There’s quite a bit of jewellery I wear all the time. Fourteen face and body piercings with various bars, rings and tunnels through them. My wedding ring and engagement ring, although neither are the originals as those had to be cut off following an accident with concentrated industrial cleaning fluid. My Fitbit. A brass and labradorite ring that I dedicated to Odin because synaesthesia-brain over here sees his name in the colours of labradorite. If you’re curious, his name smells like leather, dried wood and an open road at midnight in winter. It tastes like beach glass and feels like a galaxy made of blue goldstone and velvet.
The other piece of jewellery I wear all the time is my necklace, pictured above. I take it off in the shower, but that’s it. It has Thor’s hammer, a skull carved with flowers for Hel, and a five pointed star for general witchiness. My jewellery is a collection of talismans, charms and special things. Every piece of it means something to me and reminds me of something important, just like my tattoos do.
But nazis ruin everything.
I’m not going to get into a lengthy explanation of how nazis, white supremacists and various related, interlocking and overlapping circles of weapons-grade shitebaggery have appropriated symbols of heathenry to the point where there are people in the world who, for perfectly logical reasons, see mjolnir and think “racist”. This is not such an issue, that I’ve encountered anyway, where I live in Scotland because Northern European people living in Northern Europe and following Northern European religious traditions are not automatically considered to be bigoted fuckwits. Unfortunately, elsewhere in the world, and on the internet, this is not the case.
On a personal level, I genuinely couldn’t give less of a shit what assumptions strangers make about me based on my appearance. But I do care deeply about not contributing to anything that might make someone feel unsafe or unwelcome in the place where they live or the online space they inhabit. I am fully aware that as a white person with blonde hair, blue eyes, and numerous facial piercings and tattoos (one of those tattoos is also on my face), someone who perceives a connection between heathenry and bigotry could easily look at me and feel uncomfortable, or worse, because of my presence.
I’m polite to everyone I meet but have been reliably informed by friends, who have known me for long enough to say things like this, that upon first meeting me I can come across as anywhere between ‘slightly intimidating’ and ‘fucking terrifying’. I don’t fully get that cause I’m a small person who smiles a lot and never raises their voice, but while I can understand my own intent I do not get to dictate other people’s perceptions.
So I had an opportunity to examine my approach to the world. I could either accept that I am not a white supremacist nazi turd (which I am not), be angry that people have taken something that is not about hate and turned it into a symbol of hate (which I am), hope that the people I meet don’t feel unsafe because of me wearing a particular symbols (which I do) and continue to wear my necklace because it is significant to me as a symbol of my religion (which I would like to). Or I could easily alter an aspect of my appearance in a way that would mean I wasn’t potentially presenting horrible racist vibes to people who are already living with oppression and fear.
So there’s a new necklace on its way to me now – a very stylised and plain pewter spearhead, representing Gungnir, Odin’s spear. It’s a symbol of balance, magic, self-sacrifice, wisdom, strength and courage. It’s subtle and probably won’t result in people in shops wishing me a happy solstice or strangers in the street asking for directions to the nearest pagan bookshop. It’s not overtly heathen, but it’s still meaningful to me. Also, I bought it with some of the money I earned from writing this month, which is significant on so many levels.
I’m not saying it’s wrong or racist or any other shitty fucking thing to wear a symbol that has been appropriated, especially recently appropriated, by awful people. I’m not saying we should just shut up, give up and hand over mjolnir and runes and whatever the fuck else to nazi scum. I’m not saying anyone else should do anything. I don’t speak for anyone but myself.
I sincerely hope that we get to a place where non-racist anti-nazi heathen voices drown out the bile-filled spewing of extremists, hate groups and terrorists. I’ve witnessed some strong and beautiful action in that direction and I fully support it with all my heart.
But if changing a small, simple thing means that someone who already lives in fear encounters one less perceived threat as they go about their day, damn right I will make that change.