The KKK and Odin

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Writing for the Independent, David V Barrett does an admirable job in ripping apart the hackish thesis of Richard Rudgley’s new book “Pagan Resurrection”. Rudgley, a popular anthropologist (and television host) claims that Odin has had far more influence on Western civilization than Christ, and that most American ultra-right-wing groups spring from the “Odinic archetype”.

“After briefly looking at the myth of Odin and the development of the runes, he discusses the interest of various proto-Nazis in this mythology, and the Nazis’ co-option of some runic symbolism. Nothing too controversial so far. But then the author starts examining ultra-right-wing groups in America, from the Ku Klux Klan onwards, and claiming that they too spring from Odin’s archetypal loins.”

Barrett rightly corrects this baffling assertion by pointing out that the majority of ultra-right racist groups are “good” Protestant Christians, not subconscious Pagans enacting some kind of a bizarre Jungian archetype.

“Today’s American far right are white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Such racist groups as Christian Identity are characterised as having a gun in one hand and a Bible, not the Eddas, in the other. Is the killing of 168 people by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma in 1995 really one of the “horrors” generated by “the unconscious manifestation of the Odinic archetype”? Of course not. But it’s here, along with several other American right-wing incidents.”

Rudgley ends up committing the worst sins any social scientist can commit.

“…he is committing the ultimate sin of any anthropologist or historian, back-projecting from highly selective examples of unpleasantness today and photo-fitting them to a distorted image from the mythological past…a catalogue of racist individuals and organisations whose only connection with Odin, through very dubious links, is by assertion rather than argument.”

According to the review, after laying out his “pagan racist” argument for the whole book, he spends the last 45 pages trying to look at the “positive” side of modern Paganism. But it seems too little and too late. Rudgley has created and released a work that is sure to be avidly read by Christian apologists looking to erase the taint of racism from their own faith, and by pundits and public intellectuals looking to discredit the wider modern Paganism movement. A book to be avoided, or at best, read to better discredit its arguments.