This FAQ was not intended to be either comprehensive or extensive. It was
created by a consensual process by individuals, and representatives of
various organizations from the Ásatrú community with strongly held and
varying views and therefore represents areas of non-disagreement, which
necessarily limits the scope.
What is Ásatrú?
Ásatrú is a Norse term meaning literally a faith or belief in Gods,
specifically the Old Norse and Germanic Gods known collectively as the
Ćsir. 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
Agreed to January 24, 2001
Who are the Gods and Goddesses of Ásatrú?
Then spoke Gangleri: "Which are the Aesir that men ought to believe
in?" Hárr said: "There are twelve Aesir whose nature is divine." Then
spoke Jafnhárr: "No less holy are the Asyniur, nor is their power less."
These are the words that introduce the gods and goddesses of the Norse and
Germanic people to King Gangleri in Snorri Sturluson's Edda. Here we find
the a listing of the Aesir (gods), Asynjur (goddesses) and other beings
of the Norse mythology and brief stories presented from the ancient
mythology in an account written down at the end of the Viking Age. First
named is Odin, his son Balder, Thor and his wife, Sif; Tyr, Njord and his
son and daughter, Freyr and Freya, Bragi, Heimdall, Hod, Vidar, Ali, Ullr,
Loki, Aegir and his wife, Ran. Also named are many of the goddesses, who
include, among others, Frigg, Freya, Lofn, Var, and Skadi The mythology
also preserves an account a story of two warring groups of deities, the
Aesir and the Vanir who pledged a truce with one another and are referred
to now collectively as the Aesir.
In English speaking countries four of the days of the week are named after
these gods. Tuesday comes from Tiu's day who is also known as Tyr.
Wednesday comes from a compound meaning "Odin's day," Thursday from
"Thor's day" with Friday from "Freya's day." Throughout Scandinavia and
northern Europe we find places that were dedicated anciently and named for
the gods and goddesses who are still honored in this day and age.
What are the beliefs of Ásatrú?
Ásatrú beliefs are rooted in the past and in the sacred mythos and
cosmology of the Old Norse and Germanic people. As an ethnic or folk
religion the authoritative source of belief that can legitimately be
considered Ásatrú are the precedents found in the traditions, myths,
folklore, literature, laws, customs, and cultural concepts which were
shaped by belief in the Ćsir and other supernatural beings and powers.
There is no historical founder or prophet who made revealed pronouncements
of law or belief. There is no central authority that lays down dogma or
tenets. There is no injunction to proselytize, or any precedent for
intolerance of other beliefs.
This deep respect for tradition and custom is based on a underlying
concept, řrlog, that is central to the cosmology and belief system of the
old Norse and Germanic people, as well as Ásatrú today. . The word is a
compound, 'řr,' something that is beyond or "primal" or "above/beyond the
ordinary" and "leggja," "to lay," "to place," or "to do." It has the
meaning of primal or earliest law, the earliest things accomplished or
done. These things are sacred and provide the foundation of the Old Norse
beliefs and rites of Ásatrú. They are symbolized in the mythology by the
World Tree, which grows at the Well of Urdh or Wyrd. The norns water the
World Tree with the water from the Well of Urdh which deposits layers of
sediment over the roots, demonstrating the active, accretionary, growing
nature of reality.
The perception of being is also a reflection of this basic concept. Like
the tree, a person continues to grow and change through experience and
study, with each new experience or knowledge growing out of that which was
experienced or learned before. A particularly numinous quality called
hamingja, "luck" or "fortune", can also be accumulated and passed on to
ones descendents. In spiritual terms, this legacy can refer to wisdom,
personality, or talent, while in practical terms, this can include one's
wealth, reputation and external family ties.
How is Ásatrú organized?
Ásatrú begins with individuals and families who may associate in small
groups called félagiđ, or lagur (fellowships), godhordhs, kindreds, garths
and hearths, among other historically based terms. They may be entirely
independent or may be affiliated in or with a larger organization. A few
larger organizations may be further allianced with one another.
The most common term for an Ásatrú religious leader is Gođi (masculine
form) and Gyđia (feminine form), Gođar (plural). The word refers to a
position comparable to that of a priest, but is translated from the Old
Norse as chieftain, as are some similiar terms such as Drighten that may
signify essentially the same thing but with more administrative duties in
Are Ásatrú and Odinism the same thing?
There are Ásatrúar and Odinists who feel that they are the same religion,
while many others who are Ásatrúar or Odinist feel there are distinct
differences. The term "Odinist" refers to an individual who is primarily
dedicated to Odin, and as such could also consider themselves Ásatrú,
Wiccan, Neo-pagan or simply Odinist, depending on the rites, fellowship
and beliefs that they express their dedication to that deity (and
associated deities) in.
What are the rites and ceremonies of Ásatrú?
The rites and ceremonies of Ásatrú are based on cultural observances of
the old Norse and Germanic people, many of which continued in the culture
and societies that followed without a recognition of the sacral aspect
that they were imbued with in the beginning. One such ritual is the
highly ceremonial toast following a formal meal, which parallels the
sumbel (ON sumbl). The sumbel is a ceremony that includes drinking
communally and offering up inspired speech that was binding in terms of
oath and intent, as illustrated in Beowulf and other Norse/Germanic
A blót, sacrifice or blessing, is an offering to deity or other
supernatural beings. The offering may be a simple sharing of food or
drink by an individual to a more elaborate community ceremony. These
ceremonies may be performed indoors, or outside in a natural setting.
Additonal ceremonies include the naming of a child and its acceptance
into the family (ausa vatni), burials, healing, blessings in time of
need and divination among others.
Is there magic in Ásatrú?
Like many other ethnic or folk religions there are magical components in
Ásatrú based on a perception of an interactivity and interconnectivity
between the natural and supernatural world that can be effected by men as
well as gods through various methods. In the Eddas, sagas, and other
literature we find both men and gods depicted using and teaching galdr
(magical chants and songs), seiđ (a shamanistic magic involving altered
states of consciousness and communication with spirits and gods) and runes
(referring to the Norse/Germanic alphabet which had magical associations).
Divination and auguries were also an important part of the spiritual and
religious views of the Old Norse and Germanic people.
In modern terms, seidh, galdr, and runes are incorporated in various ways
and to varying degrees in both personal and community practice of the
religion. As in the past, many do not practice nor necessarily believe in
magic or see it as a necessary expression of the faith today.
How does one become Ásatrú?
As with any religion, the answer to this question depends more on the
individual asking it than anything else. Essentially, you are Ásatrú when
you feel yourself to be Ásatrú. Others will recognize you as Ásatrú when
you behave in a manner consistent with a belief in the Aesir, and
indicative of a desire to meet their standards for a "good person". Some
feel that a rite of passage, an oath, or a formal renunciation of your
previous life is necessary to indicate your new devotion. Others feel
that this is not necessary at all - that the gods know the sincerity with
which somebody claims to be Ásatrú. In general, if you can say "I am
Ásatrú", and really mean it, you have become Ásatrú.