Folkmother Else Christensen 1913 - 2005
Hail the Folkmother! Else Christensen (1913 - 2005)
A Tribute by Osred
Else Christensen, known to Odinists around the world as The Folkmother, died on the fourth of May this year.
While I was never able to meet Else face to face, I was honoured by a rich and rewarding correspondence with her for over thirty years, starting in 1972. With a letter-writer as gifted and as generous as Else was, it is possible to know the other person better than one will ever know many workmates, neighbours or even family members. One aspect of Else's character that was contagious, even through the medium of letters, was the profound delight that she found in even the simplest aspects of life.
No matter how trying the circumstances, Else was irresistibly light of heart, and much of this quality arose from her boundless curiosity. Few of us could see any bright side to being wrongfully convicted of a serious crime, but Else wrote from prison - with almost child-like sincerity - that she could not be other than happy, given that she now had the opportunity of learning so much from a class of girls with whom she had never before had the opportunity to mix.
The Folkmother was born in Esbjerg, Denmark in 1913. (Her husband Alex Christensen, born in 1904, died in 1971.) She was confirmed into the Lutheran faith as a child, but "dropped out of Christianity", to use her own words, at the age of fifteen.
Else emigrated to Toronto in Canada, where she became manager of the X-Ray department at a local hospital until her retirement.
After turning her back on Christianity, she considered herself an "agnostic" until the 1960s, when she discovered the writings of Rud Mills. It was a meeting of two joyful minds, and from that moment the purpose of the rest of her life became clear.
In 1969 she founded the first Odinist association in North America. This organisation was very loosely structured and went through several name changes, including The Odinist Movement, the Odinist Fellowship and The Odinist Community.
As far as the historical sequence of the Re-Awakening is concerned, it is important to remember that Else's rediscovery of Odinism preceded that of Steve McNallen, Garman Lord and others in America, of Stubba in England, of Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson in Iceland, and of the Melbourne University group in Australia - all of which took place in the early 1970s. It is also vital to recall that Else clearly saw herself as following in the path of Rud Mills, whose writings she frequently reprinted.
In August 1971 she began publishing The Odinist, which continued without a break until her malicious legal prosecution at the age of 79.
In the late 1970s Else moved to Crystal River, Florida, where she lived on a small acreage with a creek-front. I recall many delightful letters from that idyllic period in her life, when she was particularly taken with an alligator that lived in the creek and occasionally waddled ashore to scrutinise her.
This period of frith came to an end when Else received a 30-month prison sentence on trumped-up charges of transporting soft drugs across state lines. The background to this prosecution was that she had established a very successful prison outreach ministry which was, of course, a threat to the establishment.
After serving out this unjust sentence in her usual blithe spirit, she was deported back to Canada. Rescued by the good folk of Wodanesdag, she lived in British Columbia in a caravan, with an annexe full of boxed archives, amid a delightful landscape. Her letters from that period were uniformly joyful and serene, her only regret being that she might not live long enough to catalogue all her books, papers, photographs and other archives.
In my view Else very much deserves her title of The Folkmother. Only she had the wisdom to pick up the baton that Rud Mills tried to pass to us in the 1930s. Most of those who have since come to the Re-Awakening probably would not have done so had it not been for Else Christensen.
Our spiritual path, Odinism, does not have a founder. It has been with us for as long as our people have existed; and it has never been lost, even during the bleak centuries of Christian persecution. In the 19th century there were many people who glimpsed aspects of our renewed spiritual dawn despite the prevailing Christian darkness, and these people are known to us as proto-Odinists. Yet one man, and one alone, can be called the Father of the Re-Awakening: Alexander Rud Mills.
Similarly, there can be no other claimant to the title of Folkmother than Else Christensen.
Wisdom from the Folkmother
"We're all more or less caught up in the speed trap of modern society. We have just witnessed the Olympics where a fraction of a second makes the difference between a win or a loss. But in life you're not in competition with anybody but yourself, you're not out to win medals; you're here as a member of your folk, and your efforts are not counted in seconds in competition with other people, but rather in the quiet and continuous influence you have in the overall future in the life of our folk."
Else Chistensen, 1992