On the Importance of Syncretism

One of the main differences between orthodoxy and eclecticism in religion is the willingness to incorporate other belief systems into a spiritual practice. While orthodoxy emphasizes purity of dogma and rigidity in structure, in more mystical or folkish religions there is more of a tendency to acknowledge similarities with the religions of other peoples and adapting to changes brought about by migration and trade. While there is nothing wrong with a more defined and specific approach per se, it does limit one’s perception and the failure to give value to the insights of others may hinder understanding of one’s own belief system. A more syncretic approach is becoming necessary in response to globalization and the erosion of traditional religion in the West. While Christianity has largely lost relevance among Westerners at the same time as the expansion of Islam in our lands, it makes sense to proudly defend our traditions from all throughout our history, not just those from the time before Christianity.

Though we carry the torch that has been passed down to us from our ancestors within our genetics and our culture, and in many ways we embody our ancestors, we are not living under the same conditions as they did. This means that our forebears had more access to their own local traditions in the form of skills passed down through generations, as well as folk-binding ceremonies such as the ceilidh (an event traditionally hosted by the local storyteller, now more centred around Highland dancing). However, many of us today have lost touch with our roots in the whirling confusion that is living in a Modern multicultural society, and so we need to be less picky about what can be used to further the spiritual well-being of our folk.

As opposed to the Judeo-Christian Europe of the Middle Ages (where the Church engaged in pogroms against ‘heretical’ sects, who were usually practising some form of Gnostic Christianity), the pagan Europeans had a much more relaxed attitude towards the cults of other peoples. While the adoption of Celtic, Teutonic and various other European pantheons by the Romans helped to strengthen their state religion, it also led to the eventual decline of paganism in the Roman Empire. As Asian and African cults (such as those of the goddesses Cybele and Isis) were also incorporated into Roman religion, they undermined the patriarchal vigour of the Greco-Roman belief systems and allowed for Judeo-Christianity to take over the empire. And this is where the danger of syncretism lies; in order for this method to work, a belief system must be compatible with another in a way that there is no contradiction due to a common spiritual understanding.

More often than not, this is only possible with other spiritual teachings that derive from the same racial root as the one you may wish to supplement. It is no good trying to adapt the beliefs of foreign races into one’s own religion, as the cultural assumptions will differ and lead to a misunderstanding of symbolic meanings. For example, the wolf or dog is considered a noble (if not somewhat dangerous) animal in Aryan and Turkic cultures, and is the guardian animal for many tribes among these two races. However, in Semitic cultures, the dog is seen in the same light as the jackal, a lowly creature who is shunned and considered unclean. Attempting to reconcile such contradictory symbolism will only lead to confusion about the role of parables and symbols in religion, leading to its eventual abandonment.

However, it is now the case that many of our native European customs are so intertwined not only with each other, but also with Christianity, that it is necessary to admit to what works and what doesn’t with regards to carrying tradition. During the Dark Ages, Gnostic Christianity successfully merged with Celtic paganism in order to compose what has become known as ‘Celtic Christianity’. In many cases, the folklore and mythology from Medieval Ireland and Wales are so heavily shaped by this post-Roman culture that it is now difficult to separate the two, making the attempt to reconstruct a ‘pure’ form of Celtic paganism fruitless. Even with regards to Anglo-Saxon paganism, we only have fragmentary evidence for their specific spiritual practices, and most of this comes from after their conversion to Catholicism. In this way, the poetry of Anglo-Saxon England is no less ‘authentic’ despite the Christian overtones, because the original tradition is preserved underneath the symbolism reflecting that time period. It is only because of the preservation of Norse mythology in Iceland that we know more about Teutonic paganism than its Celtic counterpart, although even the works of Snorri Sturluson (the Icelandic priest responsible for preserving the Eddas and Egil’s saga) are written from a Christian perspective.

Nowhere is the need for a combination of cultural motifs in contemporary paganism more apparent than here in Scotland, where it is difficult to ignore either our Celtic or Teutonic heritage. The British peoples are known to be mongrels, yet we still preserve a specific blend of traditions that is unique to both us and the Irish. Specifically, they do well to compliment each other as embodying the masculine and feminine (or patriarchal and matriarchal) forms of religion, with the Teutonic tradition as the former and Celtic culture as the latter. The head of the Teutonic pantheon is Allfather Wotan, who values the manly pursuits of warfare and rune magic, in addition to encouraging exploration and adventure.

While Wotan’s Celtic cognate, Lugh, is also the chief deity in Irish mythology, there is a strong emphasis on the cult of Danu (‘Mother Earth’ equivalent to Nerthuz) and more focus is placed on trade and shamanistic ‘woman’s magic’. Together, their worship forms the basis of the solar and lunar festivals; Yule, Ostara, Litha and Winter Finding (marking the solstices and equinoxes) among the agricultural Teutons, and Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh in the Gaelic pastoral tradition, marking the beginning of each new season. It is for this reason that I consider Wotanism and all other folkish forms of paganism as the European variant of Aryan religion. We do not need to have our religion specific to one ethnic group or another, as long as the mixture is between cultures with a shared origin so that each can represent two sides of the same coin. While the main source of pagan lore comes from Norse mythology, there is also much to be learned from the cultures of all Aryan peoples, from Ireland to India and from Russia to Spain.

Having said that, care must be used when dealing with the religions of Iranian and Indian cultures. Though the peoples of Central and Southern Asia share much in common genetically and culturally with Europeans, they have also been affected by the presence of indigenous non-Aryans (such as the Dravidians of India) and by incursions from peoples like the Arabs and Turks. This means that while the esoteric meanings of Zoroastrianism or Hinduism can be adapted and applied to European paganism, the more exoteric cultural aspects (such as traditional cuisine or music) may be more alien and inappropriate for blending with our own culture (for example, the presence of figs and dates in Middle-Eastern folklore, whose symbolic meaning is difficult to apply in temperate Europe where they don’t grow).

An example of a successful cross-cultural interpretation is with the story of Wotan and Gunnlod. Wotan wished to drink the sacred Odrerir (‘mead of poetry’) held by the giant, Kvasir. To achieve this, Wotan slept with his daughter Gunnlod for three nights, each night turning into a snake and slithering up the mountain to drink the mead. On the third night he was caught by Kvasir and had to turn into an eagle to escape back to Asgard. This symbology can be interpreted as a metaphor for the practice of Kundalini yoga, with the mountain representing the body and Wotan as a serpent representing the astral ‘snake’ (Shakti in Hinduism) that travels up the spine. The drinking of Odrerir and changing into an eagle is representative of the ecstatic state achieved by channelling this power, and this is a feature of Wotan’s quest for wisdom which serves as an example for his followers.

As a reflection of my mixed ethnic heritage, I choose to outwardly revere the gods of the Teutonic pantheon, while at the same time studying Druidism and other forms of Celtic and Aryan mysticism. This feels like a natural state and it is similarly the case for many of us in Britain. While there is a stronger Teutonic presence in somewhere like England, and in turn a stronger Celtic influence in a place like Ireland, the aspect of this mixture is what gives us our own unique sense of identity. It is obvious that most will swing more one way or the other, but the dual nature of each aspect is always present, and has been for millennia.

While the Nordic character of the East coast has been shaped by the first inhabitants who crossed the lost land of Doggerland in the North Sea, down to the Aryans and later Anglo-Saxons and Norsemen, the West has been more thoroughly colonized by folk from lands facing the Atlantic and Mediterranean seas. It is because of this that it is necessary to draw from a larger pool of culture, as the demise of Western civilization has stripped our heritage down to its roots, and it is more pragmatic at this time to revive our local customs in addition to taking inspiration from religions far and wide. Our blood and spirit runs much deeper than nation or language, as the source has and will remain for as long as we remain.

Wulf Willelmson

Satan

Having had a good look at Christianity and it’s various positive and negative forms, and also the various pagan myths of Teutonic lore, we will now shift our focus toward a particular feature of mythology that is a recurring theme throughout the history of religion. The being known as ‘Satan’ in Judeo-Christian mythology and as ‘Shaitan‘ in Islam, means ‘adversary’ and features as an antagonist either to God or mankind in different mythologies throughout the world. He is known in one sense as the embodiment of all evil, but also as a tragic or even sympathetic figure who rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven.

The lore surrounding this dark figure is a mixture of pagan and Christian myths, and his association with the Judeo-Christian ‘God’ is either as the prosecutor of Job, as in the Old Testament, or as tempter of Jesus within the New Testament. However, his appearance as a horned man with goat legs and a trident is a mixture of pagan imagery, in particular the Greek forest god Pan and his Celtic cognate, Cernunnos, as well as the Greek sea god, Poseidon. To mainstream Christians, Muslims and Jews, he is seen as the one who leads you astray from the path of God and towards damnation, but he is perceived as a liberator and a figure of freedom in some pagan traditions; and sometimes is even seen as a god to be feared, rather than the more benevolent Creator deity.

Though ‘Satan’ is the name most commonly known in the West today, he is also known by the titles of ‘the Devil’ (whose name relates to words ‘devious’, ‘deviant’ and ‘devour’), Beelzebub (‘lord of the flies’, thought to derive from the Canaanite deity Ba’al) or even ‘prince of darkness’. He is also associated with Lucifer, although this is a slightly different figure that we will look at in more detail later on. In other cultures, Satan is known in different forms, such as Ahriman in Zoroastrianism, who is seen as the enemy of Ahura Mazda (‘God’) and deceiver of mankind. In Buddhism, he appears as the arch-demon Mara, who represents illusion and is the lord of death.

Within Teutonic mythology, the best fit for a Satanic figure would be Loki; who also represents illusion and deception and is the nemesis of Heimdall, guardian of the Bifrost Bridge to Asgard (the home of the Aesir and a place representing enlightenment). However, in other cultures he was seen as a deity to be worshipped, such as among the natives of Virginia, who called this being Oke, and some even performed human sacrifices of teenage boys to him. In Ancient Egypt, he was known as Seth or Set, and despite being the brother and slayer of the Sun god Osiris, he still had followers among the Ancient Egyptian kings, though his name was later blotted out in religious dedications. Even within the Old Testament, there are references to dual goat sacrifices, one to Yahweh and one to Azazel, lord of the desert, who is very similar to Set in his attributes.

Today, he is often seen as representing a very real force of evil that compels individuals to commit atrocities against others. The so-called ‘Church of Satan’ and its brand of Satanism are simply a pompous form of atheism that promotes mockery of Catholic Mass and very base individualism based off of capitalist ‘philosophy’. However, much more serious stories involving human sacrifice and child abuse have appeared in mass consciousness over the past few decades. This practice of Satanism was once associated with people usually characterized as mentally deranged heavy metal fans, particularly in the United States during the 1980s.

However, this extreme expression of teenage rebellion is not nearly as prevalent nor as disturbing as tales of ritualistic sacrifices of children by plutocratic elites, many of whom are said to be or have connections to world leaders. Due to the nature of such clandestine activities, such practices are difficult to prove. For instance, it is possible that such stories are made up in order to disseminate fear and paranoia and have no basis in truth. Such accusations are similar to those made against witches by the Catholic Church during the Burning Times. However, it would also stand to reason that if these things were happen among the wealthiest members of society, then they would have sufficient resources to cover it up and protect themselves from the wrath of the public. Either way, the idea of offering humans as a sacrifice to an infernal being are nothing new, and it is naïve to assume that such beliefs and practices are not still adhered to within the darkest corners of Man’s heart.

Thus, the nature of ‘Satan’ is multifaceted and not so easy to discern in terms of a singular being. He is a different sort of character depending on the context and how his role relates to other beings portrayed as ‘God’. For example, in the Book of Genesis, Satan is usually associated with the Apple of Eve, which was eaten by the first woman from the Tree of Knowledge. Though not explicitly mentioned as the name of the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the apple, it has been inferred from the theme of temptation to disobey that this figure represents Satan in this context. However, this story could be interpreted in different ways. On one hand, the Judeo-Christian interpretation is that Eve and her mate, Adam (the first man, whose name comes from Atum in Egyptian mythology) were damned by God and cast out of the Garden of Eden (‘paradise’) for their acts of disobedience; and so began the Fall of Man from spiritual grace.

On the other hand, a Gnostic or Luciferian perspective is to see the serpent as the spirit of curiosity, which encouraged Eve to disobey the tyrannical false god ‘Yahweh‘ and reach towards enlightenment. Both versions reflect either a Left-Hand Path or Right-Hand Path interpretation of the story, for which the meaning differs depending on one’s own values. For one on the Right-Hand Path, Satan more often is seen as a dangerous enemy, and one who tries to distract you from achieving your goals through temptation and deception. However, within the Left-Hand Path, any obstruction to liberty is seen as a hindrance and Satan can be a valuable ally in overcoming the bondage of psychological conditioning during one’s lifetime. It is at this point that it is worth distinguishing the figure of ‘Satan’ from that of ‘Lucifer’, who are often conflated but who generally represent two distinct but related beings. Satan is a figure who was originally seen as ‘the accuser’ and acted as God’s dispenser of justice on Earth in Judaic mythology. However, within Christianity he is seen as the ruler of Hell (based on both the Greek and Teutonic underworlds) and as a fallen angel and lord of demons.

lucifer

Lucifer is an angel or demigod known as Phosphoros in Greek and whose name means ‘morning star’, which is the planet Venus. He is a metaphor for the ‘light-bringer’ or seeker of enlightenment, and is associated with both Loki and Prometheus; who is said to have brought the divine gift of fire to Man (‘Loki’ means ‘lightning’ in both a metaphorical and literal sense). Within Judeo-Christian mythology (though not actually in the Bible) Lucifer is portrayed as the angel who led a rebellion against God when asked to bow before Adam, and who was cast down into Hell following his defeat and becoming Satan. In this way, he is similar to the Yazidi deity Melek Taus, though their Creator is said to have praised the archangel for his refusal to bow before any creature lower than he, for this is how he was created. In these terms, Lucifer is the one who chooses to rebel, and Satan is who he becomes in doing so.

This process may also, however, work in reverse. Wotanist mystic, Kalki Weisthor, has suggested that both the figures of Satan and Lucifer can be incorporated into Wotanism by adding Wotan as a third component. The idea is that one begins their journey on the Left-Hand Path by acting as Satan, and so undoing unhelpful social conditioning and false beliefs by refusing to follow what you have perceived to be the rules. The next step is to become Lucifer, which involves pursuing enlightenment and acting as a free agent, having done away with what restricted you before. The last step is to embody Wotan, after mastering the skills of magic and using one’s liberated position to come back into society as a teacher and as a leader.

I personally find this a very helpful concept, though it presumably does not work as well for those on the Right-Hand Path, who will want to stick to their principles and resist the urge to rebel, since it is not in their nature to do so. Satan is not so much to be feared but respected, and he is a figure that will remain as long as human consciousness can conceive of a negative force, pulling us either towards damnation or enlightenment. It is also worth keeping in mind that Satan can mean many different things to many different people, and that misunderstandings about his character have led to persecution and ostracism which arise from ignorance. As a friend or enemy, he is with us always, as a teacher, tempter or that which we despise but know we must embrace as a part of life.

Hail Satan!

Wulf Willelmson

Rise of the Son God: The Christian Question

Over the past couple of years, I have found myself drawn further and further to this doctrine, which may not at first seem compatible with my Wotanist beliefs. However, the main religion of Western culture is Christianity, and I have found its elements to be present in our culture so strongly, that it is hard to ignore when embarking on a spiritual path. I have, for most of my life, had an apathetic or hostile view of this religion, as it always appeared to be an oppressive force that held back our people and kept them ignorant and servile. But, as I have discovered through the study of esoterics, all is not as it seems, and so a distinction should be made between two belief systems that appear under the same banner.

The institution of the Church is the force that presents itself as the face of the Christian faith, and so its words and deeds are taken to be representative of the Christian community. This means, however, that the Church sustains itself through a power structure that is reliant on donations and government funding, but does little other than act as a propaganda machine for the mainstream narrative in between reading passages from the Bible. It offers no practical tools to encourage spiritual growth and merely acts as a business, marketing their brand of ‘spirituality’ to the world. This money-making sham is more specifically known in an ideological form as Judeo-Christianity, and engages in all of the the practices which Jesus was supposed to have condemned among the Judean priests, namely the pursuit of profit.

On the other hand, there is also the esoteric form of Christianity, which is known as ‘Kristianism’. This version is based on hidden meanings behind the passages of the Bible, and is intended to bring the individual on the path to enlightenment. Much of this consists of allegories and figures of speech intended to help with memory when recording the oral knowledge that the texts were based on. For example, the term ‘forty days’ merely means ‘a long time’, and so it is not meant to be taken literally, as are most other parables. This is the main difference between these two forms of Christianity, in that the former takes the text literally, while the latter has to study their underlying meanings. ‘Kristianism’ is part of the Left-Hand Path of magic, as it involves self-empowerment through discovering godhood within one’s true, inner self. This is part of the reason why the Kristianist tradition is so hidden, because this method of spiritual development was suppressed by the Church, but was undoubtedly practised by at least some of the clergy from the Middle Ages onward. The Left-Hand Path is about changing yourself in order to have more agency in the world around you, while the Right-Hand Path consists of the traditions that are passed down by the priesthood to be practised by the laymen. It is the preferred choice for those who are bound by too many material obligations to embark on a spiritual journey, but who should still be able to trust their priests to provide for their basic religious needs, in order to have a spiritually healthy community.

Sadly, what has gone wrong with organized religions even since before Christianity has been the love of wealth and power. The Greek and Roman temples eventually became money-making schemes that did not encourage people to find their own path to the gods if they were capable, but rather to rely on the priesthood to interpret messages from the gods. The hoarding of knowledge and exploitation of the laymen by the priesthood is a gross abuse of their power and such systems should not be allowed to promote enslavement to institutions and dogma. This typically occurs in societies which have a centralized state, rather than among tribes or petty kingdoms. This was certainly true for Ancient Greece and Rome, but this corporatism continued under Christianity in these lands because they were already centralized under empires and kingdoms.

In Britain and Ireland, syncreticism occurred between the native Druidic mysteries and the Christian doctrine, until they merged to form a subset of Catholicism, known as ‘Celtic Christianity’ (or known today as ‘Gaelic Traditionalism’). This local variant of Catholicism survived until the High Middle Ages, when the Churches in Ireland and Wales were drawn closer to mainstream Catholicism, which was facilitated by Norman colonization of these two lands and centralization of royal authority. The struggle between Catholics and ‘heretics’ was present among the Roman Britons as early as the 4th Century, where the ascetic known as Pelagius argued that humans had free will with regards to salvation rather than being determined by fate and reliant upon the Church for forgiveness. Naturally, his ideas were considered a threat to the establishment and after his expulsion from Jerusalem, he invited to Egypt and never heard from again.

Gnosticism is another aspect of Kristianism, which was prevalent in Late Antiquity. Gnosticism extends beyond Christianity, but it was the main source of esoteric Kristian thought at this time in history. The main principle behind Gnostic Christianity is that God (that is, the unified principle of the cosmos) created the world in his image of perfection, as his spirit existed alongside the material world governed by Nature. However, it is also held that something went wrong in the process of creation, and that Sophia (a name meaning ‘wisdom’ and a personification of Nature) gave birth to a monstrous being known as the Demiurge, who, while having no name of his own, takes the form of Yaweh or Elohim in the Old Testament.

However, these names are merely stolen from Canaanite mythology and this being (or group of beings acting under a hive mind) is separate from the gods (who are known as ‘angels’ in Christianity). These dark forces are equivalent to the Jötnar of Norse mythology and Ahriman of Zoroastrianism, and was seen as the antagonistic force among the Gnostics. Unfortunately, because the New Testament was corrupted by Paul the Pharisee, the Church adopted Yaweh and the Judaic Tanakh (Old Testament) as part of the Christian faith (hence, Judeo-Christianity) and persecuted the Gnostics for criticizing their demonic ‘God’. As such, Kristian esoterics were largely driven underground, and only survive today through the preservation of Gnostic texts such as the Nag Hamadi.

The Demiurge is held to be the sovereign of the world of illusion and materialism, and is essentially the same as the figure known as Satan or Lucifer. He is the enemy of Christ (a metaphor for enlightened man) and is seen as responsible for Man’s fall from grace. In this way, the Old Testament is the tale of the Fall of Man, as spiritual and material become intermingled and how the Judeans were led astray by the Demiurge and destroyed the places of pagan worship in Judea. The New Testament is the guide to liberation from bondage to the material plane and achieving unity with God. However, all of the pages of the Bible are meant to be read metaphorically, as both the tales of Moses and of Jesus are meant to help the initiate achieve their goals.

The Church has promoted the literal interpretation of the Bible (to varying degrees, even non-fundamentalist denominations do not teach esoterics), as a means of controlling the masses, by teaching them morals that lead to self-denial and naïve trust. In this way, Judeo-Christianity holds Man to the will of the Demiurge, while Kristianism frees him from his enslavement. The stories of Christ’s resisting of temptations form Satan are meant to convey a life of moderation and not being held back by one’s desires. While Satan represents the tempter and the trickster, the Church used his image to demonize the pagan gods as an excuse to persecute pagans. The horns and goat legs of the popular image of the Devil come from the Celtic god Cernunnos, who is probably the equivalent of Wotan.

The struggles between the Church and what they deemed as ‘heresy’ were a manifestation of esoteric Kristianism and its suppression by the establishment. The most brutal Judeo-Christian warlords (such as Charlemagne), forced conversion by the sword, and in this way were the European equivalent of Islamic Jihadists. In Islam this struggle is also present, as the mainstream Sunni (Judeo-Islamic) dogma is used by the Demiurge to spread his cancer, while the mystic sects, such as the Sufis, use Islam as a means to achieving liberation. The same is also true of Judaism, as the Hasidic sects of Judaism were formed to promote the joy of life through the love of God, as opposed to Orthodox Judaism, which encourages xenophobia and contempt for the goyim (‘gentiles’). Thus, the true path of Christianity is learning how to discriminate between those who are really in the service of God and those who do the work of the Devil. There are many preachers who claim to be doing the work of ‘The Lord’, while engaging in Satanic acts (the mass child abuse of the Catholic Church is one such hypocrisy). The centralized institutions of Abrahamic religions have been acting as arbiters of the state to abuse its people, while the people themselves have held the secrets to these doctrines and passed them on down the centuries.

My own personal inclination is towards Protestantism, since it focuses on individual salvation and typically does not promote conversion. I know that many others will feel more drawn to Catholicism, although this doctrine will probably be more relevant to those on a Latinic or Celtic path (such is the case for most Western Europeans and their descendants). However, Protestantism emerged in Northern Europe among the Teutonic folk, and so it works well as an addition to esoteric Armanism, alongside the exoteric religion of Wotanism. Balder is the Christ figure of Norse mythology, and his death and rebirth is itself the story of resurrection. And so, in both Kristianism and Armanism, their stories are allegories for the rebirth of the spiritual man, both on a personal level but also in this new Age of Aquarius. Balder was killed by his blind brother Höth (‘hood’) at the behest of the jötun, Loki. This represents the veil of illusion cast over Man and Balder’s journey to Hel and is a metaphor for the bondage to the material world and consistent death and rebirth on this plane (a concept known as the ‘Wheel of Samsara’ in Buddhism). However, Balder’s return from Hel at the end of Ragnarök is analogous to the Resurrection of Christ, and so the two stories are more important for their shared underlying meanings than their cultural interpretations.

As both a pagan and a Kristian, I find it frustrating that there still exists sectarianism among these two groups. Though Christianity is a declining force in the West (it is still prevalent in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa), it still has a strong cultural hold on our society, and this works both for and against us. On one hand, the Catholic pope openly promotes the invasion of Europe by religious fundamentalists (mostly Islamic, though some are also from Christian Africa, where witch-hunting is still prevalent), while the mainstream Protestant Churches of our island are complicit in much the same propaganda. They purposely skew the original meanings of Christ’s teachings to promote self-loathing and pathological altruism among Westerners, while at the same time coveting the secrets of the Bible from the masses (they certainly know about these hidden meanings, they just don’t want you or I to know about them). At the same time, however, the thread of Christianity is so strongly woven into our heritage that it would be ludicrous to suggest that we can simply abandon it and return to the purely pagan past.

There is no reason to discard the useful parts of this religion, as it is a sensible option for those among our folk who are not drawn to pagan lore. I myself prefer the pagan expression and wish to see its revival among our people, but I can also acknowledge the benefits of yet another facet our culture that has been passed down to us from our forebears. Our people are in grave peril, and so I see no reason why Crusaders and Vikings cannot stand shoulder to shoulder to face a common foe, despite the pogroms of the past. We have the potential to be allies, but only once we accept that we must learn to co-exist as one people to be able to survive and thrive. The Renaissance was born through the resurgence of pagan motifs and philosophies that were blended with Christian expression. We will have another if we learn to achieve our potential as individuals and as a people, whichever spiritual path we choose.

Wulf Willelmson

 

 

Traditionalism and Reconstructionism

To begin explaining the difference between these two approaches within modern paganism, I wish to share my own personal experience which led to my current understanding of Wotanism and of modern paganism in general. I have always had an interest in the occult as well as history and philosophy, but it was only as a teenager that I began to search for my own spiritual path. I trawled through various belief systems that interested me (Wicca, Norse paganism, Satanism etc.) before settling on an entirely atheistic and fatalistic perspective which was rooted in a materialist understanding of the world that came from my adherence to Marxism. It was only after going through the worst year of my life that I began to lose faith in such a hopeless and destructive way of thinking and once again became interested in something that appealed to my own tastes from a cultural perspective. Listening to a lot of pagan black metal music, I started to wonder about the pagan past of my own country, and looked to history to discover what was most relevant for my time and place. The part of Scotland that I live in was inhabited by the Picts in Pre-Christian times, and it was my research about this people in particular that informed my understanding of paganism (with an emphasis on the Brittonic tradition). My interest continued through to university (which provided much more free time for study than high school) and I learned more and more about the period preceding the Picts’ conversion to Christianity, namely the Late Iron Age and Post-Roman Scotland. It was what we know about this period in history that shaped my religious and spiritual beliefs and was the period I wanted to recapture through re-enactment.

However, I began to discover that it was a tricky business to try and retrace the steps of my Pictish ancestors. This mainly has to do with the lack of historical and archaeological information regarding the Picts and how they actually lived. While Germanic lore is fragmentary at best, Celtic mythology is very disconnected in time from the period that I was most interested in. Most of the tales that we know today were not written down until the Late Middle Ages (13th and 14th Centuries) and survive in heavily Christianized forms. This is especially true for Welsh mythology (as there is evidence that some parts of Irish mythology were written down as early as the 8th Century), and so what we know of the Brittonic tradition is noticeably lacking in authentic pagan lore. As for the Picts, no records of mythology or Pre-Christian beliefs survive, except from the very biased and fanciful descriptions by Christian missionaries, such as Adomnán (Ath-ov-nawn) of Iona. This is also where I encountered another problem with being focused on ‘Pictish Reconstructionism’, which was the fact that, as a nation, we retain almost no linguistic and cultural continuity with the Picts. The Picts were closely related to the Britons of Southern Scotland, and it appears that they also spoke a Brittonic language. This means that though they shared many aspects of Brittonic culture, they were considered a distinct ethnic group and likely had their own version of now lost lore. It is not that the Christian Picts were illiterate, their monks were probably also producing as much literature as their contemporaries in England and Ireland. However, it is very likely that all such evidence has been lost or destroyed following the campaigns of Edward I of England and the Protestant Reformation in particular, where monasteries were looted and burned in an effort to undermine their religious authority.

Aside from the loss of almost all literary records of their language (we know that they probably spoke a Brittonic language because of place-names and the names of Pictish kings written in Gaelic records), Pictish became extinct in the centuries following the ascension of the Gaelic aristocracy in Scotland. After the defeat of the high kings of Fortriu (Moray and Ross) by the Vikings, the Pictish kingdoms became dominated by the Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riada (which was previously tributary to the kings of Fortriu). The new mormaers intermingled with the Pictish commoners and their language probably replaced Pictish alongside the cultural interactions following Christianization. As the missionaries who converted the Picts were Gaelic, it is likely that it was an important ecclesiastical language alongside Latin (most Ogham stone inscriptions from Scotland are written in Old Irish). And so, Pictish came to be replaced by Gaelic (and was also replaced by Old Norse in the Isles) and does not survive, although modern Scottish Gaelic does retain some features from Pictish that make it distinct from Irish and Manx. Now, even Gaelic is no longer spoken in most of Scotland, as the Lowlanders came to speak Scots (a language descended from Northumbrian Old English) and following the Highland Clearances and dissemination of British mass media, the vast majority of our countrymen speak English as their first language.

And so, it is clear what is problematic when it comes to ‘Celtic Reconstructionism’, which is that you cannot authentically reconstruct traditions in a culture that no longer has a linguistic connection to their pagan forebears. There are those that consider themselves ‘Gaelic Traditionalists’ who claim that they practice the most authentic expression of Gaelic culture, as they are native Gaelic-speakers and usually live in areas where Gaelic is still spoken, such as the Western Isles. One criticism levelled against traditionalists is that they are usually Catholic and therefore do not represent the most accurate practices of the Ancient Celts. However, this is where traditionalism differs from reconstructionism; it is the acknowledgement that the past has gone and that we can never return to Pre-Christian times. ‘Paganism’ is not about recreating the past of our folk, but rather creating a future for our folk. The syncretic mixture between Gaelic culture and Catholicism is a memory of more ancient traditions, but retains the innovations from under the influence of the Church.This reflects the methods used by the Catholic Church to convert people, as they preferred to simply modify existing pagan shrines and customs within a Christian context rather than through forceful conversion that was carried out by the Romans (and later the Franks) on the Continent. This innovation was, in fact, a result of the efforts attributed to Saint Patrick and his disciples; so Catholicism would not have reached the Picts and many other peoples around the world if not for this change of tactic on the part of Irish missionaries, which was subsequently adopted by the Catholic Church at large (such ideas included the concept of Purgatory, which was based on the Celtic belief in reincarnation).

This is typical of Catholic countries around the world, where ancient traditions survive in the veneer of Christianity. This syncretic path is the most authentic traditional expression of the cultures that have been converted to Catholicism, as they retain much of the pagan traditions from their past and continue to practice them today in that form. However, I was raised a nominal Protestant, and such is not the case when it comes to the cultures of Protestant countries. The Reformation was a largely left-brained (skeptical) reaction against the centralized hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and so religion to those who became Protestant was secularized. Rationalism and reductionism are the result of Protestant thinking, and so such cultures are largely devoid of tradition and have become some of the most materialistic in the world. This is largely because, in attempting to throw off the yoke of popery, we cast away what was left of our ancient customs and were left with a hollow, Germanic version of Judaism (which is only tolerable to us in the present because it is so superfluous as a part of our daily lives). However, because of the promotion of liberalism and critical thinking in Protestant lands, we are able to use what was saved from ancient times (such as the Icelandic Eddas and Sagas) and work with existing traditions to perfect our own path. The ways of our ancestors are so irrelevant to most people that they can be practised without fear. It is typical of our secular society that we would try to ‘recreate’ the past because we see it as separate from our own, as their philosophies were not based in liberalism or egalitarianism, and so they cannot truly be practised by those in a Modern mindset. The reason that I began to feel a loss of purpose with reconstructionism was that there was a sense of distance between myself and my ancestors, and I realized that I could not live and breathe as a ‘real’ pagan if I did not carry on their traditions for the sake of my descendants.

Our heritage is not something that we should simply stroll out once in a while as an accessory to our involvement in Modern society, it is a living and continuous flow of energy from our ancestors that works through us for the sake of our peoples’ survival. The interactions with each other and with our native land are what bring forth our customs and traditions. The cycle of the year and the flora and fauna of our environment are the basis of our lore, and it is to ensure the prosperity of our kind that we remember our ancient traditions in order to understand our place in the world and our unique relationship with Nature. We have lost our roots, and so we have been left to fall as a race. However, what has not been destroyed is again being found, as we now have access to more information than ever that can help us rediscover our relationship with the Earth. It is also important to be true to your own heritage and to be honest about who you are. Language is one of the most fundamental connections to our culture that we have, and the acknowledgement of our ancestors’ ethnicities should be a part of one’s self-perception. My own Germanic heritage has led me down the path of Wotanism, though some of my countrymen may prefer the Gaelic Traditionalist or Druidic traditions. Both of these contain more integration with Christianity, though many of our modern, Protestant customs still retain the bare framework of our ancient traditions that can be charged with new spiritual energy from our own personal practice and knowledge of lore.

The old divide between Catholic and Protestant has tended to run along the cultural differences between Celtic and Germanic folk in Western Europe (although the Isle of Lewis, where Gaelic is most heavily spoken, is traditionally Presbyterian, possibly due to their Norse ancestry). However, both of our cultures have been paralyzed by secularism, and even these distinctions are beginning to pass into the morass of multiculturalism. I feel rather estranged from ‘Scottish Nationalism’ because of the strong emphasis on our Gaelic heritage (which I appreciate but it is something which I consider only one part of my heritage), though I can understand those who view ‘British Nationalism’ with suspicion because of its emphasis on the dominant, Germanic culture of our Isles if they feel more inclined towards Catholicism or Druidism. Both paths are meant to exist side-by-side, their engagement does not need to express itself through either religious sectarianism, or by being partitioned into the ‘right-wing/left-wing’ dichotomy politically. It does not matter which one is more prevalent or ‘politically convenient’, what matters is that they form masculine and feminine counterparts intended to guide our folk depending on their personal inclinations (Celtic tradition emphasizes the role of the Goddess, while the Germanic is more of a path to God). Much of this discord is expressed by the friction between many modern men and women, through the disregarding of both divine masculinity and divine femininity. Peoples are not one unified mass, they consist of distinct parts which in turn are parts of the larger human species. When we attempt to reconstruct paganism, we are simply imitating a previous incarnation of our folk. However, when we attempt to recognise our present day plight and the need for spiritual fulfilment, we must learn from all that has happened since the rule of Christianity and its replacement by secularism, and move forward in continuing our traditions through cultural memory and awareness of our ethnic identity.

Wulf Willelmson

How the Druids became Witches

 

Today, these mysterious magicians of the Celtic lands are generally understood in two ways; either as a class of priests or seers who basically governed their society through advising their chieftains, and only existed during the Iron Age, or alternatively, as a longer tradition stretching from the earliest times into the present day. The main problem with the former is that it relies on a restricted interpretation of the word ‘druid’ in an Iron Age context and ignores the use of derived terms during the Middle Ages with slightly different meanings. The word “dryw” meant ‘”seer” in Welsh, while the Gaelic word “drui” meant “wizard” or “magician”. Though some claim that the meanings of these words are not interchangeable whatsoever, this merely reflects the loss of religious duties of the druids after the invasion of Christianity. Instead of being the spiritual leaders of society, their role changed to that fortune-tellers and folk healers, many of whom would be burned as witches from the 15th to18th Centuries. Despite Christian propaganda claiming otherwise, the druids were said to have had magnificent powers; not only in prophecy, but also in controlling the weather and practising astral projection, such as spirit flight and shapeshifting.

The word ‘druid’ literally meant “oak wise” in Ancient Europe, but this name does not simply mean that they knew a lot about trees and other things in Nature (of which they knew a great deal), but also that they were generally considered powerful because of their knowledge and were ‘strong in wisdom’. They were described by the Romans as not only responsible for spiritual matters, but also as lawyers, philosophers, astrologers, doctors, scientists and politicians. They were also portrayed as a distinct social group along with “bards” (musicians and storytellers) and “owates” (seers) By the 1st Century BC, many Gaulish tribes had transferred political sovereignty from their chieftains to a ‘senate’ of druids, which functioned similarly to a republic and was led by a ‘wergobret’ (magistrate). The leader of the Aedui tribe who was allied to Caesar was knows as “Diviciacus”, and was described by Caesar as a ‘senator’ of the Aedui. This reflects how similar Gaulish society had become to that of the Romans, but the main difference between their societies was that the Romans had a city-state civilization, while the Gauls retained the tribe as the largest political unit. They were both run by the elites of their societies who formed a level of government above the common folk. The druids were also said to have performed human sacrifices, which the Romans saw as barbaric (as they only sacrificed animals). However, it is possible that these ‘sacrifices’ were actually executions of criminals and that the Druidic legal system was a thorough mixture of of religion and law, and so execution may have had a ritual aspect that was not shared by the Romans.

In Britain, the Romans became intent on destroying the druids as part of their invasion in the 1st Century AD, so they slaughtered them at their base on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales. It appears that the druids were too effective in stirring up resistance against the Romans all over Britain that they were exterminated or forced to swear allegiance to Rome and conform to the Romano-British hybrid religion. However, the druids evidently survived in Scotland, as they feature in Adomnan’s “Life of Saint Columba”, as antagonists. Though they are never mentioned again by the Romans, this is probably because the druids had previously had a centralized religious institution that had become localized after the eradication at Anglesey, and the remaining tribal druids would have no longer posed a united political threat to the Romans. The druids continued to act as the legal and spiritual leaders of their societies, but they became subjected to Christianity around the 5th Century AD. The first attemps to Christianize the Picts were carried out by the Britons in Scotland, who were likely to have practised Romano-British religion and would have been quick to adopt Christianity from the Romans. Missionaries like Saint Ninian (‘Winnian’ in Brittonic and ‘Finnian’ in Gaelic) converted the Southern Picts of Fife, Stirlingshire, Perthshire, Angus and Galloway in the early 5th Century. However, Saint Patrick’s “Letter to Coroticus” (probably a king of Strathclyde) calls the Picts “apostates”, suggesting that they had probably abandoned the Roman variant of Christianity by the late 5th Century.

Irish missionaries were more successful, as they preached a more syncretic form of Christianity, which was propagated by the Saint Columba in the late 6th Century. While Columba managed to gain converts among the Picts, he did not succeed in converting the Pictish king, “Bridei” (“bree-day”), but his work was continued by his monks at Iona and other parts of Scotland. Druids were also present in Ireland before Christianity, and they are described in more detail than those in Scotland. They are the ‘snakes’ that Patrick supposedly “drove out of Ireland”, as he made every attempt to undermine the wisdom of the druids by smashing statues of their gods and burning their books. Despite claims to the contrary, the druids did have an alphabet other than ‘ogham’ (a writing system used for carving inscriptions on stone and on wands for divination) known in Wales as ‘Coelbren’ and can be found on inscriptions across Europe. Modern academia asserts that Coelbren was invented by Edward Williams in the 18th Century, despite the fact that the reason we have no textual evidence of the alphabet is because the Christians burned the evidence. This is where the assumption that the druids were illiterate until they adapted ogham from the Latin alphabet comes from (which is also false). At the same time, the druids were still primarily concerned with oral tradition, as esoteric knowledge could not be written down (their writing was more likely to have been used to aid memory rather than record it) and druids were trained to memorize poetry, mythology, spells, songs, religious rituals with which they tried to understand Nature.

The Irish druids are described as wearing feathered clothing (in contrast to the Gaulish druids, whom the Romans said wore white robes), giving them the appearance similar to shamans in other parts of the world. The link between Druidism and Shamanism is one which has a lot of evidence to support it. The practices of soul flight and shapeshifting as well as detailed knowledge about plants and animals appear to be common to many such traditions, so it stands to reason that Druidism has been passed down to us by our earliest ancestors and inhabitants of these lands. In traditional societies, the shamans are the spiritual healers of their people, and will use their powers to fight sickness and protect their tribe. They also serve as advisors to their chieftains, though they live somewhat apart from the rest of society, despite being essential members. Another important similarity appears to be the lack of gender exclusivity among druids and shamans. The folk on Anglesey chanting curses at the Romans were women, and there is no evidence that the druids had a patriarchal institution like the chieftains, even if women were in the minority or were possibly part of separate orders from the male druids (it is said that Saint Bridget was a druidess who converted to Christianity).

The status of the druids diminished with the coming of Christianity and so they became a misunderstood and sometimes feared folk during the Middle Ages. To many, they became associated with legends of werewolves and curses than for their previously important contributions to society. In Ireland, the druids were said to have been able to cause madness, by blowing a powder (most likely a drug made from plants containing scopolamine) into somebody’s face, a practice still utilized by criminals in some of the poorest countries. The word ‘sorcerer’ comes from the Latin ‘sortiarius’ which also means a seer, and in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, the use of magic was known as ‘wiccecraeft’ or ‘witchcraft’. The male ‘wicca’ and female ‘wicce’ may have been the Anglo-Saxon equivalents of the druids and became the witches and wizards of Medieval lore; however, the common folk sought to distinguish between ‘witches’ and what they called ‘cunning folk’. The difference between them was that the former practised ‘black magic’ while the latter engaged in ‘white magic’. Black magic became known by the term ‘maleficium’ (sorcery) and consisted of hexing, poisoning, becoming invisible and changing folk into animals, while white magic was focused on healing, prayer and removing hexes. ‘Cunning folk’ were tolerated because they frequently invoked Christ and Semitic gods such as El and Adonai, while ‘black magic’ usually consisted of interacting with Nature spirits (wights, elves and dwarves).This was all seen as pagan superstition by the Catholic Church and was either ignored or ridiculed.

This was to change near the end of the Middle Ages, as the Church became concerned with the potential proliferation of occult literature with the invention of the printing press in the 15th Century. They reacted in a typically hysterical fashion and began to encourage secular authorities to hunt down and persecute ‘witches’. Whereas before, their policy had been to deny the veracity of supernatural powers attributed to or even the existence of witches, now witches became servants of darkness who worshipped the Devil and used magic to harm and to kill. The previous bigotry towards ‘heretics’, who held differing interpretations of the Bible, was now unleashed on all who practised folk magic (and many who did not). In Scotland, they did not burn them alive when found guilty of witchcraft (as was done on the continent), but rather strangled them first before burning their corpses (though there are reports of ‘witches’ being thrown off cliffs). Despite the holocaust that ensued throughout Europe into the beginning of the 18th Century (and later in some parts), some cunning folk survived and continued to be consulted by the common folk but were simply ignored for the most part by the medical establishment. The ‘Enlightenment’ had secularized science and medicine, and so druids and witches and all things ‘superstitious’ became memories of the past.

Druidism resurfaced in the 18th Century as a Welsh cultural movement, influenced by the work of Edward Williams and espousing a peculiar form of monotheism. The early Neo-Druid movement had a fraternal organization similar to freemasonry, though more recently, others have tried to discover more authentic Druidic practices. Druidism is a spiritual philosophy native to Europe and in places where Europeans form a majority, and is a tradition that can be incorporated into Wotanism. In contrast, ‘witchcraft’ is more of a method of experimenting with natural forces, which can be used for any purpose and is a cultural practice rather than a religion. ‘Wicca’ is a dualistic Neopagan religion that is based on a hotchpotch of European folk traditions and ceremonial magic, and is a universalist religion like Christianity. There are many New Age belief systems designed to trick you into thinking that you are reconnecting with your roots or the land, but still holding you in a modernist mindset. Our traditions are neither ancient nor modern, they are both since time is eternal, which is the cyclical view of the universe that was held by the druids.

Wulf Willelmson

A new beginning…

Greetings,

The Creed of Caledon has been established as a response to the alienation and dissatisfaction felt by white Scots in modern society. Our institutions no longer serve our best interests, our communities have become fragmented and our nation is without direction as to how to benefit our folk. Our politicians seem to think that we are incapable of ruling ourselves, and must either be governed by the old imperial ruin that is the UK, or by the new corporate mega-state, the EU.

We can no longer look to external institutions to ensure what is best for our people, and so the Creed of Caledon focuses our efforts inward to grow morally and spiritually, as well as outward towards building new communities and establishing bonds of friendship between our folk. Our nation is not based on borders or flags, but is within our blood, and our ancestral memories are written on the very land that we live on. We now have the choice to become free folk, through reclaiming our heritage and by practicing the traditions of our forebears and adjusting them to the perilous times in which we live. We have no interest in being a political movement, as all attempts to change the broken system that have governed our lives within the past century have failed.

Our philosophy is known as ‘Wotanism’ and is based on the teachings of David Lane and Ron McVan, through we make no pretence to see men as gods or even holy in their own right, simply messengers who set an example for the rest of us through their words. Our specific practice is based on the surviving traditions and lore of the Germanic peoples, though unlike many ‘neopagan’ groups, we do not seek to relive the past or focus on a specific cultural group (such as Norse or Anglo-Saxon), but rather incorporate all of the cultures that have played a role in our history.

While our cultural outlook is predominantly Germanic, we acknowledge the importance of Gaelic culture in our past and present, as well as the vanished Picts and Britons whose memory still survives in our history and local place-names. Because of this, our particular strand of Wotanism is a syncretic mixture between Germanic and ‘Celtic’ elements, although the Germanic element is stronger simply to reflect the cultural reality that most of us speak a Germanic language and have done for hundreds of years. We feel that this will allow us to make our connection to the past more relevant to future generations.

We are at the dawn of a new age, the races of the world will be tested for their fitness to survive the coming storms. Only those who are determined enough in their will to carry on their seed for generations to come will pass the tests, and to do so we must do our utmost to improve ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. The gods are there to offer us a hand, but they will not do the work for us. We must strive to strengthen our bonds not just with them, but with the spirits of our ancestors, the wights that inhabit the land and the plants and animals that will be our fellow survivors who emerge from the wreckage of the old world. The internet has allowed us access to the information that we need to endure the coming struggle, now we can work to lay the foundations of a new society that is based on the Aryan ethics of trust, honesty and loyalty. I look forward to writing many posts for this website.

Wulf Willelmson