In a recent edition of AFA Founder, Steve McNallen’s weekly YouTube show, I took a fairly critical stance on “garb” or Viking reenactment dress. I wanted to take a moment to explain my thoughts on dress and the AFA’s position in this regard.
There was a period during the early days of modern Asatru where it was the norm for folks to wear Viking reenactment garb for events and rituals. There was an idea that by trying to recreate the look and feel of the Viking age, folks could better connect with our Gods and more “authentically” practice our religion. Perhaps that was a necessary stage in order to reject what folks were used to and embrace something that was very different. Perhaps folks felt better connected to an idealized time, a better time for our folk’s spirituality, by attempting to imitate the dress of that period. Happily, our religion has grown and developed over the last 50 years and, in the AFA, we no longer feel the need to reenact something dead, instead, we enact something living and vibrant in our own day and in our own real lives. Just as the Vikings did not dress up as cavemen in order to be more spiritual, we do not need to dress up as Vikings to be pious.
Just as our ancestors approached the divine dressed in their very best for their time, in the AFA we approach the Gods looking our best for our time. It is very important that we present our best selves when we come together to worship our Gods and ancestors. If we dress in a shirt and tie for a wedding, for a family reunion, for a nice dinner out, for court, for any number of “special” occasions, why would standing before the very Gods of our folk deserve any less respect or reverence in how we dress? Since AFA members started dressing up, I have noticed a dramatic increase in the piety of events. I have noticed an increase in how well dressed AFA members carry themselves and feel about what they are doing. Dressing our best, looking our best, was always important to our ancestors. When you are at your best those around you are inspired. In the AFA we want to raise the dignity of all our folk. In the AFA we want to show reverence to our Holy Gods and Honored Ancestors in all things, including our dress. Our Gods deserve our best. Our ancestors deserve our best. Our Church deserves our best. And our loved ones deserve our best.
Last but not least, be it dressing slovenly, overly casual, or in reenactment garb, we NEVER want to make ourselves or our Gods the object of mockery. How we are seen in pictures and by those with less context matters. When we are in our “Sunday best” we convey that we are serious, dignified, reverent, and good looking. When we are in reenactment we are seen, at best, as apeing a dead faith, at worst as silly LARPers. In the AFA we are charged with the sacred duty of representing our Gods here in Midgard, We always want to be good stewards of that responsibility. We realize that sometimes and for some purposes, a piece of ritual attire may be very appropriate and we also realize that individual members will vary in what they think to be their best or how to best present themselves. As for our Church, we will always strive to be our best AND to look our best in an endless effort to be worthy of our Gods and Ancestors.
Matthew D. Flavel
Asatru Folk Assembly