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European Naturalist Group Blasts Modern "Beowulf"
Film is Plastic Trash From Manipulative Crowd
Modern society wants to make the past into a product it can sell to anyone. They want to strip culture away from you. They want to replace your values with material values. Why would someone do this to me, you might ask? It's not personal. In fact, they don't care about you personally, although they'll claim otherwise and try to prove it by including you in mundane activities. They want your dollars, and the best way to get that is to remove all values except novelty, personal comfort, and wealth from your mind. This is how civilizations collapse. This letter came from a concerned European Naturalist organization and went to the filmmakers' sponsor, The American Cancer Society. Read on.
This email concerns a new film production of 'Beowulf' to be entitled 'Prince of the Geats'. The film is said to be a charity aimed at raising money for causes related to cancer in Afro American communities. To this end the Afro American actor Jeff Carpenter has been cast in the lead role of Beowulf.
I write to you as an archaeologist with a passion for Anglo Saxon history, and a member of an Australian Odinist organisation, We are concerned about this production for a number of reasons.
Let me say upfront that cancer is a vile disease, but attempts to address its impact on any community should not entail action that causes disrespect to another. I have read much about Jeff Carpenter on the web and I am sure he is a competent actor and a decent man. But from our point of view if this production goes ahead in its present form we must state that we find it quite bizarre and deeply offensive.
A number of us have contacted director Scott Wegener, who seems like a sincere man. He admitted to me that although he has read 'Beowulf' and enjoyed it, he had very little knowledge about the historical background and didn't even know Odinism – the religion of the indigenous North Seas folk - existed! He believed that 'Beowulf' was complete fantasy and therefore a 'universal' tale where he could re invent the lead character as being African in order to provide a parable of bravery that African Americans could aspire to.
So why is this offensive to us, given it is a good cause and Mr Wegener seems well meaning, if a little uneducated in his chosen subject matter?
Odinism, (sometimes called Asatru, Forna Sedon, or Northern Folkway) is as defined in Australian (and British and US) law as "the continuation of ... the organic spiritual beliefs and religion of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe as embodied in the Edda and as they have found expression in the wisdom and in the historical experience of these peoples". (The word Odinism was first used in 1848 by the writer O. Brownson).
( Article 18 of The International Bill of Human Rights (ratified by the USA on 5 October 1977 and by Australia on 18 December 1972) states that: "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion".)
There are two main areas which we find deeply troubling. First, the "non-traditional casting" aspect offends Odinist reverence for our collective ancestors, since it makes them seem other than what they really were. (I've used the word "collective" to preclude Mr Wegener's half-baked defence that in the film the black Beowulf doesn't have any children.) Second, the far-fetched plot makes a travesty of the poem, which is primarily concerned with portraying the hero as an embodiment of Germanic heathen morality. In fact the historical content of the film is so wrong, that in itself is causing outrage amongst scholars of the period. Mr Wegener seemed unaware of the historical context of the poem.
We believe that many Odinists would see Beowulf in much the same way as Jews and Christians would see King David. A mythic archetype of behaviour they might aspire to emulate, based upon historical underpinnings. As ancestralists we see ourselves in our ancestors and therefore wish to see them depicted as truthfully as possible. Mr Wegener believes that his film will inspire more people to read Beowulf, which may happen, but his film will create a mental image of the lead character which is wildly inaccurate and appropriates the achievements and character attributes of our ancestors. As Martin Carver, chief archaeologist at Sutton Hoo states in his book 'Sutton Hoo – burial ground of kings?' Beowulf represents the collective consciousness of a 'Germanic pagan brotherhood of the North Sea.'
In the 1992 publication, "Racial Vilification in Victoria: Report of the Committee to Advise the Attorney-General on Racial Vilification", page 5. Religious vilification is defined as 'a statement which expresses or promotes hatred, contempt or ridicule of a person or group of people on the basis of a person's or group's religion, or a statement which offends a person or a group on the basis of religion." The second part of this definition applies most strongly to this situation. It is echoed in the Commonwealth's 1995 Racial Discrimination Act, which refers to an "act [that] is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people". Steve Bracks, Premier of Victoria, writing in December 2000 stated: "Expressions of racial and religious vilification not only undermine people living in our community, they also threaten the fairness and tolerance of our society." (Source: "Racial and Religious Tolerance Legislation: a Discussion Paper and a Model Bill".)
The UN Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples stated in part, 'indigenous people have the collective and individual right to maintain and develop their distinct ethnic and cultural characteristics and identity, including the right to self identification' and 'indigenous people share the right to revive and practise their cultural identity and traditions, including the right to maintain, develop and protect the past…..' Odinism is defined as the spirituality of the 'indigenous' Northern European peoples.
Imagine for a second a film being made about the 'Dreamtime', the mythic-historic tradition of the Australian Aboriginals. Imagine that it is being made to raise money for a very good cause such as improving Aboriginal conditions and that a group of actors, some white and some Aboriginal had signed on for the project. Imagine every detail of language, location, imagery etc was correct but some of the characters were played by white actors. Can you imagine how offensive that would be to some Aboriginal people?
Then there are the vast historical problems. I quote from a letter one of our ring sent to Mr Wegener:
"In the "standard letter" part of your response you state that: "I think also we are working as hard as anyone to showcase Viking culture as accurately as possible as a living, breathing society (which is difficult since it seems the researchers I have been dealing with didn't talk with many modern day Odinists)". It may have helped if your researchers had read the poem, or any of the thousands of academic commentaries, or were even aware that Beowulf is not set in the Viking period (which began around AD 800).
I will try to help by providing some information that your researchers evidently overlooked. If the protestations of sincerity in your response to me are genuine then I am sure you will agree that your whole film project needs a radical rethink.
I agree with you that "Heroism and honor, risk and valor are traits I would hope we can encourage in all peoples, not just northern Europeans". However, you can't do that by wrenching the story apart! Your imaginary African Beowulf can never embody the heroic qualities of the epic hero Beowulf, because one crucial aspect of the epic figure is his role as an utterly loyal hereditary member of the Geatish aristocracy.
I think that outs it rather well! Beowulf is very much based upon an historical figure. The historical content alone is a travesty.
I recall reading about James Cameron's version of 'Titanic' and how he was so obsessed with detail that he demanded the monograms on the serviettes be 100% accurate. Mr Wegener on the other hand has read 'Beowulf', but admits to knowing precious little else. He alludes to the work of 'researchers' but we remain mystified as to what they are doing with their time, since there are literally hundreds of books on the subject and 'Beowulf' forms a pivotal part of Odinist and Northern European identity. I have a long standing involvement in the Tibetan cause but it would never occur to me to make a film about their culture as a fundraiser, with non Tibetans. In fact when China recently toured a 'Tibetan cultural show' where Chinese presented Tibetan culture it was deeply shocking and insulting. And rightly so.
Although Odinists find the idea of 'victim consciousness' revolting we have had our fair share of travails. Prior to the Second World War there were some three million 'Germanic Heathen' in Germany. At the end there were pretty much none. The imagery of our ancestors was appropriated and melded into a kind of Christian hybrid since all the top nazis were Catholic. Many of our co religionists were sent to the camps. That is well documented. We have never sought to publicise or seek redress for our own 'holocaust'. In this country during that period Odinists were imprisoned and beaten for supposedly being, ironically, 'pro German'. Up until very recently Odinists were being detained, beaten, excluded from some career paths and so forth. Our view is that life gives you some 'battle scars', but make no mistake, we have had to fight every inch of the way to gain the current legislative protection. We have seen our religion appropriated and depicted incorrectly and our beliefs have been vilified in every imagineable way. This must stop! Odinists adhere to the Nine Noble Virtues, one of which is Truth – that is all we ask.
All we now request is that our sacred texts be treated with some respect and truthfulness. A lot of people of Northern European descent have been conditioned to think of our culture as being intrinsically valueless and ripe for appropriation. We believe that is a degenerate attitude out of step with the global trend of valuing all cultures. If my aim was to raise money for Afro American causes I doubt I would seek to achieve that by making a film about Native American subject matter that was historically and ethnically incorrect – that would rightly be seen as insulting and insane. No matter how well intentioned the charity might be in this instance, it is an 'open and shut case' as my legal advice put it. Luckily in this country our laws do not make distinction based upon race or culture. Promoting one cultural group should never entail trampling upon the indigenous identity and spirituality of another.
We hope you can now understand why we feel the current production of 'Prince of the Geats' is something we must fight tooth and nail, and we will use every resource at our disposal to frustrate its release and distribution in this country. We will not provide it with free publicity, just quietly determined and ongoing action. We find this film quite sinister in its disregard of truth and its disrespect of other cultures.
"If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say this or that even, it never happened—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death."
The American Nihilist Underground Society advocates nihilism, or a removal of interpretive layers from our perception of physical reality, as a means of transcending illusion. Nihilism denies value and purpose, which are byproducts of the human desire to judge reality and make a consensual "social reality" that by seizing on a single material factor misses the intelligible, or design-based, knowledge we need to adapt to reality. ANUS has been promoting nihilism since 1987.
Nihilism is the belief that nothing we perceive has Absolute value; reality exists, but beyond its inherent meaning to us as the physical container of our existence, it has no significance outside of what we perceive. "The world is my representation," indeed. When we strip away all of the values projected onto physical reality and its outcomes, we are left only with personal ideal and natural ideal, and bringing the former into adaptation with the latter is the lifetime task to which nihilism is a gateway.