Since my last sojourn in Facebook jail, I have been paying very close attention to Warden Zuckerberg’s Community Standards. My comments have been temperate, my discourse moderated and my memes so bland you might think me a Democratic Socialist. I have done what I can to be a reformed Facebook citizen. And then they came for the Runes, more specifically the Rune Othala. Several Facebook friends have had these cover photos deleted:
So what is this “Othala” and why does it violate community standards? According to the ADL
The othala rune is part of the runic alphabet system, a system of writing used (with many variations) across pre-Roman Europe. In the 20th century, Nazis in Germany adopted the othal rune, among many other similar symbols, as part of their attempt to reconstruct a mythic “Aryan” past. Nazi uses of the symbol included the divisional insignia of two Waffen SS divisions during World War II. Following World War II, white supremacists in Europe, North America, and elsewhere began using the othala rune. Today, it is commonly seen in tattoo form, on flags or banners, as part of group logos, and elsewhere.
However, because it is part of the runic alphabet, the symbol can also be found in non-extremist contexts as well, especially runic writing and runestones used by non-racist pagans. Consequently, care should be taken to evaluate the symbol in the context in which it appears.
It appears Mr. Zuckerberg missed that last paragraph. To educate him, and any ADL employee reading this, here is a non-authoritative analysis on what Othala means to modern-day Heathens, taken from an essay I wrote in 2010:
American mythology praises the “self-made man” and loathes any hint that we might not be able to rise above our station and create our own destiny. But as they often say in African Diaspora circles, “the knife cannot carve its own handle.” We carry our heritage in blood and sinew. We may add to our birthright or we may despoil it but we must engage with it. Othala is the Rune of inheritance and homeland: it marks not only what we have but who we are and why we are here.
Othala can be a great wall keeping us from where we wish to be: think Jimmy Stewart trapped in Bedford Falls by family obligations. Birthrights carry birth responsibilities and birth limitations and our genes carry our strengths and our weaknesses. My nearsightedness precludes me from a career as an Air Force pilot: my height shuts me out of a career as a basketball player or a jockey and my manual dexterity means being a ballet dancer or pickpocket is right out. If Othala is the boundary marking what you have, it is also the wall separating you from that which you do not possess.
But there is another lesson in Othala as well. In her Mystical Qabalah Dion Fortune said of Binah, the Sephirah of Form
Chokmah is pure force, even as the expansion of petrol as it explodes in the combustion-chamber of an engine is pure force. But just as this expansive force would expand and be lost if there were no engine to transmit its power) so the undirected energy of Chokmah would radiate into space and be lost if there were nothing to receive its impulse and utilise it. Chokmah explodes like petrol; Binah is the combustion-chamber
Othala is that form which directs your power. Its constraints allow you to reach your goal: what you see as weaknesses may be as important as your strengths. That does not mean that you should wallow in your flaws, or assume that because there are three generations of alcoholics in your family you might as well go for four. Othala is not only about ancestors but also descendants. It reminds you that you are part of an ongoing process. Your birthright is your position and your inheritance, and it is your task to build upon it and to pass it down to the next generations.
I should note here that Othala is not only about blood ancestry, but also community. Othala reminds us that we are defined not only by our accomplishments but also by our peers. It teaches us to choose carefully the people with whom we share our hearth and friendship. It reminds us that we will be judged by our associations and should choose them wisely and carefully. Othala knows, as Robert Frost knew, that good fences make good neighbors.
Many pro-European groups have taken Othala as their symbol. If anti-immigration and pro-nationalist policies are taken as de facto Hatred then one might argue Othala has become a symbol of Hate. Terrorists regularly use Q’uranic verses to recruit members and justify atrocities. Were Facebook to ban what it considered “provocative” Q’uranic quotes there would be no end to the outrage. We would hear that you can’t judge a religion by a few bad apples; that the Q’uran has nothing to do with terrorism; that Islam is a religion of peace. And yet far more people have died under the Crescent — or the Cross or the Mogen David — than have ever died under Othala.
Folkish Heathens believe Europe’s Gods concern themselves primarily with Europe’s Folk — the descendants of those who worshipped them earlier. This makes many uncomfortable as it excludes those of non-European descent. Telling wrongdoers they have sinned shames them and telling nonbelievers they are damned marginalizes them. Yet sin and redemption through grace are core concepts of Christianity. Where Christianity teaches all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, folkish Heathenry teaches that all should honor their Ancestors, celebrate their heritage and work toward the uplifting of their People. You may disagree with Christians or with folkish Heathens. You have no right to demand that they tailor their beliefs to better fit your comfort zone.
Yet another question arises: why is the onus on Heathens to prove their innocence? Would we tell a Muslim woman “maybe you wouldn’t get searched on every flight if you didn’t wear your hijab?” Would we tell an Orthodox Jew “if you didn’t wear a kippah people wouldn’t throw things at you when you walk down the street?” (I know, I know: White people can’t face racism. Show up at a job interview wearing rune jewelry. When you get back we can talk about stigmatization, disempowerment and oppression). Why then should Heathens of any political persuasion be forced to defend themselves against “Nazi” sympathies because of Runes?
Of course, the real problem is not any dubious ties Othala may have to shadowy “White Supremacist” organizations. Their real issue with Othala lies in its Meaning. Othala means Homeland. Othala means Borders. Othala means Folk. As such, it can only stand as a direct challenge to those who see these things as a problem to be solved. They do not hate Othala because it symbolizes what we believe. They hate it because it symbolizes who we are.