A month ago the Norwegian Freemason Arvid Ystad published a book with the title “Frimurerne i Vikingtiden”, or “Freemasonry in Viking-times”. The publisher uses the tag-line “Ny teori om frimureriets opphav!”, “new theory on the origin of Freemasonry!”. I have been looking around for more information about Ystad’s theories, but I cannot find much more than a few newspaper articles, none of them in English. Also the book is in Norwegian and it seems to be only available from the publisher, who does not ship outside Norway. Hopefully all this is because the book is very new and lateron it will be available better and more hopefully also in a language that I master.
The newspaper articles give a few clues as to what Ystad’s theories entail. I will give a few links below this article.
A Danish newspaper says (in Google translation): “Masonic movement may have originated in pagan rituals that were practiced by Nordic Vikings, says Arvid Ystad to Ekstra Bladet.” “He presents his theories in the book “The Freemasons in the Viking Age ‘, which has not been received well by the Norwegian’s lodge brothers.” Apparently Norwegian Freemasons are fairly secretive. Have their rituals not ‘leaked‘ like most Masonic ritual? Could there be anything that Ystad writes be new to an interested audience? In any case, this quote does imply that the author has things to say about Masonic ritual and not just about superficial similarities between some things Viking and some things Masonic.
Ystad thinks his ‘new knowledge’ is more important than his Masonic oath. The Danish newspaper quotes him (again in Google translation) saying: “I believe that it is important to inform that the Vikings’ old rituals live on in the Masonic Lodge. This is new knowledge, and I think that people in Scandinavia have a right to know.”
Of course the theory is not entirely new. The Dutch author Farwerck already posed similar theories over half a century ago and I have been repeating Farwerck’s theories for a while as well.
The Danish newspaper does not shed a whole lot of light on Ystad’s theories. Again in a Google translation (I edited it a a bit though) quote Ystad says: “Danish and Norwegian Vikings took their religion, customs and laws with them when they settled in England and Scotland. They had initiation rituals to the gods Odin, Thor and Freya. My theory is that these rituals were transformed so that they could be used in the lodge. They took out the gods, but otherwise there is little change”.
With regards to Ystad theories, the article only mentions “two coincidences”.
When the sons of Vikings are to be included in the clan (family), he got a leather shoe on the right foot.
– At the reception to the first degree of the Masonic Lodge, the future Freemason wears a slipper on his right foot.
At the inauguration, the future Mason goes around a so-called ‘working blanket’ [‘tracing board’] three times and then steps over it three times. According to Arvid Ystad, a similar ritual took place when young men in Viking times were to be dedicated to Freja.
After a death, the body was often burned and the remains, which was considered to be sacred, were stored in a coffin.
– The young man had to go three times around the coffin and then step over it three times, says the Norwegian.
I have found another newspaper article with some more details.
A Norwegian newspaper introduces the author with the following text (Google translation):
When we know that modern Freemasonry appeared publicly in England and Scotland at the beginning of the 1700s, can these origins have been the old Norse religion as Norwegian and Danish Vikings in its heyday brought to the islands to the west (current UK and Ireland)? Although the population of this area in the clean exterior was christened during a couple hundred years ago, the Norse rites and performances have remained very much alive in the centuries that followed. Such knowledge can help explain a number of features of today Masonic rituals that are otherwise totally incomprehensible.
Instead of a shoe and a coffin (alright, they are in this article too), the Norwegian newspaper speaks about pillars:
An important symbol of the Freemasons are also the pillars we today think of as Solomon Pillars. They can actually be a symbolic continuation of the Norse his pillars which settlers in the sagas considered sacred and threw overboard as they approached the island nation in the West.
Or what about:
There was also an ancient pagan custom to take a child who was adopted or taken up by the seed out of a folded leather symbolizing a uterus. This may have its parallel in the bosom of the leather worn by today’s Freemasons. Womb Appearances are then symbolize a uterus, allowing mason by recording the movement are “born again.”
Masonic penalties are explained as continuations of Viking human sacrifice and elements of Stave-churches have been preserved in Masonic temples.
The Danish article says that Ystad is a 10th degree Freemason “and has thus achieved one of the highest stages”. There are Rites with 33 degrees, some even go up to 95. The article lists the 12 degrees of Danish Freemasonry. This reminds of the 11 degrees of the Swedish Rite which is common in Scandinavia. It is a very Christian Rite and members are only admitted when they are Christians. This may explain the apparent controversy concerning Ystad’s theory within his own ranks.
I would certainly like to read the book to find out if Ystad discovered anything that Farwerck did not. Hopefully the book will be better available in the future and even more hopefully, it will be translated into a language that I can actually read. It is good to see that there are other people interested in this line of investigation.
- The book on the website of the publisher Pax;
- The article in the Danish “Ekstra Bladet“;
- A Google translation of the Danish article;
- The article in the Norwegian newspaper VG;
- A Google translation of the Norwegian article.
The German newspaper Bild also published an article, but it needs a subscription to read.