21st-Century Viking: The Life and Death of Ex-Con, Tattoo Artist, and Heathen Warrior Jubel Dean Perkins
Jubel Dean Perkins’ funeral barge burns at Bartlett Lake on September 10.
Shawna Marie Lyon
Beneath a merciless Arizona sun on a Saturday in early September, a crowd of more than 300 waits at the edge of Bartlett Lake, about 50 miles northeast of downtown Phoenix, to watch a Viking ship, gliding silently atop the lake’s still waters, meet a fiery end.
Beneath a merciless Arizona sun on a Saturday in early September, a crowd of more than 300 waits at the edge of Bartlett Lake, about 50 miles northeast of downtown Phoenix, to watch a Viking ship, gliding silently atop the lake’s still waters, meet a fiery end.
The seven-foot replica, painted scarlet and black, features a black mainsail etched with the word “Wolfskin” in garish red letters. At its prow, a dragon’s head with a gaping mouth and jagged teeth snarls, while the boat’s aft ends with the dragon’s curled tail.
Earlier, mourners placed silver rings and coins inside the ship, as well as bread, fruit, and a knife. Some left photos or personal messages for Jubel Dean Perkins, better known simply as Jubel Dean, the man whose ashes lay in a wooden box in the funeral barge.
Now, with the ship set adrift by Perkins’ widow, Rayney, an archer stands ready to fire flaming arrows at the boat. But Perkins, who died at the age of 33, gunned down on a hot August night in a sketchy area of central Phoenix for reasons still unknown, does not go gently.
One arrow, dipped in flammable liquid and set ablaze, hits the vessel. But the ship fails to ignite. Other arrows fall short as Perkins’ Viking ship sails away from shore, forcing a handful of mourners to swim out to the boat to set it aflame by hand.
As the Viking ship is devoured by a mini inferno, the men, women, and children onshore erupt in cheers, chanting “Hail, Jubel Dean!” Many wear Thor’s hammers on chains around their necks or T-shirts bearing the hooked othala rune, indicating they are followers of Asatru, a growing religion that venerates the Old Norse gods and is estimated to have tens of thousands of followers nationwide.
Perkins offers a toast, wearing a Thor’s hammer, a sign that he is a follower of Asatru.
Shawna Marie Lyon
There is also an extremist element on hand, evidenced by men who’ve removed their shirts to reveal Nazi swastikas or the words “White Power” inked into their flesh: a minority, to be sure, but a reminder that Asatru is sometimes associated with virulent racism.
Finally, the lake consumes the orange flames of the floating bier, concluding the four-hour ceremony for Perkins, a giant of a man and ex-convict who learned the art of tattooing behind bars and emerged from prison in 2010 to remake himself, build a successful tattoo parlor on the West Side, Wolfskin Ink, and host a yearly promotional event and fundraiser for charity called Wolfstock.
In his six years out of prison, Perkins married and started a family of four children (two from his wife’s previous union). Having studied Asatru in the pen, Perkins formed a kindred, an Asatru religious community consisting of several families, in this case six, who elected him their Godi (pronounced Go-thee), as an Asatru spiritual leader is known. He also navigated the process of making his kindred, Northern Roots, a part of the Asatru Alliance, a coalition of kindreds with more than 30 nationwide.
Among his kindred, he was a popular — and unforgettable — figure. Dressed from head to toe in armor, he fought yearly in the Estrella War at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek, where participants engage in full-contact medieval-style battle under the aegis of the Society for Creative Anachronism. He was also a budding rocker, singing a song called “21st-Century Viking” with his favorite band, Throw the Switch.
Friends and family say Perkins was on his way home from band practice in Central Phoenix when he made a detour that would end his life. According to Phoenix police, Perkins and an unidentified man stopped their vehicle near 1900 East Adams Street for unknown reasons, and Perkins got out. An altercation with a group of black men turned violent, and Perkins ended up getting shot several times in the back.
The murder remains unsolved, with no arrests or suspects, one of many mysteries revolving around the 6-foot-4, 400-pound behemoth, whose life story is filled with contradictions and unanswered questions. How, after all, did the son of a Native American become an adherent of a religion based upon ancient, Northern European beliefs? Was his slaying the result of a racial beef, a drug deal gone awry, or something entirely different?
As Perkins raised a family and built a business, did he put his prison years in the rear-view mirror? Or in his final moments on Earth, was he unable to outrun the demons of his past?
At Wolfskin Ink, before the caravan to Bartlett Lake, mourners wrote messages for Perkins to carry with him into the afterlife.
Long before his rebirth as a 21st-century Viking, Jubel Dean was a chubby mama’s boy, “just an average little brother,” recalls his older sister, Annika Jones, over breakfast at a local diner. “He would sit down and play Barbies with me. He loved the Ninja Turtles.”
Born in Casper, Wyoming, he was the son of Jubel Perkins Sr., a member of the Kansas Kickapoo tribe, and his wife Teresa, who is Anglo. Obituary notices for Perkins Sr., who died in 2013, note that he’d been a U.S. Marine, a bull rider, and worked for many years at the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, an Indian-owned facility in Portland, Oregon.
Jones says Jubel Sr. and Teresa split just two years after Jubel Jr. was born, and a couple of years later, Teresa moved to Phoenix with her children. Though Jones had a different father, she says she and her brother were very close. The household was dominated by women, and Jubel was coddled, in part, because he was overweight.
Their childhood wasn’t an easy one. Their mother endured “bad relationships,” Jones says, and she and her brother witnessed violence growing up. Drug abuse was also a part of their family life, and it landed on Jubel. “He was just a young kid who got caught up in drugs,” Jones says. “He went to prison as a kid who wore Dickies and liked to rap.”
Court documents show that Perkins had an extensive criminal history as a juvenile, accumulating arrests for aggravated robbery, drug possession, shoplifting, burglary, and transporting narcotics.
As an adult, he racked up convictions for burglary, attempted armed robbery, and aggravated assault. A 2002 probation report states that Perkins admitted he tried to rob a Texaco store “as a means to support his drug habit,” and that he’d been on a drug binge in the month preceding the crime. Perkins told his probation officer that he was “powerless to drugs.”
Perkins had already spent about six years in prison when he was released on intensive parole and probation at the age of 24. He was a free man for about a month and half before falling back into the same cycle of drugs and crime. According to the court record, Perkins says he was promised $500 by someone to evict a man from a house. He was later alleged to have kicked in the house’s front door, threatening the man with a knife, following three days of shooting up methamphetamine.
Rayney Perkins, Jubel Dean's widow, with two of her children, Jubel III (left) and Journey. A memorial bike ride to raise funds for her and her kids is scheduled for November 12.
After pleading guilty to aggravated assault, Perkins wrote the judge, apologizing for his crime, saying that he’d dropped out of high school because of a cocaine addiction, and that drug use was his bane. He promised to do better the second time around. The judge approved a plea deal, sentencing him to another three and a half years in prison.
It was during this second stint that Perkins got serious about two things that would change his life: the art of tattooing, and Asatru.
Perkins had already picked up the tattooing bug from other prisoners. As a boy, Jubel loved to draw, and tattooing became his passion, an outlet for his creative energies, as long as he could get away with it. The practice is forbidden by prison authorities, but as his prison disciplinary history shows, with numerous violations for giving or receiving tattoos, that didn’t stop him.
In a 2012 YouTube video to promote Wolfskin Ink, Perkins explains that most of his latter years in prison were spent in solitary confinement, where he channeled his anger into creating “flash art,” or tattoo designs drawn on paper. By the time he left prison, he had a ton of these, enough to score a gig with a local tattoo parlor and fill a wall in the makeshift studio he built behind his house, when he decided to go solo.
He also got a few books of flash art published, won some competitions, and garnered a regular clientele with his crazed designs of Uncle Sam skeletons, demented clowns, pin-up biker girls licked by flames, rapacious wolves, and skulls topped with Indian headdresses.
Later designs include sick spiderwebs inhabited by desiccated, top-hatted gamblers, a dragon with gnarled human hands holding an embryo in the womb, and Norse symbolism, such as the Yggdrasil, a mystical ash tree that connects all nine worlds of the Scandinavian cosmology. There were also some risqué images, like a buxom, latex-bound nun wearing a gas mask that he tattooed on the left thigh of his good friend Robin Green. During prison, Perkins corresponded with Green’s main squeeze, the late, legendary Arizona biker Robert “Chico” Mora of Hells Angels and Dirty Dozen motorcycle club fame.
In another promotional video, Perkins says tattooing let him “make a living off people who love my art,” and had a therapeutic effect, “something that keeps me sane ... something that keeps me focused.”
More than that, Wolfskin was thriving, with six artists on-site in addition to Perkins, and two mobile tattoo parlors that allowed them to roam, doing events all over Arizona, as well as in California, Nevada, Oregon, and South Dakota. His business allowed him to be the sole provider for Rayney and the kids, and he got to meet some of his outlaw heroes, like renowned Hells Angels badass Sonny Barger and controversial country music singer David Allan Coe.
The week before his death, he and another Wolfskin artist returned from working at the 76th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, a prestigious event for any tattoo artist to set up shop. And Perkins was looking forward to his fourth Wolfstock on August 27, which had outgrown its block-party status and was now being held at a nearby Eagles Lodge.
“He had already rented his space at Sturgis for the next year,” Green tells New Times of her fallen friend. “His life was coming together so good. He really had it going on.”
One of Perkins' many battle helmets.
Shawna Marie Lyon
Valgard Murray, founder of the Asatru Alliance and one of the progenitors of modern Asatru, watched Perkins’ path from inmate to free man. He also witnessed a transformation. “Jubel is a sterling example of someone who did his time and came out and did things right,” Murray says. “I’m very proud of him. I call him a graduate from prison.”
Murray recalls corresponding with Perkins while he was in prison and believes Perkins purchased a Thor’s hammer from him, which prisoners are allowed to wear if the necklace meets certain conditions. Murray believes Asatru can provide a “spirit boost” to prisoners and help them turn their lives around, which is what Perkins seems to have done in the six years from his release in 2010 to his gruesome death.
He estimated that there are “tens of thousands” of followers of Asatru nationwide. He refers to Asatru as “the religion of our ancestors,” likening it to Native American beliefs and other indigenous religions, such as Shinto in Japan. He describes it in ethnic terms as being the original, pre-Christian religion of those of Northern European descent. “It’s not some New Age thing,” Murray, 66, harrumphs at one point. “It’s 10,000 years old.”
The pre-Christian worship of Norse gods may be thousands of years old, but Asatru actually is a neologism derived from Old Norse words, which translates as “belief in the Aesir,” one part of the Northern Pantheon, which includes such gods as Thor, god of thunder, Frigga, goddess of marriage and the hearth, and her husband, Odin, chieftain of the gods as well as god of wisdom and poetry, among other things.
Murray, who lives in Payson, publishes a heathen periodical called Vor Tru, which means “Our Faith” in Old Norse. He once served as the elected Allsherjargoði, or high chieftain, of the Asatru Alliance, but now says he’s retired. He still maintains the organization’s website Asatru.org, a font of information about Asatru, through which he sells books, DVDs, ritual items, and offers “the largest selection of Thor’s hammers in Midgard,” Midgard being one of the nine worlds of the ancient Norse cosmology, the one where humans live.
The sometimes cranky spiritual leader, who in photos online, with his white hair and beard, resembles an off-duty, department-store Santa Claus, was instrumental in getting Asatru recognized in 1993 by the Arizona Department of Corrections through a lawsuit in federal court. He serves as a contract employee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, advising corrections facilities on the practice of Asatru behind bars.
“A lot of the guys in prison support us,” Murray says. “I support them. I got them their rights. I protect them.”
With Murray’s guidance, Asatru became central to Perkins’ life behind bars. On the outside, family and friends say the religion helped Perkins create a sense of stability and community, which, along with a family he loved and his passion for tattooing, kept him out of trouble.
Elton Hall, 84, once a member of the American Nazi Party, participated in the Bartlett Lake ceremony as part of Perkins' kindred, Northern Roots.
His Northern Roots kindred supplied a support group for him and the other ex-cons who populate its ranks. Though Northern Roots is a heathen kindred — heathen being another name for a follower of Asatru — the group participated in the wider pagan community, joining in Phoenix’s annual Pagan Pride Day and attending pagan rituals at the Irish Cultural Center and other venues to mark the winter and summer solstices and the spring and autumn equinoxes.
As the elected Godi of the kindred, Perkins reveled in his role as a Viking chief. His wife and children wore T-shirts emblazoned with othala runes. He and his fellow kinsmen staged ceremonies known as blots and sembles, where homemade mead — a fermented beverage made of honey that tastes like malt liquor on steroids — is drunk out of cattle horns.
When Perkins fought in SCA battles, he would outfit himself from head to toe in medieval armor, sometimes wearing an actual wolf skin, like the fearsome Viking warriors of yore known as berserkers. And when he was in a playful mood, he might put on a headpiece that looks like a Batman mask with two long, black horns protruding from it. Invariably, if he was out and about, people would stop him to score a selfie.
Asatru may also have helped Perkins battle a lifelong addiction to hard drugs, though he continued to drink and smoke marijuana.
During a YouTube video shot in 2013 at that year’s Wolfstock, he talked about the importance of the name “Wolfskin,” which he said came from an Old Norse saga and referred to “he who dons the wolf skin” to battle one’s appetites. “The wolf is your bestial nature,” he explained to the camera. “[It’s] your greed, your gluttony, your seven deadly sins that you’re blessed with as a human being. It’s your animal instinct.
“It’s not about embracing your animal instinct,” he continued, “it’s about learning to control it. It’s important that you be able to defend yourself, to be able to defend your family, to be able to defend your country.”
Perkins liked to celebrate his heathen lifestyle by singing his signature song, “21st-Century Viking.” The song was a sort of anthem for Perkins, and he can be seen belting it out it in a 2015 YouTube video in a raspy, high-pitched buzzsaw of a voice.
Based on a poem of the same name by white nationalist writer Ron McVan, whom Perkins dubbed “a hero of ours” to his Wolfstock audience, the main stanza is full of swagger and chest-thumping:
I’m a 21st-century Viking, and I’m a badass to the bone
All my enemies fear me, they leave my ass alone
My symbol is a hammer, and I hold that hammer high
If you see me on the battle field, you’ll know the reason why.
It wasn’t long after singing that song for the last time that Jubal Dean Perkins met his doom.
Perkins, here arrayed as a Viking warrior, wearing a wolf skin like a berserker of yore.
Shawna Marie Lyon
About an hour after band practice on August 23, Phoenix police would find Perkins’ bullet-riddled corpse in east Central Phoenix, near 19th and Adams streets. Police spokesman Sergeant Jonathan Howard said the motive for the killing appeared to be “consensual criminal activity.”
Perkins’ family doesn’t know why he ended up in that decidedly sketchy neighborhood. Some close to Jubel Dean whisper that he’d recently fallen off the wagon and started using drugs again.
Law enforcement sources, who asked not to be identified, told New Times that Perkins had gone to a house in that neighborhood to score narcotics, and as he was leaving, interacted with a group of men who then shot him.
There are many unresolved questions about the crime. Rayney, Jubel Dean’s wife, says the driver of the car — whom she doesn’t know — called that night to tell her they were being shot at, without offering details. She says he drove all the way to the Perkins’ residence in northwest Phoenix before contacting the police.
Rayney says she, her sister-in-law Jones, and other members of the extended Perkins clan drove to the area of the shooting, where they watched police process the crime scene. Jubel Dean’s corpse lay in the road till early the next morning, when he was finally taken away by the county medical examiner. The ground was littered with shell casings.
Jones and Green both told New Times that members of the Arizona State Gang Task Force were present that night, expressing concern that there might be retaliation from Perkins’ friends, family, or allies.
“They’re just worried that because of the support we have that someone’s going to go out there and handle it themselves,” Rayney says. “I told them we were doing it as legal as possible ... We don’t need anybody going to prison. I don’t need anyone’s blood on my hands.”
At Bartlett Lake, Perkins’ friends and family carry his Viking ship to the water.
Shawna Marie Lyon
She also said that Gang Task Force members followed up with her later and told her that they believe Wolfskin is a street gang. New Times contacted Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves, asking if the task force considers Wolfskin to be a gang. “The State Gang Task Force would rather not comment on whether [Wolfskin] is a gang,” Graves replied by e-mail.
Clearly, law enforcement was prepared for trouble after Perkins’ murder. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which patrols Maricopa County’s lakes, showed up in force at the Bartlett Lake funeral. When a caravan of 100 vehicles departed from the Wolfskin studio on September 10 to Bartlett Lake, MCSO vehicles dotted the road and an MCSO helicopter buzzed overhead. At the lake, MCSO deputies monitored the ceremony and had boats on the water nearby.
(Interestingly, according to documents obtained from the MCSO through a public records request, some in the MCSO believed Perkins was a member of the Hells Angels, but this is incorrect. Wolfskin had been a vendor at some HA events, but Perkins was not a member, according to several sources.)
There are reasons for the intense law-enforcement scrutiny. Perkins and many in his kindred have done serious prison time and are considered multiple offenders. In the pen, Perkins and some kindred members were “STG’d” by prison authorities, meaning they’d been validated as members or known associates of a “Security Threat Group,” otherwise known as a prison gang — in this case the powerful race-based gang, the Aryan Brotherhood. Finally, Perkins and others in his circle have racist tattoos on their bodies.
One photo online reveals that Perkins had the numbers 14 and 88 tattooed on his chest, typical shorthand for the so-called 14 words of David Lane, a now-dead white supremacist, influential in an extreme form of Asatru sometimes called Odinism or Wotanism. Lane was sentenced to 190 years in federal prison for his part in the illegal activities of a group of neo-Nazis known as the Silent Brotherhood, or the Order.
In the 1980s, the Order cut a violent swath across the western United States, robbing banks and assassinating liberal, Jewish talk-show host Alan Berg in 1984. The group’s leader, Robert Jay Mathews, also reputedly an Odinist, was killed in a shootout that same year with federal agents. Lane died in prison in 2007, a prolific writer, best known for his 14-word credo: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
The 88? That is a standard racist notation for the eighth letter of the alphabet, standing for HH or “Heil Hitler.”
The altar for Perkins' ceremony, featuring a jug of mead, Perkins' wolf skin, and his battle helmet.
Rayney admits that her husband had “political ink” that he’d gotten in prison but denies he was racist, pointing out that he was one-quarter Native American and that he had half-sisters and other family members who are full-blood Native Americans.
Perkins also has cousins who are African-American, some of whom attended the Bartlett Lake ceremony, and could count as friends and customers Hispanics and blacks.
Rayney claims Jubel was never a member of the Aryan Brotherhood, though she says her husband told her that he had once been offered a chance to join but turned the AB down, knowing it was a dead end. Still, she says, because he had friends who were AB, prison officials associated him with the group.
Bill Lamoreaux, a spokesman for ADC, says that the department doesn’t disclose STG assignments for security purposes. ADC relies on a point system for validating whether an individual is STG, taking into account factors such as tattoos, self-identification, associations, court records, and so on.
One of Perkins’ best friends, Troy Nordby, is also an ex-convict and is brutally honest about his past and present. He says he’s spent most of his life in prison. He likes to tell the story about how he met Perkins long before he ever saw him, when the two would talk over a wall in maximum security, where both men were locked up 23 hours a day.
“Are we gang-related?” he asks rhetorically, over a beer at the Steel Horse Saloon, directly across a parking lot from Wolfskin. “Some of us, yes. Everybody’s got a past, bud. That doesn’t mean who you are in your future is your past. Everyone starts somewhere and ends up somewhere else. That’s life.”
Nordby, a member of Perkins’ Northern Roots kindred, avows that he is not a racist, citing as evidence that he proudly participates in Pagan Pride Day, an inclusive event that encompasses Wicca, Druidism, and other such faiths.
Perkins' friend Troy Nordby (center), a member of Northern Roots, performs a "hammer hallowing," sanctifying the ground before the ceremony.
He agrees that the Asatru prisoners encounter behind bars “is cut with a bunch of hatred and racism,” but that the Asatru he and his kindred practice is “all about family, folk, and community,” and he regards as “ridiculous” the attention of the authorities.
“They’re wasting so many resources on something it’s not,” he says, “when they could be focusing on who the fuck killed this guy.”
In many ways, Perkins is himself emblematic of the ambiguity surrounding Asatru when it comes to race and ethnicity.
Photos online show Jubel traveling to Oregon in 2013 to introduce his new son to his then-ailing father, and later returning to Oregon to spread his father’s ashes in the wilderness. About a year after his father’s death, he posted a video of a Native American drum ceremony done in honor of his father in Oregon.
That’s not to mention a photo on Perkins’ Facebook page of his wife Rayney — who is so pale and blond she could pass for the younger sister of Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones (if the Mother of Dragons had a younger sister) — arm in arm with a black female friend.
Needless to say, none of this would make the cut for an avowed white supremacist. Nor would an April 2015 post by Perkins talking about his “to each his own” attitude toward life, discussing the pitfalls of prejudice, writing that “too much time and negative energy is spent on bullshit like this.”
Yet much in the same way that many Asatruers take a laissez-faire stance toward the white supremacists in their midst, Perkins embraced and admired some individuals with an extremist pedigree, most notably 84-year-old Elton Hall, a member of Perkins’ Northern Roots, who attended the Bartlett Lake ceremony and participated in a ritual where those who loved Jubel Dean toasted him with a humongous horn of mead.
Local artisan Steve Mann was so impressed by Perkins in battle dress that he made an action figure in Perkins' likeness, with two removable helmets.
Hall’s significance in neo-Nazi circles cannot be overstated. He served as a stormtrooper under the charismatic American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell, who was assassinated in 1967 by a former member of his own organization. And he can regale listeners with tales of how the notorious racist would mess with the FBI agents assigned to shadow him by writing down notes on a piece of paper, tearing it up and defecating on the fragments in a hotel toilet, leaving it unflushed, knowing that dutiful FBI agents would have to sift through it in order to reconstruct the notes.
Interviewed by New Times at Bartlett Lake, the spry National Socialist, whose name is mentioned in scholarly tomes about neo-Nazism and white supremacy, said he learned about what came to be known as Asatru through reading the work of Alexander Rud Mills, an Australian fascist and proponent of Odinism.
Hall claimed that he “got Valgard [Murray] started” on Norse paganism back in the day and referred to Christianity as “a Zionist thing,” whereas Asatru was the ancestral faith of whites. He asserted that Asatru is “not about hate, it’s about love,” and talked about how blacks and whites were better off under segregation.
“We’re always talking about population control,” he said. “The mixing of the races causes reading deficiencies. Race mixing is nothing more than population control.”
Was there a connection for him between his religion and his politics? Hall quickly responded, “They are as one.”
Asked about Hall’s comments, Murray bristled at first, saying that his initial experience with Odin was through a vision he had of the god riding his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir, through the heavens when Murray was 11. But he conceded that Hall had been a member of an organization in the 1960s, “more of a theosophical group” that he had attended.
Some mourners at the Perkins funeral proudly displayed white nationalist tattoos, like the ones seen here; Perkins had "political ink," too, but he also was one-quarter Native American, and has family members who are Native American, Hispanic, and African-American.
“He may have introduced me to the gods, so to speak, after I’d already met Odin,” Murray told New Times. “So he was a contributor to my education in the old days, yes.”
Murray denied previously published reports that he had once been a member of the American Nazi Party, saying that “I can say I was influenced by it, but I was never a member.”
He said he became interested in ANP while he was a freshman in high school after being stabbed by an African-American at a bus stop, but he “straightened myself out after a while.”
These days, Murray says he is more of a “tribal anarchist” than anything. He pointed to the Asatru Alliance’s bylaws, published on AA’s website, which plainly state that “We do not practice, preach, or promote hatred, bigotry, or racism.”
Still, Murray is not above giving Elton Hall some credit for the latter’s contribution to Asatru. The cover of a 2015 issue of the Asatru Alliance’s Vor Tru magazine features a photo of Hall during a trip that same year to Butte, Montana, along with Perkins, Nordby, and author and ex-prisoner Kevin Puckett, founder of the group Asastrong, to meet with Wotanist icon Ron McVan. The photo’s caption reads: “Members of the Northern Roots kindred honor Elton Hall — center — founder of the Arizona Kindred.”
Nordby tells New Times that it was an honor to meet McVan, whose books on Wotanism both he and Perkins studied while in prison. Nordby says the large, wooden Thor’s hammer that he used to hallow the ground at Bartlett Lake during a ritual called, appropriately enough, a “hammer hallowing,” was handcrafted by McVan.
There seemed to be a bit of a mutual admiration society between McVan and Perkins, with Perkins contributing illustrations to the 2012 edition of McVan’s Book of Blotar: Wotans Holy Rites and Rituals. And upon Perkins’ death, McVan penned a warm tribute, a poem titled “18 Shells on the Ground: The Ballad of Jubel Dean,” which hails Perkins as “a warrior, a berserker, yet friendly, not mean,” who was “the life of the party” and did everything “Viking style” till “10 bullets in the back” laid him low.
Writer Kevin Puckett, founder of the group Asastrong, reads a poem he penned for his dead friend.
The visit by Perkins and the others is memorialized online in a couple of videos. In one, McVan hails Hall as the “grandfather of Odinism,” and calls Nordby “a real Viking.” In another, to the beat of a drum of some kind, the five men, in dramatic, stentorian tones, read poetry praising the gods and ruminating on the Viking way of life.
All of which might seem harmless were it not for the collaboration of McVan with David Lane and Lane’s 14 Word Press, which published Lane’s anti-Semitic, white nationalist writings. They also collaborated on a form of Odinism called Wotansvolk. According to Lane’s introduction to McVan’s 1997 book Creed of Iron, WOTAN stands for “Will of the Aryan Nation,” and in the book itself, McVan espouses the view that “might is right” and that “the highest law of nature demands the preservation of one’s own kind,” which, for McVan, is the white race.
As you might expect, organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League take a dim view of McVan and regard Asatru with a critical eye.
Contacted for this story, Carlos Galindo-Elvira, regional director of ADL of Arizona, says that the ADL recognizes Asatru need not be racist, but says the ADL is worried about white supremacists who regard themselves as Asatruers, adding that most white supremacists “gravitate toward the more explicitly racial form of Asatru” known as Odinism or Wotanism.
Galindo-Elvira also points to a case from 2015 involving a group of white-supremacist Asatruists in Virginia, who were arrested for a plot “to attack Jewish and African-American religious institutions in an attempt to start a race war.”
Defenders of Asatru say this is like blaming all Muslims for the work of Islamist terrorists, or all Christians for the terrorist activities of the Ku Klux Klan. But when a prisoner exits a correctional institution with a swastika or some other white power tattoo, while hailing Odin or Thor, the ADL’s concern is understandable.
Arizona Department of Corrections figures show that 1,044 current prisoners have chosen Asatru as their religious preference, while 182 convicts identify themselves as Odinists. Taken as a whole, Odinists and Asatruers make up 2.8 percent of ADC’s population of 42,600.
Cory Young, Perkins’ business partner at Wolfskin, did 12 years in prison. He tells New Times that he and Perkins formed a friendship over their mutual love of art and drawing, and when Young got out, Perkins encouraged him to join Wolfskin as a tattoo artist.
Young, who has a swastika tattoo on his chest that he usually keeps covered up, said that in prison, you “have to follow your race and stick with your people no matter what.” When he was in stir, he says, “I was running with a lot of skinheads and the Aryan Brotherhood and stuff like that.” But since he’s been out, he claims that path is “a dead cause,” though he admits to having some of the same views as he did when he ran with that crew.
Now that he’s married, has a child, and is gainfully employed, he says he views Asatru as more about “loving your people and building yourself up.”
Perkins' funeral ceremony was led by Jed the Heathen, who says he is opposed to any type of racism or white supremacy.
That was the side of Jubel Dean that New Times saw during a brief interview in early 2015. He was a genuinely funny and charismatic individual, as one can see in a number of videos online. And arrayed in battle dress, he was such a striking figure that one local artisan created a Jubel Dean action figure with removable helmets.
Children seemed to gravitate to him, perhaps, as his sister Annika says, because he was little more than a big kid himself at times.
He was also generous, holding fundraisers for any number of causes, from fighting breast cancer, to helping a friend whose house had been destroyed by fire, to his favorite, an organization called Wreaths Across America, which lays wreaths on the graves of soldiers nationwide.
Tarra Matyas, the volunteer location coordinator for WAA in Phoenix, tells New Times that in 2015, through Wolfstock and other events, Perkins helped raise anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000. “It is very significant,” Matyas says of Perkins’ contribution. “We’re missing him not just on a personal level.”
And yet there is no dearth of photos online that could be used to cast Perkins in an uglier light, such as one from 2011 where he’s wearing a blue shirt with SS lightning bolts over the left breast and the motto, “Support your local repeat offender.” Or another from the same year, where Perkins sports a black shirt with a white Celtic cross and the white nationalist slogan, “White Pride Worldwide.”
What can one make of such contradictions? That’s a riddle that may lie at the bottom of Bartlett Lake forever. Perkins is not around to answer questions about his beliefs, and it is now more impossible than ever to read his heart.
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