I have a few odds and ends to discuss today beginning with the weird story that a libertarian senate candidate in Florida is a follower of the Thelema religion of Aleister Crowley and sacrificed a goat and drank its blood. The 32-year-old lawyer legally changed his name to Augustus Sol Invictus, Latin for “the majestic unconquered sun,” and claims to be a worshipper of the “wild god of the wilderness.” Thelema is a neo-pagan religion based on early twentieth century occult understandings of ancient Egyptian religion. Its founding myth involves Crowley’s alleged communication with a spirit entity in the Great Pyramid, an event ancient astronaut theorists later claimed as an alien visitation.
Invictus (or is the cognomen Sol Invictus?) is alleged to hold fascist views and represented white supremacists as an attorney. The former chairman of Florida’s Libertarian Party claims Invictus told him that he would like a new civil war and considers the eradication of the weak to be an article of his fringe-history inspired faith. “It’s my religion,” he is alleged to have said. Invictus denies advocating civil war and has repudiated his eugenics support. He also says he is not a fascist, though his rhetoric’s emphasis on strength and masculinity has fascist echoes.
Most of the media coverage has mocked Invictus for his religion, but it’s fascinating to me the way fringe history, right wing politics, and the occult melt together in Invictus, a pretty much perfect example of the worst case scenario I’ve warned about for the ideas promoted by fringe historians and their media enablers. That said, it’s kind of hard to complain that Invictus is practicing a distasteful religion in an era where “religious freedom restoration” acts are sailing through statehouses. If anything, this contrast emphasizes that such laws are intended to institutionalize conservative Christianity, not to promote true religious freedom.
America’s uneasy feelings about what counts as an acceptable religion have been around for a long time, and for most of American history, down to the 1960s, that question revolved around whether Catholicism counted as true Christianity and whether Catholics could be true and loyal Americans. In his new book Myths of the Rune Stone, David M. Krueger raised a very interesting issue that I wasn’t aware of and which gives the lie to Scott Wolter’s conspiracy theories about the Kensington Rune Stone. Wolter claims that the Catholic Church is conspiring to discredit the Rune Stone because it reveals a hidden truth about Jesus. According to Krueger, in the twentieth century the Catholic Church not only embraced the KRS as authentic, but considered it important proof of the Catholic colonization of America before the Protestant British. The massive Catholic Encyclopedia of 1912, for example, considered the Rune Stone to be “the earliest Catholic record of what became afterwards the Diocese of St. Paul.” Later, the Church dedicated a statue to Our Lady of the Runestone at St. Mary’s Catholic School and named a church Our Lady of the Runestone on the strength of the assumption that the letters AVM appearing on the stone were the first American prayer to Mary. This doesn’t seem like the work of conspirators trying to discredit the artifact.
The more you know, huh?
Finally, on a lighter note, check out this Craigslist ad looking for $9,000 for a modern stone statue carved in Africa in the middle twentieth century. In order to jack up the value, the seller has tried to tie it to Ancient Aliens and relies on the fringe history website Ancient Origins to explain what it is. The seller implies that the statue came from outer space by citing legends about nomoli statues having an uncertain origin attributed to heavenly beings, but doesn’t disclose that the original Ancient Origins article referred to statues made around 500 BCE (which they try to re-date to 17,000 BCE), not to a twentieth century piece. The seller would have done better to call it a real-life Cthulhu idol!
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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