll find the icon on the left-hand side. If you order through us, of course, we get a percentage!
Hail the Gods!
Hail the Folk!
Hail the AFA!
Stephen A. McNallen
However difficult this may be to verify, Gardell adapts (73) British sociologist Colin Campbell's "cultic milieu" to define a considerably more disparate conglomeration of practitioners than the stereotype of a white power movement indulges in. Ideologically often at odds, with cantankerous followers and (too many autocratic, self-aggrandizing) earnest leaders of miniscule bands, the organically fragmented list of those professing separatist notions reflects reality, not some monolith.
The parallel to New Age spiritualism may not please these cohorts, but Gardell regards (78) the "white-racist counterculture" as akin to a smorgasbord. That is, 11 items of ideological familiarity appear as main dishes, but there's no set menu. Those with an appetite can choose as they wish.
Much of the book predictably recites, with admirably deadpan fashion at times, the theories and expositions of various factions. Such may weary a general reader, although the scholar will find valuable primary sources underlying these cosmologies justifying Aryan or Indo-European primacy.
There's highlights that spark interests. The Nation of Islam served for Gardel's previous analysis. Therefore, its rather congenial ties to the Klan (who by the way number 5,000-6,000 in his estimate in their "fifth" incarnation as of this 2003 publication date) naturally capture one's eye (115-116).
Ásatrú occupy a central place in Gardel's survey (151-164; 258-283). There's more coverage of them here than in previous scholarship. He interviews the key proponents. However, I wish he'd also taken time to discuss the ideas the everyday follower holds. Solitary members of many of these paths get marginalized in a thesis aimed at organizations, too, and facing much misunderstanding and press sensationalism, may choose to stay silent in public. Additionally, while the press favors a focus on the fifth (at that time) of those Ásatrúar incarcerated, Gardell does not offer an in-depth look at them.
Still, he differentiates the non-racial (as in discriminatory) elements from those excluding those not of the ancestry deemed by "racial purity" as worthy of admission. Gardell incorporates Stephen McNallen's "metagenetics" and links it to Jung's "Wotan" analogy. The professor sums up (270) this approach as "spirituality is hereditary" to assert the primacy of genetics over culture or language. He also asks prominent goðar (ritual leaders) how they'd respond if a seeker of "mixed" or non-Northern European lineage wanted to join. This enriches one's understanding of the variety of views out there.
Additionally, the parallels with Native American and indigenous peoples struggling to secure their traditions against "religious theft" (280 ff.) provide a striking defense. At this time, the Kennewick Man legal battles were still ongoing, by the way; they earn some coverage. McNallen in a 2000 e-mail to the author asserts: "The existence of my people is non-negotiable." (qtd. 283) This defense for heathens remains overlooked by many who critique this school of thought, and merits investigation.
Finally, there's a lot more in these pages. Wotanswolk in a more diasporic situation. darksides, the music scene, and armed militia occupy portions or all of other chapters. The index in my opinion is not as complete as it could have been, and there are a few typos. The reliance on the SPLC data to counter separatist activity is accepted as fact, but that organization's (and others)' controversial self-interest in fundraising by enumerating "hate groups" so as to inflate totals is absent from this volume.
I realize there's something in this work to enrage anyone. I attempt a balanced evaluation. I harbor my own bent towards the content. But I tried to examine Gardell's work without too much my own filter.
Overall, here's your rough guide to this terrain, to be consulted by one aware of the author's biases and one's own. A curious reader unfamiliar with many divisions within a too-loosely classified realm may find some contents distasteful, but the range Gardell aims at including in his work invites scrutiny. Few academics strive to interpret this field, and we need examinations of it beyond self-published and fringe-press attempts, His five years of research may be slightly dated by now, but the relevance of this scholarship cannot be gainsaid. Gardell enters an enduring spectrum of blood-belief.