Imprisoned racists are working with others outside the walls to spread a noxious version of ancient Norse religion
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.
Publishing for 'POWs'
How is it that the three Florence inmates have become so influential? The answer largely lies in their connections to three publishing enterprises that focus on racist neo-paganism, all of them currently headquartered in the Pacific Northwest. Each of these enterprises treats these convicts as heroes of the Aryan pantheon.
14 Words Press. Based in the northern Idaho timber town of St. Maries, this publishing outfit was formed by Katja Lane, who married David Lane in the mid-1990s, and Ron McVan, a former editor of Racial Loyalty, the newsletter of the neo-Nazi Church of the Creator.
14 Words' main publication is Focus Fourteen, a newsletter that often features David Lane's writings. It also sells paraphernalia like "Hail the Order" T-shirts on its web site. Both Katja Lane and McVan, a 6-foot, 6-inch "Aryan warrior," have made appearances at Aryan Nations, the infamous neo-Nazi compound located in Hayden Lake, Idaho.
Thule Publications. Dedicated to "our comrades behind the wire," this Portland, Ore.-based organization has ties to Volksfront and Hammerskin Nation, two of the country's most violent neo-Nazi Skinhead groups, as well as racist pagan groups in New Zealand and Scandinavia.
It publishes Thule: Prisoners Historical, Political, Philosophical and Spiritual Journal, sending it free to "prisoners of war" and mixing calls to violence with erudite-sounding language.
White Order of Thule. With its "world headquarters" in Deer Park, Wash., the White Order is apparently headed by Nathan Pett, a racist Skinhead who uses various aliases, including Nathan Zorn. Ideologically, it is a bizarre mix of racist Odinism, Satanism and occult neo-Nazism.
The White Order has an intellectual gloss, telling joiners that they must advance through "degrees of membership," studying German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche, Adolf Hitler and others. A book about The Order — also known as the Bruder Schweigen — is recommended reading. The White Order also has a post office box in Richmond, Va.
The White Order, which calls itself the "foremost occult Aryan pagan order in the world," is the most prolific of the three publishing enterprises, with two widely read publications. Crossing the Abyss — "on the cutting edge of Aryan thought and spirituality" — is "easily the best publication in the movement in terms of content and presentation," says Alex Curtis, editor of the widely read racist Internet newsletter The Nationalist Observer.
Scutari, for his part, says the magazine is "becoming one of the main voices for our folk." Fenris Wolf is put out by the Pagan Liberation League, the "Pacific Northwest faction of the White Order of Thule."
'McVeigh Had the Right Idea'
Both Scutari and Georgacarakos, a convicted cocaine dealer from Maine, are frequent contributors to the White Order's publications. And so is Mark Kowalski, who is serving a 12-year sentence for bombing an NAACP office in Tacoma, Wash., in July 1993. Kowalski had hoped to ignite a race war with his attack.
Beyond publishing the three Florence inmates, the literature produced by 14 Words, Thule Publications and the White Order of Thule often includes frightening comments from prisoners.
In a recent issue of Fenris Wolf, an Arizona neo-Nazi Skinhead named "Jeremy" says, "It will take a lot more than a few skins beating some nigger to death to get society's attention. ... McVeigh had the right idea, but lacked the knowledge and manpower to carry it out."
Another Skinhead, "Cyclops" of Michigan, tells the same publication that as soon as he is released he plans to "set about hunting for a victim to sacrifice to Odin and Thor for victory!"
Scott Britt, a former neo-Nazi Skinhead who has renounced his past and now works for an antiracist Oregon group, says racist Odinism and young neo-Nazis make a fine match. For Britt, this marriage is exemplified in t-shirts once sold by the racist band Aggravated Assault that depicted "a Skinhead and a Viking sharing a cup of mead [a fermented beverage made with honey, malt and yeast] on a mountaintop."
"Being in the Nazi movement," Britt recalls, "Odin, Thor and his hammer, and Norse religion in general, were things I heard about every day."
Today, the growth of racist neo-paganism is remarkable. Oklahoma Skinhead recruiter Dennis Mahon has become a devout Odinist. Long-time Alabama Klansman and four-time felon Bill Riccio, who also has energetically organized Skinheads, says Odinism is the true religion for Aryans; and one of his former followers now heads the Sonnenkinder Kindred, an Alabama racist pagan outfit.
John William King, the convicted ringleader in the truck-dragging murder of James Byrd Jr., became an Odinist in prison before the infamous Texas slaying. Nathan Thill — a neo-Nazi Skinhead who boasted to television cameras about murdering a black man in Denver — bears Odinist tattoos of Celtic warriors on his right hand and wrist.
And, true to form, Fenris Wolf recently congratulated Thill for his grisly handiwork. "Special Thanks," the magazine exclaimed, "and Blood Regards."