Tag Archives: racism

My thoughts concerning a recent controversy among pagans online

An author on Patheos by the name of Cyndi Brannen posted some reflections lately on the white supremacy she perceives in American paganism and witchcraft. A response against her conclusions was later posted by Kenaz Filan, author of a website entitled “Europa’s Children”.  This sort of contention between pagan thinkers leaning to the Right or the Left has been going on in many forms, and for far too long. Being someone who usually seeks a middle and mixed way, I find myself almost always isolated and alone when I try to participate. My aim in remaining neutral is not to be a provocative individualist (far from it because I am more on the side of collectivism, albeit in smaller rather than groups), much less an indecisive shifty person who follows the crowd, nor indeed a self-appointed judge who utters the final word. If all pagans can agree, in opposition to monotheism, that there is no one single Truth, the conclusion must be that there are Truths, and these exist on several sides. This is what I seek, however difficult it may be to attain. In spite of sporadic faults, I am attracted to the idea of reconciliation and confederation in cases of unnecessary disagreement among pagans, but this is beyond my power to convey as a relative newcomer or indeed a single voice. I remember an anecdote from the English Civil War, in which Prince Rupert (on the King’s side) at the head of some troops saw a man going about his business in an isolated area. So, the Prince asked “You, fellow, are you for King or Parliament?”. The man’s reply was as reasonable as it could be in itself, but it was immediately misinterpreted in times of war: “I am for both King and Parliament, sir”. This caused the poor man’s death, because the Prince shot him immediately. What happened then is being repeated, albeit differently: The division between Left and Right is becoming quite akin to a cultural and ideological civil war, in which middle voices are put aside as traitors or fools. And when the battle has to do with identity, the heat will only increase by mutual opposition.  

Below are excerpts from the two posts abovementioned, and I have consciously put them in the form of a dialogue to illustrate (a rather mild example of) the disengagement and disagreement that pervades pagan discourses online:

Brannen: White advantage is everywhere in modern witchcraft, from pop culture to the common Wheel of the Year. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is problematic when all this whiteness blinds us to the problems it causes for those who are from marginalized groups. However, there are ways those of us who want a more diverse witchcraft can be true allies. Diversity strengthens us personally and witchcraft as a whole…Look at your bookshelf and the thought leaders you follow on social media. I did just that. So much whiteness. This launched me on a quest to better understand the problems this causes and ways I can possibly help give space to those who aren’t white. I’m not putting myself on the cross here. My interest in dismantling whiteness in witchcraft is selfish.

Filan: Brennan offers some ways in which White Witches can fight this system.  Some of her pointers are quite good.  I am all for treating other cultures with respect: I encourage everyone to honor their Ancestors and to work toward uplifting their Folk.  It’s always good to sit back and listen. Looking for a Little Brown Holy Person to fill your spiritual emptiness rarely ends well.  Neither do we disagree on the importance of developing one’s own identity and figuring out one’s personal truth.

Brannen: Check your privilege. Basically, asking ourselves if we are coming from a place of dominance over the individual or group with whom we are interacting. Also, if we believe that we are inherently better than another group or individual. In addition, having an attitude that we are the “chosen ones” can also be a sign of privilege. In other words, be humble.

Filan: To all this chest-thumping and rending of garments there is only one proper response.  So I helpfully reassured Brennan, and her readers, that “It’s Okay to be White.”  And because I am an inveterate shitposter I appended those five problematic words with fourteen that are even more controversial.  The results, which we will explore in our next entry, are both predictable and amusing.


I had examined the problem of group identity, white supremacy and indigenism before on this site (see, among others, here and here). Looking through the two opposing posts, it appears there is an original problem with definitions and premises (leading to problematic conclusions) further reinforced by a lack of direct discussion. Aristotle has a wise quote that I love to bear in mind in such circumstances: “How many a dispute could have been deflated into a single paragraph if the disputants had dared to define their terms”. In pursuance of his advice, I will attempt to define the following terms:


What everyone agrees it is: the belief in the superiority of one race above another together with the resulting practice, directly or indirectly, of favoring that race above others.

What some mistakenly believe it to be: A) the belief in the priority of serving and preserving one’s ethnic people, as in Europe  B) the belief in favor of endogamy within one’s ethnic or close groups (N.B. “White” is not an ethnic group-see below)

What we should further agree on as to what it is: A) the belief in the existence of a collective heritage, ethnos or culture belonging to a whole race of people (as in the white race).  B) the belief in the priority of serving and preserving one’s ethnic people in spite of past & continuing colonialism, as in the New World

 White supremacy

What it is: A) The belief in the superiority of the white race above others B) The belief that the whites should maintain the status quo and cultural ascendancy in areas they colonized

What it is not: The belief of Europeans in Europe against immigration and multiculturalism within their own soil


What it is: the collective mentality of Western Civilization and Eurocentrism in relation to other cultures, especially in the New World

What it is not: every person of white complexion (unless that person subscribes to the above)


This has an obvious definition but once again I would distinguish native privilege from colonial privilege


My conclusion in one paragraph, in the style of Aristotle:

Both authors don’t fully understand each other’s position, nor even the groups they are attempting to speak on behalf of. It is necessary to separate Old World European systems and cultures from those of the New World. Although Old World Europeans have yet to remove their influence from former colonies completely, New World Europeans are still using (and cannot escape from) colonizing systems. Part of the latter system is the concept of “whiteness”, and it has also crept into Europe through American socio-political influence as well as natively through the expanding project of the European Union. Paganism should be helping us in either case, since the knowledge we have of indigenous practices is sufficient, if not vast, to heal past wounds and reform identities. Colonial systems should be opposed and dismantled as much as possible, but there is an effective & persuasive way to achieve this (tone is always a good beginning); unfair institutions and bad ideas must not be mixed with the people who happened to grow up following them, otherwise this will lead the people to hold onto such institutions and ideas all the more strongly*. The New World is not European, but it is inhabited by Europeans who must be gradually brought to the realization that they have separate origins in distinct parts of Europe that they must reconnect with and allow others with different origins to do the same. Identities based on continents (European/African/Asian) make very little sense in general and certainly no sense at all in paganism; they only lead to confusion and misunderstanding. It is therefore not OK to be “White”, but it is OK to be Greek, Irish, German, etc. And yet it is OK to “Black” (in a collective sense) until whiteness is dismantled (because Whiteness created Blackness). After many centuries of domination, the dangerous idea of a collective Western/European/White culture must end and give way to native and indigenous systems.


*In colloquial terms, “don’t throw away the baby with the dirty bathwater” 



Polemical topics for polytheists (part 7): Ethnicity and “Race”

First view: Neither ethnicity nor “race” are important in polytheism, because religion is a matter of spirit and practice and toleration

Second view: “Race” is not so much a social construct as a reality, and therefore necessary in polytheism. Ethnicity is less important and reliable, because it can change or overlap.

Balanced view: “Race” is a rather useless word, but ethnicity is an indispensable concept in polytheism that needs to be redefined* in today’s troubled, modernized and global world.

Scientists hold that people descend from a common stock that migrated from Africa many thousands of years ago. They also hold that all living things descend from a common beginning. There is a tendency to interpret these points, especially in our troubled world, as a means to attain peace and harmony throughout the earth, putting an end to ambition, greed, oppression, and injustice. Although this is a fair & honest field to tread, it requires examination to reach the correct and best path possible with the least obstacles. In my previous piece, I had already gone through the problem of colonialism and imperialism (call them the evil twins, if you will), explaining how they led to the destruction and decline of indigenous polytheisms in history. Since we are living nowadays in the many disturbing consequences of this catastrophe, it is natural that our emotions should be unsettled, in our hopes to put an end to all the misunderstanding and suffering. But if our views are already formed, and look like the first or second above, let us endeavor indeed to attain the very same peace and harmony we originally hoped to restore. A balanced view is thus necessary and I have offered my own sincere and well-meaning attempt at it. If monotheism is a global belief and polytheism a regional one, it is easy to see how badly “race”, a large ill-defined term, applies to the latter. It is also easy to guess why the term was in use from the late 18th century: European intellectuals thought they were superior to other peoples, and thus justified colonial expansion as a selfish means to profit, avoid wars in Europe, and hypocritically “improve” backward peoples. This naturally sounds like a monotheistic idea dressed in atheism and modernism. By the late 19th century, however, something changed: as with all universal ideas, divisions and factions arose to claim which part of the “white race” was the best—this was partly the reason for the extreme madness and horrors of the Second World War. But why replace one extreme with another? Monotheists do so with their endless dualisms of “good and evil”. Globalism and humanism are now held (by many) to be the solutions to the old troubles of the world—more universal terms to complicate the situation further, which we see the consequences of today. There is also a great degree of pitiable irony in it too: the ideas of globalism and humanism (because promoted, if not enforced, by a dominant European culture) are infused with the same old colonialism, only in a different manner. Intermarriage among people of distant ancestry is held to be the badge of toleration and love and harmony, and opposition to it a sign of hatred that needs to be challenged constantly. These dualisms never prosper and always fester. If there is no compromise and common understanding, the problem will persist and grow. Let me raise two simple questions: 1) What is the purpose of having distinct pantheons & cultures when a person of any ethnicity can join them? 2) What is the purpose of believing one “race” is naturally superior to another, when all peoples have Gods? By reflecting on these two simple questions, one arrives at a rather simple conclusion: Ethnicity is inherent in all traditions of polytheism because it is an ancestral mode of belief, but no ethnicity is better than another. We can thus harmonize the common with the distinct. For instance, if someone is a Celtic polytheist, it must be because of dominant Celtic ancestry, but that person should by no means look down on a Hindu polytheist. But should a Celt seek to become Hindu, or vice versa? No. Why? Because in doing so he disregards his ancestors and implicitly considers a foreign pantheon or culture superior to his own. Is it then possible to be Celtic and Hindu at the same time? I think not. Why? Because the pantheons are distinct, based on many generations of ancestors with distinct practices; besides, the Gods can be jealous and territorial, much like us. The next question is, what of the case of mixed ancestry? This is the complex business that requires most reflection, but simplicity is always possible. I can think of some convenient ways to apply mixed ancestry to polytheism, and I will distinguish these in two groups:

A) With mixed ancestry from very distant lands, one may consider one or more of the following:

1-Choose the side that resembles your features most. The human face tells a sacred and wonderful story about the ancestors that must always be embraced and accepted.

2-Men may choose the side with paternal ancestry and marry from someone within that culture. Women may side with maternal and marry accordingly.

Random example: Dwayne Johnson has mixed ancestry from Celts, West Africans and Polynesians, but he looks more Polynesian than Celtic or West African. He may thus take the side of the Polynesians, who are dominant in his features.

N.B. People of such mixed ancestry may still worship the ethnic Gods of both sides, but a gradual transition into a dominant culture and pantheon is always more convenient. It is no secret that the vast majority of people with mixed ancestry from distant lands suffer more or less from a confusion about their identity.

B) With mixed ancestry from lands not very distant, one may do the same as above, or additionally:

1-Choose a middle ground or culture to approximate your two sides.

Random example: Myself! I have ancestry from Hellenes, Southern Illyrians and Northern Egyptians. My dominant side is Hellenic and my face says so. I have chosen the side of the Hellenic pantheon and culture only, while maintaining a very considerable interest and great reverence for the Illyrian and Egyptian pantheons and cultures, which were historically quite approximate to the Hellenic.

Let me conclude this long post by saying that I know very well and by personal experience how a mixed ancestry can be problematic in many ways. Even though my ancestors are not too far apart, the cultures sometimes (for various historical reasons that one can’t change suddenly) can clash here and there. There can also be contradictions: The Greeks nowadays are known to admire Egyptians far more than their nearer kin, the Albanians. Once we understand and experience the ease and comfort of being at home, and indeed at one home, the current absolute view towards intermarriage will change. We need to regionalize and re-indigenize everything, including marriage. Intermarriage looks pretty and interesting in the beginning, but it usually leaves behind a trail of confusions and misunderstandings, sometimes with irreconcilable problems and regrets. My now separated parents could tell a fine story as to why this is indeed the case!


*The word ethnicity is derived from the Greek εθνος (ethnos) which anciently meant people or nation, and by extension, also custom. It is easy to misunderstand “nation” here as alluding to a large number of people, whereas in ancient times the notion was synonymous with “large tribe”. It would be useful to steer away from huge concepts as much as possible and embrace regional identities, which would be consistent with polytheism. An idea of the “nation” will inevitably exist, but it should not prove at the expense of regionalism. In the case of Greece (for example), the Cretans have their ethnos, the Macedonians the same, the Peloponnesians likewise, etc. They may all be Greek, but they are Cretan, Macedonian and Peloponnesian first. These distinctions are necessary for indigenous polytheism, the revival of traditions, and indeed necessary for avoiding the nationalism and globalism (either material or ideological) that are plaguing the world’s cultures and stability today.


Essential distinctions in polytheism (part 3): Nativism v.s Racism

nospin_2-lgThe word race carries great weight in modern times, but its significance is too often misunderstood, even to the degree of bare contradiction and absurdity. Because there have undoubtedly been grievances during certain periods in history from the domination of one powerful set of people over another, the term racism never fails to raise emotions concerning such events in history, and especially when an instance of it is seemingly repeated nowadays. But the notions of race and racism, since they command and induce such high emotions, have become too sacred for some to reconsider and comprehend, and hence the people who subscribe to the usual definitions and historical lessons on the subject run the risk of being employed as mere tools and servants to fulfill the interests of those powerful and hidden ones who profit or generally benefit from civil disturbances or unregulated immigration. I will attempt to explain this rather complicated case.

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