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A Potted History of Modern Heathenism. 

A brief but strangely incomplete history of modern  Heathenism in the UK and elsewhere.


Historically the study of early European History was a bit of backwater when compared with the scholarly endeavour directed at the classical civilisations, but there was a resurgence of interest from the late 18th century which saw the translation and publication of the Icelandic materials and the wider availability of the writings of historians such as Saxo Grammaticus , Bede, & Adam of Bremen. 

The works of these ancients indicate that the ‘Norse Myths’ were not just stories but the remnants of a pre-Christian Germanic religion.   Popular books on the Norse Myths such as , The Heroes of  Asgard  [A & E Keary, first  published 1870]  and The Tragedy of the Norse Gods, [Ruth J. Pitt 1893]  went to a number of editions and reprints as the old stories reached a wider audience, but there is no evidence of any attempt to reconstruct the  religion as a belief system. (as distinct from German magical groups) until the mid 20th century.

There are rumours of organised Heathenism in the UK in the-1920 – 1930 period amongst the groupings of such organisations as Kibbo Kift and the Woodfolk.   If any such group did exist it has left no trace of its activities.   The group to go public and therefore the first of which there is evidence was ‘The Anglecyn Church of Oðin’ formed in Australia in 1936 by Alexander Rud Mills, a barrister who used the name ‘Tasman Forth’ when writing about the Church of Oðin. Mills/ Forth published a number of books on Odinism.    His ‘First Guide Book of the Anglecyn Church of Oðin’ was circulated amongst and read interested folk in the English speaking world.

Mills/Forth died in 1964 and his group seems to have collapsed, perhaps even before his death.    

In 1964, the same year as Mill's death  a group called ‘The Odinist Religion'  or 'Thule Circle'   was formed by Vivian Bird in England.  Bird  briefly published a magazine  'The Viking'.   According to Stubba1 [ John Yeowell ] the group lacked any organisation, no liturgy or rituals and few adherents and Bird seems never to have heard of Mills or the Anglecyn Church of Odin.

~~ 1969 Canada  later United States  Else Christensen neé Ochsner  (19132005) & 
her husband Alex  founded a group called The Odinist Study Group which later
evolved into The Odinist Fellowship. 
Else
Christensen published a newsletter called The Odinist for many years.. 5     ~~

 

The introduction to  The Book of Blotar² mentions  two groups,  Frey Hof  founded in the early 1960's by 'Asbjorn'   and  SaxNot  founded in the 1970's by  'Olaf', 'Oswin' and 'Lothar'.   Neither of these groups are mentioned in the earlier The Book of Blots³.     The Heimdall League  is rumoured to have existed about the same period.   It is possible these groups were closed membership associations  and thus  details of their organisation, ritual or  activity were hardly likely to be publicised.

 

~~ 1972 Iceland   Sveinbörn Beinteinsson founds   Ásatrúarfélagið. ~~


The Anglo-Saxon Church of Woden  was formed in about 1972 by  'Haki'.      The base for it's activities was a restaurant at Enfield Lock, in Middlesex which after business hours doubled as a Temple of Woden. The A.S.C.W seems to have disbanded around 1974¹.

 

~~ 1973  Iceland  Ásatrú accepted as one of the official religions of Iceland ~~

 

In 1973 The Committee for the Restoration of the Odinic Rite was founded in England, by Stubba [John Yeowell].  undergoing a name change in 1980 to   The Odinic Rite.4

 

~~ 1973 United States  Stephen McNallen founds Ásatrú Free Assembly of America ~~

 

~~ 1976 United States Garman Lord founds Theodism [Þēodisc Gelēafa]
a re-construction of the Anglo-Saxon lore and beliefs ~~

 

~~ 1979 United States Edred Thorsson [Dr Stephen Edred Flowers] founds The Rune Gild ~~

 

In 1986   Freya Aswynn establishes  The Rune  Gild UK.

 

~~ 1987 United States Ásatrú Free Assembly of America disbands ~~

 

~~ 1987 United  States   James  Chisholm  &  Edred Thorsson found The Ring of Troth.
 Now  known  as  The Troth ~~

 

Freya Aswynn relinquished leadership of   The Rune  Gild UK,  to form    Woden's Own Kindred &  in  1993  establishes The Ring of Troth UK  later Ring of Troth (Europe)  an independent organisation affiliated to The Troth.     RuneGild UK has since been headed in this country by Ian Read, publisher of  Runa  and Chaos International magazines.

 

Following  the recognition by the Icelandic government of Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið in 1973, other European Governments have recognised Heathen/Asatru organisations as official religious groups.


~~ 1994 Sweden Sweden    Sveriges asatrosamfund ~~


~~ 1996 Norway Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost   &   1999 Foreningen Forn Sed ~~


~~ 2003 Denmark   Forn Siðr ~~

~~ 2007 Spain   Comunidad Odinista de España-Asatru9 ~~

 

Many groups  have split & regrouped as is the nature of all pagan associations  until we have today Heathen groups to suit all shades of belief and practice.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


Sources

1.  Odinform  News and Information for Odinists      Number 7 12 December 1997    Stubba   Raven Banner Editions.

2.  The Book of Blotar  The Authentic Rituals of the Odinic Rite  Odinic Rite  [Runic] 1993

3.  The Book of Blots  Ceremonies, Rituals & Invocations of the Odinic Rite.    Odinic Rite [Edda] 1991

4.  Hengest OR.         Odinic Rite Wikipedia entry.

5. Dieter A. Bachmann   Else Christensen  Wiki article.   

9. Spanish Justice Ministry  Confesiones Minotarias   No.  1161-SG