To start off, I think that it is important to state that it does not matter where you are from, what nationality you are, what belief system you held before, or whom your ancestors were in order to practice Asatru, some claim that it does. But it simply does not matter. Asatru, ( That is Scandinavian name for it, but it was not just practiced in Scandinavia, but all over Europe. It has ancient traces from Ireland, all the way to Russia and everything in between.
“Asatrú is a Norse term meaning literally a faith or belief in Gods, specifically the Old Norse and Germanic Gods known collectively as the Æsir.” (Some info on the Aesir: http://theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com/the-gods-the-series/the-aesir-the-gods-1/)(While the name impies beleif in the Aesir, many heathens and Asatruar also honor at the same level, or in some cases even higher, the Vanir, another tribe of Gods. Those who follow the Vanir more than the Aesir sometimes refer to themselves as Vanatru, instead of Asatru. But they are all heathen.) (Some info on the Vanir: http://theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com/the-gods-the-series/the-vanir-the-gods-2/) ”Ásatrú has its roots in ancient customs and beliefs, although it is best known from the Viking age when the old world view and the emerging Christian faith clashed and which was the period that the stories and customs were written down. As with many other ethnic or folk religions there was no specific name for the religion, although Ásatrú, Vor tru, “our faith,” or Forn Sed, “ancient customs/ways” are phrases/words that are used in the modern world to describe this faith. The religion was part of the culture, and the beliefs revealed not only in the mythology, but also in the customs, ethics, and laws, much of which has survived as a cultural ethos.” (1)
Racism is unfortunately commonly thought of as part of Asatru, and heathenism in general. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Just like any other religion in the world, including Christianity and the other “main faiths”, there are some nut jobs who believe that they must harm others, physically or mentally to get something out of anything. Yes there are racists in Asatru, but no more than there are in any other religion. Sadly however many people do not know that, so as an Asatruar be prepared to combat this stereotype. (Info on Heathen stereotypes: http://theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/stereotypes/)
Now we will talk a little on The Holy Powers (What the Gods, spirits, ancestors etc are referred as collectively), and our relationship with them. Unlike the monotheistic religions, the gods are not so far above us that we must bow down to them on hands and knees and beg for their favor and their forgiveness. We do not need their salvation. We are their kin, we are descended from them, we meet them and pray to them standing tall with our arms raised to the sky! Yes the gods are mighty, wise, noble, and ancient and powerful beyond all human understanding, but at some point they are still our ancestors, friends and allies. Our family, our kith and kin! We do not need salvation, we live in Midgard! And its wonderful here!
Yes, the afterlife (depending on how you live this life) will be great as well, but we do not need to leave this beautiful place anytime soon! So meet the gods standing tall! Death is not an evil thing that we should fear, and when the time comes we embrace it, but (at least most people) will not rush to find it.
Now we shall talk about how to celebrate in Asatru. Now it is important to remember that there is no set way to celebrate anything in Asatru or heathenry. There is no dogma set down by people who were are so far removed from our modern society that it makes no sense. It all depends on the person. One person may celebrate this holiday, while another may not. Then two people may celebrate the same holiday but do it very differently and for different reasons. It just all depends on the needs and wants of their person, and their connection to the divine. Things can be very elaborate or very very simple. I know what many of you think, you need to please and commune with the gods, and the only way to do that is this big fancy ritual. No! Well, I should not say no for that will of course work, but sometimes simple things from the heart go as far, if not farther. Just follow what you think is right, and in most cases it will be! Most rituals in Asatru are for communing with the gods, the giving gifts and receiving gifts. First off, you can either practice Asatru, or heathenry in a group or kindred (I will talk more on kindreds in its own page, but in short kindreds are groups of other heathens, so make sure you know who these people are before you meet them, like any religion we have our share of crazies!). Or you can practice Asatru/heathenry independently, like I do, not that I don’t want to join a kindred, it is just will everything that I do with The Asatru Community, (Learn more about our organization here: http://theasatrucommunity.wix.com/theasatrucommunity#!about_us/c14e3 ) it would seem odd.) So there are, in my opinion five main ways to practice Asatru. With sacrificial blots, or an exchange of gifts between you and the gods (Blots: http://theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com/blots/) sumbels, special feasting, prayer and meditation and just plain living your life, the life the gods gave you to the fullest! Follow a set of honorable virtues! The 9 noble virtues is a good example! (Some common heathen virtues: http://theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com/the-nine-noble-virtues/)
Just as America has the Native American’s with their natural, pre-Christian religion, so does Europe. No, Christianity was not the original religion of the European peoples. For the entire history of Europe, which dates who knows how many years, it has only been Christian for 2000 years, in the span of time, not very long. In comparison, there are traces of some form of Asatru, or at least heathenism, dating back 40,000 years throughout Europe. Now in the history of time, that is not very long either, but much longer than Christianity. Heathenism is natural for us. It is earth based, ancestor based, god based, human based.
Asatru, is a polytheistic, pantheistic religion. What does that mean? Well instead of having a single god such as the well-known Abrahamic faiths, we have many. We have men, women, giants, and spirits. There are two main tribes of gods, the Aesir, and the Vanir. There is a third tribe, the Jotnar or giants. Some of their ranks, including Aegir, Skadhi and Kari are considered gods by some although not all. The term god, and what it actually means is debatable in heathen communities. (What is a god?: http://theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/what-is-a-god/)
Many Asatruars try to live off of a moral code called the nine noble virtues. They are:
While this is not necessary, many use them as a moral compass. As we discussed earlier, there are other forms of virutes, but in all reality whatever works for you is the best for you.
Asatruar have two main “rituals” the blot, which is a sacrifice, and the sumbel which is a great feast.
Blots are sacrifices, which in ancient times used to be of blood, but are now commonly of an alcoholic beverage or whatever you care to sacrifice to who you are celebrating, honoring and or worshiping.
Sumbel’s are feasts where you toast the holy powers, or ancestors or heroes.
Asatru is not just about the gods. Our ancestors, elves, land spirits, giants, dwarves and so on are all very important to Asatru in daily life, sometimes more so than the gods themselves. For example, if something was going on in your land or house, you may get a better result for offering to the local land spirits then the gods. In Asatru, and heathenism in general ideas and beliefs vary drastically from area to area, people to people. It is one of the great things about heathenism. We have no dogma what so ever.
Anyone and everyone is a religious leader (IMO), called Godi’s for men, and Gydja for women. Some groups, or kindreds elect a Godi by various ways, to lead the group, but I feel that everyone is their own religious leader.
You do not need to be in a group o to practice Asatru. These groups are called hearths kiths, or kindreds. You can be alone or individual and still practice Asatru as well as anyone else. It is all up to you.
“Trying to define Asatru can be rather like trying to nail jelly to a tree – whenever one is convinced it has stuck it finds a way around the nail to land once more at your feet. The word itself is easy enough – it was invented by Scandinavian antiquarians in the 1830′s to describe the
ethical and religious leanings of their forebearers. Literally it means “True to the Aesir”, one of
the families of gods and goddesses worshipped by the Vikings. But the concepts go back much
farther, and are indeed much broader than medieval Scandinavia.
Five thousand of years ago a people known as the Indo-Europeans swept out of central Asia
across steppe and sea in a wave of conquest, trade and exploration.. Asatru is essentially their
cultural legacy, now worldwide, wherever their descendants roamed. Scandinavia is simply the
last place this culture existed in it’s purest form, untouched by the influx of Semitic and Oriental
religion and culture.
Asatru is a tribal or folk religion. As such, it shares much with other tribal traditions, including
those of the Native Americans. However, unlike nearly every other tribal religion, Asatru has a
written body of lore, the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda and many, many sagas, all collected in
Iceland in the Middle Ages and preserved. An Asatru Kindred, such as Ravenswood, is the modern expression of the tribe. It is not a church, although there is a strong religious aspect. Legally, it is a religious order. It is not exactly a family, although the members consider one another to be kin. It somewhat like a fraternity, such as the Masonic Orders, where one is bound by oath to ones fellows. We have no dogma, or formal creed, although we do have a set of shared beliefs. Perhaps the best way to think of Asatru is as an ethic, as a philosophy or a way of life. This ethic is best expressed in the Nine Noble Virtues.
Asatru places the highest value of human freedom and individuality. This is true in both secular
and religious matters, and is so strong that while we honor our gods and goddesses, we will
never grovel before them. The Shining Gods and Goddesses (the Aesir and the Vanir of
Scandinavian tradition) are models and inspirations: self-aware personifications of the forces of
nature and of life. They are our friends, but never will they be our masters, and we will never be
their slaves. We do not bow our heads before them, we do not bend the knee or surrender our
judgment or our sovereignty.
Asafolk view the gods in many different lights. There are those of us who nearly atheists,
believing the Gods and Goddesses to be manifestations of pure Nature, and preferring to trust in
their own might and judgment entirely. For these folks, Asatru provides a context for their culture
and it’s continuity. Others are literalists, believing the Eddas and Sagas to be divinely inspired,
and believing the gods and goddesses to be literal physical entities. Most fall somewhere in the
middle: finding our roots in the culture and our spiritual path on the road with the Shining Gods
The cultural context that Asatru presents is indeed immense. Most of the holidays that we
celebrate were original with our ancestors. Yule trees were decorated to celebrate, and the
Ostara bunny left his eggs in the grass at the Vernal Equinox. Even the days of the week reflect
our heathen heritage: Sunna’s Day, Moon’s Day, Tiw’s Day, Woden’s Day, Thor’s Day, Frigga’s
Day … Saturn’s Day was a Roman addition. Our system of common law and jurisprudence has it’s
roots in the Thing, a general meeting of the community. This system, which has survived in
America, Scandinavia and England is utterly unlike the Roman or Middle Eastern system of
judges without juries and commands by divine kings.
At its core, Asatru believes in human action. No waiting for the afterlife to be happy: you must
seize your happiness in the here and now! By heroic action you can take your life in your own
hands. You are indeed the “Captain of Your Fate” and the “Master of Your Soul”.
The family is the pillar of Asatru. By tradition, people have been devoted to family, and rightly
so, for the family is the basis of all enduring social achievements. Where families are strong,
freedom is guaranteed. Where they are weak, tyranny flowers, and freedom dies.
Beyond the family is the community, not just other Asafolks, but the communities in which we
live and work. Asatru has no concept of doing good for the community merely for the sake of
doing good for the community. We believe that our deeds reflect our souls: to the extent that those
deeds build our family and our community we are spiritually healthy.
Our concepts of an afterlife are fully consistent with our other beliefs. Those who are worthy
travel to the realm of the gods, Asgard. Evildoers and oathbreakers are sent to Nifelhel, a realm
of cold and fog. There is also a persistent belief in reincarnation, usually, but not always, within
the family line. Thus do our ancestors live again through us. This has caused Asatru to sometimes
be described as a “Norse Shinto”; Shinto being the ancestor worship as currently practiced in
Japan. And indeed, there are many parallels.
Asatru is practiced in many ways. We celebrate the seasons with feasts and festivals, reviving
the original customs to the best of our abilities. We practice many crafts, from brewing to
weaving. We honor the gods and goddesses on their special days. We remember our ancestors
and the heroes whose lives stand as examples to us. But most of all, we attempt to live our lives
with honor, enriching our families and our communities” (2)
We love life, we look forward to the many afterlife’s we can have, but we do not in general rush to get there. Life is good, this world is good, and we love living in it. We love life.That is pretty much it for an into to Asatru, for more information and in greater detail please look at the rest of my blog!
When I am allowed the time, I shall come in and add more info, and clean up this post, I am sorry for the condition it is in at the moment!
May the gods and goddesses of our folk guild you, and may thors hammer protect you! Hail the gods and the goddesses! Hail the Vaettir! Hail the ancestors! Hail Asatru! Hail our community!
- What is Asatru? (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- Why I am a Heathen (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- Folkism, Universalism, and Racism in Asatru (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- Why i Do Rituals (youngasatrur.wordpress.com)
- TAC in the Future (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- Heathen “Posers” (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)
- What is a god? (drunkenmystic.wordpress.com)
- Ásatrú (ayearandadaywicca.wordpress.com)
- Heathenry in the modern world, and how we can change it. (theasatrucommunity.wordpress.com)