I am not an Anglo-Saxon, I am an Anglo-Saxon pagan

The term “Anglo-Saxon” has come under some scrutiny and fire recently. And honestly nobody with any amount of historical acumen could deny there are issues with the term. We all know that there were other tribes which invaded Britain besides the Angles and Saxons, most notable among those the Jutes. So there is the obvious issue of not being an all inclusive term. We all know that Anglo-Saxon has long been conflated with modern concepts of race or ethnicity despite being highly inaccurate in it’s use in that regard. There are many issues with the term. And yet, it is our best term for those peoples who migrated (considering it was occupied already you should read that as invaded but with the intent to stay) into Britain.

The Anglo-Saxon peoples, yes peoples plural, that migrated into Britain did not think of themselves jointly in a racial sense and certainly wouldn’t have considered themselves a people singular. An Angle would not have considered themselves inherently the same as a Saxon or a Jute. They didn’t identify as an ethnic group because ethnic groups as we currently conceive of them didn’t exist. They didn’t identify as a race because races as we currently conceive of them didn’t exist. Yet because they didn’t pass down to us any meaningful way to identify them, least of all collectively, we have to identify them outside of their own conception the best we can if we want to discuss them jointly. That means some measure of simplification must occur, the standard for which has thus far been “Anglo-Saxon”.

So there have been proposed by people who have taken issue with Anglo-Saxon that we consider “Old English” or “Early English”. There are issues with these terms, not the least of which is the “English” part. Talk about inaccurate, the backwards application of “English” onto the Anglo-Saxons implies a kind of teleological history that gives the forgone conclusion of the ethnogenesis of the English people. It further belies the fractured nature of these people even more so than Anglo-Saxon. At least the implication of multiplicity exists in Anglo-Saxon. What is perhaps worse though is that it could and probably would directly exacerbate issues within Anglo-Saxon paganism.

Anglo-Saxon paganism has it’s fair share of issues but its issues aren’t the same as the rest of Heathenry. We don’t have as much of the issue of Folkism that Norse heathenry has, there certainly isn’t a large umbrella organization like the AFA out there specifically for Anglo-Saxon paganism. To be perfectly honest there aren’t enough of us to have a large organization of any kind. We still have our fair share of racist fools mind you, but they come in a somewhat different flavor usually. We also don’t have the same issue as Norse heathenry has with Jotun worshippers. Anglo-Saxon heathenry has basically no recorded named Etins and the mythology and sources we have wouldn’t lend themselves at all to supporting that kind of practice. So what issues do we contend with?

Our first big issue is Theodism. Ah Theodism, all the societal issues of the middle ages with none of the benefits. Where you can sell yourself into slavery to the group and later swear fealty to your lord but your lord has no land to give you for your fealty. Where the promise of initiatory knowledge is held in a religion reconstructed from sources anyone can freely access in any decent university library and most of them free online as well. A religion which has long pulled strings and pushed agendas far beyond their own reach. The issues in Theodism are too voluminous to tackle here, maybe another day. But regardless, they’re one of Anglo-Saxon paganism’s big issues.

Beyond that, and more topical for this discussion, Anglo-Saxon paganism has a major Nationalism issue. In England there are many people who are ethno-nationalists, who want England for the English. They take their pride in all things England back into history. They’re the kind of people who idealize Anglo-Saxon society, who talk about the “Norman yoke”. They congregate in groups discussing Old English language and groups that play with Anglish (English without foreign loan words). Make no mistake, Nationalism of this sort, ethno-nationalism, is racist. Nationalism in general is messed up but ethno-nationalism is wost of all. There’s also a difference between a patriot and a nationalist, a difference in whether the nation you love needs to be worthy of the adoration you give it or if you uphold it regardless of its actual goodness. This line is not well understood and the fires of nationalism get stoked by perceived threats to the nation. But in this case perceived threats to the English people and their English-ness have precipitated in some ethno-nationalism.

What is odd is that many of these folks don’t actually even believe in the gods. Many are atheists who wrap their atheism in ideas about archetypes and these they’re swaddling in an English covering that suits their often rabid pictures of the state. You also have Christians, or people who have some major latent Christian ideals. These people may be looking for a simple one for one replacement of the Christian god for something appropriately English. This happens too, and more than you might think.

In either case, nationalism is the heart of their identity and even down to their religious identity. These people are a curse on Anglo-Saxon paganism and honestly are our biggest issue in much the same way as folkish people are for Norse heathenry. Thankfully this is less so in the states, but I dread befriending English Anglo-Saxon pagans because it is so pervasive an issue there. But you know what would make it a million times worse? Just handing them the ability and indeed the liscence to say English paganism or Old English paganism or Early English paganism. At least right now if they did bring up the Anglo-Saxon element we could make the completely historical point of them not being Angles or Saxons and so their identity in that regards is unfounded. But if we plopped the word English down into the mix I can’t imagine how that might fuel their ridiculous nationalistic perversion of this pagan path. The word English belies the broken and interrupted nature of history on the matter.

It also strikes me as odd for the push against “Anglo-Saxon” in particular when the terms “Nordic” and “Germanic” have an even more tarnished history. Even the academic acknowledgement that these terms are terribly tarnished stretches back decades. And within heathenry these terms add fuel to racist fires who talk about Nordic this or Germanic that. But here too, we don’t have a good replacement for Gemanic at least. How do you replace the word “Germanic” in a sensible way? Teutonic? That’s even worse! There are no good options. Instead of trying to replace the terms we can however try and remove the racist elements misusing them. And we can fight against the use of the terms towards race and ethnicity in general and instead utilize them as historical terms when and where appropriate. And that is what we should do with Anglo-Saxon too, instead of replacing the term with further flawed terms, remove the racists from among us as best we can and avoid using it as a racial or ethnic descriptor (which is deeply flawed anyway).

I am an Anglo-Saxon pagan. I am following the religion of the Angles and Saxons as best I can approach it. I am not Anglo-Saxon. My ancestry is English-American but that has nothing to do with the ability to practice the religion and if we’re honest practically nothing to do with Anglo-Saxon. I am not Anglo-Saxon because I am neither an Angle nor am I a Saxon nor am I a Jute. I do not belong to one of these tribes because they are long since dead and their identities died with them. If you want to retire a term, retire the racial classification of someone being considered Anglo-Saxon as an ethnicity. Don’t replace the term in application to the ancent peoples because it is the best term for them. It is on the other hand an awful term for race and this is readily apparent.

Another issue we come to is that as an Anglo-Saxon pagan I may know that my religion is called Fyrnsidu, but that term has literally no recognition. If you were to say your religion is Fyrnsidu then only a very, very small group of people are going to understand you. People generally recognize the term Anglo-Saxon, they should know what that means. Tack “pagan” or even “heathen” on the end of it and it is far more recognizable and accessible than Fyrnsidu. I generally use pagan because even heathen can be misunderstood.

I explain my religion based on company. If I’m with people who know nothing I may stop at “pagan”. If I’m with people who might be more interested or if I’m with other pagans it’s “Anglo-Saxon pagan”. If I’m with other heathens depending on their level of knowledge I may even bring out “Fyrnsidu” or I might say “Anglo-Saxon heathen”. For myself, it is “Fyrnsidu” if I even call it anything at all.

I reject the terms Old English and Early English because there is nothing inheretly English about my religion. I reject them because those terms do nothing to mention the people whose religion I am reconstructing. And ultimately it was their religion, not the religion of the English. By the time the English came into being the only religious heritage they had was Christianity. Englisc is an Old English word, but the issue with it is that it only became part of their identity post-conversion. They homogenized and underwent a gradual process of englishification along with a conversion to Christianity. In a sense they left behind the Anglo-Saxon identity entirely. But that process occurred after conversion to Christianity. The term certainly wouldn’t have applied to the pagan peoples prior to that, peoples who were divided and had not created a joint identity as a whole. For them, the best term is “Anglo-Saxon”.

So no, I will not swap out to Old English or Early English as replacements to Anglo-Saxon. I will instead continue to be vigilant against English ethno-nationalism in my religion and I will stand against the use of Anglo-Saxon outside of the confines of that which describes the peoples who migrated (invaded) Britain composed of various tribes most notably the Angles and Saxons.

6 thoughts on “I am not an Anglo-Saxon, I am an Anglo-Saxon pagan

  1. You’ve put into words my recent thoughts on this issue far more eloquently than I could have done myself, so thank you. This reflects not on only my own thoughts, but also my own views entirely. Various pages, such as Heathen Underground, now refuse to use the Anglo-Saxon

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  2. Good post – I’m a British English practitioner of Anglo-Saxon heathenry, and the idea of calling it English heathenry or whatnot is something I am very against. I love and draw on the historical practices and folklore of England, along with the rest of these islands. But English identity (as opposed to British identity) is something that is often used by the far right to the point that flying the England flag outside of football matches is perceived as a far right dog whistle.

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  3. You can’t say you are an Anglo-Saxon Pagan and in the same breath talk about how you have such a problem with “racists” and ethno nationalists. Guess what, some things should be exclusive to an ethnic group. The original indigenous beliefs of Europeans are one of those things. Russians are not inviting Africans and whatnot to join Rodnovery (Russian paganism), right? So why should Germanic paganism of any sort, Anglo-Saxon, Norse or otherwise be a free for all? Why are you so self hating? Why do you place such an emphasis on not being RAY-CISSSS? If you are serious about being a pagan then recognize this path is ethnocentric by nature. And get over your white guilt and stop acting like a cuckold. Either you are for your people and ancestors or you aren’t.

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