Nordic Animism consists of the traditions that engage and respect the gods and spirits of the landscape, the cycle of seasons, and what we today call “nature” in the Northwestern Europe.
Nordic Animism is the traditions that create and maintain relationships with gods and spirits characteristic of the northern Europe. This approach offers a new environmentalist way of engaging with the northern European history of religions. Nordic animism focuses on traditional animist knowledge and its relationship with concepts crucial to everyday life today, such as ecology and sustainability.
Animists engage and relate to the beings in the world, what scholars call “the wider community of persons”. Working with animism can have two objectives. One is scholarly and aims to produce a new kind of academic knowledge about Nordic history of religions. The other is cultural activism. It aims to reopen dialogue with our traditional knowledge for the purpose of sustainability sensitization.
From a scholarly perspective, animism is a broader topic (and accompanying perspective) than, for instance, pre-Christian heathenry, because animism may be reinvented through changing attitudes like religious idioms. The animist perspective shifts the focus of investigation. Instead of researching one historic context (typically from around the Viking Age), modern animists study a mode of religiousity—religiousity that focuses on locally appropriate ways of respectfully relating to the wider community of beings. This relationship of respect has implications for our general approach to, for example, managing the environment. This is sometimes called sometimes called Euro TEK (European Traditional Ecological Knowledge). As a result, Nordic Animism bridges scholarship and activism.
Fr,om the scholarly perspective one may apply anthropology to the Nordic history of religions, and read Yule goat traditions as animism, i.e. as ways to engage the wider community of people and beings. However, one might also apply this in cultural activism and try to re-engage the concept of the Yulegoat in the modern era (follow the link).
The animist perspective is inspired by the way that contemporary indigenous populations apply “indigenous knowledge” to contemporary topics like environmental activism, the broad struggle against colonialism, extraction capitalism and coping with climate change. In this respect, however, it is important to note that we do not claim indigeneity for ourselves. There are a number of important reasons to avoid this particular label. We invite readers to consider the following points:
We reject racism: We unambiguously distance ourselves from white nationalism, whether the so-called alt-right or otherwise
We support indigenous struggles: We therefore want o avoid compromising actual indigenous empowerment initiatives by using the “indigenous”-label on majority populations that are beneficiaries of white and settler privilege
We embrace history: Claiming “indigeneity” risks subsuming ownership that would eject a large segment of descendants of Europeans outside of Europe from the right to this knowledge
While the academic study of the Nordic region has a long history, much of the record remains under-explored, such as marginal material connected to historic forms of Nordic polytheism. This material remains essentially ‘hidden’ due to a process similar to what Dutch scholar Wouter Hanegraaf notes about the esoteric traditions as forms of forms of knowledge forms that have been rejected in the process where Europeans have created their self image as rationalist and modern (see Hanegraaf 2012) .
Nordic animism, however, has been rejected by a different production of self-image than the one observed by Hanegraaf. It is the construction of Nordic nationalism that creates the rejection of animism in the North. There is a cultural and scholarly process of constructing “the Viking” for the purpose of building nationhood (Lundt Hansen 2018). Animist knowledge has basically been “Viking-washed” out of our construction of the self. If something wasn’t ‘Viking’, it wasn’t interesting and therefore could be rejected from our cultural self image.
The development of modern Nordic Animism, an extension of anthropology, sheds new light on–and reengages in dialogue with—rejected animist knowledge. As animists, we explore revalorizing traditional animist knowledge of sustainability sensitization, comparable to what Hahnegraaf calls the “restoration of cultural memory”. This approach enables us as Euro-descendants to engage our traditional knowledge through open and organic dialogue. We must release our culturally-construction self-image from the confines of nationalist nostalgia for brutality, such as the notion of the colonizing “Viking” as an essential ‘whiteness of whiteness’, and free ourselves from the confines of specific scientific projects (such as understanding religiosity inside defined historical contexts).
The development of the Nordic Animism perspective is an ongoing endeavor. You can assist with its development by providing support through the Nordic Animism Patreon.