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Freya wants Odin to be recognised as religious group

It’s an unlikely spot, but Bankend farm at Drumclog is on its way to becoming the Scottish centre for the worship of the Viking god Odin.

The idea is the brainchild of Freya Asswyn, High Priestess of Odin and author of a key book on the old religion, Leaves of Yggdrasil.

Freya, a former chiropodist and a Dutch national, started out on the pagan path by joining a Wiccan coven.

But at one of their gatherings, "Odin turned up as a black hooded figure" and encouraged her to take up Viking magic.

"I didn’t look for it," Freya explains. "It just happened."

Eventually Freya realised that she was "a chosen priestess of Odin" and left Wicca for good.

Round Freya’s neck hangs a Valknut, a symbol of three interlocking triangles. It has the same force for an Odinist as the cross does for a Christian.

Given the infamous fury of the Norsemen with their Berserker warriors, Freya seems remarkably laid back. "I don’t want to see Odin as the official religion of Scotland," she assures me.

But when Scotland is independent she plans to apply for it to be recognised as a religious group.

Freya organises clergy training by correspondence course.

"We train people not only to carry out rituals, but to do counselling and guidance work," she explains. It all seems a far cry from bloodthirsty Odin.

The Viking alphabet was made up of leters called runes, with mystic links.

Freya describes herself as a’rune mistress’ and believes in the power of the runes but admits she doesn’t consult them every day.

"They’re there to help me overcome difficulties which I can’t solve in the normal way."

There are 24 runes, it seems, "keys to the creative power of the universe". Each can conjure up a separate force as they "vibrate on different frequencies to link up with a god or goddess".

"Odin is a symbol of knowledge. So when I get a computer problem I call Odin and he helps me to solve it," says Freya.

I find the idea of Odin descending from the halls of Valhalla to sort out somebody’s computer a bit strange, but to the followers of Odin, he is still very much alive.

According to Freya anyone can learn to use the runes. If you want to get them working for you, she suggests you follow her example. Her first step was to bake 24 square cakes, each decorated with a different rune.

"Each evening I called on Odin to bless a rune, and then ate it. Then I just concentrated and wrote down whatever came to mind."

Freya’s move to Drumclog near Strathaven, Lanarkshire, is a mystic tale in itself.

She received a "trance communication" from Odin which told her she had to leave London.

He had a site in mind, which would be signalled by an omen of some kind. That signal came in the shape of an advert in a copy of the Exchange and Mart bought to check on the cost of tea chests for removal.

When Freya arrived at Bankend she knew this was the place she’d been looking for. Behind the ruined farmhouse stood an ash and an elm tree about two metres apart, with their branches locked together. This, to Freya, signified the linking of the gods Ask and Embla, just as Odin had predicted.

Freya worries that people might get the wrong idea about Odin worship. She tells me "people who are dangerous use the name Odin but really worship Adolf Hitler and the Nazis."

It does seem true that since the 1930s the Viking gods have attracted right-wing followers, but to Freya they’ve got it all wrong.

"They are weak people looking for strong symbols. Odin is all about a sense of community and honour," she insists.

She has renamed Bankend ‘Gladsheim’ after one of Odin’s castles in Asgard, the Norse heaven.

Gladsheim is intended to become a "centre of learning with a well-stocked occult library, a working temple with priests and priestesses". But she also has some down-to-earth aims and explains they are committed to a wildlife project and the gradual reforestation of Scotland with native trees.

At the entrance to Bankend stands a wolf totem pole, put there to protect Gladsheim. It "creates an astral image" of the beast which is then charged with protecting the site.

Any unwelcome vistors will feel threatened and uncomfortable if they step beyond.

Freya is concerned about local feeling on her plans for Gladsheim although she has been encouraged by the general response.

But rumours do abound - one is that Freya put a curse on a sex pest so his love-life was ruined for months.

Freya explains cursing can work both "in the mind" and on a magical level. If you believe a curse will harm you, it does. She believes the future belongs to Odin. "Odinism is more widespread and has more open followers than at any time since the arrival of Christianity. It is growing rapidly," she says.

Source: Evening Times 14/03/98
The Scottish X Files with Ron Halliday, Chairman of the Scottish Earth Mysteries Research