Blogging Our Troth

The first edition of Our Troth was published in 1993, spearheaded and largely written by Kveldúlfr Gundarsson, but with contributions from fifty other Heathens. The second edition came out as two volumes in 2005-6 (still in print here and here), with Diana Paxson as lead editor, and new material added by yet more contributors. Now, we’re actively working on a third edition, soliciting new material and updating old material, to reflect new academic ideas and discoveries, changing ideas within the Heathen community, greater focus on topics that have grown in importance, and new developments in the past fifteen years of our history. 

I, your humble Shope, have made the decision to start blogging some of the new material that is slated to go into Our Troth. We’re not going to blog the whole book, but we’ll be posting drafts of sections of chapters as they become available. I will try to post one excerpt each Saturday, over the course of at least one year—although I reserve the right to skip an occasional weekend. This should give you some idea of what the complete book will be like. The excerpts will be hopping around the book—some will discuss our history, some will discuss our deities, and some will deal with other topics. I apologize if this seems a bit uncoordinated, but it reflects the way that the work tends to go.

Please remember that these are working drafts, and subject to change between now and final publication. In fact, if you read one of our excerpts and catch a mistake, or think there’s something we should add or delete or rewrite, please feel free to contact us! As Yngvars saga says: En þeir, er vita þykkjast innvirðuligar, auki við, þar sem nú þykkir á skorta—Let those who think they know better add to it, where it now seems to be lacking.

Also, although these are works in progress, they’re still under copyright, with all rights reserved. Copying for personal study or fair use is acceptable, as long as you attribute the source. But this work may not be copied in its entirety, or used for any commercial purpose, without express permission from the Troth. 

Excerpt from Chapter 8, “The Heathen Rebirth”

A. Rud Mills

Alexander Rud Mills (1885-1964), an Australian lawyer, became enamored both with Fascism and with the idea of Odinism as the natural religion for “the British Race.” He lived in and toured Europe from 1931 to 1934. In Germany, he met Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler (who was, however, not especially interested in his ideas) and Erich Ludendorff and his wife, founders of an Odinist society called the Tannenbergbund. Mills was also influenced by the Ariosophy of Guido List. In England, he met leading fascists, attended meetings of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, and apparently tried to found a group called the Moot of the Anglekin Body. (Bird, Nazi Dreamtime, pp. 19-20, 30-31, 116-117) Back in Australia, Mills began producing a series of books expounding his own somewhat idiosyncratic take on the elder religion, beginning with his 1933 book of poems Hael! Odin! In Melbourne, he founded the Anglekin Body, also known as the Anglecyn Church of Odin. Allegedly, his Thursday night ceremonies on the outskirts of Melbourne drew as many as 120 people. His book of liturgies and hymns, The First Guide Book to the Anglecyn Church of Odin, was published in 1936, under the pen name of Tasman Forth (Winter, The Australia First Movement, pp. 39-41; Bird, 116-117).

Mills’s Odinist religion was quite different from what modern Ásatrú would later become. It was nearly monotheistic; Odin, for Mills, was essentially synonymous with the One God, being “that of the Great One which man can know” (The Odinist Religion, p. 117) Odin was also the name of a mortal man, also known as George, Sigge, Zag-Dar, or Adam-Thor, who was “hallowed as the greatest and the most beloved of all messengers of the Great One” (The Odinist Religion, pp. 31-35; First Guide Book, pp. 17, 61). The other Norse deities are not mentioned as often, but Mills saw “the Thor” as a personification of Odin’s active strength, while “the Baldur” was a sort of collective divine image in all humanity: “All children born upon the earth are children of the All-Father, and the Baldur is in each of us.” (The Odinist Religon, p. 160). Mills neatly solved the academic question of whether Freyja and Frigga might be the same: his Odin was married to “Freyga,” a maternal figure. He also made fairly frequent references to angels. An important aspect of his theology was the idea that God or Odin had assigned each person a natural position in life with its own duties and obligations, as a small part of the great whole. This he called the “Gard in God,” and every man’s divine purpose was to work faithfully at his Gard in God.

Mills’s understanding of historical Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon culture was rather fanciful by scholarly standards. His Odinist liturgy was heavily based on the Anglican Christian order of worship: The First Guide Book includes rites for fast days (“Vigils and Days for Partial Abstinence”), “Morning Service”, “Communion,” and “Evensong”, as well as a list of ten “Commandments,” seven of which are identical to seven of the biblical Ten Commandments (p. 63). Written in a rather flowery imitation of the language of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, it includes “scripture” readings and feast days dedicated to the Eddas and Beowulf—but also to Shakespeare, Newton, Nelson, Locke, and other English worthies, as well as to the traditional patron saints of the four British nations: George (England), Andrew (Scotland), David (Wales), and Brian (Ireland—not Patrick, for some reason). (pp. 13-14, 48-49) His church also showed more than a little Masonic influence; his initiation ceremony for new members reads like a cross between the Sacrament of Baptism from the Book of Common Prayer and the initiation of an Entered Apprentice Mason. (First Guide Book, pp. 76-78; see Winter, The Australia First Movement, p. 44; Bird, Nazi Dreamtime, p. 123)

This is perhaps understandable for a man who is founding a religious movement from scratch, with limited scholarship available to him at the time. But less forgivably, Mills’s writings bespeak an obsession with the Jews, whom he blames for essentially everything wrong with the world, including Christianity: “Under Christianity with its cloak of sanctity, the Jews and the usurer have their feet upon our neck” (The Odinist Religion, p. 29); “Jew-worshipping Christians still ask us to discard and forget the wonderful story of our own Aryan people and take the so-called story of the Jews in place of it” (p. 36); “Till our people see it, the Jews have got us enslaved, spiritually and otherwise, till we, devitalised, decay and die.” (p. 246); “the Jews, generally speaking, recognise the degradation and disintegration of the peoples under Christian culture, and by its direction and otherwise, have hopes of ruling over such people (and over all the world’s peoples if Christianity be spread over the world). . . Jews try to hasten the process by using the many powers in their control” (First Guide Book, p. 34). One belief that would pass to folkish Heathenry was Mills’s insistence that genetics determines spirituality, and that following a “foreign” religion was the root cause of social malaise: “Our own racial ideals and traditions (not those of another) are our best guide to health and national strength.” (The Odinist Religion, p. 7) Another was the importance of banning miscegenation: “Odinists do not marry persons racially distant from them. They understand the dangers of mongrelism and the mating of opposites.” (The Odinist Religion, p. 54) Mills’s position is made unmistakably clear by the fact that he was also publishing outright Nazi propaganda at the time, including two issues of a paper called the National Socialist in 1936 and 1937, which bore a swastika on the masthead and ranted at some length about “Aryans” and Jews. (The front page of one issue is reproduced in Bird, Nazi Dreamtime.) He personally sent a copy of The Odinist Religion to Hitler, and he worked closely with Australian Fascist leaders (Winter, Dreaming of a National Socialist Australia, pp. 42-47; Bird, Nazi Dreamtime, pp. 88-92, 116-119). 

In March 1942, Mills was detained under harsh conditions by the wartime Australian government along with members of the isolationist Australia First discussion group, which he had joined in 1941 (Bird, Nazi Dreamtime, pp. 257). Whether his detention was legally justifiable is still debated by Australian historians. Some have called it an illegal infringement of civil rights. Others point to the threat of Japanese invasion as justification for the measure—some, though not all, of the Australia First circle were advocating cooperation with Japan, although Mills himself seems not to have done this (Bird, Nazi Dreamtime, pp. 316-320). In any case, no criminal charges were ultimately filed against Mills. He was released from detention in December 1942, but his Anglecyn Church of Odin dissolved, although some Odinists allegedly continued practicing in secret.

After the war, Mills tried and failed to win restitution for his imprisonment. He apparently tried to re-establish his church in the 1950s as the First Church of Odin, but it was not successful (Gardell, Gods of the Blood, p. 167). He self-published his last work on Odinism, a pamphlet called The Call of our Ancient Nordic Religion, in 1957.

 

BOOK-HOARD

Bird, David S. Nazi Dreamtime: Australian Enthusiasts for Hitler’s Germany. London: Anthem, 2014.

Gardell, Mattias. Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003.

Mills, Alexander Rud. The First Guide Book to the Anglecyn Church of Odin, Containing Some of the Chief Rites of the Church, and Some Hymns For the Use of the Church.Sydney: Self-published, 1936.

—. The Odinist Religion: Overcoming Jewish Christianity. Melbourne: Self-published, 1939.

—. The Call of our Ancient Nordic Religion.Coventry: Northern World, 1957.

Winter, Barbara. Dreaming of a National Socialist Australia: The Australia-First Movement and The Publicist, 1936-1942. Brisbane: Glass House Books, 2005.

 

 

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