Monday, December 22, 2008

The New Zealand Church of Odin (1980-1983) ‘The White Man's Religion’

For over three decades, the name Kerry Bolton (born 1956) has been synonymous, with far right politics in New Zealand.

Dr Paul Spoonley, author of ‘The Politics of Nostalgia‘, suggests Bolton was involved with the N.Z National Socialist Party at the tender age of 14.

Bolton's political CV is extensive, to say the least: secretary of the New Zealand Democratic Nationalist Party which was formed in 1975, founded New Force along with with Cantabrian David Crawford (1981)which then became Nationalist Workers Party in 1983, secretary for the New Zealand Fascist Union in 1997, 1999 saw him involved with New Zealand Workers Front, and last heard of was the secretary of the New Zealand National Front.

Bolton (who sometimes calls himself Dr K.R Bolton or Wulf Grimwald) is a prolific author - a couple of his more interesting publications being ‘Animal Welfare in The Third Reich’ and ‘Jung and the Volkisch Movement’.

In addition to Bolton’s veritable ‘shopping-list’ of political parties, he also holds another (dubious?) similar distinction – the creator of several ‘do it yourself’ religions.

Recently Bolton was the subject of a Waikato University thesis by Roel van Leeuwen , which looked at one of these creations ‘The Order of the Left Hand Path’, an organisation started by Bolton in Wellington, during the 1990s , which van Lewuwan wrote ‘synthesised Satanism with neo-Nazism’.

Bolton considered the thesis to be a ‘smear’ on his reputation and Waikato University was forced to censor sections. This ‘bun-fight’ is still going-on as at publication of this blog.

Around the time Bolton was formed the New Force Party, he also began his long intrigue with what would popularly be called ‘fringe’ religious beliefs.

The weekend after a New Force Conference in December of 1980, he helped form ‘The Church of Odin’.

A Church dedicated to the Norse God Odin, was not unique to just New Zealand.

The oldest modern church worshipping Odin, was started across the Tasman by lawyer Alexander Rud Mills (1885-1964) Melbournite, Rud Mills, formulated his ideas after travelling to Europe in the early 30’s & at one stage was involved with the British ‘Imperialist Fascist League’ (a right wing version of Sir Oswald Mosleys ‘British union of Fascists) In 1933 he journeyed to Germany where he garnished a personal audience with Adolf Hitler. Upon his return to Australia in 1934 Mills started The First Anglecyn Church of Odin, along with a number of short-lived newspapers, like ‘National Socialist’. During WW2 Mills was interned by The Australian Government as a possible Nazi sympathiser.

Trying to summerise Mills brand of Odinism is an exercise in itself, and worthy of a separate dissertation. Articles on Mills point to his desire to replace Australia's traditional Anglo-Saxon Christian institutions with his own brand of racially based mixture of mysticism & socialism. On one hand he drew up a Decalogue that is a blatant copy of The Anglican Church, the word Anglecynn being the ancient version for Church of England, then in the next breath Mills stated he abhorred Jesus Christ. Add into this ‘Norse melting-pot’ elements from the Masons & Rosicrucian's. His unique brand of worship remarkably still has its followers, even today (minus the now unfashionable bits about Hitler, anti-semitism etc)

"Today, Odinism is thriving as never before, and a new generation of Australians and New Zealanders is discovering that its ancient truths are as relevant today as they were in the springtime of our people. If you dare to "peer into the dark abyss", if your mind is open to future possibilities, if you can seriously consider the idea that were it not for Christianity we would be far more advanced and secure than we are today, then you are already on the path to Odinism[Above modern-day Aussie followers at Mills grave in Melbourne]

Now to the United States. In 1971, shortly after the death of her husband Alex, Else Christensen (1913-2005) formed the Odinist Fellowship from her caravan in Florida. Later Christensen would move her trailer north to Vancouver, her first stop in North America after fleeing post war Europe from Denmark. Amongst the Christensen’s circle of friends was James Warner a leading organisor in The American Nazi Party, who was a follower of the writings of Francis Yockley. Warner, himself an ordained minister and Grand Dragon of The KKK, had the idea of starting a church by the same name, but failed in his attempts, and he passed the baton to his close friends (including a veritable library of material he had gathered). Unquestionably Else Christensens initial interest in racial radicalism via Odinism, came as a result her of interactions with Warner and her & her husbands enamoration with Mills works. Christensen’s (also called ‘Folk Mother’ by her followers) brand of Odinism involved communal, socialist communities all operating independently and a North America minus big-business and heavy-industry. Else saw prisons as a great source of membership, creating her own Odinist prison ‘outreach’ programme, the effectiveness she got to test personally, after she received a 35 month stretch for drug trafficking – at age 79!

Like it’s Anitipodean and North American name-sakes, the New Zealand Church of Odin adopted this heady combination of National Socialism, and Viking mystique – but little of their substance.

Boltons co-founder in New Zealand, David Crawford, indicated Florida was the world-headquarters in November, 1981 along with accompanying statements that alluded to “tens of thousands of [worldwide] members” and added to his attempts at credibility “the church has been going about 15 years”.

Crawford was seemingly wide of the mark on all fronts here.

The origins of modern Odinism, firmly steamed from Alexander Mills ‘across the ditch’, rather than his devote Else Christensen, and by 1981 her humble caravan, had only acted as the North American ‘head-office’ for a decade.

In the same article Crawford, heckles raised, attempted to further bolster the Church of Odins (NZCO) global stature by claiming “it is strong enough to fund its own research projects into its beginnings in Europe”. I guess what Crawford was alluding to here was the Warners wealth of paperwork, inherited by the Christensens, then edited and mail-ordered in it’s abridged form to New Forces post office box in Paraparaumu.

Evidently New Zealanders were slow to adopt Odin.

Crawford put the number that had attended their last ‘invitee only’ service in Christchurch at “ten or eleven”.

This is probably understandable, when it became clear to prospective members, exactly what this ‘church’ was all about.

For most that process of deduction, happening very shortly after learning the churches catch-cry "Odinism: The White Man's Religion".

This catch-cry not only narrowed its scope of membership & alienated large tracts within the general populous (much like ‘New Force’ I might add).

Interestingly it must have also prevented Bolton’s own son, a part Maori, from its already thin ranks.

“We don’t support anything that undermines the unity of the white race”.

“The Church of Odin is exclusively for whites”

All quotes from Crawford.

The worship of Odin and his fellow Norse Gods within the NZCO, seemed to be very liberally applied & enforced.

The N.Z Church boasted there were no ceremonies, but there were feasts, the major one coinciding with The Northern Hemisphere’s Summer Solstice.

The credibility of NZCO is tested on this issue of a Summer Solstice Feast observance & you would have to question the amount of literature Bolton/Crawford & Co were working-off via the ‘folk mother’ in Florida, using this gross error alone.

Yule is the old name for the pagan festival held at northern Winter Solstice, or December 21, celebrating the sun and the power of the gods, Odin in particular. Yule is actually another name for Odin, and what we know as Santa, is a modern-day creation using legends & customs that owe much of their origins to Nordic traditions.

The Summer Solstice Feast in-fact, celebrated Baldr (Odin’s son)

Still why let the facts get in the way of a good story, and besides, I’d imagine it didn’t take much of an excuse with this lot, for a spit-roast & a piss-up!

The internal liberalism, bordering on anarchism, within NZCO circles extended to the extent members, could opt into believing in the principal Gods, Odin & Thor.

Looking back & trying to nail-down exactly what the NZCO ‘believed in’ as a religious entity is hard to establish.

They had the same name as overseas branches they often referred to, the same racist rhetoric, but little to none of the codes followed by their name-sakes in Australia, U.S.A or Canada,

One of its selling points according to Crawford was actually its lack of mainstream religious restraints & hierarchies.

“We don’t want the control of men’s minds via religion” (Christchurch Star, 7th November 1981)

Over a decade after the N.Z Church ceased to exist, Kerry Bolton mentions Odinsim in an article he wrote on Dualism (full text of which is available here) in which he states;

“Even many (most?) of the harder-line "Odinists", have a cosmology that is essentially Christian. They have dualised the Aesir & the Jotuns into contending moral forces of "good vs. evil" - ODIN (OR BALDER) IS THEIR JESUS. LOKI IS THEIR SATAN. RAGNAROK IS THEIR ARMAGEDDON. The whole significance of Indo-European cyclic cosmology has been rendered null and void”

Try ‘picking the bones’ out of that!

The NZCO also adopted the structure of operating ‘separate cells’ from its parent New Force – so different cities developed different interpretations & practices.

"It became obvious that the Odinists were merely going to be a cult without any relevance to New Zealand politics” (abridged letter to the editor,K.R Bolton, Herald, 26/6/1983)

In this inauspicious letter to the N.Z Hearld Newspaper, Bolton publicly signalled his association with the NZCO was at an end – the equivalent of a death sentence given his heavy involvement.

At this time Boltons/Crawfords political aspirations under the banner New Force were over & the umbilical cord with it’s ‘marketing tool’ NZCO was similarly it appears, cut at the same time.
Bolton immediately branched off to form the more adventurous & mysterious sounding ‘Order of The Left Hand’ and its successor ‘The Black Order’.

The numbers involved with the NZCO (1980-83) is impossible to ascertain with any certainty, but probably best reflected by the number of votes the New Force’s sole candidate, and Party President, Mr B.W Zandbergen, attracted in the Western Hutt Electorate in the 1981 General Election.


Kerry Bolton’s frequent ‘metamorphosis of faith’ still continue, to this day.

Rumour has it, currently he’s now a Christian.

Now that’s scary!

Footnote: Time restraints caused by my involvement in the ‘real world’ and my need to put food on the families table, permitted me to merely scrape the surface on this fascinating subject, and the complexities of Kerry Bolton and the first of many Churches he’s been associated with. I suggest one day a more able journalist with a far broader scope than I have, will do far more justice to his intriguing life. There’s certainly enough material to script and produce a Sundance Movie. ‘The Order of The Left Hand’ seems a fitting title (more of which you can read about in ‘the unedited’ version of Roel van Leeuwen’s thesis) For what ever reason the ‘black & white images’ of Ed Wood, kept reoccurring in my research on this subject & those of you familiar with the movie by the same name, may see the similar parallels in this analogy as well. Perhaps we can line Johnny Depp up to play the star role as Kerry Bolton? If you can add to this article, correct my account, please do so in the comments section. That mean’s you too Kerry! Cheers. Paul.

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