Thanks to author Joe LeVasseur and to Heathens United Against Racism for this post.
The pre-Christian religion of ancient Germanic civilizations is known by many names, but is most commonly referred to as Heathenry or Asatru. This religion is a polytheistic one that believes in gods and goddesses such as Odin, Thor, Frey, Frigga, and Freya who are known through the famous Viking sagas. There is also a belief that our ancestors play a part in our lives, and a belief that spirits of the dead dwell in the earth, the forests, and the lakes and rivers. We celebrate spiritual traditions from Northern Europe, this is not a religion of hate.
Unfortunately members of White Nationalist organizations seek to misrepresent our culture and our spiritual heritage to disguise and gain acceptance among more mainstream demographics. The Leif Erikson Day celebration in Philadelphia is one such occasion in which a White Nationalist group is attempting to do this. This celebration is being organized by the Keystone State Skinheads, a group with a long track record of White Supremacist hate crimes among their members. Philadelphia Leif Erikson Day is not about Viking explorers, it's not about a cultural history that the Scandinavian-American community can get behind, and it is certainly not about Asatru.
As members of the Asatru and Heathen community, we openly reject any attempt by the Keystone State Skinheads and members of other White Nationalist hate groups to appropriate and misrepresent this Holiday. We will not stand silently by as these racists misrepresent our history as one of hate.
Manager's note: Leif Erikson Day in Philly is becoming an annual struggle between opposing racial hate groups, leaving the average citizen stuck in the middle. The rhetoric became amplified after October 2008, when racial extremists vandalized the Thorfinn Karlsefni statue with red paint. Since then this touchstone for Scandinavian culture in the United States has become the centerpiece of an annual struggle between racist groups and the people of Philadelphia who want all the hate groups to leave their community.
Hate cuts in many directions. The Thorfinn Karlsefni statue represents a Scandinavian contribution to world history. It is owned by the Philadelphia community, not by the racist extremists of any racial or ethnic group or by the extremists at either end of the political spectrum. To use the statue either as a rallying point or a target for the advancement of racist causes is offensive and intolerable.