an Ancient Religion
[Young Heathens Page]
(Fall 1999 Revision)
"Asatru" (often known as "Heathenism," "Germanic Paganism," "Elder Troth,"
and other names) means "faith in the Aesir", which are the Gods of pre-Christian
Scandinavia. The other Germanic peoples (Goths, Germans, Dutch, Frisians,
Anglo-Saxons, etc.) had essentially the same religion. Similar Deities were
once worshipped throughout most of Europe, and as far away as India (the
Gods of the Rig Veda). Asatru never really quite died out. Medieval Icelandic
books of magical spells (galdrabok) show that some were calling upon the
Aesir long after Christianity was forced upon the Germanic peoples. In northern
Scandinavia, the Lappish (Saami) people were openly celebrating the worship
of Thor, which they had learned from their Heathen Scandinavian neighbors
in the pre-Christian period, as late as 1800. The modern revival began in
the early 1970's. Within a few months of each other and quite unaware of
each other's existence, groups were formed in the USA, Iceland and the United
Kingdom. Odin, the wanderer, is once again seeking worshippers. Despite claims
of racist/racialist Asatru groups, anyone who wishes to join
Asatru may do
so, irregardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. Today, people
of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are working happily and productively
with the Norse Pantheon.
In addition to Thor, the Thunderer, friend of the common folk, and Odin,
Allfather, chief God, poet, and wandering wizard, we worship many other Gods,
including Tyr, God of war and justice; Ingvi Frey, God of peace, fertility
and nature (the European images of the Green Man may be a memory of Frey
and similar Gods); Balder, who although tragically murdered is still very
present to his worshippers today; Heimdall, the Watchman of Asgard, etc.
Nor do we neglect the Goddesses, who are equal in power and holiness to the
Gods: Frigga, wife of Odin, seen under such guises as Allmother (feminine
counterpart of Odin), the all-knowing but silent Goddess, and many other
aspects; Freya, Goddess of fertility, love, magic and war; Idunna, Goddess
of renewal (Eostre/Ostara, an Anglo-Saxon and German Goddess who provided
the name for "Easter" may be the same Goddess); Hela, who rules over the
place between death and rebirth (most of us Heathens believe in some form
of rebirth or reincarnation); Nerthus, the Mother Earth Goddess mentioned
in Tacitus' book Germania (98 C.E.), and many others. This should lay to
rest erroneous notions, popularly held in the larger Pagan community, that
Asatru is "patriarchal" or a "testosterone rush." We also revere the spirits
of nature (landvaettir) and various guardian spirits, such as the Disir and
Alfar (Elves). Our Gods are friendly, practical, dependable and approchable.
They basically ask only that we honor them and in doing so live our lives
in such a way that it helps uphold cosmic harmony, preserve life in Midgard,
the world of which we are apart, and help life and the Universe continue
to evolve. Thus, Asatru is in a very real sense a nature or Earth religion.
We are friends and co-workers of our Gods, whom we sometimes address as "Elder
Kin." We are not their slaves, nor do we grovel before them.
Our two main rituals are the blot and sumbel. "Blot" means sacrifice. While
scholars debate whether or not it is connected with the word "blood", we
use mead (honey-wine), beer or apple juice today. The liquid is consecrated
to the God or Goddess being worshipped, and we commune with that Deity by
drinking a portion of it. The rest is poured as a libation. The Sumbel is
a sort of ritualized toasting. The first of the usual three rounds is to
the Gods, starting with Odin, who won the mead of poetry from the Giant Suttung.
It is good to pour a few drops to Loki the Trickster, (also Odin's
blood-brother), to ward off nasty surprises! The second round is to ancestors
and other honorable dead. The third round is open.
While devoid of rigid, legalistic rules, ours is by no means an amoral faith.
We start out with basic principles, such as the
Nine Noble Virtues (a modern
innovation but a good summation of our ethics): courage, truth, honor, loyalty,
hospitality, industriousness, perserverance, self-discipline, and self-reliance.
The 6-fold Goals; right, wisdom, might, harvest, frith (roughly = fruitful
peace but not in a pacifistic sense), and love, while less well-known than
the Nine Noble Virtues, are also used as guidelines by many of us. From
these, individuals can decide the appropriate course of action for a given
situation and honor themselves, their families, their communities, and their
Gods (and Goddesses) by striving to do what is right. Common sense and
practicality are very important to us. The Gods organized the Universe from
chaotic material (represented by the body of the dead Giant Ymir), which
was what was available. A remaining bit of chaos allows for a random factor,
which helps the Universe and all in it to keep evolving. An important function
of Humanity is to care for the Earth and to help the process of evolution
to continue by growing and evolving ourselves. Not even the Gods themselves
are all-powerful or all-knowing, so perfection is neither required nor expected.
On the contrary, imperfection is inherent in all things.
The Elder and Younger Eddas (also called the Poetic and Prose
Edda) are texts
we hold in high esteem for the information on our religion that they contain,
although most of us do not interpret our myths literally. While the Elder
Edda is a compilation of anonymous mythological poems compiled from various
medieval Icelandic manuscripts, the Younger
Edda was written by Snorri Sturluson
around 250 years after the official Christianization of Iceland in 1000 C.E.
For scholarly research on Asatru, read Myth and Religion of the North
by E.O.G. Turville-Petre and the many books on the subject by H.R. Ellis
Davidson. Llewellyn Publications Inc.,
PO Box 64383-K069, St. Paul, Minnesota 55164 USA has many
Germanic-Pagan-Related books in print. Links from my own web page (Jordsvin's Norse Heathen Web Page), especially "Our
Troth" and the Thorr Sheil links, will provide much useful information
on the practical aspects of our living religion.
Magical work is a part of the spiritual life of many practitioners of
Magic involves working with natural but unseen forces, including those embodied
in the Runes, the indigenous alphabet of the Germanic Peoples, as well as
galder (spellcraft) and seidhr (shamanic-type workings). Magic can help forsee
the probable direction of future events, obtain healing, and help us in all
that we do, but it does not substitute for "mundane" efforts. Ours is a
practical, active religion! For more information on
Asatru, please see my web page.
all works used by permission of the authors