Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky

LARPing tribalism

L

I don’t understand the reason so many modern heathens and neo-pagans are drawn to fantasies of re-creating antique tribalism.

I don’t think they understand the idea of tribes. That’s why I see it as LARPing. Our ancestors used tribe as a synonym for ethnicity and nationality. The Saxons were a tribe; the Franks were a tribe. In Latin, gens (plural gentes).

Many modern heathens confuse our modern colloquial use of the word tribe to mean simply community to mean the same thing as the tribes of our ancestors. It’s not. I belong to the tribe of Denver Broncos fans, but I don’t confuse the other fans with my ethnicity, nationality, or family.

It’s noteworthy, I think, that when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes invaded what is now England in, let’s call it the 5th century, they settled in tribal regions but ultimately melted into a pot of just English. When the Norwegians settled Iceland and Greenland in, say the 9th and 11th centuries, they didn’t try to preserve their antique tribal heritage and didn’t set up new tribes. I could go on in this vein, but I think the point is clear.

Sure, over time, newly settled communities tend to become interrelated. At least, historically, and because of relatively low mobility. My mother comes from a little town in Wyoming. There was a Pony Express station there in the 1860s, but settlement in the area didn’t really begin until 1912, or so. By about 1961 every family in the valley was connected by blood or marriage to every other family.

It took just 50 years for that melting pot to get a good start. How much longer would it be for a clan to emerge from the town? Or for the locals to see themselves as a different ethnicity or tribe? And could a new tribe even emerge in a town politically integrated into a larger area, even if geographical mobility were fairly low?

It seems modern heathens are in rush to create an artificial structure. Are they reading too many fantasy novels? Why do they think they need to consciously create something that in the past happened organically? And why do they imagine a little group of a dozen or a few dozen people carries the same weight and importance as an ethnic group of thousands?

I don’t buy it. My belief buddies and praxis pals are my community, not my clan, not my tribe.

Eric Sjerven’s YouTube channel provides an example of modern usage. Nice guy, and I often enjoy his videos, but I part ways with him here.

Yellacat Ranch Under a Western Sky
Justin Swanstrom

Justin Swanstrom

Made in America. Retired attorney. Bookseller at Shining Lotus. No Nazis in Valhalla. He/him.

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