Calling All Heathens
Are there more Norse in Australia than in Sweden?
That’s what the results of the Worldwide Heathen Census show so far. There are also more self-described “heathens” in Brazil than in Sweden.
Curious. Brazil is a country that many Nazis moved to after World War II – a fact made famous by the novel The Boys From Brazil.
To be a heathen, in contemporary terms, is not the same thing as to be a neopagan, or a Wiccan. According to Dr. Karl E.H. Seigfried, the organizer of the Worldwide Heathen Census, the term “heathen” refers specifically to people who seek to restore a version of pre-Christian Northern European religion. He places the following groups under the “heathen” label: Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Ásatrú, Asatro, Firne Sitte, Forn Sed, Forn Siðr, Germanic Heathenry, Germanic Neopaganism, Germanic Paganism, Heathenism, Heathenry, Norse Paganism, Norse Religion, Northern Tradition, Odinism, Old Way, Theodism, Urglaawe, Vanatru.
Notice the emphasis on German identity? Though most heathens are not Nazis, there has been some association between some bands of heathens with Nazi organizations and racism in general. By far, most of the heathens self-reporting through this census so far are in the United States. Germany comes in second.
Dr. Seigfried explains that the census he has designed is only seeking out pure heathens, not heathens who mix an admiration, or even worship, of Norse gods with traditions from other parts of the world. He writes, in his instructions for the census, “If you self-identify as a heathen and heathenry is your primary expression of faith and religion, please participate – we need you to respond for this census to be at all accurate. If your core religious identity is as someone who practices any variation of Germanic paganism, as someone who honors the Æsir and the Vanir, as someone who follows the Old Way in the modern world – we need you to add your voice to this survey. However, if you practice a form of eclectic paganism that includes Germanic deities among veneration of a broad range of figures from other paths – please do not participate in this particular project. If you venerate the Norse gods as merely one part of a more generalized pagan practice – please do not submit an entry in the survey. We respect your choice, but it is simply not what this particular survey is about.”