By Stephen McNallen
Iwas born on October 15, 1948, in the small Texas town of Breckenridge, Texas. I count myself fortunate for at least three reasons – that I was born in the great state of Texas, which will always be my heimatland, that I was born in a small town with small town values, and that I was born before the eclipse which has since overtaken what now passes for Western Civilization.
On a more intimate level, I chose my parents well: My father was a hard-working, Irish Catholic oil hand who had come to Texas for the oil boom some years earlier, and my mother was a loving, kind, and intelligent woman who – significantly – bought me the books I wanted and read them to me.
One of my earliest obsessions (there is no other word) was space travel. Long before first grade, I knew I wanted to be a space man; more precisely, I wanted to be the first person on the moon. Years later, as it became apparent that I was not going to attain that goal, I switched my sights to the first interstellar space voyage. I read less on rocket propulsion, and started seeking out books on relativity and gravity, even though my comprehension of them was, to be kind, far from perfect.
Destination Moon, an early inspiration for space travel
I was also attracted to politics, especially the anti-communist variety, from a very early age. When the Hungarians rose up against the Soviets, I was eight years old. I recall clearly sneaking around the house with a small cardboard box, snatching stray pocket change, which I wanted to send to the Hungarians. For food? Humanitarian aid? Not at all – I specifically wanted them to buy bazookas, so they could knock out more Soviet tanks. (Decades later I replayed this theme at a higher level; as an ROTC student at Midwestern State University, I noted that dozens of military manuals had been tossed into the trash because they were outdated. I asked the staff if I could have them (none were classified or restricted in any way). They told me to take them – so I boxed them up and sent them to an anti-Castro group in Miami which I had been supporting.
Somewhere in those years I was briefly a member of Mensa. I didn’t take the standard test, but my college entrance scores were high enough to qualify me for membership. I stayed in the organization for only one year; the snob factor was kind of high, but mostly I was just very busy doing things that were more important to me.
The Viking, by Edison Marshall
It was in college, too, that I took a path which was to define the rest of my life journey. I read a novel – The Viking, by Edison Marshall. The story was set during the period when Christianity was coming to the northlands, and the author contrasted the faiths of the Nordic pagans on the one hand, and the Christians on the other. I read it almost non-stop. By the time I finished, I knew that the old ways of the European folk were my ways, and that Odin was the god I would follow. The rebirth of Norse/Germanic paganism had begun. I have not wavered from that course since that fateful day.
At first it was a private thing, but then I began quietly promoting the religion – which at that point I simply called “Norse paganism,” as I had no name for it. I really was starting from scratch. About the time of my graduation from college, I started a minuscule publication called The Runestone. I cranked it out on a mimeograph machine (!) – the first run was eleven copies. Within a year or so – August 29, 1972 – I had received recognition of the Viking Brotherhood as a tax-exempt religious organization.
After earning my degree in Political Science, I went off to Fort Benning to begin what I thought would be my Army career. I graduated from the Infantry Officer Basic Course and was offered two additional schools: I chose the Airborne and Ranger courses, both of which are noted for their difficulty. Next, I was asked where I wanted to be assigned, and I volunteered for Vietnam. I was dismayed to learn that the Army was not sending more new officers there, as that war was in the process of winding down. I was sent to Germany, which was interesting but not what I wanted. I left the Army when my four years were up, and before returning to the United States I made my first trip to Africa, hitching rides across the Sahara and getting as far as Nigeria before heading back to Europe.
The years that followed saw me variously employed as a security guard, an oilfield worker, a school teacher, among other things. By then, my college conversion had blossomed into something much larger, and most of my time was spent promoting the expansion of the faith now known as Asatru, and exemplified in a non-profit religious organization, the Asatru Free Assembly (AFA). This was my first priority, and prospective employment always had to answer the question “How will this affect the AFA?”
And so it continued, until 1986, until administrative burdens and fatigue forced the Asatru Free Assembly to fold. I was exhausted and for a while lived in a ghost town in the Sierra Mountains, metaphorically and literally “lost in the wilderness”. I then took up teaching math and science at a junior high school, slowly reviving my involvement in Asatru … but teaching wasn’t enough. I needed action and adventure, and so enlisted in the National Guard. In my summers I traveled to northern India to meet with Tibetans who had fought the Chinese, Myanmar to aid the Karen National Liberation Army, South Africa to cover the blight of the Boers, and the Tomislav Brigade in Bosnia. Along the way I contributed to the (in)famous Soldier of Fortune magazine to help cover expenses. My appetite for adventure satisfied – for now – I was finally ready to return and and form the Asatru Folk Assembly as a successor to the Asatru Free Assembly.
Stephen performing a rite to Odin at a service to the short-lived Asatru Church in Nevada City, CA
It flourished. Over the years it grew and I wrote Asatru: A Native European Spirituality, which defines my convictions and purpose. We purchased a permanent building which became Odinshof – our first temple to the Gods. The AFA has since expanded to include four Hofs in the USA and continues to grow. In 2016, after leading the Asatru Folk Assembly for 20 years, I turned it over to a younger generation and started the next phase of my service to my Gods and to my Folk.
Ready to begin your journey?
Asatru: A Native European Spirituality introduces the reader to the wonderful world of the revived Asatru religion.
This seminal work by Stephen McNallen familiarizes you with fundamentals of the living Asatru faith and gain the knowledge necessary to practice the religion. Learn about the history of the movement to revive our ancient religion and what lies ahead for one of the fastest growing religious movements in the world.