What is Odinism, and is it connected to the Delphi murders?

  • Richard Allen's defense says the Delphi murders were done by Odinists
  • Odinism is a white supremacist cult based on reconstructed Norse beliefs
  • Ritual human sacrifice is not a part of Odinism or other Norse belief

(NewsNation) — Defense attorneys for Delphi double murder suspect Richard Allen have filed a motion accusing prosecutors of misconduct for failing to turn over evidence claiming the murders could have been committed by a white supremacist cult known as Odinism.

The defense team is alleging the state had information indicating the deaths of Abigail Williams and Liberty German were a ritual sacrifice conducted by the little-known group.

What is Odinism? 

Odinism is a white supremacist cult focused on the worship of the Norse god Odin. The belief system may also sometimes be referred to as Asatru and is centered around white supremacist beliefs combined with magical elements of neopaganism. Values in both groups center around the idea of folk tribes and individualism. Many of the elements of Norse culture and belief used in Odinism were also used by Nazi leadership to promote its ideology.

Odinism is a reconstructed faith, as there is little surviving evidence of how the ancient Norse actually practiced their religion.

Chad Bauman, professor of religion at Butler University, told NewsNation that leads to flexibility in how things are interpreted.

“Because these religions are reconstructions, they are really flexible in ways that are good and bad,” he said.

While some consider both cults part of neopaganism, the broader Norse neopagan community has disavowed groups connected to white supremacist ideology and considers neopagan traditions built on Norse myth to be open to all people.

Why is the defense bringing up Odinism?

Defense attorneys for Allen say the state has evidence linking Odinists to the murder of two girls in Delphi, Indiana. They allege investigators failed to turn over evidence and reports suggesting the crime was part of a ritualistic sacrifice. In the 136-page filing, they are asking the court to set a hearing regarding the information and evidence allegedly hidden by investigators.

What is the defense saying investigators are hiding?

The defense alleges investigators consulted with a professor regarding possible Odinism signatures at the crime scene but failed to produce a report or identify the professor to the defense.

They also claim investigators failed to provide information regarding Brad Holder, an Odinist in the area whose son was reportedly dating Williams.

“Brad Holder posted on social media images mimicking the very runes found at the crime scene – a crime scene unreleased and unknown to the general public even to this day,” the filing reads. “The Defense believes that the Court will be shocked at the number of clues or ‘easter eggs,’ both before and after the murders, that Holder openly posted on his Facebook page that pointed the finger to his involvement in the murders.”

What evidence is the defense claiming links Odinists to the murders?

The main evidence allegedly connecting the crime to Odinists includes the positioning of the girls’ bodies and sticks and marks at the crime scene the defense team says resemble runes, which are associated with Norse culture and religion.

Position of the bodies: The defense claims the position of Williams’ body echoes that of a painting titled “Odin hanging from World Tree.” The filing calls the painting evidence of “an additional dark, demonic component to Odinism, at least if articles concerning Odinist human sacrifice and imagery found on the internet.”

Lawyers cited imagery online of “a man hanging upside down from a tree, who has been sliced in the neck with blood dripping to the ground. This man’s arms are posed similarly to Abby’s at the crime scene. This man’s legs are also posed similarly to Abby’s at the crime scene. His left leg is straight, and his right leg is bent at the knee. The only difference is that the man’s right leg is placed over the left leg, while Abby’s right leg was posed under her left leg.”

While disturbing, the image appears to be depicting a foundational myth in Norse belief, wherein Odin sacrificed himself on the branches of the world tree, stabbing himself and hanging upside down for nine days to obtain the wisdom of the runes. The myth does not involve human sacrifice.

Runes: Another piece of evidence the filing details is potential runes found at the crime scene.

“Sticks and tree branches were deliberately, carefully and proficiently placed on each girl in a certain arrangement mimicking certain runes. At least one of the branches appeared to have its end cut off cleanly by some type of tool like an electric saw, providing proof of a preconceived plan. Additionally, the blood of Liberty German was used as the paint to mark a tree with a rune that looks similar to the letter ‘F.’ With a simple Google search, these runes would be identifiable as one of the many calling cards of this pagan religious cult,” the filing reads.

Runes were the alphabet of the Vikings, and some closely resemble modern letters. A symbol resembling the letter “F” was allegedly painted on a tree in blood as well as through an arrangement of sticks. That would seem to be the rune “ansuz,” which closely resembles the letter “F.”

In modern Norse neopagan belief, the runes have also been associated with spiritual and magical significance, and ansuz is associated with Odin. White supremacist groups have also co-opted a number of runes to signify their beliefs, though ansuz is not commonly one of them.

Are Odinists employed by the Indiana Department of Corrections?

The defense says Allen, who is being held at Westville Correctional Facility, has been the target of abuse by Westville guards who are part of the “Odinite cult.”

NewsNation reached out to the Indiana Department of Corrections regarding whether or not Odinists are employed by the state. The agency declined to comment, citing a gag order currently in place regarding the trial.

The Indiana Department of Corrections does recognize Odinism as a religion; however, it previously attempted to ban group worship by followers.

Is ritual sacrifice part of Odinism?

Norse paganism in general does not practice human sacrifice. Bauman told NewsNation that while some individual Odinists have committed murders due to their beliefs, they were not done as ritual sacrifices.

“The closest thing that you might find among some Odinists is that there might be some ritual sacrifice of animals like chickens,” Bauman said.

Is Odinism related to Satanism?

No. Odinism is based on Norse beliefs, and Satan is not a figure in Norse mythology.

Read the full documents:


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