Ancestor veneration need not entail a focus on biological ancestry, but inclusive Heathens are troubled that white supremacists are attracted to Heathenry because of a perceived connection between ancestor veneration and pride in ancestry. The Canadian Heathens of Raven’s Knoll identify themselves as inclusive, and endeavor to exclude racists from their groups and events. Previous research has often distinguished between folkish (often racist) versus universalist (not racist) practitioners of Heathenry or Ásatrú. Inclusive Heathens welcome people of all backgrounds so long as they do not discriminate against others on the basis of spurious categories such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. Inclusive Heathens venerate a variety of ancestors, not just ancestors of blood or biological ancestors, but also ancestors of affinity or imagination, and ancestors of place. This contributes to a sense of relatedness and moral community beyond the intrahuman, and the development of ecological conscience at Raven’s Knoll.

Heathenry is a type of Neopaganism that revives and reimagines premodern traditions of northern Europe, often characterized as Old Norse society or caricatured as “Vikings,” but may be inspired by English, Frankish, Germanic, Baltic, and other traditions. Some previous research identifies this new religious movement as Ásatrú, or Norse or Germanic Paganism, but practitioners in Canada refer to themselves as Heathen, and this nomenclature for the subgroup is increasingly preferred in Pagan studies literature.1

Heathens from several kindreds (small Heathen groups somewhat like covens in Wicca, another form of Neopaganism) as well as families and individuals from Ontario and Quebec regularly participate in Heathen festivals and engage in ritual practices together at Raven’s Knoll, a private campground and spiritual retreat center established in 2010 in eastern Ontario, Canada. The largest of the Heathen festivals held there is Hail and Horn Gathering, which draws up to about 100 participants each year. The people who regularly participate in Heathen events at Raven’s Knoll form a community of practice, which I refer to in this work as “the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll.” Members of this community also participate in rituals together at other Heathen events at Raven’s Knoll such as Stave and Spindle, as well as Well and Tree Gathering, which is run by Heathens.

I conducted participant observation with these Heathens from 2018 to 2019 for a study investigating how environmental values are fostered by Heathen ritual. This fieldwork included thirty recorded semi-structured interviews, as well as many more informal discussions at events.2 Early on in this research, I found that ancestor veneration is an important ritual practice for Heathens. It also became apparent that I would need to address a misconception that Heathenry is tied to racism fostered by the focus of early researchers on racist practitioners in the United States, which created an anchoring bias (the tendency of initial research to set a baseline for expectations about future findings). Having to discuss racism in Heathenry today is somewhat like having to discuss Satanism when talking about Wicca in the 1980s during the “Satanic panic,” except some Heathens really are racist.3 While racism is not part of most Heathen practice, it is so associated with it by outsiders that it has to be addressed.4 For some Heathens ancestor veneration may entail a sense of pride in “white” ancestry, but identification with far right values is not prevalent among the Heathens included in this study, nor Heathens more generally. Ancestor veneration among the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll embodies the value of inclusion rather than supremacy or separatism.

The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll identify themselves as “inclusive” Heathens, meaning that they welcome people of all backgrounds to participate in their events, so long as they do not exclude or discriminate against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.5 Early literature on Ásatrú and Heathenry, following scholar of radical religion Jeffrey Kaplan, notes a divide between racist and nonracist practitioners, often characterized as “folkish” and “universalist,” respectively.6 The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll use the term “inclusive” to distinguish themselves from “folkish” and racist practitioners. They identify themselves as “the Folx” at events, an inclusive adaptation of “folks” meaning the people assembled, and generally do not use the term “universalist” to identify themselves. However, they repeatedly emphasize that all are welcome at their events, and they consistently reference support for the value of inclusivity in their rituals. Inclusion is a higher standard than tolerance; it requires welcoming diversity and making space for differences.7 In the words of the Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance, inclusion requires people to “look to not just tolerate, but to welcome LGBTQ, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in our own communities, and the communities in which we live.”8 The aim is to create a community culture in which all feel welcome and able to participate.

Ancestor veneration is common among Neopagans and Heathens internationally, and among American Heathens.9 It is also an important practice for Heathens in Canada. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll give offerings of food and drink to ancestors in home-based practices, and sometimes together with others in kindreds, and on occasion offer toasts to ancestors as part of group rituals in kindreds and larger events such as Hail and Horn Gathering. When I asked the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll about the potential of ancestor veneration to promote racism their answers revealed an important difference between inclusive Heathens’ practices of ancestor veneration, and what they see as a misplaced pride in ancestry and ethnic heritage among “folkish” Heathens.10

While the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll welcome practitioners of all ethnicities, most participants at Heathen events at Raven’s Knoll appear to be white, although some Indigenous people and people of color participate regularly.11 Half of the group who facilitates the organization of Hail and Horn Gathering have some Indigenous heritage—one of the women, Maryanne Pearce is part Mohawk and the other, Chantal Layoun is French Canadian, Lebanese, and Anishinaabe—but they did not grow up in contact with Indigenous community. Their partners, who make up the other half of the facilitators, are Austin Lawrence, who is Danish- and British-Canadian, and Erik Lacharity, who is French Canadian. Participation in Hail and Horn does not show any obvious gender divide, attracting about equal numbers of men and women. All Raven’s Knoll events are open to new participants, who must sign an agreement accepting the inclusive nature of these events and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of the items included in the Ontario Human Rights Code, which are “age; ancestry, colour, or race; citizenship; ethnic origin; place of origin; creed; disability; family status; relationship status; gender identity or gender expression; receipt of public assistance; sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding); and, sexual orientation.”12 Participants who violate this agreement can be asked to leave without refund, enforced by volunteer staff for the event.

Practitioners’ self-identification as inclusive and agreements to uphold the ideal of inclusion do not, of course, mean that there are no problems with inclusivity in this community. It is a publicly stated value, and an ideal pursued in practice, if imperfectly achieved. As well as being inclusive of various ethnicities, the Heathen community of Raven’s Knoll includes people of various sexual orientations and gender identities, some of whom serve in prominent leadership positions, such as gythia (female ritual leader) Jade Pichette, who is a nonbinary femme. The 2017 #HavamalWitches campaign, which drew attention to sexism in Heathenry, originated among the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll, initially with the gythias Brynja Clark and Jade Pichette, and was mostly directed outward in response to online behavior of Heathens beyond the local Heathen community, but some criticisms were directed within the Raven’s Knoll community. Brynja and Jade expressed frustration with men speaking over women and sexist stereotyping of the goddess Freya and created some memes and aired some grievances online with the hashtag “#HavamalWitches,” which subsequently started trending internationally on social media.13 I found it noteworthy that what was evident in discussion at Hail and Horn Gathering was largely self-criticism.

Dealing with racists who are attracted to Heathenry because of a perceived association of it with pride in Germanic or white ancestry is an ongoing problem for inclusive Heathens in Canada and other countries. Like many other Neopagans, the inclusive Heathens of Raven’s Knoll engage in ancestor veneration, but not as a celebration of racialized ancestry. As much as inclusive Heathens wish it were not the case, there is some overlap between white supremacist movements and Heathenry. While this is perhaps most frequently encountered online, it is evident also in face-to-face encounters. White supremacists adopted the Nazi “blood and soil” slogan that associated ancestral lineage with place, along with a belief in racial purity, and the superiority of those with Germanic heritage, presumed to be white, in the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally in which counter-protestor Heather Heyer was killed by a Neo-Nazi.14 Some participants in that rally used the Othala rune (a letter from a pre-Christian Germanic script that is shaped somewhat like an angular version of the Greek letter omega), and the Valknut (a set of three interlocked triangles associated with the Heathen god Odin), in support of white supremacism. Neither of these symbols is inherently racist, but white supremacists have adopted them as signifiers of their identity.15 While inclusive Heathens such as those of Raven’s Knoll might hope that racist use of these symbols is spurious rather than the result of religious identity, some Heathens are white supremacists.

After long dissembling about his views on race, Stephen McNallen (b. 1948), former leader of the Asatru Free Assembly, and later the Asatru Folk Assembly in the United States, publicly acknowledged his support for “the 14 words” and a need to defend “the white race” against extinction in a 2017 YouTube video, claiming that this is not a white supremacist view.16 The “14 words” are the slogan “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” composed by the convicted terrorist David Lane (1938–2007) who cofounded The Order, commonly known as the Aryan Resistance Movement. McNallen advocates the use of violence to secure the survival of “the white race” in his YouTube video, while claiming not to be racist. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll regard him not only as an embarrassment to Heathenry, but an active danger in recruiting practitioners into racist ideology.17

Although inclusive and folkish Heathens may share a sense of attachment to place and a common identity as Heathens, how they understand and express this connection is not the same. Speaking against the “Mexican” presence in California, Stephen McNallen wrote, “We must sink down roots in the soil, and insist on our right to be here.…Our forebears fought and died to carve out this place in the world, and we will not give it up.”18 This was in an essay originally distributed in The Runestone, a newsletter distributed by the Asatru Free Assembly. As religion scholar and Heathen specialist Jefferson Calico notes regarding this text, “McNallen’s rhetoric of soil and roots harkens to the blood and soil, ‘Blut und Boden’ language of völkisch Germany.”19 Despite continuing to deny such associations with Nazi ideology, The Asatru Folk Assembly recently purchased two small town churches, one in Murdoch, Minnesota, and the other in Linden, North Carolina, to operate as “whites only” religious groups.20

Racism in Heathenry has been a focus of much previous research.21 American Heathen sociologist Jennifer Snook lamented this focus, but in her recent study found racism continues to be a problem in American Heathen practice.22 Often research on racism in Heathenry centers on the United States. German professor of modern Scandinavian literature Stephanie von Schnurbein’s study of modern Heathenry Norse Revival, covers more territory, ranging from the early Romantics to the present in Europe and America. She negatively associates any holistic account of a Germanic past that presents a unity of place, language, and history with racism, and finds most reconstruction of Germanic Paganism to be problematic at best in the uninformed use of pro-Nazi sources.23

The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll are not complacent about racism, and as a researcher I do not want to minimize issues of white supremacism in Heathenry, but I also want to be clear that most Heathens do not hold white supremacist views. Heathens are significantly more likely to identify their political orientation as “progressive” than the general population. In December of 2017 I conducted an international survey, via Survey Monkey, of Heathens and other Neopagans (n = 643, purposive sample)24 and compared this with Canadians (n = 241, random sample). This survey found that Heathens are no more likely to identify as alt-right than other Neopagans or the general population. About 2% of all samples, including the random sample of Canadians, identified their political orientation as alt-right. Heathens identified as liberal at about the same rate as other Neopagans (20% and 19%, respectively), with the largest percentage of Heathens identifying their political orientation as progressive (30%, compared to 25% of other Neopagans), significantly more than in the random sample (2%). While the term “alt-right” may have quickly faded as a self-identifier, it was current in 2017 at the time of my survey.25 Helen Berger similarly found in her most recent survey of Neopagans that Heathens are, like other Pagans, more likely to be progressive than the general public, and less likely to identify with the far right than the general public.26 While it is possible that more people support far right views than are willing to say so even in anonymous surveys, the available statistics indicate that Heathens are more likely to hold progressive views than far right or conservative ones. Yet there is a persistent, vocal minority of Heathens who are both very socially conservative and active proselytizers.

The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll encounter racist Heathens more often online than in person, but when first meeting people face-to-face who want to join local kindreds, they screen people carefully to keep racists out.27 Jade Pichette, a frequent leader of events at Raven’s Knoll, responded to this problem in 2016 by spearheading “The Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance.” This broadens the anti-racist “Declaration 127” by Huginn’s Heathen Hof, an international Heathen website, developed in response to racist attitudes publicly supported by the Asatru Free Assembly in the United States.28 “Declaration 127” cites verse 127 of the Hávamál, part of the Old Norse text Poetic Edda that many Heathens regard as an important source of inspiration, which reads: “When you see misdeeds, speak out against them, and give your enemies no frið.” To give “no frið” (frith) means to give them no peace, and to exclude them from the community. Inclusive Heathens take a clear stance against racism because they feel strongly about differentiating themselves from Heathens who support white supremacy. Of course, practitioners do not always sort themselves neatly into categories but span the political spectrum of possibilities from participating in acts of overt racism, to variations on constructing an ahistorical identity of whiteness or European heritage that may or may not entail excluding people of color from their groups, to ethnic traditions in specific European countries, to apolitical Heathens who do not want to think about race and/or want to separate religion from politics, to passive unreflective supporters of the status quo, to progressive Heathens who advocate for inclusion, and Heathens who are actively involved in anti-racist politics.

The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll fear that ancestor veneration within Heathenry can promote racialized consciousness (a sense of identity constructed around being white) and contribute to racist ideas in Heathenry. They fear that racist Heathens focus on ancestry as a means of promoting their own ethnic identity as white or European and want to distance themselves from those who advocate excluding people of color from Heathenry. For the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll ancestor veneration is about recognizing what they have been given, worthy deeds, and what they pass on. It is not pride in ancestry and ethnic heritage that motivates them. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll venerate their ancestors as an expression of gratitude for what they have received from others and the opportunities afforded by the circumstances of their lives. They express a sense of responsibility to give in turn. Racist Heathens seem to make ancestry about self-aggrandizement, rather than appreciation for what ancestors have given and a sense of obligation to ancestors and future generations.

The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll fear that ancestor veneration may contribute to racism in Heathenry when people who are racist are drawn to the idea of celebrating ethnic heritage, but indicate that this is not what ancestor veneration is about for inclusive Heathens. Nicole Butler, host of the popular Facebook page The Heathen Underground, and a gythia active in the Raven’s Knoll community of Heathens, suggested that ancestor veneration has a different meaning for folkish Heathens than it does for inclusive Heathens because folkish Heathens use the celebration of European ancestry as a weapon to exclude others.29 Aesc Adams, Nicole’s partner, and cohost of The Heathen Underground, concurred that folkish Heathens weaponize ethnicity. He noted that ancestry is one of the first things that folkish Heathens bring up in conversation online, and it underlies almost everything they say. They show a “massive sense of pride that really is unjustified in that they are claiming exclusivity and superiority based upon an accident of birth, or a particular skin tone.” In contrast, Aesc and Nicole emphasized their felt need to take actions and perform deeds to make their ancestors proud of them. Aesc said that folkish Heathens invert this to make pride in ancestry the focus, rather than doing things that they hope will make their ancestors proud of them.30

When I asked Austin “Auz” Lawrence, gothi (male ritual leader) and co-owner of Raven’s Knoll, whether he thought ancestor veneration contributes to the development of racialized consciousness or racism, or works against it, he said that he thinks ancestor veneration can be a contributing factor. Racist ideology became embedded in Heathenry through racist appropriations of folklore in nationalist agendas of the early modern era, and this, he says, leads people to overemphasize ancestry for a sense of validation. It appeals to people’s desire for belonging and authenticity. Auz recognizes that a desire to feel authentic in one’s religious practice may lead people to seek out Heathenry with an ethnocentric focus. People are drawn to it because they have a desire to adopt a pre-Christian religion and cannot ethically appropriate Indigenous traditions. He explained that when people of European descent reject Christianity, pre-Christian traditions appeal to some as a politically correct alternative to adopting the religious practices of other cultures, which pushes some to adopt what they see as an ancestral religion: “But the strange thing is, then you are put in the place of racism. You’re put in a place where ethnicity and race matter when you get into ancestor worship.”31

Most people do not have an academically informed understanding of race as a variable social construct rather than a quantifiable biological reality, and as Auz says, may unreflectively get caught up in a focus on biological ancestry. His mixed ancestry is important to his Heathenry, but this does not mean his ancestry is an uncritical source of pride. His Danish background through his mother is the result of immigration following World War II, but most of his British ancestors participated in colonization because they arrived in New England with the Puritan migrations. He is also part Finno-Ugric through his patriline (identified by a Y-haplogroup genetic test), which may be the result of distant Sámi heritage or, as he says, a “proverbial Finnish milkman” somewhere in his family tree. He remarked, “You’re never pure, and that’s one of the things, being a person whose ancestors were oppressive, and a lot of the Heathen groups were oppressive. Look in my very self—I’m probably the descendant of a slave, oppressed by another ethnic group.”32 Auz was here alluding to the likelihood that his patriline test results showing Finno-Ugric ancestry indicate that he has Sámi ancestors due to the enslavement of Sámi people by his Danish ancestors. While he is pleased to have some Finno-Urgic genetic heritage, having Finno-Urgic ancestors does not automatically entitle him to claim a Sámi or another Finno-Urgic ethnicity, and reminds him of the complex ethnic and moral relationships that existed between his ancestors, and now in his relationship with them. Practitioners often want a tribal sense of belonging, and to practice what would have been the Indigenous traditions of their ancestors, and part of the appeal of being Heathen can come from a desire to be Indigenous. But their ancestors are likely a mix of oppressors and oppressed, and most Heathen practitioners in Canada benefit from systemic racism, as Auz says, because of the European ancestry most practitioners share. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll are aware of this, and self-critical in their desire to be inclusive.

The supposition of folkish Heathens that their ancestors would have identified as white is anachronistic. Recent genetic testing of human remains from archeological sites in Scandinavia indicate that populations were genetically diverse, and Viking society was much more multicultural than folkish practitioners believe.33 Jade indicated that the “warped sense of ancestry” that folkish Heathens espouse comes from colonization. Before colonization, the concept of race did not exist. It was: “Are you tribe or not? If you’re tribe, you’re tribe. Period.” Alluding to stories in Norse literature that indicate positive interaction between different cultures, Jade remarked that “there’s plenty in terms of the lore that directly counteracts racist ideology, but I don’t think people look that deep.” Expressing anger and frustration with racist Heathens, Jade said that ancestor veneration is not unique to Heathens but common around the world, and it is about more than Heathen origins.34

Ancestor veneration need not have anything to do with racism and need not be limited to biological ancestors. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll understand ancestors in an inclusive sense beyond the biological, evidencing conceptual overlaps between different sorts of ancestors and a sense of kinship that transcends the human. More than one way to categorize ancestors makes sense for this community. There are named ancestors recognized as individual family members who have passed on, and collective ancestors whose names are not recalled. The dísir, understood in this context as female ancestors,35 can be thought of in multiple ways: my grandmother and great aunts whose names I know, but also all of the mothers who came before me in my ancestral line, or all of the women of my community (however imagined) who have passed on. Psychologist Daniel Foor provides another way of categorizing ancestors as ancestors of blood (biological ancestors), ancestors of affinity (those who one feels an affiliation with, such as historic role models), and ancestors of place (meaning those of the original peoples of the land who may or may not be biological relations).36 The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll regard ancestors in an inclusive sense recognizing named and collective biological relations, ancestors of affinity or imagination, and ancestors of place.

Blood ancestors are those we identify as genetically related to us, and it is often these who are venerated by name by the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll, but not always or exclusively. These are the ancestors to whom practitioners typically give offerings of food and drink, either at home or sometimes at burial sites. Nicole indicated that “for me, the ancestors that are important to my practice are my grandfather, and both of my grandmothers, my maternal and paternal grandmother.…I was very close to my grandfather, and I think I honor him more frequently than I honor my grandmothers.” Aesc said that he thinks named ancestors are more significant than those who are more distant and whose names have been forgotten, but notes that even those more distant relations matter because without them “we would not be where we are today.” Ancestor veneration is important because the ancestors “have a stake in you succeeding and living a good life, whereas the gods kind of don’t. They’re…not as personally invested in you as your ancestors are.”37 When I asked Auz what ancestors are important to his religious practice, he also mentioned known relatives, such as his “bestmore,” the grandmother who was a household member when he was growing up.38

Sometimes named or known biological ancestors are not the ones venerated, or people have reservations about venerating their ancestors for ethical reasons. Jade explained that although honoring their39 known ancestors is important to them, they struggle with the fact that those ancestors include French colonizers, as well as some Indigenous people. Jade was careful to clarify that they do not identify as Indigenous because they were not raised in contact with Indigenous community, but they do honor their Indigenous ancestors.

Both of my paternal lines, so my dad’s mother’s line and my dad’s dad’s line, both of them do have different Indigenous ancestry within them, to the extent that on…my grandmother’s side there are sections of the family that actually have status [a legal designation as First Nations people in Canada]. But I’ve always been so disconnected from that that it is not something that I would personally claim for myself. But it does mean that when I do some of my ancestral practices, I also honor that lineage. And the fact that…I’m standing on unceded Indigenous territory, and that those ancestors, even if they aren’t my direct ancestors, are still here, they’re still present, and should still be honored.40

Jade is uncomfortable with the idea of honoring their French ancestors who imposed colonization on their Indigenous ancestors, but gives offerings to more recently deceased relatives, such as their grandfathers.

American Troth member Patricia Lafayllve notes that the “deliberate forgetting of an ancestor” is appropriate for those who were abusive, which is a topic that has come up for discussion among Jade’s kindred at their annual event honoring female ancestors.41 Intergenerational discussion has in some cases prompted re-evaluation of previous judgements of older relatives, acknowledging, for example, that parents have generally done the best they could, but there seems to be some agreement that ancestors who were abusive should not be venerated and are owed nothing in death.

For the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll, community membership is not about biological ancestry, so it makes sense that not only biological ancestors are venerated. Nicole and Aesc spoke of including “chosen family” in the ancestors they venerate. Jade affirmed that ancestor veneration goes beyond blood, saying, “I also believe in the importance of recognizing people as your ancestors who aren’t your blood ancestors.” They explained that it is not only our blood relations that give us life and shape us. They gave the example of adoption, saying it fits within a Heathen worldview in that “if you are adopted into a family, you are family. Period.”42 This idea is present in Norse mythology with figures such as Skaði and Loki becoming part of the AEsir family of gods. For the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll, chosen family, just as adopted family, become kin. Jade mentioned specifically including the partner of a former partner in their offerings, saying, “I honor him as one of my ancestors because of the impact he had on me. We are not blood in any way, but he still had an impact on me, and so I still honor him as an ancestor.”

Jade also recognizes historical figures from other communities they belong to, such as the queer community, as ancestors: “I’ve done offerings to Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who are the Latina and Black trans women who helped start the Stonewall riots in New York City, which led to the gay rights movement.…[A]ncestors are not just blood.”43 When I interviewed Jade, I mentioned Foor’s idea of ancestors of affinity, and they agreed that this term fits their experience of who people recognize as ancestors within Heathenry.

Auz mentioned the importance of what he called “imagined ancestors” in differentiating between the veneration of ancestors known by name and remembered, and more generalized ancestors in his practice. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll often give recently deceased relatives such as grandparents offerings of specific food and drink that they are known to have enjoyed in life, but Auz shared that while he sometimes makes offerings in this way and often makes toasts to them in the Heathen ritual known as sumbel, when he thinks of the ancestors he more often thinks of them in a generalized sense as those whose names have been forgotten. For him, these collective ancestors of the pre-Christian time period are more often what he thinks of as “the quintessential ancestor.” Auz said he often does not speak with others about how his practices and beliefs about ancestors differ due to of his position as gothi of Raven’s Knoll because he does not want people to feel that focusing on more recent ancestors is not also valid. However, he said, “I think back to imagined ancestors in my actual spiritual practice or meditation a lot more than I focus on a known ancestor.”44

Auz’s linking of the idea of “imagined ancestors” of the pre-Christian period to romantic ideas about the past brings to mind political scientist Benedict Anderson’s understanding of “imagined community” constructed through cultural convention rather than a consequence of biological kinship.45 Auz said that thinking about ancestors from this distant time period allows him to put himself into that place and time and “romantically engage with it in the present as part of my spiritual practice.”46 In including ancestors of affinity and imagined ancestors in their practices of veneration, the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll construct an imagined community that stretches beyond biological boundaries into the past.

When people venerate imagined ancestors, they become part of their imagined community, and part of their moral community, which matters for the development of ecological conscience. For the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll, the inclusivity of the honored dead goes beyond the human and encompasses other animals. When I asked Nicole and Aesc whether the idea of nonhuman ancestors made sense they agreed. Nicole said their dogs are part of their family, and it was the passing of one of their dogs, a white husky, that led to the family becoming Heathen. Nicole had been Pagan for some time, but Aesc had been an atheist. After their husky died, they buried him in their yard. Aesc found visiting his grave and talking to him spiritually moving, which led him to do research online, where he came across Heathenry. They named their hearth, their family-based Heathen group of practice, White Dog Hearth, in honor of this dog. As they became inspired more specifically by English Heathenry, and due to fears that the name “White Dog” might make others think that they were white supremacists, they changed the name to Hwitan Hund, which is “white dog” in early English. They covered the dog’s grave with stones, and this became their hearg, an outdoor altar made of piled stones. They regularly give him offerings of biscuits, dog treats, and peanut butter, which he enjoyed in life, on a flat stone there. They regard him as a protector and indicated that he is their fylgja.47 “Fylgjur” (singular “fylgja”) in Old Norse historical and literary sources appear as personal or familial guardians who may take animal form.48

Jade similarly indicated that “for me it’s ancestor worship whether they are human or not.” Jade has various bones and animal skulls that are important to their religious practice. They have crow, wolf, and cat skulls on their bedside altar, and periodically give offerings of blood to these as part of their caring for the bones.49 These were originally found items, or thrifted (bought second hand) items, that they received as gifts from other Heathens in the Raven’s Knoll community.50 These animals are part of Jade’s honored dead. In this way, ancestors shade into the honored dead more generally, who may include other animals. Those venerated in this Heathen practice are the honored dead in whatever form, not just biological ancestors.

When it comes to ancestors of place, the honored dead overlap with landvaettir (land wights),51 or powers of the land, in Heathen practice in the Raven’s Knoll community. Landvaettir might be categorized as genius loci, or land “spirits,” but I prefer to refer to these as “powers” or “forces” of nature because these do not indicate something incorporeal inhabiting nature but describe natural entities as themselves powerful. Overlapping connections between landvaettir and ancestors are especially evident with álfar, who are variously understood as elves, gnomes, nisse (Danish for “gnome”), and huldufólk (Icelandic for “hidden people”), which might all be classed as landvaettir, and sometimes ancestors of the original inhabitants of a place. Some practitioners regard álfar as the masculine form of dísir. However, Lafayllve indicates that historically there was no term for male ancestors.52 While she notes that some men are known as álfar (plural) after death, she indicates that “álf” (singular) does not always refer to the dead but can also refer to elves as other sorts of beings. Yet she does refer to álfar as the dead in the mound, associated with a specific place where ancestors are buried.53 Scottish Heathen anthropologist Jenny Blain indicates that “dökk-álfar” the “mound-elves,” have sometimes been confusingly translated as “dark elves,” but these álfar were understood to be ancestors.54 Prominent Troth member Diana Paxson equates álfar with “elves” and “ancestral spirits” in general.55 Religious studies scholar Jefferson Calico, following his American Heathen informants, refers to álfar as male ancestors.56

The meanings of “álfar” and “landvaettir” are variable in historical sources. As folklorist Terry Gunnell notes, these terms originated in oral traditions that do not have fixed meanings in the way that written sources later tend to standardize terms and construct logically consistent accounts.57 In early twelfth-century Iceland álfar and landvaettir were distinct. Originally álfar were associated with a particular geographic region in Sweden, and landvaettir were powers of the land in a collective sense, but over time, and with the multicultural settlement of Iceland, álfar became equated with elves.58 “Álf,” unlike “dís,” seems to have started out referring to a named personage, possibly a circumlocution as the bright or shining one, and associated with godlike beings who may have been euhemerized ancestors.59 Both landvaettir and álfar are other than human persons, and both may be associated with ancestors, either who become powers of the land, or gods in passing on. Blain finds that “ancestors can be found in the landscape around—those ones who have lived in the places where you now lived, and of whom the land bears traces,” and the boundaries between ancestors, álfar, and landvaettir are not clear.60

Some of the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll use “álfar” to refer to male ancestors but acknowledge overlaps of meaning between landvaettir and ancestors of place. Aesc explained that whether the álfar, or elves, are a type of ancestor or other sort of entity is debated among Heathens and scholars of Old Norse literature and folklore. He remarked, “I guess I’m agnostic on that. I don’t know enough about it to really have an opinion. I don’t know whether that’s something that I believe as well.”61

Auz explains the variety of interpretations as a historical development, referencing how in Denmark the nisse (stereotypically pictured as somewhat like garden gnomes) were initially regarded as ancestors, and much later as elves or gnomes that might be conflated with house wights (household “spirits”) or landvaettir. When I asked Auz whether there are animal ancestors, he gave an extensive explanation of this that included a detailed description of the transformations of biological ancestors to ancestors of the land, to powers of the land. These entities blend together because originally people venerated their known ancestors, but as their names were forgotten, and people continued to give offerings where they were buried, what the practice meant changed over time. Eventually those who were perceived to be in the ground where the offerings were left came to be understood as álfar understood as divine powers, something like gods. But with Christianization the importance of these sort of entities diminished, and how the people imagined them diminutized them such that they eventually came to be perceived as nisse, household “spirits” or small human-like entities that wear cute pointy hats. People gave nisse cream and other food offerings in out-buildings on farms for luck, a tradition that has continued into modern times in Danish folk traditions with the Yule-nisse, a gnome-like figure given porridge with a big pat of butter at Christmas. Auz had a secular upbringing, but the Yule-nisse was still part of it, and he has a particular fondness for gnomes because of this link to pre-Christian tradition and its enduring cultural currency. He points out that the nisse were not demonized or perceived as threatening, so they never really went away, but instead changed over time.

Nowadays there is just the back corner of the garden the Germans have for the gnomes that they don’t cultivate. And then when you get back in time, and modern Norwegians, etc. if they have a household farm that has been in the family for generations they offer on a mound on the farm. And before that they would have actually offered to individual ancestors on that mound because it is a burial mound for a person.…So what we have is this known ancestor that you’re putting into a mound, that you are burying in the earth, and then you start to venerate that mound, that place. And then eventually you forget the name of the ancestor, and eventually…they become almost like a tutelary spirit of the family…becoming almost like a Valkyrie in certain parts of northern Norway. And they sort of get forgotten, the names, and you just get them as an álf or a dís…and eventually they become a gnome in your back garden. This is the transformation of an ancestor.…All those different ways along the path, I can relate to as ancestors.

These mound dwellers eventually became associated with ancestors of place in part because when the Norse migrated to different places, they found what looked like what they knew as álf mounds. Auz speculates that

the Norse came in and found mounds…like the megalithic mounds, and then they started venerating there because “this looks like an álf mound so we’re going to venerate at this mound” but it wasn’t their [biological] ancestors that were buried there…it was just that sense of the imagined connection to a place, so they became ancestors of place.62

If the “ancestors of place” are not one’s biological ancestors, it is easy to see how they can be associated with landvaettir, or powers of the land. This could happen even when the ancestors are one’s biological ancestors, but their names have been forgotten. At Raven’s Knoll they have erected a Standing Stone for the ancestors to evoke links with this long-term development that has passed through veneration of named ancestors, to veneration of collective ancestors, to veneration of the powers of places at megalithic monuments that seem to have been religious centers in the past. Ancestor veneration shades into veneration of the landvaettir when those given offerings are imagined as gnomes or álfar understood as elves.

There are also conceptual overlaps between ancestors and animals in that ancestors can appear as animals in dreams or visions, and landvaettir can refer to animals such as crows and squirrels that eat offerings left for ancestors and deities. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll say that when animals eat such offerings this means that the offerings have been accepted. This understanding is historically based, evidenced by the tenth-century writings of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, who was an attaché to a Muslim mission to the Volga River. Ibn Fadlan described such reasoning by the Rus, who were a population who migrated from what has become Sweden into the Volga region of what has become Russia.63 For the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll, the spirits of place form an “ecosystem” of other-than-human persons. Auz provides this explanation:

Wights, and the spirits of place are also animals, and they become part of an ecosystem with those generalized ancestors, and when you offer to the landvaettir you’re not just offering to one gnome. You’re also offering to different kinds of wights that are there, which are animals, so you have that overlap. It’s not exactly an ancestor, but they participate in that spiritual ecosystem. Same thing with álfar and dís. They are shapeshifters, like the gods.…They can take transformation and in dreams they are represented by animals. In visions they are represented by animals, and in that way personhood blends into animal, spiritness, when you get into the realm of the ancestors.…if you ask someone like myself about a vision and you say “was that an ancestor?”…well, it felt like it, but they didn’t have a human face.64

In Auz’s interpretation patterns of practice indicate that over time the meaning of terms shifts, and what were perceived as ancestors become identified with the land they are buried in, and in some sense equivalent to, or associated with the powers of place, either as house wights (household “spirits”) or landvaettir (genius loci). Human ancestors become ancestors of place and are identified with powers of the land, and can appear as animals.65

For the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll ancestor veneration is about honoring ancestors of various sorts, not only biological ancestors. It is not about celebrating one’s lineage as a means of elevating oneself, but rather honoring the worthy dead who have passed on. Ancestor veneration is an important part of their religious practice, but not all biological ancestors are venerated, and the dead who are venerated include those who are not blood ancestors. It is not about racial pride. The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll apply the value of inclusion to ancestors as well as fellow practitioners, and welcome all who want to participate in their events with the value of inclusion.

Ritual practices of making offerings to ancestors foster a sense of being part of a community that extends beyond the human and in time into the past, as well as the future. Giving offerings to ancestors helps generate a sense of obligation to an imagined community that includes the more-than-human world. Including nonhuman others in the shared sense of moral community contributes to the development of ecological conscience among the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll. Ancestor veneration can inspire a sense of connection to land and place as a spiritual and emotional home to which practitioners belong, rather than racist tropes of a homeland that is felt to be a birthright.

I am deeply grateful to Michael Strmiska and the editors of Nova Religio for providing detailed feedback that helped me improve this article.


Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth (New York: New York University Press, 1997); Jenny Blain, Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-shamanism in North European Paganism (London: Routledge, 2002); Jennifer Snook, American Heathens: The Politics of Identity in a Pagans Religious Movement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015); Helen Berger, Solitary Pagans: Contemporary Witches, Wiccans & Others Who Practice Alone (Columbia: South Carolina Press. 2019) use “Heathen” for the subgroup under discussion in this article. Michael Strmiska recommends “Nordic Paganism” in preference to “Heathen” in “Putting the Blood Back in the Blót: The Revival of Animal Sacrifice in Modern Nordic Paganism” The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 9.2 (2007): 154–189. Jefferson Calico uses both “Asatru” (an Icelandic term for the tradition) and “Heathen” in Being Viking: Heathenism in Contemporary America (Sheffield: Equinox, 2018). While I prefer the term “contemporary Paganism” in keeping with most scholars of Pagan studies, I here conform to editorial direction in using the term “Neopaganism.”


In most cases, participants opted to be identified in this research by their legal names, but some used names they are known by in the community or opted to use a pseudonym. Recorded interviews were conducted over Skype, with a few done via FaceTime or in person. These were done individually, except for one with a couple done together at their request. At editorial request I have removed myself from the discussion in this article, but for the sake of transparency in research I feel it necessary to acknowledge that I am scholar practitioner, having been Pagan for twenty-five years and Heathen since 2017, when I initially met the Heathen community this article focuses on. I am thankful to the Heathens of Raven’s Knoll for welcoming me into this community and allowing me to share their words.


“The Satanic Panic” refers to fears generated in the general public by sensationalist media reporting on supposed Satanists who abused children in rituals. These reports were generally unsubstantiated. Wiccans and other Pagans who identified as witches were mistakenly identified as Satanists in this moral panic, and Satanists incorrectly accused of ritual abuse. See Jenny Reichert and James T. Richardson, “Decline of a Moral Panic: A Social Psychological and Socio-Legal Examination of the Current Status of Satanism,” Nova Religio Volume 16.2 (2012): 47–63), doi:


A recent article in The Rolling Stone, for example, suggested that wearing a Mjolnir, or Thor’s hammer pendant, which many Heathens wear as a symbol of their religious identity, is an indication that the wearer is a white supremacist. Kim Kelly, “Is the ‘QAnon Shaman’ From the MAGA Capitol Riot Covered in Neo-Nazi Imagery?” The Rolling Stone, 8 January 2021.


The Troth, a Heathen organization in the United States, also identifies itself as inclusive. The Troth,, 2020. From what I know of Troth members in the United States and internationally from my participation in their online event Frith Forge 2020, they support similar political views to Heathens I have studied in Canada, but this article reports only on Heathens associated with Raven’s Knoll. Other antiracist Heathen organizations identified by Michael Strmiska include “Heathens Against Hate, Heathens United Against Racism, and the Alliance for Inclusive Heathenry, all of which stand in adamant opposition to racist and white nationalist versions of Norse Paganism.” Michael F. Strmiska, “Arguing with the Ancestors: Making the Case for a Paganism Without Racism Keynote Address” in Paganism and Its Discontents, eds. Holli S. Emore and Jonathan M. Leader (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2020), 12.


Jeffrey Kaplan, “The Reconstruction of the Ásatrú and Odinist Traditions” in Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft, ed. James R. Lewis (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 193–236.


Pedagogical and management literature show a similar shift in focus from increasing diversity to inclusion as a necessary practice to achieve that goal. See, Lynn M. Shore, Amy E. Randel, Beth G. Chung, Michelle A. Dean, Karen Holcombe Ehrhart, and Gangaram Singh, “Inclusivity and Diversity in Work Groups: A Review and Model for Future Research,” Journal of Management 37.4 (2011): 1262–1289. doi: 10.1177/0149206310385943.


Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance,, accessed 3 May 2018.


Michael Strmiska, ed., Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. 2005), 40; Adrian Ivakhiv, “The Revival of Ukrainian Native Faith” in Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, ed. Michael F. Strmiska (Santa Barbara: ABC Clio, 2005), 228; Jefferson Calico, Being Viking, 345.


“Folkish” is used as a self-descriptor by some Heathens, but here they appear as “the other” of inclusive Heathens. Undoubtedly some folkish Heathens would object to how inclusive Heathens characterize their position. For further discussion of folkish identity see Jennifer Snook, “The Construction of an Ethnic Folkway as Religio-ethnic Identity,” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 16.3 (2013): 52–76.


No one identified themself to me as Indigenous, but other practitioners identified two participants as Indigenous people. Asking people about their ethnicity is rarely socially acceptable and would be poorly received in this inclusive community.


As printed in the program for Hail and Horn Gathering, 2019. A similar statement appears in the 2017 and 2018 programs.


See Jade Pichette, “#HavamalWitches: We are the witches the Havamal warns you about” Spiral Nature (2 August 2017) The Hávamál is part of the Old Norse text Poetic Edda, and some Heathens regard it as an important behavior guide, but others criticize it for negative comments about women as witches.


See Michael Strmiska, “Pagan Politics in the 21st Century: ‘Peace and Love’ or ‘Blood and Soil’?” Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 20.1 (2018): 5–44, doi: 10.1558/pome.35632.


More recently, the events of 6 January 2021 at the US Capitol again put Heathen symbols in the spotlight with the prominent tattoos of QAnon supporter Jake Aleri (born Jacob Anthony Chansley). While he does not appear to have any other connection to Heathenry, his tattoos of a valknut, a tree that may represent Yggdrasil (the world tree in Norse mythology), and a Mjolnir may lead some to suppose he is Heathen. Drawing from various traditions, Aleri identifies himself as a “shaman,” and speaks of “having God on his side.” See Sophie Long, “Truth and God on his side” BBC News, 10 January,2021, Some describe the QAnon movement as “conspirituality” (see Susannah Crockford, “Q Shaman’s New Age-Radical Right Blend Hints at the Blurring of Seemingly Disparate Categories,” Religion Dispatches, 11 January 2021,


Calico, Being Viking, 211; Stephen McNallen, “What Stephen McNallen Really Thinks About Race!” YouTube,, 2017.


Jefferson F. Calico documents McNallen’s ongoing recruitment activities for white nationalism in “Performing ‘American Völkisch’” in Paganism and Its Discontents, eds. Holli S. Emore and Jonathan M. Leader (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2020), pp. 22–46.


Stephen McNallen, “Wotan vs. Tezcatlipoca: The Spiritual War for California and the Southwest,” The Runestone: Celebrating the Indigenous Religion of European Americans (1998),


Calico, “Performing ‘American Völkish,’” 32.


Billy Ball, “A Small-town Congregation Sold Its Church. A Whites-only Group Moved In.” The Washington Post, 6 March 2021,


Kaplan, “The Reconstruction of the Ásatrú and Odinist Traditions”; Jeffrey Kaplan, Radical Religions in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997); Tore Bjorgo, Racist and Right-Wing Violence in Scandinavia (Oslo, Norway: Tano Aschehougs Fontenescherie, 1997); Jeffrey Kaplan and Tore Bjørgo, eds., Nation and Race: The Developing Euro-American Racist Subculture (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998); Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1998); Mattia Gardell, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Nicolas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity (New York: New York University Press, 2002); Strmiska ed., Modern Paganism in World Cultures; Ivakhiv, “The Revival of Ukrainian Native Faith”; Egil Asprem, “Heathens Up North: Politics, Polemic, and Contemporary Norse Paganism in Norway,” The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies 10.1 (2008): 41–69, doi: 10.1558/pome.v10i1.41; Strmiska, “Pagan Politics in the 21st Century,” eds. Holli S. Emore and Jonathan M. Leader, Paganism and Its Discontents (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2020) includes academic research as well as commentary from Heathen and other Pagan practitioners.


Snook, American Heathens, 14.


Stefanie von Schnurbein, Norse Revival: Transformations of Germanic Neopaganism (Leiden: Brill, 2016): 17.


I contacted as wide a variety of Neopagan and Heathen groups as I could find, including the Asatru Folk Assembly, attempting to reach a politically diverse audience.


My survey provided the following choices (not rotated) to the question “How would you describe your political views?”: very conservative, conservative, moderate, liberal, very liberal, alt right, progressive, other (please specify). Three percent of Heathens chose “other,” some of whom identified as “libertarian,” a category that can include both left-wing and right-wing political orientations.


Berger, Solitary Pagans, 38, 126, 144–145.


This is for the safety of group members. Kindreds typically meet in practitioners’ homes, so they do not want to include people at such events unless they are sure those people will be inclusive. Some kindreds have designated members who are willing to do outreach with those who may not be ready to join an inclusive kindred but are open to talking about inclusion.


The Canadian Pagan Declaration on Intolerance was released on 10 December, International Human Rights Day, in 2016, Jade Pichette, personal communication 21 May 2020; “Declaration 127,” Huginn’s Heathen Hof,, accessed 3 May 2018.


Nicole Butler and Aesc Adams, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Nicole Butler and Aesc Adams, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


Ashot Margaryan, et al. “Population Genomics of the Viking World,” Nature (London) 585. 7825 (September 2020): 390–396,; Maja Krzewińska, et al. “Genomic and Strontium Isotope Variation Reveal Immigration Patterns in a Viking Age Town,” Current Biology 28.17 (2018): 2730–2738,; Neil Price, Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings (New York: Basic Books, 2020), 24, 408, 437, 440.


Jade Pichette, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


“Dísir” is the plural form of “dís,” an Old Norse term meaning honored female or woman, somewhat as the term “lady” functions in English, reflecting historical variations in the concept. See Terry Gunnell, “The Season of the Dísir: The Winter Nights and the Dísablót in Early Medieval Scandinavian Belief,” Cosmos: The Journal of the Traditional Cosmology Society 16.2 (2000): 130. Hilda Ellis Davidson interprets “dís” as “supernatural female guardian” in The Road to Hel, and “goddess” in Roles of the Northern Goddess. Hilda R. Ellis, The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968): 134–138, 184; Hilda Ellis Davidson, 1998. Roles of the Northern Goddess (London: Routledge, 1998): 47, 146, 177, 185. In the North American contemporary Heathen context, “dísir” often refers to female ancestors, but can also refer to other female personages such as goddesses.


Daniel Foor, Ancestral Medicine: Rituals for Personal and Family Healing (Rochester, VT: Bear & Company, 2017).


Nicole Butler and Aesc Adams, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


Jade’s pronouns are they, them, and their.


Jade Pichette, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Patricia Lafayllve, A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru (Woodbury: Llewellyn Publications, 2013): 63, 65. I discuss the event honoring female ancestors in Barbara Jane Davy, “To Become Ancestors of a Living Future,” in Katharine Zywert and Stephen S. Quilley, eds., Health in the Anthropocene: Living Well on a Finite Planet (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2020), 419–431.


Jade Pichette, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Jade Pichette, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, revised edition (London: Verso, 2016 [1983]). Anderson’s “imagined community” is not just characteristic of modern nation states, but, he says, perhaps characteristic of any community larger than a village in which every face is familiar: “Javanese villagers have always known that they are connected to people they have never seen, but these ties were once imagined particularistically—as indefinitely stretchable nets of kinship and clientship,” Anderson, 6. The difference in modern nation states is that the sense of nation circumscribes a limit to the imagined moral community, Anderson, 7.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


Nicole Butler and Aesc Adams, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Rudoph Simek, Dictionary of Northern Mythology (Trans. Angela Hall. Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 1993): 96–97.


Jade Pichette, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Jade Pichette, personal communication, 7 December 2020.


The Heathens of Raven’s Knoll often prefer to use the Old Norse term “landvaettir” to “land wights,” especially in public, because they do not want to be me misheard as talking about honoring “whites.”


Lafayllve, A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru, 60.


Lafayllve, A Practical Heathen’s Guide to Asatru, 61.


Jenny Blain, Wights and Ancestors: Heathenry in a Living Landscape with other selected essays on Place, Wights, Consciousness & Ancestors (Runcorn, Cheshire, UK: Prydein Press, 2016): 12–13.


Diana Paxson, Essential Ásatrú: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism (New York: Citadel Press, 2006): 34, 109.


Calico, Being Viking, 260.


Terry Gunnell, “How Elvish Were the Álfar?” in Constructing Nations, Reconstructing Myths: Essays in Honour of T. A. Shippey, eds. Andrew Wawn, Graham Johnson, and John Walter (Turnhour, Belgium: Brepolis, 2007), 114.


Gunnell, “How Elvish Were the Álfar?” 116–120.


Gunnell, “How Elvish Were the Álfar?” 127.


Blain, Wights and Ancestors, 38.


Nicole Butler and Aesc Adams, Skype interview, 7 May 2018.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


See Ahmad Ibn Fadlan, Mission to the Volga, Trans. James E. Montgomery (New York: New York University Press, 2017), 33–34.


Austin Lawrence, FaceTime interview, 2 May 2018.


This could be regarded as an “indigenizing” process, although Heathens in North America are much less comfortable with this term than some Pagans in Europe. See Graham Harvey, ed., Indigenizing Movements in Europe (Sheffield: Equinox, 2020). I discuss this and related issues more extensively in Wyrd Ecology (PhD thesis, University of Waterloo, 2021,