The English Folk Church teaches belief in an eternal God who both transcends the created cosmos and who is also immanent within it. God does not have physical form, at least as we understand it, being manifest as raw spiritual energy. Neither is God male or female, being the dynamic union of both. God is the original power and energy from which all power and energy come. All things were made by God and are in some way a part of God. God then created divine beings out of these elements that manifested aspects of His own character and divinity.
Hinduism teaches something similar. Within this tradition, there are a great variety of benevolent, angelic like beings called Devas. The word itself is derived from an Indo-European word meaning ‘celestial’ or ‘shining’. The word is cognate with our modern word ‘deity’, although the Devas are but manifestions of the one God. Zoroastrianism has a similar concept in which Ahura Mazda creates, or emanates, from himself a number of Amesha Spenta or Holy Immortals who are each an aspect or hypostasis of the creator. The Holy immortals are themselves assisted by various lesser divine beings, the Yazata – or ‘those worthy of worship’. None of these are to be confused with demons or evil beings.
Tolkien describes God in a very similar way. In ‘Ainulindale’, he describes God as ‘the One, Eru, who in the ancient tongue is called Iluvata’ – meaning All-Father. Iluvata made the first of the ‘Holy Ones’ that were the off spring of his ‘Thought’ or ‘Logos’ and were with him before all else were made. Many classical Greek thinkers called the highest God ‘the One’ or the Monad. Pythagoras believed that it is from the One that all things are created.
The EFC perceives the Holy Ones of the North European pantheon in similar terms. They are not just creations of God, but hypostases of God. As such, they embody various aspects of the divine essence and energies. The ‘One God’ has created different groups of such beings who are established as wardens or guardians to the various ethnic groups around the world. We are shaped by them, physically, intellectually and emotionally and have strong bonds with them. These Holy Wardens are the main pathway by which different peoples come to God, each in their own way.
The term ‘All-Father’ is mainly used nowadays to refer to Odin, although there is evidence that in days gone by it was a title given to Tiw or Tyr. As such, ‘All-Father’ can be seen as referring to the one God, although it is technically inaccurate as God is not gender specific.
The name ‘Odin’ is linked to the term Odr (or Od) which signifies ecstatic fury, inspiration, possession, mind in the sense of intuitive feeling, soul, spirit, prophecy and poetry. It is linked with the force of creativity. The equivalent Anglo Saxon English terms for these are the name Woden and the term Wod. They derive from the proto Indo Germanic word Wat and are related to the Sanskrit word Vat, meaning ‘to blow’. They are also cognate with the word api-va’, meaning ‘to fan’ in the sense of to ‘fan flames’ or excite or to inspire. In this sense, Odin is the energy of life – the passion to live, to create to survive and to evolve. The spirit of Odin drives our civilisation. It inspires cultural and technological progress. But it is also the raw primal energy that wills us to survive and protect our own – the fury and aggression that drives us to higher levels, but which can also be extremely destructive.
The German scientist Karl von Reichenbach (1788-1869), who is better known as the inventor of paraffin and creosote, spent much of the latter part of his career promoting the existence of an unseen energy which he called ‘Odic force’. This energy is the source of all life, all animation and all spirit. It is an impersonal form of the universal God and permeates the whole cosmos. He connected this force with Odin because of his association with rushing energy. In ‘The Odic force: letters on Od and magnetism’, Von Reichenbach writes that Odin expresses the idea of the ‘All-transcending’, the power penetrating all nature which is ultimately personified as the Germanic deity. He uses the word ‘Od’ to express a dynamic force, which with a power that cannot be resisted, quickly penetrates and courses through everything in the universe.
A similar concept to the Odic force was developed by the English occultist Lord Edward Lytton, who in 1871 wrote a book called ‘The Coming Race’. Similar in some respects to Jules Verne’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, it tells of a subterranean civilisation of Angelic like beings. It is clearly an adaptation of the ancient Aryan myth of hyperborean – the lost subterranean civilisation of advanced beings. Just as Hyperborea is lit by uncreated light, so Lytton’s world is suffused with a strange energy that has no equivalent in the surface world. Lytton calls this force ‘Vril’ and explains that it is the unity of all natural energic agencies. Thus electricity or magnetism are just aspects of this wider energy called Vril. Lytton goes on to explicitly compare Vril to the Odic force of von Reichenbach. Vril can be a physical force. It is the source of the eternal light and heating of the subterranean city and can be used as a powerful destructive weapon. But it is also a supernatural or spiritual force that enables telepathy clairvoyance. British readers will be most familiar with the term in the form of Bovril – the energy of the cow!
This Odic force is part of the divine energies of the One God. It is the same spiritual energy the ancient Greeks called the Christos and which some occultists believe the ancient Germanics called the Krist. The Odic force is the underlying essence of Odin and as such we see in Odin a direct manifestation of the divine energies. In this sense, we can perceive Odin at two inter-connected levels. The first is as the Odic energy that is a direct part of the divine energies of the One God and the second as a distinct spiritual being within our pantheon. Odin is therefore more strongly associated with All-Father than our other Holy Wardens, somewhat as Manwe is more closely related to Iluvata in Tolkien’s mythology. It is therefore no surprise that our ancestors came to call Odin All-Father himself.
But our mythology also suggests a trinity of three gods who shaped the first of our folk:
Fundu a landi, litt megandi
Ask ok Embla, Orloglausa.
Aund þau ne atto, Oþ þau ne haufðo
La ne læti, Ne lito Goða.
Aund gaf Oðin, Oþ gaf Honir
La gaf Loður, ok lito Goða.
Found on the land, faint and feeble
Ash and Elm, with no destiny assigned to them.
They did not have spirit (breath), nor senses
Neither did they have blood or life-hue and the form of the Gods.
Odin gave them breath, Honir gave them senses
Lothir gave them blood and the form of the Gods.
Here we have reference to the gifts of the three ‘brothers’; Odin, Willa (Hoenir) and Weoh (Lodur). The three ‘brothers’ are really a trinity; each an aspect or representation of the Odic force or divine energies of All-Father God. They all offer gifts related to the Od.
Odin gives Aund (sometimes spelt Ond) which means breath or spirit – that which animates us or ‘fans’ us. Honir's gift, "Oð" (Oth), refers to our senses. This can be seen as our "ego" or personality, perhaps best summed up by the Old English word "Willa". It is our "Will", our driving force. It is the part of us that determines what we want and gives us the ability to desire and aspire. The gifts of Loður are probably the hardest to deal with. The Old Norse words "la" and "læti" have been translated differently by different authors. Sometimes they are translated as a single modern English word, sometimes as two separate words. The more common translation is "blood". "Character" is also used. This equates with the Old English word "Blod", meaning "blood". However, unlike our modern understanding of this word, the term does not refer so much to the red liquid that runs through our earthly bodies as to our physical and other characteristics that run through our whole self. We inherit these physical and other attributes from our ancestors and pass them on to our children. Modern science may refer to them as our genetic make-up. Indeed, we still say "we share the same blood", meaning we are genetically related or "Cyn" (kin).
There are parallels with these ideas in the Aryan religion of Zoroastrianism. ‘Ahura’ is the being who breathes life into everything and animates the cosmos, ie. energy. Mazda is the wisdom embedded in the cosmos, ie. form. Taken together, the supreme deity ‘Ahura-Mazda’ means energy channelled into ideal form. This is similar to the idea of the divine energies of All-Father permeating all aspects of the cosmos and providing the basis for evolutionary advancement of spirit and matter into an ultimate ideal form – the perfection of creation.
Another term for the primal energies that permeate all aspects of reality is ‘Mægan’ in Old English, known as ‘Megin’ in Old Norse. These are really just different words to express the Odic force or Vril and are similar to ‘Chi’ in Chinese, ‘Ki’ in Japanese or the ‘Kundalini’ force of Hinduism. Mægan is the primal energy of all life force, the energy that animates our spirit as well as our physical bodies. It is in the air that we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. It is part of the divine energies that is All-Father and the Spirit of God that is the Christ. In this sense, it is part of the ‘Christ within us’, the inner divine that makes up part of all living things but which for most of us is not awakened.
One of the highest aims of any adherent of our folk faith is to awaken that force and connect with it. It is to attain a higher state of consciousness than we currently have – what is sometimes called enlightenment, the destination of our spiritual journey. This is the essence of the myths around Odin as Shaman, hanging himself on Yggdrasil to obtain the Runes of enlightenment and sacrificing an eye for greater wisdom. In our tradition, this enlightenment is sometimes called the ‘Odin Consciousness’ and in esoteric Christianity as the ‘Christ Consciousness’. It is the point at which the mind is developed to a higher level of consciousness and a greater level of awareness of reality, in essence a union with the divine.
Our mythology speaks powerfully of this spiritual quest. At the top of the World Tree, Yggdrasil, sits an eagle with a hawk between his eyes. Below one of its roots, dwells the ‘Wyrm’ or Serpent ‘Nidhogg’. And a squirrel called ‘Ratatosk’ runs up and down the tree trunk passing messages between the two. The tree trunk represents our backbone or spine. The serpent, Nidhogg, represents the primal life energy that is stored at the base of the spine. This is the energy that activates our senses and drives us forward – but which can become too wedded to ‘earthly pleasures’ if uncontrolled. The eagle represents our higher consciousness and the hawk is a symbol of the ‘third eye’ of higher awareness. Ratatosk represents the flow of life energy; the Mægan, Odic Force or Vril. His running between our higher and lower selves represents the tension between the two and the energy flow between them which is the catalyst for spiritual advancement.
The Germanic martial art of Stav recognises and is partly based on releasing the power of Mægan – much in the same way as the Hindu practice of Yoga seeks to release the Kundalini, represented as a coiled serpent similar to Nidhogg. The Stav postures, or stances, are based on the Runes and these form the basis for manipulating the physical body to release spiritual energy, leading to good physical and mental health.