The Return of Odin: The Modern Renaissance of Pagan Imagination

Richard Rudgley. Inner Traditions, $19.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-62055-727-3
In this expansive but underdeveloped book, Rudgley, a documentary filmmaker, provides an overview of the influence of the Norse mythological cult of Odin on various 19th- and 20th-century groups and thinkers that claim a modern renaissance in these beliefs. Rudgley’s examples are far-ranging, covering psychology (Carl Jung’s theories), literature (the novels of Jules Verne and J.R.R. Tolkien), and mass movements such as Nazism and the American counterculture of the 1960s. Far too often, the connections to Odin are tenuous or only thinly supported by evidence. The amount of time Rudgley spends on each is uneven (Jung is clearly a favorite topic of the author’s, but Nazism receives only a short account), and the main thread of Odinism sometimes disappears behind the character portraits. The book also devotes time to exploring some pagan beliefs, such as the concept of wyrd or fate, Norse runes, and associated yoga poses, but doesn’t sufficiently connect them to 20th-century revival movements. Although the book is presented as a history, Rudgley’s tone fluctuates between scholarly detachment and near-advocacy of paganism. Readers already invested in the myths of Odin may enjoy this overview, but for most, Rudgley’s book will be too broad and unfocused to serve as a useful introduction. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
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