Elhaz Ablaze is a collection of essays by multiple authors. Before it was a book, Elhaz Ablaze was a website. The website’s online community developed their own sect, and the authors and artists of this volume participated.
The authors contend that chaos magic and the modern heathen revival both came out of the culture of the 1970s. Chaos magic was an attempt to embrace cutting-edge science in the form of Chaos Theory, while heathenry and Asatru were romantic, rooted in the past, and valuing nature. That’s a bit of an oversimplification of how Asatru came about, but I can’t say it’s really wrong; despite previous attempts to revive things Germanic, modern American Asatru tends to look back to the prehistoric and pre-Christian, and to the 1970s and later, with not much in between.
The common threads in chaos magic and heathenry which are united in chaos heathenry are: valuing orthopraxy over orthodoxy; and embracing the world, that is, focusing on living life rather than an afterlife. The following chapter, styled a second introduction, rightly points out that many heathens discourage other heathens from actual religious experience, both from having it and from discussing it. Chaos heathenry values individual experience, including the telling of stories as ways to explore truth and deep questions.
Subsequent chapters go into more of the theory behind chaos heathenry, which unites the mysteries of the runes with their matching scientific concepts. The authors relate the origin of chaos heathenry in the internet culture of the 21st century. Chaos heathens are against racism and other -isms, but apparently don’t identify as universalist heathens. Chaos heathenry uses the same words for soul parts as regular Asatru. The authors define these words using the Thorsson system.
The book discusses occult knowledge such as the hidden meanings within the word futhark, the term for a rune alphabet. As these hidden words have sexual meanings, this leads into a brief discussion of gods who exemplify fluidity in gender and sexuality, such as Odin, Loki, and Thor. This then leads to a recap of the condemnation of racism and homophobia. This recap is as fine an abstract of analysis and evidence as I’ve seen elsewhere, but people who are not already familiar with that lore might not get much of an understanding of the subject from this, because it leaves so many details out. Several times in this book, various of the essays mention being against racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc. but none of them spell out why that doesn’t belong in heathenry. The way this issue and some other issues are presented in the book assumes a certain base level of knowledge in the reader.
Another essay goes into the philosophy of separating religion from politics. The book recounts some notable failures of utopianism. Then it proposes the idea of the Anarch. The Anarch is to Anarchy as the Monarch is to Monarchy. An Anarch is not the same as an Anarchist. I have some difficulty applying the word Anarch to this serious philosophy, as the only other context I have for the word Anarch is a 90s vampire LARP. Also, in promoting the idea of the Anarch, the essay seems to devalue the idea of the Anarchist, which I think is uncalled-for. Nevertheless, this is an exciting new thought.
In the chapter “Bronze Gods,” the author of this essay recounts early Indo-European history and then takes a sharp turn into historical fiction by bringing up werewolves. The author proposes a prehistoric tribal initiatory role for the Young Wolves, the people who would be called Ulfhednar in the Viking Age. In this story, the Berserkers are the Ulfhednars’ rare adult mentors. That’s not how it was in any time period in recorded history, but of course, that does not mean that it could not have been that way in prehistory. I’m intrigued that the author linked the Berserkers to Navy SEALS, and wonder if he read my paper on Bersarkrgangr or if he might be a fellow initiate of the Nine Waves.
The next chapter is on ancestors, and includes instructions on basic meditation. It gives the modernist heathen view that a heathen in the modern age should try to reconstruct a heathen worldview based on concepts like wyrd, but should not try to do living history by wearing historical dress. Therefore, a modern heathen should not reject meditation just because it is not documented in the lore. This philosophy is common to many modernist heathens, not just to Chaos Heathens.
After that, the book goes into more advanced theory about chaos magic, heathenry, and why a chaos magician needs the structure of a traditional religion. There are advanced ideas, and there is also advanced vocabulary. This is written for a college level reader.
There is an extensive essay on the nature of truth, contrasting the Roman veritas with the Greek aletheia. Chaos Heathenry embraces the latter. There is an essay on modernism, rationality, belief, and Bacon’s “knowledge is power.” There are chapters on the theory and practice of chaos magic, traditional heathen magic, and other kinds of magic. Some of these are quite advanced, and some talk as much about philosophy as magic.
Many of the authors write about Odin. Some authors regard him as an archetype or metaphor, while others have a relationship with him as a being possessing his own will. Some other heathen gods feature in this book, too. There are chapters about encounters with Thor.
There is an extensive list of recommended books in the back. The recommendations are divided into sections on heathenry, chaos magic, other kinds of magic, various other religions, physical culture, martial arts, and fiction. The fiction list has some surprising entries.
I appreciate the many artworks included in this book, especially “Odin As Shiva As Odin.” There are some artworks that have swastikas in them. If anyone is going to reclaim the swastika for the good side, Chaos Heathenry might be the right path to do it, since repurposing popular culture references is part of chaos magic. Still, I am not sure that anyone should try to reclaim that symbol. Reclaiming the swastika is periodically discussed in heathen forums and organizations, and the consensus is always no, or at least not yet.
This is not a beginner’s book. Readers need to have at least a basic level of familiarity with heathenry to understand all the things that are mentioned without being explained. The different chapters are written at different reading levels, but at least some of them require a college reading level. I recommend this book for the intermediate to advanced student of modern heathenry. Chaos Heathenry might well be the right path for some of the people who will read this volume, but they might miss the path and get bogged down in the mire if they try to read it before knowing enough about heathenry to understand it.
[Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners and other books. She has been a gythia since 1989, published Berserkrgangr Magazine, is a godspouse of Odin and his brothers, and currently manages the Asatru Facebook Forum and writes the Pagansquare blog Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen. She lives with her mom and her black cat in Henderson, Nevada, where she ran for public office in 2010 and 2013, and is active in her local dance, arts, and pagan communities.]