Irminsul Ęttir

Asatru, An Ancient Religion Reborn

By Rev. Patrick "Jordsvin" Buck

"Asatru" 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, two groups were formed in the USA, one in Iceland, and one in the United Kingdom. Odin, the wanderer, is once again seeking worshippers. Anyone who wishes to join Asatru may do so, irregardless or race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.

In addition to Thor, the Thunderer, friend of the common folk, and Odin, Allfather, chief God, poet, and wandering wizard, we worship many others, 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, the bleeding God, and Heimdall, the Watchman of Asgard. Nor do we neglect the Goddesses, who are equal in power and holiness to the Gods: Frigga, wife of Odin and Mother of Gods and Humanity; Freya, Goddess of fertility, love, magic, and war; Idunna, Goddess of renewal; Hela, who rules over the place between death and rebirth (most of us believe in some form of rebirth or reincarnation); Nerthus, the Mother Earth Goddess mentioned in Tacitus' Germania, and many others. We also reverence the spirits of nature (landvaettir) and various guardian spirits, such as the Disir and Alfar (Elves). Our Gods are friendly, practical, dependable and approachable.

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 cider 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's good to pour a few drops to Loki the trickster 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: courage, truth, honor, loyalty, hospitality, industriousness, perserverance, self-discipline, and self-reliance. From these, individuals can decide the appropriate course of action for a given situation and honor themselves, their families, their communities, and their Gods by striving to do what is right. 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. Not even the Gods are all-powerful or all-knowing, so perfection is neither required nor expected!

The Elder and Younger Eddas (also called the Poetic and Prose Eddas) are texts we hold in high esteem for the information on our religion they contain, although most of us do not interpret our myths literally. Both were written down in medieval Iceland. 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. Teutonic Religion and Teutonic Magic, both by Kveldulf Gundarsson and published by Llewellyn Publications Inc., PO Box 64383-K069, St. Paul, Minnesota 55164-0383 USA will give you the best overview of our religious and magical practices.

Magical work is a part of spiritual life of many practitioners of Asatru. Magic involves working with natural but unseen forces, including those embodied in the Runes, the indigenous alphabet of the Germanic Peoples, as well as galdra (spellcraft) and seidhr (shamanic-type workings). Magic can help see the probable direction of future events, obtain healing, and help us in all we do, but it does not substitute for "mundane" efforts! Ours is a practical, active religion! For more information on Asatru, please feel free to write to the addresses below:


Patrick "Jordsvin" Buck
P.O. Box 21955
Lexington KY 40522-1955

[This] is the article Asatru/Norse Paganism that I am submitting to Deanna Swaney, author of Lonely Planet's guide to Iceland, Greenland and Faroes (by her request) for inclusion in the next edition, to be published in May 1997. Feel free to use/print it as long as I am given credit and it is printed as is. (However, you may underline book titles and add the accents to "blot" and "Asatru.") You may also omit the "INSERT CONTACT ADDRESSES HERE" and the sentence preceding it. PLB

Irminsul Ęttir