Back in the late 1990s, I had a young Swedish student in my English 102 (second-semester composition) class. I noticed that he wore a small silver Thor’s hammer (Mjölnir) around his neck on a chain, under his shirt.
Was he a Norse Pagan or just making a cultural statement, I wondered. So I complimented him on it a neutral way.
I don’t think he was Pagan as such. But he was interested in the Viking Age and all that.
Nevertheless, he told me, he was afraid to wear the hammer at home, “because people would say that I am a Nazi.”
Now it’s twenty years later, and at least one Swedish government minister is worried about “Nazi associations” with runes. Never mind that they are many centuries old,
The government is currently investigating the possibility of banning the use of Norse runes. It is reported that the Minister of Justice, Morgan Johansson (S) [Social Democrat], is behind the initiative. In the Asa community, which organizes asa troops and people with an interest in the Norse cultural heritage, the outrage is great about what one thinks is a restriction on, among other things, religious freedom. A collection of names has been started and on Friday [May 24, presumably] a manifestation [demonstration] is arranged outside the Parliament House in protest against the proposal. (Machine-translated by Google Translate).
This was picked up by the site Sputnik News (“Pagans, History Buffs Rage as Sweden Considers Banning ‘Nazi’ Runes,”), which sounds like another Russian shit-stirring operation. Nevertheless, I think there is a kernel of truth here. They quoted a Swedish Asatru group, which said (translated)
Our attitude is that prejudices and misunderstandings are best cured with knowledge and facts. It is not okay to try and replace the meaning of our symbols with one’s own prejudices or political meaning they completely lack. Banning them would wipe out a part of our own history, culture and beliefs — and our freedom of expression because of political interpretations that do not belong in the Asa community.”
Maybe the Swedish Social Democrats could just ban the letters N and Z. My student knew his own culture’s predilections, I can say that much.