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The general theory of Heathen anarchism

July 4, 2013

There are two main pillars that serve as the foundations of Heathen anarchism. The first is the justification based on historical data, the social practices of the ancient Germanics, and modern archeology. The second justification is rooted in the most commonly accepted creation epic, the Voluspol, and in the spiritual truths inherent in a cyclical cosmology.

The first element is based on the surviving records, evidence, and known practices of the pre-Christian Germanic cultures of Northern Europe.  Their societies developed organically and free of states and state-like institutions. Prior to the establishment of the power of the warrior-aristocracy before the fall of the Roman Empire and in the later years of the Viking Age the peoples of the Germanic tribes governed themselves through popular assemblies known as Things or Dings. These assemblies allowed all free people, men and women alike, to speak, vote, and seek peaceful redress for grievances. Along with self-governance came self-policing; in these ancient societies all free people were expected to take part in the defense of the community and maintaining of order. One of the best manifestations of this was the widely-held custom requiring all free people to possess and know how to use arms.

The self-governing pre-Christian Germanic societies had no coercive, oppressive state to rule them or socio-economic institutions, like churches or corporations, to dictate their daily lives. Lands were held in common by the families that lived on them.  Their economy was founded on producing to meet the needs of people and not for the purposes of accumulation of massive personal wealth at the expense of the people. Trade was conducted for the purposes of acquiring useful goods and commodities.

The second element is the spiritual one. In the Voluspol it is stated at one point in the distant past the world was nothing but a yawning void stretched between fire and ice. One day the fire and ice collided, creating a massive cloud of steam from which came the giant Ymir and the cow Audumla. Ymir would sire the frost giants living in a world that was nothing but tundra and frost until Buri, the grandfather of Odin and his brothers, was released from the primordial ice. For three generations the sons and grandsons of Buri would intermarry with giants and live in these circumstances until one day Odin and his brothers, Vili and Ve, rose up and slew Ymir. Working in conjunction with the other gods they used the giant’s corpse as source material for building Midgard in the howling void. In the future it is said in the Voluspol the Nine Worlds will burn and the gods will fall in battle at Ragnarok and in turn be succeeded by a new world rising from the ashes of the old.

The cycle of creation, destruction, and re-creation from the bones of the destroyed world shows in the end that all things, even gods and worlds, will meet their end. In turn their ends will lead to a new, more refined creation using the elements of the previous state of existence as the materials for their construction. In Heathen anarchism this cycle is central to the justification of synergy with the anarchist ideals social revolution and creating the new in the shell of the old. If it is a cosmological truth that gods and worlds are destined to die one day then it follows this applies to all other things whether living, nonliving, or abstract concepts. Socio-economic systems, as history has shown, are not eternal, perfect, or unceasingly enduring but are in fact fallible and replacable. It logically follows that if all things in this universe will meet their end then it is impossible for any socio-economic system to be perfect, everlasting, and irreplaceable.

The other side of the spiritual justification lies in the creation of humanity. In the Voluspol it is stated humans were created by Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur from two pieces of driftwood they found on a beach. The gods imbued the dead wood with life, consciousness, and intelligence creating man and woman simultaneously and equally before letting the new creations go on their way. They gave no commands or issued any decrees demanding obedience or overlordship. Furthermore while the gods do give Ask and Embla life, consciousness, and intelligence they do not give them free will. The first two humans, upon coming to life, exerted their free will by going out into the world and the gods did nothing to infringe on their free will.

In Heathen anarchism this process is proof that free will, free choice, and autonomy are inherent elements of all life. The gods do not give humans freedom or constrain their freedom because they acknowledge that humans, by the simple virtue of living, already possess these qualities. If even the gods that created us have no right to place any constraints on our autonomy then no human institution has any right to limit our inherent autonomy by force, fraud, or coercion. Just as the gods created the universe through discussion, council, and consensus it follows all human systems should be founded on similar principles.

The creation of the sexes further reinforces this point. In creating humans the gods use two different kinds of tree to do the job, an ash and an elm. In spite of the different materials used to create each neither is declared superior or inferior to the other. They are different yet at the same time they are peers and equals. This is because they are, regardless of these differences, equally alive. As such they both possess the autonomy inherent to all life. Neither is “naturally” superior to the other because just as it is not possible for human institutions to claim coercive power over other humans it is also not possible for one human to claim power over another human based on outward differences in appearance or physical form. These differences do not negate the fundamental autonomy both share.

Equally crucial in the creation epic is humanity’s place in the world. Quite unlike the ideas which originate in the Book of Genesis the gods of Heathenry do not place humanity in any superior position to nature. There is no command to be stewards of the earth or any implication humans are somehow above the natural world. In fact the creation itself shows an intimate connection. The first humans are made from two pieces of dead driftwood, not unlike the creation of the world from the body of the slain giant Ymir. The driftwood, being dead, was once alive and an indisputable part of the natural world. Coupled with the lack of any superiority given to humans argues humanity is just as much a part of the natural world as the trees we are said to be made from.

Finally we have the example of the coming, inevitability of Ragnarok. This fated, destined end to reality as we know it is certain and unavoidable. Yet in spite of predestined fate the gods struggle to stop the end of all worlds, even though they know their efforts only delay the inevitable. It is because the deeds of protecting those they love and fighting to defend others from harm are right in and of themselves. It does not matter if the odds are impossible or defeat is certain. What matters is that you fight on for what you believe is right.

It is from this foundation, in conjunction with established anarchist and radical theories and ideas advanced by thinkers like Emma Goldman, Piotr Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Murray Bookchin, Karl Marx, and others that Heathen anarchism relates with broader anarchist ideas.  In Heathenry reality is complicated.  Our universe consists of nine worlds populated by uncountable deities and cosmic powers great and small.  Gods, heroes, and people are complex and multifaceted.

Thanks to this perspective we view the world around us in the same way, seeking to apply the most appropriate, beneficial, and effective solution to specific problems.  Heathen anarchists are anarcho-communists in spirit, anarcho-syndicalists in matters of labor and economics, green anarchists in relation to the environment, anarcha-feminists on matters of gender, queer anarchists on matters of sexuality, individualist anarchists on the question of the individual, and mutualist anarchists on questions of community.  We believe just as there is no single God ruling from on high no single answer alone is sufficient to tackle complex problems but the ideas of many sources feeding an effective synthesis builds the strongest, most effective, and beneficial solution.

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