ASATRU (NORSE PAGANISM)
Asatru is one of the Neo-Pagan family of religions, which includes
Wicca, Celtic Druidism,
and recreations of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other ancient Pagan religions.
Unlike Wicca, which has gradually evolved into many different traditions, the
reconstruction of Asatru has been based on the surviving historical
record; it has been kept as close as possible to the original religion of
the Norse people.
The name of the religion is derived from As, which means God,
and tru which means troth or loyalty. The origin of Asatru is lost
in antiquity. At its peak, it covered all of Northern Europe. In the 11th
Century, Iceland became the last Norse culture to convert to Christianity.
Their prime motivation was economic.
During the early part of the 20th Century, The National Socialist Party
in Germany under Adolph Hitler attempted to pervert Asatru by grafting parts
of the religion onto the Nazi racist beliefs. This blasphemy died by the
end of World War II, although some neo-Nazi groups are now attempting to
continue the practice. This activity is in no way related to the recreation
of Asatru as a legitimate Neo-Pagan religion.
Icelandic poet Gothi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson promoted government recognition
of Asatru as a legitimate religion; this was granted in 1972. Since the early
1970's, the religion has been in a period of rapid growth in the former
Norse countries, in Europe and North America.
- Asatru is a polytheistic religion. There are three races of Deities
in the Norse pantheon. They are all regarded as living beings who are
involved in human life:
- The Aesir: These are the Gods of the tribe or clan, representing
Kingship, order, craft, etc.
- The Vanir: These represent the fertility of the earth and forces
of nature. They are associated with the clan but are not part of it.
- The Jotnar: These are actual Gods, but are referred to as giants.
They are in a constant state of war with the Aesir. They represent chaos
and destruction. At the battle of Ragnarok, many of the Gods will die,
the world will come to an end and be reborn.
- Specific Gods: Some of the more important are:
- Thor is the Thunderer, who wields Mjolnir, the divine
Hammer. His chariot racing across the sky generates thunder. Thursday
(Thor's Day) was named after him.
- Odin is the one-eyed God; he gave up one of his eyes in order
to drink from the Fount of Wisdom. He is a magician and wise one. He learned
the secrets of the runes (Northern European alphabet) by hanging himself
on the tree Yggdrasil for nine nights.
- Frey is the God of Yule (born on the Winter Solstice, typically
December 21). He is a God of peace and plenty who brings fertility and
prosperity. His rival was Njord.
- Specific Goddesses: Some important ones are:
- Freya, the Goddess of love, beauty and sexuality, and perhaps
a dozen other attributes. She leads the Valkyries (death angels) who
take the souls of slain soldiers to Valhalla (Odin's heaven). She is
the inspirational source of sacred poetry.
- Frigg is Odin's wife. Her name has been secularized to a slang
term which refers to sexual intercourse. It is also the root of the name of
the sixth day of the week, Friday (Frigg's Day). She is the patroness of
the household and of married women.
- Skadi is the Goddess of independence, death, hunting and skiing. Scotland
and Scandinavia were named after her; the English words shadow,
skulduggery and shade came from her name.
- Ostara, is a Goddess of fertility who is celebrated at the time
of the Spring equinox. The Christian Easter is named after her. Her symbols
are the hare and the egg.
- Other Entities Other Deities are Aegir, Balder, Bragi, Forseti,
Heimdall, Loki, Njord, Ran, Tyr, Ull and Vithar. They also honor the
Landvaettir (land spirits) of the forest, earth and streams.
- Life Values: They follow the Nine Noble Virtues:
Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality,
Industriousness, Self-Reliance and Perseverance. The family
is greatly valued and honored. They reject any form of discrimination based
on ethnicity, gender, language, nationality, race, sexual orientation, or
"other divisive criteria".
- Origins: Mankind is literally descended from the Gods. One
deity, Rig visited the earth and fathered the human race.
- Ond: This is the gift of ecstasy provided to humans by the Gods.
It is what separates mankind from other animals, and is our eternal link
with the Gods.
- Creation Story: A poem Voluspa (Prophecy of the Seeress)
contains an Asatru story of the creation of the universe. Between
Muspelheim (The Land of Fire) and Niflheim the Land of Ice was
an empty space called Ginnungigap. The fire and ice moved towards
each other; when they collided, the universe came into being. Odin, Vili
and Ve later created the world from the body of a giant that they had slain.
Asatru Rituals and Practices:
- Their local religious communities are called Kindreds, Hearths,
or Garths. Priests are called Gothi; priestesses are
- The Blot: (pronounced "bloats") This is their most common
religious ritual; it is a sacrifice to the Gods. In olden days, as with
almost all ancient religions, an animal was consecrated to the deities and
then slaughtered. This was not seen as a bribe or as a method of capturing
the power of the dying animal. It is simply the way in which the ancient
Norse shared their bounty with a gift to the Gods. Currently, the animal
sacrifice has been replaced by the offer of beer, juice or mead. Afterwards,
those present are either sprinkled with the liquid, or drink it in sequence.
- The Sumbel: This is a ritual drinking celebration, in which
a horn filled with a drink is passed around the group. Each person delivers
a greeting; a toast to the Gods, ancient heroes, or one's ancestors; or a
story, song or poem. He or she then drinks from the horn.
- Profession or Adoption: This is the act of making a commitment to
Asatru to the exclusion of other faiths, by solemnly giving an oath of
allegiance and kinship to the Gods of Asgard, the Aesir and Vanir. It is a
simple ceremony usually done in the presence of a Gothi or Gythai and the
rest of the Kindred, Hearth or Garth. It is taken on an oath ring or some
other sacred object.
Seasonal Days of Celebration
In common with most other Neo-Pagan faiths, their main holy days are:
- Summer Finding, at the spring equinox, typically March 21. This is
dedicated to Ostara.
- Winter Finding, at the fall equinox, typically September 21
- Midsummer, at the summer solstice, typically June 21
- Yule, typically starting on December 21 (the Mother Night of Yule) and
lasting for 12 days or more. This is the most important day of the year.
Many Norse symbols have been adsorbed by the Christian celebration of
Christmas: evergreen trees, Yule logs, holly, etc.
Many also celebrate days between the solstices and equinoxes. Various
traditions within Asartu observe them on different dates:
- The Charming of the Plow on February 1st weekend, a celebration of Freya and the Disir
- Merry-Moon on May 1st weekend, celebration of spring dedicated to Njord
- Harvest or Freyfaxi on August 1st weekend, the first harvest and
celebration of Frey and his horse
- Fogmoon on November 1st weekend, a celebration of war-dead and Ragnarok
Dedicated to Odin and Freya.
Einherjar is held on November 11 and coincides with Armistice or
Veterans Day. It honours those who have been killed in battle and have
joined Odon's warriors in Valhalla. Some groups hold a feast on the 9th
of each month to honor Norse heroes. Other groups hold rituals at full
moons. Additional days are celebrated at other times during the year by
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References and Further Information
- Raven Online is the home page of the Raven Kindred Association.
They publish a periodical Asatru Today. Subscription is $17.50 per
year. They also publish the book Ravenbok. Much of the above
information was taken from this site. See:
- Ragnarok is an unofficial home page of the Ring of Troth,
which is the largest Asatru group in North America. They publish a quarterly,
called Idunna. They also offer the book "Our Troth" for sale.
- An official Webpage of the Ring of Troth is at:
- For a list of Asatru home pages, consult Yahoo at:
- There are Asatru groups in Ottawa, Canada; Uppsala, Sweden; and in at
least the following states of the US: AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, KY,
MA, MD, MI, MO, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, VA, WA and WI. See the
Raven Online home page for addresses.
- An excellent book on Asatru is: Kveldulfr Gundarsson, Teutonic
Religion Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN
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