The Atlantic

What To Do When Racists Try To Hijack Your Religion

White supremacists are coopting Norse heathen symbols. Should the heathens ignore them? Protest them? Create a new theology?
Source: Silke Schurack / Joshua Roberts / Reuters / Chip Somodevilla / Getty / The Atlantic

As white supremacists marched through Charlottesville, the high priest of a pagan religion looked on with horror from Reykjavik, Iceland. It wasn’t just their racist message that bothered him. It was that their banners bore the symbols of his religion: Ásatrú, also known as heathenry.

“I think it’s obscene,” the high priest, Hilmar Hilmarsson, said of the way white supremacists are coopting Norse symbols like Thor’s hammer because they believe the Vikings were a pure white race. This appropriation has been underway for a few years—not only in the United States, but also in Sweden, Germany, Canada, and elsewhere—and it’s rattling many of those who practice the Ásatrú faith in its birthplace. “We are absolutely horrified,” Hilmarsson told me.

Ásatrú is a new religious movement that attempts to revive ancient polytheistic traditions—like the worship of Thor, Odin, Freya, and other gods and goddesses—from Iceland’s pre-Christian past. The modern revival started with 12 men and women who met at Reykjavik’s Hotel Borg

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