Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

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Heathen Symbol or Hate Symbol?

Resources for the disambiguation of Heathen symbols vs. hate symbols. TW: discussion of racism

This is a resources and links page for how to tell the difference between a religious symbol being used by heathens and a hate symbol being used by neonazis or white supremacists. There are several different symbol guides linked from this page. Using the various symbol guides requires more than looking up a suspect symbol; it also requires taking context into account. For example, once while screening applications I ran across the version of Othala with wolves attached to the lower legs of the symbol. The first time I saw this symbol, I wondered: is it the footed Othala used by Nazis or is it just the regular Othala but with wolves? I used a reverse image search (the Chrome extension) to find the origin of the symbol, and found the page of the artist who designed it. The page had many pagan and heathen artworks, none of which looked like neonazi or white supremacist symbols. The artist's statement on his website was an unobjectionable, pretty standard pagan statement. I concluded the Othala-with-wolves symbol's resemblance to the footed Othala was just a coincidence. The context provided by the artist's other artworks and artist statement helped me interpret that image.

Symbol Guides

There are several publicly available guides to hate symbols. The best one is maintained by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL.) Many of the other guides are overly broad and misidentify actual heathen symbols as racist symbols. It is problematic when an overly broad guide is used by law enforcement, a mental health care system, etc., because it could cause discrimination against religious minorities. Preventing discrimination against religious minorities is something the ADL cares about, which is why they have taken care to make their guide better in that respect than other publicly available guides. ADL’s hate symbol database: https://www.adl.org/hatesymbolsdatabase 

The guide in this link comes from Deseret News, which is a publication of the Mormon church. It's not perfect, and includes some actual heathen symbols. It also includes a lot of numbers, some of which are used in a non racist manner by other groups and individuals. Context matters. If you see one of these numbers, and nothing else, it may not mean much. If you see one of these numbers combined with other possibly racist symbols, it is more likely to indicate a white power or neonazi gang member. http://cdn.deseretnews.com/media/photos/symbhate.pdf

This is a guide to symbols and flags used by modern fascist groups. It is produced by an antifa group, and although it isn't perfect either, it is particularly useful for showing some European symbols that Americans may not recognize, such as the Falangist symbol. https://brightonantifascists.com/.../guide-to-far-right.../

Disambiguation of traditional swastika symbols from Nazi versions: https://noriohayakawa.wordpress.com/.../the-difference.../

The Nazi font, Gebrochene Grotesk:  As with many of the other images in the various linked guides, context and good judgment are important. Someone might use that font thinking it's just basically an old fashioned font, or generally German looking. The Nazi font has become so identified with German culture that people use it for restaurant menus to try to sell sausages. But if the person using it ALSO have some of the other iffy images, take that context into account. This link is in German: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gebrochene_Grotesk

I didn’t include any guides that only show heathen symbols and not hate symbols. I didn't include the SPLC list because the ADL list is a better list covering the same ground. As I write this in spring of 2019, the SPLC is undergoing a leadership change, and there may be changes coming to their site, lists, structure, programs, etc. I also didn’t include any troll images, even though those are sometimes used as actual hate symbols. A good explanation of how a hoax can go viral and start being used for real as a real hate symbol is found on this link: https://www.adl.org/blog/no-the-ok-gesture-is-not-a-hate-symbol 

Identifying gang symbols: This is what the Aryan Brotherhood gang logo looks like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan_Brotherhood

Prison tattoos: https://www.correctionsone.com/prison-gangs/articles/7527475-15-prison-tattoos-and-their-meanings/

 
Why did I collect these resources?

As the admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum, I developed a guide for the use of the Trollslayers (forum mods and admins) to screen membership applications. In order to keep neo-Nazis and white supremacists out of the group, the Trollslayers have to be able to identify them. I included a large section in the Trollslayers’ Guide on how to recognize hate symbols. The Guide also contains sections on other topics relevant to moderating an online forum.

 

Heathen anti-racism resources:

Heathens United Against Racism (Facebook page): https://www.facebook.com/pg/HeathensUnited/about/?ref=page_internal

Heathens Against Hate video: https://www.heathensagainst.org/attending2018powr

Declaration 127: http://www.declaration127.com/

Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry: https://inclusiveheathenry.com/


Resources for what to do if you witness or are a victim of a hate crime:

Victim Connect: https://victimconnect.org/learn/types-of-crime/hate-crimes/

FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes

 

 Image: question marks inside a question mark, public domain

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners. An updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path, is coming in 2020 from Red Wheel / Weiser. Erin was sworn to Freya as Priestess in 1989, given to Sigyn, and is a Bride of Odin and his brothers (Honir, Lodhur, Loki.). She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, is gythia of American Celebration Kindred, and admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office. She is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press for 5 years, created the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.

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