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  • Writer's pictureErik Lugnet

Folkbuilder Spotlight: Ryan Harlan

Folkbuilder Ryan Harlan Marysville, Montana

Ryan Harlan has been an AFA member for only ten years, but it seems like he's always been with us. You could easily describe him as tall, handsome, personable, thoughtful – but, in his quiet way, he's so much more. Ryan's well-researched talks at Óðinshof have a deep historical perspective from which we learn more about our ancestral roots. His mead-making workshops and hand-crafted knives of Damascus steel have brought history to life before our eyes. If there's a job to be done, Ryan will take care of it. At events, he's right there for health emergencies, having set up our array of medical equipment as a qualified EMT. He's an Odin's-man, an Ullr's-man, a Frey's-man – but at the very root it all, he's a family man.

It was my pleasure to spend time with Ryan this morning, learning more about his journey to the AFA. What follows is some of what I learned.

Family is at the core of who Ryan is, whether he's telling stories of his ancestors or bringing you up to date on Harlan family of today. He keeps one foot in the past, with the stories of Cornish gold miners from his mother's side or the roots of the Harlan clan on his father's. Ryan refers to his children as “our future” and they are filled with strong virtues and high expectations, even at their young ages.

Both sides of his family had careers in law enforcement and fire-fighting, and though he wanted to be a Navy medic, a diagnosis of colorblindness ended his hopes of a military career. As an Explorer Scout, he did ride-alongs with firemen and began training as an EMT. At age 19, he received his certification and began his career with the US Forest Service. After years of being a “fire-tech” working the forest fires throughout the west, he moved to a dispatcher position so he could stay home with his family.

When it came to religion, Ryan said that Christianity "never clicked" with him. Instead, he found himself reading books on Greek and Celtic mythology. By researching “European religion” online, he discovered the AFA website - but it would still be some time before he made his move. While the AFA's Midsummer 2014, he knew it was the right decision at that point in his life.

When asked about important memories, he was quick to reply: getting engaged and married, and the baby-naming ceremonies of his three daughters. It was through the AFA that he met his wife, Rachel. In September 2016, they were married at June Lake, on the east side of the Sierras in true mountain-folk fashion. It's no surprise that when they relocated to Montana, they found a home built in 1892 in a ghost town with only 70 inhabitants...not unlike the California gold rush communities they both left behind.

Ryan had been a Folkbuilder before leaving California, so it was only natural that he rolled up his sleeves and began building an AFA presence in Montana, which had never had a Folkbuilder. He describes the locals as “hearty gold-country folk but more reserved” than those in California. He's getting to know folks there, and his efforts are showing results with an increase in Montana membership. Ryan is cautious about growing a community too quickly; he's much more concerned about maintaining high quality.

Ryan has hosted events at various venues, with several families now joining. A kindred is being established, and will proudly hoist its flag this August. Coming right up is this year's Ostara Celebration at Elkhorn Hot Springs close to the Idaho border ( The site offers cabins plus other amenities, so reach out to Ryan at if you'd like to know more.

When weather prevents meeting with other families, the Harlan's do blot as a family. Once you've seen the photos of his young daughters Heidrun and Ida Belle pouring libations on a Montana mountaintop, you'll understand the impact the AFA has in our lives today...and in the days to come.

Gythia Sheila McNallen


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