by Kriselda Jarnsaxa Grey
Updated July 2020
About twenty years ago, after having studied Wicca for several years but never quite feeling at home there, I began learning about Asatru (which is now most often called Heathenry). One of the biggest stumbling blocks I ran across involved the various viewpoints on race that I found among people claiming to be Asatruars.
To try to help clarify things – largely for myself – I wrote down descriptions of the main variations I’d run across. I received some positive feedback from friends I shared it with, so I decided to polish it up and post it for anyone who was interested.
At the time, I was known first as Jarnsaxa Falki-Geraldsdottir, which quickly changed to Jarnsaxa Thorskona (like I said, I was a former Wiccan and a newbie 🙂 ) and I was pretty much a “universalist” (probably level 2 on the scale below). Any kind of association – even an indirect one – between “my” Asatru and what the most blatant racists were preaching made me extremely skittish. It had taken me almost five years to be willing to even acknowledge that Asatru was the path that fit me best because I didn’t want to be inadvertantly thought of as a racist. When I wrote the scale, I had included viewpoints at both extremes because I wanted people to be aware that they might run into people claiming they were Asatruars promoting those viewpoints, but it never occurred to me that anyone would try to use the scale to “validate” their viewpoints. Imagine my horror, then, when I disovered some of the most virulent racists were posting messages about how ‘even a ‘universalist’ was saying that their viewpoint (#6) was a valid variant of Asatru’!
So, of course, I did what any panicky newbie would do and tried to get the scale off of as many websites as I could, changed my name to Kriselda Jarnsaxa, and did everything else I could to disassociate myself from the damnable thing.
I’ve grown a lot since then, and after a recent period of walking away from any kind of active spiritual life (another story for another time), I’ve returned to the fold, so to speak, and have decided that one thing I’m going to do this time is own my work. Interestingly, I’ve found that after several years of periodically checking search engines to make sure the scale was staying “dead”, I’ve discovered several new references to it and even some conversation threads about it on places like Beliefnet – and part of me has felt really proud that it seems there are those who have found it to be a useful tool to help explain their own beliefs to others. I never really thought of it being used that way, but seeing it, I think it’s really pretty cool.
What is it?
The Jarnsaxa Scale is an informal scale of racial and cultural tolerances in Heathenry written by Kriselda Jarnsaxa (known as Jarnsaxa Thorskona when the scale was originally written). Please attribute any copying or publishing of this scale appropriately.
As in all organized religions, there are issues in Heathenry where not all of the practitioners are of one mind. Sadly, one of the most contentious issues in Heathenry revolves around whether the religion is open to people who are not of Northern European racial and/or cultural heritage. Not surprisingly, this is an issue that is very emotionally charged and it is often difficult to conduct civil discussions on the various positions that are held. To try and remove some of the emotionalism that often accompanies this topic and try to help clarify what the range of viewpoints are, I have created a fairly basic scale that provides summaries of the most common viewpoints I have encountered or been otherwise aware of. To that end, I’ve tried to write the descriptions from the perspective of one who holds that viewpoint while using as little inflammatory language as possible, even at the extreme ends of the scale.
Validity of Included Viewpoints
Inclusion of a viewpoint on this scale does not mean that is in any way accepted as a “valid” viewpoint by the Heathen community in general, only that there are people who call themselves Heathen and hold that particular viewpoint.
1 – Heatherny is an open religion which anyone can join. There are, however, certain things that must be done in certain ways, certain points of theology that must be strictly adhered to and certain beliefs that must be held. Anyone who doesn’t agree with all of these points simply isn’t Tru and can be deemed “traitors” to the Gods. One of these points that everyone must agree to is that Heathenry is open to people of all races, and those who believe otherwise are not welcome and should be actively denounced so that there is no confusion of their beliefs with those of real Heathens. I will only worship alongside those who follow the same beliefs.
2 – Anyone who wants to become Heathen can, regardless of racial or cultural history. Individuals have the freedom to choose any religion to follow, and I will defend and uphold that right. All are welcome to my Kindred and I will worship alongside any Tru man or woman.
3 – As the ties to Aesir and Vanir are often ties to our ancestors (racial, cultural or ethnic), it is more unusual for those of non-Northern European heritage to be Heathens, but is it not impossible. I accept that the Gods and Goddesses will call to them whomever they choose and will worship alonside any Tru man or woman.
4 – Only those of Northern European background can truly follow the path of Heathenry. This does not imply that people of other races are in any way “less” than those of Northern European heritage, only that they are different. All races and ethnic groups are equal in freedom to make a life of worth, and the theologies and pantheons that are connected to a non-Northern European heritage are every bit as valid and important as Heathenry. By the same token, all non-Northern European ethnic paths are just as closed to me as Heathenry is to others. I feel it is of greatest value to follow the path of your cultural and ethnic background, as these forces have had a great impact on who you are. Because I acknowledge and respect the validity of the various paths, however, I am willing to worship with those who respect our Gods but are not of our path or ethnic group, and will certainly worship with any Tru man or woman.
5 – Only those of Northern European heritage can be Heathen, and Northern European races should separate from all other races. This does not imply that people of other races are in any way “less” than those of Northern European heritage, only that they are different and that we have an obligation to keep the Northern European blood pure in honor of our Gods. There may even be merit in allying with other races who also value the separation of racial and ethnic groups and relgious paths. I will only worship alongside those who are also of Northern European heritage.
6 – Only those of Northern European heritage can be Heathen and the European races and ethnic groups are superior to all other races and ethnic groups. Aryans are the only true humans, and as such have an obligation to keep the racial and ethnic blood pure. If the only way to achieve this is to rid the world of lesser races, then so be it. Only true Aryans can worship the Aesir and Vanir.
Well, for better or worse, there it is. It’s mine, and I’m going to “own” it.
Update September 2016: I’ve made one small edit. On level 3, I’d originally written that “it is more difficult for those of non-Northern European heritage to be Asatru, but it is not impossible.” Following a suggestion posted in the discussion at Beliefnet, I have changed it to “it is more unusual…” I thought the poster made a good point in that “difficulty” wasn’t really the best way to express that.
Update July 2020: Minor corrections made for clarity but nothing that changes the meaning or context.
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