Anyone who has raised a horn in honor of our ancestral Gods, has done so because of, or in spite of, Stephen McNallen.
— Alsherjargothi Matt Flavel. Ostara In the South, March 2020
This month we celebrate the birth of our Founder, Stephen McNallen. Before he became the Father of Modern Asatru, before he started a religious movement on his own, before the Kennewick Man, he was born in a small rural town in Texas in 1948.
“On a more intimate level, I chose my parents well: My father was a hard-working, Irish Catholic oil hand who had come to Texas for the oil boom some years earlier, and my mother was a loving, kind, and intelligent woman who – significantly – bought me the books I wanted and read them to me.”
Founder McNallen developed an interest in pre-Christian religion in college after reading the book The Viking, by Edison Marshall. In 1968 or 69, he dedicated himself to worship the Gods of Europe. In 1969-70, he founded the first Asatru church in the new world, The Viking Brotherhood, which gained tax exempt status in 1972. He began writing and distributing The Runestone which was hand typed and copied on a mimeograph machine.
“At first it was a private thing, but then I began quietly promoting the religion – which at that point I simply called “Norse paganism,” as I had no name for it. I really was starting from scratch. About the time of my graduation from college, I started a minuscule publication called The Runestone. I cranked it out on a mimeograph machine (!) – the first run was eleven copies. Within a year or so – August 29, 1972 – I had received recognition of the Viking Brotherhood as a tax-exempt religious organization.”
After reading Magnus Magnusson’s book, Hammer of the North, where first heard the word Asatru, Founder McNallen began to use and promote his religious ideal as Asatru, rather than Odinism.
At some point during his time in the US Army, Founder McNallen began to adopt the belief that Asatru was a religion of the peoples of Europe, rather than being a religion for all, thus adopting Folkism. In 1976, after being discharged from the Army, he renamed the Viking Brotherhood to the Asatru Free Assembly. in 1987, Steve dissolved the Free Assembly.
After seeing what American Asatru had developed into, which denied that Asatru was a uniquely ethnic faith, Mr. McNallen stepped back into the Asatru scene. Establishing the Asatru Folk Assembly. The emphasis on Folk to differentiate from the universalist lie that threatened to take hold of our ancestral faith.
“It flourished. Over the years it grew, and I wrote Asatru: A Native European Spirituality, which defines my convictions and purpose. We purchased a permanent building which became Odinshof – our first temple to the Gods. The AFA has since expanded to include four Hofs in the USA and continues to grow. In 2016, after leading the Asatru Folk Assembly for 20 years, I turned it over to a younger generation and started the next phase of my service to my Gods and to my Folk.”
In the years since Mr. McNallen retired, he has remained an active participant at Odinshof with charitable giving and contributing in any way possible.
It is often said that we stand on the shoulders of giants, and none are more giant than that of our Founder, the First Alsherjargothi. Thank you, and Happy Birthday, Mr. McNallen, from all of us in the Asatru Folk Assembly.
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