Category Archives: asatru / heathen

The Odin Brotherhood – Mark Mirabello (2014)

Amazon.com

When I ordered the book I knew it was controversial. I was curious! The Odin Brotherhood is a secret society of highly developed people naturally adhering the ancient religion of Northern Europe.

The book was originally published in 1992.

Mirabello keeps stressing that he is not a member, let alone a representative, but that I got acquainted with the brotherhood during his scholarly investigations into secret societies. He keeps stressing his objective / scholarly approach. Mirabello supposedly interviewed members of the brotherhood. The interviews are worked into a Q&A which fill the first part of the book.

I find the Q&A quite annoying. Mirabello asks questions to a know-it-all who uses interesting-sounding words and names and keeps referring to “legend”. The Poetic Edda is called Edaic verses. A rite which “in the legends” is called “sojourn-of-the-brave” begins with “the-meeting-of-dreams”. The latter, by-the-way, is a vision in which somebody know (s)he is called to join the brotherhood after which a self-initiation takes place.

The brotherhood, quite like the “unknown superiors” of some esoteric societies, are just men and women with normal lives, but whom also work for the benefit of mankind.

The book has some unusual takes on elements of heathen ‘lore’. Sometimes an interesting light on some text or God(dess), but also ideas that appeal to me less.

After the interview the book continues with a completely unnecessary part about secret societies, mostly violent ones. I fail to see how this helps to put the Odin Brotherhood in good light. At the end the author added some sort of essay which in style and wording reminds a lot of the interview.

A strange little book that is even less interesting than I expected.

2014 Mandrake, isbn 1906958637

Heidens Jaarboek 13 (2019)

NederlandsHeidendom.net

“Yearbook” became a relative term, since the previous edition was published in 2015, but better quality than speed, right?

As we got used to, the Heathen Yearbook is a well printed book of a descent size (134 pages) for a low price (below € 10,-) with a variety of texts.

The book opens with a text about the wolf that has returned to the Netherlands. The history of sightings and settling.

Gerard wrote about the ancient symbol of the zigzag line which can be found on the oldest of archaeological findings, in many cultures and is still in use. Being a symbol for water it became a symbol for the sky (where the rain / water comes from) and lightning (accompanying the rain). The line with variations is followed through time.

By and far the longest text is by Boppo Grimmsma who wrote about the Frisian God Thuner and in extenso Thor / Donar. There are Frisian sceattas (very small, silver coins) with a face on it that most investigators call “Wodan”. Grimmsma argues that this is actually Thuner. He has several arguments for his assumption. First he shows that the coins are made in Frisia and not in Denmark and shows how the time in which the coins are made, make it likely that a ‘defence against Christianity’ statement would be made. Then we get lengthy investigations of Thor / Donar to prove that the head is indeed not that of Odin / Wodan. Grimmsma uses recent publications and findings which makes that his text brings you up-to-date with Thor investigations with, of course, stress on his Frisian counterpart.

After this follows a book review, translated parts of De Vries’ Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte, which are about the sacred (“hailag”) and related topics, three of the stories from the Midwinter story contest and there are three poems by Hella.

Cheap, varied, with limited availability and (of course) in Dutch. Do not wait too long to get your copy. Click on the cover for more information.

2019 Nederlands Heidendom

Heidense Heiligdommen – Judith Schuyf (2019)

nl.Bol.com

In 1995 Schuyf published the little book Heidens Nederland (‘heathen Netherlands’) with as subtitle Zichtbare overblijfselen van een niet-christelijk verleden (‘Visible remains of a non-christian past’). I do not remember with certainty how I found that book. Did I hear from it and look it up or did I just run into it? My memory claims option two.

Schuyf writes about a variety of subjects, but history, prehistory and Medieval archeology are what she studied in her days. That she did not loose her interest in this particular subject proved about a decade ago when she was invited to speak for a Dutch heathen group and she accepted. She would return and mentioned that she was working on a reworked version of the book.

The new title is Heidense Heiligdommen (‘Heathen sanctuaries’) and the subtitle Zichtbare sporen van een verloren verleden (‘Visible remains of a lost past’). The new book was made available last May.

As in the first book, there is a long introduction to the subject. What do we know about the prechristian religion of these parts, what happened when Christianity came, what remains do we have? Concerning the latter, Schuyf mostly focusses on scenic remains, but often connected to cultural remains.

In the Netherlands not too much was created in buildings or writings, before the Romans came and around the same time, Christianity started to spread to the region too. Much of what is described are actually things that remained in (early) Christian times. Fertility usuages became processions, a sacred well was dedicated to a saint, thanks for a healing moved inside chapels and churches. Many of these heathen remains were only wiped out during the Reformation.

So here we have a book with places that are (either or not correctly) seen as ancient places of offering, such as well, (artificial) hills, deepenings, etc. Strange Christian habbits are explained in a prechristian context such as scrapings of church-walls to provide powder to heal.

Schuyf mostly tries to asses the validity of the claims to antiquity for which she uses a variety of sources. These include very recent investigations and publications, so the reader will be quite up-to-date with the state of investigations after reading this book.

The book mentions dozens and dozens of places that are worth a visit, but just as in the previous book, the directions are seldom specific enough to just use this book as ‘heathen tourist guide’. There are many (colour) photos that help.

To close off, Schuyf mentions several cases of ‘invented traditions’ showing that just one mention of some author about a supposed history of a place does not automatically mean that this is so. Judging the impressive bibliography the author did her best to prove or debunk claims as best as possible.

The book could have used an index of places and findings and as you can see above, many of the subjects in the book are ‘folk-Christian’ rather than ‘purely heathen’. This is mostly likely is the largest collection of such traces of a lost past and it includes things that I had not yet heard of, so the interested reader can find out that there are many places of interest in the Netherlands too.

2019 Omniboek, isbn 9789401914338 

The Trickster And The Thundergod – Maria Kvilhaug (2018)

Amazon.com

Without knowing I bought the companion to, or second part of, The Poetic Edda. In both books Kvilhaug made her own translations of the famous texts. In the previous book “Six Cosmology Poems”, the current title is (obviously) about Loki and Thor.

The texts are from the Gylfaginning, Skaldskaparmál, Haustlöng, Harbarðsljód, Þrimskviða and Þhórsdrápa.

As in the previous book, Kvilhaug translates most names, sometimes her translations in general are different from what you are used to, but what I really appreciate is that in the notes you can often see the reason of the particular translation and often Kvilhaug notes the subtleties of the original words. I would have preferred to keep the Original names and give translations in the notes, but that is just a choice the translator

The Trickster and the Thundergod makes a nice read. Of course you will probably know all the texts, but a critical translation could very well raise some thoughts.

2018 CreateSpace, isbn 1983994650

Nightside Of The Runes – Thomas Karlsson (2019)

Amazon.com

Karlsson’s books have the habit of going out of print and becoming very expensive. His first book from 2002 Uthark, Nightside Of The Runes is one such work. The German translation Uthark, Schattenreich der Runen from 2004 is more affordable, but it appears that the author wanted to make the English text available again. This makes the first part of this book.

The second part is Karlsson’s book about Johannes Bureus which has been published in Swedish (2005), German (2007) and Italian (2007). Now finally, this book has been made available for people who do not master these languages. That also means that this is the most extensive information available about Bureus in English.

“Uthark” refers to the theories of Sigurd Agrell (1881-1937) who theorized that there was an exoteric and an esoteric rune row. The first stats with the F-rune, in the second, this F-rune is placed at the end. To this he connected numerological and esoteric explanations that Karlsson finds convincing enough to create a magical handbook based on the system. This has a bit too much of a ‘Flowers-feeling’ to me.

Then we continue to the part about Bureus, his “Adulruna” and “Gothicism” before and after Bureus. I have spoken about that in my review of the German translation of the book.

Karlsson’s latest makes a nice read. There is a bit too much of Runegild / Dragon Rouge contemporary magic in it for my liking, but it is great that there is finally descent information in English on the esoteric rune systems of two little-known Swedes. Also Karlsson shows Bureus’ path as an individual path of progress and describes the initiatory system of the Manhemsförbundet, so you get ‘old an new’ practical Runosophy.

2019 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620557746

Doors Of Valhalla – Vincent Ongkowidjojo (2017)

Amazon.com

I found this book because it has an introduction by Maria Kvilhaug (a title of herself I have yet to read). The author does not have a very Norse-sounding name and yet it did not ring a bell. This is even more strange, because the author seems to live not too far from where I live, just across the Belgian border.

The book is subtitled “an esoteric interpretation of Norse myth” and it is soon clear that this ‘esoteric leaning’ is a Theosophical one. This brings the book in line with The Masks of Odin and Between Wodan and Widar the latter being a more Anthroposophical (and better!) interpretation.

Initially Ongkowidjojo’s book appears to have the flaws of Titchenell’s, being too easy with his sources. He names Frigg a Vane for example and drops names that do not ring a bell and cannot even be found in Simek, even though this is one of the sources.
It is also obvious that the author knows his sources and has an eye for detail. Perhaps for forgets to double check sometimes.
Besides Theosophy there is also a thick layer of psychology in the book and the author uses magical sources such as the books of Aleister Crowley.

As expected, Ongkowidjojo’s approach is not mine. This does not matter though, because, as with Between Wodan and Widar the sometimes radically different interpretation forces me to look at things another way. What is more, the author makes his own translations (having an appendix with both the old texts and his translations) which are sometimes so different that I found myself checking other books, which is a positive thing.

On to the book. Maria Kvilhaug opens with an interesting text about the worlds (“Heimr”). As in her own book that I reviewed earlier, I do not always agree (but more often than with Ongkowidjojo I do), but also here this does not really matter. This introduction certainly worth reading.
As with Thorsson’s Nine Doors of Midgard, Ongkowidjojo names his chapters “doors”. There are parts about a range of worlds, going over in texts about seven “rays”, an apparently Theosophical concept that he does not really explain.
Then follows a more psychological part, different ages, different functions of Gods, “an exegesis of Voluspa” (a similar approach to Taunton) and the Lokasenna, a comparison between myths about Thor and those about Hercules and more.

Yes, this is quite a book. Almost 530 pages, densely packed with information, theories and thoughts. The author refers to many other authors, ranging from Theosophical, to more scholarly authors and even Farwerck (extra points!). This brings a potpourri different approaches, but Ongkowidjojo seems to have found his own red thread.

Unfortunately he is very loose with his sources. There are no notes or clear references, in spite of the impressive (but chaotic) bibliography. “The Bailey texts” is an example of the way the author refers to his sources. This is pretty annoying, especially when I am unsure if his reference is actually correct.

Theories and ideas that are sometime thought-provoking, but which sometimes elude me, alternated with meditation or magical exercises and a wide range of subjects more or less having to do with Northern mythology. Indeed, this is not my ‘usual literature’. The book was a sometimes tiring read, sometimes very enjoyable. It certainly gave me a few things to ponder about.

2017 Mandrake, isbn 1906958726

The Nine Doors Of Midgard – Edred Thorsson (2016)

I have mixed feelings about the writings of Stephen Flowers / Edred Thorsson. Often they are wildly interesting. The subjects he finds and the way he works them out. At other times they are mildly interesting. The latter ‘category’ usually includes Thorsson’s ‘system’ and working for his Rune-Gild organisation.

The Nine Doors Of Midgard is a book that you have to work through and report on when you want to join the Rune-Gild. I guessed it would say a lot about the Rune-Gild system, symbolism, etc. and it sure does! The Nine Doors have been revised a couple of times and if I am not mistaken, the 2016 edition is the last one. The “doors” refer to sets of practices and exercises. These often involve meditation and visualization exercises, chanting, runic postures and the like. The book is supposed to form a path to allow the practitioner first to be able to join the organisation (after two or three doors) and later expand his/her magical abilities. The exercises mostly have to be performed for many days, which makes a period of several years to work through the entire book. The Rune-Gild certainly is for people with perseverance only!

As I know from other practical books of Thorsson that I read, his system is not for me. Pretty soon after starting the book, I started to quickly read through the exercises and see if the more theoretical parts would be of more interest. Here and there they are, but also in these parts, Thorsson is often not my kind of thinker.

Obviously the Rune-Gild is not for me, nor is Thorsson as an esoteric author. I guess I better stick to his more scholarly works. That said, if you are curious what the Rune-Gild is all about or are you in general interested in an esoteric take on the Norse way, just get yourself a copy of this book and see what you think of it. Should you enjoy the book, there are references to many, many other books to study next.

2016 Rune-Gild, isbn 9780971204485

Schamanismus Bei Den Germanen – Thomas Höffgen (2017)

I thought I heard of this book, but its publication is so recent (March 2017) that I doubt that it was this book. Its publisher also (re)published the Heidnische Jahrbücher (which are sold out), but there have been none since 2012, so that is not where I can have heard about the current title.

So, ‘Shamanism with the Teutons’. There is something that you hear about every now and then. According to the author, the subject has never been really well investigated and he aims at filling that gap. I am afraid I have to say that, in my opinion, he does so unconvincingly.

In the first pages of the book, the author says that the term “Shaman” is explained so generally, that much can fall under it. That is exactly my feeling about this book. Sure, Odin rides a horse, but is he therefor a shaman (and Sleipnir a drum)? Certainly, Berzerkr wear bear-skins, but does that make them shamans? I do not argue that when you list them all, quite a couple of elements of the Norse religion can be linked to shamanism, but I fail to see the use to do that as indiscriminately as the author does.

Völvas, people performing Utiseti (‘sitting outside’) or healing (wo)man undoubtedly have shaman elements or could be seen as shamans when you use that as a general term, but is an Ulfheðnar a shaman because he wears a wolf-skin and perhaps ate mushrooms before going to fight? Are their battles, ‘battles of the spirit’ then? And why make shamans of all the Gods, when a shaman is actually (at least in my opinion) a human being reaching for the world above? Why would a God need to be a shaman?

Höffgen mentions many of the known examples of drawings and references that we find in other books, only that he uses them to prove shamanism while author authors use them for other argumentations. This collecting of information does give the book some merit though. The author is a bit limited in sources. The name “De Vries” is mentioned once, but Jan de Vries is not in the bibliography. I also miss other authors in the field, even other authors that wrote in the German language.

An author that Höffgen does mention is Otto Höffler and his Kultische Geheimbünde der Germanen (‘Cultic secret societies of the Germans’) and this is the only occasion on which he presents another way of looking at the same information. Höffler wrote about esoteric initiation bonds rather than shamans. The two use (as I said) the same examples.

Shamanismus Bei Den Germanen is a little book (140 pages) that makes an alright read and there is not too much contemporary literature of this kind, but I simply cannot follow the author seeing shamanism in every animal cloth or possible reference to hallucinates.

2017 Edition Roter Drache, isbn 3946425208

Icelandic Magic – Stephen Flowers (2018)

Almost three decades after the first edition of his Galdrabók Flowers comes with a follow-up. That book ran out of print rapidly and became wildly expensive. A later reprint (that I reviewed) was pretty expensive as well, but later on the book was again reprinted and it is now well available and affordable. There is also an English and Icelandic edition.

Just as in his Galdrabók, Flowers mostly fills the pages of this new book with introductory information. This again is interesting. Flowers made me feel sorry for not having had the time to visit Strandagaldur, the museum of witchcraft and sorcery when I was in Iceland. The fact that this museum exists proves Flowers’ point that Galdrabekur (‘magic books’) have remained popular in Iceland for a very long time. They were influenced by similar books from the continent, from which many spells were taken, survived the coming of Christianity and (even though less popular) the Reformation. Practitioners copied books, added their own spells and sigils and thus created their own books. Quite a couple of them have found their way to the National Museum of Iceland where Flowers studied them.

In his lengthy introduction the author sketches the history of the books, gives an idea of the lives of some magicians (many Christians!), says a few things about the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ versions and towards the end has a “grey book” part with spells and signs. Flowers wanted to create a practical book of magic, so he explains how the sigils are built up, how you can use them and how you create your own. At the end some pages are left blank so you can add your own workings and create your very own “grey book” just as the Icelandic magicians did in the past (and present).

The introduction is again interesting. The “grey book” part does not contain many interesting or useful things (in my opinion), but in the appendices Flowers has Furtharks with short explanations, but also a couple of magical alphabets with rune-like symbols with their corresponding letters and explanations which could be a handy reference to decipher symbols or writings that are not (obviously) made of runes.

The author says that Icelandic magic is the easiest form of magic. It does not need elaborate preparations and lengthy texts. All spells and sign have been ‘tested’ and he encourages his readers to try them out. Having read the book, I do not really feel to the need to ‘leave the armchair’ though. The proposed workings do not at all appeal to me.

Each to his/her own! Flowers made a nice addition to an old publication shedding light on a curious part of Icelandic history.

2018 Inner Traditions, isbn 1620554054

Asatru – Henning Andreas Klövekorn (2013)

I actually do not know how it comes that it took me almost two years to get Klövekorn’s other book. Previously I reviewed his book about Freemasonry.

Like the later edition of the Freemasonry book, Asatru is available as a cheap print-on-demand book. The author surely does not want hindrances for people to obtain his writings.

Besides being a Freemason, Klövekorn is ‘Asatruar’, a “gothi” even. The author was born in Germany, lived in South Africa, but I think it was in Australia (where he still lives) that he started to pursue the path of Asatru. The little book of 226 pages makes a somewhat shallow introduction into the subject. As there are not many writings of contemporary heathens, this is good for people who are looking for first info, but less so for people who hoped for more in depth insides.

There are quite a couple of negative things to say about the book. Klövekorn uses the term “Asatru” as a very general term but I do not know if a new reader will know it is but an umbrella term. What always stings me a bit, is that Klövekorn uses the same term to refer to the religion of old. So people who lived centuries back, were also “Asatruars” while the term is only a few decades old. Even Stonehenge is an Asatru monument to Klövekorn, so the generalisation also crosses cultures.

Then there is the fact that the author is very loose with his retellings of myths and sagas. Odin made his spear Gungir himself from a branch of Yggdrasil. Eh? Also Odin was blown into the same tree by a strong wind and hung there for nine days head-down. Eh?
Oftentimes I have the idea that Klövekorn wrote the book by heart without cross-checking too much.

There is also an ‘American lean’. The author names Asatru festive days which includes commemorations of ‘heroes’. I know this happens in the USA, but I have never heard any group from Europe doing that.

Klövekorn seems to like to show himself too. There is a “Klövekorn rune alphabet” and there are “Klövekorn Asatru rituals” which include a poem of himself. Especially with the futhark that feels a bit weird. A few ritualistic guidelines may be helpful for people who are new to the field, so this is a good inclusion. I do not see any obvious Masonic influences in the rituals by the way.

My last remark, and then I will stop complaining, is that, just as in the other book, there are many typos, spelling errors and general miswritings. Here and there Klövekorn wants to show his German roots by, for example, naming Charlemagne “Karl der Grosse”, but there are also German words contain typos (and why not just write “Karl der Große”, but both spellings are correct, so…).

My hope was that the author would say something about the practicing of a ‘Northern hemisphere religion’ on the Southern hemisphere, but that is not the case. It looks like that Klövekorn” as his group practices Yule in the middle of summer, december, sticking to the ‘original dates’.

Be all that as it may. With a bit of a critical view, here at least we have a contemporary book on heathenry from a practicing Asatruar. There are too few of these. It is cheap, easy to get from Amazon, available for ereaders and makes a nice read. Just be sure it is not the only book on the subject you read.

2013 CreateSpace, isbn 1481947737