At least in the circles I run in nowadays, I’ve seen a resurgence in activity by the people who are followers of/inspired by the 19th century Swedish author Viktor Rydberg. They’ve published books, they’ve expanded beyond his original texts, and they’re very, very vocal on social media. They’ve been around for 25 years or so (first championed by William Reaves, who is still very active in the movement), and now call themselves the Epic School, or Epicists, after Rydberg’s main thesis that the corpus of genuine Norse myths constitutes a single vast epic narrative, and that the key to understanding it relies on such an interpretation.

Dave Martel gives a definition of Epicism over on his YouTube channel (forgive his lapses in grammar; this is a car video, so I won’t give him any grief):

…Epicism was drawn from Viktor Rydberg, and it is now being continued by Mark Puryear and the Noroenna Society, and it has the innate, the inherent, the origin intent to look at the Gods as real, because They are real, to look at the lore as real texts, not just, you know, a bunch of crap, or myth, or whatever; these are real texts. … … to stop relying on academics, to stop relying on atheists, to stop relying on, on, you know, crap, so we can, ourselves, have a proper formulaic approach to establishing, understanding, and teaching our spiritual philosophy, which not only is real, it is also legitimate. And what this does, is kind of cuts out any possible nefarious intent. And it ensures that the formula is for us, by us, as Asatru, as Heathens, as Pagans.

I’ve got to say, when I hear “stop relying on academics” my warning lights go off immediately. It feels a little… culty. Urging people to not look at the work of accepted academics who’ve spent their lives researching a particular topic? Who are objective reporters who base their conclusions on evidence? Who’ve got access to sources that laymen simply can’t easily see? Who attend conferences, write for and read journals, and otherwise interact with one another to share ideas?

And what do they replace the entire academic world with? A single 19th century author, his theories, and themselves and their interpretations and expansions of his work. Doesn’t that sound more than a little like “don’t listen to those so-called experts; they’re all wrong, and we have the real answers”?

And the reason they eschew mainstream academia isn’t because of some atheistic (or is it Christian? – they are inconsistent on that point) plot to distort pre-Christian Germanic lore for some nefarious reason, but because those mainstream academics reject their (and Rydberg’s) main thesis.

If the experts say your theory is wrong, the problem must be with the experts! It’s almost like the Flat Earthers of Heathenry.

More to come, I have no doubt, because if there’s one thing the Epicists cannot stand, it’s criticism in any form. Personally, I think it’s a sign of insecurity, but that’s entirely just my interpretation.