CENTURY, £20. Order for £18 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
Pagan Resurrection, by Richard Rudgley
Norse mythology and its (dubious) links with modern-day extremists
Tuesday 03 October 2006
Odinism has had a greater influence on modern Western thought than has Christianity. That's the provocative thesis of Pagan Resurrection by the anthropologist and broadcaster Richard Rudgley - but his book just doesn't make the case. Rudgley begins with the psychoanalyst Jung linking Nazism with the Norse/Germanic god Odin/Wotan, and arguing that Odin's archetype is still very powerful.
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.
This simply ignores reality. 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.
Nowhere does Rudgley show any awareness that archetypes, like Tarot cards and the gods in most pantheons, hold within them contradictions and opposites. The strong, benevolent leader and the tyrant are flipsides of each other. Throughout the book he concentrates on the dark side of Odin. Even here 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.
Only in the final 45 pages does he make any attempt to look at the positive side, the living religion of Odinism, Asatru or the Northern Tradition today. Even then, he spends almost no time on the beliefs and practices of thousands who prefer to be called Heathens, though he calls them Pagans. Rudgley starts his book by calling it "the biography of a god", and ends by claiming it as "an ethnography... an exploration of the cultural history of the myths of the northern European mind". It is neither, but a catalogue of racist individuals and organisations whose only connection with Odin, through very dubious links, is by assertion rather than argument.
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 3 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
- 4 John Travolta addresses former pilot's gay romance allegations publicly for the first time
- 5 Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Cilla, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith embodies the young singer perfectly
Tyler, The Creator says having new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
Kanye West stops concert after two fans don't stand up - doesn't realise one is in wheelchair and the other disabled
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly