Swedish Social Democrat Politician Wants to Ban Runes?

From Sputnik News

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,

A partisan Swedish website reports:

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.

8 thoughts on “Swedish Social Democrat Politician Wants to Ban Runes?

  1. No, that’s not what’s happening at all. They are not considering banning runes or the Thor’s Hammer. They are only considering banning the logo of a local neo-Nazi organization that incorporates the Tyr rune, just as they’ve banned the swastika and other symbols of Nazi ideology. The “Swedish Website” you quote above is Samhällsnytt, formerly known as Avpixlat, a far-right extremist, anti-immigrant, racist hate-site. They are simply trying to gin up outrage from people who aren’t aware of their real agenda.

    • And let me emphasize, they are not planning on banning the Tyr rune either, just that organization’s logo.

  2. Faoladh, thanks for your input. I had pretty much the same impression of the Swedish website’s politics. But several things about the story concern me.

    1. Will banning symbols affect Swedish Pagans? (Perhaps, to the justice minister, that would be “a feature, not a bug,” but I don’t know for sure.)

    2. When a complacent governing party is challenged from either flank, is banning a smart move? Might it not be smarter to skim off the least objectionable/most popular part of your feisty opponents’ platform and incorporate it into your own. That is how the Democratic Party in the United States (and to a lesser extent, the Republican Party) defanged the Socialist Party, which was strongest in the 1900s-1930s, but is nothing much today.

    3. If the news media does not cover an issue because the people involved are politically incorrect or whatever, that failure makes more space for the Sputnik News-type operations to come in an propagandize it.

    But to repeat, the first item is the most important to me.

    • Your 1 could be concerning. I suggest directing that inquiry to pagans in Sweden, and preferably not members of the branches that are merely fronts for modern neo-Nazi ideologues, which I would say are not actually pagan at all but only political groups that have latched onto pagan religious expressions and symbols in order to further their very modern political agendas.

      Number 2 seems like it could be a matter for discussion, but isn’t really relevant to this particular issue. You’ll note that it isn’t the general platform of the neo-Nazi party being considered here, but only a logo (which happens to incorporate one rune) that has come to represent racially-motivated attacks in Sweden.

      Your number 3 seems to be predicated on an assumption not in evidence, that there is no news media coverage of the matter. You have seen two “news” stories that have been specifically propagated in English by the very people who are the offenders in the matter, one an overtly racist, supremacist, and far-right/explicitly neo-Nazi site and the other a Russian propaganda operation, and are looking for support from an unsuspecting English-speaking world. From this, you are extrapolating that there are no other news stories in Sweden on the matter. That seems like sloppy research to me. Here’s a twitter thread on the subject, from a person whose account is largely dedicated to doing fact-checks on Swedish news stories for English-speaking audiences. You could always communicate with them for further detailed information.

      But all of this aside, the basic idea, that Sweden’s government is going to ban runes or other symbols is simply false. There is no such plan, no such intention. It is purely fabricated by a far-right political group entirely with the purpose of riling up pagans both locally and from other regions and helping to further their racially-based modern politics in Sweden. They are counting on ill-informed pagans from other parts of the world not bothering to follow up on the Shocking! Headline! they’ve contrived, probably with the specific intention of making it “go viral”, as they say.

      • Sorry, I missed editing the parenthetical in the paragraph about point 2. It should read “two runes” instead of “one rune”, since apparently the diamond shape is actually intended to represent Ingwaz. That’s even more damning of this claim, since in that case it would be specifically the two-rune combination in those colors that would have been considered for banning—note, not even the two runes together, but in that configuration and in those colors.

  3. My initial reaction to this proposed ban was that it was like banning Harley-Davidsons to damp down biker gangs. An Acme Industries sort of solution.

    But a quick internet search revealed that the most prominent users of runes in Scandanavia today are probably neo-nazi groups. So use of runes does pose a problem–historical pride in an alternative alphabet still use by remote folks in Sweden up to the early 20th Century versus that alphabets current use by extremist groups..

    With no real counterpart for American users/readers of the Latin alphabet.

    America’s powerful tradition of free expression protected by the First Amendment makes me wary of any banning of designs, symbols, alphabets, logos and such. Underground (I know from hard knocks) can be fertile ground for all sorts of distasteful notions and ideologies. So I want Sweden to maybe figure out a different solution.

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