Classic EssaysRevilo P. Oliver

Chrétien Malgré Lui

The title is translated “Christian despite himself.”

by Revilo P. Oliver

I HAVE RECEIVED a photocopy of a little book that is more informative than its author knew. The typography suggests that The Call of Our Ancient Nordic Religion was first published anonymously in Australia, s.l.&a., and then reprinted with the name and a portrait of the author, A. Rud Mills, c. 1958 or later. He is evidently the leader of an Odinist cult in Australia, for among his other writings is a Guide Book for the Anglican Church of Odin, which I have not seen.

The booklet by Mr. Mills is a clear example of the residue that Christianity leaves in the minds of persons who imagine they have emancipated themselves from it. He is an intelligent man, and I sympathize with his position and endorse his purposes, so I shall criticize his booklet with all good will. (Typographical limitations will prevent me from spelling Norse words correctly; I shall replace the thorn letter with th, and its voiced counterpart with d.)

Mr. Mills is a highly intelligent man. He perceives that Christianity is a Great Lie, a deadly poison that is destroying our race. As he says in his Chapter IX, “Christian nations move on towards a breed of people unable to discharge the functions necessary to living,…on to human mongrelism,…on to Equality.” Thus men who look up from the feeding troughs and endeavor to understand the world about us “have seen the death ahead of us.”

A man who has perceived that Christianity is just an elaborate system of make-believe has two alternatives: he may reject all superstitions about the supernatural as idle fantasy or he may, for either of two reasons, elect a religion that is not patently deleterious to our race. He may choose the latter alternative because he himself wants the emotional comfort of disguising the terrible reality of our place in the cosmos — James Branch Cabell once observed that “five minutes of clear vision of man’s place in the universe would suffice to set the most philosophical gibbering” — or he may believe, perhaps correctly, that the great majority of our people could not bring themselves to dispense with pleasant fiction and cozy illusions about a Big Daddy somewhere, and must therefore be offered an innocuous substitute for Christian hashish.

We, of course, cannot know which was Mr. Mill’s motive; he elected the Odinism of our ancestors, and, we may suppose, founded the Anglican Church of Odin, for which he wrote a guide book.

The choice of the religion of our Germanic ancestors, most clearly exhibited in the Norse pantheon, was a logical one, but Mr. Mills then proceeds to misrepresent and distort it until it is almost unrecognizable. Since I refuse to believe that he behaved as do Christian holy men, who make their religion into whatever bait seems best for coney-catching at the moment, I assume that he was confused by what little he had read about the Norse religion and misunderstood even that in terms of the residue left in his mind by the spiritual poison from which he thought he had recovered. And so much has been written on Norse religion by imaginative enthusiasts that it would require prolonged research to determine how much of his Odinism he derived from such sources and how much he imagined for himself.

He begins by deriving the name of Odin (Odinn) from the Norse form of the Germanic word for ‘god’ (god). This is extremely doubtful. The word ‘god’, which appears originally to have been neuter, is derived from one of two Indo-European roots, one of which means ‘that which is invoked,’ while the other means ‘that to which sacrifice is made,’ but the etymology of Odin’s name is obscure: there have even been suggestions that it was not originally Indo-Germanic.

Mr. Mills, furthermore, refers to Odin as ‘God,” with a majuscule, thus using the Christian trick of implying that the god thus designated is the only one. It is true that Odin was generally regarded as the chief of the gods (sabragr), comparable to Zeus, and, as the god of war, he seems to have been particularly the divine patron of the aristocracy; for landowners and territorial magnates, however, war was less important than the seasons and the fertility of the soil. Thus we often find Thor (Thor) described as the ‘most worshipful of the gods’ (arwurdose) and in the great temple at Uppsala, devoted to worship of the trinity then regarded as the senior gods, Thor was the chief, superior to both Odin and Freyr. And there were individuals who regarded Freyr, the god of the sexual force, as the primordial deity.

The author proceeds to elaborate a conception of Odin as a father-figure, much as Christian theologians created such a Yahweh by ignoring the “Old Testament” and using their imaginations to interpret some references by their Jesus to the god of whom he was supposedly a part. For this Mr. Mills does have some basis the the epithet, ‘All-Father’ (Alfadir/Alfödr), given to Odin, although it is hard to see what was meant by it, since Odin was not the father of most of the gods and certainly was not regarded as having created the world. The epithet may be no more than a condensed form of the epithet, ‘Father of men’ (Aldafödr), given to Odin because he either fashioned Askr and Embla, the first man and woman, from ash trees or when the bodies of the first mortals were put together by other gods, he breathed life into them. He was also regarded as having been, like Zeus and other Greek gods, the ancestor of kingly families by intercourse with virgins.

If one is to describe Odin with reference to the epithets given him, one should take into account the score of other epithets equally representative of the personality of the god as conceived by his votaries, e.g., ‘the worker of evil’ (Bölverkr), which presumably refers to what he does to his enemies, and ‘god of the hanged’ (Hangagud), presumably because persons condemned to death were sacrificed to him by being hanged from oak trees.

With the omniscience of the Christians’ god in mind, Mr. Mills makes Odin ‘all-wise,’ ignoring the myths about the ways in which Odin, who was ‘Much-Knowing’ (Fyölnir), not ‘All-Knowing,’ acquired knowledge of the past and knowledge about the world of the dead and magic rites.

We are told that the votaries of Odin “believed that all men and all nations…comprised a unity”! There is no ‘One-World’ hokum in Norse religion; on the contrary the gods are constantly at war with their and our implacable enemies, the giants of Jötunheimr, a land that lies to the east of our world, the ‘middle land’ (Midgard), i.e., the lands occupied by the Germanic peoples of northern Europe, which are also menaced from the north by the frost-giants, and from the south, by the alien and hostile races of Muspelheim. There is no faintest hint of ‘peaceful coexistence’ in Norse thought; the future is one of perpetual war, which will end in defeat and the ruin of Asgard and the world in the Ragnarök.

From these misunderstandings, Mr. Mills soars into absurdity, telling us that “the architects of the great temple at Karnak dedicated their souls ‘to Odin and Thor.’” He has probably seen some fantastic attempt to equate some of the Egyptian gods to totally different Norse deities. Even that is less ridiculous than the statement, “Roman governors and judges claimed….they expressed the Christus spirit [!]. Later Christians claimed that Jesus was the Christus.” This is utter nonsense. Roman officials had only contempt for Jews. The Latin christus is simply a transcription of the Greek word, which means ‘ointment, salve,’ and was used by the Jews to translate their word MSYH, whence English ‘messiah,’ i.e., a divinely-ordained King of the Jews, especially one who will come to subjugate or exterminate the hated goyim. And since Jesus was supposedly the son of Yahweh, and Thor, by most accounts, was the son of Odin, Mr. Mills can even speak of “the Christ-Thor”!

Like many other theologians, Mr. Mills has created his own religion, compounding it from the debris of his repudiated Christianity, a smattering of information about the Norse religion, and a perfervid imagination. There could be no better example of the effect produced by the residue of Christianity in minds that imagine they have freed themselves of the Jewish poison.

* * *

The best single source about the religion that Mr. Mills imagined he was restoring is E.O.G. Turville-Petre’s Myth and Religion of the North (New York, Holt, c. 1964), which should be supplemented with Gwyn Jones’s History of the Vikings (Oxford University Press, 1968). On the spirit of the sagas, I suggest, with reservations, The Saga Mind, by M.L. Steblin-Kamenskij, translated by Kenneth H. Ober (Odense University Press, 1973); he sadly underestimates the various skalds’ freedom to invent mythological ornament. On the religion in terms of Aryan mentality, there are available in English translations the excellent work of Prof. Hans Günther, Religious Attitudes of the Indo-Europeans (London, Clair Press, 1967), and Georges Dumézil’s Gods of the Ancient Northmen (University of California Press, 1973).

There are, to be sure, some problems in understanding correctly much of Norse myth. Almost all of our information comes through Christian sources, who may have misunderstood or misrepresented the stories, failing to distinguish between religious belief and mythopoeic fancy. A major source is the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturlson (1179-1241), who was a Christian, although a heretic by the Christianity of his day, since he denied the existence of the Norse gods instead of fearing them as colleagues of Satan. He was interested primarily in the myths as a source of poetic ornament, and since he regarded the myths as fictions, he, much as he respected the achievements of his ancestors, did not take their religion (as distinct from their mythology) seriously.

If you have grown up in the belief that Christianity was a model of religion, even if you recognized its falsity, you will have to make an intellectual leap before you can understand an Aryan religion. Christianity depends on the ‘inerrancy’ of its scriptures; it tells you, for example, that Jesus was born of a divinely fecundated virgin, and that he rode into Jerusalem on the back of an ass. If either or both statements are false, the whole structure of revelation collapses like a house of cards.

Aryan religions have no revelations and hence no stories about the gods which votaries of the religion are required to believe. Even if a völva or a pythoness was thought to be divinely inspired and to prophesy in an ecstasy, it did not follow that what she said was necessarily true, and there were no scriptures of “revealed truth.”

Aryans who believed in the religion (as by no means all of them did), believed in the existence of gods who, for the most part, were personifications of natural or social phenomena, so that their existence seemed indubitable, but no one presumed to write their biographies. It was generally believed that Sigurd’s grandfather was born of a virgin, because virgin births are normal for the ancestors of heroes, but no one would have twitched an eyebrow if a skald made a better story of it by denying the miracle. (I am quite prepared to believe that the author of the Thidreks Saga invented the story of the heroic babe who was found drifting over the sea in a glass boat — invented it just because it seemed to him a pleasing fancy and he saw no reason why he should not change a tale about an event of which no one knew or could know the facts.

The Greeks thought the story of Antigone probably true, but no one denied Sophocles the right to invent a sister for her in his drama, because there was no ‘inerrant’ record of her life. Euripedes invented a husband to whom Electra was married before her father’s return from Troy. If a modern writer were to depict Jesus as having a wife, Christians would howl about blasphemy and sacrilege, but an ancient writer who gave Achilles a wife would have been criticized only for artistic impropriety.

Manuals of mythology are often written as though Aryans had no sense of humor. The tale of the adventures of Thor — Thor of the forked beard and mighty muscles — as he made his way into Jötunheimr disguised as a beautiful bride must have evoked wild guffaws as it was told over the mead.

Possible Christian influence is often problematical. In the Norse pantheon, Loki represented the spirit of thoughtless mischief so commonly seen in children and sometimes in adults, but in some tales he seems evil. Now Aryan religions never posit gods that are malevolent (as distinct from gods who, like the forces of nature, have no concern for the wishes and welfare of human beings). Did Snorri Sturlson or men like him, accustomed to the Christian (Zoroastrian) belief in an evil god, misunderstand or distort the tradition, or were the later pre-Christian skalds influenced by what they had heard of the strange beliefs prevalent in Christianized Europe?

These considerations may be of some use to you, if you undertake a study of the religion of your ancestors.

* * *

Source: Liberty Bell magazine, August 1989

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