In February 2018 I finally got in contact with the author of Frimurerne I Vikingtiden. To my delight, Arvid Ystad told me work is done on an English translation that his publisher hopes to have available before the end of 2018. Also he is working on a new book that will have more focus on heathenry than on Freemasonry.
I tried to interest Ystad in the works of Franz Farwerck and Koenraad Logghe. I seem to need a little more persuasion! When I told Ystad that, like Farwerck’s work, his work appears as a collection of similarities without a very clear red thread that could make the skeptic see the likelihood of the thought that elements of ancient Northern esotericism found its way to Freemasonry, he simply referred to chapters 3 and 4 of his book. Chapter 3 is called Vingene i Storbritannia. Chapter 4 Fra hedensk til kristent ritual. The first is easy to translate: “Vikings in Great Britain”. “Hedensk” in the title of chapter 4 proves to mean “heathen” or “pagan” so the title means: “From heathen to Christian ritual”.
In chapter three Ystad makes his point saying that Viking occupiers found their way to England and, among other things, brought their rituals with them. Archaeological findings in Scotland and further South leave little doubt about this Northern invasion. Ystad touches on two subjects that we also find in several Masonic books or books about Freemasonry: “Kong Adalstein” (King Athelstan) and Rosslyn Chapel. Athelstan is mentioned in the Regius Poem (also called Halliwell Manuscript) one of the “old charges”, pre-Masonic Masonic texts so to say. The poem mentions how Athelstan gathered masons in the year 926.
The Rosslyn Chapel that recently became famous because of the books of Dan Brown and the films made of these was built way before the founding of the ‘premier Grand Lodge’ in 1717, it is from the 15th century.
Adelstein gets only about a page and a half in the book and the information seems mostly historical facts that are well-known. My guess is that Ystad included him to show Norse reign in Britain and of course because it is a famous name.
Also Rosslyn Chapel fills a page and a half. Here Ystad’s angle is a bit more ‘daring’. He traces the roots of the builder “Vilhelm Sinclair” to Norse kings from the Orkney Islands. Even though Sinclair was Christian, some traces of his heathen ancestors could be found in his thinking. These elements were mixed with the ideas and symbolism of Templar Knights to fled to Scotland and that explains the mix between Norse and knightly elements in the Chapel.
Then of course Freemasonry originated in Scotland (a debated theory) bringing in such elements into “the Craft”
This still begs a few questions. Sure, a 15th century Christian with heathen roots may have remembered and liked some ancestral elements and used them when he had his chapel built. But a few not obviously Norse ornaments in one chapel surely wouldn’t have inspired masons to use many Norse symbols in their rituals a couple of centuries later? It would be more likely that some sort of Norse-like rituals were used (or devised) in the same time and that elements from them survived until the dawn of “speculative” masonic lodges (or of course esoteric “operative” lodges before that). Would Sinclair have been part of some sort of movement? Did rituals from the time of Adelstein still exist in his time?
In chapter 4 Ystad describes how Viking ritual elements found their ways to Freemasonry. This roughly comes to the point that (elements of) Norse rituals survived in some parts until the earliest lodges arose in the 13th and 14th century and of course heathen elements have been Christianised. This chapter certainly needs closer reading, so I can’t wait until the English version is available!
Still not quite the almost undeniable thread that I hope for. Perhaps the English translation will make Ystad’s theories clearer.