Tokenization in the Pagan Community (White Supremacy is More Common Than You Think!)

I’ve had repeated issues with the “polytheist” sort (i.e., those who irrationally refuse to identify as “pagan” despite being, in all academic ways, Neopagan) who, to put it generously, tokenize the fuck out of POC. I’ve written about this before on other platforms, though less…organized.

Let’s start with something personal: I was tokenized for being a Hellenic pagan Asian person. Yet, as soon as I corrected someone about my other (non-pagan) practice Shinto, I found white people (and one non-white person) jumping down my throat to whitesplain me. Even within “polytheist” rhetoric, this is ridiculous: isn’t it supposed to be inherently accepting of diversity? Clearly, people are only willing to accept a monotonous tone of truth there. As soon as an unruly non-white person disagrees with the group consensus, a couple of reply guys materialize out of nowhere and start whitesplaining you to death.

I’ve noticed other people being faced with this tokenization too, albeit less explicit. I’ve seen a few white nationalist pagans retweeting Shinto shrine videos, for example. It’s bizarre to wonder how (and why) that works, but it’s not news that revulsion and attraction can coexist (see: transphobes being obsessed with porn of trans women).

That said, my own personal experience isn’t really enough to speak to a whole phenomena. Let’s look at some examples.

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Here we see some pagans making Mauna Kea defense their pet cause. They will Tweet about Pagans not talking about Mauna Kea, which is all well and good except for the performative aspect of this. While Mauna Kea and its protectors deserve much more press coverage for sure, it’s strange to link indigenous Hawaiian spirituality with paganism without Hawaiian consent, especially considering how a lot of what are called indigenous religions in the study of religion have historically disliked the word pagan. It’s also a classic example of white outsiders speaking over BIPOC who are actually involved, almost to the extent of a white savior scenario. This approach to faux-solidarity also centers (mostly white) pagans instead of the Hawaiians who are actually impacted by and actively trying to change the telescope construction.

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Here’s another example. A lot of “polytheist” sorts have been supporting Hindutva and Hindutva groups. To be fair, it can be hard to tell if a Twitter user is Hindutva, but Hindutvas are usually pretty easy to identify by their obsession with “Abrahamics”/”monotheists”, or self-identify as such. A simple search would be enough, TBH.

I can see why “polytheists” would relate to Hindutva due to their shared hatred of Christians and Muslims, but that certainly does not make it okay, considering the violent paramilitary group RSS and other violent tactics the BJP (India’s Hindutva party) have done. I’m not gonna go super ham about Hindutva stuff since that’s not my area of expertise, but suffice it to say I’m alarmed by the amount of support for them I’ve seen in pagan spaces.

So, to follow up on my previous image, here’s eSamskritiindia tweeting Hindutva things (one of many, I just didn’t want to make this post longer than it had to):

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I simply can’t call it sympathy if it’s done out of desire to speak over BIPOC. It’s a cooptation of BIPOC struggles that veers into overtly fascist territory at times and should not be excused. It’s another way white people seek to erase POC voices as well as use us as disposable tools for their own, tangentially related social causes. It’s dangerous and white supremacist in act/deed, sometimes in thought as well.

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Fake Shinto Shrines in the US

 

So I didn’t really know if I would end up posting about Shinto here at all, but for better or for worse enough bullshit has been happening for me to complain about it here (yay?).

One thing is this guy who claimed to have a Kyoha Shinto (sect Shinto) shrine in Tennessee while disrespecting the fuck out of whoever he’s enshrining. I won’t name names overtly but I will link to a video of a part of this “shrine” because well…it’ll maybe help drive my point home.

All of this? Complete horseshit. Let me explain.

  1. This is simply not what the inside of a shrine looks like.
  2. All the flags are extremely out of place, one of them appears to be promotional from a company
  3. The abundance of mirrors makes no sense either
  4. If this is supposed to be the goshintai (‘body’ of the kamisama, kinda?) then he shouldn’t be taking videos of it.
  5. Very New Agey dragon decor that is, again, very out of place. Exacerbates how this guy claimed to have used traditional architecture when nothing about this is traditional at all.
  6. That chandelier is more ostentatious than what I’ve ever seen at a shrine.
  7. Why the fuck are there runes on that thing?!

You may say “that isn’t explicitly listed as a shrine, it might not be!” well, fear not my friends. The sacred paper strips shown at the beginning are about the only accurate thing here (assuming he made them correctly).

It’s disrespectful to kamisama, it’s disrespectful to Japanese culture and it’s also extremely White to step in, steal someone’s religious practices, and manipulate it however you want. It’s also very White/Orientalist to sell this as authentic, as a legitimate Kyoha shrine when it’s anything but. The spookyness is weird, and it gets worse in a Halloween video where the shrine was…a haunted house. You don’t put spooky stuff near kamisama, Halloween is a separate and secular event in Japan. Kamisama do not like skulls and things. Don’t do that.

Another guy came up in the Twin Cities who made up some bullshit Neo Minzoku (folk) Shinto which is hilarious. Shinto doesn’t need a “neo-“, it isn’t pagan at all so I’m not sure why some white guy thought it appropriate to frame it like a neopagan reconstructionist religion. He also throws Baba Yaga into the shrine which also makes no sense, she’s Russian…?

The kami enshrined at the Twin Cities shrine are all vaguely-named kamisama of bad things like illness. There’s no parent shrine, a Wiccan guy just made up a bunch of shit and claims Japanese people are okay with it (this one isn’t!).

 

The point of this rant is that: as always, “Eastern” religions deal with the demon of Orientalism. People think we’re exotic and weird and spiritual and different. That leads to (usually) white Westerners decontextualizing the content of the beliefs instead of researching or asking an actual priest/ess, and putting out misinformation at pagan festivals with ugly decor and other Westerners accepting that as truth, because no one bothered to do any research. Slapping an “Eastern” label on something doesn’t mean it’s authentic; if anything you should be more skeptical if a White person is trying to sell you something packaged as “Eastern”, “Oriental” (yes, one of these people used that term) or “exotic”. Please for the love of kamisama do your goddamn research.

 

Dogwhistles: How the Fuck do I Tell if a Pagan I Follow is a Fascist/Racist etc.?

Note: This page is intended as reference and I by no means endorse this content whatsoever. I avoid writing out slurs, but be warned of Nazism and references to violence.This list is by no means exhaustive.

Symbols

  • Tree emojis and mountain emojis signal ecofascists (more on that here)
  • Runes in general need discernment, especially when in tattoos.
Thor’s hammer, from Wikimedia Commons.
Valknut/valknot, from Wikimedia Commons.
A reproduction Roman standard featuring SPQR, from Wikimedia Commons.
  • SPQR
  • Roman salute” (Nazi salute)
  • Swastikas (technically, the Kolovrat is a kind of swastika, but sometimes that is hidden by Slavic nationalists when they use it)

Words to look for in bios and posts

  • The suffix “-bol”, ie. nazbol, olbol
  • “Trad”/”tradition”/”traditionalist” ie. tradcaths (fascist pagans also use this prefix)
  • “Based”
  • Folkish
  • Odinists
  • Obsessions with Valhalla, fighting war for ___ religion/against ____ religion, etc. Usually these types have names like “Warrior of Odin” or something, and post macho Viking posts (this fixation contradicting historical evidence that most ancient Norse people were farmers, among other inaccuracies).
  • “Ethnic”, i.e. ethnic religion, ethnic Hellene, etc.
  • Echoes: ((( ))) usually used around names or antisemitic stereotypes
  • Slurs (reclaimed slurs will usually be pretty obvious in contrast to ones used against others), includes censored variants such as replacing Gs with 6s or censoring with asterisks (i.e. f*g), using gay as an insult, etc.
  • Monarchists, nationalists (usually self-identifying in their bios)
  • “Aryan”,“Germanic”, “Nordic”, calling a European group a “race” etc.
  • “Cuck”, as the kink has strong racist tones itself
  • “Pagang”, Yang gang“: I’m guessing white nationalists like to adopt the word gang as an ironic parody of what they think is Black culture. Yang refers to Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang.
  • Wignat: identifying with them
  • Idolization of Ted Kaczynski

Rhetoric is more nuanced with some other terms which I won’t get into here. However, who somebody is friends with or regularly replies to is very informative. Scroll through a bit of their following if you can to see if anyone with these indicators is on there. Keep an eye out for these symbols/images/words.

I found this thread and this followup thread to be very true of what I’ve seen online, and also enlightening about the meaning/context of some of these hate symbols.

Here’s the ADL’s database of hate symbols, which covers stuff not as common in online pagan spaces.