Irminsul Ćttir

Irminsul Ćttir Ásatrú FAQ

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. As with many other ethnic or primitive religions there was no specific name for the religion in pre-Christian times, ásatrú, vor trú, "our faith/beliefs," or forn sed, "ancient customs/traditions" are terms that would have been used to describe these indigenous religious beliefs to others. The customs and beliefs primarily known from the Viking age when the old world view and the emerging Christian faith and Western philosophy clashed and which was the period that the stories and customs were written down it is not a “viking religion.”

The religion was an integral part of the culture, and the beliefs are revealed not only in the mythology, but also in the customs, ethics, and laws, much of which has survived as a cultural ethos. It is this heritage that Ásatrú expresses. Today Ásatrú is used to refer to a specific religious community, which shares faith in the deities, as well as taking on the worldview and philosophy of the Old Norse and Germanic people in expressing that faith.

Is Ásatrú the same thing as Odinism?

There are some Ásatrúar and Odinist who feel that they are the same religion, while many, if not most, Ásatrúar and Odinist feel there are distinct, and often, radical differences. The term "Odinist" generally refers to an individual who is primarily dedicated to Odin, and as such could also consider themselves Ásatrú, Wiccan, Neo-pagan or Odinist, depending on the rites, fellowship and beliefs that they express their dedication to that deity (and associated deities) in.

Who are the Gods and Goddesses of Ásatrú?

Then spoke Gangleri: "Which are the Ćsir that men ought to believe in?" Hárr said: "There are twelve Ćsir whose nature is divine." Then spoke Jafnhárr: "No less holy are the Asyniur, nor is their power less."

These are the words that introduce some of the gods and goddesses of the Norse and Germanic people to King Gangleri in Snorri Sturluson's Edda. Here we find a brief listing of the Ćsir (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, Frey 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 Ćsir and the Vanir who pledged a truce with one another and are referred to now collectively as the Ćsir.

The sense of divinity differs from that of Western monotheistic religions as it does in other primitive, culturally based native religions. An understanding of the faith is incomplete without recognizing the many other supernatural beings such as the dísír, landvćttir, elves, dwarves, giants, trolls that are an integral part of the worldview as well as man’s place in that interactive spiritual landscape.

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 primitive 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 Urđ or Wyrd. The norns water the World Tree with the water from the Well of Urđ 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?

Following the precedents of the past there is no central or over-riding authoritive body. Ásatrú begins with individuals and families who may associate in small groups called félagiđ, or lagur (fellowships), gođorđs, 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. Assemblies or “things” are held to discuss issues and hold communal religious rites.

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 similar terms such as Drighten that may signify essentially the same thing but with more administrative duties in larger groups.

What are the rites and ceremonies of Ásatrú?

The rites and ceremonies of Ásatrú are based on cultural observances of the pre-Christian Old Norse and Germanic people, much of which continued in the culture and societies that followed without 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 literature.

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.

Additional 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.

How does one become Ásatrú?

While Ásatrú does literally mean faith in the Ćsir one does not have to be Ásatrú to worship them or be true or faithful to them. There is no single way to profess or join Ásatrú. Religion is a communal expression of individual faith. One becomes Ásatrú when one feels oneself to be identified with or a part of that religious community. While it is not a requirement many feel it is appropriate to recognize the profession in a formal ritual. Such rituals can take many forms; from simply stating that one is Ásatrú to a rite of acceptance into fellowship in the religious community.

There is no requirement to renounce one’s previous beliefs, oaths, god or gods; those decisions are according to individual faith. Unlike Christianity, for instance, which begins with a ritual of rebirth that represents a break with the past and washing some of it away, Ásatrú accepts the past and all things that have come before as part of what one is, and will be.

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, folk magic, seiđ, 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.

Do you have to be Scandinavian to be Ásatrú?

You do not have to be of Scandinavian or Germanic descent to be Ásatrú. While the religion is specific to a time and place it is the culture, ethics and place in the community that is essential. As with other ethnic or primitive religions an individual of another ethnic background can be accepted into the “tribe” or community depending on the individual’s own acceptance and practice of the community ethos.

For many who are of Scandinavian or Germanic descent Ásatrú does seem to be an instinctive expression of personal belief and ethics. We believe this is the result of family hamingja, that part of an individual or family that is a literal spiritual heritage, and not a matter of race.

August 25, 03 V 1.3

Irminsul Ćttir