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Germanic neopaganism, also known as Heathenry or Heathenism, Ásatrú (English: Esetroth or Ostroth), Forn Siðr, and also Odinism and Theodism, is the contemporary revival of historical Germanic paganism. It is centered on the worship of the traditional Germanic deities, and the belief of Germanic neopagans can vary considerably, from strictly historical polytheistic reconstructionism to syncretic, Jungian, esoteric, mystic or Ariosophical interpretations.
Much of Germanic Neopaganism's origins are in 19th century romanticism, as the aboriginal cultures of Northern Europe came to be glorified. In the early 20th century, organised groups emerged in Germany and Austria. In the 1930s in Australia Alexander Rud Mills founded the "Anglecyn Church of Odin", devoted to Odinism. In the 1970s, new Germanic Neopagan organisations grew up in Europe and North America, although a broad division in the movement emerged between the folkish movement, who saw it as the indigenous religion of the Germanic peoples, and the universalist movement, who opposed strictly racialist interpretations. As present, established Germanic pagan communities exist primarily in Europe and North America. A few adherents can even be found in South Africa among the Afrikaners.
- 1 Beliefs
- 2 Rites and practices
- 3 Racial issues
- 4 History
- 5 Terminology and denominations
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Notable organizations
- 8 In the media
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
Germanic Neopaganism is largely a reconstructionist form of contemporary Paganism, and its practitioners seek to revive forms of historic religion using surviving historical source materials. The manner in which they do so differs; some seek to reconstruct historic beliefs and practices as accurately as possible, while others openly experiment with this material and embrace new ideas. Sources used by Germanic pagans include Scandinavian and Icelandic Old Norse sources like the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, as well as sources from continental Europe like the Nibelungenlied and Anglo-Saxon sources like Beowulf. Some also make use of folk tales from later periods in European history, as well as taking ideas from archaeological evidence. Thus, anthropologist Jenny Blain characterised it as "a religion constructed from partial material", while religious studies scholar Michael Strmiska referred to it as a "postmodern movement" whose beliefs are "riddled with uncertainty and historical confusion". Some practitioners also adopt ideas from indigenous religions from across the world, seeking to construct world views that are akin to those of Europe prior to Christianization.
Some Germanic Neopagan groups focus on identifying common elements that can be found throughout Northern Europe during the Iron Age and Early Medieval periods, and using those as the basis for their contemporary beliefs and practices. Conversely, other groups focus on closely imitating the beliefs and practices of a specific area and time, such as Anglo-Saxon England or Viking Age Iceland. Germanic pagans often express a romanticised view of Nordic culture, although some adherents are conversely deeply knowledgeable as to the specifics of Northern European society in the Iron Age and Early Medieval periods.
Germanic Neopaganism is polytheistic, encompassing the pantheon of Germanic gods and goddesses. Adherents offer their allegiance and worship to some or all of them. Most are polytheistic realists, believing in the literal existence of the deities as individual entities; however, there are many practitioners who express a psychological interpretation of the divinities. Such deities come from various different North European mythologies, including Norse deities like Odin, Thor, Frigg and Freyja, Anglo-Saxon divinities such as Wōden, Thunor and Ēostre and continental entities such as Holda and Nehalennia. Some practitioners blend the different pantheons together, for instance using a mix of Anglo-Saxon and Norse names for the deities, while others keep them separate and only venerate deities from a particular region. Many Germanic Neopagans believe in two sets of deities after the Æsir and the Vanir of Norse mythology.
Many practitioners believe that they can communicate with these deities and it is hoped that through venerating them, practitioners will gain wisdom, understanding, power, or visionary insights. As part of this, practitioners often negotiate, bargain, and argue with the gods. For Germanic Neopagans, these deities serve as both examples and role models whose behavior is to be imitated.
Germanic Neopagans commonly adopt a cosmology based in Norse mythology in which our world – known as Midgard – is one of nine realms, all of which are linked to a cosmological world tree called Yggdrasil. Each of these worlds is believed to be inhabited by another type of being; humans live on Midgard, while dwarves live on another realm, elves on another, giants on another, and the divinities live on two further realms. Most practitioners believe that this is a poetic or symbolic description of the cosmos, with the different realms representing higher realms beyond the material plane of existence. The World Tree is also interpreted by some in the community as an icon for ecological and social engagement. Some Germanic neopagans, such as Brian Bates, have adopted an approach to this cosmology rooted in analytical psychology, thereby interpreting the nine worlds and their inhabitants as maps of the human mind.
According to a common Germanic Neopagan belief referenced in Old Norse sources, three sisters known as the Norns sit at the end of the World Tree's root. These figures spin wyrd, which refers to the actions and interrelationships of all beings throughout the cosmos. In the community, these three figures are sometimes termed "Past, Present and Future", "Being, Becoming, and Obligation" or "Initiation, Becoming, Unfolding". It is believed that an individual can navigate through their Wyrd, and thus, the Heathen worldview oscillates between concepts of free will and fatalism. Germanic Neopagans also believe in a personal form of wyrd known as ørlög or örlög.
Germanic Neopaganism is animistic, with practitioners believing in sentient non-human entities commonly known as wights that inhabit the world, each of whom is believed to have its own personality. Some of these are known as land wights and inhabit different aspects of the landscape, living alongside humans, whom they can both help and hinder. Others are deemed to be house wights and live within the home, where they can be propitiated with offerings of food. Wights are often identified with various creatures from Northwest European folklore such as elves, dwarfs, and trolls. Germanic Neopagans also believe in and respect ancestral spirits.
Death and the afterlife
In Icelandic Ásatrú, there is no singular dogmatic belief about the afterlife. Practitioners may hold different views. In strict reconstructionism, an individual has multiple souls. These beliefs make sense according to surviving literary accounts of the myths. Humanity was advanced by the gifts of three gods, Odin, Hœnir and Lóðurr
The most famous post-death destination is Valhalla. The devotees of Odin who die heroic deaths will be his guests in Valhalla. The death-song of Ragnar Lodbrok describes this belief, as does the poet of Eiríksmál. In Ynglinga saga it is said that warriors who mark themselves with a spear and devote themselves to Odin will go to Valhalla. However, the surviving literature says that half of the heroic slain will become the guests of Freya.
A belief in reincarnation is also attested to in several Old Norse accounts.
In Germanic paganism, moral and ethical views are based on the perceived ethics of Iron Age and Early Medieval North-West Europe, in particular the actions of heroic figures who appear in Old Norse sagas. Germanic pagan ethics focus on the ideals of honour, courage, integrity, hospitality, hard-work, and strongly emphasise loyalty to family. It is common for practitioners to be expected to keep their word, particularly sworn oaths, and to take personal responsibility for their actions.
In North America and elsewhere, the Germanic pagan community have formalised such values into an ethical code, the Nine Noble Virtues (NNV), which is based largely on the Hávamál from the Poetic Edda. There are different forms of the NNV, with the number nine having symbolic associations in Norse mythology. There is a divided opinion on the NNV, with some practitioners deeming them too dogmatic. Specific groups denominations may implement also their own sets of values, for example Fyrnsidu has the Twelve Great Thews and the Sidungas,
As a result of the religion's emphasis on honouring the land and its wights, many Germanic pagans take an interest in ecological issues. Germanic pagan groups have participated in tree planting, raising money to purchase woodland, and campaigning against the construction of a railway between London and the Channel Tunnel in Southeastern England. Many Germanic pagans are also concerned with the preservation of heritage, and some practitioners have expressed concern regarding archaeological excavation of prehistoric and Early Medieval burials, believing that it is disrespectful to the individuals interned, whom Heathens widely see as their ancestors.
Rites and practices
In Anglophone countries, Germanic neopagan groups are typically called kindreds, hearths, or fellowships. These are small groups, often family units, and usually consist of between five to fifteen members. They are often bound together by oaths of loyalty, and have strict screening procedures as to whom they allow to join them. Such groups are largely independent and autonomous, although typically network with other Germanic pagan groups. There are other followers of the religion who are not affiliated with such groups, operating as solitary practitioners. Many individuals are inspired to join the movement after enjoying German folk tales or Norse myths as children, or after being interested by the depiction of Norse religion in popular culture. Some others claim to have involved themselves in the religion after experiencing direct revelation through the forms of dreams, which they interpret as having been provided by the gods.
Priests are often termed godhi, while priestesses are gydhja, adopting Old Norse terms meaning "god-man" and "god-woman". These individuals are rarely seen as intermediaries between practitioners and deities, instead having the role of facilitating and leading group ceremonies and being learned in the lore and traditions of the religion. Many kindreds believe that anyone can take on the position of priest, with members sharing organisational duties and taking turns in leading the rites. In the Odinic Rite's original "Book of Blots" it is specifically stated that any suitable person can perform the role of a Gothi  In other groups, it is considered necessary for the individual to gain formal credentials from an accredited Germanic pagan group in order to be recognised as a priest.
Heathen places of worship can be ve, simply "sacred enclosures" which can be woods or natural shrines, and hofs or "hovs", temple buildings which can be constructed within a ve or not. Currently two hofs are planned for construction in Iceland, one in Reykjavík and one in Akranes, the latter designed by Heathen artist Haukur Halldórsson. Germanic Neopagans have also adopted archaeological sites as places of worship. For instance, British practitioners have assembled at Nine Ladies stone circle in Derbyshire, and the Rollright Stones in Warwickshire. British Odinists have converted a 16th-century Tudor chapel in Newark, Nottinghamshire, into an Odinist temple. Australian Odinists frequently assemble at the grave of Odinist pioneers Rud Mills and Evelyn Price in Melbourne.
Germanic Neopagan groups assemble for rituals in order to mark rites of passage, seasonal observances, oath takings, rites devoted for a specific deity, and for rites of need. These rites also serve as identity practices which mark the adherents out as Germanic Neopagans. Strmiska noted that in Iceland, Ásatrú rituals consciously attempted to recreate or pay tribute to the ritual practices of pre-Christian Icelanders, although also had space in which to innovate and change to suit the tastes and needs of contemporary practitioners. During religious ceremonies, many adherents choose to wear clothing that imitates the styles of dress worn in Iron Age and Early Medieval Northern Europe. They also often wear symbols indicating their religious allegiance. The most commonly used sign among Heathens is Mjöllnir, or Thor's hammer, which is worn as pendants, featured in Heathen art, and used as a gesture in ritual. It is sometimes used to express a particular affinity with the god Thor, although is also often used as a symbol of Heathenism as a whole, in particular representing the resilience and vitality of the religion. Another commonly used Heathen symbol is the valknut, used to represent the god Odin or Woden.
Different Germanic Neopagan groups celebrate different festivals according to their cultural and religious focus. The most widely observed Heathen festivals are Winternights, Yule, and Sigrblot, all of which were listed by Snorri Sturluson in his Heimskringla and are thus of ancient origin. The first of these marks the start of winter in Northern Europe, while the second marks Midwinter, and the last marks the beginning of summer. Additional festivals are also marked by Heathen practice throughout the year. These often include days which commemorate individuals who fought against the Christianisation of Northern Europe, or who led armies and settlers into new lands. Some Heathen groups hold festivals dedicated to a specific deity.
Some Germanic Neopagans celebrate the eight festivals found in the Wheel of the Year, a tradition that they share with other contemporary Pagan religions. Others celebrate only six of these festivals, as represented by a six-spoked Wheel of the Year. The use of such festivals is criticised by other practitioners, who highlight that they are of modern origin and do not link with the original religious celebrations of Early Medieval linguistically Germanic society.
Such festivals can be held on the same day each year, although they are often celebrated by Heathen communities on the nearest available weekend, so that those practitioners who work during the week can attend. During these ceremonies, Heathens typically recite poetry to honour the deities, which typically draw on or imitate the poems originally written in Old Norse or Old English. Mead or ale is also typically drunk, with offerings being given to deities. Fires, torches, or candles are also often lit.
There are also regional meetings of Germanic pagans known as Things. At these, religious rites are performed, while workshops, stalls, feasts, and competitive games are also present. In the U.S., there are also two national gatherings, Althing and Trothmoot.
The most important religious rite for Germanic Neopagans is called Blót, which constitutes a ritual for providing offerings to the gods. Blót typically takes place outdoors, and usually consists of an offering of mead, which is contained within a bowl. The gods are invoked and requests expressed for their aid, as the priest sprinkles mead onto statues of the deities and assembled participants with a sprig or branch of an evergreen tree. This procedure might be scripted or largely improvised. Finally, the bowl of mead is poured onto a fire, or onto the earth, as a final libation to the gods. Sometimes, a feast is held afterward. In other instances, the blót is less ritualised and much simpler. In this it can involve a practitioner setting some food aside, sometimes without words, for either gods or wights.
In Iron Age and Early Medieval Northern Europe, blót referred to animal sacrifice performed to thank the deities and gain their favour. Such sacrifices have proved impractical for most modern practitioners, due to the fact that skills in animal slaughter are not widely taught, while the slaughter of animals is regulated by government in western countries. Aside from honouring deities, communal blots also serve as a form of group bonding.
Sometimes, communal blots may include — or be part of — rites of passage. Examples of these last are the naming of newborn children to whom the parents give names of Germanic origin, a ceremony which takes place nine days after the birth, but also handfastings and funerals.
Sumbel, also spelled symbel, is a ritual drinking ceremony in which the gods are toasted. Sumbel often takes place following a blot. In the U.S., the sumbel commonly involves a drinking horn being filled with mead and passed among the assembled participants, who either drink from it directly, or pour some into their own drinking vessels to consume. During this process, toasts are made, as are verbal tributes to gods, heroes, and ancestors. Then, oaths and boasts (promises of future actions) might be made, both of which are considered binding on the speakers due to the sacred context of the sumbel ceremony.
In Theodism and Fyrnsidu in particular, the symbel has a particularly high importance, considered "the highest and most important rite" or "amongst the most holy rites" celebrated. It is considered a fate-weaving ritual, a commitment to future evolution, a ritual conditioning the Wyrd of the community.
Seiðr and Galdr
Due to the fact that it was not a factor of common Iron Age and Early Medieval European rituals, magic is not an intrinsic part of Germanic Neopaganism, although various magical practices are performed by some practitioners.
One related practice sometimes found in Germanic Neopaganism is Seiðr, which has been described as "a particular shamanic trace ritual complex", although the appropriateness of using "shamanism" to describe seiðr is debatable. Contemporary seiðr developed during the 1990s out of the wider Neo-Shamanic movement, with some practitioners turning to Umbanda to learn about trance-states. A prominent form is high-seat or oracular seiðr, which is based on the account of Guðriðr in Eiríks saga. Although such practices do differ between different groups, oracular seiðr typically involves a seiðr-worker sitting on a high seat while songs and chants are performed to invoke gods and wights. Drumming is then performed to induce an altered state of consciousness in the practitioner, who then goes on a meditative journey through Yggdrassil to Hel. The assembled audience then provide questions for the seiðr-worker, which they then reply to using information that they have obtained in their trance-state.
Not all Germanic Neopagans practice seiðr, and many on the movement's right-wing dissaprove of it, particularly given its association with the ambiguity of sexuality and gender and the form of Odin or Loki in their inimitable or unreliable, trickster forms. It largely attracts women and gay men. Some seiðr-practitioners make use of entheogenic substances as part of this practice, although others explicitly oppose such usage. One member of the Ring of Troth, Edred Thorsson, experimented with forms of seiðr which involved sex magic utilising sado-masochistic techniques. Many Odinists consider the practice by men to be inappropriate.
Galdr is another form of Germanic Neopagan magical practice involving chanting or singing. As part of a galdr ceremony, runes or runic poems are also sometimes chanted, in order to create a communal mood and allow participants to enter into altered states of consciousness and request communication with deities. Some contemporary galdr chants and songs are influenced by Anglo-Saxon folk magical charms, such as Acerbot and the Nine Herbs Charm. These poems were originally written in a Christian context, although practitioners believe that they reflect themes present in pre-Christian, shamanic religion, and thus re-appopriate and "Heathanise" them.
Some Germanic pagans practice forms of divination using runes; as part of this, items with runic markings on them might be pulled out of a bag or bundle, and read accordingly. In some cases, different runes are associated with different deities, one of the nine realms, or aspects of life. It is common for Germanic Neopagans to utilise the Common Germanic Futhark as a runic alphabet, although some practitioners instead adopt the Anglo-Saxon Futhark or the Icelandic Futhark.
The question of race represents a primary source of division among the Germanic pagan movement. One viewpoint in the community is that race is biologically determined, while the other viewpoint is that race is a cultural concept rooted in heritage; in U.S. community discourse, these viewpoints are described as the folkish and the universalist positions, respectively.
The folkish sector of the movement deems Germanic paganism to be the indigenous religion of a biologically distinct Northern European race. Some practitioners explain this by asserting that the religion appeals to the collective unconscious of this race. In this group's discourse, there is much talk of "ancestors" and "homelands", although these concepts may be very vaguely defined. Folkish Germanic pagans are sometimes, although not always, white supremacists and racists. Others eschew racial supremacism although express disapproval of multiculturalism and the mixture of different races in modern Europe, advocating a position of racial separatism. Conversely, the majority of Germanic Pagans express opposition to racism, and many Heathen groups oppose racial separatism and anti-multiculturalism.
The universalist approach believes that the deities of North-West Europe can call anyone to their worship, regardless of ethnic background. This group rejects the folkish emphasis on race, believing that even if unintended, this emphasis can lead to the adoption of racist attitudes toward those of non-Northern European heritage. Thus, universalists welcome practitioners of Germanic paganism who are not of Northern European ancestry; for instance, there are Jewish and African-American members of the U.S.-based Asatru group, the Ring of Troth. Proponents of this view have sometimes argued that Germanic paganism is indigenous to the land of Northern Europe, rather than any race.
In contrast to North America and much of Northern Europe, discussions of race rarely arise among the Germanic pagan community in Iceland as a result of the nation-state's predominantly ethnically homogenous composition.
Mattias Gardell, reader for religious history at the University of Stockholm and a follower of Germanic neopaganism himself, categorizes Germanic neopaganism (particularly in North America) into "militant racist," "ethnic," and "nonracist." In the militant racist position, Asatru is an expression of the "Aryan racial soul". The ethnic position is that of "tribalism", ethnocentric but opposed to the militant racist position. According to Gardell, the militant racist faction has grown significantly in North America during the early 2000s, estimating that, as of 2005, it accounts for 40-50% of North American Odinists or Asatruar with the other two factions at close to 30% each.
Odalism (a philosophy of Social Darwinism) and Wotanism (a racist / neo-Nazi position held by e.g. David Lane) are two terms primarily focused on politics rather than religion. On his homepage, Varg Vikernes, Black Metal musician and proponent of Odalism, explains his understanding of 'Paganism' with explicit identitarian referencing.
Romanticist Germanic mysticism
The first modern attempt at revival of ancient Germanic religion took place in the 19th century during the late Romantic Period amidst a general resurgence of interest in traditional Germanic culture, in particular in connection with romantic nationalism in Scandinavia and the related Viking revival in Victorian era Britain—the latter having associations with earlier Romanticism. Germanic mysticism is an occultist current loosely inspired by "Germanic" topics, notably runes, which has its beginnings in the early 20th century (Guido von List's "Armanism", Karl Maria Wiligut's "Irminism" etc.) The last traditional pagan sacrifices in Scandinavia, at Trollkyrka, appear to date to about this time.
Organized Germanic pagan or occult groups such as the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft emerged in Germany in the early 20th century. The connections of this movement to historical Germanic paganism are tenuous at best, with emphasis lying on the esoteric as taught by the likes of Julius Evola, Guido von List and Karl Maria Wiligut.
In 1930, the Australian Rud Mills published The Odinist Religion, in which he advocated a form of Germanic Neopaganism that was arguably anti-semitic and focused only on the white race. Some of Heathenry's roots have been traced to the "back to nature" movement of the early 20th-century, among them the Kibbo Kift and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry.
Nazi period and World War II
Several early members of the Nazi Party belonged to the Thule Society, a study group for German antiquity. It is postulated (by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier in The Morning of the Magicians in 1960 and by Gerald Suster in Hitler and the Age of Horus in 1981) that occult elements played an important role in the formative phase of Nazism and the SS in particular, but after his rise to power Adolf Hitler discouraged such pursuits. Point 24 of the National Socialist Program stated that the party endorsed "positive Christianity", which did not depend upon faith in Christ as the son of God or the Apostles' Creed and rejected the Semitic origins of Christ and Bible.
The eclectic German Faith Movement (Deutsche Glaubensbewegung), founded by the Sanskrit scholar Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, enjoyed a degree of popularity during the Nazi period. Some Germanic mysticists were victimized by the Nazis: Friedrich Bernhard Marby spent 99 months in KZ Dachau, and Siegfried Adolf Kummer's fate is unknown.
Several books published by the Nazi party - including Die Gestaltung der Feste im Jahres- und Lebenslauf in der SS-Familie (The Celebrations in the Life of the SS Family) by Fritz Weitzel, as well as the SS Tante Friede - illustrate how the National Socialists regarded traditional Germanic heathenry as primitive superstition which needed reworking to better serve the state. Celebrating the traditional festivals like Jul and Sommersonnenwende were encouraged and recast into veneration of the Nazi state and Führer.
The appropriation of "Germanic antiquity" by the Nazis was at first regarded with skepticism and sarcasm by British Scandophiles. W. H. Auden in his Letters from Iceland (1936) makes fun of the idea of Iceland as an "Aryan vestige", but with the outbreak of World War II, Nordic romanticism in Britain became too much associated with the enemy's ideology to remain palatable, to the point that J. R. R. Tolkien, an ardent Septentrionalist, in 1941 found himself moved to state that he had a "burning private grudge ... against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler" for "ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."
Meanwhile, in Australia, there was a thriving Odinist movement quite independent of anything that was happening in Germany. They anticipated the entry of Japan into World War II, and several leading Odinists (including Rud Mills and Les Cahill) were imprisoned for advocating that Australian troops should be withdrawn from Europe to Australia to defend that country against Japanese aggression and for their political associations. Their formal religious organisation, the Anglecyn Church of Odin, was dissolved and went underground (1942). In time, older members of the Australian Odinist movement tutored a later generation, which formed the Odinic Rite of Australia in 1994.
Second revival, 1970s to present
In the early 1970s, Germanic pagan organisations emerged in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, and in Iceland, largely independently of each other. In Iceland, the influence of pre-Christian belief systems still pervaded the country's cultural heritage into the 20th century. There, farmer Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson founded Germanic pagan group Ásatrúarfélagið in 1972, which initially had 12 members. Beinteinsson served as Allsherjargodi (chief priest) until his death in 1993, when he was succeeded by Jormundur Ingi Hansen. As the group expanded in size, Hansen's leadership caused schisms, and to retain the unity of the movement, he stepped down and was replaced by Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson in 2003, by which time it had accumulated 777 members and played a visible role in Icelandic society.
The Odinic Rite was established in England in 1972, and in the 1990s expanded to include chapters or kindred bodies in Germany (1995), and North America (1997) and later (2006) to the Netherlands. In 1992, The Odin Brotherhood by Mark Mirabello contained claims of a surviving Odinist "secret society", allegedly founded in 1421 to protect pagan tradition from Christian persecution. The Odin Brotherhood is described in the 8th edition of The Encyclopedia of American Religions. The independent Odinic Rite of Australia was established from 1972 to 1995.
Asatru grew steadily in the United States during the 1960s. Stephen McNallen first founded the Viking Brotherhood in the early 1970s, before creating the Asatru Free Assembly in 1976, which broke up in 1986 amid widespread political disagreements between those who supported a European folkish position and those who did not, that occurred after McNallen's own repudiation of neo-Nazis within the group. In the 1990s, McNallen founded the Ásatrú Folk Assembly (AFA), an ethnically-oriented Germanic neopagan group headquartered in California. Meanwhile, Valgard Murray and his kindred in Arizona founded the Asatru Alliance (AA) in the late 1980s, which shared the AFA's perspectives on race and which published the Vor Tru newsletter. In 1987, Edred Thorsson and James Chisholm founded The Troth, which was incorporated in Texas. Taking an inclusive, non-racialist view, it soon grew into an international organisation.
In Germany, the Artgemeinschaft organisation was founded in the 1950s by Wilhelm Kusserow and others. From 1989 until his death in 2009 it was led by Jürgen Rieger. Under his guidance it described itself as “Asatru” and a “faith community for people of Nordic-Germanic type”. Only those of northern European stock were allowed to join. Also in Germany, the Heidnische Gemeinschaft (HG) was founded by Géza von Neményi in 1985. In 1991 the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft (GGG), led by von Neményi, split off from the HG. In 1997 the Nornirs Ætt was founded as part of the Rabenclan and in 2000 the Eldaring was founded. The Eldaring is affiliated with the US based Troth. In Scandinavia, the Swedish Asatru Society formed in 1994, and in Norway the Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996 and Foreningen Forn Sed formed in 1999. They have been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious society, allowing them to perform "legally binding civil ceremonies" (i. e. marriages). In Denmark Forn Siðr also formed in 1999 (and was recognized by the state in 2003) and in Sweden Nätverket Gimle formed in 2001, as an informal community for individual heathens. Nätverket Forn Sed formed in 2004, and has a network consisting of local groups (blotlag) from all over Sweden.
From the mid-1990s, the internet greatly aided the propagation of Germanic Neopaganism. In very recent years there has been a numerical surge in the activity and prominence of Germanic Neopagan groups, almost exclusively though Asatru, this has been achieved through sustained high levels of activity in local kindred groups and the colossal prominence and growth in online Folkish Asatru websites led almost exclusively by the emergence of English Asatro. The 1990s also saw increasing involvement by Germanic Neopagans within the broader contemporary Pagan movement and in particular with other reconstructionist traditions. The 2010s are witnessing increased active political involvement and media communication efforts by Germanic Neopagans.
Terminology and denominations
In an academic context, the religion has been termed North European Paganism. Some followers of this religion prefer to be referred to as Heathens rather than Pagans, because the former term originates among Germanic languages, whereas Pagan has its origins in Latin. This term is the most commonly used one for Germanic paganism in the U.K., although its usage is growing elsewhere. Another popular name for the faith is the Icelandic term Ásatrú, which is more commonly rendered as Asatru in North America; this term translates as "allegiance to the deities", with practitioners being known as Asatruer. This term is favoured by practitioners who focus on the deities of Scandinavia, although is problematic as many Asatruer worship deities and entities other than the Aesir, such as the Vanir, Valkyries, Elves, and Dwarves. Other practitioners term their religion Vanuatrú, meaning "those who honour the Vanir" or Dísitrú, meaning "those who honour the Goddesses", depending on their particular theological emphasis. Odinism (see below) is another common name for the pre-Christian beliefs of northern Europeans and related peoples.
Another term often used is forn siðr or forn sed, meaning "the old way". A further term used by some individuals and groups active within the movement is Odinism; some groups using this term associate themselves more closely with a "folkish" interpretation of the religion. Other terms used within the community to describe their religion are the Northern Tradition, Norse Paganism, and Saxon Paganism. Although Germanic Neopaganism is analytically categorised as a form of reconstructionism, many practitioners avoid using this term to describe their practices.
Current research suggests that the term "Odinism" was first used in the 1820s. Most famously, it was used in 1840 by the Scottish writer, historian, and philosopher, Thomas Carlyle. It featured in his book, On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History.
It was referred to by the original Oxford English Dictionary as having first been recorded in the writings of Orestes Brownson in his 1848 Letter to Protestants. The term was re-introduced in the late 1930s by Alexander Rud Mills in Australia with his First Anglecyn Church of Odin and his book The Call of Our Ancient Nordic Religion.
Although one Odinist group specifically teaches that "in the eyes of gods, there are no chosen peoples and no master races," the term "Odinism" is sometimes associated with racialist Nordic ideology, as opposed to "Asatru" which may or may not refer to racialist or folkish ideals. As defined by Goodrick-Clarke (2002), Nordic racial paganism is synonymous with the Odinist movement (including some who identify as Wotanist). He describes it as a "spiritual rediscovery of the Aryan ancestral gods ... intended to embed the white races in a sacred worldview that supports their tribal feeling", and expressed in "imaginative forms of ritual magic and ceremonial forms of fraternal fellowship".
The term "Wotanism" distinguishes a form of Heathenry with political overtones. Wotanism is the name of a white nationalist current initiated by David Lane. It is based on the essay entitled Wotan by Carl Jung. Unlike other Heathens, most Wotanists emphasize dualism and view the gods as Jungian archetypes. Wotanists consider the Havamal to be their holiest text.
Adherents of Germanic Neopaganism can be found in Europe, North America, and Australasia. While some scholars assert that it is impossible to develop a precise figure for the number of Germanic pagans across the world, a self-selected census conducted in 2013 found 16,700 members in 98 countries, the bulk of which lived in the United States.
Sociologist Jeffrey Kaplan asserted that it was impossible to calculate the exact size of the U.S. Germanic pagan community. He nevertheless estimated that, in the mid-1990s, there were around 500 active practitioners of Germanic neopaganism in the country, with a further thousand individuals on the periphery of the movement. He noted that the overwhelming majority of individuals in the movement were white, male, and young. Most had at least an undergraduate degree, and worked in a mix of white collar and blue collar jobs. The Pagan Census project led by Helen A. Berger, Evan A. Leach, and Leigh S. Shaffer gained 60 responses from Germanic pagans in the U.S., noting that 65% were male and 35% female, which they saw as the "opposite" of the rest of the country's Pagan community. The majority had a college education, but were generally less well educated than the wider Pagan community, with a lower median income than the wider Pagan community too.
In the United Kingdom Census 2001, 300 people registered as Heathen in England and Wales. However, many Heathens followed the advice of the Pagan Federation (PF) and simply described themselves as "Pagan", while other Heathens did not specify their religious beliefs. In the 2011 census, 1,958 people self-identified as Heathen in England and Wales. A further 251 described themselves as Reconstructionist and may include some people reconstructing Germanic paganism.
Ásatrúarfélagið was recognized as an official religion by the Icelandic government in 1973. For its first 20 years it was led by farmer and poet Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson. By 2003, it had 777 members, and by 2008, it had 1,270 members, corresponding to 0.4% of Iceland's population. In Iceland, Germanic paganism has an impact larger than the number of its adherents.
In Sweden, the Swedish Forn Sed Assembly (Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige) was formed in 1994 under the name Swedish Asatru Society (Sveriges asatrosamfund) and is since 2007 recognized as a religious organization by the Swedish government. In the spring of 2010, on the "year-ting", the Communion changed its name to the current name. In Denmark Forn Siðr was formed in 1999, and was officially recognized in 2003. The Norwegian Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost was formed in 1996; as of 2011, the fellowship has some 300 members. Foreningen Forn Sed was formed in 1999, and has been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious organization.
Werkgroep Traditie is a Flemish (Belgian) group founded by Koenraad Logghe in the 1990s. In Russia the many neo-pagan groups venerate the "Golden Age of the pre-Christian Rus" (the Rus being early Scandinavian settlers in Russia), and "In general, Neo-pagan newspapers ... appear irregularly in editions ranging from 10–50,000 copies, or more rarely, as many as 500,000 copies".
Germanic neopaganism is found in Spain and includes the Comunidad Odinista de España-Asatru (COE) (established as Circulo Odinista Español in 1981). The COE was recognized by the Spanish government as a religion, allowing them to perform "legally binding civil ceremonies", such as marriages. COE is the sixth Odinist/Asatru religious organization in the world to be recognized with official status, after those in the UK, Australia, Iceland, Norway and Denmark. In December 2007, they conducted the first legal pagan wedding in Spain, on the beach of Vilanova, Barcelona.
- German-speaking Europe
- German neopaganism in Russia
- Svarte Aske (2011)
- Netherlands, Flanders, South Africa
- Latin Europe
In the media
- Odinism in West Yorkshire, BBC News, November 25, 2005
- Asatru growing in England, English News, September 1st, 2014
- Our most complete sources for reconstruction are from Iceland. On the alleged existence of a collective Germanic paganism in medieval times, Professor Lois Bragg makes this observation: “But we have no persuasive evidence of any common cult, belief system, or even pantheon that might ever have been recognized among speakers of various Germanic languages across geographical, cultural, political, and dialect boundaries. While there are obvious commonalities, for example in the names of some deities (Odin, Woden, Wotan), these point to common origins rather than common praxis or belief. Compare present-dy Jews, Lutherans, and Mormons who share common myths (the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the Moses cycle, the Patriarch cycle ) and who similarly name their children after the heroes of these myths (Adam, Aaron, Judith, Rebecca), but maintain distinctive cult practices and identities and even disparage and attempt to convert one another.” Lois Bragg. Oedipus Borealis: The Aberrant Body in Old Icelandic Myth and Saga Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. 2004. ISBN 0838640281
- The Anglish Moot, English Wordbook/A: Asatru(ar) (maður) → Esetroth(er), Ostroth(er)
- Rommel, Gundula E., Asgard in America: Inventing European Ethnic Identity in a Post-Industrial Pluralist Culture, 2011, ISBN 978-3-640-94603-7.
- Blain 2005, pp. 183–184; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 138.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 138.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 159.
- Blain 2005, pp. 182, 185–186; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 138–141.
- Blain 2005, p. 182.
- Strmiska 2000, p. 106.
- Blain 2005, p. 185.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 126.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 141.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 137.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 126; Blain 2005, p. 186; Harvey 2007, p. 55; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Blain 2005, p. 186; Harvey 2007, p. 57; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 143.
- Blain 2005, p. 188.
- Blain 2005, p. 187; Harvey 2007, p. 55.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 142; Harvey 2007, p. 55.
- Mark Mirabello. The Odin Brotherhood. 6th edition, Oxford: Mandrake of Oxford, 2014. ISBN 1-9069586-37, p 105.
- Blain 2005, p. 186.
- Harvey 2007, p. 57.
- Blain 2005, p. 189.
- York 1995, p. 125.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 142; Blain 2005, p. 190; Harvey 2007, p. 54; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 143; Harvey 2007, p. 57.
- Blain 2005, p. 190; Harvey 2007, pp. 55–56.
- Harvey 2007, p. 55.
- Harvey 2007, p. 56.
- Blain 2002, p. 15.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 126; Blain 2005, p. 187; Harvey 2007, p. 56; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Blain 2005, pp. 187–188.
- Blain 2005, p. 187.
- Strmiska 2000, p. 121.
- Osred. Odinism: Present, Past And Future 2011. ISBN 144576816X
- Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson. The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature. Cambridge University Press. 1943. ISBN 0-8371-0070-4
- For an extensive historical discussion, see Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson. The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature. Cambridge University Press. 1943. ISBN 0-8371-0070-4
- Osred. Odinism: Present, Past and Future. 2011. p. 67 ff. ISBN 1-4457-6816-X
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 146.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 139.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 139.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127.
- As Pofessors Blain notes, views on homosexuality and LGBT rights remain a source or tension within the community. Some right-wing Germanic Neopagan groups views homosexuality as being incompatible with a family-oriented ethos and thus disagree with homosexual activity. Other groups welcome LGBT individuals into their membership; there are for instance gay and trans members of U.S. Asatruer organisation, the Ring of Troth See Blain, Jenny (2005). "Heathenry, the Past, and Sacred Sites in Today's Britain". In Strmiska, Michael F. Modern Paganism in World Cultures. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 181–208. ISBN 978-1851096084.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 143, 145.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 145.
- Galina Krasskova, Swain Wodening. Exploring The Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites and Celebrations From the Norse, German And Anglo-Saxon Traditions. New Page Books, 2005. pp. 141-146.
- Geferræden Fyrnsida. Ethics. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
- Blain 2005, p. 205; Harvey 2007, p. 65.
- Harvey 2007, p. 66.
- Blain 2005, p. 205.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127; Blain 2005, p. 191; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 131; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Blain 2005, p. 191.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 131.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 133.
- Blain 2005, p. 193.
- Kaplan 1996, pp. 197–198; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 147.
- Kaplan 1996, p. 198; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 155&nash;156.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 132.
- Introduction to Heathenry. The Modern Heathen, 14 April 2009. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 132; Harvey 2007, p. 61.
- Stubba. The Book of Blots: Ceremonies, Rituals and Invocations of the Odinic Rite, 2nd edition, 2014. ISBN 978-1-312-68072
- Hof Project of the Architecture & Urban Design Bureau.
- Asatru temple in Akranes?. Asatru _ News, Views and Musings from a 21st Century Heathen. 2003.
- Blain & Wallis 2007, p. 140.
- Blain & Wallis 2007, p. 178.
- Blain 2005, p. 195.
- Strmiska 2000, p. 118.
- Harvey 2007, p. 59.
- Harvey 2007, p. 59; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127; Harvey 2007, p. 58; Davy 2007, p. 159.
- Harvey 2007, p. 58.
- Adler 2006, p. 287.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 131–132.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 132.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 126; Blain 2005, p. 194; Adler 2006, p. 294.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, pp. 126–127; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 130; Blain 2005, p. 195.
- Blain 2005, p. 194.
- Blain 2005, pp. 194–195.
- Heathenry. The Pagan Federation. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
- Thorskegga Thorn. Naming Ceremomy. Thorshof.org. Retrieved 6 August 2011.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 129–130; Blain 2005, p. 194.
- Hunt-Anschutz 2002, p. 127; Blain 2005, p. 195.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 129; Adler 2006, p. 291.
- Galina Krasskova, Swain Wodening. Exploring the Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites and Celebrations from the Norse, German and Anglo-Saxon Traditions. New Page Books, 2005. pp. 159-169.
- Symbel. White Marsh Theod. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
- Harvey 2007, p. 62.
- Blain 2002, pp. 47–50.
- Adler 2006, p. 396.
- Magliocco 2004, pp. 226–227.
- Blain 2002, pp. 32–33; Adler 2006, p. 296.
- Blain 2002, p. 15; Blain 2005, p. 206; Harvey 2007, p. 62.
- Blain 2002, p. 18.
- Blain 2002, p. 57.
- Kaplan 1996, pp. 221–222.
- For an extensive historical discussion, see Preben Meulengracht Sorenson, The Unmanly Man: concepts of sexual defamation in early northern society, Odense University Press, 1983.
- Blain 2005, p. 196.
- Harvey 2007, pp. 61–62.
- Blain 2005, p. 196; Harvey 2007, p. 61.
- Harvey 2007, p. 61.
- Kaplan 1996, p. 202; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 193; Blain 2005.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 134–135; Adler 2006, pp. 293–294.
- Harvey 2007, pp. 66–67.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 136.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 128.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 134–135.
- Harvey 2007, p. 67.
- Kaplan 1996, p. 224; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 128.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 165.
- Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Duke University Press. pp. 269–283. ISBN 0-8223-3071-7.
- http://www.burzum.org: Paganism: Part I - The Ancient Religion
- Kaplan 1996, pp. 194–195.
- Harvey 2007, p. 60.
- The point demanded "freedom of religion for all religious denominations ... so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race ... The Party advocates ... a Positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination." Alfred Rosenberg, in The Myth of the Twentieth Century, defined "positive" Christianity as Germanic against the Etruscan-Syrian-Jewish-African "negative" Christianity, with positive Christianity carrying on the spirit of Nordic paganism, tossing out the Old Testament as well as the "Jew" Paul. Positive Christianity, so conceived, was essentially a sleight-of-hand repudiation of orthodoxy. See generally Chapter 12, "Nazi Religion versus Christian Religion," in Peter Viereck, Metapolitics: from Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler, Transaction Publishers, 2004, ISBN 0-7658-0510-3. See also Rev. Thomas D. Schwartz. "The National Socialist Stand on Christianity," The Barnes Review, Nov./Dec. 1999, pp. 55-57, available online here. Naturally, the Party's supposed "liberal" views on freedom of religion did not extend to Judaism. The Nazi efforts to "coordinate" German Protestantism (see Gleichschaltung) moderated after the notorious November 1933 Berlin Sportpalast speech at a "positive" Christian rally attacked the Old Testament and the "Rabbi Paul" and called for the need for a more "heroic" Jesus.
- Carl Jung mentions this movement in his 1936 essay "Wotan". Jung, Carl G. (1970); Collected Works, Volume 10; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London; ISBN 0-7100-1640-9; pp. 190-91.
- Lange, Hans-Jürgen (1998). Weisthor: Karl Maria Wiligut - Himmlers Rasputin und seine Erben.
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas (1993). The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology. NYU Press. ISBN 0-8147-3060-4.
- My name occurs in several of the sagas, Is common over Iceland still. Down under Where Das Volk order sausages and lagers I ought to be the prize, the living wonder, The really pure from any Rassenschänder, In fact I am the great big white barbarian, The Nordic type, the too too truly Aryan. "Letter to Lord Byron IV." This whole section of the poem was dropped from Auden's later collected editions, but appears in The English Auden, ed. by Edward Mendelson (Faber and Faber, 1977), p. 189.
- Letters, p. 55f.
- Compare Introvigne, Massimo (2001). Massimo Introvigne, Centro studi sulle nuove religioni, ed. Enciclopedia delle religioni in Italia [Encyclopedia of religions in Italy]. Religioni e movimenti (in Italian) 51. Elledici. p. 705. ISBN 978-88-01-01596-6. Retrieved 2011-12-19.
[...] la First Anglecyn Church of Odin, dell'avvocato Alexander Rudd-Mills (1885-1967), fondata a Melbourne - nello Stato australiano di Victoria -, attiva dal 1929 fino al 1942 [...]
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 127; Adler 2006, p. 286.
- Strmiska 2000, p. 108.
- Strmiska 2000, p. 112; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 166–168.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, pp. 166–168.
- Mark Mirabello. The Odin Brotherhood. 6th edition, Oxford: Mandrake of Oxford, 2014. ISBN 1-9069586-37
- Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions, 8th ed., Gale Cengage (2009), ISBN 0-7876-9696-X, p. 861f.
- Paxson 2002, p. 17.
- Kaplan 1996, pp. 200–205; Paxson 2002, pp. 16–17; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 128; Adler 2006, p. 286.
- Kaplan 1996, pp. 206–213; Paxson 2002, p. 18.
- Kaplan 1996, pp. 213–215; Paxson 2002, p. 18.
- Blain 2005, p. 191; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 133.
- Blain 2002, p. 5.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 128; Harvey 2007, p. 53.
- Blain 2002, p. 6; Blain 2005, p. 181; Davy 2007, p. 158.
- Blain 2002, p. 5; Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 128; Adler 2006, p. 286; Harvey 2007, p. 53.
- Strmiska 2000, p. 113.
- Harvey 2007, p. 53.
- Blain 2005, p. 182; Davy 2007, p. 158.
- Blain 2005, p. 184.
- The Works of Orestes A. Brownson: Containing the Second Part of the Political Writings, ed. Henry Francis Brownson, T. Nourse (1884), p. 257
- Mark Mirabello. The Odin Brotherhood. 6th edition, Oxford: Mandrake of Oxford, 2014. ISBN 1-9069586-37. p.38
- Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (2002). Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3124-4. (Paperback, 2003. ISBN 0-8147-3155-4.) p. 257.
- Ron McVan. Creed of Iron - Wotansvolk Wisdom. Fourteen Word Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9678123-0-5
- David Lane. Victory Or Valhalla: The Final Compilation Of Writings. CreateSpace, 2008. ISBN 1-4382-8581-7
- Wotanism (Odinism) - By David Lane (available here)
- See the Gambanreidi Statement; Wotanism by Professor Carl Gustav Jung.
- Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3071-7
- Davy 2007, p. 158.
- Heathen Census 2013
- Kaplan 1996, p. 198.
- Kaplan 1996, p. 199.
- Berger, Leagh & Shaffer 2003, p. 16.
- FoxNews.com - Viking Mythology Grows As Religion for Inmates - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News
- Office for National Statistics, 11 December 2012, 2011 Census, Key Statistics for Local Authorities in England and Wales. Accessed 12 December 2012.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 168.
- Strmiska & Sigurvinsson 2005, p. 174.
- Forklaring til Forn Siðr´s ansøgning om godkendelse som trossamfund.
- Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism.
- http://www.laverdad.es/albacete/20080420/provincia/otras-religiones-discipulos-odin-20080420.html "La verdad" daily
- Adler, Margot (2006) . Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America (revised ed.). London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-303819-1.
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- Blain, Jenny; Wallis, Robert (2007). Sacred Sites, Contested Rites/Rights: Pagans Engagements with Archaeological Monuments. Eastbourne: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1845191306.
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- Jung, Carl G. "Wotan". 1936. In Jung, Carl G. (1970); Collected Works, Volume 10; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London; ISBN 0-7100-1640-9; pp. 190–91.
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