Thirty-five years ago, in June 1986, the BBC broadcast the last episode of Robin of Sherwood; this cult television programme retold the Robin Hood story with added supernatural and pagan elements, with Jason Connery (son of Sean) in the starring role for two of its three series. However, it also lives on, curiously, through the dreams of Wulf Ingessunu, and his Woden’s Folk.
According to his biography, Ingessunu, also known as Geoffrey Dunn (b.1947), joined the National Front in Leicester in the early 1970s, playing an active role before leaving in the early 1980s disappointed with the pursuit of ballot box politics. He developed an interest in survivalism, and wandered through the pagan cultic milieu before discovering Odinism, a religion centred on ancient Norse gods and pre-Christian Germanic traditions, and establishing his own pagan group, Hearth of Wayland.
His fascinating memoirs of the period, published by Troy Southgate’s Black Front Press, combine disarmingly honest accounts of work, family life, and activism with detailed chronicles of the succession of dreams and strange occurrences which led to his ideological awakening.
The Hooded Man Prophecy
Ingessunu lives in a world overflowing with significant symbols and omens, and his ideology is founded on his own spiritual revelations. In 1993, on All Hallow’s Eve, Ingessunu heard the words of the prophecy from Robin of Sherwood dictated to him in slightly altered form in a dream:
‘In the days of the Lion, spawned of the Evil Brood, The Hooded Man shall come to the forest. There he will meet with Herne the Hunter – Lord of the Trees – to be his Son and do his bidding. The Power of Light and the Power of Darkness shall be strong within him. And the guilty shall tremble!’
Influenced by the numerological thought of David Lane, the US neo-Nazi who coined the Fourteen Words, Ingessunu interpreted this message as a gnostic revelation: the Hooded Man Prophecy. This foretells the rise of a ‘Folk-Fuhrer’ who will lead a rebirth of England’s ‘Ur-Religion,’ dedicated to saving the Aryan ‘English Folk’ from extinction.
Ingessunu named this ‘Folkish Wodenism’ and established the groupuscular Woden’s Folk, in April 1998. Folkish Wodenism distanced itself from progressive, universalist forms of Odinism, and maintained the central importance of ethnos: the world is consumed in a cosmic struggle, a ‘Holy war’ where a spiritual warrior elite must strive for an ‘English Destiny’ and rebirth the Folk – not the nation – from its modern decadence.
This English ‘Folk-Community’ was a ‘Germanic race’ devolved from a primordial ‘High Race of the North’ that originated in Thule-Hyperborea, the mythical geographic origin of the Aryan race, but had now been perverted by the influence of Hebraic religions and liberal, materialist modernity. The solution was Folkish Wodenism as a ’way of life,’ existentially rooted in blut und boden [blood and soil], and based on an Anglo-Saxon folk-moot form of government.
Ingessunu instigated rites at places of heathen significance, such as Avebury in Wiltshire, home to a stone circle, and Wayland’s Smithy, a Neolithic long barrow west of London. He also published magazines, one of which, Sword of Wayland, is not only a reference to Wayland’s Smithy but also to the ‘Swords of Wayland’ episodes of Robin of Sherwood. He even developed an Aryan martial art system, the Ar-kan rune-lag, based on runic postures.
During the 1990s Ingessunu’s evolving ideology found a sympathetic home in the British far right cultic milieu where ideologues like David Myatt and Troy Southgate espoused esoteric spiritual beliefs. Ingessunu formed connections with members of the neo-Nazi paramilitary group Combat 18, spoke at National Socialist Movement meetings, and developed a long-standing relationship with Southgate who has published several books compiling Ingessunu’s rigorous studies of runes, folklore, and etymology.
Over time, Woden’s Folk became a decentralised organisation linking localised groupuscules, called Hearths, across England, and the Woden Folk-Religion now operates as a transnational ideology with a tribal, not nationalist, ethos.
Trinny, Susannah, and the Long Woman of Wilmington
Ingessunu’s curious intersection between popular culture and the far right cultic milieu was elaborated further when Woden’s Folk and Troy Southgate took part in a 2007 protest against what they perceived as the desecration of a pagan site in East Sussex – by Trinny and Susannah.
Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, for the uninitiated, were a television fashion duo who offered style tips and famously performed rather unforgiving fashion makeovers.
For a 2007 episode of Trinny & Susannah Undress the Nation the duo altered the outline of the Long Man Of Wilmington, a hill figure in East Sussex, by positioning 100 women to transform the figure into the Long Woman of Wilmington. The hill figure has long been an important site for druids and pagans – Ingessunu even devoted the first chapter of his book Wulf to it – and Woden’s Folk and Southgate joined with local druids and protesters to decry the proceedings.
These protests were notably included in the televised programme, as an eccentric sideshow, but despite haranguing Woodall and Constantine throughout the filming the demonstrators were not successful in halting the event. The Sussex Archaeological Society later apologised to ‘representatives of the Pagan Community’ and promised to consult them before sanctioning any similar events.
Fascism and popular culture
There is an undeniable – if parochial – perverse jouissance at the thought of Trinny and Susanna entering the sphere of a far right pagan cultic milieu; a sense of absurdity ripe for a lighter-hearted anecdote in a book about fascism (or indeed a quirky blog post).
However, Ingessunu’s Hooded Man Prophecy and his surrounding activities have not been discussed here for the simple purposes of humour or mockery – after all, how many of us have not watched a film or read a novel and felt compelled that it has illuminated a way forward for our lives? Rather the episode points to a meaningful and serious aspect of fascism: its momentum forward, driven by emotive storytelling of the need for rebirth and regeneration, rather than any exact political program, allows it to blend easily with elements of popular culture.
Fascism is a somewhat unanchored ideology, not tethered to any foundational text or thinker in the sense that Marxism, for example, is; it has evolved as a fuzzy ideology and culture, and scholars have long debated a meaningful definition. Some, for example Roger Griffin, have pointed to themes of an endangered national community that requires total rebirth, and these themes are readily found in popular culture narratives, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to They Live – or even BBC family television programmes.
This is not to say that esoteric ideologies and groups are unequivocally accepted within the wider far right cultic milieu; Southgate was publicly criticised by his former comrades in International Third Position – a 1989 breakaway faction from the National Front – for his forays into paganism; and condemnation of Myatt’s esotericism is easily found on far right message boards. Ingessunu has acknowledged in his memoirs that his Hooded Man Prophecy is open to ‘leftist’ ridicule.
However, Folkish Wodenism illustrates the potency of popular culture, whether folklore, traditions, or television, as malleable source material in the political struggle of far right activists and ideologues. This can create an ideology with nativist appeal, as has occurred with Woden’s Folk, with its ecological and historical overtones and potential for resonant localised activism.
Ingessunu’s ideas are marginal in Britain, and when Woden’s Folk did receive wider attention in 2019 they were described as ‘Brit neo-Nazis’ carrying out ‘sinister midnight rituals’ by the popular press – indicative of the fact that despite the heated nature of contemporary culture wars, far right expressions of Englishness remain doomed if they can be associated with neo-Nazism.
Clive Henry is a Doctoral Fellow at CARR and a Doctoral candidate at the University of Northampton. See full profile here.
© Clive Henry. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).