Nordic Animism is the contemporary recovery of Euro-traditional animist knowledge of Northwestern Europe. It is the practices of engaging and respecting other-than-humans that inhabit our landscapes, our cycle of seasons and our culture through history.
We are working to recover this traditional knowledge of creating and maintaining relationships with the Nordic space as a wider community of beings. Therefore uncovering and renewing Animist culture can offer new environmentalist ways of creating self image and engaging with north European cultural history. Nordic animism springs from research focusing on traditional animist knowledge in Northern Europe in order to bring this knowledge into live contemporary cultural dialogue for the purpose of developing sustainable ways of being in the world. Ways that offer paths alternative to the omnicidal consumerism that is driving the present eco-Ragnarok.
Animists engage and relate to the beings in the world, what scholars call “the wider community of persons” and animism can work through different modes. One mode is scholarship. It aims to produce a academic knowledge by applying animist perspectives to Nordic history of religions and folklore. But this is a kind of action research and thereby comparable to queer studies, indigenous studies, or critical race studies, because it is directly related to 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 perspective than, for instance, the study pre-Christian heathenry, because animism has been reinvented through changing attitudes, practices and changing religious idioms. The animist perspective shifts the focus. Instead of researching one historic context (typically from around the Viking Age), contemporary animists study a mode of religiousity, i.e. a 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 Euro TEK (European Traditional Ecological Knowledge).
Nordic Animism bridges scholarship and cultural activism. From 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 (See this).
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 unilaterally reject racism: We unambiguously distance ourselves from white nationalism, whether the so-called alt-right or otherwise (see this) .
• We support indigenous struggles: We therefore want to avoid compromising actual indigenous empowerment initiatives. This could be the outcome if the concept of indigeneity was undermined by extending it to majority populations that are beneficiaries of white and settler privilege. (see this) This has concrete implications. As an academic discipline, majority animism such as Nordic Animism should be practiced from institutes of existing adjacent fields of study, but not in centres and institutes for indigenous studies as this would divert ressources away from the protection and devleopment of indigenous knowledge. It should also be a call to direct activist involvement with indigenous empowerment movements.
• We embrace history: Claiming “indigeneity” risks subsuming a kind of ownership that could 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 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 modernity and nationalism that creates the rejection of animism in Northern Europe. 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 contemporary Nordic Animism 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 endeavour.
You can assist with its development by providing support through the Nordic Animism Patreon.