Neo-Pagans Peter Georgacarakos, David Lane and Richard Scutari Publishing from Prison

From deep within the bowels of the sprawling U.S. penitentiary complex in Florence, Colo., three notorious white supremacists — including two imprisoned in connection with terrorist attacks in the 1980s — are invoking the gods of Odinism in an effort to rouse revolutionary hatred and violence around the world.

Despite being confined in high-security facilities, the three men — Peter Georgacarakos, David Lane and Richard Scutari — have managed to repeatedly get their articles published in white supremacist publications and web sites.

In the case of Lane, a publishing operation was set up by his wife in the mid-1990s to spread Lane's views. Articles from the other two appear regularly in a number of publications, and all three are influential in white supremacist circles.

Lane and Scutari were already heroes on the radical right. Both are serving what amount to life sentences for their crimes as members of The Order, a terrorist group that in the early 1980s robbed more than $4 million in armored car heists and murdered a Jewish talk show host in Denver.

Lane is also revered as the author of the now nearly legendary "14 words" that served as The Order's credo: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Now, both they and Georgacarakos are more influential than ever because of their embrace and energetic dissemination of a racist interpretation of pre-Christian Odinism.

The religion is important. Racist versions of Odinism and its Icelandic cousin, Ásatrú — as opposed to the more widespread, nonracist versions — together form a world view that one expert calls "the most dynamic of all tendencies on the radical right."

The expert, who asked not to be identified because of continuing field work, says growing numbers of right-wing extremists under 30 are Odinists.

Odin, Freya and a Pennsylvania Killing
Randy Blazak, a sociologist who has studied racist Skinheads extensively, agrees that more and more skins who feel estranged from the language of Christianity are turning to Odinism. They are intoxicated by a theology that feels fresh and insurgent, yet rooted in a glorious past.

Odinism's pantheon of gods — including Odin, the warlike father of all gods and men; Freya, his clairvoyant wife; and Thor, their rugged, hammer-wielding son — are a colorful cast of characters who beckon followers to use them as templates for action.

In its racist version, Odinism also shares with Nazism a "might is right," social Darwinist philosophy that sees the survival of a pure, white race as a goal to be achieved at all costs.

The rise of racist Odinism comes at the expense of the theology of Christian Identity — the religion of choice for white supremacists through the 1980s and much of the 1990s. Although Identity is a heretical reading of the Bible — branding Jews as Satanic and non-whites as subhuman — it is seen as hopelessly tied to Christianity.

And among younger white supremacists, Christianity is widely viewed as bound to a secular state that tolerates — and actually encourages — different races to live side by side in harmony.

These younger hard-liners sneer at Judeo-Christian thought as the faith of the weak, those who would turn the other cheek. "There's a new generation here," the expert on Odinism says, "and it's not going to be Identist."

The influence of the three Florence inmates is being felt widely on the American white supremacist scene, particularly among neo-Nazi Skinheads, who have increasingly adopted neo-pagan belief systems like Odinism. But the men are probably even more important within the prison system, where neo-paganism has more and more become the religion of choice for younger extremists.

Many officials around the country say that Odinism/Ásatrú is the fastest growing religion behind prison walls, although most states do not keep statistics on how many inmates are involved.

Of those that do, Texas apparently has the largest number, with 189 known Ásatrùers or Odinists in state penitentiaries. In Kansas, there are 120; in Colorado, 92; and in Arizona, 90 — figures that some experts say probably underrepresent the real number.

Officials in many other states and the federal system report a significant, if unquantified, presence.

These prisoners are often especially violent. "Many of them graduate to a higher security level than we have here," says Jack Ludlow, senior chaplain for the Arizona state prison complex in Tucson. Minnesota prison official Mary Hulverson adds that these neo-pagans "are monitored probably more than any others."

Indeed, knowledgeable federal officials say that Georgacarakos and Scutari are under investigation by the FBI for possible ties to the November 1996 murder of Randall Scott Anderson.

Anderson was stabbed to death in a prison housing unit in Lewisburg, Pa., where Scutari also was imprisoned at the time. Anderson was serving a nine-year sentence for bombing a Chicago area roller rink frequented by blacks and defacing a synagogue.

But he was widely reviled as a "race traitor" after he rejected his racist beliefs, became a Muslim and even apologized in court.

Indictments are expected by year's end, authorities say.