'Skeggöld, skálmöld; vindöld, vergöld' -Alexander Rud Mills and the Asatru faith in the New Age

Article (PDF Available)inAustralian Religion Studies Review 12(1):77-83 · January 1999with 765 Reads
Abstract
This article explored the poetry and religious philosophy of Alexander Rud Mills (1885 – 8 April 1964). It analysed his interpretation of medieval Teutonic religious concepts and considered at the way that those interpretations fitted into current New Age religious movements.
Volume
12,
Number 1
77
'Skeggold, skalmold; vindold, vergold'
-Alexander Rud Mills and the Asatru
faith
in
the New Age1
A. Asbj0m J0n
University
of
New England
The obscure yet important Australian lawyer and devotee
of
the Asatru faith,
Alexander Rud Mills, played a very significant role in the twentieth century re-
development
of
the Asatru faith - a religion that follows the teachings
of
the traditional
Teutonic pantheon
of
gods ( ie 6oinn, Tyr,
I>6rr
etc.)-
in the southern-hemisphere,
and perhaps even in the sparking
of
the modem revivalistic spiritual movement
known as the 'New Age'. In fact, Mills is even credited by many folkloric and
religious scholars
as
being the leading force behind early to mid twentieth-century
attempts 'to revive Odinism'2 in the southern-hemisphere- this claim being partially
evidenced by his founding
of
the Odinist Society
of
Melbourne.
Yet
perhaps the
most interesting feature
of
Mills' work is the way in which he blended Asatru elements
with both the worship
of
the Christian god and right-wing politics
to
create his own
unique blend
of
ariosophy3. Local attempts towards such a 're-birth'
of
a religion
are obviously
of
great significance to the general study
of
religion in Australia, since
a significant portion
of
the nation's population is descended from ancestral stock
that once traditionally practised the Asatru faith, thus making such efforts highly
significant culturally. What is more, the modern· practice and recognition
of
polytheistic religion is becoming a greater focus for western scholars
of
religion, as
it becomes more widely recognised that, as now being constituted
of
so distinct
individuals in a modem pluralistic society, humanity's diversities can no longer be
defined and ruled by
'a
single principle
of
being and by a univocal logic that will
lead to Truth in the singular'4 Therefore modem developments in the practice
of
polytheistic religions such
as
the faith
of
Asatnl must be recognised
as
individual
responses to 'our sense
of
diversity in modern culture, our sense
of
living in a
pluralistic society'5Therefore, this paper proposes to explore, inter alia, Mills' major
philosophies, and suggest some
of
the
possible influences upon his thinking.
After a short series
of
lesser publications, Mills published his seemingly anti-
Christian politico-religious manifesto, The Odinist Religion Overcoming Jewish
Christianity, in 19336 In this work, Mills essentially claimed that: 'Christianity
(the basis
of
our culture) has failed'7 in its effort to mould a caring and cohesive
society. He felt that 'Christianity seeks to substitute an Eastern outlook in place
of
our native outlook' 8, and that, by embracing it, modem Western society has embraced
a dogma and symbolism that its people can not truly understand, or be at peace with.
78 Australian Religion Studies Review
Mills claimed that
as
'Odinism (
...
was ) the outlook
of
the founders
of
( ...
the)
British race'9, and that it is, consequently, the only outlook that can be understood
by the British citizens
of
the modern-day British Empire. He also felt that it is only
through such religious understanding human beings can achieve true inner peace.
Yet,
and perhaps contradictorily, Mills only saw the Asatni gods as a symbolic
representation
of
the divine, and believed that each racial group could approach the
essence
of
divinity through their own religious systems, ultimately leading to the
same divine centre
10
What is more, Mills thought that 'differences
of
(human) race evidently exist
for divine purpose or expression ( ... , just as ) in different degree, divisions and
differences (exist ) in the animal and plant world
(,
yet that ) Christianity seeks to
destroy race'
11
This led Mills to feel that the Christian weltanshauung was not
natural, and that it specifically attempted to break down the diversity and beauty
of
the natural world. Consequently, he preached that 'our own racial ideas and traditions
(not those
of
others) are our best guide to health and national
strength'~
2
,
and that
the Asatni faith should then be practised throughout Great Britain, Australia and
New Zealand. This racialist theosophical standpoint is perhaps the cause
of
Mills
being overlooked until recently, and many
of
his early critical readers quickly
dismissed his work
as
nothing but an expression
of
the ideology
of
more prominent
racialist theorists connected with the political rise
of
fascist Europe.
Notably though, Mills' notion
of
the Asatni religion as being specifically
relevant to the 'British race' is flawed, as technically there is no 'British race'.
Additionally, the practice
of
the Asatni religion was, it would seem, universal amongst
the Teutonic peoples, yet not amongst the Celts, who, along with Teutons, form
what might be loosely described
as
the 'British race'. Therefore such a belief obviously
overlooks the traditional· Celtic stock in both Great Britain, and even more in the
nations settled by the British, such
as
Australia and New Zealand. Finally, many
Australians and New Zealanders are either Kooris or Maoris, or
of
such stock, and
therefore the collective worship
of
6oinn
in those states would surely not lead
automatically to their spiritual enlightenment
if
we are to accept Mills' theories
of
ethnic based religion.
However, these theories, when considered in unison with the general
philosophical, political and theological essence
of
Mills' work, do reveal much about
his mind. Loosely, when combined these elements suggest that Mills' ideology most
likely belongs to the tradition
of
antiquarian ariosophists whose influence featured
strongly in nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe
13
Perhaps the most
influential
of
those thinkers was the Austrian, Guido von List (1848-1919). The
latter was probably the first person to combine the ideology
of
the volkisch revival,
with theosophy, right-wing politics and occultism.
Von
List quickly produced a large
body
of
theosophical writings, and then founded the Guido von List Gesellschaft.
Essentially, von List
Volume
12,
Number 1
was regarded by his readers and followers
as
a bearded old patriarch and a
mystical naturalist guru whose clairvoyant gaze had lifted the glorious Aryan
and Germanic past
of
Austria into full view from beneath the debris
of
foreign
influences and Christian culture. 14
79
This summary
of
von List's achievements seemingly matches closely the goals
that Mills sought to achieve for the benefit
of
the 'British race', and thus highlights
the loose parallel between the two men's ideologies
15
The Guido von List Gesellschaft
and like organisations continued von List's work after his death, prompting a slightly
wider ariosophist movement, lead by people like Rudolf John Gorsleben and Rudolf
von Sebottendorff
16
In 1925, Rudolf John Gorsleben, who was already an active member
of
the
Thule Gesellschaft, established the Edda Gesellschaft, an organisation with similar
goals to those
of
Mills' Odinist Society
of
Melbourne. The Edda Gesellschaft was
dedicated to: the research
of
Germanic proto-history; the worship
of
the Teutonic
pantheon; and the production
of
the journal, Hag
All All
Hag
17
The under-current
of
the Edda Gesellschaft's work, and for that matter
of
the Odinist Society
as
well,
was much the same as that
of
the Guido von List Gesellschaft, primarily due to the
influence that von List's ideology had asserted upon Gorsleben's thinking. However,
perhaps unlike Mills, Gorsleben's work quickly came to influence the wider and
more scholarly strains
of
critical thought, through his widely employed yet earlier
written volumes on the Edda
18
, and to a lesser extent, his Hoch-Zeit der Menschheit.
Hoch-Zeit der Menschheit
19
still attracts comments today, perhaps most recently by
Markus Wolff, who suggested that the text:
'presents an all encompassing Nordic world view, based on Gorsleben's often
controversial interpretations
of
language, myth, and symbol, and draws together
myriad correspondences that, while sometimes lacking in scientific validity,
open up a startling panorama
of
Germanic history. His interpretations
of
the
runes, like those
of
his· "Ariosophist" contemporaries, remain
of
interest'.
20
Yet
Mills' depiction
of
the Asatn1 faith is one that would seem to be heavily
influenced by the dominant, Christianity-oriented 6oinic scholarship
of
the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. Perhaps the most prominent
of
such scholars in the
nineteenth century was the Norwegian, Peter Andreas Munch. In 1840, Munch had
published his highly influential Norse Mythology: Legends
of
Gods and Heroes, a
text originally published
as
a supplement
to
a pre-existing Norwegian school textbook
on Scandinavian history. The text was widely publicised, and quickly proceeded
through a series
of
print runs, to become available worldwide. In this text Munch
argued persuasively yet inaccurately that the Teutonic deities were late inventions,
believing that
6oinn
was heavily influenced by Christian mythology, and a
representation
of
Christ21 Comparably, Mills believed that
6oinn
is 'that
of
the
Great One ( ie
God)
which man can know'
22
Also creating a strong parallel to
Christian cosmology was Mills' interpretation
of
Baldr, one
of
6oinn's
sons, 'as the
80 Australian Religion Studies Review
perfect man '23
Such interpretations
of
Asatni cosmology also featured in the popular
introductory texts
of
the time. Perhaps the most representative
of
these texts is the
slightly later _published Tales
of
the Norse Gods and Heroes, by Barbara Leonie
Picard. Picard's work contains two parts, the first dealing with the Teutonic pantheon,
and typically for its time, placing much emphasis upon
6oinn's
role in the shaping
of
Miogaror
24
Picard's depiction
of
60inn
and his role in the shaping
of
Miogaror
is in many ways one that conforms to typically Christianised schopfungsmythen.
Consequently, this text is an introductory source which on some levels could be seen
to co-exist with both Munch's and Mills' ideologies. Picard also displays
6oinn
as
all-controlling and demanding, qualities that scholars such as Einar Haugen and
Sven Harnesson have since attributed to the Christian mythology's Jehovah, yet
which have not been associated with
6oinn
outside
of
Munchian interpretations
25
Mills' like depiction
of
Asatni material also consistently refers
of
the existence
of
'God-given destiny'2
6,
seemingly opting for a monotheistic stance, and ignoring the
pluralist essence
of
fate in Teutonic cosmology
27
The other most interesting point about Mills' portrayal
of
OOinn
is the emphasis
that he places on the god's role
as
an archetypal father figure. While the role
of
the
archetypal father is an important aspect
of
6oinn's
traditional persona, scholars do
not usually deem it to be as dominant
as
Mills would seem to believe it to be.
It
is
most likely that this is yet another manifestation
of
Mills' merging
of
Christian and
Asatni theology, and it represents the dominance
of
the archetypal father role within
the Christian God's persona. This position is further highlighted by the relatively
obscure positions that Mills delegates to powerful Teutonic deities such as: Tyr,
Heimdallr, Loki, Njoror, lEgir, Skaoi, Sif, Frigg,
I>6rr,
Freyr and Freyja.
Notably, most modern efforts towards the re-establishment
of
the Asatni religion
take a more traditional approach to the faith, and make serious efforts to avoid
Christian overtones
28
However, Mills certainly presented an interesting blend
of
traditional European religion and Christianity. Interpretations and movements like
this, both in religious thinking and in practice are
of
great interest, as they allow
some
of
the processes
of
religious transmutation to be documented and more fully
understood, providing research material that may in the future aid the development
of
a deeper understanding
of
the transmutational processes that took place during
Europe's own conversion to Christianity. Finally,
if
we accept that the prominent
English 6oinnist, D C G Stubba, was correct when making the following summary
of
the early development
of
Great
Britain's
most prominent modern Asatni
organisation, the 6oinic Rite, the efforts
of
Mills to reawaken the spirit
of
6oinn
amongst the 'British race' can not be deemed to have been completely in vain:
'The story
of
the
60inic
Rite thus far has been
of
a slow but firm growth, with
some major upsets, it is true; but these too are now part
of
our history. Each day
that passes is part
of
our history,
of
course, and awareness
of
this should inspire
Volume
12,
Number 1
us all to contribute something
of
ourselves
to
the continuing saga
of
our holy
religion' .29
Notes
81
1.
'skeggold, skalmold, klofnir,lvindold, vargolg'. 'axe-age, sword-age/split are shields/wind-
age, wolf-age'. 'VOluspa', reprinted in Paul Sach, 'Some Thoughts on VOluspa', in
Edda-
A
Collection
of
Essays, ed. by Robert J Glendinning, and Haraldur Bessason, The University
of
Manitoba Icelandic Studies -
vol4.
Canada: University
of
Manitoba Press, 1983:86-116 (st.32,
p.102). This line
of
the prophetic VOluspa, describes the apocalyptic years
of
widespread war
and cruelty that, according to Teutonic cosmology, would encompass the world· before it
would eventually be re-born into a new age
of
peace and harmony. The present writer wishes
to thank Professor
J.
S.
Ryan for kindly reading and commenting on an earlier version
of
this
paper.
2.
Thorsson, Edred, Northern Magic, Llewellyn's. World Magic Series. Minnesota: Llewellyn,
1993:193. Edred Thorsson is a pseudonym for
Dr
Stephen E Flowers, who until1985, when
he became an instructor in humanities at Austin Community College, lectured in the
departments
of
Germanic Languages and English at the University
of
Texas. Flowers has
published some
15
books on European antiquities and the Asatru faith. On the widespread
nature
of
this recognition cp. 'The earliest attempt to reconstruct Odinism in its modern form
may be credited to the eccentric and virtually forgotten Australian A Rud Mills'. ('Asatru', in
The
Harper Collins Dictionary
of
Religion, ed by Jonathan Z Smith. London: Harper Collins,
1996:76-77 (:76)).
3.
'Ariosophy' refers to an occult wisdom
of
the Aryan race, and has been used
to
describe
various Aryan-racialist-occult theories.
4.
Miller, David L,
The
New Polytheism: Rebirth
of
the Gods and Goddesses. New
York:
Harper and Row, 1974:40.
5.
Green, Deirdre, 'Towards a Reappraisal
of
Polytheism', Cosmos,
5,
1989:3-11 (:7). Green
is a Lecturer in Religious Studies at St David's College in the University
of
Wales. She
published this paper while serving
as
. the secretary
of
the Traditional Cosmology Society
(School
of
Scottish Studies, University
of
Edinburgh).
6.
Mills, Alexander Rud, The Odinist Religion Overcoming Jewish Christianity. London: A
R Mills, 1933; repr. Melbourne: Ruskin Press Pty. Ltd., 1939. The overwhelmingly anti-
Christian sentiment
of
works such
as
those by Mills is most likely a reflection
of
the extremely
cruel treatment that 6oinnists suffered during the Christian imperialism
of
the Dark and
Middle Ages according to some medireval historians ( ie see Snorri Sturluson, Olafs saga
Tryggvasonar', in Heimskringla, trans. by Lee M Hollander, published for the American-
Scandinavian Foundation. Austin: University
of
Texas Press, 1964; repr. 1995). Many cases
of
such treatment, that do not appear elsewhere, have recently been recorded by Shawnee
State University's Professor Mark L Mirabella, in his history
of
the Odin Brotherhood -an
organisation claiming a history
of
five centuries
-,
perhaps further strengthening such opinions
amongst genuine followers
of
the Asatn1 faith (Mark L Mirabella,
The
Odin Brotherhood.
USA: Holmes Publishing Group, 1992).
7.
Mills, Alexander Rud, op. cit., p.6.
82 Australian Religion Studies Review
8.
Mills, Alexander Rud, op. cit., p.7.
9.
Mills, Alexander Rud,
op.
cit., p.7.
10.
Mills loosely speaks
of
such concepts throughout his work, ie 'Odin (put briefly) is the
part
of
the Great One
(of)
Whom man can be aware
(of)
in some degree'.
op.
cit., p.7.
11.
Mills, Alexander Rud, op. cit., p.7.
12.
Mills, Alexander Rud, op. cit., p.7. Cp. Mills' statement (p.29) that 'The Odinist (
...
)
will not marry an alien. The Christian will. Christianity approves mongrelism, even encourages
it (Vide all-are equal, Brotherhood-of-man, etc.). (
...
)
We
can populate our continent with
our own racial stock. (
...
)Our
pro-Jewish Government imports aliens to inhabit the land
of
our fathers and our mothers (
...
so that they (the Jew)
can}
better get (
...
their)
money, and
our British race dies out'. The racial identity
of
the Asatru faith is still asserted by most
Asatru organisations- except perhaps in North America ( ie
'It
is (
...
) the policy
of
the Ring
of
Troth that Troth membership and activities are open to all those sincerely interested in
participating, regardless
of
race, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation'. 'On Joining the Ring
of
Troth', in Application
for
Membership in the
Troth.
USA: The Troth, 1996), ie 'From a
heathen and racialist point
of
view, Christianity, born in Israel, should have spread to and
been contained within Palestine's semitic neighbours. Protestantism is indeed the culprit
of
alienating further the Celto-Germanic psyche already semi-alienated by the Popes from its
natural and ethnic roots' (Kad Kados, 'Pagan Racial Awareness
vs.
Protestantism', Bcelder,
6,
1996:7-11 (:7)).
13.
It
is most likely that the pervasive influence
of
ariosophist thinking in Europe during this
period was also at least partially responsible for the widespread use
of
OOinic
imagery and
symbolism amongst Saturnian, occultist, and Luciferin organisations, such
as
the German
'Fraternitas Saturni' (Some
of
the lodge's documents claim
'a
mystical connection between
the Greco-Roman Saturnian Principle (fatum, fate) and the old Germanic high god, Wotan
(
...
; ) this (
...
) is seen
as
the All-ruling Principle
of
Fate'. (Stephen E Flowers, Fire and Ice
-
The
History, Structure, and Rituals
of
Germany's Most Influential Modern Magical Order:
The Brotherhood
of
Saturn, Llewellyn's Teutonic Magic Series. Minnesota: Llewellyn
Publications, 1994:2.). This lodge was founded in 1926 by Gregor A Gregorius, and notably,
'derives its ariosophical runic occultism (
...
) from' Guido von List's Das Geheimnis der
Runen (Stephen E Flowers, op. cit., p.13. Guido von List, The Secret
of
the Runes, trans. and
intro. by Stephen E Flowers. Rochester, Inner Traditions, 1988). Echoic
of
the ideology
of
Mills, the Fraternitas Saturni also possessed a set
of
membership restrictions that 'only (
...
)
non-Jews (
...
)could be initiated and that all neophytes had to acknowledge the basic "Nordic"
ideology
of
the lodge' (Stephen E Flowers,
op.
cit., p.2.).
14.
Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, The Occult Roots
of
Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and their
Influence on Nazi Ideology, New
York:
New York University Press, 1992:33.
15.
'When the Odinist religion comes, a bond will bind seventy million people together,
seventy million British people,
who
to-day, under Jesus-worship are facing shame and
extinction'. Alexander Rud Mills,
op.
cit., p.21. Mills also suggested that the British people's
culture is threatened by 'the (
...
) alien atavistic Jew-worshiping cult'. Alexander Rud Mills,
op. cit., p.23.
16.
Von
Sebottendorff was a member
of
the anti-semitic Germanenorden, whose long time
leader, Hermann Phol, had studied runecraft under von List; and was for some time the editor
of
the Miinchener Beobachter, a newspaper that was closely connected
to
the NSDAP between
This research hasn't been cited in any other publications.
  • The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and their Influence on Nazi Ideology
    • Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
    Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and their Influence on Nazi Ideology, New York: New York University Press, 1992:33.
  • Pasing: 1922; Rudolf John Gorsleben, Die Edda, ihre Bedeutung fur Gegenwart und Zukunft. Pasing: 1923; and Rudolf John Gorsleben
    • Rudolf Gorsleben
    • John
    Gorsleben, Rudolf John, Die Edda.(Pasing: 1922; Rudolf John Gorsleben, Die Edda, ihre Bedeutung fur Gegenwart und Zukunft. Pasing: 1923; and Rudolf John Gorsleben, Das Blendwerk der Gotter: Gylfaginning. Pasing: 1923.
  • Hoch-Zeit der Menschheit: Das Welt-Gesetz der Drei oder Entstehen -Sein -Vergehen in Ursprache -Urschrift -Urglaube. Aus den Runen geschopft
    • Rudolf 19 Gorsleben
    • John
    19 Gorsleben, Rudolf John, Hoch-Zeit der Menschheit: Das Welt-Gesetz der Drei oder Entstehen -Sein -Vergehen in Ursprache -Urschrift -Urglaube. Aus den Runen geschopft. Leipzig: 1930.
  • The Germanic Revival: A short history', Vor Tru
    • Markus Wolff
    Wolff, Markus, 'The Germanic Revival: A short history', Vor Tru, 56, 1996:36-41 (:37).
  • Legends of Gods and Heroes, trans. by Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt, revised by Magnus Olsen, published for The American-Scandinavian Foundation, Scandinavian Classics vol XXVII See the portrayal of 6oinn in: Snorri Sturluson The Poetic Edda, trans
    • Peter Munch
    • Norse Andreas
    • Mythology
    21. Munch, Peter Andreas, Norse Mythology: Legends of Gods and Heroes, trans. by Sigurd Bernhard Hustvedt, revised by Magnus Olsen, published for The American-Scandinavian Foundation, Scandinavian Classics vol XXVII. London: Humphrey Milford, 1926. See the portrayal of 6oinn in: Snorri Sturluson, Edda: Prologue and Gylfaggining, ed. by Anthony Faulkes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982; repr. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research, 1988; and, The Poetic Edda, trans. by L. M. Hollander XE "Hollander, Lee M.", 2nd revised edn. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962; repr. 1994.
  • The Beginning of All Things', in Tales of the Norse Gods and Heroes
    • Barbara Picard
    • Leonie
    Picard, Barbara Leonie, 'The Beginning of All Things', in Tales of the Norse Gods and Heroes, illustrated by Kiddell-Monroe Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953:1-8.
  • English Odinism in the 'Eighties', Odinism Today
    • Dc Stubba
    Stubba, DC G, 'English Odinism in the 'Eighties', Odinism Today, 8, 1992:11-17 (:17).
  • The Edda as Ritual: Odin and His Masks', in Edda -A Collection of Essays:3-24 (:3)), and; Christian mythology 'postulates a perfect all powerful ( ... ) god (,who demands) total subservience by all created things'. (Sven Hamesson, in Voluspa: The Prophecy of the Valva, trans
    • Jehovah
    Jehovah, 'the jealous god of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam'. (Einar Haugen, 'The Edda as Ritual: Odin and His Masks', in Edda -A Collection of Essays:3-24 (:3)), and; Christian mythology 'postulates a perfect all powerful (... ) god (,who demands) total subservience by all created things'. (Sven Hamesson, in Voluspa: The Prophecy of the Valva, trans. by Jens Johansson, with notes and introduction by Sven Hamesson. Berkshire: Coxland Press, 1992:71).