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"The Folk Soul"
by Eric "Hnikar" Wood
Question raised online: "Ok... if not for anyone else's understanding than for mine. Here's what I could never grasp... the whole "folk", "folk-soul", "folk-religion" ideal. By the standards that are presented by the Folkish as I understand them, speaking not cultural, or spiritually as the Folkish do, but logically and scientifically... there are no separate folk-souls based on race or ethnicity. If there is such a thing as a folk-soul it would consist of all of humanity as we are all genetically related, evolving from the same line of monkeys and what not. No difference. We only look different due to environmental and evolutionary causes."

The reply: Somehow I knew that a conversation about anything would lead right back to race. It seems to be the only issue to consistently interest some folks on either side of the divide- and I'm not one of them. I have my beliefs, I've stated them, I live them, and I let others live theirs. I've had to repeat myself over and over again about these beliefs of mine, even though I've provided a ton of information on my website. It gets old. But, very briefly, to answer your question and not to start another interminable "let's debate Hnikar's beliefs" thread... a few quotes about my beliefs from my website....

Many Ásatrúar hold a similar view that ancestry is of close significance to religious principles. As Russell points out, this is the historical nature of the faith. The dividing line comes in a couple of places- between those who hold ancestry to be of little or no significance religiously and those who hold it important or crucial; and a further distinction is made on the basis of where the line is drawn.

Some hold that the ancestral line is direct and a matter of only a few generations. In other words, like the kinsmen who gathered and buried Unn, it is a matter of immediate or extended family. How many generations is an open question. In my case, would it include my grandfather only, or my ancestors who crossed the Atlantic at the dawn of modern America, or those who crossed to England with the Danes, or those who crossed to England with the Saxons, or those who formed a part of the early proto-Germanic culture, or those who stood in Gimbuta's Old Europe or those in proto-Indo European culture, or further back still? What criteria do I use to determine where this relationship ceases to be of religious value? Or, taking the matter horizontally... it includes my in-laws, my siblings, their children, their children's children, my parent's siblings, their children?, their children's children?, my cousins, my cousin's children.... Again, what criteria is used to determine the cut-off?

I look for what they have in common, the unifying thread of ancestry and relationship, and that is genetic. A people as defined by that genetic complex of which each of us is constituted.

This isn't an easy distinction either in many respects. There are shadings at the fringes between peoples, and there has always been a certain amount of genetic input from other peoples. Yet it gives a basic and solid foundation, based on the substance of life itself and the way a people carries itself from one generation to the next, for the question of ancestry and the application of its religious value. Genetic similarity is the essence of ancestry.

I hold kinship to be of religious significance from at least two significant angles, related to one another. First, of course, we understand the place of our ancestors in our lives. It is of them that we became. It is of their deeds also that we became in another sense. I bear the genetic material of my ancestors- what I look like, much of my personality, much of my temperament, my intellectual and physical abilities and limitations, came directly from them. In some sense, I am an expression of them. Likewise, had my ancestors not lived in the manner in which they did, I would not be here today in the same set of circumstances. I was born in Kentucky. Had my ancestors (or my people in the larger sense) not fought the Shawnee, the Miami, and others for that ground, matters would have been significantly different in my own life. So it is right that we celebrate our ancestors on the basis that we are so completely in debt to them, so completely an extension of them, so very much are them in many respects.

Second, like temperament, intelligence and so many other non-physical traits, I hold that the primal religious impulses are something we have gained from our ancestors, and that the indigenous religions of our people in some significant measure express that. Religion is a sweeping concept, containing within a great many different things from social mores to dogmatic principles, but I feel that beneath and behind all that it is a primal center- by which I mean, the way we relate to the world and the gods. In this way, Christianity may be the religion particular individuals have held among our ancestors, complete with its doctrines and particular morality, but the way in which the Europeans confronted the numinous in their lives was quite like that of their own ancestors. One need only look at the transformation of Christianity or Islam to meet the primal religious core of whichever people adopted it.

In that sense I hold that Ásatrú is not only the particular religious expression of 10th Century Scandinavians and 6th Century Anglo-Saxons and 1st Century Cherusci, but part of a continuum across the millennia. In the historical record there is no demarkation point between these particular faiths and their religious predecessors. I hold that our gods have been our gods, that Odin did not suddenly come into existence with the Germanic peoples. He is real and alive, and has been for millennia. As the myths indicate, he is related to us. In some cases, as with Tyr, a relationship can be shown directly to gods in other Indo-European pantheons, which takes the religion- as it relates to the honoring of particular deities- at least that far back, and I think it extends further still.

It is my belief, and granted one that cannot be conclusively proven, that Ásatrú as practiced today is a legitimate expression of the religious impulse of those who came before us, where their own religious doctrine is unknown. Unlike religious doctrines, one does not become Ásatrú is the truest sense, one is Ásatrú, in much the same sense that one is one's ancestors.

"This has nothing to do with religion, culture, or other such things... come to think of it, I can't see as to how it relates to anything at all. Pure genetic chance and random cell mutations are not a basis for religion. It also is tainted with the idea that you cannot choose a path of your own free-will but that you are a spiritual slave to your ancestors, your Gods, and a past way of life that has no direct influence on present living. Ok... now what I am missing to understand this view?""

Much of who you are is derived from your ancestry- you, as a living being, are directly a product of your ancestors... that is the foundation of your existence. There are many elements involved, and certainly some are unique to you as an individual. You can choose a number of factors in your life. Another element is the involuntary impulses of your life- your breathing, your heartbeat, your immune system. It doesn't diminish your individuality to say that these go on without your making a choice of any kind. Likewise, your physical appearance, and much of your temperament is derived from your ancestors. You didn't choose them, and to some degree you can alter them, but in large part they are just who you are, who you were at birth. So it is with our spirituality, I believe. Some religious paths are truer to who we are- indeed are us.