Varg Vikernes Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism

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reflections_on_european_mythology_and_polytheism


The present book is, as the title suggests, a series of reflections and afterthoughts regarding the ancient and original European traditions now generally denominated as “paganism” (a word used by the Christian world to refer to anything different in a derogatory manner).  The study of European traditions is taken up and explored by Vikernes, not with the distanced aloofness of a scholar trying to match foreign theories to a strange phenomenon completely disconnected from himself, but as someone who cares for it as someone would care for a loved one  —a living thing in the full sense of the expression (for it certainly is, a point I am sure Vikernes would agree with).

The present article will briefly go through what the writer considers the main themes and their attitudes that stand out when one first reads this book.  It is important, however, to point out that it becomes apparent to the sensitive reader that Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism has a rather personal touch to it, like most of what Vikernes does, and one feels as if he were sitting close by talking and expounding on the topics at hand, immersing both himself and the listener in a magical well of knowledge that melds with experience.  It mixes the giving out of facts with insightful pointing out of relations and cross-references, sprinkling the discussion of certain topics throughout different texts so that they build up in the mind of the reader.

“To me only the beauty of European polytheism remains”

— Varg Vikernes, ‘The Lord of the Elves’

These are given in a rather unapologetic tone proper of esoteric treatises which do not make claim to a perfection of the text but which deem the reader worthy enough to receive the statements as they are and then proceed to judge on their own.  The mistaken modern view that  expects a writer to keep apologizing and self denigrating so that the reader does not think he is pretentious is a waste of energy, time and material resources.  If only people would consider content before rhetoric, and then proceed to the discourse only after they have understood the value and significance inherent in the content itself, something close to a proper understanding of things would be possible for the public.


§ Correction of outsider interpretations

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Christians destroying symbols of European culture.

The most important feature of Vikernes’ writing and attitude that should be considered as the most important for even the casual reader is the attempt he is making at correcting the biased and often twisted view of ancient European traditions.  Somehow, in the sudden upsurge of views that sought to bring respect and awe for traditions of the East as well as American aboriginals and other foreign groups, the establishment forgot that before the invasion of Christianity, Europe also had equally valid and rich customs that deserved the same degree of respect.  Furthermore, they forgot that these being their own, they deserved an even larger amount of attention.

This may, at first, sound like bigotry, but it can be easily shown it is not when one points out that it is natural and proper that the Chinese person protects and seeks to understand the ancient cultural roots of his folk1; so are the Quiches of Guatemala encouraged and protected that they may cultivate their Mayan roots free of the invading oppression of colonial Christianity and sterile modernity.  Why should it be any different for the peoples of Europe?

“When I — arrogantly as some have claimed — said in the foreword to my book Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia that there are no good books (at least not in English, German or Scandinavian) out there about our mythology and religion, to some degree save The Golden Bough, by the anthropologist Sir James Frazer, this is what I mean; just about everything we know about our mythology from these books is seen through dense Judeo-Christian filters and interpreted in a Judeo-Christian light, it is twisted and distorted, and is unrecognisable.”

—Varg Vikernes, ‘Shadows amongst the Ruins’

The point he makes is very important because while we have striven to correct our views on, for instance, Hinduism, so that we can try and understand (as far as that is possible for us as foreigners) them from their own perspective, no such attempt has been made by academia to understand the original traditions of Europe, we have been seen as lowly enemies by the invading and strangling thought of Christianity as an aristocratic way of controlling large masses of people.  Thus arose the image of the Witch-cult2 as an enemy of all that was “proper and good” in the eyes of the authorities throughout Europe, while these were most probably just the extreme expressions of the actual local culture.


1Mythos gives rise to Culture and Culture gives rise to Folk, and Folk gives rise to Race.”, K.

2 The reader may want to refer to Margaret Alice Murray’s book, The Witch-cult in Western Europe; though certainly not perfect and based on conjectures from sparse evidence, this is a book despised on an ideological level because it challenges the standard conception people have of Europe to the point that they start to panic when confronted with the idea of a Europe unified by underground expressions of original culture.


§ A physical and psychological naturalism

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It is important to clarify that, to the best of my knowledge, Varg Vikernes is a traditionalist of the most pragmatic kind. The esoteric overtones which his subject matter contains are cut down by him after the manner of Sir James Frazer himself, who saw anything beyond material explanations as mere superstition.  Now, Vikernes does not strike one as having this opinion, for he believes in inspiration and the power derived from symbols and stories.  For him, however, this is simply manifested on the psychological level that then may transfer that into physical action.

This in itself does not contradict occult thought and is perfectly in line with it.  But we can perceive from the text that nothing higher than that in the manner of spheres of existence or levels of manifestation are implied. For him, the interpretation is of the most flat one can give to Jungian explanations of a collective tradition functioning through interaction with the human unconscious.  What must be clarified here is that Vikernes is not a mystic per se, because there is no conscious and direct search for a purposely created space.

The naturalism that he seems to follow with stoic resolution, however, clearly opens up a channel and we see in him, his thought and his artistic work traces of greatness and inspiration.  It might be further observed that contrary to the pretentiousness of self-aware mystics or would-be occultists of the common variety who make overt attempts at being something by following trends in fashion and ways of speaking, there is no such attempt at pretending in Vikernes’ work.  On the contrary, we find a constant flow of observations, facts, and conclusions which are then sprinkled with stout opinions.

We see action before speech, we see concrete results and facts instead of the empty banter of he who claims to experience but has nothing to show for it.  Not that proving your personal journey to someone else is important, in fact, the contrary is closer to the truth.  But Varg Vikernes stands out as an honest man of deep thought who exemplifies through action who he wants to be, offering us in his book the results of his meditations, as it were, through the eye of his own knowledge and experience.


§ Judeo-Christianity as alien to European customs

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The other prominent theme that runs throughout the whole of Vikernes’ work is his emphasis the fact that Christianity as stemming from Judaism is an alien religion that was imposed on European peoples.  That this is still contested by the public at large is unsurprising for they have been brought up believing that Christianity is essentially a European religion.  It is incumbent upon the writer to reassure the reader that Christianity was in fact an artificially adopted tactic by the aristocracy which was then used as a tool to oppress and manipulate the native people of Europe.

We do not need to refer at all to any of the books written by Vikernes to confirm this as anyone acquainted closely with Charlemagne’s unification of Western Europe and his involvement and use of religion to this end will already understand this.  The reason why any conquering aristocracy might want to make use of Christianity rather than stick to old religions of local variations is simple: Christianity’s character is essentially universalist. This means that anyone and everyone should be brought under its banner. In this, it mirrors Islam, which seeks to spread its righteousness like black clouds over the whole of the world (and the universe, if they could).

To make a clear distinction here, completely unrelated to the book under discussion, although Judaism is the indisputable father of those two other monotheistic religions, they do not share that attitude of ideological conquering, for Judaism is more of a closed ethnic and tribal authentic tradition that seeks to separate itself from outsiders through custom and race.  Vikernes does not speak about Judaism itself except in some passing light remarks, but we here recommend the reader to inspect books such as Maurice H. Harris’ Hebraic Literature, to understand both differences and roots of Christianity and Islam in Judaism. It is, furthermore, important in understanding its difference with European tradition as seen in Germanic, Celtic and Hellenic traditions, for instance.

Europe has a unifying general concept throughout its geographical territory that is expressed in particular modes that can be easily and directly correlated without much effort.  These all express the values of individual freedom and the value of a personal strength of will, even when under a leader and a duty towards tribe.  This contrasts highly with Judeo-Christiantiy which is, as a famous philosopher once said, “slave morality”. European tradition is one imbued with pride and one that seeks to find its place within a nature it admires and worships as mother. The desert religions, on the other hand, see everything as given to them by god to use as they see fit, and they see humans or themselves as separate from it.  Fundamental contrasts like this one go on and on.

“Man has a free will and is left to find his own way around in the universe, but he is not free from the consequences or the impulses of nature.  In ancient times this free will was seen as a sorcerous tool; a man with a strong will could by the force of his sheer will cause different effects in the world.”

—Varg Vikernes, ‘The Power of Will’


§ A glorious rebirth

Despite the permanent theme of European traditions in opposition to Christianity, the dominating tones in Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism remain in the reverential and calmly explanatory.  There is, furthermore, a very proud and hopeful outlook that believes in the rebirth of a European population that will reach back and connect with its original roots.  This is completely in line with the traditional beliefs of Europeans, which see after the twilight of the gods, the rule of new and perhaps lesser gods who then become the old gods themselves. This last bit cannot be understood correctly when Germanic/Scandinavian religion is sought to be Christianized or understood in terms of sterile anthropology or Freudian terms, but becomes readily apparent when understood and inspected from the inside out.

“Return to your roots! Like any tree out there, you too need your roots to survive: to grow tall and old, strong and beautiful.”

—Varg Vikernes, ‘The Roots of Europe’

17 comments on “Varg Vikernes Reflections on European Mythology and Polytheism

  1. Very good review. I bought the book while i was in England and i read it for about day and a half. Extremely well written and assembled for such a small size book. It has all the basic elements you need to know about our ancient past, honour, hamingja, traditions, high festivals and about the deities. Varg always writes with passion and honesty. If people read his Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia, they will very muych appreciate this one as well. Skål!

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  2. I’ll admit that I’ve not read any of Vikerenes’ works, but judging from the views expressed in his YouTube videos, I have to say that he doesn’t strike me as an exceptionally smart, or well-read person. He obviously knows a lot about ancient European religions and traditions, but I don’t find his attack on Christianity convincing.
    Sure, Christianity did not originate in Europe, but it grew and developed its own institutions there in response to the spiritual needs and social desires of the European people. I don’t want to write a very long comment, but I think that people should stop thinking of religion as something with an arbitrary power over people’s thoughts and emotions. In my opinion, Christianity would not have taken root in Europe had it not had the ability to to satisfy the hopes and expectations of its practitioners, and thus should not be viewed as something alien or foreign.

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    1. Well, your second paragraph explains your first, and I would say that the reason for your opinion on Varg comes from the fact that he is both well-read and good at independent thinking beyond your current comprehension.He might go off on a limb on certain opinions, but it is not that he is not thinking enough, but rather not indulging the opposition in their ideological delusions.

      Christianity would not have taken root in Europe had it not had the ability to to satisfy the hopes and expectations of its practitioners, and thus should not be viewed as something alien or foreign.

      Christianity has taken root in all continents, because apart from the peaceful conversion that South East Asians are still undergoing slowly to this day, the rest was taken at the tip of the sword/rifle.

      The conquering of Europe by Christianity was mostly forceful, either through direct military compulsion and terror, or through the slow oppression of elites adopting Christian customs and implementing Christianity through adapted policies in laws. If you studied the history of Europe in detail, and could read in between the lines of Christian historians, you would notice this is very obvious. Please do read a bit more on how Charlemagne forced Teutonic tribes to surrender to Christianity by various offers “they could not refuse”.

      Lastly, Christianity was always, and still is, at odds with the original European spirit. Many Christian writers and commentators have expressed this and shown it in detail. From their point of view, this is the taming and the civilizing process of a barbaric pagan Europe. You might want to take a look at Jacques Le Goff’s The Birth of Europe: 400-1500 for an exposition of this idea.

      What happens at the end, as Christians push to de-Paganize Europe, is that you have a monarchy prone to militarism, which preserves a lot of the old warrior spirit, and a Christian clergy constantly trying to transform them into peaceful lambs. That the Church eventually made use and indulged in violence is something considered more of a necessary evil sanctified by a holy end. At the end The Church kind of gives up, and with the rise of Humanism (essentially, a secular heir to and derivative of Judeo-Christianity), it simply leaves Europe with that mixed back of an impure Christianity (though the Lutherans kind of adopted a purer, more ignorant version than what the Catholics were twisting throughout the rest of the land).

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      1. There is no doubt that Christianity, just like many other religions before and after it, was spread at the edge of the blade. That is a well documented fact that I’m not going to despute. However, I think that the question we should ask is why had Christianity survived for so long, and why had it come to dominate other religions?

        Obviously, your answer would be that it was forcefully imposed on the people by their ruling elites in an attempt to turn them into obedient lamps, a function which Christianity was well suited for. There is some truth to this, but I think that there’s more to it than just that. There were many religions in Europe throughout history, and numerous rulers who converted their conquered enemies into their own religions, but why had Christianity dominated the scene? Why had other religions faded out? I think a good answer to this question was provided by a little known historian named Marshal G.S. Hudgson. Without going into much detail, he believed that what he called the “nature religions” of old had started retreating in the face of “confessional religions” during the axial age. These “confessional religions” were cosmopolitan religions that were crafted to fit the environment of mercantile activity and emperial expansion of the time, and that valued individual moral responsibility above all else as fits the requirements of market life. In that sense, Abrahamic religions were not desert religions, but market oriented ones. Naturally, as Europe itself became more ethnically diverse, more integrated into emperial networks of conquest, and most importantly, more market oriented, it was no surprise that the these religions found their way there.

        I don’t believe that people believe in things that go against their natural instincts and inclinations, at least not radically so. People had always been forcefully converted to other religions, but with time, these religions came to adapt to their environments and the spiritual needs of practitioners, as evident by the traces of older traditions and superstitions that find their way into these new beliefs.

        With all that said, after all these centuries, I find it hard to believe that Christianity had not grown into a European phenomena as a result of its development in a European context. I do not think that it is a slave morality as Nietzsche would have us believe. Those who say that it is at odds with original or native ideas ignore the fact that times and circumstances change, and that through progress, some older beliefs and traditions give way to new ones. Would you have us believe in the same superstitions of our hunter gatherer ancestors? Aren’t they more in harmony with our “original” spirits? Didn’t these very original spirits develop as an answer to the environments in which their first carriers found themselves in? Isn’t it natural for this spirit to change, or be all together replaced, in response to changes in material reality? Can we expect the citizens of the expansionist, etnically-diverse, mercantile roman empire to hold on to the same beliefs as their cave dwelling ancestors? Didn’t we see how the church went through all sorts of philosophical gymnastics to justify the use of violence during times of need? Is it too difficult to believe that faith can be elastic, or that humans adopt different beliefs to handle different challenges?
        Had there been no forced conversions, Europe would’ve been a more diverse place on the religious level, there’s no doubt about that, but to think that christianity remains a foreign entity after hundreds of years of intercation with its european environmet, or that “original’ spirits are more valid because somehow the European man is a constant entity isolated from changes in its environment, is something I find hard to accept.

        And as a side note, if there’s someone to make an argument against Christianity, Varg is not the one to do so. He’s done his homework on ancient European traditions, but his YouTube videos are too juvenile and cringe-inducing for him to be considered someone worthy of being taken seriously, especially when considering that he obviously doesn’t read arguments that contradict his biases (which are, if we were to be honest, formed as a result of him taking too seriously Bathory’s lyrics as a kid).

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      2. And to add just one more thing, and to take my argument to its logical conclusion, I believe that had European paganism been left to develop on its own to this day, it would’ve grown into something that looks awfully a lot like Christianity. We’ve seen that throughout time. Religions change shape in response to changes in environment. At one point pacific Sufism was the dominant force in Islamic thought, and at other it was ruthless jihadism.

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    2. However, I think that the question we should ask is why had Christianity survived for so long, and why had it come to dominate other religions?

      The nature of the times and the fact that it is a militant and aggressive religion. Dark times and degenerate ways give preponderance to degenerate religions (like Judeo-Christianity).

      Just because things are eventually accepted it does not mean that it is “the right way”. In fact, there is no absolutely “right way”, but it boils down to a matter of how you personally evaluate, and what you personally think constitutes a more ideal way. This can become a very complex topic, so I will stop here.

      Had there been no forced conversions, Europe would’ve been a more diverse place on the religious level, there’s no doubt about that, but to think that christianity remains a foreign entity after hundreds of years of intercation with its european environmet, or that “original’ spirits are more valid because somehow the European man is a constant entity isolated from changes in its environment, is something I find hard to accept.

      There are several arguments that have been made in this regard, but most come from underground and dissident modern sources, rather than accepted academic banter. There is a line of inheritance in academic and accepted mainstream thought that deems itself “objective” and “scientific”, but which is actually everything but. Their line of inquiry had been poisoned for hundreds of years, since all accepted thought was Christian thought, and when it was not, it was Humanist thought based on Christian thought.

      I am reluctant to try and argue it from my own at the moment when there are good sources that provide clues (clues, ok? not conclusions, never stop inquiring…): you may read Carl Jung’s ideas, and from him jump to Alchemy properly understood (you may start with a book like Alchemy Deciphered, and then progress to more involved sources, if you have the capacity to).

      If you study Gnosticism, both in its Christian-independent Greek origins, and in its admixture with Christian thought, you will find how much of what you think is “Christian” was originally European. That is, there is a clear separation, even when mixed, of what is European and what is Christian, and the reason for this is that they are at odds at a basic metaphysical / ideological / spiritual level.

      Sure, Christianity did not originate in Europe, but it grew and developed its own institutions there in response to the spiritual needs and social desires of the European people.

      Wrong. It did not “grow and develop”, it adopted and distorted, in a very crude manner, by the way, in order to emulate local customs. And when I say crude I mean very crude, and with no grace at all. That is how Saints were covering the niches of local European deities, and churches were built on old sacred grounds.

      The fact that people were continually persecuted, burned at the stake, etc. for hundreds of years until the Church was stopped by the advent of the so-called age of reason (read as ‘age of crude atheism’), should tell you that the people proper never wholly abandoned the old traditions.

      The more “cultured” or “educated” people and families were, the more compelled they were by a hundreds-of-years old status quo , a reigning Theological structure, to accept those.

      However, as you can see, the moment Europe is no longer under the whole tyrannical dominion of the Church and its Holy Empire, the faster it ran back to try and reconnect with its ancient European roots: this is in great part what the Romantic era was. However, each iteration and revival is not the same, and much can be said about that too.

      I do not think that it is a slave morality as Nietzsche would have us believe.

      hahahahaha….
      That idea is independent of Nietzsche, he is only the most famous person to say it out loud.
      And I agree completely with it.

      taking too seriously Bathory’s lyrics as a kid

      Oh… you need to do some reading on ancient Greek cults of the night (such as those related to Hecate), Gnostic antinomianism, and then evaluate their possible connection to on-going “satanic” traditions (not the modern joke satanism, but the “pagan” one).

      That said, Vikernes does not take an antinomian approach, so he has nothing to do with Bathory either. This reveals more of your ignorance both regarding Vikernes and these topics in general.

      Vikernes does not pay heed to arguments because it is not his business to argue with anyone, I am sure. Any serious, independent thinker learns sooner or later that arguing is a wasteful way of trying to learn or come to an understanding.

      I do disagree with some of his ideas, since Vikernes does tend to run towards the extremes on very little data.. specifically, and for instance, his inexperienced and ‘study-based’ idea that women training physically will make them barren. But in general, I think it is more important to keep to one’s own and learn, instead of wasting all this time arguing. Considering different points and slowly integrating or rejecting them through time is best.

      That said, thank you for commenting. Sharing thoughts is always welcome, arguing itself, I would avoid as a waste of energy and time.

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      1. Well to each his own I guess. Arguing itself is futile as as it is almost impossible to dislodge others from their ideological standing points.

        Personally, I’m a believer in the validity of Christianity as a religion or at least as a theoretical framework for contemplating morality and ethics.

        I’ll put Le Goff’s book on my reading list. Other recommendations are welcome if you like to share any.

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    3. Carlo Ginzburg History, Rhetoric, and Proof
      Benjamin Walker Gnosticism: Its History And Influence
      Gary Tomlinson Music in Renaissance Magic: Toward a Historiography of Others
      Raven Grimassi Old World Witchcraft: Ancient Ways for Modern Days

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