Asatru: Norse Heathenism
There are a number of options for the spelling of the name of this religion.
We have been informed that Asatro is the correct Swedish spelling -- "... a
combination of the words 'Asa', refering to the Asa-gods och Asarna (The Asa)
... and the word 'Tro', simply meaning 'belief'. Thus, it means something in the
lines of "Belief in the Asa-gods".
On the other hand, Ásatru and Asatru are more popular on the Internet
than Asatro by a factor of 12. If we used the latter, people using a search
engine to find our essay would not be able to locate it. So we will use "Asatru."
Ásatrú is frequently regarded as one of the Neopagan family of religions. That family includes Wicca, Celtic Druidism, and re-creations
of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other ancient Pagan religions. However, many
Ásatrúar prefer the term "Heathen" or "Pagan" rather
they 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 Ásatrú 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 'satr' 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'inn si'ur ' 'slandi" ("Heathen traditions in Iceland.") by 'lafur Briem (Reykjav'k, 1945)."
It means "belief in the ?i>sir," the Gods. "Ásatrú" is a combination
of "Asa" which is the possessive case of the word 'sir (Æsir) and "Tru"
which means belief or religion.
Throughout Scandinavia the religion is called Forn
Si'r (which means the Ancient way or tradition), Forn sed (the Old custom), Nordisk
sed (Nordic custom), or Hedensk sed (Pagan custom). Other names
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 'satr'.
The religion's origin is
lost in antiquity. At its peak, it covered all of Northern Europe. Countries
gradually converted to Christianity. In 1000
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 Goði 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
Corruption of Ásatrú:
It is not unknown for otherwise decent religions to become corrupted by
incorporating racist, sexist, anti-semitic, and homophobic beliefs. For example:
|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 Ásatrú 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 Ásatrú 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 Ásatrú 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 "Ásatrú" through role
playing games, such as Mage: The Ascension. Unfortunately, the Ásatrú of
these games bear little resemblance to the real religion.
|Ásatrú 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 life:
|The Æsir: 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 Jótnar: These are giants who are in a
constant state of war with the Æsir. They represent chaos and destruction. At the battle
of Ragnarok, many of the Æsir will die. The world will come to an end and then be reborn.|
|Specific Gods: Some of the more important are:
|Thor is the Thunderer, who wields Mjölnir, the divine Hammer. His chariot
racing across the sky generates thunder. Thursday (Thor's Day) was named after
|Odin is the one-eyed God; he gave up one of his eyes in order to drink from the
Fountain of Knowledge (some sources say Fountain of Wisdom). He is a magician. He learned the secrets of the runes
(Northern European alphabet) by hanging himself on the tree Yggdrasil for nine
|Frey (a.k.a. Freyr) is the God of fertility, the weather and farming.
He was born on the Winter Solstice,
typically December 21. 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 some 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. According to the Encyclopedia Mythica:"
"Frigg is one of theforemost goddesses of Norse mythology. She is the patron of marriage and motherhood, and the goddess of love and fertility.
She has a reputation of knowing every person's destiny, but never unveils it....In some myths she was rumored to have had love affairs with Odin's brothers Ve and Vili."
The name of the sixth day of the week, Friday, came from Frigg.
|Skadi is the Goddess of independence, death, hunting and skiing.
Scandinavia may have been named after her.|
|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 egg.|
|Other Entities Other Deities are Aegir, Balder, Bragi,
Forseti, Heimdall, Hel, Loki, Njord, Ran, Tyr, Ull and Vithar. Followers of
Ásatrú also honor the Landvaettir (land spirits) of
the forest, earth and streams.|
|Life Values: Asatruars in North America have created a list
of Nine Noble Virtues: Courage, Truth, Honor,
Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance and Perseverance.
The family is greatly valued and honored. They reject any form of discrimination based on
ethnicity, gender, language, nationality, race, sexual orientation, or "other
|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.|
|Ód: 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
Ásatrú story of the creation of the universe. Between Muspelheim (The Land of Fire)
and Niflheim 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 slain.|
|After death: Unlike many other religions that have Heaven or Hell
as a final destination after death, Norse myths indicate that there are many
possible locations. Half of the heroic, battle-slain warriors go to Freyja's field, Fólkvangr. She is said to get first pick. Helheim is the
neutral realm where most people go upon death. Helheim is ruled by the
goddess, Hel (or Hela). Oathbreakers and other dishonorable people are eaten
by Niddhog, a dragon. Those who die at sea are said to enter another hall.
However, most Ásatrúar do not believe in the myths literally. Some believe in
reincarnation along family lines. Still, others believe that the dead inhabit
|The end of the world: Ragnar'k (a.k.a. Ragnar'kkr, Ragnar'k, Ragnarok;
literally the fate of the Gods) is the anticipated apocalypse. It involves a
great battle between the Gods and the J'tnar -- a race of giants with superhuman
strength. Unlike Revelation in the Christian Scriptures, prophecies of Ragnar'k
are very specific: the events leading up to the battle, the timing of the
battle, who will kill whom, etc. are all known. Wolves will eat the sun and
moon. The stars will stop shining. Mountains will fall; trees will be uprooted;
"Fumes will reek and flames will burst, scorching the sky with fire. The
earth will sink into the sea." Most of the Gods will die. Only one woman and
one man, Lifthrasir and Lif, will survive. Their offspring will eventually
repopulate the world and live in peace. 11|
Asatru Rituals and Practices:
|Their local religious communities are called Kindreds, Hearths, or Garths.
Male priests are called Goði; priestesses are Gyðja.|
|The Blót: (pronounced "bloat" or "boat;" sources
differ) 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. This 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 with the liquid, or drink it in sequence.|
|The Symbel: This is a ritual drinking celebration, in which a horn filled with a
drink is passed around the group. Each person delivers a greeting; a toast to the Gods,
ancient heroes, or one's ancestors; or a story, song or poem. He or she then drinks from
|Profession or Adoption: This is the act of making a commitment to Ásatrú to the
exclusion of other faiths, by solemnly giving an oath of allegiance and kinship to the
Gods of Asgard, the Æsir and Vanir. It is a simple ceremony usually done in the presence
of a Goði or Gyðja and the rest of the Kindred, Hearth or Garth. It is taken on an oath
ring or some other sacred object. Some followers of Ásatrú believe that only
those with Norse ancestry should be eligible to join.|
Seasonal Days of Celebration
Their main holy day is 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
important day of the year. Many Norse symbols have been adsorbed by the Christian
celebration of Christmas: evergreen trees, Yule logs, holly, etc.
In addition, many kindred or even individual follower may celebrate:
|Summer Finding, at the spring
equinox, typically March 21. This is dedicated to
|Winter Finding, at the fall equinox, typically September 21
|Midsummer, at the summer
solstice, typically June 21.|
Some also celebrate days between the solstices and equinoxes. Various traditions within Ásatrú observe them on different dates:
||The Charming of the Plow on February 1st weekend, a celebration of Freya and
|Merry-Moon on May 1st weekend, celebration of spring dedicated to Njord and
|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.|
Many followers of Ásatrú in North America observe Einherjar, held annually on November 11.
Thisi coincides with Armistice or Veterans Day.
It honors those who have been killed in battle and have joined Odin's warriors in Valhall. Some groups hold a feast on the 9th of each month to honor Norse heroes. Other
groups hold rituals at full moons. Additional days are celebrated at other times during
the year by different traditions.
Amazon.com's online bookstore lists the following books on Asatru:
If you see a generic Amazon ad here, please click on your browser's refresh
References and further information:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Assembly of the Elder Troth," at:
- For a list of Ásatrú home pages, consult Yahoo at:
- The Irminsul 'ttir 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 inclusive site.
- The Troth, which is perhaps the largest Ásatrú group in North
America, maintains a home page at: http://www.thetroth.org
They list Ásatrú events, have an on-line membership application form, and describe a new
Ásatrú boy scout troop in Utah!
- Jordsvin's Norse Heathen website contains extensive information and
many links on "Norse Religion, Rune work, Seidhr (Norse
'shamanism,' very roughly speaking...), and
much more!" See:
- Raven Online is the home page of the Raven Kindred
Association. They publish a
periodical Asatru Today. Subscription is $17.50 per year. They also publish the
book Ravenbok. Much of the above information was taken from this site. See
- The Asatru Alliance of Independent Kindrids is a free association of local
groups, called "kindreds". They publish a magazine Vor Tru and have a FAQ
section, many articles and links to other Asatru groups. See:
- Dr. Jenny Blain from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax NS Canada has made
available anthropological papers on Asatru. They can be downloaded
- There are Ásatrú groups in Ottawa, Canada; Uppsala, Sweden; and in at
least the following states of the US: AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, MI, MO,
NE, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, VA, WA and WI. See the Kindred List at
addresses. Other Ásatrú groups are found throughout Scandinavia.
- An excellent book on Ásatrú is: Kveldulfr Gundarsson, "Teutonic Religion,"
Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN.
- "Ragnar'k," Wikipedia, at:
- From the Encyclopedia Mythica at: http://www.pantheon.org/
Copyright © 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson