How Hate Groups are Hijacking Medieval Symbols While Ignoring the Facts Behind Them

How Hate Groups are Hijacking Medieval Symbols While Ignoring the Facts Behind Them

In August 2017, hundreds of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for a violent rally that killed one woman and injured at least 19 others. They bore images and chanted slogans that evoked Nazi Germany, the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan. But they also carried symbols from an even older time—symbols whose origin they did not seem to understand.

One man carried a round shield decorated with a black eagle. It was a curious choice, considering the eagle image is strongly associated with a Saint Maurice, a Roman general of African descent who became a saint in the early Middle Ages.

“Nazis aren’t very happy that I keep posting the *original* medieval European bearer of this standard, Saint Maurice,” tweeted Malisha Dewalt, who runs a blog about people of color in European art history. In that tweet, she attached a side-by-side comparison of the man in Charlottesville holding his shield and Saint Maurice holding a flag with the same eagle on it.

The white supremacist in Charlottesville carrying that image was probably unaware that it’s strongly associated with a black Catholic saint, and this disconnect illustrates a larger trend. Hate groups that adopt medieval iconography as symbols of white supremacy usually have misconceptions about that historical era. One of the most common? That Europe in the Middle Ages was unvaryingly white.

“The understanding of medieval Europe as a homogeneously white space is completely erroneous, as scholar after scholar has shown time and time again,” says Cord J. Whitaker, a medieval literature professor at Wellesley College who is writing a book called Black Metaphors: Race, Rhetoric, Religion, and the Literature of the Late Middle Ages.

Recent work by archaeologists and anthropologists “shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, Northern Europe in the Late Middle Ages—even the Middle Ages generally—was an incredibly diverse space,” he says. In 2015, when researchers at the Museum of London analyzed the skeletons of four people who lived in Roman London between the first and fifth centuries, their groundbreaking investigation found that one of them had Near Eastern ancestry, and another was likely born in North Africa. In a 2013 roundtable interview for NPR, art historians also noted that medieval art is more racially and ethnically diverse than many people assume.

So if medieval Europe wasn’t really an all-white space, why do so many people think it was?

“Much of that misconception comes from modern popular treatments of the Middle Ages, really beginning in the Enlightenment,” Whitaker says. Many non-white figures in medieval art were either ignored or physically edited out of the picture. And popular 19th-century novels that focused on medieval Europe portrayed it as a primarily white place.

“Many of those 19th-century texts were bound up with modern British and other European forms of colonialism and imperialism,” he says. “They’re very much bound up with naturalizing the idea that Europe is an ancestral homeland for Europeans, that it was homogeneously European in heritage, and that it should have power over the rest of the world.”

Which is not unlike when modern hate groups link medieval images to white supremacy. As an example, Whitaker points to the othala rune. This symbol—which looks a bit like a fish pointed upward—was originally just a letter in a medieval runic alphabet. But in the early 20th century, Nazis took it up as a symbol of white supremacy. Last year, the National Socialist Movement, an American neo-Nazi group, replaced the swastikas on its uniforms and banners with the rune. The Anti-Defamation League lists it as a hate symbol.

“This is something that’s very much in keeping with the legacy of the 18th and 19th centuries, which was the height of European imperialism around the world,” Whitaker says. When neo-Nazis display the othala rune, they’re evoking the idea that Europe is the “ancestral homeland” of white people like them—and no one else.

Whitaker recently discussed white supremacists’ use of medieval icons at a symposium called “The Crusades, the Middle Ages, and the Alt Right.” The symposium was organized by Matthew Gabriele, a professor of medieval and early modern studies at Virginia Tech, who says historians need to address hate groups’ use of medieval iconography. Often, this imagery comes from the Crusades.

He saw it in footage of the Charlottesville rally, he says: “The imagery that these white nationalist, white supremacist groups were using was really in a lot of cases very noticeably medieval.” Some of them carried “crusader shields with a red cross on it that said ‘deus vult’”—a Latin rallying cry meaning “God wills,” used by some Christian knights in the first Crusade. The red crosses evoke those worn by the Knights Templar, a Roman Catholic order that has long been fodder for myth, legend and conspiracy theories.

Hate groups’ attempts to link modern Islamophobia to the Crusades plays off of “a much older, 19th-century style of scholarship which portrayed the Crusades in a very specific way,” Gabriele says. This older scholarship framed the Crusades as a “Christian defensive war against an aggressive, expansionistic Islam.” Hate groups use this narrative of the Crusades to say, as Gabriele puts it, “‘Look what happened then; it’s happening again now.’”

Only it’s not happening now; and it didn’t happen that way then, either, scholars say. As Suleiman A. Mourad, a professor of religion at Smith College who spoke spoke at the symposium, points out, the Crusades weren’t just a series of wars between Muslims and Christians for the Holy Land. Rather, they consisted of multiple factions vying for control.

“Every story is complicated, and every story has multiple narratives,” he says. “If we simplify them, we are ignoring and sidelining important details.”

But the fact that hate groups use medieval symbols out of context isn’t the only reason historians should be troubled, says Susanna A. Throop, a professor of medieval history at Ursinus College who spoke at the symposium, too. They should also be concerned with “how history, which is a product of historians’ work, is being deployed to promote a specific vision of the future,” she says.

Because even if medieval Europe were homogeneously white, and even if the Crusades were really just as simple as Christians versus Muslims, that still wouldn’t justify racial or religious genocide. “History can and should inform our ethics, but it doesn’t determine them,” she says. “And the relationship between history and our present ethical decisions is not always simple and straightforward.”


Wasserman’s lecture “Roots of OTO in Crusades” & Ahistorical Islamophobia

Jim Wasserman is a IX° OTO and arguably their most public figure, except perhaps Lon Milo DuQuette. Wasserman has appeared on the Discovery Channel, on George Noory’s Coast to Coast, in New Dawn magazine, and elsewhere representing Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) and Thelema in general. What follows is commentary on this public figure’s public words.

Recently, the latest NOTOCON proceedings book was announced, collecting the lectures and essays from the previous year’s NOTOCON (the US national conference of OTO). Included is Jim Wasserman’s essay “The Roots of OTO in the Crusades“, which he previously had released online as a written essay.

Aside from giving constant full-throated endorsement of Donald Trump, Jim Wasserman has previously made controversial remarks, defending the right-wing marchers’ free speech at Charlottesville in 2017, photoshopping the faces of fellow OTO members who criticized him onto images of dogs, as well as other remarks about LGBTQ individuals that led him to make a public pseudo-apology. Clearly, this was bad enough that US OTO changed their Vision & Values statements very soon afterward to include explicit denouncements of prejudice and bigotry… But OTO did not think his comments and actions were sufficiently bad to stop promoting him and his work at the national level. They are not only inviting him to speak at NOTOCON but including his lecture in their proceedings book.

The unfortunate fact is that Wasserman’s lecture contains historically inaccurate depictions and littered with common right-wing tropes of Islamophobia (and Christian-centrism). This is not a one-off case: Wasserman has written at least 4 books on the Crusades, and I don’t think it would be entirely out of line to suggest that he seems to have an infatuation with the Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar are, of course, one of many sources of symbolism for both Freemasonry and OTO. There is no denying that. OTO absolutely draws from Templar history, myths, and symbolism. However, Wasserman has a unique focus on the Templars. There is a parallel in white nationalists’ adoption of Templar imagery and language, largely because they are seen as conquerors and “repellers” of Islam. For example, in 2011, a far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik shot and killed 69 people. Breivik wrote a 1,518-page manifesto entitled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence which, on the front, bears the unmistakable symbol of the Knights Templar:

A cover with a resemblance to at least one of Wasserman’s books:

We are not equating the two but note that they are both drawing from the same source of far-right militancy equating with the Knights Templar. This connection between Templar imagery and far right-wing militants has been noticed by many people. One article notes:

“Hate groups’ attempts to link modern Islamophobia to the Crusades plays off of ‘a much older, 19th-century style of scholarship which portrayed the Crusades in a very specific way,’ Gabriele says. This older scholarship framed the Crusades as a ‘Christian defensive war against an aggressive, expansionistic Islam.’ Hate groups use this narrative of the Crusades to say, as Gabriele puts it, ‘‘Look what happened then it’s happening again now.” Only it’s not happening now and it didn’t happen that way then, either, scholars say…”

“How Hate Groups are Hijacking Medieval Symbols While Ignoring the Facts Behind Them” quote from Matthew Gabriele, a professor of medieval and early modern studies at Virginia Tech see also, “Islamophobes want to re-create the Crusades. But they don’t understand them at all.“

Their commonality is viewing the world in this way. We should also note that the right-wing works in “dog whistles”, in statements and images that have plausible deniability. One can always then pretend like the racism or xenophobia was “just a joke” or the person pointing it out is just a bit too sensitive.

It is no surprise that Wasserman’s teacher and mentor, J. Daniel Gunther, includes almost a full page of Fox News-style Islamophobia and conflation of radical Islam with all Muslims in Angel & the Abyss (pg. 158-9). Gunther excludes Sufis as peaceful but then includes all Muslims in the strong statement: “I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the so-called ‘politically correct’ statement that ‘Islam is a peaceful religion’ is a damnable lie,” he says of the 1.8 billion practitioners of Islam around the world which account for a quarter of the entire human population. Note he does not qualify it with “radical” or “extremist” or “terrorism” and makes sure to tell you how strongly he feels. There is, of course, no similar treatment of colonial Christianity (or any other religion), or right-wing terrorism. We might note that Right-wing terrorists killed three times more people in US than Islamists in past decade with attacks soaring in 2018. If anything, apologies are made for the Catholic Church and its misdeeds, as we will see in Wasserman’s essay/lecture.

Now we turn to Wasserman’s essay “The Roots of OTO in the Crusades.” Naturally, there are literally no sources cited throughout this “historical” essay. In it we will find extreme oversimplifications and cherry-picking of historical facts to paint Islam as an evil scourge and the Templar and the Church as the saviors of civilization, just like in the quote above. He writes:

“With the fall of Rome in the sixth century, however, the period popularly known as the Dark Ages began in the West. Superstition and religion replaced science and philosophy. Medical knowledge was limited to women, Arabs, and Jews.”

The Roots of OTO in the Crusades

Anyone who studies history outside of new-age pseudo-history books will know that the “Dark Ages” is a term that is no longer used by historians because there was objectively no such thing and it carries an inaccurate, pejorative connotation. It is the academic consensus that this is essentially a myth that started as early as the 14th century:

“In terms of the sources of information available, this is most certainly not a Dark Age… Over the last century, the sources of evidence have increased dramatically, and the remit of the historian (broadly defined as a student of the past) has expanded correspondingly.”

Fouracre, Paul (ed). (2005). The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 1.

The historian Snyder refers to the “so-called Dark Ages,” noting that:

“Historians and archaeologists have never liked the label Dark Ages … there are numerous indicators that these centuries were neither ‘dark’ nor ‘barbarous’ in comparison with other eras.”

Snyder, Christopher A. (1998). An Age of Tyrants: Britain and the Britons A.D. 400–600.

Clearly, Wasserman is perpetuating this ahistorical myth in order to put forward an oversimplified narrative. It appears to be a perpetuation of the idea mentioned earlier, the narrative that Christianity represents humanity, civilization, and uprightness whereas outsiders, especially Islam, are viewed as uncivilized and morally corrupt. Wasserman continues:

While its prohibitions against bathing led even the most wealthy to develop skin disease and infestations by vermin, the Church was the primary civilizing influence among the rude tribes of the north.

The Roots of OTO in the Crusades

Choice of language is a very interesting indicator into the state of mind of the speaker. The Church was the “primary civilizing influence” among the uncivilized “rude tribes” of the north. It is the classic language of “othering,” the language of dehumanizing the outsiders. The Western Catholic Church is the upright and civilized force, and the others are dark and scary others who have no real culture and bathe too much…

” As if to add insult to the injury of the Barbarian defeat of Rome, the scourge of Islam burst upon the world stage in the seventh century. “

The Roots of OTO in the Crusades

Speaking of choice of language, we can clearly see Mr. Wasserman’s views when he speaks of “the scourge of Islam” and treating Islam as synonymous with insult. This seems an unambiguous endorsement of uncritical Islamophobia.

In 1291, the Crusades ended in defeat and the Templars returned to Europe where they were slandered with charges of heresy by political operatives—whose command of the Big Lie and Fake News is unrivalled even in modern times.

The Roots of OTO in the Crusades

This is honestly really just a sad collection of right-wing buzzwords strung together to make a political jab at the expense of historical accuracy.

So what are we saying here? Jim Wasserman is clearly enamored with the Knights Templar and their imagery. Unfortunately it appears to be founded on an ahistorical reading of the Templar as being forces of Light against the Islamic forces of Darkness. It perpetuates a xenophobic understanding of Islam and an uncritical view of the history of the Church and the Templar.

It is sad because a different, almost opposite vision of the Templar is possible: a vision where the Knights Templar represent the connection between East and West, between Islam and Christianity. In this vision, the Knights Templar do not represent the “Civilized Man” fighting the “Uncivilized Scourge,” but the union of differing viewpoints, of peace between brethren of different religions, of learning from disparate systems…

This is what OTO’s actual heritage drawing from the Templar really means. In fact, in the introductory degree we are taught that even the sworn enemy may give hospitality and teach chivalry to weary travelers. The influence of Islam throughout the initiatory degrees of OTO is indeed explicit and extensive. Wasserman, of course, completely ignores this in a childish vision of the world as Templars good, Muslims bad. It ignores the “Tolerance” of OTO’s motto “Peace. Tolerance. Truth.” It ignores Mohammed as a Saint of the Gnostic Mass and of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica. It ignores the union of Islam and Christian mysticism in the Man of Earth degrees of the initiatory system of which he is supposedly a representative. It ignores the “Oriental” in “Order of Oriental Templars,” which implies a union of East and West, not some holy war. All, really, for what? To put forward a modern, political, right-wing, intolerant viewpoint, cloaked in the imagery and language of the occult and “chivalry.” Well, as Liber AL says, “Veil not your vices in virtuous words.” And as Crowley said, “Intolerance is evidence of impotence.” I do not pretend to understand the source of this impotence that has infected the Thelemic community, but I stand against those who seek to infect the rest of us with it.

Love is the law, love under will.

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Caragana Ennis: The Absent-Presence of Imperialism in Marie de France’s “Le Fresne”

15 Friday Jan 2021

[1] As I read Marie de France’s “Le Fresne” from her set of Breton lais, I became aware of something that the story orbited but didn’t touch, an absent-presence that remained unsaid – the Crusades. The lai follows the story of Le Fresne, who is born into a noble family but left in the woods as a baby to save her mother the shame of raising twins (which supposedly denotes adultery), and is raised instead by an abbess. Aside from the clues of a few items her mother sent along with her, Le Fresne is unaware of her noble parentage and so are the common people she grows up with. Nevertheless, the narrative places her as exceptional, as inherently separate from those she is raised by. She is regarded as especially beautiful, especially courteous, especially gracious, and held “in the highest esteem” (123). It is in this way, by her naturally “superior” qualities, that the narrative marks her as noble.

[2] This isn’t an unfamiliar trope – noble child raised by commoners and lauded for her lovely qualities before eventually being reunited with her birth family, leaving behind the people that raised her without feeling too sad about it, and usually getting married. This trope is, however, a subtle sign of the imperialist ideology that permeates the cultural consciousness of the western European writers employing it. The framing places the noble child’s superior beauty and virtue as a natural, embodied marker of proper parentage and places her above those around her who do not share this parentage. Not only is Le Fresne’s nobility signalled in the text by her beauty and manner, but also by the tokens (silk cloth and a ring) that her mother sent along with her as a baby so that whoever found her would “know in all truth / that she was born of a good family” (117). In her essay “The Power of Sisterhood: Marie de France’s ‘Le Fresne’,” Michelle A. Freeman suggests that these tokens of nobility may be relics of her father’s “prowess as a crusader to the holy lands” (14). Not only is Le Fresne’s nobility naturalized, but this nobility itself is defined by proximity to empire – specifically the imperialist invasion enacted through the Third Crusade.

[3] Le Fresne’s nobility in this text is not denoted by structural, material power (as we would see if Le Fresne was with her biological parents, enacting the political and class privilege of her societal positionality), but by physical beauty and virtuous manner, which places nobility as a “natural” quality of the body. In the pastoral context in which Le Fresne is raised, she is anomalous. It is said of her that “in Brittany there was no maiden so beautiful / nor so courteous / She was gracious and well taught / in manner and in speech no one saw her who did not love her / and hold her in the highest esteem” (123). No one else in the text is described like she is except for her biological sister: “in this country there is none so beautiful” (129). The man Le Fresne marries, Gurun, believes her to be “lovely and well brought up, / wise, courteous, and well-bred” (123). Out of Gurun’s servants, there are none “who did not love her for her graciousness / and cherish and honor her” (127). The narrative places Le Fresne as having been “well brought up” by common people, but being inherently, naturally better than them and universally loved for it. This placement frames nobility itself as being an inherent quality of the body, creating an implicit and naturalized hierarchy.

[4] The motif of the inherently noble body is one I have come across again and again in my studies, but one whose imperialist implications I have largely missed, perhaps because as a settler scholar living in a settler nation-state I still benefit from these ideologies, which place my whiteness in proximity to power. The motif appears (to name just a few examples) in prose romances such as The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania and The Faerie Queene , and all over Shakespeare’s plays, though perhaps most relevantly in “The Winter’s Tale” (inspired by Robert Green’s Pandasto , which contains the same trope). Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania is raised in a pastoral setting by a shepherd even though she is the biological daughter of the King of Naples. She is praised throughout the text for her natural quietness, purity, and chastity. Shakespeare’s Perdita is also the daughter of royalty and raised by a shepherd, and is also praised throughout the text for her beauty and virtuousness. Edmund Spencer’s Britomart does not adhere to the motif in quite the same way as Perdita and Urania, but she does embody ties to empire in a similar way to Le Fresne. Meant to represent Elizabeth I in the text (Rochester), Britomart is a knight praised for her virtue and chastity. She bears armor that marks her proximity to nobility and to empire, somewhat like Le Fresne’s cloth and ring mark her nobility. Britomart’s link to nobility is extratextual and marked narratively by her body, her manner, and the objects she carries. This ties her not intratextually to noble parentage, but extra-textually to royalty and imperial power.

[5] In my own research I have spent a lot of time looking at textual negative space (both visual and conceptual) and something I often find is that we can read as much of what isn’t in a text as what is . The unsaid of a text, around which the rest of the text takes its shape, is often revelatory of the underlying ideologies that the writer holds. A significant piece of the cultural consciousness in Marie’s context was an imperialist mindset, which seeks to justify atrocities like the Crusades through naturalized hierarchy, hierarchy that lives in the body, hierarchy that places one person as inherently superior to another based on their embodied proximity to empire. This ideology is not purely historical, or isolated to a Christian medieval Europe it is continuous and current. Crusader symbols such as the templar cross are still used by white supremacists today (Little). White Christian missionaries have used the ideology of naturalized hierarchy to justify colonization (Miller). It is the ideology still guiding the hierarchical structures of colonial nations. It is of course very likely that Marie de France employed imperialist ideology in her work completely unconsciously. It was the air she breathed. As we learn to read the unsaid of a text, we also learn to recognize the air we breathe. We recognize the ideologies that guide our own thinking, that influence our own actions, and the ways they either support or subvert structures of power.

Caragana Ennis is a first year MA thesis student living in Treaty 6. Her areas of interest include textual negative space, queer and feminist revisionism, and treatments of monstrous literary women.

Works Cited and Consulted

Miller, Brandi. “…From White Supremacy: Either/Or (Binary) Thinking w/ Sarah Akutagawa.” Reclaiming My Theology . Spotify, 2020.

Rochester, Joanne. “Spencer Class One.” English 406, 2019. University of Saskatchewan. Lecture.

Shakespeare, William. The Winter’s Tale, Routledge, 2005.

Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene , Penguin Classics, 1979.

Waters, Claire M. The Lais of Marie de France , Broadview Press, 2018.

Wroth, Mary. The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania . Edited by Mary Ellen Lamb, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2011.


Marauders in the US Capitol: Alt-right Viking Wannabes & Weaponized Medievalism

Vikings are a very hot topic right now there’s no question. Within the thriving genre of medievalism, Vikings have recently proven an especially sexy and profitable subject for contemporary pseudo-historical fiction, particularly in television series like the History Channel’s Vikings (2013) and Netflix’s The Last Kingdom (2015). Both these series are fundamentally anachronistic and closer in many ways to medieval fantasy than an accurate historical representation of the early medieval period known as the Viking Age (793–1066 CE). Inaccuracies are, of course, not unique to medievalism involving Vikings, and historical liberties are more abundant in historical fiction set in ancient and medieval times.

Bjǫrn “Ironsides” son of Ragnarr Loðbrók from the final season of the History Channel’s Vikings (2019).

Still, these television shows are very popular and therefore highly influential. Even the anachronisms and inaccuracies in popular medievalism provide effective conversation starters when teaching the subject by offering both a hook into the material and a chance to separate fact from fiction. But in today’s world, by far the most important reason for medievalists to know the trends in popular medievalism and engage with this media directly is white nationalism. As scholars of the period, we must be aware of information, misinformation and disinformation that is being widely disseminated if we are to have any hope of using our voices to help debunk, nuance and contextualize shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom with a watchful eye toward white supremacist interpretations and appropriations.

King Haraldr “Fairhair” leads his army in the final season of History Channel’s Vikings (2019).

Many medievalists of color have sounded the alarm—again and again—warning that this monster lurked in the shadows. Over five years ago, Sierra Lomuto stressed how “When white nationalists turn to the Middle Ages to find a heritage for whiteness—to seek validation for their claims of white supremacy—and they do not find resistance from the scholars of that past when this quest is celebrated and given space within our academic community, our complacency becomes complicity” (2016).

In the wake of the riotous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where some alt-right protesters donned crusader and Viking garb, scholars such as Dorothy Kim, Mary Rambaran-Olm and others have repeatedly warned the field of the dangerous appropriations of the medieval by white supremacists. Immediately following Charlottesville, Kim insightfully cautioned her fellow medievalists that “The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students” (2017). More recently, Rambaran-Olm has pointed out that “far-right identitarian groups [are] seeking to prove their superior ancestry by portraying the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in ways that both promote English identity and national sociopolitical progress” (2019).

James Alex Fields Jr., who has been convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville VA, is pictured in the group (second from the left, wearing dark glasses), holding a round shield with white supremacist symbolism. Photo credit: Lidia Jean Kott (August 12th, 2017).

Moreover, alt-right activists have postured as pseudo-medievalists in order to further these white supremacist narratives and misappropriations of the Middle Ages. For example, Milo Yiannopoulos is known for his ad hominem article “The Middle Rages” that targets numerous medievalists of color. Still somehow, the “jousting” between medievalists of color and the alt-right was not enough to shake many white medievalists into action, despite the very real threat posed by white supremacist weaponization of the medieval.

Since the Nazi appropriation and sacralization of the “Germanic” in the service of white supremacy, medieval literature—especially Scandinavian myth and legend—has been rhetorically mobilized as an imagined “pure white” era in Northern Europe prior to encountering and intermingling with nonwhite peoples, despite clear historical evidence of multi-cultural trade interactions between ancient and medieval peoples. This ideology has infiltrated the neopagan religion known as “Odinism,” which varies widely and spans the political spectrum, but harbors a perverse, neo-Nazi strain (sometimes called Wotansvolk meaning “Odin’s Folk”) that has long haunted the movement.

Oðinn wandering after the battle from first season of History Channel’s Vikings (2013).

Odinism—named for the chief Scandinavian god of war, Odin—refers to modern New Age interpretations of indigenous religion in pre-Christian Scandinavian, and The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that “A neo-Pagan religion drawing on images of fiercely proud, boar-hunting Norsemen and their white-skinned Aryan womenfolk is increasingly taking root among Skinheads, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists across the nation” more than twenty years ago. More recently, “Anglo-Saxon” neopaganism, sometimes called “Heathenry” to further ground their practice in the language of the culture they idolize, has grown and frequently provides a haven for white supremacist rhetoric.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, the “Q Shaman,” was one of several protesters to storm the US Capitol. Photo credit: Win McNamee, Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).

The alt-right has mobilized medievalism toward nefarious ends, fashioning harmful narratives of white supremacy, which have been rhetorically weaponized by domestic terrorists such as the “Q Shaman” also known as Jake Angeli, but whose real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley. As a QAnon promoter and influencer, Chansley is described as a pseudo-celebrity at alt-right rallies, flashing his tattoos, including three prominent Norse symbols: Thor’s Hammer [Mjǫllnir], the Valknut and the World Tree [Yggdrasil]. All three were proudly displayed as he sat in Vice President Mike Pence‘s seat in the Senate, after the Pence was forced to retreat from the angry mob calling for his head.

The pro-Trump mob breeched security, and demonstrators entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 electoral vote certification. Photo credit: Saul Loeb (AFP), Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).

Moreover, Chansley’s horned helmet (while almost certainly referencing other traditions as well) represents a continuation of the Victorian anachronistic introduction of horned helms on Vikings and Valkyries, drawn from classical depictions of Roman Victories. Chansley’s flag-spear may be intended as a reference to Odin’s spear, Gungnir, which further points to white nationalist medievalism. In the case of his horned helmet, Chansley’s ignorance is on full display, as his caricature more closely resembles the ahistorical symbol of the Minnesota Vikings’ football team than anything remotely resembling what a medieval Viking might have looked like. Chansley joined with other pro-Trump supporters to form a violent mob which stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

A man shouts and brandishes his shield as pro-Trump mob gathers in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. Photo credit: Leah Millis, Reuters (January 6th, 2021).

Of course, it must be emphasized that this insurrection was perpetrated specifically by a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” MAGA mob, there in support of the president’s blatantly false and dangerous claims that there was election-altering voter fraud during the recent 2020 presidential election (which he soundly lost to Democratic rival Joe Biden). This mob, incited by the president, sought to disrupt the lawful process outlined in the US Constitution by any means necessary in order to overturn a free and fair election.

Donald Trump’s boasting, belligerence and greed does link him with warrior ethics which sustain predatory economies and the Viking activities of marauding, feuding and plundering. The ironic Twitter account, “Beowulf Trump” (discontinued after Trump’s election in 2016), highlights this rhetorical connection by comparing the president’s macho posturing and self-aggrandizing campaign promises to hyperbolic boasts and egoistic attitudes in Beowulf. There were indeed marauders in the Capitol Building on January 6th, and alongside Trump’s red hats, outfitted in army camouflage and waving Trump or Confederate flags, were alt-right Viking wannabes.

This week, the academy has been quick to respond. Alfred Thomas compared the storming of the US Capitol Building to the Peasants Revolt of 1381, although Miriam Müller has disputed this analogy, prompting Thomas to further clarify his argument. Ken Mondschein considered Rudy Giuliani’s terrifying invocation of “trial by combat” in order to spur the MAGA mob into action, and Giuliani later likened his use of the phrase to its function in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011), which he inaccurately described as “that very famous documentary about fictitious medieval England.” Matthew Gabriele reflected on the role of medievalism in the seditious attack at the Capitol Building, pointing out that like at Charlottesville, in addition to Viking-oriented medievalism, rioters also sported crusader symbolism to signal their white nationalism. Helen Young responded to the incident by offering an explanation of why white supremacists often embrace medieval symbolism, noting that “the association of European Middle Ages and white identities reflect modern racism more than medieval realities.” She emphasizes that “Medievalist symbols have been linked to white European identities for centuries. Their use by violent extremists mean that this connection can not be denied, ignored or thought of as a neutral choice.”

Man who joined the pro-Trump mob wearing the Templar Cross of European crusaders. Photo credit: Samuel Corum, Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).

On January 13th, the Medieval Academy of America issued a direct response to the insurrection acknowledging the “presence of pseudo-medieval symbols and costumes among the rioters in the Capitol” and recognizing “our discipline’s complicity in the racist narratives of the past, and our responsibility to advocate unequivocally for anti-racism both in our policies as an organization, and in our teaching and scholarship as individuals.” More white medievalists need to be willing to stare this beast in the face and recognize that it is our problem too. It is my view that we should not idly concede medieval studies to the likes of white supremacists. We must respond. Failing to do so—for far too long—makes us complicit. We need to actively reject white supremacy. We must correct and denounce the alt-right’s misappropriations of the medieval both publicly and in the classroom by identifying these dangerous narratives as white nationalist propaganda.

If what we all witnessed last week is any indication of the widespread public ignorance we as scholars are up against, we surely have our work cut out for us. As medievalists, we must heed well the warnings of our colleagues of color and more forcefully and ubiquitously address the problematic phenomenon of white nationalist weaponizing of the medieval. Let me add my voice to those within the academy who are calling attention to this dire issue: the recent use of medieval symbolism during the insurrection at the US Capital is but the latest in a horrific trend that cannot be ignored in the field and must be loudly condemned as nonfactual and nonsensical white supremacist rhetoric in the guise of medievalism.

Richard Fahey
PhD in English
University of Notre Dame

Further Reading

Cole, Richard. “Make Ásgarðr Great Again!” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2017).


The Hidden History of the Incredibly Evil Khazarian Mafia

by Preston James and Mike Harris

100-800 AD – an incredibly Evil Society Emerges in Khazaria:

Khazarians develop into a nation ruled by an evil king, who had ancient Babylonian black arts, occult oligarchs serving as his court. During this time, Khazarians become known to surrounding countries as thieves, murderers, road bandits, and for assuming the identities of those travelers they murdered as a normal occupational practice and way of life.

STAR OF DAVID AL-ROY Imposed Upon The People Of Israel By Rothschild When He Purchased Israel In 1948. Their symbol is 2 overlapping triangels known as the Morgan David or Star of David. Not the David of the Bible or Qu’ran, but of David Al-roy a 12th century false prophet.

Before he became known a David Al-roy his name was Menahem born in Khazaria (Caucasus Mountains). His father, Solomon Ben Duji began this movement by sending letters to the “jews” stating that Palestine was their birthright, he later took the name Elijah and said his son was the Messiah.

In 1527 the Jews of Prague began to use the Star of David (David Al-roy) as their Flag a pentagram or “Seal of Solomon” Later used by Freemason/Zionist Theodor Herzl in 1898 at the start of the modern Zionist Movement.

800 AD – The Ultimatum is delivered by Russia and other surrounding nations:

The leaders of the surrounding nations, especially Russia, have had so many years of complaints by their citizens that, as a group, they deliver an ultimatum to the Khazarian king. They send a communique to the Khazarian king that he must choose one of the three Abrahamic religions for his people, and make it his official state religion and require all Khazarian citizens to practice it, and socialize all Khazarian children to practice that faith.

The Khazarian king was given a choice between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Khazarian king chose Judaism, and promised to stay within the requirements laid out by the surrounding confederacy of nations led by the Russian czar. Despite his agreement and promise, the Khazarian king and his inner circle of oligarchs kept practicing ancient Babylonian black-magic, also known as Secret Satanism. This Secret Satanism involved occult ceremonies featuring child sacrifice, after “bleeding them out”, drinking their blood and eating their hearts.

The deep dark secret of the occult ceremonies was that they were all based on ancient Baal Worship, also known as worship of the Owl. In order to fool the confederacy of nations led by Russia that were watching Khazaria, the Khazarian king melded these Luciferian black-magick practices with Judaism and created a secret Satanic-hybrid religion, known as Babylonian Talmudism. This made the national religion of Khazaria, and nurtured the same evil that Khazaria was known for before.

Sadly, the Khazarians continued their evil ways, robbing and murdering those from surrounding countries who traveled through Khazaria. Khazarian robbers often attempted to assume their identities after they murdered these visitors, and became masters of disguises and false identities — a practice they have continued even to this very day, along with their child-sacrifice occult ceremonies, which are actually ancient Baal Worship.

1,200 AD – Russia and the surrounding nations have had enough and take action:

About 1,200 AD, the Russians led a group of nations surrounding Khazaria and invaded it, in order to stop the Khazarian crimes against their people, which included kidnapping of their young children and infants for their blood sacrifice ceremonies to Baal. The Khazarian king and his inner court of criminals and murderers came to be known as the Khazarian Mafia (KM) by neighboring countries.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

The Khazarian leaders had a well-developed spy network through which they obtained prior warning and escaped from Khazaria to European nations to the west, taking their vast fortune with them in gold and silver.

They laid low and regrouped, while assuming new identities. In secret, they continued their Satanic child blood and sacrifice rituals, and trusted Baal to give them the whole world and all its riches, as they claimed he had promised them, as long as they kept bleeding out and sacrificing children and infants for him.

The Khazarian king and his court Mafia plotted eternal revenge against the Russians and the surrounding nations that invaded Khazaria and drove them from power.

Duke Rusov Militia — Sviatoslav Brave kind of Rurik
On this day 3 July 964 AD, now and forever, we — Russia, will celebrate the Day of Victory over the Jewish Khazars. Who are now better known as secular zionists.
This victory made it possible for the physical survival of the Russian people.

The Khazarian Mafia invades England after being expelled for hundreds of years:

To accomplish their invasion, they hired Oliver Cromwell to murder King Charles 1, and make England safe for banking again. This began the English Civil Wars which raged for nearly a decade, resulting in regicide of the royal family and hundreds of the genuine English nobility. This is how the City of London was set up as the banking capital of Europe and launched the beginning of the British Empire.

A drawing of Oliver Cromwell’s head on a spike from the late 18th century

How did England deal with a corrupt puritan government/parliament?

When King Charles I was executed by the Oliver Cromwell mob, his son King Charles II made it his mission to search out retribution, producing the biggest manhunt Britain had ever seen, one that would span Europe and America and would last for thirty years.

Men who had once been among the most powerful figures in England ended up on the scaffold, on the run, or in fear of the assassin’s bullet.

History has painted the regicides and their supporters as Puritans, among them were John Milton and Oliver Cromwell. After Cromwell Beheaded King Charles I, he became the ‘dictator’ of England. This corrupt Puritan Parliament also murdered Guy Fawkes in 1606 [Father Of Anonymous], the Puritans were ultimately executed by the returning King Charles II in 1660, for regicide (the killing of a King) & usurping the laws of England

The Magna Carta which is similar to our U.S. Constitution.

Cromwell’s severed head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall From 1661 until 1685.

The English Puritans under Cromwell engaged in pure and simple genocide Of Roman Catholics in Ireland – 40,000 victims killed or sold as slaves in 1649 in the Oradours of Drogheda and Wexford alone.

The Khazarian Mafia (KM) decides to infiltrate and hijack all World Banking using Babylonian Black-Magick, also known as Babylonian Money-Magick or the secret art of making money from nothing also using the power of pernicious usury to accumulate interest:

The KM used their vast fortune to enter into a new system of banking, based on secret Babylonian black-magic money-magic that they claimed to have learned from the evil spirits of Baal, in return for their many child sacrifices to him.

This Babylonian money-magick involved the substitution of paper credit certificates for gold and silver deposits, which allowed travelers to travel with their money in a form that offered easy replacement should they lose the certificates or have them stolen.

Interesting how the very problem that was started by the Khazarians also had a solution provided by them. Eventually the Khazarian king and his small surrounding court infiltrated Germany with a group that chose the name “the Bauers” of Germany to represent them and carry on their Baal-powered system of evil. The Bauers of the Red Shield, which represented their secret blood-based child sacrifices, changed their name to Rothschild (aka “child of the rock, Satan”).

Rothschild’s Red Shield.
Rothschild Is A Khazarian Thug Who Also Changed His Named [Just Like Menahem Did In The 12th Century] But For Rothschild, It Went From Bauer to Rothschild. It Stood For The Red Hexagram That Was Above His Office In 1760.
Rot,” is German for, “Red,” “Schild,” is German for, “Sign

Put The Two Together And You Get Rot Schild

Throw In An H and You Have Rothschild. Tada!

1743:

Mayer Amschel Bauer, an Ashkenazi Jew, is born in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Moses Amschel Bauer, a money lender and the proprietor of a counting house.

Moses Amschel Bauer places a red sign above the entrance door to his counting house. This sign is a red hexagram (which geometrically and numerically translates into the number 666) which under Rothschild instruction will end up on the Israeli flag some two centuries later.

1753:

Gutle Schnaper, an Ashkenazi Jew (future wife of Mayer Amschel Bauer), born to respected merchant, Wolf Salomon Schnaper.

1760:

During this decade Mayer Amschel Bauer works for a bank owned by the Oppenheimers’ in Hanover, Germany. He is highly successful and becomes a junior partner. Whilst working at the bank he becomes acquainted with General von Estorff.

Following his father’s death, Bauer returns to Frankfurt to take over his father’s business. Bauer recognises the significance of the red hexagram and changes his name from Bauer to Rothschild, after the red hexagram or sign signifying 666 hanging over the entrance door (“Rot,” is German for, “Red,” “Schild,” is German for, “Sign”).

The Rothschilds as the front Men for the Khazarian Mafia (KM) infiltrate and Hijack British Banking and then hijack the whole nation of England:

Bauer/Rothschild had five sons who infiltrated and took over European banking and the City of London Central Banking System through various crafty covert operations, including a false report of Napoleon winning against the British, when actually he lost. This allowed the Rothschilds to use fraud and deception to steal the wealth of the English nobility and the landed gentry, who had made business investments with the City of London Banking institutions.

Jacob ‘Joco’ Rothschild

The Rothschilds set up a private Fiat banking system that specialized in making counterfeit money from nothing — charging pernicious usury for the British people, using what should have been their own money.

This was the black art of Babylonian money-magick they claimed to insiders that such technology and secret money power was provided to them by Baal, because of their frequent child bleeding-out and sacrifices rituals to Baal.

“A great deal is at stake if the Establishment considers it necessary to operate a full scale cover-up,” writes Knight. “For the truth of the Jack the Ripper affair to have been painstakingly concealed can mean nothing less than State security was at risk, or that someone high in the Government or the Royal Family was involved.”

Once they had infiltrated and hijacked the British banking system, they interbred with the British Royals and infiltrated and completely hijacked all of England and all its major institutions. Some experts believe that the Rothschilds genocided the Royal Family members by staging secretly-managed illicit and adulterous breedings with their own Khazarian men in order to replace the Royals with their own pretenders to the throne. From Hell

The Khazarian Mafia (KM) wages an international effort to eradicate Kings who rule by the Divine Right of God Almighty:

Because the KM claims to have a personal partnership with Baal (aka the Devil, Lucifer, Satan) because of their sacrifices to him. They detest any kings who rule under the authority of God Almighty because most feel a responsibility to make sure their own people are protected from infiltrators and treasonous “Enemies within the Gates.”

In the 1600’s, the KM murder the British Royals and substitute their own fakes. In the 1700’s, they murder the French Royals. Right before WWI they murder, Austrian Archduke Ferdinand to start WW1. In 1917 they assembled their KM army, the Bolsheviks, and infiltrate and hijack Russia, murder the Czar and his family in cold blood, bayonet his favorite daughter through the chest and steal all the Russian gold, silver and art treasures. Right before WW2, they murder the Austrian and German Royals. Then they get rid of the Chinese Royals and disempower the Japanese ruler.

The Khazarian Mafia’s intense hatred of anyone who professed faith in any God but their god Baal has motivated them to murder kings and royalty, and make sure they can never rule. They have done the same with American presidents — running sophisticated covert operations to disempower them.

If that doesn’t work the KM assassinates them, like they did to McKinley, Lincoln and JFK. The KM wants to eliminate any strong rulers or elected officials who dare to resist their Babylonian money-magick power or their covert power gained from their deployment of their human compromise network.

The Rothschilds create international narcotics trafficking on behalf of the KM:

The Rothschilds then covertly ran the British Empire and crafted an evil plan to recover the vast amounts of gold and silver the British had been paying to China for its high-quality silk and spices that were unavailable anywhere else.

The Rothschilds, through their international spy network, had heard of Turkish opium and its habit-forming characteristics. They deployed a covert operation to buy Turkish opium and sell it in China, infecting millions with a bad opium habit that brought back gold and silver into the Rothschild coffers, but not to the British People.

The opium addictions created by Rothschild opium sales to China harmed China so much that China went to war on two occasions to stop it. These wars were known as the Boxer Rebellions or the Opium Wars.

The money the Rothschilds gained from the sale of opium was so vast that they became even more addicted to the easy money than the opiate addicts were to the opium.

The Rothschilds were the funding source behind the establishment of the American Colonies, by incorporating the Hudson Bay Company and other trading companies to exploit the New World of the Americas. It was the Rothschild’s who ordered the mass extermination and genocide of the indigenous people of North America to allow for exploitation of the vast natural resources of the continent.

Roman Catholic Guy Fawkes The Start Of The Warnings! Father Of Anonymous 1606!

The Rothschild’s also followed the same business template in the Caribbean and in the Asian sub-continent of India, resulting in the murder of millions of innocent people.

The Rothschilds start the international slave trade, an enterprise that viewed these kidnapped humans as mere animals — a view that the Khazarians would impose on all the people of the world who were not part of their evil circle, which some called the “Old Black Nobility”:

The Rothschild’s next big project was to start the worldwide slave trade, buying slaves from crooked tribal chiefs in Africa who worked with them to kidnap members of competing tribes for sale as slaves.

The Rothschild slave traders then took these kidnapped slaves on their ships in cramped cells to America and the Caribbean where they were sold. Many died at sea due to bad conditions.

The Rothschild bankers learned early on that war was a great way to double their money in a short time by lending money to both warring sides. But in order to be guaranteed collections, they had to get taxation laws passed, which could be used to force payment.

The KM Rothschild private Fiat Counterfeit Banksters plot eternal revenge against the American Colonists and Russia who assisted them for losing the Revolutionary War:

When the Rothschilds lost the American Revolution, they blamed the Russian czar and the Russians for assisting the colonists by blockading British Ships.

They swore eternal revenge on the American colonists, just as they had when the Russians and their allies crushed Khazaria in 1,000 AD.

The Rothschilds and their English oligarchy that surrounded them plotted ways to retake America, and this became their main obsession.

Their favored plan is to set up an American central bank, featuring Babylonian money magic and secret counterfeiting.

The Rothschild KM attempts to retake America in 1812 on behalf of the Khazarian Mafia but fails, once again because of Russian interference:

This failure enraged the Rothschild KM, and they once again plot eternal revengeagainst both the Russians and the American colonists and plan to infiltrate and hijack both nations and asset strip, tyrannize and then mass-murder both nations and their populace.

The KM’s attempts to set up a private American central bank are blocked by President Andrew Jackson, who called them Satanic and vowed to route them out by the grace and power of Almighty God.

The Rothschild banksters regroup and continue their covert attempts to install their own Babylonian money-magick bank inside America.

Finally in 1913, the Rothschild KM succeeds in establishing a major beachhead inside America — and an evil enemy of all American enter the gates of America:

In 1913, the Rothschild KM was able to establish a beachhead by bribing crooked, treasonous members of Congress to pass the illegal, Unconstitutional Federal Reserve Act on Christmas Eve without a required quorum. The Act was then signed by a crooked, bought off President, who was a traitor to America, like the members of Congress who voted for it.

The Rothschild KM then create an illegal taxation System in America:

The KM put an illegal, Unconstitutional tax system in place, in order to make sure that Americans would have to pay for high-level USG spending, approved by a bought-off, crooked Congress and Presidential puppets, put in place by corrupt KM campaign finance.

It is easy for the KM to garner enough money to elect anyone they want, because when you control a bank that is a secret major counterfeiter, you have all the money made for you that you desire. At about the same time that they created their illegal tax system in America, they also bribed members of Congress to approve the Internal Revenue Service, which is their private collection agency incorporated in Puerto Rico.

Soon afterwards, they set up the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect their banksters, to serve their cover-up needs and prevent them from ever being prosecuted for their child sacrifice rituals, pedophile networks and to also serve as a covert Intel operation on their behalf.

Note that the FBI has no official charter, according to the Library of Congress, and has no right to exist or issue paychecks.

The Rothschild KM deployed the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to extract incredibly savage, bloody revenge on innocent Russians, which they had plotted for many years, ever since Khazaria was destroyed:

The Rothschild KM pre-staged and engineered the Russian Revolution by using its central banks to pay for the Bolshevik infiltration of Russia and their Revolution on behalf of the Khazarian Mafia (KM).

In an well-planned savage and inhuman bloodletting that stunned the world, the Bolsheviks were unleashed in full fury on behalf of the KM to gain revenge on the Russians. This had been planned since the destruction of Khazaria.

The Bolsheviks, at the direction of the Rothschild KM, raped, tortured and mass-murdered approximately 100 million Russians, including women, children and infants. Some of the torture and bloodletting was so extreme, we are not going to mention it here in this article.

But readers who want to know can do some in depth internet research on the “Red Terror” or the “Bolshevik Cheka” or watch the classic movie “The Checkist” which is available on http://www.youtube.com.

Rothschild’s communism where the individual is a hazard.

The Rothschild Khazarian Mafia (KM) once again decided to sheep-dip themselves and infiltrated and hijacked all Judaism:

The Rothschild KM created a master plan to control all of Judaism and mind-kontrol Judaics. The Rothschild KM has hijacked Judaism, patterned it off of Babylonian Talmudism (Luciferianism or Satanism), and gained control over the banking and Wall Street professions in general, Congress, the major mass media along with most wealth and economic means of success.


Medieval Studies Research Blog: Meet us at the Crossroads of Everything

Like other scholars in the field, I recently wrote about the use of medieval symbolism in the white nationalist movement involved in the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, which focused on how they mobilize narratives of white supremacy and an imaginary “pure white” medieval period in European history to recruit members to their cause.

Then, to my horror, I recently discovered that indeed my own work has been appropriated by white nationalist rhetoric. My blog on Woden’s characterization as an ancestral chief in certain early medieval sources was both cited and misrepresented in the service of white supremacy in another blog titled “How ‘Ignorant’ Pagans Deified A Real-Life Wodan Into Their Ancestral Anglo-Saxon Warrior God ‘Odin’.” This blog was initially published by the website ChristiansForTruth (1/20/2021), later reappearing on European Union Times (1/22/2021) and Ancient Patriarchs (2/5/2021), and it promotes specifically Christian white nationalist propaganda.

Woden surrounded by medieval English royal descendants in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge MS 66, p.69.

My original blog, “Woden: Allfather of the English,” was written in 2015, during the early years of my PhD studies at the University of Notre Dame, when I was much less sensitive (or aware) of the ways in which this type of work was being used by white supremacists. This lack of awareness underscores my own white privilege and highlights my ignorance with respect to this issue, especially considering how medievalists of color have been actively calling out these harmful appropriations. For this reason, and in light of recent events, I feel that it is absolutely imperative that I respond directly, clarify my own position, and reject the noxious white supremacist claims embedded in this dishonest framing and mischaracterization of my work.

There are so many problems with ChristianForTruth’s blog, it is hard to know where to begin. The blog laments how “European paganism is very popular among many White Nationalists” and proceeds to try and reclaim their allegiance within a Christianized version of white supremacy. It gets worse from there. The blog erroneously asserts that “White Europeans migrated up into Europe from the Near East” in its effort to define Europe as uniformly white, and adds that “At the time of Christ, the Near East — including Anatolia (modern Turkey) and Judea — were inhabited largely by White people — extending across most of the northern coast of Africa.” As with arguments made by certain philologists and Egyptologists in the past, this narrative supports the white surpremacist notion that ancient Egypt was specifically “white” in a rhetorical move designed to strip Africa of one of its best known and most prominent, premodern civilizations.

Their agenda is laid bare when the anonymous authors that comprise the mysterious “CFT Team” contend that “Christianity has been a ‘European’ religion from its foundations — the apostle Paul sent his epistles to White European peoples” as they complain that “We know from history that most of this area was eventually overrun by Arabs — who now occupy — and live on top of — much of this former White homeland — the literal cradle of our civilization.” The use of “our” here, to refer to white people specifically, is another indicator of the blog’s rhetorical aims, which concern identifying Christianity as natively European and misrepresenting both medieval Europe and the ancient Mediterranean world as homogeneously white.

At the very end of the blog, the CFT Team further reveals their hand by placing Woden directly within a Christian worldview and alleging ridiculous genealogical connections. The blog concludes by stating that “Woden/Odin was a Saxon, a Goth, a Scythian, an Israelite — but he wasn’t God,” thereby fusing their theological argument for Christian superiority within their ethnocentric argument for white supremacy.

Although ChristianForTruth’s post reproduces almost my entire blog, it clearly was not read very closely. The CFT Team states that when it comes to regarding Woden as a god: “There is only one small problem with this fanciful narrative — Woden was a real man — a historically-documented ancestral chieftain — that pagans long ago turned into a god — and began to worship as a god out of sheer ignorance, according to Medieval historian Richard Fahey [my PhD is in English].”

Woden interwoven into early medieval English royal lineage, The British Library, Cotton Caligula A.viii, f. 29r.

This is not at all what I argued in 2015, and these claims attributed to me are in actuality the arguments of the CFT Team alone (seemingly drawn from my discussion of the 10 th century historian Æthelweard‘s writing). They do not in any way represent my opinions or beliefs on the subject. In my initial blog, I make no judgment as to whether to regard Woden (or Odin) as principally a god or an ancestor, and I certainly do not consider the deification of Woden a matter of “sheer ignorance” on the part of pre-Christian peoples. I make no theological claims at all, nor any historical argument that Woden was “a real man” as the CFT Team suggests. In fact, I speculate that Woden may have been first regarded as a god (prior to Christianization), and that it is only after early medieval England’s gradual conversion to Christianity that Woden’s role seems to become distinctly defined a legitimizing ancestor for many early medieval kings in England. Perhaps there was an ancient leader named Woden, who is later deified, but the truth is we have no way of knowing for sure.

In sum, and with unfettered conviction, I reject the CFT Team’s problematic distortion of my work. I denounce the arguments being made in ChristiansForTruth’s blog as a racist historical revision and a blatant effort to affirm ahistorical, white supremacist narratives. And, while I responded directly on their website, in a comment on their page (which will probably never be approved), to express my outrage over the misrepresentation of my work, it occurs to me that this can be a teachable moment—both for myself and perhaps for other white medievalists. This is what can happen to our work if we are not careful, and while it is not always possible to control who uses and abuses our scholarship, it is crucial that we give white nationalists as little ammunition for their weaponization of the medieval as possible.

Richard Fahey
PhD in English
University of Notre Dame

Further Reading

—. “Woden and Oðinn: Mythic Figures of the North” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2015).

—. “Woden: Allfather of the English” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2015).

—. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Höfig, Verena. “Vinland and white nationalism.” In From Iceland to the Americas: Vinland and historical imagination, ed. Tim William Machan and Jón Karl Helgason. Manchester University Press, 2020.

Vinje, Judith Gabriel. “Viking symbols “stolen” by racists.” The Norwegian American (2017).

Marauders in the US Capitol: Alt-right Viking Wannabes & Weaponized Medievalism

Vikings are a very hot topic right now there’s no question. Within the thriving genre of medievalism, Vikings have recently proven an especially sexy and profitable subject for contemporary pseudo-historical fiction, particularly in television series like the History Channel’s Vikings (2013) and Netflix’s The Last Kingdom (2015). Both these series are fundamentally anachronistic and closer in many ways to medieval fantasy than an accurate historical representation of the early medieval period known as the Viking Age (793–1066 CE). Inaccuracies are, of course, not unique to medievalism involving Vikings, and historical liberties are more abundant in historical fiction set in ancient and medieval times.

Bjǫrn “Ironsides” son of Ragnarr Loðbrók from the final season of the History Channel’s Vikings (2019).

Still, these television shows are very popular and therefore highly influential. Even the anachronisms and inaccuracies in popular medievalism provide effective conversation starters when teaching the subject by offering both a hook into the material and a chance to separate fact from fiction. But in today’s world, by far the most important reason for medievalists to know the trends in popular medievalism and engage with this media directly is white nationalism. As scholars of the period, we must be aware of information, misinformation and disinformation that is being widely disseminated if we are to have any hope of using our voices to help debunk, nuance and contextualize shows like Vikings and The Last Kingdom with a watchful eye toward white supremacist interpretations and appropriations.

King Haraldr “Fairhair” leads his army in the final season of History Channel’s Vikings (2019).

Many medievalists of color have sounded the alarm—again and again—warning that this monster lurked in the shadows. Over five years ago, Sierra Lomuto stressed how “When white nationalists turn to the Middle Ages to find a heritage for whiteness—to seek validation for their claims of white supremacy—and they do not find resistance from the scholars of that past when this quest is celebrated and given space within our academic community, our complacency becomes complicity” (2016).

In the wake of the riotous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where some alt-right protesters donned crusader and Viking garb, scholars such as Dorothy Kim, Mary Rambaran-Olm and others have repeatedly warned the field of the dangerous appropriations of the medieval by white supremacists. Immediately following Charlottesville, Kim insightfully cautioned her fellow medievalists that “The medieval western European Christian past is being weaponized by white supremacist/white nationalist/KKK/nazi extremist groups who also frequently happen to be college students” (2017). More recently, Rambaran-Olm has pointed out that “far-right identitarian groups [are] seeking to prove their superior ancestry by portraying the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ in ways that both promote English identity and national sociopolitical progress” (2019).

James Alex Fields Jr., who has been convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for killing an anti-racist protester in Charlottesville VA, is pictured in the group (second from the left, wearing dark glasses), holding a round shield with white supremacist symbolism. Photo credit: Lidia Jean Kott (August 12th, 2017).

Moreover, alt-right activists have postured as pseudo-medievalists in order to further these white supremacist narratives and misappropriations of the Middle Ages. For example, Milo Yiannopoulos is known for his ad hominem article “The Middle Rages” that targets numerous medievalists of color. Still somehow, the “jousting” between medievalists of color and the alt-right was not enough to shake many white medievalists into action, despite the very real threat posed by white supremacist weaponization of the medieval.

Since the Nazi appropriation and sacralization of the “Germanic” in the service of white supremacy, medieval literature—especially Scandinavian myth and legend—has been rhetorically mobilized as an imagined “pure white” era in Northern Europe prior to encountering and intermingling with nonwhite peoples, despite clear historical evidence of multi-cultural trade interactions between ancient and medieval peoples. This ideology has infiltrated the neopagan religion known as “Odinism,” which varies widely and spans the political spectrum, but harbors a perverse, neo-Nazi strain (sometimes called Wotansvolk meaning “Odin’s Folk”) that has long haunted the movement.

Oðinn wandering after the battle from first season of History Channel’s Vikings (2013).

Odinism—named for the chief Scandinavian god of war, Odin—refers to modern New Age interpretations of indigenous religion in pre-Christian Scandinavian, and The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that “A neo-Pagan religion drawing on images of fiercely proud, boar-hunting Norsemen and their white-skinned Aryan womenfolk is increasingly taking root among Skinheads, neo-Nazis and other white supremacists across the nation” more than twenty years ago. More recently, “Anglo-Saxon” neopaganism, sometimes called “Heathenry” to further ground their practice in the language of the culture they idolize, has grown and frequently provides a haven for white supremacist rhetoric.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, a.k.a. Jake Angeli, the “Q Shaman,” was one of several protesters to storm the US Capitol. Photo credit: Win McNamee, Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).

The alt-right has mobilized medievalism toward nefarious ends, fashioning harmful narratives of white supremacy, which have been rhetorically weaponized by domestic terrorists such as the “Q Shaman” also known as Jake Angeli, but whose real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley. As a QAnon promoter and influencer, Chansley is described as a pseudo-celebrity at alt-right rallies, flashing his tattoos, including three prominent Norse symbols: Thor’s Hammer [Mjǫllnir], the Valknut and the World Tree [Yggdrasil]. All three were proudly displayed as he sat in Vice President Mike Pence‘s seat in the Senate, after the Pence was forced to retreat from the angry mob calling for his head.

The pro-Trump mob breeched security, and demonstrators entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 electoral vote certification. Photo credit: Saul Loeb (AFP), Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).

Moreover, Chansley’s horned helmet (while almost certainly referencing other traditions as well) represents a continuation of the Victorian anachronistic introduction of horned helms on Vikings and Valkyries, drawn from classical depictions of Roman Victories. Chansley’s flag-spear may be intended as a reference to Odin’s spear, Gungnir, which further points to white nationalist medievalism. In the case of his horned helmet, Chansley’s ignorance is on full display, as his caricature more closely resembles the ahistorical symbol of the Minnesota Vikings’ football team than anything remotely resembling what a medieval Viking might have looked like. Chansley joined with other pro-Trump supporters to form a violent mob which stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

A man shouts and brandishes his shield as pro-Trump mob gathers in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. Photo credit: Leah Millis, Reuters (January 6th, 2021).

Of course, it must be emphasized that this insurrection was perpetrated specifically by a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” MAGA mob, there in support of the president’s blatantly false and dangerous claims that there was election-altering voter fraud during the recent 2020 presidential election (which he soundly lost to Democratic rival Joe Biden). This mob, incited by the president, sought to disrupt the lawful process outlined in the US Constitution by any means necessary in order to overturn a free and fair election.

Donald Trump’s boasting, belligerence and greed does link him with warrior ethics which sustain predatory economies and the Viking activities of marauding, feuding and plundering. The ironic Twitter account, “Beowulf Trump” (discontinued after Trump’s election in 2016), highlights this rhetorical connection by comparing the president’s macho posturing and self-aggrandizing campaign promises to hyperbolic boasts and egoistic attitudes in Beowulf. There were indeed marauders in the Capitol Building on January 6th, and alongside Trump’s red hats, outfitted in army camouflage and waving Trump or Confederate flags, were alt-right Viking wannabes.

This week, the academy has been quick to respond. Alfred Thomas compared the storming of the US Capitol Building to the Peasants Revolt of 1381, although Miriam Müller has disputed this analogy, prompting Thomas to further clarify his argument. Ken Mondschein considered Rudy Giuliani’s terrifying invocation of “trial by combat” in order to spur the MAGA mob into action, and Giuliani later likened his use of the phrase to its function in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011), which he inaccurately described as “that very famous documentary about fictitious medieval England.” Matthew Gabriele reflected on the role of medievalism in the seditious attack at the Capitol Building, pointing out that like at Charlottesville, in addition to Viking-oriented medievalism, rioters also sported crusader symbolism to signal their white nationalism. Helen Young responded to the incident by offering an explanation of why white supremacists often embrace medieval symbolism, noting that “the association of European Middle Ages and white identities reflect modern racism more than medieval realities.” She emphasizes that “Medievalist symbols have been linked to white European identities for centuries. Their use by violent extremists mean that this connection can not be denied, ignored or thought of as a neutral choice.”

Man who joined the pro-Trump mob wearing the Templar Cross of European crusaders. Photo credit: Samuel Corum, Getty Images (January 6th, 2021).

On January 13th, the Medieval Academy of America issued a direct response to the insurrection acknowledging the “presence of pseudo-medieval symbols and costumes among the rioters in the Capitol” and recognizing “our discipline’s complicity in the racist narratives of the past, and our responsibility to advocate unequivocally for anti-racism both in our policies as an organization, and in our teaching and scholarship as individuals.” More white medievalists need to be willing to stare this beast in the face and recognize that it is our problem too. It is my view that we should not idly concede medieval studies to the likes of white supremacists. We must respond. Failing to do so—for far too long—makes us complicit. We need to actively reject white supremacy. We must correct and denounce the alt-right’s misappropriations of the medieval both publicly and in the classroom by identifying these dangerous narratives as white nationalist propaganda.

If what we all witnessed last week is any indication of the widespread public ignorance we as scholars are up against, we surely have our work cut out for us. As medievalists, we must heed well the warnings of our colleagues of color and more forcefully and ubiquitously address the problematic phenomenon of white nationalist weaponizing of the medieval. Let me add my voice to those within the academy who are calling attention to this dire issue: the recent use of medieval symbolism during the insurrection at the US Capital is but the latest in a horrific trend that cannot be ignored in the field and must be loudly condemned as nonfactual and nonsensical white supremacist rhetoric in the guise of medievalism.

Richard Fahey
PhD in English
University of Notre Dame

Further Reading

Cole, Richard. “Make Ásgarðr Great Again!” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2017).

Fahey, Richard. “Internet Trolls: Monsters Haunting the World Wide Web.” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2020).

—. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Höfig, Verena. “Vinland and white nationalism.” In From Iceland to the Americas: Vinland and historical imagination, ed. Tim William Machan and Jón Karl Helgason. Manchester University Press, 2020.

Ambrosiana MS B44 Inferiore and an Easter Homily of Maximus of Turin

MS B44 Inferiore of Milan’s Ambrosiana Library is an unstudied aestivial (summer season) homiliary from the thirteenth century. It is an exceptionally large manuscript, measuring approximately 40cm by 30cm. An eighteenth-century librarian of the Ambrosiana marked it as a homiliary of the “Ambrosian rite,” which is not a description meaningful for ascertaining the paradigms on which the homiliary’s structure is based. The invocation of the “Ambrosian rite” does, however, point to peculiarities in the Lombard region’s liturgical calendar which B44 might reflect. The homiliary’s reflection of local liturgical traditions could best be judged through a study of its “sanctorum” portion this, however, was not the focus of my time with the manuscript. Despite its large size and length, the homiliary only spans the summer part of the liturgical year. Its de tempore section begins with the Easter Vigil and ends with the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin. The Feast of Mary’s Nativity was locally important since the Milanese Duomo was dedicated, from at least the eleventh century, to the Blessed Virgin’s birth.

To familiarize myself with the manuscript’s structure and homiletic content, I surveyed the sermons it included for the Easter season (1v-52r), noting sermon incipits from Easter until Pentecost. Though for the sanctorale section, there are a wide variety of authors, the Easter de tempore section largely consists of homilies from Sts. Ambrose, Bede, Gregory, and Augustine. The sermon choices are, however, eclectic, and do not match the arrangement of the paradigmatic homiliaries summarized by Réginald Grégoire in his still-unsurpassed Homéliaires Liturgiques Médiévaux. In short, MS Inf. B44’s Easter sermons do not match those included in the Roman and Toledan homiliaries, nor those in the collections of Pseudo-Fulgencius, Paul the Deacon, or Romain d’Agimond. As far as contemporary homiletic developments go, Inf. B44 also is far removed from the pocket-manuscript homiliaries popular among the mobile mendicants more generally, the patristic collection of Easter homilies here does not reflect high medieval developments in preaching. No “scholastic” sermons based around themae are included, nor is there any trace of the politically and socially-charged “activist” preaching of mendicants like Giordano da Pisa (1255-1311) or Remigio de Girolami (d. 1319). In short, though Inf. B44 compiles an eclectic set of sermons, it is a conservative exemplar of the homiliary genre.

The description of the eighteenth-century Ambrosiana librarian on the manuscript’s first folio also notes that B44 Inf. was acquired for the Ambrosiana in the seventeenth century, when it was removed from Milan’s cathedral. It is unknown if the homiliary had been a possession of the cathedral from the outset, and, if not, why or when it was moved to the cathedral. Judging by the highly moralizing and interior-focused content of the Easter sermons, it is possible that the homiliary had been used by the cathedral canons or a northern Italian monastic community. From its large size, it seems the homiliary likely would have stayed in one place, for use in private mediation or as an aid for the composition of monastic sermons. If we seek a more specific paradigm, it should be noted that B44 Inf. shares basic similarities with high-medieval Cistercian homiliaries copied in northern Italian and Burgundian monasteries, such as the house of Morimondo near Milan. These Cistercian homiliaries were usually fairly large, written in twelfth-century miniscule, and included sermons of Augustine, Bede, Ambrose, and Gregory—all characteristics that B44 Inf. shares.[1] However, further study of the Cistercian homiliaries of northern Italy is necessary to ascertain whether these and our manuscript conform to a common paradigm.

Saint Maximus of Turin, Anonymous (Italian, Piedmontese), Carte Sciolte, n. 390, Archivio Storico della Città, Turin, from Codice degli Statuti di Torino oCodice della Catena,” 1360.

Particularly interesting among Inf. B44’s Easter sermons is the second entry for the fifth day after Easter, located between ff. 16v and 17v. This homily, misattributed in the manuscript to St. Ambrose (probably as a result of local enthusiasm for that venerable bishop), is actually a probable composition of St. Maximus of Turin, and its main theme—defending oneself from lustful temptations—coheres well with the manuscript’s probable monastic origin. However, how the sermon conveys this theme is in no way typical, as it does so by extended engagement with the story of Ulysses and the Sirens. Though in Late Antiquity, scientific exegesis of Greek mythology was very common in neo-Platonic circles, Christocentric engagement with a mythological text is a rare phenomenon, even within Maximus’ own homiletic corpus.

To provide a brief analysis of the sermon: Maximus begins by recalling the passage of Ulysses’ ship past the isle of the Sirens, whose lusty song is irresistible to the sailors. Because Ulysses knows that the ship will be lost if it is captured by the siren song, he ties himself to the mast. For Maximus, the mast and the ship to which the sailors cling are figures of the cross of Christ, on which all sin is expiated. Maximus soon moves from the example of Ulysses—whose story he calls “fictive and not factual”—to Moses’ healing of his people by means of a snake affixed to a staff. Unlike the Ulysses example, the history of the Jewish people is factual, and so truly prefigures Christ’s sacrifice. It can be argued that Maximus’ Christocentric interpretation of Ulysses’ binding to the mast is inspired by Christian exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures, the methods of which Maximus then applies to Greek myth. There is, after all, a strong exegetical tradition, beginning already with the second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr, which sees ships—specifically Noah’s ark—as a figure of the cross. From there, the paradigm might be easily transferred even to the ships of Greek myth. But transference is not all that Maximus is doing, notwithstanding his curt dismissal of Ulysses’ story. For later in the sermon Maximus encapsulates salvation-history thus: “Fittingly is he crucified on wood so that, since man was deceived in paradise by the tree of desire, he might now be saved by the same tree of wood and the matter which was the cause of death might be the remedy of health.” In Maximus’ thought, nature itself—here instantiated in wood—constitutes the means of salvation, providing remedies for the bodily weakness of humankind. Since Ulysses’ salvation came directly through divinely-created nature, his tale is not just some forgettable fable. In this conception, however subtly stated, pagans and non-Christians are not outside the economy of salvation, for they, too, exist within a grace-filled nature which can proffer the remedies for their ailments.

For my transcription, translation and recitations (in Modern English and Latin), see my multimedia edition of Maximus of Turin’s homily for the fifth day after Easter in Ambrosiana MS B44 Inferiore.

Mihow McKenny
PhD Candidate in History
University of Notre Dame

[1] Mirella Ferrari, “Dopo Bernardo: biblioteche e ‘scriptoria’ cisterciensi dell’Italia settentrionale nel XII secolo,” in Pietro Zerbi, ed., San Bernardo e l’Italia. Milan, 1993, pp. 253-306.

Bibliography

D’Avray, D. L. The Preaching of the Friars: Sermons Diffused from Paris before 1300. Oxford: Clarendon, 1985.

De Lubac, Henri. Medieval Exegesis: The Four Senses of Scripture. 3 volumes. Translated by Mark Sebanc and E. M. Macierowski. Eerdmans, 1998-2009.

Ferrari, Mirella. “Dopo Bernardo: biblioteche e ‘scriptoria’ cisterciensi dell’Italia settentrionale nel XII secolo.” In Pietro Zerbi, ed., San Bernardo e l’Italia. Milan, 1993, pp. 253-306.

Grégoire, Réginald. Homéliaires liturgiques médiévaux : analyse de manuscrits. Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1980.

Longère, Jean. La Prédication Médiévale. Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1983.

Maximus of Turin. Maximi episcopi taurinensis sermones.Edited by A. Mutzenbecher. Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. 23. Turnhout: Brepols, 1962.


Misappropriating the Medieval: How Ignorant Nationalists Reify Whiteness

Like other scholars in the field, I recently wrote about the use of medieval symbolism in the white nationalist movement involved in the January 6th attack on the US Capitol, which focused on how they mobilize narratives of white supremacy and an imaginary “pure white” medieval period in European history to recruit members to their cause.

Then, to my horror, I recently discovered that indeed my own work has been appropriated by white nationalist rhetoric. My blog on Woden’s characterization as an ancestral chief in certain early medieval sources was both cited and misrepresented in the service of white supremacy in another blog titled “How ‘Ignorant’ Pagans Deified A Real-Life Wodan Into Their Ancestral Anglo-Saxon Warrior God ‘Odin’.” This blog was initially published by the website ChristiansForTruth (1/20/2021), later reappearing on European Union Times (1/22/2021) and Ancient Patriarchs (2/5/2021), and it promotes specifically Christian white nationalist propaganda.

Woden surrounded by medieval English royal descendants in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge MS 66, p.69.

My original blog, “Woden: Allfather of the English,” was written in 2015, during the early years of my PhD studies at the University of Notre Dame, when I was much less sensitive (or aware) of the ways in which this type of work was being used by white supremacists. This lack of awareness underscores my own white privilege and highlights my ignorance with respect to this issue, especially considering how medievalists of color have been actively calling out these harmful appropriations. For this reason, and in light of recent events, I feel that it is absolutely imperative that I respond directly, clarify my own position, and reject the noxious white supremacist claims embedded in this dishonest framing and mischaracterization of my work.

There are so many problems with ChristianForTruth’s blog, it is hard to know where to begin. The blog laments how “European paganism is very popular among many White Nationalists” and proceeds to try and reclaim their allegiance within a Christianized version of white supremacy. It gets worse from there. The blog erroneously asserts that “White Europeans migrated up into Europe from the Near East” in its effort to define Europe as uniformly white, and adds that “At the time of Christ, the Near East — including Anatolia (modern Turkey) and Judea — were inhabited largely by White people — extending across most of the northern coast of Africa.” As with arguments made by certain philologists and Egyptologists in the past, this narrative supports the white surpremacist notion that ancient Egypt was specifically “white” in a rhetorical move designed to strip Africa of one of its best known and most prominent, premodern civilizations.

Their agenda is laid bare when the anonymous authors that comprise the mysterious “CFT Team” contend that “Christianity has been a ‘European’ religion from its foundations — the apostle Paul sent his epistles to White European peoples” as they complain that “We know from history that most of this area was eventually overrun by Arabs — who now occupy — and live on top of — much of this former White homeland — the literal cradle of our civilization.” The use of “our” here, to refer to white people specifically, is another indicator of the blog’s rhetorical aims, which concern identifying Christianity as natively European and misrepresenting both medieval Europe and the ancient Mediterranean world as homogeneously white.

At the very end of the blog, the CFT Team further reveals their hand by placing Woden directly within a Christian worldview and alleging ridiculous genealogical connections. The blog concludes by stating that “Woden/Odin was a Saxon, a Goth, a Scythian, an Israelite — but he wasn’t God,” thereby fusing their theological argument for Christian superiority within their ethnocentric argument for white supremacy.

Although ChristianForTruth’s post reproduces almost my entire blog, it clearly was not read very closely. The CFT Team states that when it comes to regarding Woden as a god: “There is only one small problem with this fanciful narrative — Woden was a real man — a historically-documented ancestral chieftain — that pagans long ago turned into a god — and began to worship as a god out of sheer ignorance, according to Medieval historian Richard Fahey [my PhD is in English].”

Woden interwoven into early medieval English royal lineage, The British Library, Cotton Caligula A.viii, f. 29r.

This is not at all what I argued in 2015, and these claims attributed to me are in actuality the arguments of the CFT Team alone (seemingly drawn from my discussion of the 10 th century historian Æthelweard‘s writing). They do not in any way represent my opinions or beliefs on the subject. In my initial blog, I make no judgment as to whether to regard Woden (or Odin) as principally a god or an ancestor, and I certainly do not consider the deification of Woden a matter of “sheer ignorance” on the part of pre-Christian peoples. I make no theological claims at all, nor any historical argument that Woden was “a real man” as the CFT Team suggests. In fact, I speculate that Woden may have been first regarded as a god (prior to Christianization), and that it is only after early medieval England’s gradual conversion to Christianity that Woden’s role seems to become distinctly defined a legitimizing ancestor for many early medieval kings in England. Perhaps there was an ancient leader named Woden, who is later deified, but the truth is we have no way of knowing for sure.

In sum, and with unfettered conviction, I reject the CFT Team’s problematic distortion of my work. I denounce the arguments being made in ChristiansForTruth’s blog as a racist historical revision and a blatant effort to affirm ahistorical, white supremacist narratives. And, while I responded directly on their website, in a comment on their page (which will probably never be approved), to express my outrage over the misrepresentation of my work, it occurs to me that this can be a teachable moment—both for myself and perhaps for other white medievalists. This is what can happen to our work if we are not careful, and while it is not always possible to control who uses and abuses our scholarship, it is crucial that we give white nationalists as little ammunition for their weaponization of the medieval as possible.

Richard Fahey
PhD in English
University of Notre Dame

Further Reading

—. “Woden and Oðinn: Mythic Figures of the North” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2015).

—. “Woden: Allfather of the English” Medieval Studies Research Blog. University of Notre Dame (2015).


Frazetta’s “Death Dealer” and the Question of White Nationalist Iconography at Fort Hood

In 2009, the military base at Fort Hood installed what can only be described as a bizarre sculpture. Sitting outside the headquarters building is a monumental equestrian statue of medieval European fantasy complete with all the expected trappings—chain mail, axe, helmet and a shield here emblazoned with the caltrop of the III Corps United States. As this imposing character looks down with red eyes from his muscled horse, one cannot help but wonder about the figure’s appropriateness within this space. Surely, the statue would better suit an event at Comic-Con than an Army Base.

“Phantom Rider” Statue outside III Corp Headquarters, Fort Hood Texas, 2009.

The sculpture renders Frank Frazetta’s “Death Dealer” a character originally painted in 1973. During his career Frazetta would become famous for creating the cover art for re-printings and pastiches of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian. The infamous, Western barbarian, who spends his time battling Oriental sorcerers and slaughtering black cannibals, played some role in inspiring the “Death Dealer” as suggested by this cover of “Conan the Conqueror” from 1967.

“The Death Dealer,” Frank Frazetta, 1973. Conan the Conqueror Cover, Frank Frazetta, 1967.

While the original painting obscures the phantom figure’s physical qualities, his weaponry and costume code him as white. The bearded axe and horned helmet recall popular iconography denoting “Viking”[ness], though as some scholars have demonstrated such helmets were largely products of the nineteenth century. Furthermore, his shield bears the reichsadler, the black heraldic eagle employed by the Holy Roman Emperor which has also been used for more contemporary and horrifying purposes.

Admittedly, the visual elements alone do not convey the more problematic elements found in the Conan narratives. As the “Death Dealer” grew in popularity, even becoming adopted as the III Corp mascot in 1986, Frazetta joined author George Silke to create a backstory for his creation in 1987. The novel “Prisoner of the Horned Helmet” begins in a proto-European forest defended by “Gath of Baal” (our Death Dealer). The text, perhaps unsurprisingly, describes “Gath” as a “barbarian” who must defend his homeland from the invading Kitzaaks, a pseudo-Mongol Empire, and their collection of Eastern allies, including the naked and bloodthirsty “Feyan Dervishes.” The cover art here depicts a scene where our hero encounters desert-dwelling “nomads” who have been mutated into dog-faced beings by their continued use of drugs. Such tropes have connections to medieval Latin Christian polemical narrative of Muslims, frequently described as a “race of dogs” or in the case of the Nizari State at Alamut, engaged in the consumption of hashish as part of a perverted “Saracen” practice. Finally, as the “Death Dealer” raises the axe, the artist reveals those corded arms, his previously indeterminable “epidermal” (Heng, 181-184) whiteness is now made manifest.

Cover of “Prisoner of the Horned Helmet” (The Death Dealer II), Frank Frazetta, 1987.

Evidently, the “Death Dealer” suffers from what Helen Young has previously termed the “Habits of Whiteness” that pervade fantasy literature. As with Tolkien’s and Howard’s work, white bodies and imagined culture is central to this genre. While I do not presume intent on the commissioning of the Fort Hood statue, given the textual narrative, how do we approach this installation of white violence? In fairness, when the III Corps adopted the character they decided to utilize the more politically correct “Phantom Warrior,” perhaps not wishing to glorify “death.” Still, we cannot divorce this sculpture from its racial overtones because of the larger context of artistic and authorial intent. The Army’s own literature manages to perpetuate some of the problems with this imagery, stating that it “represents the heritage and symbol of America’s Armed Corps” and even connects the “Phantom Warrior’s” horse to those employed by William the Conqueror in 1066. Even when devoid of the textual contribution of Frazetta/Silke, the official narrative insists upon a European past.

By highlighting these issues, I do not mean to attack the Army’s history, though the question of “historical preservation” remains interesting to this conversation. In recent years some discourse has begun to question the public display of Confederate statuary and the naming of military bases for Confederate generals. Opponents of this movement have cried foul, stating that to do so would be to remove American “history.” Of course, these claims are groundless as many of the monuments and bases were erected or named during the early-twentieth century. Yet, even if this were not true, and the icons of Confederacy somehow held an indelible historical value, in what way does an 1980s sword & sorcery construction constitute the pith of American military memory?

“Hood’s Texas Brigade” Monument, Austin TX, 1910.

As we continue to move beyond more obvious examples of racist imagery, perhaps new attention needs to be paid to seemingly neutral renderings which bear all the hallmarks of a white fantasy. Indeed, it is the subtle appellations which allows such narratives to endure. With the escalating number of white nationalist affiliations among military personnel, the public should consider “who does this Warrior speak to and what mythologies does he seek to reinforce?”

“Phantom Warrior” Statue, Fort Hood, 2009.

Tirumular (Drew) Narayanan
PhD Student in Art History
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Works Cited

Frank, Roberta. “The Invention of the Viking Horned Helmet.” International Scandinavian and Medieval Studies in memory of Gerd Wolfgang Weber (2000): 199-208.

Higgs Strickland, Debra. “Monstrosity and Race in the Late Middle Ages.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and The Monstrous. Edited by Asa Simon Mittman with Peter J. Dendle, 365-386. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Heng, Geraldine. The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Young, Helen. Race and Popular Fantasy Literature: Habits of Whiteness. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Brooks, Lecia. “SPLC Testifies Before Congress on Alarming Incidents of White Supremacy in the Military.” Last modified February 11, 2016. https://www.splcenter.org/news/2020/02/11/splc-testifies-congress-alarming-incidents-white-supremacy-military.

Risen, James. “Why is the Army Still Honoring Confederate Generals?” The Intercept. Last Modified October 6,2019. https://theintercept.com/2019/10/06/army-bases-confederate-names/.


Caragana Ennis: The Absent-Presence of Imperialism in Marie de France’s “Le Fresne”

[1] As I read Marie de France’s “Le Fresne” from her set of Breton lais, I became aware of something that the story orbited but didn’t touch, an absent-presence that remained unsaid – the Crusades. The lai follows the story of Le Fresne, who is born into a noble family but left in the woods as a baby to save her mother the shame of raising twins (which supposedly denotes adultery), and is raised instead by an abbess. Aside from the clues of a few items her mother sent along with her, Le Fresne is unaware of her noble parentage and so are the common people she grows up with. Nevertheless, the narrative places her as exceptional, as inherently separate from those she is raised by. She is regarded as especially beautiful, especially courteous, especially gracious, and held “in the highest esteem” (123). It is in this way, by her naturally “superior” qualities, that the narrative marks her as noble.

[2] This isn’t an unfamiliar trope – noble child raised by commoners and lauded for her lovely qualities before eventually being reunited with her birth family, leaving behind the people that raised her without feeling too sad about it, and usually getting married. This trope is, however, a subtle sign of the imperialist ideology that permeates the cultural consciousness of the western European writers employing it. The framing places the noble child’s superior beauty and virtue as a natural, embodied marker of proper parentage and places her above those around her who do not share this parentage. Not only is Le Fresne’s nobility signalled in the text by her beauty and manner, but also by the tokens (silk cloth and a ring) that her mother sent along with her as a baby so that whoever found her would “know in all truth / that she was born of a good family” (117). In her essay “The Power of Sisterhood: Marie de France’s ‘Le Fresne’,” Michelle A. Freeman suggests that these tokens of nobility may be relics of her father’s “prowess as a crusader to the holy lands” (14). Not only is Le Fresne’s nobility naturalized, but this nobility itself is defined by proximity to empire – specifically the imperialist invasion enacted through the Third Crusade.

[3] Le Fresne’s nobility in this text is not denoted by structural, material power (as we would see if Le Fresne was with her biological parents, enacting the political and class privilege of her societal positionality), but by physical beauty and virtuous manner, which places nobility as a “natural” quality of the body. In the pastoral context in which Le Fresne is raised, she is anomalous. It is said of her that “in Brittany there was no maiden so beautiful / nor so courteous / She was gracious and well taught / in manner and in speech no one saw her who did not love her / and hold her in the highest esteem” (123). No one else in the text is described like she is except for her biological sister: “in this country there is none so beautiful” (129). The man Le Fresne marries, Gurun, believes her to be “lovely and well brought up, / wise, courteous, and well-bred” (123). Out of Gurun’s servants, there are none “who did not love her for her graciousness / and cherish and honor her” (127). The narrative places Le Fresne as having been “well brought up” by common people, but being inherently, naturally better than them and universally loved for it. This placement frames nobility itself as being an inherent quality of the body, creating an implicit and naturalized hierarchy.

[4] The motif of the inherently noble body is one I have come across again and again in my studies, but one whose imperialist implications I have largely missed, perhaps because as a settler scholar living in a settler nation-state I still benefit from these ideologies, which place my whiteness in proximity to power. The motif appears (to name just a few examples) in prose romances such as The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania and The Faerie Queene , and all over Shakespeare’s plays, though perhaps most relevantly in “The Winter’s Tale” (inspired by Robert Green’s Pandasto , which contains the same trope). Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania is raised in a pastoral setting by a shepherd even though she is the biological daughter of the King of Naples. She is praised throughout the text for her natural quietness, purity, and chastity. Shakespeare’s Perdita is also the daughter of royalty and raised by a shepherd, and is also praised throughout the text for her beauty and virtuousness. Edmund Spencer’s Britomart does not adhere to the motif in quite the same way as Perdita and Urania, but she does embody ties to empire in a similar way to Le Fresne. Meant to represent Elizabeth I in the text (Rochester), Britomart is a knight praised for her virtue and chastity. She bears armor that marks her proximity to nobility and to empire, somewhat like Le Fresne’s cloth and ring mark her nobility. Britomart’s link to nobility is extratextual and marked narratively by her body, her manner, and the objects she carries. This ties her not intratextually to noble parentage, but extra-textually to royalty and imperial power.

[5] In my own research I have spent a lot of time looking at textual negative space (both visual and conceptual) and something I often find is that we can read as much of what isn’t in a text as what is . The unsaid of a text, around which the rest of the text takes its shape, is often revelatory of the underlying ideologies that the writer holds. A significant piece of the cultural consciousness in Marie’s context was an imperialist mindset, which seeks to justify atrocities like the Crusades through naturalized hierarchy, hierarchy that lives in the body, hierarchy that places one person as inherently superior to another based on their embodied proximity to empire. This ideology is not purely historical, or isolated to a Christian medieval Europe it is continuous and current. Crusader symbols such as the templar cross are still used by white supremacists today (Little). White Christian missionaries have used the ideology of naturalized hierarchy to justify colonization (Miller). It is the ideology still guiding the hierarchical structures of colonial nations. It is of course very likely that Marie de France employed imperialist ideology in her work completely unconsciously. It was the air she breathed. As we learn to read the unsaid of a text, we also learn to recognize the air we breathe. We recognize the ideologies that guide our own thinking, that influence our own actions, and the ways they either support or subvert structures of power.

Caragana Ennis is a first year MA thesis student living in Treaty 6. Her areas of interest include textual negative space, queer and feminist revisionism, and treatments of monstrous literary women.

Works Cited and Consulted

Miller, Brandi. “…From White Supremacy: Either/Or (Binary) Thinking w/ Sarah Akutagawa.” Reclaiming My Theology . Spotify, 2020.

Rochester, Joanne. “Spencer Class One.” English 406, 2019. University of Saskatchewan. Lecture.

Shakespeare, William. The Winter’s Tale, Routledge, 2005.

Spenser, Edmund. The Faerie Queene , Penguin Classics, 1979.

Waters, Claire M. The Lais of Marie de France , Broadview Press, 2018.

Wroth, Mary. The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania . Edited by Mary Ellen Lamb, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2011.


A Look At Historical-Ideological Roots Of Love Jihad — Systematic Targeting Of Women Driven By Religious Extremism

An Indian Muslim bride puts a thumb impression on a marriage certificate in the presence of religious leaders and a relative (representative image) (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/GettyImages)
Snapshot

Love Jihad is not merely a conspiracy cooked out of thin air by ‘Hindu nationalists’

The major lacunae in the discourse is its complete divorce from the social-political realities and history of Hindu-hatred

The latest in the series of several alleged cases of ‘Love Jihad’ which made headlines this year is of a minor girl in Rajasthan.

In an September 2019, the Supreme Court made an interesting observation, in the case of the case of Anjali Jain who married a Muslim man in Arya Samaj temple after he converted to Hinduism. The girl’s family alleged that his conversion was a sham and he had converted back to Islam after marriage.

The court said that while inter-faith marriages are good for the society and need to be encouraged, the girl’s interests need to be protected as well [emphasis added]. The court asked the man to prove his bona fide on his conversion to Hinduism for marriage.

The bench noted that it had asked him to prove his good intentions by filing an affidavit only in order to secure the girl’s future and safety.

The court’s emphasis on protecting the girl’s interests open new dimensions of looking at the alleged cases of Love Jihad.

As we set out to understand the phenomena, it is important first to define Love Jihad. A stricter definition would limit the phenomena to the cases where a non-Muslim person is lured into a relationship, with the intention of converting her to Islam.

Due to the intimate and complicated nature of such a relationship, such an intention is hard to prove in a court of law, even if the case involves other crimes like beatings and harassment.

Many a lawyers say that this situation is similar to one where a man marries a woman just for her money. This can be the ground for divorce, but not a criminal act. Based on this reasoning, the matter is a non-issue and outrage about it is over-amplified.

There are two problems with this - one, when a man establishes relationship with a woman for conversion purposes, not only it is a breach of trust, but necessarily involves manipulation, and psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse of the woman.

Two, There have been allegations that there are foreign-funded Islamist organisations that support and promise money and other rewards to youth who lure non-Muslim women into marriage and/or conversion.

Worldwide, the law differentiates between the organised versus the individual nature of certain acts.

For example, in India, it is not illegal for a woman to provide sexual favours to man for money. However, organised prostitution is illegal.

In this day and age, the terms of giving and receiving sexual favours should be decided by the participants, and it should be nobody else’s business if money is involved. However, if organised industries come up in this regard, it is highly likely that several vulnerable women will be misled and exploited.

Even if organised industries are allowed to come up, they will have to be regulated, as the issue is no more about one man and woman, but protection of a larger group - the women - who are highly likely to be exploited.

Similarly, if there is organised and systematic ‘grooming’ to target young non-Muslim women for conversion by establishing relationships - it is no more just about individual rights - but also about protection of women in general, and inter-communal harmony.

Love Jihad and radicalism

Kerala, despite being the one of the most developed states in India, has seen radical Islam making deep inroads, and several residents leaving to fight for the Islamic state.

The family of 29-year-old Fathima, who left Kerala to go to Syria for the Islamic State, was located in Afghanistan. Fathima was identified by one Bindu Sampath as her daughter Nimisha, who was converted to Islam. The family had then alleged a case of love jihad.

On of the terror suspects in the Sri Lankan Easter attacks this year, which killed over 250, was Pulasthini Mahendran alias Sarah. In an interview, her mother Kavitha Mahendran alleged that her daughter was a victim of Love Jihad.

In September 2019, the chairman of minorities commission also wrote a letter to the Home Minister drawing attention to “the spate in organised religious conversion and using the victims for terror activities by trapping them through love jihad”.

Demographic goals have always been a part of the Islamic discourse. However, the goal acquired urgency for a terror-group like IS which needed more fighters. Love/Sex Jihad, therefore, became intertwined with terrorism.

The Islamic State also took the Yazidi women as sex slaves - justifying it by saying that they were kafirs. The IS bought and sold them, passed them around to be raped by the fighters, as well as produce children who would be future fighters.

Many converts from non-Muslim backgrounds were found to have travelled to Middle East to fight for the IS. The IS itself shared many videos of them beheading and killing the enemies, inviting other non-Muslims to convert, and declaring that Jihad was the fastest way to paradise.

A Washington Post report stated that one out of the six people who travelled to Middle East to join IS were converts from non-Muslim backgrounds - and this number is only for Europe. For France, the number was one out of four.

Seemingly, the recent converts, in order to prove their loyalty to the new religion and hatred of their previous identities, are more zealous.

The report also stated that young women were especially targeted for conversion. Young women formed the “single largest pool of converts” going to fight for the Islamic State.

“You find that a lot of converts going to the Islamic State are girls, girls with problems. and then someone comes along and promises that Allah is going to give them a second chance.”

The report also quoted the statistics of a mosque in Netherlands that converted 97 persons to Islam in 2014 - highest since it was opened. Most of these converts were aged 19 to 21 years, and 70 per cent were women.

History in Indian subcontinent

The major lacunae in the discourse over Love Jihad is its complete divorce from the reality and history of Hindu-hatred.

Just like the cow, the body of Hindu woman has long been the instrument of expressing the ‘might of Islam’ and subjugation of Hindus.

The Hindu men were derided as weak and effeminate, and Hindu women taken away as the legitimate reward of conquest for the Muslim invaders.

Prof K S Lal notes in an essay, “..the largest number of slave girls was collected during raids, campaigns and wars throughout the medieval period.. from the time of Muhammad bin Qasim, it was a consistent policy to kill all males, especially those capable of bearing arms, and enslave their hapless women.”

The captured women and children were forcibly converted to Islam. Those who resisted were tortured and killed.

Lal further notes that the enslaved women had two main functions to perform, domestic service and providing sex if and when required.

This preference for non-Muslim women as a slave is also noted in the slave-trade carried out by the Arab Muslims.

Since the Islamic law allowed slavery but prohibited enslaving pre-existing Muslims, the main target became the people who lived in the frontier areas of the Muslim world.

Bernard Lewis notes that "polytheists and idolaters were seen primarily as sources of slaves, to be imported into the Islamic world and moulded in Islamic ways, and, since they possessed no religion of their own worth the mention, as natural recruits for Islam."

In the European slave trade, in which black male slaves outnumbered female counterparts by 2:1 or 3:1. However, in Islamic empire, the ratio was reversed.

The Islamic law permitted unlimited numbers of slaves and purchase of female slaves for sex by men. Latter was the most common motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.

Lal quotes Ibn Battuta, an Moroccan Muslim traveller who visited Mohammad bin Tughlaq’s court, describing celebrations such as Id:

“First of all, daughters of Kafir (Hindu) Rajas captured during the course of the year, come and sing and dance. Thereafter they are bestowed upon Amirs and important foreigners. After this daughters of other Kafirs dance and sing. The Sultan gives them to his brothers, relatives, sons of Maliks etc. On the second day the durbar is held in a similar fashion after Asr. Female singers are brought out. the Sultan distributes them among the Mameluke Amirs”

Lal says that under Aurangzeb, not only the women and children of the Rajputs and Marathas were regularly enslaved during raids and invasions, but even nobles of lesser note indulged in reckless enslavement throughout. This implies that the abduction of Hindu women and using them as sex-slaves was not an exceptional occurrence, but commonplace.

Lal puts the number of non-Muslim women distributed in the above manner in later years in thousands. He further notes that the number of such captured slave girls was so high that all of their names couldn’t be changed to Islamic ones (a common practice during conversion).

Manucchi notes about such captured women that they “. are Hindus by race, who had been carried off in infancy from various villages or the houses of different rebel Hindu princes. In spite of their Hindu names, they are however, Mahomedans.”

Such abduction, enslavement and conversion was not just a case of the victorious party engaging in brutalising a defeated people, but a policy with clear and deliberate demographic goals.

Margoliouth observes, “Abu Bakr probably was aware that women are more amenable to conversion than men..” Women slaves turned concubines could increase Muslim population by leaps and bounds when captured in large numbers. Hence there was particular keenness on enslaving women from the very beginning of Islam, notes Lal.

It is important to note than targeting of non-Muslim women wasn’t only a war-time phenomena. Grounded in deeper ideological goals, it was promoted through art and literature as well.

A large corpus of Indo-Islamic texts including Persian, Urdu poems on the mystery of love, exclusively between a Muslim boy and Hindu girl, have underlying assumption of inferiority of polytheists and idol-worshippers, and their women, who need to saved by the glorious Muslim man.

Such poems, scholars point out, had a proselytising goal. The poems glorified the Muslim boy’s struggle against the Hindu society, which represented a degenerate structure to be destroyed by the heroic Muslim boy, while the Hindu girl symbolised the weak, desirable creature to be saved and savoured by the strong, masculine Muslim male.

In many such poems, the culmination was non-Muslim subject’s conversion to Islam, transforming their previous deviant behaviour as infidel to a manifestation of “true love”.

Also, the Islamic law permits conversion to Islam as a way out of punishments for different crimes, including blasphemy. “Convert to Islam or face slaughter” is a routine threat made by the Islamist organisations to the persons whom they accuse of insulting their prophet or the religion.

A lot of present-day scholars hold Hindu Right responsible for the "fake claim" of Love Jihad, arguing that the “the abducted and converted Hindu woman was metamorphosed into a symbol of both sacredness and humiliation, and hence of the victimisation of the whole Hindu community” by the Hindu Right.

It is quite surprising that our academicians inevitably start the story of ‘Love Jihad’ from the ‘virulent Hindutva’ of the 1920s instead of going back further in the search of truth. The assumption-cum-conclusion is that ‘Love Jihad’ it is a complete fiction pulled out of thin air.

Perhaps the greatest evidence of Islamist ideological goals behind targeting of non-Muslim women is visible in their continuity to present times. The notions that motivated past Hindu persecution, largely unchallenged by scholars and activists, continue to this day.

The manifestation of Hindu hatred in targeting Hindu women is starkly visible in Islamic Republic of Pakistan where Hindu minor girls are routinely abducted, converted to Islam and married off to Muslim men. All this happens with clear support and encouragement of the Muslim clerics and the state apparatus, and without any international outrage.

The infamous Muslim grooming gangs in Britain also revealed the selective targeting of non-Muslim young girls. Last year, the Sikh Mediation and Rehabilitation Team Charity made public a report saying that the Muslim gang members have been systematically targeting Sikh girls of Indian background, for almost 50 years!

The report stated that the the girls would be lured by “fashionably dressed Pakistani men pretending a modern outlook. They would roam around in flamboyant vehicles in areas and schools with predominantly Sikh population”.

Long back in 2007, reports emerged that Islamic extremists had gained ground in different universities of UK, and were targeting and forcibly converting Hindu women. They were reportedly paid £5,000 ‘commission’. Their aggressive conversion tactics included stalking, beating up those who protest, and forcing women to drop out of college.

It is also noteworthy that most of the convicted 'grooming gang’ members were married and well-respected within their community. One gang member convicted of sex trafficking was a religious studies teacher at a mosque and a married father of five.

In fact, one of the victims of the Muslim grooming gangs in UK who was raped over a 100 times said that the perpetrators were inspired by religious extremism and operated exactly like terrorist networks, with all the same strategies.

“Like terrorists, they firmly believe that the crimes they carry out are justified by their religious beliefs.. The camaraderie, protection, money, and kudos that these groups offer, makes them a strong pull for anyone.”

“I witnessed the ways young men are groomed to become perpetrators by older grooming gang members. It’s very similar to the tactics used in grooming for terrorism, with love-bombing, emotive language (“brother”, “cuz”, “blud”), and promises of wealth and fame, then humiliation, controlling with guilt and shame, training with weapons, and instilling hate and fear of outsiders..Always, at the same time, they continue to convince these young men that they must find girls to be gang-raped too.”

The victim also said that the religious indoctrination is a big part of the process of getting young men involved in grooming gang crimes and manifests as the difference between the Muslim and non-Muslim women. The latter are worthless and deserve to be gang-raped. “My main perpetrator quoted scriptures from the Quran to me as he beat men” she said.

In Shahan Sha A vs State Of Kerala, the High Court itself said that there was a “concerted effort” to convert girls of other religions to Islam and marry them off to Muslim men. The role of the organisation Popular Front of India (PFI) came out in the case.

The court noted that there had been 3,000-4,000 such conversions in the past four years, and it was clear there was a concerted effort to convert girls of a particular religion to another with the 'blessings of some outfits'.

In 2010, a Marxist leader of Kerala defied his own party line over ‘Love Jihad’. CPM member V S Achuthanandan, the then Chief Minister of Kerala, told the press in Delhi that the PFI was indulging in divisive activities with the aim of "turning Kerala into a Muslim majority state.

In 2017, a sting operation was carried out by India Today. In a report titled ‘Operation Conversion Mafia: Kerala’s Conversion Factories Unmasked’, the team reported what they caught on camera- the functionaries of PFI declaring their goal of converting India into an Islamic nation, and proudly boasting of converting thousands of women to Islam through institutions disguised as ‘educational’ or ‘charitable’.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference’s Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance, published data on conversion of Christian girls to Islam stating that “around 4,000 girls have been subjected to conversion since 2005 (till 2012) after they fell in love.”

Other videos have also emerged of Muslim religious leaders proclaiming their goal of converting Kerala into an Islamic state.

The hatred for polytheists and idol-worshippers, aspirations of demographic ascendance, and the targeting of non-Muslim women are deeply connected issues, and the Islamist rhetoric filled with the above is remarkably similar even when separated in space and time.

It is important to note here that all of the above- including the demographic goal- are stated by the Muslim leaders themselves, and not just a ‘fake claim’ by ‘Hindu nationalists’.

Victims of Love Jihad

Several courageous women victims of Love Jihad have come forward with their stories.

Their horrifying experiences include being deceived into a relationship/marriage by a boy disguised under a Hindu name, who only revealed later that he is a Muslim and forced the woman to convert.

The pressurising tactics include threatening to make viral their intimate photographs and videos, isolating the woman from her family by snatching away her phone, force-feeding beef, boy’s family members ganging up against the woman, beatings, snatching away her belongings, throwing away things of her pooja, threatening physical assault over usage of any Hindu symbols like Sindoor, insulting Hinduism and Hindus, telling her that god’s wrath will fall on her if she continued worshipping false gods of other religions and she will burn in hell.

The Islamic marriage involves a necessary conversion to Islam which is accompanied by a name-change. So, the woman not only has to leave her previous belief system, but also the name she has been known by all her life!

The nikah is a one-way street because the woman cannot convert out of Islam, as apostasy is punishable by death under Shariah, and the woman would invite serious danger to herself and her children if she gives any such indication. In fact, she has to try harder to prove otherwise.

Unfortunately, we only hear of the victims of Love Jihad when a woman can muster up enough courage, resources and support from family members that she chooses to speak up.

On the other hand, most women victims of such cases silently suffer for lack of options. They hold themselves responsible for their fate and are ashamed to speak up. Even if the nikah/conversion is voluntary and the women receive applause from their in-laws for for leaving the way of false faiths and coming to Islam, it slowly dawns on them that they have been a pawn in a larger scheme of things.

Their pain of losing their identities is occasionally expressed on social media under anonymity. They encounter hatred for the religion they were born in, are not allowed to express themselves in the ways they could before, they are not allowed to meet their parents and mingle with them as they may pollute their minds with Hinduism. They are not allowed to remember and cherish their past life as a ‘polytheist’. Special care is taken that the children don’t learn anything about Hinduism and the mother is forbidden to do so. Often, despite conversion, they are ill-treated and behind the veneer of affection, it is made quite clear that any deviance will resulting punishments as harsh as being turned into a sex-slave of the family.

In the light of above observations, the real questions that need to be asked are, one, isn’t using a romantic/marital/sexual relationship with a woman for proselytising goals a breach of her autonomy?

Does this process constitute, if not physical and verbal, serious psychological, emotional and spiritual abuse of a woman? Does conversion in such cases works as an instrument to control the woman by erasing her identity?

Despite the issue being deeply embedded in the history of Hindu persecution and continuing Hinduphobia, to try and hide the reality of such cases in the garb of patriarchal-in-general is utterly dishonest.

The approach fails to differentiate between the social practices and the practices that are motivated by religious beliefs. Former are based on the threat of social sanctions while latter operate by manipulating one’s deeply personal relationship with God - hijacking one’s spirituality.

Former operate on a community level, while latter operate on an individual level- a person considers it his personal religious duty to convert the woman to Islam to gain spiritual merit.

The latter are much more dangerous, as any criticism against it is taken as an attack against God, and not just one’s own community or identity.

This problem is succinctly summarised by B R Ambedkar who said that Indian Muslims in India not only had all of the social evils prevailing in the Hindu society but “something more”.

With regards to Purdah in Muslims, he says:

“..among the Muslims, purdah has a religious sanctity which it has not with the Hindus. Purdah has deeper roots among the Muslims than it has among the Hindus, and can only be removed by facing the inevitable conflict between religious injunctions and social needs. The problem of purdah is a real problem with the Muslims—apart from its origin—which it is not with the Hindus. Of any attempt by the Muslims to do away with it, there is no evidence.”

Anything against Love Jihad, therefore, becomes against Islam - or Islamophobic. A problem between two communities becomes a religious problem, when it shouldn’t.

To conclude, whatever perspective one takes on ‘Love Jihad’, it can be safely said that it is not a conspiracy cooked out of thin air by Hindu nationalists.

The phenomena has deeper historical roots and ideological motivations that need to be uncovered and understood. Intellectual dishonesty over such issues can only worsen the polarisation.

A 25-year-old IIT alumna with deep interest in society, culture and politics, she describes herself as a humble seeker of Sanatana wisdom that has graced Bharatvarsha in different ways, forms and languages. Follow her @yaajnaseni