In at least six cases since 2001, professed racist "Odinists" have been convicted of plotting – or pulling off – domestic terrorism attacks. Odinism is a perfect fit for a strain of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who think Christianity has been corrupted by outsiders and weakened by passivity. Today’s racist Odinists say it is the only pure religion for white people, one not “mongrelized” by the Jewish prophet Jesus. They see themselves as warriors, ready to reclaim America for the white race and fight against a white genocide, driven by Jews, that has left the greatest country on Earth in tatters.

The story:

Comments: 282 • Responses: 55  • Date: 

nsholmberg1155 karma

What do you feel is the primary link between Odinism and ancient Nordic religious beliefs? On its face value they seem very different to me, and that's it's more of a "wild interpretation" of Viking Paganism from American men who are white supremacists. Almost like they're bored with neo-Nazism, occultism and satanism and this whole Viking thing sounds pretty cool. But it's extremely fascinating to compare an Islamic terrorist with an Odinist terrorist because they both interpret a religion in a way that it clearly wasn't meant to be interpreted. Which ends up being dangerous(not that Islam or Paganism are inherently dangerous because I don't feel they are). Hope this makes sense and thanks for doing this!

WillCarlessReveal24 karma

This does make perfect sense and I think your analysis is spot-on

aecht53 karma

do they ever say things like "Odin's Beard!"?

WillCarlessReveal45 karma

I haven't heard that tbh.

aecht54 karma

psh. These guys are lame. Are they at least racist towards the dwarves and ice giants and other creatures of the nine realms?

WillCarlessReveal29 karma

I can't say I ever asked anyone this question ;)

milk4all10 karma

You winked! So, you have asked this question? What was the response?

WillCarlessReveal18 karma

No I honestly haven't

phoenixdeathtiger13 karma

you know the saying "Jesus offered an end to evil men, Odin offered an end to frost giants. Which one still exists today?"

aecht1 karma

I dunno... Chris Kaman definitely had some frost giant in him

phoenixdeathtiger2 karma

possibly, but when was the last time you heard of frost giants sacking a town?

aecht1 karma

well the Clippers never won a game back then, so you do have a point

phoenixdeathtiger1 karma

just remember we are talking about Odin not Oden as a Portlander that is important

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

You've totally lost me, I'm afraid :)

allisonherrera197140 karma

Hi Will, when we published this piece on Public Radio International (PRI) some felt that the piece made a blanket statement about this religion. One comment stood out on our FB page: Implying that Odinism IS the ancient Norse religion is much like implying that the Salafist Islam practiced by Isis IS Islam. Reductive, insulting, potentially dangerous, and evidence of research-free clickbait journalism How would you respond?

WillCarlessReveal55 karma

This is certainly the main criticism I've received: Several mainstream heathens are upset that this radical strain of their religion gets so much attention. And they wonder why mainstream heathenism isn't covered more by the mainstream press. My job, however, is to cover hate and extremism. And there's no question that racist Odinists are a real and credible threat to the American public. I therefore wholeheartedly defend the choice to cover this group. I think it's an important story. And I believe I make very clear in the piece that these people are a small subset of the broader heathen population!

allisonherrera197124 karma

Another reader really wished that people wouldn't go around thinking that everyone with a Viking tattoo is a racist.

WillCarlessReveal41 karma

Absolutely. I'm in daily contact with heathens who are extremely frustrated about this portrayal of their religion. I would just say that I hope mainstream heathenism gets more attention in the future. It's a legitimate religion with millions of dedicated followers.

Teamrayray-19 karma

Using the term legitimate religion made me laugh. Thank you for that.

WillCarlessReveal31 karma

Ok. I don't see anything that makes heathenism any less legitimate than other religions, but that's my personal opinion.

allisonherrera197114 karma

What are some examples of the religion that haven't been co-opted by this radical faction?

WillCarlessReveal39 karma

Good question. I would definitely check out Heathens United Against Racism, as well as other mainstream heathen groups. In general, I have found that anyone identifying themselves specifically as "Odinist" or "Wotanist" tends to be more likely to be of a racist or extremist persuasion than someone who identifies as "Asatru" or simply "heathen." That's not cut and dry, but it's a good rule of thumb.

funknut4 karma

How does this jive with fascists who coyly inject their propaganda on the technicality they believe differentiates racism from fascism? Is it possible that HUAR is still a fascist organization, despite their purported opposition to racism?

WillCarlessReveal7 karma

What do you mean "still a fascist organization?" Where does that come from?

funknut2 karma

It was poorly worded. This is the first I have heard of HUAR, so I'm merely asking if you think it's possible that HUAR might have fascist interests in some regards, despite their purported stance against racism. My implied claim is that there are fascists vocally standing out against racism, not that HUAR might be fascist or racist, but only questioning the possibility and your knowledge on the matter.

WillCarlessReveal5 karma

No, I don't think that's their aim at all. HUAR, from my knowledge of it, works simply to dispel the myth that ALL Odinists/people interested in Asatru and heathenry are racist.

mulberrybushes2 karma

Difference between pagan and heathen, in your opinion?

Also, did you work with Randy Blazak at all in researching this ?

WillCarlessReveal5 karma

I did speak to Randy. As for the difference, I'm not entirely qualified to say.

almondparfitt37 karma

How do Odinists spread their message and maintain their network? Also how do you get these subjects to cooperate and talk to you? Are the interested because they want to promote their cause?

WillCarlessReveal41 karma

Good question. Mainly through social media, as well as through the prison system, where Odinism is VERY big. Lots of these guys become Odinists in prison. Most of the Odinists I talked to didn't want to talk to me, or anyone in the media. A few of them did. I'm sure there was some narcissism involved, but also these guys have very set beliefs that they're proud of. They're not ashamed and want to spread their word.

Public_Fucking_Media28 karma

Is this a US-based phenomenon, or does it have ties in Europe as well?

What is your favorite story you've covered outside of the hate report?

WillCarlessReveal43 karma

There are certainly ties to this is Europe. For example, the story examines the case of Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway. Breivik self-identifies as an Odinist.

My favorites story outside this one was my lengthy investigation of pedophile priests in the Catholic Church who moved to South America and continued preaching:

nsholmberg1136 karma

However, Brevik specifically says "I believe in the only God, Odin" which is a direct contradiction to ancient Nordic religion which was polytheistic. On the same note, these self professed Odinists have seemingly no ties to Scandinavia as they're from America and express their belief in monotheism. Your thoughts?

WillCarlessReveal35 karma

I disagree with your point about monotheism in America. Most of the Odinists I've communicated with are polytheists. They have just zeroed in on Odin as their "primary" god. And your point about Breivik is interesting since it does, indeed, seem contradictory. I'd like to learn more about his beliefs.

nsholmberg1115 karma

Interesting because in your story these North American Odinists are saying as much. That they believe in one God. How can they zero in on a "primary" God but believe in one God? I don't quite understand

WillCarlessReveal24 karma

Honestly, tt runs the gamut from the people I've talked to. Some people believe primarily in Odin, some in the full pantheon. Some believe that the gods are simply exemplars or parables, while others believe they are very real, or even living and present.

nsholmberg119 karma

Interesting, thanks for clarifying for me. Very interesting investigative work on this and glad you did a AMA session! Good luck with all your future work!

WillCarlessReveal5 karma

Thanks for reading!

horsenbuggy23 karma

How do they rationalize "reclaiming America for the white race" when the white race were not the original settlers/occupiers of North America?

WillCarlessReveal31 karma

Yeah this is an interesting one. I have tried asking this a few times. There are some who believe (and this has been rejected by almost everyone) that white people were somehow in North America before anyone else. Others argue that white men took America by force, using their "superior" strength, intelligence, etc. They say white people have to fight against new invaders, but they're fine with the fact that white people invaded in the first place.

donkey_democrat9 karma

When you think of yourself not as a global citizen, but rather a citizen of a certain group, it is easy to think in subjective terms. Why does it matter that whites were not indigenous to the region? It is not like at the end of time you will be rewarded for following the rules and not encroaching on other's indigenous land.

WillCarlessReveal5 karma


drew46n217 karma


You talk a lot about these individuals becoming radicalized in prison. In your research, did you find anything to suggest Odinists groups were also showing up on college campuses? "Identity Evropa" posted fliers all over my school and I just wonder if this group is related to the ones you looked at.

WillCarlessReveal24 karma

I did not look into the spread of Odinism on campuses. That could be a good follow-up! I'm well aware of Identity Evropa, and have written about them, but I don't believe they're affiliated with any heathen traditions/religion. I would be very interested to hear about active Odinist groups on campus, if you learn about them!

mel_cache7 karma

There has been an occasional attempt by some of the white supremacist Odinists to participate in neopagan festivals. They have not been well-received, and I think they've been asked to leave more than one.

WillCarlessReveal5 karma

This is true. I have heard about this too.

coryrenton17 karma

what was the strangest contradictory behavior you've seen among this group (e.g. they are big fans of Seinfeld and Drake)?

WillCarlessReveal42 karma

I find it really interesting that a lot of these guys consider themselves "historians" and a lot of them are very (technically) smart, yet they ignore certain overwhelming evidence that would show their beliefs up as hateful and small-minded. That's pretty weird to me.

coryrenton13 karma

Did you see any such instances where they seem self-aware of this?

WillCarlessReveal38 karma

No. Indeed, the opposite. A lot of people have painted themselves into a corner, intellectually.

Actually, that's not true. The case of Leo Felton/Leo Olamidu did show a lot of introspection. Leo turned his back on Odinism and white supremacy because he ultimately read and studied more and decided he'd been wrong.

temporaryescape16 karma

Have you found any evidence that ancient Nordic people were themselves racist?

WillCarlessReveal23 karma

No, and indeed this is a bone of contention within Odinism -- whether there are actual overt references in the poetic eddas and other texts that could be identified as overt racism, or the supremacy of one race over another. Certainly most heathens don't believe there are any such points. But some racist heathens do.

ihatefeminazis115 karma

Why do these people say that Christianity has been corrupted by outsiders when they know the character of Christ from the bible? To be a bit more clear.. They know who Jesus was and what he did for everyone around him regardless of colour or age or sex.. Why is this just forgotten? I mean I understand interpretations but isn't this what made Christ so great?

WillCarlessReveal45 karma

I delve into this somewhat in the story: Broadly speaking, white supremacists turn to Odinism for three reasons: 1. They see it as a religion that is racially "pure" -- one that is both of and for the white race 2. They abhor the influence of Jews on Christianity (remember the majority of these people are rabidly antiSemitic), and 3. They don't like the concept of "turning the other cheek," and forgiveness generally espoused by Christianity. They see it as more noble, more masculine, and more "productive" to die in battle as a good Odinist.

ihatefeminazis18 karma

Thank you very much for your answer and for doing this AMA I appreciate it. :)

WillCarlessReveal6 karma

You're very welcome. Thanks for reading!

iwas99x7 karma

Their religion sounds like blend of Wicca and Christianity.

WillCarlessReveal18 karma

Yes, but remember the racist extremists are the minority. I would say they have co-opted the religion to their own ends.

ZivaBranstetter13 karma

Did you know that an Oklahoma inmate was executed in 2012 and his last words included "Valhalla, Odin slay the beast"?

WillCarlessReveal22 karma

I came across this case during my research. I didn't include it since the murder was not "terrorism" per se. The inmate spent a lot of time incarcerated, which means he almost certainly was confronted with Odinism repeatedly. Odinism is extremely common and popular in prisons.

CatatonicAlarm511 karma

Have you come across Varg Vikernes in any of your studies? I'm a big Burzum fan but despise Varg because he says things exactly like what you described

WillCarlessReveal10 karma

That's not a name I know, no. But I have seen lots of people on social media who call themselves "Varg." Can you tell me more about him?

CatatonicAlarm521 karma

He's a Norwegian black metal musician who played in Burzum and Mayhem briefly. He's probably more famous for being involved in church burnings and the murder of a fellow musician.

Once in jail he started being way more vocal about these bizarre beliefs surrounding ancient Nordic religion and white supremacy (and, specifically, the "Jewishness" of modern Christianity). He invokes Baldur a lot and was briefly in jail for hate speech in France as well as illegal guns, I believe.

He has a YouTube channel called ThuleanPerspective where he talks a lot about what you've mentioned. He was also pretty influential in the development of National Socialist Black Metal, I believe, despite white supremacy mostly not coming up in his actual music.

Edit: admittedly, I'm not an expert on National Socialist Black Metal because it sounds altogether horrible to me, so I could be misstating his influence on the genre.

WillCarlessReveal15 karma

Thanks very much for the information. I had not come across him in my research but his views sound very similar to what I am seeing espoused by racist Odinists across the US and Europe. I will certainly take a look at him. Much appreciated.

DubsLA11 karma

What do you feel like draws people towards Odinism as opposed to traditional white supremacy? Are there parallels between Al-Qaeda/ISIS where one is a more extreme version of the other?

WillCarlessReveal15 karma

Regarding your first question, here's a snippet from my story that sums it up well, I think:

"Odinism is a perfect fit for a strain of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who think Christianity, like so many other institutions, has been corrupted by outsiders and weakened by passivity.

Today’s racist Odinists say it is the only pure religion for white people, one not “mongrelized” by the Jewish prophet Jesus. They see themselves as warriors, ready to reclaim America for the white race and fight against a white genocide, driven by Jews, that has left the greatest country on Earth in tatters."

Regarding the second question, yes, absolutely. Racist/extremist Odinists are a radical subset of a wide group, most of whom don't have a racist bone in their body.

DubsLA7 karma

Thanks. Very interesting story. Wonder if they all went and saw Thor together.

WillCarlessReveal27 karma

Actually, a lot of racist Odinists actively boycotted Thor because of the casting of Idris Elba in the movie!

iwas99x10 karma

What other stories are you working on for the near future?

WillCarlessReveal23 karma

I don't want to scoop myself :) I'm interested in several elements of what we have broadly termed "hate in America." I'm still looking into white supremacists/white separatists, as well as other extremists.

If you have any story ideas or tips, please send them my way! [email protected]

donkey_democrat3 karma

Have you done any work on La Raza or the Black Panthers or similar hate groups?

WillCarlessReveal13 karma

I have mentioned hate crimes by black nationalists in my weekly Hate Report: But I haven't investigated any of these groups as I don't see evidence that they're active in the same way

Dotlinefever23 karma

If your looking for another Avenue of investigation, I would look into their infiltration of hippie culture. Especially in the south.

WillCarlessReveal5 karma

Can you email me with some examples/further reading? [email protected] Thanks!

Joe43410 karma

What surprised you most in your research?

WillCarlessReveal24 karma

I think the breadth and spread of racist Odinism. I had no idea it was so prevalent. I had never even heard of Odinism before I started researching white supremacy.

Murder_Boners9 karma

Is it fair to say that Odinism was specifically created or at least promoted as a means to inject religious fanaticsm into the increasingly violent right wing, white nationalism push that seems to be the backbone of groups like the alt-right?

WillCarlessReveal26 karma

No, I don't think that's true. From my research, Odinism was developed as a sort of "fusing" of racist, national socialist (Nazi) beliefs with ancient pagan beliefs. There are lots of different "flavors" of Odinism, but its' main proponents were all about spreadig a philosophy/religion. I don't believe it was done as some sort of support or catalyst for the far-right

Murder_Boners-2 karma

But I'm guessing there's not a ton of liberals in Odinism, right? 😀

WillCarlessReveal17 karma

That's a fair assumption, yes. As far as *racist Odinists are concerned. I would estimate that most *heathens (non-racists) are pretty liberal.

FS4JQ8 karma

Can you name any other religions with prominent ties to terrorism?

WillCarlessReveal38 karma

Basically all of them have some tie

FS4JQ5 karma

Any of them seeming to stand out more recently?

WillCarlessReveal19 karma

Yep. I just wrote a story about it ;)

iwas99x7 karma

Is Will Careless your birth name or a pseudonym?

WillCarlessReveal11 karma


iwas99x6 karma

Okay now I'm more confused.

WillCarlessReveal8 karma

That's not my name :)

ScottySmalls258 karma

How about Will Carless then

WillCarlessReveal18 karma

That's my real name.

MrAcurite5 karma

Well, hey, at least they're consistent with their antisemtism.

Fairly entry level question, but; what percentage of these neo-Nazis have ever actually met a Jew, do you think?

Cambionr23 karma

Rare Jewish felon here. I was friends with an Odinist in prison. He was a pretty fucked up guy, but an alright dude--if that makes any sense to you.

He always said he didn't give a shit about me being Jewish, just don't breed with pure white girls, and leave him and his alone. Obviously still a hateful doctrine, but as far as prison goes, it was pretty live and let live.

MrAcurite3 karma

Did he mention if he knew any Jews as a child, or in life before prison?

Cambionr11 karma

I got the impression he had. He was from an area of Northeast Ohio where there are a lot of Jewish people. He also was more into the Odinism than the White Supremism, like the whole Viking warrior, pure blood stuff was his thing. He sort of passively hated. Just don't try to mingle and keep your shit to your own people kind of stuff. He also believed in multiple other gods and multiple creations; so he believed Yahweh created a weaker race, while Odin created a superior one. And he kept a copy of the Edas, and actually studied it and took it literally.

He was down for murder and had been down 12 years when I met him, so, he had kind of had leeway to craft his own reality.

WillCarlessReveal4 karma

It sounds like there's some Christian Identity thought mixed in there too, that's well worth reading up on

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

Who are you referring to?

MrAcurite2 karma

The Odinist that u/Cambionr was friends with in Prison

WillCarlessReveal2 karma

Ah. I will let him reply. My bad.

WillCarlessReveal4 karma

Gosh. I'm certainly not qualified to answer this. I wouldn't have a clue. But certainly on common denominator of these hateful groups is that they rarely associate with or communicate with people who don't agree with them or who are from diverse backgrounds.

Swayze_Train2 karma

You know this isn't a recent phenomenon, right? The Nazis were ass deep in paganism and esoteric magic, look at Alfred Rosenberg who's hilarious Kafka-esque title was Commissar for Supervision of Intellectual and Ideological Education. He was a rabid de-Christianizer who wanted to replace it with what he called a "Religion of Blood".

Of course they were all hopped up on other weird shit like Blavatskyism too. This isn't a new trend, violent and hateful people find Christianity to be generally restricting and disagreeable.

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

This may not be a "new" trend globally, but racist Odinism really only started appearing in the US in the 1970s, from my research.

Machiavvillain1 karma

How do racist Odinists generally view Rome and Greece, two other civilizations that are also fetishized by white nationalists? I'd imagine with some negativity, given the rise of Christianity.

WillCarlessReveal3 karma

I honestly don't know. That's an interesting question but not one that has so far come up in my research.

Hexxman0071 karma

wow, so you did a whole couple of months research? Yup, you are a modern expert. Unfortunately it seems people here already know more than you appear to. \ Doesnt that make you look like just some guy who wrote an article?

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

Did you read the article?

Fuzzy6881 karma

Did you come into contact with any blind people? Did they share the same beliefs?

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

I did not.

whateverdipshit-11 karma

The attacker in Portland was a Bernie Sanders supporter who claims to be Jewish. How does that square with the narrative you're trying to tell?

WillCarlessReveal21 karma

I don't see any evidence he ever claimed to be Jewish. The fact he's a Bernie Sanders supporter is, I believe, irrelevant. He was very interested in Odinism.

funknut8 karma

The official police report gives direct quotations from the murderer as he spewed his hatred for liberals from the back seat of the ride leaving the murder scene:

I told him [The victim], "you ain't. gonna heal punk." And he still wants to put hands on me. Die bitch. Fucking die. Stupid motherfucker. That's what liberalism gets you.

The defendant continued:

I hope they all die. I'm gonna say that on the stand. I'm a patriot and I hope everyone I stabbed died.

The specific victim to which he referred can be construed based on the facts available to us within the same police report. The only victim to die on the scene was Ricky Best, 20 year patriot and military veteran. He received several more stab wounds than the other victims and was the only victim not to arrive, life intact, at a hospital for treatment.

Not to be redundant but I believe it will be an effective message to simply repeat your own question in response, "how does that square with the narrative you're trying to tell?"

WillCarlessReveal1 karma

I don't understand your point.

cosmicsaloon-19 karma

Six cases in 16 years, and you think that worth investigating? Therefore men born with two penis' than that, what dumb, pointless "journalism"

WillCarlessReveal14 karma

Thanks for your comment. Yes. I think it was worth investigating.

sheparooo-21 karma

Why do you think alot of white people also like yoga, from eastern religion? Is there a correlation? Or some peole are just crazy and there isnt really anything deep worth investigating here

WillCarlessReveal18 karma

I think you're being facetious. I absolutely think this group was worth investigating. Check out the story and see what you think!