The Gaia during sea trials, as depicted on a "Vinland Revisited" brochure
Revisits the Aesir
A VINLAND KINDRED SPECIAL REPORT BY THOR SANNHET ABOUT THE KINDRED'S "VINLAND REVISITED" EXPERIENCES AT NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, AT THE SOUTH STREET SEAPORT IN MANHATTAN, AND WITH THE NEW YORK LEIF ERIKSON SOCIETY ON LEIFUR EIRIKSSON DAY
Sannhet (center) Thorgeir (right) in re-enactment regalia
William B. Fox
Originally published in
Winter, (Runic Era) 2241 (1991) Vor Tru Magazine
under pen name "Thor Sannhet"
(2009 note: certain cited addresses may no longer be current)
"Every Nordic heart that is right with Odin
is a missionary
Every Nordic heart without the Aesir
Is a mission field" (T. Sannhet)
Bright and early on the morning of Friday, 20 September 1991 Oak Thorgeir and I drove up to Newport, Rhode Island to catch the three Viking ships just as they came into Narragansett Bay. Although the ships used their sails on the open seas, they resorted to motor power to make it into port.
I had called the director of the Newport "re-enactment" events in advance to receive his permission to participate in our Viking regalia at Fort Adams Park where the three ships would be docked. Interestingly enough, there were about eight people who had set up tepees and wigwams who provided an Indian reenactment, many of whom were of shared Northern European descent. There were over twenty people who belonged to the Artillery Company of Newport who were dressed in Minuteman attire, to include the crew for two firing Revolutionary War era cannon and a gaily dressed drum and fife detachment.
And what did they have for Vikings? The answer was: close to zero. One individual with the Artillery Company was dressed in a white shirt overlaid with a maroon poncho and also wore brown trousers. He sported an earring in his right ear, a curl-down moustache, and swaggered about with a sword strapped to his back that had a ten inch tang (similar to a non-Viking late medieval English sword pictured in the Museum Replicas catalog). Another individual wore a light brown sack cloth shirt, a light brown garrison cap (Polish Army war surplus?), and walked around barefoot. Neither of them had ever read a saga or heard of the Poetic Edda. Nevertheless, this was Newport's contribution to Vikingdom after the Indians and Colonials had been well taken care of.
Interestingly enough, none of the "Vinland Revisited" crew members ever wore Viking attire, but instead dressed in blue jeans with brown or maroon water resistant fabric tunics.
When they were scheduled to be publicly available to show the boats. in Newport and Manhattan, there were usually at most only one or two people present by the dock. Later in New York City, the crew members posted to meet the public handed out a brochure titled "Declaration of a New Global Agenda" distributed by World City Discovery in cooperation with the Worldwatch Institute. Under the section marked "New Priorities" the brochure said, "A commitment to the long-term improvement in the human condition is contingent upon substituting environmental sustainability for growth as the overriding goal of national economic policymaking and international development."
The total lack of any serious Viking re-enactment competition worked to the advantage of Oak and myself not only in Newport, but also later on in Manhattan. Oak donned his steel helmet made by Kirby Wise that is an authentic replica of a helmet extricated from a Viking grave. He carried a round wood shield, complete with an authentic center boss and a runic alphabet arranged around its edge. He wore his Franklin Mint Viking dagger on his belt. I donned a conical helmet with a nose guard over a woolen hood, carried an eight foot spear shaft fitted with the "Gungnir blade of Odin" (as advertised by Museum Replicas, Ltd), and attached my battle ax and blowing horn to my belt. Our Vinland Kindred banner was tied to my spear. Both Oak and I wore authentic tunics (mailed to us by Susan Darling of the Arizona Kindred just in the nick of time), capes, and shoes. Our Thor's hammers hung around our necks in clear sight.
Shortly after the Viking ships docked, Ragnar Thorseth, the Viking fleet commander, and Knut Kloster, the main financier, made short speeches in Fort Adams Park. "Vinland Revisited" was sponsored in two thirds by the Norwegian ship owner Knut Kloster and his World City Discovery organization and was one third sponsored by the Norwegian and Icelandic governments. The project also involved the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a documentary unit.
The moment Oak and I approached the crowd, heads everywhere turned. "Gee, Mommy, look! Real Vikings!" dozens of little voices chimed. Suddenly we were surrounded by school children. Everyone, including adults, wanted their picture taken standing beside us.
The Newport Artillery "Vikings" turned green with envy. Later the "Viking" with the earring said to Oak in private, "See here, there are would be Vikings, and then there are wannabees!" and walked off in a huff. He felt privileged because he held a Newport Artillery identification card and had stood around for twenty minutes behind Ragnar Thorseth and his crew when they went up to the Indian re-enactment wigwams in their blue jeans and sat down in front of the "Indians" and engaged in friendly chit-chat to provide something for newsmen to capture on video and film. This was the only "re-enactment" I saw by the crew in Newport before most of them disappeared on liberty. (They also spent most of their time in Boston and in New York City on liberty as well).
Although the envy of the Newport Artillery ':Viking" certainly did nothing to cause the public to make us the center of attention, school children begged us to autograph their little wooden swords and answer questions about the Viking ships for their school projects. We were happy to do all of this, and included runic symbols with our "Viking name" autographs along with other elements of Viking culture that were probably omitted in their curriculum. None of the adults or children had ever heard of the Scandinavian or Germanic Futharks or were aware that over 3,000 runic inscriptions have survived on stone monuments throughout Sweden.
The big question: would we get to crew? In the back of my mind was a scene from the BBC documentary segment "Bolt From the Blue" of the Viking series narrated by the Icelandic scholar Magnus Magnusson. One scene showed a long dragon ship, just completed by expert craftsmen, that received a good whack of a champagne bottle before slowly sliding down a ramp into a fjord. A high school band complete with beautiful blond female musicians played the Norwegian national anthem, "Ja Vi Elske". (Yes We Love [this land]).
Next scene: Magnusson was tugging at the oars in unison with the rest of the crew, saying excitedly as he looked into the camera, words to the effect of, "Nothing can match the exhilaration of rowing one of these craft at a fast clip out to sea ... These ships were the marvel of their age. Fast, sleek, powerful --they could take Viking warriors anywhere with surprise and speed, from ocean bays to small rivers. They were unparalleled anywhere."
The Viking ships were actually faster than most tall ships up until the clipper age. The Vinland Revisited ships averaged over nine knots during their voyage. Magnus Magnusson once referred to the sleek and aesthetic dragon ship designs as "poems carved in wood." Magnusson's exhilaration is also echoed in Kirby Wise's stirring song Ode to the Warrior on his Hammersong I cassette (available through World Tree Publications, c/o Vor Tru, Box 961, Payson, AZ 85547), that begins with the words:
Far Flung Breakers
Spray Your Faces
Hoist the Sails! ... On to Sea
Hail to Odin!
Gird Your Armor
And Be Free ... "
The only person who could help us was Captain Ragnar Thorseth, portrayed as a "modern Viking" by the Norwegian press. In the summer of 1969 he rowed across the North Sea in a small boat. Two years later he made a 6,000 nautical mile tour completely around the arctic. In 1975 he traveled the route of Lief Eiriksson in a 31 foot motorboat, starting from Norway and passing by Iceland and Greenland before ending up in New York. He also sailed around the world in the replica Viking ship Saga Siglar, spent a winter in an ice-bound boat with his wife and two sons north of the Arctic Circle, and has written a number of books to describe his adventures. Perhaps he had the power to give us a break and let us crew?
When Oak walked up to Ragnar Thorseth, his red cape flew in the wind and his steel helmet was cradled in his left arm. As he introduced himself, he whipped out the introductory letter signed by Valgard Murray designating him as the official Asatru Alliance representative. Somewhere in his introductory remarks he mentioned that we would be happy to conduct a blot for the crew.
I walked up beside Oak, and being a bit taller than Ragnar, studiously looked down on him. Ragnar looked up, then down, then back and forth, and then responded to Oak's overture, saying that he would welcome us on board the ships later, and that the Asatru sounded real interesting and he would like to talk about it more, but was too pressed for time to discuss it further then and there.
Earlier I had written an introductory letter to a representative of Knut Kloster's World City Discovery Organization, Hal Brooks. Unfortunately Brooks left the organization without passing the letter on to the key organizer, Knut Rogstad, or to the World City head, Knut Kloster. After a long delay, I got more aggressive and tracked down Knut Rogstad by telephone in his hotel room where he was staying in Boston. I offered him the idea of an Asatru-related story that could possibly be run by a major Scandinavian-American publication. I could tell from his polite response that this story concept did not fit his major media goals in North America. According to him, it would be tough to get on board unless" we represented someone like National Geographic. The Vinland Revisited project already had a documentary crew on board, and the attitude was "we have all the publicity we need."
As expected from my conversation with Rogstad, Oak learned after he boarded the support ship Havella the following day and spoke with Thorseth that we would not be able to crew. We were allowed, however, to board the Oseberg while it was docked at Newport. We got some great photos of each other manning the helm with the beautiful tail of the ship rising and spiraling in the background.
Oak Thorgeir at the helm
Once I got a close look at the ships, I began to wonder how we could have really assisted anyway even if we had been permitted to crew. Although the ships in the old days averaged around thirty crew members apiece, these ships were well staffed with only ten crew members each. Each ship had wooden cabins that occupied about fifteen feet fore and aft of the mast for crew quarters. Although the ships did in fact have oar holes sealed with wooden plugs that extended most of the length of each vessel, the cabins occupied about sixty percent of the spaces where the rowing benches would have been kept in the old days. In addition, there appeared to be no need for extra crew members to handle the sails. A Gotland picture stone from the Viking Age shows seven people holding on to ropes from a sail, perhaps to tighten it while close-hauling towards the wind, but tricky tacking maneuvers appeared unnecessary on this voyage. Each boat had an outboard motor inserted through the hull about ten feet forward of the helmsman's post in the stern.
The media "angle" behind each phase of the project is worth delving into, because arguably the whole event was intended from its inception as a media show. The interpretation that our national media gives to significant events comments upon our society's values and priorities. After watching a short video about the voyage that played at the Fort Adams museum Viking exhibit, I got the feeling that the ancestral heritage overtones that we desired were present in some degree in Norway and Iceland and in the Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe Islands. In these fairly homogeneous Nordic lands, there was some reinstatement of ancient symbols and talk about the greatness of our brave and honorable ancestors. In the British Isles, a local Viking ship replica accompanied the voyagers for a short stretch. In Iceland, President Vigdis Finnbogadottir took melted glacier water and splashed it upon Ragnar's ship during a re-registration and renaming ceremony. The Norwegian ship Gokstad became the Icelandic ship Gaia, named for the Greek Goddess of Earth. Not a Nordic name like Gokstad, but still it was a name that was within the Indo-European ball park. The name choice certainly had the ecological "spin" promoted by the Worldwatch Institute.
We were personally more attuned to the type of ecology promoted by Thorsteinn Gudjonsson, editor of Huginn & Muninn [Editor's 2009 note: no longer published], whose works related to astrobiology connect Asgard to our people here on earth. His Njall philosophy is concerned with disruptions in the cosmic balance created by alien intrusions against our religion, people, culture, and sacred lands. Because of our low fertility rate, the Nordic peoples are dying off. We should be as concerned about saving ourselves as saving the whales. The ravens Huginn and Muninn of our Allfather see our plight and warn us. The Asatruarmen of Iceland have described to us "morphogenetic fields" emanating from the dragon ship graves of our ancestors. These spiritual vibrations cry their warning for us to awake. The Asatruarmen seek to unite with us from across the ocean through spiritual telepathy and every other means at their disposal. According to the July 91/No. 17 issue of Huginn & Muninn, "On June 20th there was a Special Blot, led by Sveinbjorn [Beinteinsson] in the Fjorukrain restaurant in Hafnarfjordur, to celebrate the Vinland Revisited project. About 10 of the sailors attended and 30 other people." This was an important step towards achieving a healthy balance in Nordic spiritual ecology.
Another strong "positive" besides the Asatru ceremonies that accompanied the Vinland Revisited trip was the publication of a book by the Norwegian historian Rare Prytz titled Westward Before Columbus. I bought a paperback copy at the Viking exhibit that had been set up at the Fort Adams museum in Newport. This book is such a treasure chest of knowledge that it is worth a mini-review in this report. Published for the first time this year by Norsk Maritimt Forlag A/S, P.O. Box A, Byugdoy, Oslo 2, Norway, it is distributed in an English paperback version ($14.95) by Norumbega Books, 261 Newtown Tpke, P.O. Box 1267, Weston, CT 06833. [Editor's 2009 note: I have no idea if this address is still current].
Kare Prytz argues that Leif Eiriksson's most likely Vinland site was along the Charles River in Boston, probably somewhere between present day Cambridge and Watertown where the high tide backwash up the Charles once ended and created the best site for a fish trap mentioned in the sagas and later rediscovered or built anew by English colonists.
According to Prytz, virtually every saga detail of Leif's approach from the Atlantic to his river site and his Vinland camp surroundings, to include the grapes that were the basis of the "Vinland" name, were repeated in the book New England's Prospect that was published in 1634 by an Englishman named William Wood. Apparently the similarities have been known for some time in very limited circles. According to Prytz, in the 19th century, an amateur scientist named Norton Horsford erected a tower called the "Norumbega Tower" that still stands by the Charles to mark the place where Leif went ashore.
Today a dam that is also the site of the Museum of Science and Hayden Planetarium stands at the head of the Charles and prevents any tidal backwash. There was once a rather large lake near the head of the Charles just like the one mentioned in the saga literature, except that much of it has been filled in by the northwestward expansion of the city of Boston. The Charles still widens considerably near the dam. In the Cambridge area, Harvard College occupies the north bank, and the Harvard Business School and Harvard Stadium occupy the south side. Too bad there was no tourist literature or other means to make me aware of the existence or identity of the Norumbega Tower when I frequently jogged the bike path that makes a very scenic loop run on both sides of the Charles River from Cambridge to Watertown during my graduate school days.
What about the Rhode Island site by Narragansett Bay that was the subject of the "Vinland Found" article in the October 1988 issue of the Sons of Norway Viking Magazine? (Back issues are available via Sons of Norway, 1455 West Lake St., Minneapolis, MN 55408) Prytz's answer is undoubtedly, "also correct", but not for Leif's first camp in Vinland. On Saturday afternoon, before we left Newport, I spoke with a professional astronomer who is working on a research grant to study the Stone Tower in the area (he relates archaeological monuments to possible star-tracking uses, much like the scientists who have decoded Stonehenge). He feels, along with Dr. William Penhallow, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rhode Island, that the evidence now strongly supports the hypothesis that the Stone Tower was built by the Norsemen. According to him, there are runic inscriptions inside the tower, and it is very similar in size and construction to the octagonal tower built in 1160 that stands in front of the Benedictine monastery of St. Bravo in Ghent, Belgium (Prytz, page 208). Other similar structures were built in the Middle Ages in Cambridge, England and in Tonsberg, Norway.
According to Prytz, Dr. Hugo Frolen, a Swedish church expert, wrote that the Newport mystery tower is without a doubt the inner rotunda of a large and correctly constructed round church. It was mentioned by the founder of Newport, Sir Edwin Plowden, in a letter written in 1630 to King Charles of England that cited 29 reasons for founding an English colony in the area. He found the tower before there were ever enough Englishmen in the area to have either the motivation or labor force to build such a large stone structure, complete with arches between its support legs. I mentioned to the astronomer that if in fact this was the site of of a church, perhaps researchers could take earth soundings in the park surrounding this tower in order to possibly detect church yard bodies that can be carbon-dated.
According to Prytz, the Greenlanders were heavily involved with hunting, trapping, and lumbering in North America up until the 1400's. A number of types of wood only found in Canada and the northern U.S. are currently found among craftsmen's works in Europe that were fashioned in the 1200 to 1400 period. Some survive in the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway to this day. One type of wood includes the "Norway Pine", a hardwood that apparently got its name in Europe before Columbus. It only grows in the northern U.S. and southern Canada and not in Europe. Interestingly enough, it is now the state tree of one of America's most Nordic states, Minnesota.
Inventory lists that have survived for the harbor of Bergen, Norway from the Middle Ages record shipments from Greenland of skins of marmot, otter, beaver, wolverine, sable, and black bear. These animals are not found in Greenland and are only found in North America (Prytz, page 55).
According to Prytz, in addition to the firmly established L' Anse-aux-Meadows site in Newfoundland, Canadian and American archaeologists have found evidence of permanent Norse settlement sites at Ungava Bay at the mouth of the Hudson, just west of south Greenland, and along the Penobscot River in Maine. The other major site beside Newport, as mentioned, was the Boston area. "Manuscripts and maps of the French explorer, Allefonse, in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, note that houses were in existence in the Boston area when he arrived in 1543. But the people who had occupied them, were gone," says Prytz on page 56.
The map evidence for pre-Columbus Vinland activity is also impressive. On page 81 Prytz talks about a map kept at the University of Parma in Italy that dates from the reign of Pope Urban V (1362-1370). The map depicts stretches of the North American east coast that include part of Georgia, Boston/Cape Cod Bay to the Chesapeake Bay, and Nova Scotia. Prytz photographed portions of the map with the assistance of Mr. Odd Wibe, a Norwegian government official who was at that time stationed in Rome. I have met Mr. Wibe in person, who is currently the Consul of Norway in New York. During a recent Scandinavian function he vouched for the scholarship of Prytz and the authenticity of this map.
Actually there were many maps describing "Vinland" that existed in Europe prior to Columbus, to include a map contained in a book titled Inventio Fortunatae, written in 1360 by an Englishman based upon information provided by an expedition that crossed the Atlantic. According to Prytz, this book was a major guide for Columbus along with data from Marco Polo's expedition. It was cited in accounts written by a son of Columbus that has been omitted by many translations up until present, and was also referenced in Columbus' diary.
Prytz claims that an account of a 1477 voyage by Columbus shows that he voyaged to Greenland, where he probably mistook eskimos for northern Chinese (hence his interest in the riches of the Orient presumed to lie further to the south). The existence of Greenland was no big mystery up north. An agreement in the 1200's entitled Greenland to two ships calling from Norway every year, and Iceland to six visitations (Prytz, page 93). It was also quite common for voyagers from England and Iceland to trade with the Greenlanders on their own initiative.
There were many factors that contributed towards the demise of the Greenland colony and the attempts by Norsemen to colonize Vinland:
(a) the population implosion suffered in Northern Europe from 1349-1350 from the Black Death removed much of the impetus for colonization. Two thirds of the population of Norway and Sweden got wiped out (Prytz, p. 71). The deaths created such a power vacuum in Norway that the country eventually fell under the domination of Denmark that lasted up until the early 19th Century;
(b) Indian attacks recorded in the Vinland Saga made it difficult to achieve a sustainable and expanding beachhead in certain areas; interestingly enough, Prytz believes that the most likely site of the death of Torvald Eiriksson in the Vinland Saga took place near Savannah, Georgia, because of clues related to mound houses used by the Indians in that area;
(c) According to Prytz, in some areas the opposite of Indian attacks took place in which there was a considerable amount of miscegenation between the Norse settlers and the Indians --hence in many cases the Norse communities simply dissolved away into the neighboring indigenous populations over the centuries;
(d) According to Prytz, the Greenland trade was extremely lucrative, and this gave an incentive for Greenlanders to be secretive about their favorite trapping areas; Scandinavian rulers who had a cut on the trade had no incentive to disclose their trade secrets either;
(e) According to a lecturer for the NY Leif Erikson Society, .the Greenlanders were later hurt by monopolistic practices imposed by Scandinavian rulers to control their trade, such as when Norwegian rulers demanded that they could only travel from Greenland to Norway in boats constructed in Norway. Things got even worse once Danish Kings began to impose absolutist policies on the Norwegians. Prytz quotes a German historian who wrote in 1517, "The people are kept hostage in their own borders", and adds himself on page 142, "In this natural prison, North America and Greenland became something distant and unreal to the Norwegian population."
(f) The Norse settlements in Greenland and elsewhere in North America had no "protective power" such as what the British government later provided for their colonists. (The Swedes and Dutch did not have this, which is why the British took over the Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam and renamed it New York, and took over New Sweden which later became part of Delaware). The ability to deploy warships and land soldiers became an important element behind any serious colonization effort. Although Prytz characterizes the Indians in the southeastern U.S. as being more warlike than the northeastern Indians, there were numerous attempts by northeastern Indian leaders to form coalitions in the 1600's and 1700's to drive all of the settlers along the northeastern seaboard into the ocean. Their plans were often foiled by spoiling attacks against their villages by British soldiers and colonial militias. The threat became especially serious when Frenchmen armed hostile tribes against English settlers during the French and Indian Wars. According to Prytz in his section, "Greenland becomes Slaveland" on page 153, there was a documented Portuguese slaving expedition that carted off a Greenland settlement in the late 1400's. Pirates and slavers were usually secretive about their activities, and might have picked off Norsemen elsewhere in North America during an earlier period.
(g) According to a NY Leif Erikson Society lecturer, the climate cooled and there was more ice around the harbors of Greenland and less fertile land for the Greenland farmers by the 1400's. Many Greenlanders may have simply packed up and headed south for Vinland. As the Greenland population dwindled quickly from its peak of three to five thousand people, the eskimos got more aggressive and knocked off pockets of survivors or carried them off and used them as slaves or absorbed them into their tribes.
(h) Last but not least, we Asatruar believe that the advent of Christianity sapped the will and exploratory spirit of the Norsemen and reduced their drive to accomplish on a small group level what their governments in their mother countries were unwilling to do on a broader level. The most impressive folk wanderings and explorations of the Norsemen took place during the pagan period. As the Christianization process became more complete, the Norsemen became more sedentary compared to their old standards. Interestingly enough, as Thorsteinn Gudjonsson points out in the July 91/No. 17 Huginn & Muninn, according to the Saga of the Greenlanders, Leif Erikson (or Leifur Eiriksson in Icelandic-English) was an Asatruar when he first came to Vinland, and succumbed to Levantine religious dogma afterwards, contrary to the impression created in the less reliable Vinland Saga.
Did the national media dive into all of these fascinating historical issues and encourage Americans of Northern European descent to cherish and learn more about the Viking culture and the achievements of their ancestors on this glorious one thousandth year commemoration? Not hardly, despite a three page flier on the event distributed to media.
The New York Times' July 1991 editorial titled "Good-bye Columbus, Hello Leif," made the following comments:
Deftly upstaging all the ballyhoo that's in the works for the next year's 500th anniversary of Columbus' first landing in the Americas, a Viking longboat is even now approaching the coast of Newfoundland to commemorate Leif Ericson's 1000th.
No one knows exactly when Ericson landed -- probably not in the year 991, but around then. His exact landfall is also in dispute, but so is Columbus's. Details. Details.
Leaving historical precision to the academics, the Governments of Norway and Iceland built three replicas of the sailing ships on which Norsemen of yore prowled the northern seas. One of them, the 78 foot Gaia, is set to land next Thursday at L' Anse-aux-Meadows on the northern tip of Newfoundland, where archaeologists have found an early Viking settlement -- though none of the vines Ericson is said to have found in his "Vinland." (Newfoundland, by the way, has officially renamed itself Vinland for the 24 hours of the big day).
All three ships will visit New York and Washington in the fall. So will Norway's Queen, Iceland's President and both Prime Ministers. America welcomes visitors, of course, but these in particular had better not speak their purpose too boastfully. Rampant revisionism is fast destroying Columbus' reputation as a bold adventurer, recasting him as a plunderer who ruined the hemisphere and brutalized the natives. Who knows what awaits Ericson if the revisionists get the idea that it was he, not Columbus, who started it.
Welcome to America, New York Times-style. But let us get back to Newport, Rhode Island. When Oak and I first walked up to the Gaia, we saw the following message printed on its sail: "A thousand years ago . . . Europe and America were brought together by the Vikings. Since then . . . our knowledge of the world has grown faster than our sense to take care of it. Now . . .we must set the right course ahead and open up a new era."
On the pier outside the ships, three panels were connected together on display. The first panel was titled "Vinland Revisited: 1000 Years of Discovery". It read:
Leif Eiriksson's landing on North America initiated a Millennium of Discovery. From the early ocean crossing to the later space voyages and scientific advancements, new discoveries have expanded our horizons and have inspired hope for the future. The spirit of discovery must now aim at the new frontiers of global issues critical to all nations.
This challenge is the inspiration for Vinland Revisited. As the next millennium is dawning, we see that we must seek to find mankind's common future on the planet, "Mother Earth."
Gaia, the flagship of the voyage, is helping discover our common future. She is strengthening ties between peoples on both sides of the North Atlantic. She is transmitting messages of environmental concern and action along the route.
The 5,300 mile voyage goes from Bergen, Norway to Washington, D.C. and makes stops at the Orkney, Shetland and Faroe Islands; Reykjavik, Iceland, Nuuk, Greenland, L'Anse-aux-Meadows, and St. John's, Newfoundland; Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Boston, Newport, and New York.
Second panel was titled: "The Viking Landings On North America Around A.D. 1000". It read:
The Irish and Anglo-Saxon annals from 790 show that the Viking landings were underway along the coasts of England and Scotland. Iceland was discovered around the year 870 and for the next sixty years emigrants from Norway and the North Atlantic regions settled there.
Yet, the Vikings' thirst for new expeditions was not yet quenched. A man named Eirik the Red emigrated from Jaeren in Norway to Iceland. In 981 or 982 he sailed from Iceland in search of a new land and found Greenland.
Eirik's son, Leif, set out from the west coast of Greenland and sailed north and west. He came to a land he called Helluland (Stone Land, probably Baffin Island), and then he sailed south to Markland (Forest Land, Labrador).
From here, according to the accounts in the Graenlendinga Saga, Leif Eiriksson sailed further and landed on what he called Vinland. Thus he became the first European to set foot on North American soil.
The third panel was titled: "The Viking Ships". It read:
The tremendous westward expansion of the Viking Age would not have been possible without the oceangoing ships developed in the North.
"Gaia" is an exact replica of the largest Viking ship found in Norway, the Gokstad Longship, built in 850 for ocean voyages. L.o.a. is 23.5m [78 ft.], beam 5.5m, and mast is 18m [58 ft.].
The Oseberg ship, built around 800, is the most elegant of all known Viking ships. L.o.a. is 21.6m, beam 5m, and mast 14m.
Saga Siglar is a replica of a Knarr or Viking trader ship. This is the type of ship most likely to have been used by the Vikings for trade between Norway, Iceland, Greenland and North America. L.o.a. is 16.4m, beam 4.8m, and mast 15m."
Before we met the public in Newport, we spent some time analyzing how we would present ourselves and respond to a wide variety of questions. One of the first principles of any successful strategizing is to clearly select the prime objective or the "main effort" in order to avoid getting over committed and spread too thin.
Our objective was to help overcome the appalling ignorance and disinformation rampant among our people about their own culture and indigenous religion. We could do this by creating a positive impression and then providing addresses for Asatru publications like Vor Tru so that people can continue to grow on their own.
Northern European-descended people are still so numerous in the U.S. that we continue to believe that every bad thing that happens to us is ultimately our own fault. If we are not ultimately responsible for our own actions and the survival of our own people and their indigenous ancestral faith, who is? The problem is how to get our noble Asatru message across in a way which leaves people feeling curious and wanting to know more.
Public Relations textbooks generally agree that good PR accomplishes the following:
(l) Conserves favorable opinion
(2) Crystallizes unformed or latent opinions in ones favor
(3) Changes or neutralizes hostile opinion.
As part of our positive statement, we wanted to let people know that our love of the Aesir comes from the heart, and we would be doing this anyway regardless of whether it is supported or opposed by current fads involving "politically correct" attitudes.
The next phase of successful strategizing involves identifying constraints and intelligently selecting supporting objectives. Constraints and objectives must then be reconciled. We had many constraints:
(a) We both could ill afford time away from our jobs or afford the expense of a professional campaign (glossy brochures, secretarial support, advertising, mass-mailings, etc).
(b) Most people are totally ignorant about Asatru, so we are coming from zero, if not a "negative" often attached to pagan religions by the public in the course of our initial contact.
(c) There are real enemies out there, such as intolerant Christian Fundamentalists, who might try to bait us into aggressive behavior that could then be twisted to injure the public's perception of us; and
(d) Our time "in country" was very limited. Our average conversation might last fifteen to twenty minutes with a member of the public. To fully educate someone and interact long enough with them to develop their full confidence, according to one study by a Christian evangelical group, one needs at least 24 hours of interaction. With our limited time, we could only hope to familiarize the public with Asatru rather than provide an in-depth education.
Our supporting objectives were:
(a) Reinforce our credibility before potential media sources by associating ourselves with a major Scandinavian cultural event
(b) Link up with other people interested in Asatru to expand the Vinland Kindred and subscription base of Asatru publications
(c) Pass on our experience to other Asatruar to aid their missionary efforts (this article fulfills this objective) and
(d) Familiarize Scandinavian-American opinion leaders with Asatru.
In regard to the latter objective, I not only focused on the contributing editors of the Norway Times, but I also called up over a dozen prominent Norwegian-Americans and mailed them Asatru materials prior to going to Newport. I even sent an introductory Asatru package to a start-up Viking Club in Trondheim, Norway, [P.O. Box 4308, N-7002], that was mentioned in an 11 July Norway Times article, which stated: "The founders of the Viking Club believe there are many benefits from revitalizing the old Viking heritage. However, the club is aware of the fact that Viking symbols and ideals were tragically abused by the Nazis prior to and during World War II and is stressing the importance of preventing such elements from interfering with their work."
The Viking Club of Trondheim provided Viking re-enactment personnel for Ragnar Thorseth and his crew before they sailed the Gaia to Bergen in preparation for its official departure on Norway's Constitution Day.
Most of the time we used a very low key and informative approach in dealing with the public. We primarily used what media professionals call the "Direct Approach." This focuses upon small talk and acting naturally. We did not aggressively introduce facts and ideas unless it seemed to flow with the conversation.
Oak frequently emphasized the fact that the Vikings were a very civilized people who have been misrepresented by historical accounts, since these accounts were frequently written by their enemies. At times I added that everywhere that the Vikings or Viking-descended peoples have settled in large numbers, we see today some of the most dynamic and advanced countries in the world; with the highest literacy rates and rates of technological growth, and the best track records for stable government, republicanism, and democracy.
We emphasized that we only want the same rights for ourselves that other peoples in the U.S. have demanded and received for themselves all along, to include the right to practice our own indigenous ancestral faith. We are totally fair, reasonable, and up front in our approach to Asatru and in dealing with people of other religious, racial, or ethnic backgrounds, and only want the same treatment in return. All of this was stated clearly in our Vinland Kindred flier that we handed out.
I must add that we did not simply go around indiscriminately handing out literature either in Newport or in Manhattan. We did not even have it out in the open. I kept copies of Steve McNallen's "Why Asatru?", "What Is Asatru?", and "The Values of Asatru?" in my book pack along with "Pagan Gods Resurrected" (from the Icelandic Review) and copies of our Leif Erikson Society lecture transcript. Many copies of Steve McNallen's works were donated courtesy of the Asatru Alliance, as per our agreement at the Wisconsin Althing.
We typically got in a conversation for about fifteen minutes with someone who would react favorably to our Viking regalia before we would mention our faith in Asatru. We. also made it clear up front that we had no official connection whatsoever with the Vinland Revisited Project and that our presence was purely at our own expense and initiative, and was largely motivated by our religious beliefs, reverence for our heritage, and interest in "intellectually stimulating" conversations. In virtually all cases, the people who got literature from us were people who started to ask questions about Asatru on their own, to include the question, "Have you got anything on Asatru that I can read?"
Since we got permission in advance from the event organizers in Newport to conduct a Viking re-enactment, we could certainly claim that the old Viking religion and culture falls within the re-enactment topic area.
Our public interaction at Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan was a different story, however, since we were in a public place by a shopping mall without an official license to "demonstrate" or "solicit." Although we had generalized legal protection under the First Amendment right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, there were a lot of city ordnances that could create problems for us if we became too overt or got involved in heated confrontations.
Shortly after we established ourselves in our Viking regalia by a balcony and veranda overlooking the Viking ships on the ground floor level of the Pier 17 mall, and handed out our first materials, a man dressed in a suit came up to us, acted as if he was with mall security, and asked to see sample copies of our literature. We were very pleasant and handed him the Steven McNallen flier "Why Asatru?" We told him that we decided to make a special effort to commemorate "Vinland Revisited" by showing up in indigenous garb just like the Norwegian folk dancers who were performing nearby, and were happy to share our extensive knowledge of the Viking Age with the public. We happened to bring with us some material pertaining to the old Viking philosophy and religion that put a lot of emphasis on human freedom and dignity and concern for individual rights. He appeared happy and satisfied, walked away, and that was that.
We also had to deal with suspicious people from alien ethno-religious backgrounds. There were a lot of students, teachers, and community leaders from a variety of Levantine religious and ethnic backgrounds who crowded around us. We were perfectly pleasant and conversational with them, particularly when it came to discussing aspects of our clothing and weapons. However, just like there are areas of Levantine religion and culture that certain practitioners may feel reticent about discussing with strangers, we too felt a certain reserve about discussing some deeper and more personal aspects of our indigenous ancestral faith.
[America First Books Editor's belated note: What I was averring to in very polite language when this article was first published in 1991, but will now say more directly, is that we expected to come under attack by pushy and obnoxious Jewish supremacists who feel threatened by any white people who empower themselves by demanding the same right to practice an indigenous tribal religion that Jews have always demanded and received for themselves.]
In the event that I encountered a hostile person, I tended to use what I call the "Teflon Viking" approach. The term is my own, inspired by the former "Teflon President", Ronald Reagan. I have also heard this kind of approach advocated numerous times by professional media consultants who advise corporate executives on how to handle hostile reporters in "hot seat" interviews. It typically entails quickly short-stopping every negative comment with a very brief comment and then immediately going on to make five or six positive comments that fulfill ones communications objectives.
The term "teflon" means that in answering a negative or hostile comment, we do it in a way that it does not "stick" on us in the mind of the audience. We quickly rebut a "negative" with logic, facts, or humor, but we do not morbidly dwell on it (a good technique in making a response is to avoid repeating the negative information contained in the question or avoid using highly emotional or vulgar language that causes the negative information to "stick" in people's minds). Once we make a very brief rebuttal, we immediately spring towards making positive points.
An example of the Teflon Viking approach might involve a situation where someone sneers, "You're just a fake Viking, a wannabee!" (This actually happened to both me and Oak on a couple of occasions). The Teflon Viking would proceed to smile and even laugh like Ronald Reagan ("There you go again!"). He would then reply in a very calm, academic, and soothing voice:
"Well ... it is true that to most historians, the last authentic Vikings died out with the Viking Age many centuries ago, and everyone dressed like a Viking here today or even with the `Vinland Revisited' crew is engaging in artificial re-enactment (the short-stop), but it is also true that no one is paying us to be here to show our deeply felt respect for our Viking heritage (a positive). All of us here today are like students who want to learn more and improve ourselves every way we can regarding the old wisdom and valorous culture of our brave forebears (another positive). Why can't we get credit for being here to show the respect that our ancestors deserve compared to the people who have simply decided to stay at home?"
As the Teflon Viking delivers his last line, he might raise his eyebrows a little bit ("Hey guys, why can't we be fair and reasonable about this?"). He wraps his response with a rhetorical question to put the aggressor on the defensive.
Oak is a real "natural" in working with the public. He has a very sincere and friendly personality that can patiently deal with frustrating and irritating people. At the same time he projects enough firmness and strength to discourage people from trying to walk on him. However, we would be foolish to try to wing it on personality alone.
Much of our success came from doing our homework in advance. We not only made a mental list of all the positive points that we wanted to get across to the public (our "communications objectives"), but also discussed ways to handle various types of hostile comments that range from simple forms of ignorance about the Viking Age to more complex forms of ugly anti-Nordicism, white self-hatred, shirking from the realities of life, and blatant disrespect towards our ancestors and our Gods.
Both Oak and I met some really neat people in Newport. Oak met an Irish-descended Rune Master who had his own blend of Asatru-Celtic spirituality.
I provided a lot of literature to a university professor involved with medieval classics, and also to the professional astronomer mentioned earlier who was working on the Newport Stone Tower project with the aforementioned Dr. William Penhallow. The astronomer offered Oak and myself a twenty dollar donation for our literature and other expenses (eg. the cost of the rent-a-car to get to Newport). I later followed up with a thank you letter and an enclosure about professor Haraldur Bessason at the University of Akureyri in Iceland who I thought could help him (Dr. Bessason gave a lecture on 25 April to the American Scandinavian Society in New York titled "The Viking's Life Eternal" that covered the Havamal).
I met an attractive lady who had been an active officer in the local chapter of the Swedish Vasa Society, a fraternal organization similar to the Sons of Norway, and also met a gentleman who is active in St. Andrew's Society, an important Scottish-American organization. I also saw many fellow Norwegian-Americans connected with the Sons of Norway. (Norwegian-Americans tend to be much more active in Scandinavian-American cultural events than Swedish-Americans or Danish-Americans).
Bob Thayer, a photographer from the Providence Journal, Rhode Island's largest paper, took black and white close-ups of Oak and myself [one of his pictures appears on the cover of this Fall 2241 issue of Vor Tru --Editor]. None of Thayer's pictures of us were used by The Providence Journal in its article about Vinland Revisited. The Journal only used a picture of the Viking ships; however, our materials, to include a transcript of our Leif Erikson Society lecture, were passed on to the religion editor of the paper. [The transcript will be printed in the Winter 2242 issue of Vor Tru beginning with the first ten page installment --Editor].
Last but not least, just before we departed Saturday afternoon, Oak and I gave a bottle of mead to a highly appreciative Vinland Revisited crew member from Iceland. We also gave him some Asatru literature, which he said he would pass on to other members of the crew.
Our next big chance to witness for the Holy Aesir came when the Viking fleet docked at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan in the morning of Wednesday, September 25th. Oak and I arrived in the early afternoon, following the speeches that were delivered earlier that morning by the "Vinland Revisited" leaders and also by Norway's Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland. The Prime Minister was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly later that day. I lashed my Gungnir spear to a railing on a vantage point that overlooked the ships. Our Vinland Kindred banner flew proudly from the spear.
Oak and the folk dancers
There was no shortage of people from all walks of life who were attracted by our Viking appearance and who expressed an interest in Asatru. I took a photograph of Oak kneeling in front of a group of cheerful Norwegian folk dancers. A young writer said that he had never heard of the name Asatru, but had felt close to the Vikings all of his life, and showed us a booklet that he had created of poems extracted from the Heimskringla (Lives of the Norse Kings), which some sources claim is the next most widely owned book in Norway after the Bible. Another interested individual was a very "Anglo"-looking securities dealer who just happened to walk a few blocks over to the ships from the skyscraper where he transacted business. We also met some very chic blonds from Iceland who were very receptive. A social worker who helps the homeless expressed an interest in Asatru. We also met a big burly truck driver covered with Odin tattoos. Despite his imposing appearance, the truck driver was actually a rather personable individual who said that he privately practiced Odinism but had never belonged to a group. He had, however, seen a few issues, of Else Christensen's publication The Odinist. [Editor's 2009 note: no longer published].
Last but not least, Shirley Keller, a Norwegian-American host of a folk music radio show came up to me and Oak and interviewed us with her microphone and tape recorder. She even captured my own rendition of the Norwegian National Anthem. I have no great hope that the quality of my voice or my Norwegian will get me on the air any time soon, but it was still fun.
As the sun set, I invited the radio host to come along with me over to a cruise boat for a Scandinavian-American party that was going to sail to the Statue of Liberty to see the fireworks displayed in honor of the "Vinland Revisited" ships. She was able to stay on board for half an hour before the ship set sail. As a paying guest, I got prearranged approval to attend the party in my Viking outfit amidst the more formal attire.
Norway's Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, came on board the ship, gave a short speech, and then left before the cruise boat left the dock. It all happened too quickly. I was in the back of the crowd that stood before the Prime Minister, and there was absolutely just no time or way for me to work my way up to her and find a socially acceptable way to help bring Norway's Head of State back to Odin. Better luck some other time.
As a point of fact, I kept my religious views to myself in regard to virtually everyone on the cruise, figuring that it was enough of a victory just to be able to wear my Viking regalia to the party and be able to use it as a conversation piece. Sometimes you have to know when to quit while you are ahead.
The Viking ships were in port a full week and a day, but Oak and I could only afford to witness for the Aesir on three different afternoons. We were also aware that when we set up our spear and banner, that we stole some of the thunder away from the boats. Since an important goal was to develop friendly relations with the crew, we did not want to make ourselves too conspicuous or appear obtrusive.
The following afternoon, on Sept 26th, I spent a few hours by myself in my Viking regalia on a veranda overlooking the ships prior to attending a dinner hosted by a Norwegian-American business organization that was going to be held in the immediate area. I thought that without the folk dancers and other formal activities scheduled for that day, the time might be wasted, but fortunately some interesting people showed up, such as an Asatruar who said that he had never belonged to an organization, but practiced runic knowledge that had been passed on within his family for uncounted generations!
I also met the regional director for the Society for Creative Anachronisms and a writer who said that there are some fragmented groups in the Lower East side and Village that are tuning into Asatru, and can be contacted through computer network bulletin boards and also boards posted in coffeehouses and bookstores.
Sannhet and two crew members
I became a little more bold and walked down to where a male crew member and a female crew member stood beside the walkway leading down to the ships. They handed out the Vinland Revisited/ecological literature mentioned earlier, and wore white T-shirts that had a World City Discovery logo depicting the sun, a wave pattern, and a plant. They were very friendly and smiled as I posed with them for a picture. The photo shows the Gaia in the center background with the crew cabins that extended fore and aft of the mast. Barely visible above the Gaia in the photo is the Saga Siglar, and more visible just above the Saga Siglar is the white ship Havella. The Havella provided logistical and communications support for the three Viking ships during the voyage. Every so often other crew members walked back and forth through the entry way. I knew that they recognized me from Newport and some of them probably were aware of the Asatru connection.
Shortly before I was about to leave, a crew member came out of one of the ship cabins and walked up to me. He asked if we could go off somewhere and speak in private. "Uh-oh!" I thought to myself, or to put it in utterly sterile professional terms, "Did I have fail to accomplish my public relationships objectives?"
We walked a hundred feet away from the entry area to a place where the ships and other crew members were out of sight. We stopped. There was a pause. Then he reached into a bag and pulled out a photograph with Ragnar Thorseth in the center. He explained that Ragnar was holding the Sea God Njord. The man on the left was Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, whose white beard had grown to be nearly a foot long. He said that unfortunately the statue was stolen in Newfoundland. According to this crew member, it was an interesting coincidence that shortly thereafter, when the expedition set out from port, it ran into a storm and had to turn back!
(left to right) Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson,
Four days later, on Sept 30th, I had a chance to speak with another crew member who wore an Yggdrasil amulet. He said that the captain of his particular ship was interested in Asatru and wanted additional copies of our materials to pass on to other crew members. He also mentioned that he was majoring in psychology back at the University of Iceland, and that my materials would be a real gold mine for his studies. In particular, he liked one of my handouts consisting of a balanced guide to media and religious periodicals on all ends of the spectrum that I had created. It is similar in concept to the work of Laird Wilcox cited later. He provided his name and address and said that he wanted to stay in touch.
Not long after I received the Sea God photo on Sept 26th, I changed from my Viking regalia into my dark blue suit, white shirt, and regimental tie --my "Wall Street Odinist" look. I then headed for the dinner mentioned earlier. The cost per plate was a bit rich for me, but this special occasion hosted by a major Norwegian-American business association deserved any sacrifice.
On the back of the brochure for the dinner was a cartoon that showed three Vikings complete with horned helmets and fur capes seated before a bearded speaker wearing a tunic. He stood before a podium marked "Viking Trade Council" and held up a briefcase. The caption read, "We've got to clean up our image, boys. From now on you call yourselves 'traders' and carry one of these."
The spirit of that cartoon is consistent with my "Wall Street Odinist" approach, in which I tell people that the Viking regalia is only meant to be symbolic of the qualities of valor, group loyalty, integrity, pragmatism, exploratory drive, competence, and spiritual devotion to the Sacred Life Force of our people that are required to not only insure the long term survival of our people, but also to achieve real success and progress in the modern battles for control that are fought every day in corporate board rooms, banks, media centers, stock exchanges, and government buildings.
The dinner I attended included a video of the voyage, in which the narrator on the video soundtrack stated that, "The voyage was not meant as mere ethnic flag waving, but to show concern for the environment." After the video was over, the Master of Ceremonies introduced Ragnar Thorseth as one of the two speakers featured that evening. Before Thorseth stepped up to the podium, the speaker commented, "That was a great video, but in all frankness, I am still trying to figure out what a Viking voyage has to do with ecology!" Everyone laughed.
Ragnar Thorseth spent some time describing how it is never simple to sail the North Atlantic. Even with the sophisticated radar gear of his support ship Havella, he ran into some scary drift ice off Labrador in a fog. Throughout most of the voyage the ships averaged 200 nautical miles a day and were taking in very little water despite average wave heights of 5 meters. Although some ships can go as much as 45 degrees into the wind, he said that the Gaia sails more efficiently with the wind at 55-60 degrees off the bow. He said that we still do not know exactly how the Vikings navigated although they obviously used the stars and had something called a sun compass for latitude. When asked where the Viking ships would go after culminating their voyage in Washington, D.C., Ragnar Thorseth said that at that point no one knew.
On Sunday, 29 September, two other Vinland Kindred members, Kris Schmid and Jennifer Anderson, showed up by the Viking ships and witnessed for the Aesir. They also made some good contacts. They add an invaluable dimension to our Kindred. It was certainly a wonderful experience to drive out to Wisconsin with them for the Althing, just like it was great to see what a beautiful Asatru family Bob and Karen Taylor have going for themselves at Birkenstead. It bears mentioning that Karen Taylor made a beautiful Tyr banner that hung over the Althing meeting site and participated with Bob and Valgard in the opening ceremony for the Althing. Women like Karen are the bedrock of our movement.
(left to right) Thorgeir, Thorseth, Sannhet
The following day, 30 September, Oak and I spent a couple of hours by the ships before attending a lecture by Ragnar Thorseth that was sponsored by an American-Scandinavian organization and held at the Seaman's Church Institute, located only a few blocks from the ships. I got to see the same video that I had seen four nights before.
When Ragnar Thorseth solicited questions from the audience, I asked if it was true that when he first took the Oseberg on sea trials outside of Bergen, that the ship sunk and he had to be rescued. Thorseth responded that it was true, and that it was because a large wave rolled over the ship. After that, two rows of planks were added to heighten the sides of the ship.
Archaeologists now believe that the original ship, which was found in a burial mound in 1903, was intended as a pleasure ship and was not meant for long and perilous voyages. The remains of two women were found in the burial chamber, and it is now assumed that the vessel belonged to a queen, and the other woman was a maid servant who wanted to follow her mistress into the afterlife.
Oak and I capped off the night by offering a bottle of mead to Ragnar on behalf of the Vinland Kindred and the Asatru Alliance. As a photo of the event was taken, Ragnar cradled our bottle of mead in his left arm. He shook my hand and Oak stood to his right.
The Vinland Revisited voyage culminated with the arrival of the ships in Washington, D.C. on October 9th. According to the 17 Oct Norway Times, when the ships pulled into Washington Harbor, the sail of the Gaia bore the mother-and-child-set-against-the-globe UNESCO logo, with the words "Keep the promise: For A Better World For All Children".
Children were selected to be on board the Gaia based upon the widest diversity of ethnic and racial backgrounds possible. In unison, the children sang, "We are the World", reminding the audience when they docked that, "We have not inherited the Earth from our forefathers, we have borrowed it from our children." (Somehow that phrase immediately reminded me of the Federal deficit). They demanded a safe future in a world saved from pollution, exploitation, and poverty.
Visiting former Vice President Walter Mondale, of all people, stated that, "On an occasion like this it feels good to have some Viking blood in one's veins". Mondale is a Norwegian-American who makes trips to Norway once a year. According to a Norway Times article, he was a close friend of King Olav V before he passed away in January 1991.
The ceremonial events of the day culminated when President Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland and Queen Sonja of Norway made speeches at the White House along with President George Bush shortly before the two female heads of state enjoyed tea with the First Lady Barbara Bush. According to the 17 Oct Norway Times, Queen Sonja said that she would not mind being remembered as "an environmental Queen." (Not mentioned in press accounts, but according to the aforementioned 11 July Norway Times article about the Trondheim Viking Club, Ragnar Thorseth had with him a Viking ax to present to the "King of Vinland", President George Bush.)
A few days later I attended a party in Manhattan filled with U.N. people who gave me their perspective on the political overtones of the Vinland Revisited events. Norwegian fishing, a major industry for a tiny country of four million people, is suffering from ocean pollution. Fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melt-down in Russia contaminated the plants eaten by the Lapland reindeer and gave everyone a scare. As an export-oriented and international shipping-dependent country, Norwegians feel they must promote good will with nations around the world to get their products and services accepted. They also feel that they need good will in their negotiations to keep Russian oil extraction entities as well as European and American big oil companies from muscling them out of control of their North Sea oil. Finally, they have found that to be heard by the U.S. and other major powers, their ability to form alliances with other Scandinavian countries works a lot better than speaking alone.
According to my pro-U.N. sources, it is easier to create these alliances through the United Nations than through networking directly between governments. Recently the U.S. raised tariffs on Norwegian fish imports, which created some major concern back in the home country. How much clout does a little country like Norway have beyond a moral image?
To boost Norway's U.N. presence, the Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, is running for Secretary General. She recently won a straw vote among nations. According to the 24 Oct Norway Times, the Viking ships have now been given the mission to sail to South American cities to continue to promote the UNESCO and ecology theme; no doubt this will help to boost Brundtland's image as she continues to jockey for the UN top spot.
The moral image issue ties in with my last big hurrah for the whole Leif Eiriksson Day evolution. Rather than go to Washington, D.C., I attended a celebration held at a Lutheran church in Brooklyn where the Leif Erikson Society meets on the last Monday of every month. Most of the members of the Society were at the party, which featured an accordion band that played polkas. In the aftermath of the lecture on Asatru that I and Oak gave last March to the Leif Erikson Society, members of the Society have been reasonably friendly and polite when we have attended subsequent meetings in our capacity as members of the Society, even though many of them are dyed-in-the-wool Lutherans.
(One exception consisted of an elderly Fundamentalist Christian man who approached Oak and myself during a Society meeting that followed our lecture and ranted and raved with profane language about how it was, "Totally unacceptable to have professing Nordic pagans running around inside his church!" He finally calmed down after some members of the Leif Erikson Society and his church took him aside in private and reminded him of the First Amendment, the fact that the Leif Erikson Society is a historical entity that studies the Viking Age and is not a religious or political organization, and a few other things).
Most of the people who attended the Leif Erikson Day party are advanced in years, to include the minister of the church who was also there. It would be interesting to see what kind of reaction we would get if we gave a similar lecture to a group of young people on a college campus. I find that although older people usually have more time (and usually more money) than people my age who are tied down with their jobs and families, that they are usually so conditioned by well-worn ruts and habits of thought that they are less likely to adapt to new ideas. Many older people feel "tired" and simply do not want to deal with the stress of breaking new ground, but are instead focused upon enjoying the "Golden Years." Nevertheless, if any of them decided to become activists for our cause, they could become especially valuable by virtue of their experience in life and the amount of time they have to spare.
I approached the aforementioned minister and spoke with him at some length about his views on religion and Asatru. He was very diplomatic and said that he needed more time to read the literature that Oak and I had given to him during the Norway Day parade in May to make up his mind. I offered him a copy of our Leif Erikson Society lecture and some other literature. He was very personable and cordial. I spent some time listening to his views on a number of topics.
There is no question that offering Asatru materials to a Christian minister can be very risky. After all, we celebrate a number of our heroes who were tortured and murdered by intolerant evangelical Christians for simply wanting to stay true to our faith and resist alien ideological monopoly power. And no question about it, there are some very intolerant fire and brimstone Christian leaders around who would only like to do harm to us. However, I feel that in the long run it would be a big mistake for us to over generalize this reality to all ministers. I am willing to take some calculated risks in pursuit of several important approaches. I call these approaches the "reasonable man", "pre-emptive", "openness", "market", "assumptive", and "coalition" approaches.
With the "reasonable man" approach, I am willing to submit my ideas to open debate and the free market place of ideas in a genuine effort to find truth. As long as a Christian can satisfy me that he is willing to act in good faith, is intellectually honest, and is genuinely interested in Asatru issues, I am willing to be very open with him.
For reasons that I will explain latter, I do not deliberately seek theological confrontations with Christian ministers or other Christians. However, if one is forced upon me, I feel that I have access to more than enough intellectual resources to defend myself.
Numerous organizations in the United States specialize in debunking Christian doctrine. Particularly well known is the American Atheist Press (P.O. Box 14015 Austin, TX 78714-0195). It carries such thought-provoking works as the article "Did Jesus Exist?" by Frank Zindler (both he and the American Atheist Editor Emeritus Dr. Madalyn O'Hair believe that the life of Jesus may be a complete hoax), the booklet Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth, by John Jackson (cf. also Pagan Christs by J. M. Robertson first published in 1903), and The Bible Handbook, by G.W. Foote & W.P. Ball.
In regard to the latter work, the American Atheist says, "Everything is here: absurdities, indecencies, contradictions, unfilled prophecies, broken promises of god, obscenities, sado-masochisms, impossibilities".
A good source to obtain the addresses of other free thinker organizations or pagan groups is Laird Wilcox's Spectrum: A Guide To Independent Press and Informative Organizations Laird Wilcox founded one of the largest collections in the U.S. of non-mainstream political and religious literature on all ends of the spectrum at the University of Kansas Library, Lawrence, KS. He also publishes the Guide to the American Occult, Guide to the American Left, and Guide to the American Right (available for $24.95 apiece from Laird Wilcox Editorial Research Service, P.O. Box 2047, Olathe, KS 66061).
Then there are specific landmark works such as the AntiChrist by Friedrich Nietzsche, published by Viking Penguin in paperback and available in the philosophy section of most major bookstores (eg. in the Portable Nietzsche or Twilight of the Idols/AntiChrist editions). Nietzsche argued that Christianity represents the transvaluation of desirable instinctive values. He also suggested, as a number of subsequent 20th century writers have declared outright, that Christian ideology and New Testament documentation were deliberately fabricated as a psychological warfare weapon by certain ethno-religious elements [Editor's late note: Jews] resentful of Roman influence to unhinge the Roman Empire.
Other landmark works include The Age of Reason by the American Revolutionary Thomas Paine, which debunks the Old Testament books of prophecy, and Beyondism: Religion From Science and A New Morality From Science: Beyondism by Dr. Raymond Cattell that ties in religious and ethical concepts to genetic science.
Another landmark work, especially for those who like the novel The Razor's Edge by the English writer W. Somerset Maugham, with its idealistic hero who relentlessly pursues goodness and truth, is the 757 page autobiographical work Which Way Western Man? by the late American writer William Gayley Simpson.
Simpson started out as an ernest Christian minister and political liberal who helped to co-found the American Civil Liberties Union. For nine years Simpson totally committed himself as a Franciscan to follow Jesus in the same manner as Saint Francis of Assisi. Which Way Western Man? scrupulously documents his intellectual evolution and all of the dead ends that he ran into. He describes how he eventually discovered Nietzsche, came to compare Christian teachings with Nietszchean philosophy, and found in Nietzsche a genuine avenue of intellectual growth.
I am personally not so infatuated with Nietzsche, since I believe that most of his thought has been superseded by advances achieved within the psychology, sociobiology, zoology, comparative religion, political science and business (competitive game theory) departments of our universities; nevertheless, I believe that most Asatruar would credit Nietzsche, along with other 19th Century thinkers such as Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel, with having made important intellectual contributions that have helped to liberate Northern European man from Christian mind-control and other monopolistic, deceptive, and exploitive forms of Levantine thought-tyranny.
Last but not least, there are numerous books in the realm of Higher Criticism theology in which mainstream Christian thinkers and researchers from eminent universities have debunked major portions of their own religion. As a case in point, according to the 18 March 1991 issue of the Christian News [P.O. Box 241, Washington, MO 63090], a "Jesus Seminar" consisting of nearly 200 scholars representing almost all of the major denominations in the U.S. declared, after six years of twice-yearly meetings, that at most, only 20% of the sayings of Jesus reported in the New Testament are authentic.
The 18 March Christian News editorial titled "Attacking Christianity: A Fairy Tale Religion" stated, "According to the Jesus Seminar, the Lord's Prayer, passages in the Bible which say that the Jews crucified Jesus, many of the parables of Jesus, and other statements in the Bible attributed to Jesus, were never said. by Jesus. The Jesus Seminar scholars say they were fabricated by the early church years after Jesus lived and died."
The upshot of all of this is that there may now be stronger evidence for the existence of a historical Odin than for a historical Jesus. Our Viking ancestors had it right the first time before their minds became chained and altered by dogmatic Levantine religious aggression. Fortunately today there are numerous books available that can help us to unchain ourselves. Once a person knows where to look, the number of books and the amount of evidence and arguments available that debunk Christianity and provide worldviews that are better attuned to scientific reality and to the Holy Aesir are almost limitless. The Books In Print Catalog found in many major libraries and bookstores provides all the data one needs in order to obtain any title directly from a publisher.
The problem with using confrontational tactics with Christian leaders is that such tactics can undermine another important objective of ours: to promote the unity and cohesion of the Scandinavian-American and other Northern European-American communities. Whether rightly or wrongly, most Americans perceive their Christian churches as last bastions that promote community cohesion and conservative values in a world that is already too fragmented, decadent, and confusing to them. Anyone who makes an unprovoked attack on Christian theology is often automatically perceived as an irresponsible trouble-maker.
I want to avoid this kind of perception and stress instead my desire to promote community cohesion, rational decision-making, intellectual development, and conservative values among my people. I want to be perceived as a problem-solver, not a problem-creator. Finally, I am aware that we have all been victims of disinformation at various times in our lives, and can feel some sympathy for Christian leaders who are actually prisoners of their ignorance. They have not been lucky enough to be exposed to much of the knowledge and ideas that we Asatruar have come across. I want to react to this situation in a positive, sympathetic, and human way by promoting mutual intellectual growth with Christians in the Scandinavian community rather than be perceived as an aggressor who is out to intellectually browbeat other people and push them into a corner and humiliate them. There are a lot of ways Asatruar can share their information with Christians without making them feel threatened.
In all modesty, I must admit that Christian ministers probably have a lot of valuable knowledge about social service work and areas of religion that I am ignorant about, and I can learn from them as well. I am encouraged by the way in which the Russians have evolved out from under monolithic and dogmatic Communist power in the Soviet Union. To the extent that Asatru represents the "Final Reformation" of Northern European man, I think that we can nurture a similar evolution for freedom of thought against dogmatic and monopolistic Christian ideological power within the Lutheran Church and other Christian religious communities of Northern European peoples.
A day will come when the Valknut and other sacred symbols, to include our runes, will be placed on the church walls beside the cross, and the Poetic Edda will be read alongside the Bible. In time, the weaker sources and symbols will simply become used less, and adopt the status of reference material.
I have seen copies of the Talmud, Koran, and Bhagavad-gita on some book shelves inside Christian churches. Nobody gets excited about this. Some day our people will spend more time reading the Poetic Edda and other Asatru literature, and the Bible will simply spend more time being used as just one more reference source as opposed to being worshiped as a self-proclaimed book of infallible dogma. I am in agreement with a number of libertarian thinkers who claim that the problem is not that Christians read the Bible, but that too many Christians fail to read it intelligently, and fail to compare and contrast its ideas with ideas from other sources.
The "pre-emptive" approach means that often it is better to be up front with prominent members of a community or with community leaders than to have them become aware of you through biased indirect sources. As mentioned, both Oak and I have attended Leif Erikson Society functions held at a Lutheran church in Brooklyn and even gave our lecture there. Inevitably, comments about our "Norse paganism" will reach the ears of its minister. It is far better that we go direct to the minister to let him have first hand information than to have him hear comments third hand through ignorant and prejudiced Fundamentalist members of his congregation. At least this way he can not only have accurate information, but feel that he understands what is going on and feel more like he is in control.
The "openness" approach means that we are going to keep our heads high and act as if we have nothing to hide. If we begin to act too furtive or secretive, people will become suspicious and actually act more aggressively towards us than if we act more open. Of course no matter how we act, we must always adapt our approach to each particular situation and show discretion.
The "market" approach conceptualizes our informational efforts in business terms. It assumes that for any Christian church to stay in business, it must be doing something right by fulfilling basic needs. In my own area, I observe that no one goes around and puts a gun to peoples' heads and tells them that they have to attend Christian churches. Our task as Odinists is to analyze the spiritual services that these churches are providing (their "service package" or "product", to use business terms), and figure out how we can do it better. For starters, I observe that most Norwegian-American Lutheran ministers in this area are extremely active in most Scandinavian-American cultural functions. They also devote an enormous amount of time writing letters, visiting people in hospitals, conducting rites of passage, and providing other valuable services. Asatru will not come of age until it has people who are willing to step in and fulfill all of these social service functions.
If I were to take over a Lutheran congregation with a specific mandate from the congregation to promote Asatru, chances are that I would run it in a way that is very similar to the way in which a number of very conservative Lutheran churches are being run today. Although there are elements of Asatru that may seem revolutionary, I can not help but reflect on a movie titled The Leopard, in which at the end, a 19th Century Italian nobleman played by Burt Lancaster, who has lived through numerous revolutions, remarks that, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
This insight is consistent with the philosophical position of Asatruar as practitioners of an indigenous ancestral faith that the behavior of particular groups is heavily constrained by their biological make-up. Over time, various peoples tend to revert to a certain normative levels of functioning that are consistent with their innate temperamental characteristics. These characteristics have been sculptured in their DNA by their long evolutionary history.
If I were installed as the head of a former Lutheran congregation, I would still have numerous tasks that would fill most of the day that would be nearly identical to the tasks that most Christian ministers perform. These tasks include baptisms, sermons, hospital visits, personal counseling, participation in community events, and funeral services. Of course the theology would be different. I would definitely make a point of removing the theological basis behind Christian masochism, Christian liberal guilt, the Christian tendency to be more charitable to complete strangers than to ones own kind, and the Christian compulsion to introduce aliens into their community who may eventually destroy their cohesion and cause them to dissolve into oblivion like the Vinlanders and Greenlanders.
However, on other basic issues my policies would have strong similarities with current conservative Lutheran practices. I would promote family-oriented values, work to develop community identity, stick up for our people when they are oppressed, and help individuals sort out their lives and interpersonal conflicts and get on with things that are more productive and deeply meaningful.
The "assumptive" approach has to do with the way in which a person's self-concept can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Norman Vincent Peale called it "The Power of Positive Thinking." My vision for the future is that some day we will have churches titled "The Church of Odin" and "The First Church of Asatru" on street corners in American cities just like other religions have their own buildings. We will need to provide an environment that reinforces Asatru values from childhood to old age, and will need institutions very similar to a number of contemporary church establishments to do this.
Some day Asatru organizations will engage in dialog with other denominations and religions just as Christian churches today engage in dialog with other faiths. If a Buddhist or Jewish religious leader is not afraid to engage in dialog with a Christian religious leader, why should we be afraid? As part of my assumptive approach, I conceptualize Christian ministers as flexible "spiritual leaders" rather than as merely Christians, and try to treat them in this way to help shape their own attitudes about themselves. They can be broadly conceptualized as "entrepreneurs" in the "religion business." I am happy to point this out to them, and make it clear that I am not trying to put them out of business. I do not want them to feel too threatened and provoke them into launching an ignorant and destructive crusade against us that ends up being just one more fratricidal Nordic vs. Nordic conflict. I just want to help them to make some adjustments that will ultimately help them and our community become that much stronger.
Finally, the "coalition" approach recognizes that in the last two hundred years, our people have frequently been their own worst enemies. Often they have been too quick to fight rather than talk. The War Between the States and World War One and World War Two were dysgenic disasters for Nordic man. Nordic Christians and Nordic Asatruar have greater similarities than differences, because they are fundamentally the same people. The "joke" is that after the bodies drop in our fratricidal wars and the smoke clears, people who are at least ten times more alien than our own kind step into the power vacuum. We need to find ways to steer clear of needless confrontation that embitters people and closes their minds to our ideas. We need to think instead about ways to form coalitions with Scandinavian Christians, such as in defense of our First Amendment rights. These rights are eroding in a very dangerous way for all of us. I believe that as Asatruar, we can find ways to cooperate with the Lutheran Church without compromising our theology or devotion to the Aesir. On First Amendment issues alone, there is enough work to do to keep us busy without wasting time fighting each other.
Both Oak and I invite comments and criticisms from other Asatruar regarding our attempts to heighten the sense of relevance and reverence felt by our people for Norse culture and our Gods. Interestingly enough, in addition to everything connected with "Vinland Revisited" that has reawakened a sense of relevance, this year has even brought forth a modern English translation of the Havamal and other lays of the Poetic Edda that reveals far more of the old wisdom than the archaic English used by U of Texas professor Lee Hollander in The Poetic Edda. Recently at a bookstore I discovered Poems of the Elder Edda in paperback translated by adj. professor Patricia Terry of UC San Diego, available through the U of Pennsylvania Press, Blockly Hall, 418 Service Drive, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
The Aesir speak clearly to us today as they spoke to our ancestors. They not only speak through the heroic literature that They inspired during the Viking Age, but They continue to speak through the good deeds of members of our people who serve our people. They certainly spoke through the symbolism of the Viking ships that came to America, despite the many ways in which people at higher levels than the crew and Ragnar Thorseth sought to find ways to alter the message of that symbolism from its most logical, natural, and vital meaning for our people.
I could feel the radiance of the Aesir as I spoke with members of the Vinland Revisited" crew who had also come to attune themselves to Their power and Their love and guidance. With a purity of heart and purpose, we can follow the noble calling of our Gods to forge a brighter destiny, founded upon a new consciousness and a renewed people capable of creating a newer and better ecological and spiritual order.
Hail the Holy Aesir!
The exultant Viking fleet commander Ragnar Thorseth reaches skyward from the bow of the Oseberg in a photo that was widely reproduced in Scandinavian and Scandinavian-American publications. The Gaia is to the left, and the knarr Saga Siglar is to the right. Although neither Thorseth nor the photographer were probably consciously aware of it, Ragnar Thorseth's body and head, combined with the upward angle of his raised arm and the Oseberg bow, forms a living MannaR version of the Algiz rune. One of England's foremost authorities on runes, Freya Aswynn, states in her book Leaves of Yggdrasil, "In the Scandinavian futhark, the upright version of Algiz rune is male and represents the striving upward of consciousness. This is symbolized by the upward branches of Yggdrasil extending high above the Earth and reaching out into the sky" (page 71). Consciousness-raising for the Holy Aesir was the highest and truest mission of the "Vinland Revisited" project, a mission that was in no small part achieved.
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William B. Fox is a former Marine Corps officer with experience in logistics, public affairs, and military intelligence. He is an honors graduate of the Harvard Business School and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Southern California. He is also publisher of America First Books at www.americafirstbooks.com
Call For Tyranny To Enforce Draconian Agenda by Paul
Joseph Watson, Infowars.com. Unfortunately the name "Gaia"
used in a political context has acquired some sinister connotations
that probably were not understood by naive Nordic sponsors of
the "Vinland Revisited" project back in 1991, who probably
thought "Gaia" was simply a reference to Greek mythology.
The sinister connotations that involve "Eco-Leftist-`Fascism'"
are certainly completely contrary to the pro-nationalist and pro-tribalist
indigenous religious overtones of Asatru.
usual, high level Zionist criminals have tried to use naive Nordics
as front men for their evil schemes. According to Paul Joseph
Watson "Top environmentalist and creator of the Gaia hypothesis
Lovelock told the Guardian earlier this year that
`democracy must be put on hold' to combat global warming and that
`a few people with authority' should be allowed to run the planet."
38 of my Mission of Conscience series I
have embedded videos by Michael Crichton, Lord Christopher Monckton,
and other activists who have debunked phony "global warming"
and "carbon tax" hoaxes promoted by totally psychopathic
globalist malefactors like the Rothschilds of the City of London.
Please also see my Iceland
gets "ENRONed," Then Goes for "1776"
series which explains how the Russian Jewish Mafia, George Soros,
the City of London Rothschild cabal, Mossad-CIA, and other malefactors
infiltrated Iceland with phony "libertarianism" and
globalist banking schemes and then threw naive Icelanders to the
wolves while bailing out "the better connected" in New
York City and London. All of this took place during the period
of the horrendous 2008 Iceland economic melt-down.
two other examples that involve the exploitation of "front
men," in Chapter
38 of my Mission of Conscience series I
describe the Cherbourg
Boat Affair of 1969 where Mossad used a phony Norwegian front
company to steal torpedo boats from the French, and later induced
a former Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjorn Jagland to throw the
Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Hussein Obama II (aka "Barry
Soetero"), an unconstitutional illegal alien President and
longstanding Mossad-CIA asset, as noted in my "Obama
Nation" web page. (Please see "Behind
the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize" by French political analyst
are some other "Nordic naivete" problems also worth
addressing in hindsight. In this article I describe how I almost
"witnessed" for Odin, Thor, and other Aesir to Norway's
female Prime Minister when three replica Viking ships sent by
Scandinavians arrived in Manhattan, and I showed up at a party
as an Old Norse "re-enactor." Given the far left wing,
pro-open borders, pro-New World Order policies of Gro
Harlem Brundtland (the UN "Bundtland
Commission" pushed "sustainable development"
and "Agenda 21" -- please read "Sustainable
Development, Agenda 21, and Prince Charles"
by activist researcher Joan Veon and related articles listed by
Dr. Eric Karlstrom at his web site "9/11
New World Order"), not to mention Bruntland's
subsequent tenure as Director General from 1998
to 2003 of the highly sinister World Health Organization (WHO)
-- please see my discussion of the suspected "Poison Dragon
Lady" Director of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, in Chapter
36: "Swine Flu Biowar" of my Mission
of Conscience Trilogy)
-- Brundtland was clearly in need of some "special
spiritual ministration." Too bad she boarded the Viking ship
and quickly departed before I was able to get through to this
tragically misguided front woman for evil Rothschild and Rockefeller
a final note, all of this is not just a Norwegian or Icelandic
problem. High level Zionist criminals have been using front men
and making enemies all over the planet. They include various peoples
of many different races and ethnic backgrounds. Examples include
Israel-New Zealand spy scandal and the Mossad-CIA inspired
by Georgia on South Ossetia on 8-8-2008 that killed many Russian
soldiers and South Ossetian civilians.
Viking Ship at hurstwic.org. An interesting discussion
of Norse ships and tactics with illustrations.
Short URL for this web page: http://tinyurl.com/butk64