Minnatranc for the Folk Mother
About this time one year ago Else Christensen announced that she would no longer be publishing and distributing her newsletter, The Odinist. At 90 years old, she decided, the effort was becoming too much for her. She passed on the responsibilities of production and distribution to other Odinist Fellowship members. Except for her period of questionable incarceration (another story) The Odinist has been in continuous production ever since the original founding of the Odinist Fellowship in 1972, a project almost single-handedly operated by Else herself.
On 2 May of this year the announcement was made public that Ms. Christensen was retiring from her involvement in the Odinist Fellowship. No plans had been made with regards to a replacement for her, nor has their been any statements made by the OF as to their possible restructuring after the loss of the “Folk Mother” that the organization came to depend on for so much.
2 days later, on Wednesday 4 May, Else Christensen died at approximately 21:30. Details as to the cause of death were not mentioned in the public announcement. I like to believe that she passed to the otherworld because she recognized that her work here on Mittigart is done, and that it’s now time to pass the proverbial torch to younger minds and hearts.
This weekend I offered her a minnatranc. Although we have plenty of mead in the cellar, Else always seemed to me a bit more on the lowbrow side, so I toasted and boasted her accomplishments with beer. I encourage every Heathen to do similarly. “[Odinists are charged ] …to give kind heed to dead men: straw dead, sea dead, or sword dead.” (The 8th Charge of the Odinic Rite). I do not believe that this concept is unique to Odinism, but that it applies to all Heathenry. And if we are to give ‘kind heed’ to the types of dead mentioned above, how much more true is this of our thinkers, and leaders, those who sacrificed much more than we could ever know, those who challenged the basic frameworks of Religion, Society, Custom and Law so that we might enjoy the revived Heathenry that we do today.
Else Christensen’s approach to Odinism was rather different from what most of us in modern Heathenry practice. We do not see ritual, symbolism, and other typically religious trappings presented by Else in the manner that is common nowadays because she saw Odinism as more of a Weltanschauung than a religion. She often delved into social and political issues, dealt with matters ranging from racial/ethnic issues to prison ministries, and did her part to insure that modern folks knew some things about history as it applies to Odinism. This certainly does not mean that her work is of any less value than that of Stephen McNallen, Bill Dwinnells, Stubba, Hjuka Coulter, Heimgeist, Gárman Lord, Valgard Murray, or any of the other movers & shakers we commonly recognize. Quite the contrary; without efforts such as hers our Heathenry today would lack the depth and wholeness that we often take for granted! Furthermore, we see that she was not swayed by trends or by published ideas--she held to her own, carving her own niche for those who found her efforts worthy.
I never got the opportunity to meet Else in person, but we were in snail mail correspondence for some time. By the time I got in contact with her she was already in her 80s. Her letters, typed out on an old typewriter, were often filled with typos. Sometimes she retold a story and, because her memory was no longer what it used to be, she’d contradict her own account. But a caring and a passion always rang through in those letters, whether she was talking about the early days of the OF or about national socialism, about her current efforts or about texts that she was still hoping to find time to read. She never failed to get me thinking about topics that I’d never before considered. Her letters, ones that might seem rather simple and unimpressive to some, always inspired me to dig a little deeper and to think a little harder. I’ll miss those letters.
Heathens today have a terrible habit of either forgetting or cannibalising our leaders. So far the only Heathenry that I’ve seen immune to this tendency is Irminenschaft; but I think many Ásatrúar have begun to realize the destruction that this has caused the Heathen movement over the years, and (hopefully) this may be changing.
Talking on the telephone to my friend & comrade, H, I listened to a thought that I’d somehow missed: In 2 public announcements re Else’s passing put out by major Heathen organizations her name was misspelled. Some of the details of her life already seem to be misinformed or sketchy at best. This is a travesty! Our völk ought to be doing everything we can to preserve the memories of individuals like her! Similar things may be said about the memory of Allsherjargođi Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson…
I have a proposition: Beginning with Else Christensen let us hold our leaders, teachers, and others who have put their hearts, souls, minds, and efforts into our faith—whatever may be your favourite brand—in high esteem. And may we work to insure that their efforts are not forgotten.
“Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man's deeds.”
H. A. Bellows tr.
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