Asatru is frequently regarded as one of the Neopagan family of religions.
That family includes Wicca, Celtic Druidism, and re-creations of Egyptian,
Roman, and other ancient Pagan religions. However, many Asatruers prefer the
term "Heathen" to "Neopagan" and look upon their tradition
as "not just a branch on the Neopagan tree" but as a separate tree. Unlike
Wicca, which has gradually evolved into many different traditions, the reconstruction
of Asatru has been based on the surviving historical record. Its followers have
maintained it as closely as possible to the original religion of the Norse people.
Asatru or Ásatrú is is an Icelandic word which is a translation
of the Danish word "Asetro." Asetro was "first seen in 1885
in an article in the periodical "Fjallkonan". The next recorded instance
was in "Hei<eth>inn si<eth>ur á Íslandi" ("Heathen
traditions in Iceland.") by Ólafur Briem (Reykjavík, 1945)." It
means "belief in the Asir," the Gods. "Asatru" is a combination
of "Asa" which is the possessive case of the word Æsir (Aesir)
and "Tru" which means belief or religion.
Throughout Scandinavia the religion is called Forn Si<eth>r (which means
the Ancient way or tradition), Forn sed (the Old custom), Nordisk sed (Nordic
custom), or Hedensk sed (Pagan custom). Other names are:
Norse Heathenism, Germanic Heathenism, the Elder Troth, the Old Way, Asetro,
Vor Si r (our way), Forn Si r (Ancient way), Forn sed (the old custom), Nordisk
sed (Nordic custom), or Hedensk sed (Pagan custom), Odinism or Folkish Ásatrú.
The religion's origin is lost in antiquity. At its peak, it covered all of Northern
Europe. Countries gradually converted to Christianity. In 1000 CE, Iceland became
the second last Norse culture to convert. Their prime motivation was economic.
Sweden was ruled by a Pagan king until 1085 CE.
Icelandic poet Gothi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson promoted government recognition
of Asatru as a legitimate religion; this status was granted in 1972. Since the
early 1970's, the religion has been in a period of rapid growth in the former
Norse countries, as well as in Europe and North America.
Corruption of Asatru:
It is not unknown for otherwise decent religions to become corrupted
by incorporating racist, sexist, anti-semitic, and homophobic beliefs.
The Christian Identity movement is one wing of the Christian religion which has
adsorbed such beliefs.
During the early part of the 20th Century, The National Socialist Party in Germany
under Adolf 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 -- largely in the U.S. -- are now attempting to
continue the practice. This type of activity is in no way related to the restoration
of Asatru as a legitimate Heathen religion. There is a very strong anti-racist,
anti-Nazi stance among national Asatru groups in the Scandinavian countries.
This is also found in almost all Asatru groups in English speaking countries.
They typically have a clear rejection of racism written into their constitutions.
Unfortunately, some anti-racism groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in its Megiddo report) have mistakenly accused
the entire religion of racism.
Many people are exposed to the name "Asatru" through role playing games,
such as Mage: The Ascension. Unfortunately, the Asatru of these games bear little
resemblance to the real religion.
Asatru is a polytheistic religion. There are three races of Deities in
the Norse pantheon. They are all regarded as living entities who are
involved in human
The Aesir: These are the Gods of the tribe or clan, representing Kingship, order,
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 giants who 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
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 father
was Njord.Specific Goddesses: Some important ones are:
Freya (aka Freyja) is the Goddess of love, beauty and sexuality, and perhaps
a dozen other attributes. She leads the Valkyries who take the souls of slain
soldiers to Valhalla (Odin's great hall).
Frigg is Odin's wife. Her name has been secularized to a slang term which refers
to sexual intercourse. She is the patroness of the household and of married
Skadi is the Goddess of independence, death, hunting and skiing. Scandinavia
was named after her; the English words shadow, skullduggery and shade came
from her name.
Ostara, is a Goddess of fertility who is celebrated at the time of the Spring
equinox. She was known by the Saxons as Eostre, the Goddess of Spring, from
whom we have derived the word Easter. Ostara's symbols are the hare and the
Other Deities are Aegir, Balder, Bragi, Forseti, Heimdall, Hel,
Loki, Njord, Ran, Tyr, Ull and Vithar. Followers of Asatru also honor
(land spirits) of the forest, earth and streams.
Asatruars in North America have created a list
of Nine Noble Virtues: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality,
Self-Reliance and Perseverance. The family is greatly valued and honored.
reject any form
of discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, language, nationality, race,
sexual orientation, or "other divisive criteria".
Origins: Humanity is literally descended from the Gods. Three brothers, Odin,
Vili, and Ve created people from two trees and gave them the names Ask and
Embla. One deity, Rig visited the earth and established the social classes.
Od: This is the gift of ecstasy provided to humans by the Gods. It is what
separates humanity 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)
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
Those who die in battle will be carried to Valhalla by the
Valkyries. There they will eat Särimner (a pig that is daily slaughtered
and resurrected) with the Gods. Some, but not all, Asatruars believe that
those who have lived
a very evil and treacherous life go to Hifhel, (a.k.a Hiflhel). This is
a place of torment. The remainder go to Hel, a place of calmness and peace,
the name of the Christian Hell was derived. However, Hel is much closer
the Christian view of Heaven than to its concept of Hell.
Their local religious communities are called Kindreds, Hearths, or Garths.
Male priests are called Gothi; priestesses are Gythia
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.
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
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;
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
to the Gods of Asgard, the Aesir and Vanir. It is a simple ceremony usually
done in the presence of a Gothi or Gythia and the rest of the Kindred,
Hearth or Garth.
It is taken on an oath ring or some other sacred object.
In common with most Neo-Pagan faiths, their main holy days are:
Summer Finding, at the spring equinox, typically March 21. This is dedicated
Winter Finding, at the fall equinox, typically September 21
Midsummer, at the summer solstice, typically June 21
Yule, which starts on the winter solstice (typically December 21) on
the Mother Night of Yule. It lasts for 12 days or more. This is the most
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 Asatru
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.Asatruars in North America observe Einherjar,
on November 11. Thisi coincides with Armistice or Veterans Day. It honors
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
hold rituals at full moons. Additional days are celebrated at other times
during the year by different traditions.
References and further information:
1. "Assembly of the Elder Troth," at: http://www.aetaustralia.org/arvaaushist.htm
2. For a list of Asatru home pages, consult Yahoo at:
3. The Irminsul Ættir Asatru Page has an enormous amount of information
online at: http://www.irminsul.org/ Included is a brief description of
Asatru, news, a world-wide contact map, sources of material, etc. A very
4. The Midhnott Sol (Midnight Sun) Kindred have an extensive web site
at: http://www.waywyrd.com/midhnott_sol/ It includes material on Grimms'
mythology and fairy tales, Leidstjarna:
Journal of the Northern Star, public domain texts and much additional
5. The Ring of Troth, which is perhaps the largest Asatru group in North
America, maintains a home page at: http://www.thetroth.org They
list Asatru events, have an on-line membership application form, and
a new Asatru boy scout
troop in Utah!
6. Jordsvin's Norse Heathen web site contains extensive information and
many links on "Norse Religion, Rune work, Seidhr (Norse 'shamanism,' very roughly
speaking...), and much more!" See: http://members.aol.com/jordsvin/kindred/kindred.htm
7. Raven Online is the home page of the Raven Kindred Association. They
publish a periodical Asatru Today. Subscription is $17.50 per year. They
the book Ravenbok. Much of the above information was taken from this
site. See http://www.webcom.com/~lstead/
8. The Asatru Alliance of Independent Kindrids is a free association
of local groups, called "kindrids". They publish a magazine
Vor Tru and have a FAQ section, many articles and links to other Asatru
9. Dr. Jenny Blain from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax NS
Canada has made available Two (about to be three) anthropological papers
can be downloaded at: http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/2171/files.html
10. 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,
MI, MO, NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, VA, WA and WI. See the Raven
Online web site
for addresses. Other Asatru groups are found throughout Scandinavia.
11. An excellent book on Asatru is: Kveldulfr Gundarsson, "Teutonic Religion," Llewellyn
Publications, St. Paul, MN.
12. "Asatru," The Magickal Melting Pot, at: http://www.magickalmeltingpot.com/
13. Asatru Folk Assembly at http://www.runestone.org/
Finding your way around
Copyright © 1997
to 2005 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-APR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson