Why is Odin the New God of Choice for White Supremacists?
Those who once worshipped the ‘great gods of the north’ would be ashamed if they knew their faith was used to support such hatred and violence as witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August 2017. There is no evidence of discrimination or racial violence in the days before the north found the Cross, so why are white supremacists now turning to ancient Nordic gods to support their ideology?
The events that transpired in Charlottesville, which left 3 dead and 36 injured, was a brutal, unwarranted assault on people who were guilty of nothing more than not being what the white supremacists wanted them to be: white.
Soldiers of Odin
Soldiers of Odin, Sons of Odin, or Odinists are what this radical conglomeration of white supremacists call themselves. Odinism, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a rising religious sect following the ancient gods Odin, a sky god and a prophetic god, and Thor, a god known for his value in warfare. Both Odin and Thor have been contestants for the title of "father of the gods" or "chief of the gods"; more evidence appears to claim Odin in this role, which is likely why the name was chosen. Those who follow this sect value it for the same reason Adolf Hitler valued the Aryan ancestry of the Germans: Odinism values European culture, and presumes that to be white is to be right.
Yet even Odinism is a warped, American version of not only Hitler's racial beliefs but of both the ancient polytheistic faith and the 20 th century neopagan religion that valued Odin and Thor, the Asatru Fellowship (Ásatrúarfélagið). Like so many religious sects, Odinism found its origins in a peaceful religion that was gradually perverted.
- Pagans in a Modern World: What is Neopaganism?
- Return of the Ancient Gods: The Resurgence of Paganism
- The true meaning of Paganism
The Norse god Odin enthroned, flanked by his two wolfs, Geri and Freki, and his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, and holding his spear Gungnir. ( public domain )
The Resurgence of Paganism
Following the rise of the holistic faith called Wicca in the 1900s, various strands of contemporary paganism arose. Celtic Wicca, Faery Wicca and Gardenia Wicca are among the strands, in the same way that Christianity branches off into Episcopal, Baptist, and so on. Among these branches of Wicca arose the Asatru Fellowship. In 1972, a man called Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson chose the path of the pre-Christian north as his faith. The Asatru Fellowship is very similar to Odinism—or rather, Odinism drew heavily from the Asatru Fellowship, predominately in the value of Odin and Thor. After this, the practices have little in common. The Asatru Fellowship follow the ancient gods of the north through peaceful outdoor gatherings; Odinism, on the other hand, has become a haven for white supremacists and values the heritage of the white man in the name of the white gods, rather than the eastern religious leader called Jesus of Nazareth.
There has been a resurgence of paganism in modern times. Beltane Fire Festival Celebrations. CC BY NC-SA 2.0
The Adulteration of Norse Religion
The Old Norse religion is one of the few religions that can be so easily "reinterpreted," likely one of the reasons the Asatru Fellowship was able to thrive in the modern world. One of the difficulties of understanding the faith in its totality is that the pre-Christian Norsemen did not write down their own faith; the stories and manuscripts that survive were dictated centuries later by Christians who had heard the old tales. Yet in writing down the pagan beliefs, the scribes needed to understand it first; the only way to do that was to look at the religion through the lens of Christianity. Therefore, much of what is known from literature is itself a perversion of the late medieval authors.
Those who have taken the time to understand the medieval literature and ancient values are aware of what was truly important to the followers of Odin: wisdom, memory and honorable victory. Can white supremacists really claim that what happened in Charlottesville in 2017, or in Germany in the 1940s, was in any way honorable?
Perhaps it is better to distinguish Odinists from the Asatru Fellowship from the ancient pagans. Perhaps such a separation will help preserve the dignity and strength of the pre-Christian Norseman. But how can one distinguish the three faiths when Odinism so rigidly borrows and then mutilates the ancient symbolism, the same way Hitler did with the swastika, once a symbol of sun, light and strength?
White supremacists standing by the statue of Robert E. Lee, before the crash in Charlottesville. Credit: Go Nakamura
The majority of those who have adopted Odinism as the banner of white supremacy have not examined the medieval literature, the ancient runestones or the archaeological evidence of the north. Odinists appear to be concerned with only one "fact": that the northern gods were white.
An article discussing white supremacy from "Reveal News" cites a man who claimed that only white people are allowed into Valhalla, the hall where the bravest of fallen warriors eat, train and wait for the final battle called Ragnarök. Yet, there is not a lick of evidence that Odin only favored the white man in the pre-Christian north. The only "proof" is that those of the north were white, therefore statistically Odin's hall would have been made up of white men. But this is an assumption, rather than a "fact."
A Valkyrie bearing a Hero to Valhalla. White supremacists and Odinists say that only white people can enter Valhalla. ( public domain )
It should be made clear that not all white supremacists are Odinists, and that those who worship Odin are not necessarily Odinists or white supremacists. What is clear, however, is that the followers of the ancient religion, which some white supremacists are turning to, could not have been more colorblind if they tried; they could not have been more tolerant of other religions, for that matter. Religious intolerance was a minute concern before the days of Christianity and no particular race was allocated as lesser than another. Prejudices have always existed, but the extent to which those prejudices have evolved is not aligned with the umbrella faiths followed.
Top image: Soldiers of Odin in Stockholm 2016. ( CC by SA 4.0 )
By Riley Winters
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Carless, Will. 2017. "An ancient Nordic religion is inspiring white supremacist terror." Reveal News . Accessed August 14, 2017. https://www.revealnews.org/article/an-ancient-nordic-religion-is-inspiring-white-supremacist-jihad/
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Paulas, Rick. 2015. "How a Thor-Worshipping Religion Turned Racist." Vice. Accessed August 14, 2017. https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/qbxpp5/how-a-thor-worshipping-religion-turned-racist-456
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I'm an Odinist because Odin is the chief god I pray to. I'm not racist in the least. Also, I noticed one of your facts is wonky, Odin and Thor are not "in competition" for chief of and father of the gods. I believe you're thinking of Odin and Týr. Also, the Odinists and heathens I associate with and I have disavowed the AFA for a while now specifically for their particular brand of stupidity. Please dont lump us all in the same category, thank you.
many religions fight to death for holy death (e.g. islam) because there was no honor in dying of old age or illness. until today, when the physical body is evolving out of illness and aging. see see here https://www.nordicnames.de/wiki/Helheimr
Helheimr or Hel (Old Norse helheimr = 'realm of the dead') is one of The Nine Worlds in the Northern mythology. It is the realm of the goddess Hel and of the dead. It is not a place of punishment but simply a residence of the dead. The fence surrounding it is called Helgrind (also Nágrind and Valgrind).
People who have died on land of illness or of old age are admitted (the drowned belong to Rán and the fallen in battle to Óðinn). Once in Helheimr, the dead can never leave again.  
• Rudolf Simek: Dictionary of Northern Mythology (1993)
• Lars Magnar Enoksen: Norrøne guder og myter (2008)
Wow. The amount of racists in the comments section for this website is troubling. Just the past 2 weeks violence from the "right" but yeah, it's always us leftists who are violent. Rolls eyes. Moving on.
Your mention the Odinism grew from something that was once peaceful may fail to take into account that Odin is a God of War. His main role is to create strife between men so they will fight and die. Odin then chooses the best of the dead warriors and takes them to Valhalla where they train and party until Valhalla where the Odins army will be defeated in the final battle of mankind. NOT a peaceful religion. But also not racist!
'Racial intolerance was a minute concern before Christianity and no race was considered less than another.' Utter tripe. Racial Intolerance can be traced back far into ancient history, and even prehistory. The Romans considered anyone who did not speak Greek or Latin a 'barbarian' and considered many people as essentially savages.
The deniers are also wrong in assuming there were no Jews in Northern Europe in pre-Christian times: there were Jews in the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire ruled much of Western Europe.
Evidence suggests that the pagan Vikings considered their religion/tribal gods superior to all others, especially when they overcame them in battle- because they were basically stuck in the Iron Age where the rest of Europe had moved ahead.
. It also bears mentioning that neo-paganism and modern worship of the Norse gods is a highly sanitized version of the religion. I want to ask so called Odin Worshipers when the last time was that they sacrificed slave girls to him, or raised the raven banner before a battle, as a sign the gods accepted the sacrifice of all those they slew.
Yes, Norse Paganism was a highly militaristic religion with some incredibly violent and bloodthirsty practices, including human sacrifice: for which there is evidence in Scandinavian and non-Christian sources.
It also bears mentioning that the Vikings were major slave owners, and slave traders. They sold thousands upon thousands of people they captured, generally from Europe in North Africa, the Middle East, and the Byzantine Empire. Their main market was in the Islamic world, but its often not mentioned. We don't like to talk about pagans selling Christians as slaves to Muslims.
Besides of which, there were plenty of Christian Vikings as well: case in point, Gudrid the 'far traveller' one of the early Scandinavian explorers and settlers in Vinland. A Christian woman. Iceland was settled by men from Scandinavia, many of whom took women from Christian Ireland, Scotland and mainland Britain with them as sex slaves- and according to legend, the country was home to a community of Irish Monks when the Vikings arrived.
So much for good old Northern European/Scandinavian religious hegemony. Its a myth. The pagan Vikings were basically just piratical followers of a war-cult. Who held back the intellectual development of Europe, possibly by centuries by destroying its centers of learning and pillaging or destroying its libraries.