There are many secret or quasi-secret societies that practice various forms of ritual magick and may, or may not, follow a Neo-Pagan religion.
One very interesting group is the Odin Brotherhood, which does follows a Neo-Pagan faith path, but also incorporates secretive practices/rites that are alleged to be the “old” magick.
The Odin Brotherhood has for many centuries been a secret society for “warriors” and pagans. From the beginning, the movement – in spite of its name – has included women.
Interestingly, while its membership and most of its specific practices are shrouded in secrecy, its goals and beliefs are not. This “ancient” society now uses modern technology to express its goals via its own website.
A tradition for warriors, the Odin Brotherhood teaches that "when the gods made man, they made a weapon." The Brotherhood has no laws, but instead promotes “virtues,” and members prefer heroes, and warriors to “saints.”
As such, the Brotherhood practices “the old warrior religion” that is today called Odinism or Asatru. Consecrated to the pagan gods and goddesses of the Norse Pantheon, these deities are viewed as "older, better, and truer,” by its members. Some members of the Brotherhood use the Eddaic Verses – also called the Poetic Edda – as a kind of scripture.
[Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva or seeress addressing Odin. It is one of the most important primary sources for the study of Norse mythology.
The prophecy commences with an address to Odin. The seeress then begins relating the story of the creation of the world in an abridged form. She explains how she came by her knowledge and that she understands the source of Odin's omniscience, and other secrets of the gods of Asgard. She deals with present and future happenings, touching on many of the Norse myths, including as the death of Baldr and the binding of Loki. Ultimately the seeress tells of the end of the world, Ragnarök, and its second coming.]
Members of the Odin Brotherhood maintain that their order was established in 1421 to protect the Ancient Religion during the Burning Times, and has existed in unbroken lineage to the present.
Although Odinism never became extinct – hundreds of millions of people have honored the Eddaic pantheon (in its Vedic form) in the Indian subcontinent since Neolithic times – many scholars classify the movement as a Neo-Pagan revival.
In its current form, membership and meetings of the Odin Brotherhood is clandestine, but its objectives are stated publically, while many secret societies do not do this. In fact, secret faith societies remain illegal in some countries, and are in fact forbidden by the Constitution of Poland.
The Brotherhood say that it was founded shortly after the time when a young pagan widow was caught honoring the ancient gods and goddesses in a remote grotto. For her actions, an angry mob burned her on a pyre composed of green wood. After the murder, the woman's three children used an ancient and forbidden rite from paganism (Called necromancy, which is the dark art or dark practice of conjuring the dead, especially in order to obtain knowledge from them, generally of the future) and summoned her from beyond the grave.
Answering the summons, the slain woman is said to have instructed her children to save the ancient religion by taking the movement underground. They were instructed to form a secret society, a "conspiracy of equals," to be dedicated to the old gods. They pledged to "honor the gods with clandestine rites in deserted places," and they promised to "share their knowledge" with "the few" they trusted before they died.
According to the Odin Brotherhood, all of these events occurred somewhere in Eurasia – somewhere north of the Black Sea – in the 15th Century of the current era. They also insist that buried artifacts exist that will one day confirm their account.
The teachings of the "old way" were once only spread by word of mouth, from person to person. Today, however, with more written information appearing in manuscript and in published form, solitary practitioners (Referred to by the Brotherhood as ‘lone wolves,’ who initiate themselves) are becoming more common.
Initiation into the Odin Brotherhood only occurs at the solstices – it involves a vision quest cemented by a "ceremony of blood." As with almost all ancient religions and beliefs, without blood there is no power. That's the reason that animals were cut in half when the biblical Jehovah made his covenant with Abraham. The initiation rite of the Odin Brotherhood involves solitude, a diet of bread and ice (yes, ice), wearing a white shroud, the use of a dagger, and a ritual fire.
The male initiate – after proper ritual purification (bath) – makes three incisions on his body using his dagger. Done in the name of "holy violence, necessary violence," the male neophyte makes these incisions on his chest.
He then "devotes, hallows, and sanctifies" his soul to the “gods who live.” He does this by putting the tip of the dagger, stained with his own blood, into a fire three times.
The scars that are left from this ritual are called "The-Marks-of-Joy." They are based on the "marking with the spear,” a ceremony described in the Ynglinga Saga, by Snorri Sturluson, another example of an Eddaic.
The female neophyte, however, makes three small incisions on the tip of her right index finger. The Odin Brotherhood believes that women’s breasts are: "The last and most beautiful embellishment she receives in life," thus must not be disfigured.
Mercia Eliade, in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, notes that many secret society initiations resemble shamanic initiations, including seclusion (symbolizing the "beyond), some sort of prohibition (as in a diet), covering the face and body, usually with something that is white, and a difficult ordeal, involving the infliction of "cruelties."
The Odin Brotherhood embraces polytheism, stating that monotheism, "the belief in one totalitarian god, is preposterous and absurd." They insist that "no single, superordinary, ineffable entity controls all realities. A universe governed by one supreme deity would possess the maddening simplicity that characterizes any dictatorship, but our cosmos clearly shows no evidence of one will at work. Our universe is characterized by diversity and disorder, and that indicates the universe is molded by many wills and innumerable forces."
The Gods and Goddesses of the Odin Brotherhood, which include Odin, Thor, Frigg, Heimdall, Balder, Bragi, Vidar, Tyr, Frigg, Freyja, and others in the Norse Pantheon, are viewed as powerful entities that are finite in nature. Humanoid in shape – neither omnipotent nor omniscient – the gods are physical beings that inhabit hidden corridors in the universe. Often appearing on earth in disguise, they are known by many names in many languages. Odin, for example, appears also as Hermes and Rudra.
Believing in direct contact with the gods and goddesses, the Odin Brotherhood teaches that the deities typically communicate with humanity through a system of "messengers and spies."
The Odin Brotherhood declares itself the enemy of all forms of slavery, and members admire the gods but do not prostrate themselves before them. They observe three seasonal rites that are conducted without priests, for each member of the Brotherhood considers himself/herself a priest/priestess.
The first is called “The-Night-of-Joy.” Held in honor of the goddesses, the The-Night-of-Joy is celebrated on the eve of the Summer Solstice. This festival includes "feasting, jocularity, and frivolity."
The second is called “The-Night-of-Courage.” Held in honor of all the Odinists who have died, The-Night-of-Courage occurs on October 31. In the old calendar, October 31 marks the beginning of winter "the time when death is strong in nature."
The third festival is called “The-Night-of-Generosity.” Conducted on the eve of the Winter Solstice, this festival includes the bestowal of gifts. At this festival "every Odinist gives the world something great and something beautiful."
As has been said, the Odin Brotherhood’s ethical standards are based on the development of virtues. They represent "strength over weakness, pride over humility, and knowledge over faith." Members honor the gods by fostering "thought, courage, honor, light, and beauty." They are instructed to be "brave and generous," and "direct, uncomplicated and strong," and must "live well and die bravely."
Viewing themselves as members of a secret or an "invisible army of the gods," members see the Brotherhood as a "Creed of Iron."
The Odin Brotherhood teaches that all beings ultimately experience death. In poetic terms, death is personified as beautiful females – called the valkyries – who exist "in an endless variety of exquisite forms." Since death is not annihilation, the "transfigured life form" will go to one of three Other-Worlds. The most famous of these "Other-Worlds" is Valhalla.
Odinists believe in a form of reincarnation. In cosmic terms, death is described as Ragnarok, the final battle which destroys every universe. According to the Odin Brotherhood, Ragnarok is an "orgy of purification" from which a new cosmos is born. The cycle of destruction and rebirth – which will go on forever – is called the "Law-of-the-Endless-Circle." Also called the eternal return or eternal recurrence, the "Law-of-the-Endless-Circle" teaches that existence never ends with destruction. “Nothing dies forever,” and all beings – and all things – will return.
The Odin Brotherhood was first described publicly in 1992 with the publication of the The Odin Brotherhood, by Dr. Mark L. Mirabello, who is a professor of European history at Shawnee State University.
Leading to its publication, Mirabello had encountered a silver-haired man in a bookshop in Leith, in the United Kingdom. At the time, Mirabello was conducting historical research as a doctoral student in Scotland's University of Glasgow.
The gentleman, who called himself only Lodur's Friend (Lodur is one of the mysterious Gods in the Eddaic Verses), was holding a peculiar cane adorned with the images of a serpent and an ass, the ONLY two animals that speak in the bible. Both men were examining occult books. The gentleman noticed that Mirabello was studying a book called The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, by Arthur Edward Waite. During this encounter the gentleman pointed out that, "The rose symbolizes secrecy," while pointing to an engraving in Mirabello's book on the Rosy Cross. The gentleman went on to say that, "Since we speak sub rosa or 'under the rose', our discussion must remain forever secret."
Several months passed then Mirabello saw the old man again, this time at the Atlantis Bookshop, an occult emporium near the British Museum in London.
"Blind loyalty is a virtue in a dog, but it is an offense in a human being," declared the stranger, when he noticed Mirabello studying an obscure essay on faith.
Mirabello has said that since he was interested in the stranger's knowledge they became friends and that they began to meet for dinner, usually in Edinburgh or London, at which time the stranger introduced him, “to a circle of fascinating individuals." This gathering of friends for a meal (they only dined at night, during the time of the new moon), referred to itself as a conventicle, and was by invitation only. They maintained that those who “feared” or “hated” authority were excluded. Mirabello has said that those who “laughed at” authority were welcome. The gatherings always adjourned before dawn.
Some years after the publication of Mirabello's book, the anonymous and privately printed Teachings of the Odin Brotherhood began to circulate. Copies of the latter were rare, but are now widely available.
In addition, the The Odin Brotherhood website has provided a fabulous webpage that provides free .pdf versions of Mirabello’s book, in multiple languages, along with other esoteric books that describe the beliefs of its members.
The following material was taken directly from the official The Odin Brotherhood website:
WHAT IS THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD?
The Odin Brotherhood is a secret society for men and women who value “knowledge, freedom, and power.”
The Odin Brotherhood adheres to and practices the ancient warrior religion that is today called Odinism or Asatru. Consecrated to the pagan gods of Asgard – gods that are older, better, and truer – members of the Brotherhood use the Eddaic Verses – also called the Poetic Edda –as sacred texts.
As a warrior religion – a creed that glorifies the hero over the saint – the "mailed fist" over the "nailed hands" – the Odin Brotherhood represents strength over weakness, pride over humility, and knowledge over faith.
In an era of ugliness, impotence, and death, we glorify beauty, power, and life. Ours is a religion that creates no laws, only virtues. A revolt against the modern world – with its laws and moral codes – its hangmen and its priests – Odinism teaches men and women how to rule, fight, hunt, and procreate.
Members of the Odin Brotherhood are a hidden elite – a luminous beacon in a corrupt and squalid world. As proud friends of the gods and goddesses, we distinguish themselves from ordinary men and women.
Our religion – the proud tradition of Odin, Thor, Sif, Heimdall, and the other deities described in the Eddaic Verses – equips us to face the tyranny of fate – and the mystery of death.
Ordinary humans – dedicated to what Nietzsche called the slave religions – spend their lives toiling and obeying. Members of the Brotherhood – in contrast – are extraordinary mortals who know how to rule, fight, hunt, and procreate.
HISTORY ACCORDING TO THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD
Regarding the place of Odinism or Asatru in history, members of the Brotherhood assert that the religion of Odinism dates back to the dawn of humanity.
Man has been a hunter for several hundred thousand years – a farmer for ten thousand years – and a factory worker for two hundred years. Odinism is the religion of man the hunter.
This religion – almost exterminated in the fifteenth century of the current era – was kept alive by the Odin Brotherhood.
The great monotheistic religions – in contrast – the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – represent man the worker – man the toiler. As slave religions, they teach men and women to kneel, believe, and obey.
Historically, the Odin Brotherhood views Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as three manifestations of the same faith. These religions, which call upon the same god, essentially have the same five laws. Believers are taught to placate, propitiate, supplicate, honor, and obey.
WHO ESTABLISHED THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD?
In the legend of the Brotherhood, the story begins when a young pagan widow – the beautiful mother of three – was caught honoring her ancient gods and goddesses in a remote grotto.
A mob of nominal Christians – bigots who were black with hate – burned her alive on a pyre composed of green wood.
After the murder, the woman’s three children – using an ancient and forbidden rite from paganism – a rite called necromancy – summoned her from beyond the outer darkness – from beyond the grave.
Answering the summons, the slain woman instructed her children to save the ancient religion of Odinism by taking the movement underground.
They were instructed to form a secret society – a conspiracy of equals. Dedicated to the old gods, it was called the Odin Brotherhood.
According to the Brotherhood, all of these events occurred somewhere in Eurasia – somewhere north of the Black Sea – in the fifteenth century of the current era.
We know that buried artifacts exist which will some day confirm our tale.
HOW DOES ONE JOIN THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD?
Traditionally, the teachings spread from person to person. Only by word of mouth, from mind to mind, could the secrets pass.
Today, however, with more written information appearing in manuscript and in published form, solitary practitioners – lone wolves who initiate themselves – are becoming more common.
In its current form, membership in the Odin Brotherhood is secret – as in the so-called Illuminati conspiracy. The objectives of the Odin Brotherhood are stated publicly, as in the legendary Rosicrucians.
Unlike the freemasons, members of the Odin Brotherhood do not need secret words or grips or gestures to recognize one another. We know one another by a way of speaking, a dignity and reserve of manner, and an intensity in the eyes.
FACTS ABOUT THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD
1. The Odin Brotherhood is a polytheistic religion devoted to Odin, Thor, Sif, and the other deities of the Norse tradition. Monotheism, described as "the belief in one totalitarian god," is "preposterous and absurd."
2. The Odin Brotherhood claims an unbroken historical lineage from 1421. Although the movement "bears the teeth marks of Christianity," we have survived persecution.
3. To be initiated into the Brotherhood (we are a "secret society"), individuals must "devote, hallow, and sanctify" their blood to "the gods who live."
4. The Brotherhood denounces "faith" as "a poison that paralyzes the mind." Members are taught to "seek knowledge."
5. The Brotherhood glorifies strength. We assert that it is “only by becoming stronger that a man can realize his divinity."
6. The Brotherhood teaches absolute self-reliance. Members would "rather steal than accept charity."
7. Sin is denied and "contrition" is denounced as a "totem of decadence." Odinists see repentance as a mark of weakness because "only the terrorized repent."
8. The Odin Brotherhood has no temples or churches. The gods, we believe, can be honored anywhere as long as all "strangers" are excluded, all words are "whispered," and "all abominations are avoided." (By abominations, we mean "promiscuity and assassination.")
9. The central rite of the Brotherhood is called the "Glimpse-Of-Extraordinary-Beauty." The celebrants conducting this rite are "enveloped and penetrated by the thoughts of a god."
10. The Brotherhood believes in life after death ("nothing dies forever"). We believe there are three "Other-Worlds," including the fabled "Valhalla" or "White-Kingdom." The Odin Brotherhood believes that the Christian hell does not exist. Hell is one of the "spurious horrors" contrived by extinct theologians."
SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q. Has the Odin Brotherhood literally existed since 1421? According to historians, Lithuania was the last pagan stronghold in Europe. Officially converted in 1386, pagan elements supposedly did not survive past the 15th century.
A. The claim is impossible to prove, but is not extraordinary. The oldest industrial firm in the world – The Fabbrica (sic) d'Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A. in Italy – has existed since 1526 and is now run by an eleventh generation Beretta. If a family business could show great longevity, why not a secret society/religion?
Gnosticism – a quasi-Christian movement going back to the time of Christ – was once considered extinct by scholars. Of course, that was until the Mandaeans were "rediscovered" in southern Iraq.
The Parsees – followers of Zarathustra who fled to India in the medieval period – once thought their religion had perished in the Iranian homeland. Several centuries after their flight, they discovered that their belief was false.
In history, centuries are nothing. Ma Yu Ching's, a restaurant which opened in China in AD 1153, is still functioning today.
Q. Why do you not provide specific details – names and places – when you describe the Odin Brotherhood? Even Gerald B. Gardner, who started the Witchcraft revival with Witchcraft Today, named his source.
A. Traditional Odin Brotherhood devotees are serious about their anonymity. If asked about the Brotherhood, they will deny they belong. Indeed, until you have earned their trust, some deny the Brotherhood's existence. They call this "the ruse of the warrior."
On the subject of Gardner, it interesting that his alleged source was named Dorothy Clutterbuck. Although her existence has long been denied by academic historians, Doreen Valiente proved through birth and death records that Gardner's source was indeed a real person.
Q. Why is secrecy still necessary today?
A. Odinism thinks strategically rather than tactically. Although ridicule has replaced the stake as the preferred method of persecution, the violence may some day return. Remember, the future may not be a continuation of the present.
Besides, real heroes are not honored in our decadent time. Our society puts the hero in a prison or a circus.
Q. Some individuals search for the Brotherhood and never find it. Why is that?
A. To see something, you must know how to look.
Did ancient Sparta have walls? The barbarians could not see them, but every Greek knew the truth.
The warriors of Sparta were its walls.
People who look for a formal structure – a temple or a post office box – will never find the Brotherhood.
Q. Some witches are solitary practitioners. That is to say, they learn the lore, initiate themselves, and never have contact with a larger group. Are some members of the Brotherhood solitary practitioners?
A. In centuries past, all members of the Brotherhood learned the secrets from older and wiser warriors. Heroes, who knew how to rule, fight, hunt, and procreate!
Today, however, solitaries seem to be growing in numbers.
Q. Are the gods are real beings who often visit earth. Have the gods made contact with the Brotherhood?
A. That is the belief. Although it sounds implausible, I have a letter sent from Hamburg, Germany supposedly from Odin himself. A letter sounds odd – Judaic/Christian culture has conditioned us to think in terms of burning bushes and pillars of fire – but anything is possible.
Ezra Pound, in Canto 113, wrote:
The Gods have not returned. They never left us.They have not returned.
For a slightly different explanation, this has been taken directly from the Odin Brotherhood Forum:
THE ODIN BROTHERHOOD is a secret society for warriors and pagans who practice the religion now called Odinism or Asatru.
From the beginning, the movement – in spite of its name – has included women.
TO WARRIORS WHO SEEK KNOWLEDGE:
The Blood-Soaked Cross conquered Western Civilization. Gods were dethroned, images were smashed, history was changed.
A wasteland where camels grazed became a holy land. Crude writings written in barbarous dialects became sacred scriptures. An ill-tempered desert deity became a universal god.
Even more! A failed rebel prophet, who died a demeaning death on a tree, became a holy savior for millions. A simple peasant girl, impregnated under suspicious circumstances, became a holy mother--a blessed virgin. An ignorant fisherman, too cowardly to support his master in a crisis, became an infallible saint who guards the gates of heaven.
The Galilean conquered. BUT THE LIBERATION HAS BEGUN....
I am a Solitary Practitioner of Eclectic Wicca, devoted to the Goddess and God through nature and the Divine that lives within each of us. I am not a true warrior, and I adhere to the basic tenants of Wicca. Here is a combination of Wicca’s moral codes: "Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust...Mind the Threefold Law ye should – three times bad and three times good...Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will."
My life has not been easy, a statement I’m sure that can be echoed by everyone reading this. I have struggled, and the Goddess sometimes teases by calling me, “Her Little Warrior,” because I tend never to give up when faced with those challenges. But, I am a gentle soul; I can defend myself and my loved ones when required, but I strive to blend my energies with those found in nature. I want to feel the presence of the Goddess in every breath that I take into my body.
However, as a Wiccan I accept the beliefs and practices of others. So, while the precepts of the Odin Brotherhood do not call to my soul, I honor those for whom it does. There are as many different ways and faith paths to find Deity as there are those who seek the Divine, Wicca is simply the one that has claimed me.
I believe strongly that it is my duty in this blog to present as many different Neo-Pagan faiths as possible.
For anyone interested in reading about the Brotherhood in depth, I want to repeat my strongest recommendation for that fabulous webpage by the The Odin Brotherhood website that provides free .pdf versions of Mirabello’s book in multiple languages, along with other esoteric books that describe in detail the beliefs of the Brotherhood.
— Danu’s Daughter