by Freya Hyatt
In 1958 my father, Max Hyatt, rejected Christianity–he was ten years old. This act of defiance began a life-long search for the truth. It ended in 1990 when he discovered his ancient Ancestral religion–Ásatrú (sometimes called Odinism).
This long journey back to his roots took him around the world, and through nearly every mainstream religion on this Earth, and several that were definitely off the beaten path. These included several sects of Buddhism; Hinduism; the Bahai Faith; Islam; Satanism; and several offbeat sects of Christianity (the Process Church, for example). He would spend a couple of years in each one, sometimes even donning the robes of the “clergy”, whatever form that took. But he never stayed for long–something didn’t feel right, and so he moved on, looking for that answer. Finally, in 1983, it was atheism–belief in nothing.
In 1987, after several years of “nothing,” something started happening to him. It started simple enough. Someone started banging on the wall just above his head, at night, while he slept. The first few times he jumped out of bed and ran around to the other side of the wall–no one there. Finally he just accepted the banging and went back to sleep. No one else in our house ever heard this noise. Next, someone started whispering his name in his ear as he slept. Most times it was a female voice, sometimes a male voice. Soon they were whispering whole sentences: “Wake up Max!” The banging continued, now accompanied by the whispering. My father got used to it and started thinking of it as just a part of his life. This went on every night for three years.
Then one day in 1990 my father found himself standing outside an occult bookstore–something he no longer cared about, or so he thought. He entered and ended up examining a set of Runes, unfamiliar to him until that moment. They came with a book. He felt irresistibly drawn to the Runes, and so he purchased them, not really knowing what it was all about. He began to read the book. At the back of the book was a detailed description of the Norse gods, something he had never considered. He became fascinated by all this new information, and felt an irresistible force drawing him to something extraordinary.
Two weeks later he suddenly realized the wall banging and the whispering had stopped. It had ended the night he’d purchased the Runes and book. He got his first uninterrupted night’s sleep in three years. All of this intrigued him greatly. He became determined to learn more, and so began a new search, a search for anything and everything related to the Nordic gods and the ancient culture they had engendered.
His enthusiasm was so great, so contagious, that soon others joined him in his quest, including myself and my mother. In a few months we had a small group of enthusiastic individuals meeting once a week, determined to learn all there was to know about ancient European Ancestral religion and culture. This went on for about three years. During that time my father amassed an impressive library of related books and articles. He also began searching for others in the world who might be doing the same. The modern-day Internet didn’t exist then, so it was a long and hard search.
Finally, in 1993, he gave up the search for others, and wrote and printed his first pamphlet. It was designed to introduce European-Americans to their Ancestral religion - long forgotten by most. He would enter a book store, and when the clerk was busy, leave a small stack on the counter. He had some success and actually received a few letters from people who had found the pamphlet. It was then that he founded Wodanesdag Press, and began to seriously produce items relating to Ásatrú and Odinism.
In 1994 he received his first contact with “outsiders” who also followed the ancient Ancestral ways of Northern Europe. The Odinic Rite of England had responded to one of his many letters. He was thrilled, as he had begun to fear we were the only ones currently observing the old ways.
The Odinic Rite put him in touch with other groups–some in the US, some in Canada. This began a series of letters and phone calls that changed everything. In 1995 we “officially” joined the Ásatrú/Odinist community of the world as “Wodan’s Kindred.”
That same year my father wrote and published his first book “the World Tree.” He published it under the name Edred Wodanson–a name which became his pseudonym for many years to follow. The book was an expanded version of that first pamphlet he had written two years earlier. It received rave reviews from the Heathen community, and found its way around the world, even as far away as Russia. For many years after, he continued to receive letters praising the book, thanking him, and asking for more. He obliged these requests by writing another book - A Way of Wyrd, which picked up where the World Tree had left off. Over the next couple of years he also wrote many booklets, including Yule; the Village; This is Ásatrú; and The Provisional Member’s Handbook.
Few realize this, but it was my father, Max Hyatt, who started the trend of properly identifying Ásatrú/Odinism as a “European Ancestral Religion,” instead of the commonly used, Christianized titles of "pagan" or "heathen" religion.
My father’s enthusiasm and determination seemed to know no bounds, and later in 1995 he wrote to the University of Texas Press and asked their permission to reprint the Lee M. Hollander translation of Havamal, Saying’s of the High One (Odin). Amazingly, they gave their consent, and with few stipulations. A few months later the small book was released and shipped to Folk around North America, England, and Australia.
The success he experienced with both the World Tree, and then Havamal, started an avalanche of activity that pushed him ever forward. He began to create designs for t-shirts. He would hand-draw them, and then take them to a local t-shirt printer. After mastering a graphics program on our computer, he eventually completed over 100 designs. But he wasn’t satisfied with the local t-shirt printer, so he went out and bought all the equipment needed, taught himself how to use it, and began printing the t-shirts himself. That experience was a benchmark for my father. He suddenly realized that nearly anything was possible, if you really wanted it.
Next he started designing original Thor’s Hammer Pendants. He commissioned a friend to make them–a Heathen man who was already producing small metal items, including pendants. The Hammers were quite unique and ended up, again, being distributed to the Ásatrú and Odinist communities around the world. Soon Max was carving Rune sets, finishing Mead Horns, and producing many other items. The Wodanesdag Press paper catalogue grew larger by the month, with 95% of its content hand-made by my father in our small 5 foot by 10 foot workshop.
In 1996 we had the opportunity to participate in our first international Althing. We made many new friends and expanded our horizons. That same year my father began a Prison Outreach Program for Ásatrúar and Odinists behind the wall and wire. He eventually assisted thousands of Heathen inmates–answering their questions, providing books, writing to prison authorities on their behalf, helping them plan for a pending release from prison. If there was a way he could help them, he did it.
The inmates were continuously hungry for more, and so my father answered their call. He created a magazine - WODANESDAG - the journal of Wodan’s Kindred. It was filled with articles, stories, photos, drawings, a word puzzle related to our Heathen ways, and much more. Most of it written by my father. Soon other writers and artists were contributing to it. Unfortunately there were only nine issues. This was due to three things: equipment failure, lack of funds, and the Internet.
1997 was a very important year for Max Hyatt. Using his own money for rent, office furniture and supplies, he opened the first official Kindred Office & Ásatrú/Odinist Publishing House in North America. It was a small office, packed to the ceiling with boxes of books, letters, and supplies. It had several desks, two computers (one would eventually be connected to the Internet), an industrial printer, a collating machine, a refrigerator, a microwave, and other equipment. In this small office my father answered hundreds of letters, printed and hand-bound books, printed t-shirts, filled orders from the Wodanesdag Press catalogue, wrote articles, created Heathen artwork, and received numerous phone calls and visitors. I had the privilege of working as his secretary for a year, when I was between jobs. Against all odds, he kept this office open five days a week for two years. Unfortunately, he never received the support he needed to keep it going, and eventually he exhausted his own funds in the attempt.
In that same year (August ‘97), Max received word of a potentially tragic situation that was about to unfold in the Heathen world. Else Christensen, age 83 (founder of the Odinist Fellowship - referred to as the “Folk Mother” by many), was about to be unceremoniously deported back to Canada by the U.S. Government, and this after a deplorable five year prison term on what many have described as “dubious charges” (the actual perpetrators made a deal with the Government and went free - Else was targeted because she was an outspoken Odinist, which was repeatedly brought up at her trial). The official Government plan, according to her lawyer, was to drive her in a van from the prison in Texas, across America to the U.S./Canadian border at Detroit, and then on to Windsor, Ontario. There she would be released on a randomly chosen street somewhere in the city, with her meager belongings and $200 cash. This was to occur in the middle of winter, and in the middle of the night.
My father was outraged, but not surprised. Is this the way you treat an 83 year-old woman, he asked? A woman who has never harmed anyone, never lifted her hand in violence to anyone? He contacted many in the Heathen community, looking for answers. In the end, with help from Else’s lawyer, and other concerned Heathens, they persuaded the US Government to agree to fly Else to where Max was. We picked her up at the airport in Vancouver, and brought her to our home on Vancouver Island. Else lived with us for several months and thrived, regaining much of her pre-prison enthusiasm and spirit. My father provided her with everything she needed: new clothes, food, shelter, and transportation. Eventually he found a place where she could live independently, in freedom and peace, amongst towering pines, with a river running close by. Else was delighted, and lived happily until her death in 2005, at the age of 91.
In 1998 Max was finally convinced that it was time to enter the modern electronic age–the Internet. I must take some of the credit for convincing him that the time was right for Wodanesdag Press to have a presence on the world wide web. Else Christensen also helped, and encouraged my father to go for it. So on January 21, 1998, he uploaded the very first version of the WODANESDAG website. As was his way, he had taught himself HTML, and programed the entire website using Notepad. Not only that, but he created an extensive number of graphics for the website–buttons, backgrounds, and more. Those of you who were there will remember, I’m certain. It was a unique website, with graphics that broke all the rules.
In June of that same year, he acquired the domain name “odin.org.” It was an important accomplishment for him, for he felt Odin was behind this acquisition.
Soon he had created several original online innovations, like the Virtual Oath Ring, the Electronic Hof, Registry of the Gothar, and many others. He assisted newcomers by answering several thousand e-mails of inquiry. He expanded the Catalog to include the largest selection of Norse-related t-shirts on the Internet. And he maintained a continuously visitor-supported, commercial-free website, with no banner ads, no pop-ups, and no web-commercials. He refused to go the “free” website route. As usual he paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket.
In 2001, after the tragic death of a close Heathen friend, Max decided it was time to learn how to hand-make Thor’s Hammer Pendants. He wasn’t interested in mass-production, so he did what he always did: he researched the matter, bought the equipment, and taught himself how to use it. Both my father and I started to design Hammers - based on ancient, one-thousand year old pendants. Pendants that had been uncovered at archeological digs in Northern/Western/Eastern Europe. It was very exciting. Soon my father was casting Hammers based on our interpretations of ancient creations. He taught himself how to finish them, and a new generation of hand-made Thor’s Hammer Pendants was suddenly available to Heathens on the Internet. As my father said at the time: “Made by Ásatrúar & Odinists is far superior to Made In Taiwan!”
In 2004 Max had a falling-out with a certain Ásatrú organization. The details are unimportant. In response, he redesigned the website (the website you see before you) and switched the title to "odin.org" in December of that year. His goal was to introduce European-Americans to their Ancestral Religion - minus the politics and agendas so commonly found amongst some of his peers.
In 2006 Max finally acquired the domain: wodanesdag.com. As he said, it was something he should have done years earlier.
Also in that year, my father completely rewrote, revised and redesigned his book, the World Tree. It ended up more than twice its original size, with lots of additional information. He published it under the name: Ásatrú - the Hidden Fortress. He also re-released Havamal, Saying’s of the High One, in a new expanded version. This new edition contained not only the Hollander translation, but a version in the original Old Norse language, and his own modern interpretation of the text - requested by many over the years. All three versions in one book! These two books are still available on our catalogue website and have been quite popular.
In the Summer of 2007, Max had a premonition about his own health and the future of Wodanesdag. He began an ardent search for an apprentice–someone willing to be trained in the crafting of Thor’s Hammer Pendants. No one was interested at first, but I eventually became convinced by his desperation and determination. In the Fall of that year he began teaching me the art of working with molten metal. Luckily I already knew some of it, having watched him work many times. And so it went, my training nearly complete...
Unfortunately, on January 26, 2008, Max Hyatt, aka Edred Wodanson, the founder of Wodan's Kindred, Wodanesdag Press, and the odin.org and wodanesdag.com websites, suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.
My training could only resume if he recovered to the point where he could communicate again. Slowly he regained his speech, although it would never be the same again. After some difficult training sessions, a lot of tears, and several false starts, things are nearly as before–except I’m the “craftsman” now, and my father’s books are now printed and bound by a publishing house in the USA. And Max, the man who sacrificed everything for Odin, he’s our quality-control inspector.
Max Hyatt served the Heathen community for many years, and without complaint or compensation. Now he waits, unable to fulfill his heart’s desire.
If you’d like to show support for Max, please visit our Catalog.