I hate dealing with racists -- bigots of any stripe, really -- which is a bit of a tricky thing when one is both a heathen and a metalhead. Go to a concert for a folk metal or viking metal band and you are sure to run into a few of these niðings wearing a Burzum shirt and sporting a White Power tattoo of some sort. The same goes for wearing a hammer (or having a hammer tattoo, as the case may be). Anything that identifies you as having heathen leaning or affinity with Finno-Scandian culture can attract attention from racists who assume you are an ally.

As the Nomads in Borderlands are wont to say, I got no time for this.

But it's inevitable due to the history of both nordic heavy metal and of Ásatrú in the United States. I could go into this here in more detail, but I really don't want to give the David Lane's of the world any more attention than they already have, lest they attract to themselves even more of the empty hatemongers drawn to their adolescent, cartoon ideology. If you are curious, though, you can find a lot of reading material at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Instead, I am going to attempt to outline what I believe is a consistent philosophy of how the old ways (forn siðr) interact with and can be incorporated into a modern worldview that values cosmopolitanism -- the recognition of interdependency while resisting the pull of universality.

The Viking Age Scandinavians divided people into two categories: inangarðr and utangarðr -- those who lived inside the walls of the homestead/settlement and those who were outside. On the mythic register you can see these distinctions recorded in the tale of how the Aesir and Vanir settled their differences (the exchange of hostages, the killing of Mimir, etc.). At first meeting the Vanir are considered utangarðr by the Aesir and their interactions are wary and punctuated by threat and violence. Only after a period of mutual hostages, intermarriage, and reciprocal legal relations (weregild and the like), do the two groups become a mixed community.

Likewise, though of a more extreme nature, the tension between the Aesir and the Giants. As a general rule, the Giants (and the trolls, stallo, and other non-human wights) are considered utangarðr and viewed with suspicion. The two most notable counterexamples here are Loki and Skaði. Loki gets taken within the walls of the community by virtue of his being Oðin's oath-brother, but his rejection of the community rules of conduct recorded in the Lokasenna result in him becoming utangarðr once again. Skaði, by way of contrast, comes to the Aesir with claims of a blood debt owed to her when the Aesir kill her father, the Giant, Þjazi. Rather than pursuing hostilities, however, she accepts marriage as compensation and becomes inangarðr through respect of the communities laws and standards.

If we take these stories as illustrative of the way that the Old Norse negotiated the incorporation of strangers into the community then it would appear that they did not particularly idealize purity of heritage, however much they might value heritage as a marker of character. The Aesir intermarry and interbreed with other peoples, incorporating them into society or casting them out of society based on their character.

One step closer to the real world than the mythic register we have the Icelandic sagas and historical literature, where, as Jenny Jochens points out, we have many people referred to as been either black (svartr) or white (hvíti) based on what seem to be differences of heritage. The details, however, matter here, as those people are either Celtic and male, or were (as in the case of Egil's family: Egil Skallagrímsson, Skalla-Grímr Kveldúlfsson, Kveld-Úlfr Bjálfason) descended from Saami stock (or, alternately, from trollish stock, I kid you not; Jesse Byock argues that this may have been a result of the family suffering from Paget's disease). All three of these -- Celts, Saami, Trolls -- were believed to have an affinity for magic, marking them, I believe, as liminal figures both culturally and cosmologically.

We can say with certainty, given the historical record and the results of mDNA surveys of the Icelandic genome, that the Norwegian-descended Icelanders had no trouble taking in those with Celtic or Saami blood. Nor, does it seem, that there were any barriers to those people where access to the gods was concerned. The gods support the inangarðr, and anyone who can understand and follow the rules of community can not just become inangarðr, but a major figure in Icelandic culture.

And as Iceland's culture grew, so too did its ties to Celtic lands. The sagas show them traveling back and forth between families in Iceland and the Orkneys, for example, and we see Celtic names that had fallen out of families in the first generations to be assimilated make returns in later generations as the cross-cultural exchange works its way through the populations.

In short, it would seem that medieval Iceland was fairly cosmopolitan in its attitude towards outsiders. Hvíti and svartr mixed and mingled, intermarried and bred. Alterity and "trollish-ness" were not categories around which these people of the viking age built notions of purity. They were merely bloodlines of more or less prestige, and the big determinant, as always, was the character of the individuals and how willing they were to live within the laws and codes that governed the society as a whole.

All of which is why I have no patience with those who draw a hard, folkish line in the religious sand. Yes, having cultural and familial ties to Scandinavia give one a connection to the religion and history, but those connections are not the most important thing. Character and friðr far outweigh them.