The Norrœnna Society was founded around 1896 as “a federation of Anglo-Nordic men of letters”, by King Oscar II of Norway and Sweden for the purpose of “resurrecting, reproducing, collecting and collating or indexing every thing that pertained to the early history of the Anglo Saxon, Celtic, Teutonic, and Scandinavian races—to furnish the people of Northern Europe with their own vital history.” Under his ægis, the society grew rapidly, becoming international in scope, represented in London, Stockholm, Copenhagen, New York City and Berlin.  In Great Britain, where the name of the society was changed to the Anglo-Saxon Society, membership reached 30,000. Upon expanding into America, the name was again changed to The International Anglo-Saxon Society. At that stage, the society began issuing elaborate, official certificates of membership. According to surviving examples, known members included Dr. Johnathan Ackerman Coles (1843–1926) of Newark, New Jersey and Edward Francis Wehrle (1868–1941) of Los Angeles, California.

The Norrœna Society was led by Rasmus B. Anderson, who served as United States Ambassador to Denmark (1885–89) and the founding head of the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the oldest such department in an American university. He spearheaded the “large literary venture” as part of his lifelong aim to educate others, particularly Americans, about the culture, history and pre-Christian religion of Northern Europe, publishing a wide range of works on these subjects.

In Old Norse, norrœnn means “Norse” or “northern”; the feminine norrœna, as a substantive, refers to either the Old Norse language, or to a northern breeze. Anderson himself used the term to apply to medieval Northern European literature, which he also referred to as Anglo-Saxon classics, according to faceplates in all volumes of the Norrœna Library. In academic references to these publications, the word Norrœna is commonly transliterated as Norroena and less often as Norraena.

King Oscar II

 King of Sweden from 1872 until his death in 1907 and King of Norway from 1872 to 1905.

Oscar was the son of King Oscar I and Queen Josephine. He inherited the Swedish and Norwegian thrones when his brother died in 1872. Oscar II ruled during a time when both countries were undergoing a period of industrialization and rapid technological progress. His reign also saw the gradual decline of the Union of Sweden and Norway, which culminated in its dissolution in 1905. In 1905, the throne of Norway was transferred to his grandnephew Prince Carl of Denmark under the regnal name Haakon VII. When Oscar died in 1907, he was succeeded in Sweden by his eldest son, Gustaf V.

Oscar II is the paternal great-great-grandfather of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. King Frederik X of Denmark is Oscar II’s descendant through his son Gustaf V. King Harald V of Norway; King Philippe of the Belgians; and Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg are also descendants of Oscar II, all through his third son Prince Carl, Duke of Västergötland.

He was the original founder of the Society, who helped legitimize the work developed by Rasmus Anderson, Viktor Rydberg, Oliver Elton, Sir George Webbe Dasent, and more.

Rasmus B. Anderson

Anderson was born in the Town of Albion in Dane County, Wisconsin and grew up in Koshkoning. His parents Bjørn Anderson Kvelve (1801–1850) and Abel Cathrine von Krogh (1809–1885) were immigrants from Sandeid / Vikedal in Ryfylke in the county of Rogaland, Norway. His mother also had Danish, Swedish, German, Dutch, and Flemish ancestry. His parents were part of a small band of Quaker sympathizers who organized a Norwegian emigration to America in 1836. His father died to cholera when Anderson was four years old.

Anderson was a graduate of Luther College and the University of Wisconsin. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1867 to 1883. While there, he was the founding head of the Department of Scandinavian Studies, the oldest such department in an American university. He also persuaded Norwegian violinist Ole Bull to give a concert for the benefit of a projected Norwegian language library at the university. Ole Bull subsequently paid Anderson’s expenses for a trip to Norway to purchase books for the library.

Rasmus B. Anderson founded a publication company, the Norrœna Society, which focused on republishing translations of texts devoted to “the History and Romance of Northern Europe”. Anderson was the author of a number of books with Scandinavian themes. He also did a series of translations from Scandinavian languages, most notably the writings of Norwegian novelist Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. From 1905 to 1907, Rasmus Anderson acted as editor-in-chief of the Norrœna Library.

From 1885 to 1889, Anderson served as the United States Ambassador to Denmark. After his return to the U.S. in 1889, he was editor (1898–1922) of the Norwegian language weekly, Amerika. He also served as president of the Wisconsin Life Insurance Co. from 1895 to 1922.

Anderson’s book America Not Discovered by Columbus helped popularize the now familiar fact that Norse explorers were the first Europeans in the New World. Anderson was the originator of the movement to honor Leif Erikson with a holiday in the United States. Through efforts he started and led, Leif Erikson Day became an official observance in his native Wisconsin and other US states. Decades after Anderson’s death, it first became a federal observance by presidential proclamation in 1964.

Notable Works By Anderson

The Original Norrœna Library

Volume numbers are based on the Imperial Edition (1905). According to bibliographic references, volume numbering may have varied by edition. Since volumes do not contain internal markings indication their order, these variations may be due to individual library cataloging procedures.

  • Books 1-2. The Nine Books of the Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus in Two Volumes. Translated by Oliver Elton, B.A. with some considerations on Saxo’s sources, historical methods and folk-lore by Frederick York Powell, M.A., F.S.A. (abridged reprint of the original 1899 version, single volume)
  • Books 3-5. Teutonic Mythology, Gods and Goddesses of the Northland, in Three Volumes by Viktor Rydberg Ph.D. Authorised translation from the Swedish by Rasmus B. Anderson, LL. D. (reprint of Teutonic Mythology, 1889, single volume. The subtitle has been added after the author’s death).
  • Book 6. The Volsunga Saga. Translated from the Icelandic by Eirikr Magnusson and William M. Morris with introduction H. Halliday Sparling, supplemented with legends of the Wagner Trilogy by Jessie L. Weston. (Supplemented reprint from the 1888 edition).
  • Books 7-9. The Heimskringla. A History of the Norse Kings by Snorre Sturlason done into English out of the Icelandic by Samuel Laing, Esq. with Revised notes by Hon. Rasmus B. Anderson. (This version of Heimskringla excludes Samuel Laing’s translation of Ynglingasaga.)
  • Book 10. The Story of Burnt Njal. The Great Icelandic Tribune, Jurist, and Counsellor. Translated from Njal’s Saga by the late Sir George Webbe Dasent, D.C.L. With Editor’s Prefatory Note and Author’s Introduction.

Books 11-15 are known collectively (and erroneously) as “The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles”:

  • Book 11. The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson. Translated from the Original Old Norse Text into English by Benjamin Thorpe and The Younger Edda of Snorre Sturleson Translated from the Original Old Norse Text into English by I.A. Blackwell. (Benjamin Thorpe’s 1865-1866 translation, originally titled The Edda of Sæmund the Learned, has been amended to exclude the poem Hrafnagaldur Óðins or Forspallsljóð).
  • Book 12. Romances and Epics of our Northern Ancestors: Norse, Celt and Teuton. Translated from the Works of Dr. W. Wagner with introduction by W. S. W. Anson. (A reprint of Epics and Romances of the Middle Ages: adapted from the work of Dr. W. Wägner by M. W. MacDowall, ed. W.S.W. Anson, 1883).
  • Book 13. A Collection of Popular Tales from the Norse and North German by George Webbe Dasent D.C.L., with an introductory essay on the origin and diffusion of popular tales [by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen]
  • Book 14. The Arthurian Tales. The Greatest of Romances Which Recount the Noble and Valorous Deeds of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Compiled by Sir Thomas Malory, Knight, and Edited from the Text of the Edition of 1634, with an introduction by Ernest Rhys.
  • Book 15. The Norse Discovery of America. A Compilation in Extenso of all the Sagas, Manuscripts, and Inscriptive Memorials Relating to the Finding and Settlement of the New World in the Eleventh Century. With Presentations of Freshly Discovered Proofs, in the form of Church Records Supplied by the Vatican of Rome, Never Before Published. Translations and deductions by Arthur Middleton Reeves, North Ludlow Beamish, and Hon. Rasmus B. Anderson.

In addition, a sixteenth volume was published by the Norroena Society in 1906 without either frontispiece which characterizes the Norroena Library editions, accounting for bibliographic references to a sixteen volume set:

  • The Flatey Book and recently discovered Vatican Manuscripts concerning America as early as the tenth century, etc. Ed. Rasmus B. Anderson. With reproductions of the Hauk Book (1906). Bound in brown and green leather, embossed with a belt and ship design under the title “PreColumbian Historical Treasures 1000-1492”.
These books are available in facsimile or for sale online. The following will take you to the online versions:

Viktor Rydberg

The originator of our Epic Method, Viktor Rydberg was of humble parentage. One biographer notes that: “He had a hard struggle to satisfy the thirst for learning which was a leading passion of his life, but he finally attained distinction in several fields of scholarship.” He was the son of a soldier turned prison guard, Johan Rydberg, and a midwife, Hedvig Düker. Viktor Rydberg had two brothers and three sisters. In 1834 his mother died during a cholera epidemic. Her death broke the spirit of his father, who yielded to hypochondria and alcoholism, contributing towards his loss of employment and the family’s apartment, forcing authorities to board young Viktor out to a series of foster homes, one of which burnt down, further traumatizing the youth.

Despite his economic status, Rydberg was recognized for his talents. From 1838 to 1847, Rydberg attended grammar school, and studied law at the university in Lund from 1851 to 1852. Due to financial reasons, his university studies ended after one year, without a degree. Afterward, he took a job as a private tutor. In 1855, he was offered work at the Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, a newspaper in Gothenburg, where he remained employed for more than 20 years. It was during this time that his first novels saw print. He soon became a central figure of late Romanticism in Sweden, and Sweden’s most famous living author.

Throughout his adult life, Rydberg was active in politics. In 1859, he wrote a pamphlet on national defense, which inspired the “Sharpshooter’s movement”, a voluntary militia of some political importance during the 1860s. In 1870, he took a controversial pro-German stance during the Franco-Prussian War. Representing the traditional economic system of Sweden, from 1870 to 1872, Rydberg was a member of the Swedish Parliament as a supporter of the Lantmanna Party. Having been a supporter of the Jewish cause since his youth, it was MP Viktor Rydberg who gave the keynote speech in the parliamentary debate to enact a law granting all non-Lutherans full civil rights. He worked diligently for working-class people and in 1906 his works on the labor question in both prose and poetry were regarded as part of the “treasury of this class.” He also advocated language reform, purging foreign words from the Swedish language, particularly those of German origin. Around this time, he advocated a more Germanic spelling of his own name: Viktor, as opposed to Victor.

Throughout his life and career, Rydberg coined several Swedish words; many, such as gudasaga for the foreign mythologi, are still in use today. In 1884, he refused to support anarchist writer August Strindberg, in his blasphemy case. As a juror in an 1888 trial of socialist leader Hjalmar Branting, Rydberg voted to send him to jail for blasphemy. They never spoke to one another again. His apprehension of unregulated capitalism at the dawn of the industrial age is most fully expressed in his acclaimed poem Den nya Grottesången (The New Grotti Song) in which he delivered a fierce attack on the miserable working conditions in factories of the era, using the mill of Grottasöngr as his literary backdrop.

For his lifetime of literary achievement, Rydberg received an honorary doctorate from the University of Uppsala in 1877 and was elected a member of the Swedish Academy the same year. He served from 1883 as teacher, from 1884 as professor, of the History of Culture at Stockholms högskola, now Stockholm University, and from 1889 as the first holder of the J. A. Berg Chair of the History and Theory of Art there. In 1889, he was also elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Rydberg’s Mythological Works

Mark Puryear

In 2006, Mark Puryear rebuilt The Norrœna Society with his wife, Katia. After spending years examining ancient sources and delving into the works of the Society’s predecessors (namely Anderson and Rydberg), he decided to honor the legacy of these great men by rebuilding the organization as a means to not only understand these ancient beliefs, but also practice them. He published his first work, The Nature of Ásatrú, as a primer into understanding the work implemented from a religious perspective. His primary basis for developing the research was based upon what he calls The Twelve Fundamentals, which are basic concepts within the culture that can be fully fleshed out when examined one at a time. These Fundamentals are: Lore, Pantheon, Ritual/Prayer, Law, Music, Diet, Dance, Combat, Spirituality, Arts & Crafts, Folk/Ancestry, and Nature.

Over the years Mr. Puryear has published many works, his most notable being The Ásatrú Edda, which was an attempt at rebuilding Rydberg’s Epic using the original sources as much as possible. The idea was to write a book examining the details behind each of The Twelve Fundamentals, which will fully reconstruct the entire culture we seek to live by. It is an imperative of the new Norrœna Society to not only preserve the ancestral sources, but also to learn from them, build from them, and establish orthopraxy from them. We now know that this is an achievable mission, and we will continue to see to its fruition.

Because of this, people from around the world have joined Mark and other members of the Society in debating details, translating texts, peer-reviewing theories and works, and looking at every single detail from these sources. This has created a unique environment of discussion, where people develop theories and concepts that are debated thoroughly, while maintaining a friendly and peaceful forum for these discussions to take place. Because of this, the work has exceled any of our expectations, and has led the Society into a greater understanding of this religion we call “Sedianism,” than anyone ever thought possible.

Works by Mark Puryear