Asatru Q. & A.

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Q: What is Asatru / Heathenry anyway?

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Asatru (literally, “faith in the gods”) is a modern reconstruction of the religion that the Germanic tribes practiced in Northern and Central Europe before their forced conversion to Christianity. Heathen is from the Old English term; hæðen – meaning “not Christian or Jewish”. Historically, the term was probably influenced by Gothic haiþi “dwelling on the heath”. It has even been suggested that Gothic haiþi is not related to “heath” at all, but rather a loan from Armenian hethanos, itself loaned from Greek ἔθνος ethnos.  We use the term heathen to differentiate us from more mainstream pagans that have jumped on the new-age bandwagon and we focus more on historic reality than modern fantasy.  The terms; Asatru / Odinism / Wotanism / Forn Sidh / Germanische Heidentum – are all intrinsically different but for the purpose of this Q&A share enough similarities to be grouped together.

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Q: What do you mean by “Germanic”? I thought Thor, Odin, and so forth were Viking gods!

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“Germanic” is a collective name for many of the ethnic groups that live in Northern Europe. It is NOT a racial term, but refers to the culture and languages of these social groupings.  The Germans and the Scandinavians are the most obvious of the Germanic culture group but also include the Swiss, Frisian, English and Dutch and several other ethnic groups that have died out or intermarried over the centuries, such as the Afrikaner. Most of these groups believed in the deities as we now know as the “Norse pantheon”.  However, people think of them as Norse because Scandinavians wrote most of the surviving myths and folk beliefs down in the middle-ages.

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Q: Is Asatru / Heathenry related or connected to any other religion?

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No.  At least not in the sense of “borrowing” other religions’ gods or teachings outright as many New-Age belief-systems have done.  Asatruar may have some shared basic beliefs in common with other pagans, or with religious people in general; but Asatru is NOT an offshoot of any other faith – In particular, Asatruar are not “devil worshippers” as they do not believe that a devil exists nor are they proponents of New-Age or Occult movements like Wicca or Thelema.  Asatru also involves ancestor worship as we believe that we will meet our ancestors when we die one day and that we can help our descendants by becoming their ancestors.

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Q: How does Asatru differ from other more mainstream religions, like Christianity? We often hear that Jesus died for our sins, so will our souls still need saving?

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Asatru is unlike the better-known religions in many ways.  The main differences being;

1) We are polytheistic. That is, we believe in a number of deities, including a varied pantheon of Goddesses as well as Gods.  There are no singular Gods, trinities, prophets or martyrs.  We also believe in land- and sea-spirits and the power of our ancestors.

2) We do not accept the idea of “original sin,” the notion that we are tainted from birth and therefore born intrinsically “bad” – thus, we do not need “saving” – as Christians understand it.  Concerning the “saving” of souls; ‎the idea that Jesus was a universal sacrifice for the sins of the whole world was a theological construction of Paul, when viewed secularly, in Paul’s many writings, he never indicates any awareness of the life of Jesus or his teachings – so why are we then made subject to a dogma that we have no interest in?  We believe that a person is great or good by the deeds they accomplish for their kith and kin.  There is no judgement on a scale in the afterlife as is found in ancient Egyptian and Abrahamic (Judaeo-Christian) belief.

3) We do not claim to be a universal religion, a faith for all of humankind. Not in the slightest. In fact, we don’t think such a thing is in fact truly possible or even desirable. We believe each culture should in theory practice their ancestral religion. The differing branches of humanity have always had different ways and approaches of looking at the world, each of which is valid for their ancestral group.  It is only good and right that they have differing religions and that all these religions should tolerate one another.

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Q: In South Africa, especially amongst the Christian community, it is usually said that if you are not Christian then you must be a Satanist, especially if you follow any religion that can be interpreted as “pagan”. What do you say to that?

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Asatru or any other non-Christian belief that can be identified as pagan in a broad sense which eventually is lumped up into what organised Christianity thinks of as Satanism (mainly by xenophobic clergymen) is a perpetuation of faulty christian dogma that can only be countered by the lifting of the veil of pious ignorance.

Asatru does not define itself through opposition to some other established religion’s God, as Satanism does – Satanism is actually anti-Christianity whereas heathenry is nothing of the sort.  There are many sites now that basically describe Asatru as a kind of Satanism, which is completely false, as Satan does not exist in the Germanic heathen religion.

To truly believe in the existence of the Satan figure, first requires the belief in the existence of the Hebrew God Yahweh – who created Lucifer in the first place, as well as Yahweh’s alleged son Jesus, and their holy ghost.

One cannot seriously claim without immense ignorance to be a Satanist as well as claiming to be Asatru, which are mutually exclusive allegiances.  Satan is a Christian myth for the Christian ethos and worldview and as true heathens we simply don’t believe any of them existed at any time – this does not mean that we are as intolerant of Christians as Christians are of other non-christian faiths.

Some Satanists erroneously seem to think that the definition of Heathenism is found merely in “opposition to Christianity”, unaware that Asatru (and other heathen religions) define itself from within, and has its own native cosmology and world view that existed long before the invention and spread of Christianity.

Rather than the extreme and absolutist black-and-white or with-me/against-me view of good and evil as taught by Christianity, the heathen Germanic peoples viewed “right” as being that justice and correctness which maintains a living society, while “wrong” was injustice, incorrectness, or anything breaking the bonds of fairness and law on which that society was founded.  This belief is one of the foremost Germanic contributions to civilization as a whole, especially when you see it as the main barrier against Western civilization’s advance into totalitarianism: the deep-rooted belief that “no one is above the law”, that neither private people nor the government has the right to step outside the bounds of the legal system for any purpose and even a king or a president can be brought before the courts if due cause exists – no matter if they were appointed by any singular or many deities, or even the people that put them in power.

Heathenism is polytheistic, meaning that we believe in many Gods, and Goddesses – not a single or three-fold deity that is diametrically opposed by and almost equal but different power.

Heathen deities, spirits and ancestors are worshiped not only celestial deities, but as earthly deities who are imperfect just as we are – unlike the absolute perfection or absolute imperfection of Christianity / Satanism.

In sharp contrast, Anton LaVey (the father of modern Satanism) asserted that Satanism is actually atheistic (following NO god), and that all Gods/Goddesses of all pantheons are nothing more than “aspects” of the Self. In other words that it is all in the worshiper’s mind.

Both are very different belief systems and the association of Asatru to Satanism, no matter if it is traditional or the New Age LaVey system is not only wildly inaccurate, but also a severe insult to our Gods, Goddesses, Ancestors and Asatruar everywhere.

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Q: What about Asatru and Wicca, aren’t they the same or similar?

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Not in the slightest, to see the differences – all you need do is look at the history of Wicca.

One of the most notable distinctions between the “Old Religion” and Wicca/Witchcraft lies in the two presiding divine figures of Wicca, the Goddess and the God.  From the beginning Wiccans recognized that across the wide spectrum of the ancient world worship an enormous number of deities of both genders.  They incorporated a varied selection for use in their rituals, but made it plain that these were not individual beings but different names and aspects of the great couple.  This is a vision very remote from the genuine polytheism of antiquity.  The ‘duotheism’ of Wicca is part of this general characteristic of their faith, summed up by two of their most prolific authors as “the creative polarity of complementary opposites” such as male/female, light/dark, and intelligence/intuition.  This sort of dualism is not rooted in European antiquity and if it does derive from any old tradition it is from that strain Middle Eastern thought found in Zoroastrianism, Manichaeanism and Christianity.  In view of this it is ironically appropriate that another characteristic of the writings of contemporary Wiccans consists of an intense and consistent hostility to the Christian Church.  Other differences between Wiccan and any really ancient religion is that no known cult in the ancient world was carried on by devotees who worshipped regularly in the nude like the witches portrayed by Leland and Gardner.  Also no known pre-Christian religion practiced all eight festivals in the calendar adopted by Wicca.

All told, Wicca has virtually nothing in common with that of the religions of the past except its name, which is itself a Christian coinage. In 1941 Dr. Gerald Gardner published the novel “A Goddess Arrives” which was set in ancient Cyprus and extolled the glories of ancient paganism and the divinity of the female.  Another novel followed in 1949 entitled “High Magic’s Aid” in which the view of history and the set of rituals portrayed in his then unpublished book of Book of Shadows (written 1949 – 1961) appear fully fledged.

Gardener’s exposition of the traditional rituals of the witch religion and its history, revealed in his books are drawn from two very different sources.  The first consisted of the magical practices of the Ordo Templi Orientis “Order of the Asian Templars” and it’s offshoot the Golden Dawn (A Crowleyan organization) who based their practices on a blend of late medieval grimoires, Masonic practices and pure fabrication.  From these rituals came the traditions of the bound and blindfold initiation, the symbolic scourging, the ceremonial focus of the circle containing an altar, the use of pentagrams and triangles, the appeal to the guardians of the four cardinal points of the compass, the use of incense and water, the notion that the divine forces are drawn into one of the celebrants, and the impedimenta of a sword and two knives, one black- and one white handled. None of which have any bearing on heathenry, and if there are those that claim different – they are practicing Wiccatru.

Another major, and separate contribution to the confusion surrounding Wicca was begun in 1944 by one the greatest modern English poets and historical novelists, Robert Graves.  He wrote the “White Goddess” drawing upon images culled from Celtic and Graeco-Roman literatures, and fusing them with his own tremendously creative inspiration to provide a personal mythos to accompany his religion.  The result was a sustained metaphor, a vision of the sort of past that the writer thought ought to have existed.  In this book he expresses a state of creative longing which was made and presented in such a way that it was literally true.

As a result, it was taken as history by a large number of unscholarly readers.  He invented a matriarchal religion with a “Celtic Great Earth Goddess” who manifested in the three fold aspects of Maiden, Mother, Crone.  This is still presented to Wiccans as grounded in historical fact, even by many who do not worship her themselves.  He devised what has become known as the “Celtic Tree Calendar”.  He firmly associated all goddesses with the moon which he made to to seem natural but was not so to many heathen peoples, including the Celts.

Gardner’s Second source from which he drew the context of Wicca appears to have been the work of the modern authors who proclaimed the continued existence of ancient paganism as a witch cult through the middle ages.  From Margaret Murray’s book “The Witch Cult in Western Europe” he borrowed the term “the Old Religion”, the Horned God & Goddess, the organization of covens, the idea that all ancient religions had essentially been concerned with fertility. From C.G. Leland he took the idea that ancient pagans and witches carried out their rituals naked.  From the English folk custom he took the term for marriage within his faith “Handfasting” and certain rites such as the leaping over fires.  As the key text of the ceremonies, Gardener and his group used his “Book of Shadows” which he wrote.  This he claimed to be from an original sixteenth century text, where it actually is a  recognizably mid-twentieth century compilation drawing upon a remarkable range of sources, including the Aradia, or Gospel of the Witches (1899) by Charles Godfrey Leland, the writing of ceremonial magician Alistair Crowley, and a poem by Rudyard Kipling!

The beings invoked include Hebrew demons from the medieval texts translated by Mathers, Egyptian deities from translated hieroglyphic inscriptions employed by the Golden dawn and few Graeco-Roman Goddesses and Gods, figures form Celtic mythology and medieval romance, and Leland’s Aradia.  Some of Gardner’s Wiccan practices he simply invented himself, and passed on as ancient such as the five fold kiss upon initiation, and the inclusion to their Spiritual calendar of celebrations of the quarter days identified as major witch festivals by author Margaret Murray.  Together they launched what is probably the most eclectic religion in the history of the world.

This Wiccan ideal that all human society was once led by women was made popular in some radical circles in the 1960s by the books of Elizabeth Davis, Helen Diner and Robert Graves.  All of these writers ultimately depend on their factual information from “Das Mutterrecht” ( The Matriarchy ) written by Johann Jakob Bachofen, which appeared in 1861. Bachofen drew his data from Greek sources, notably Herodotus, and advanced the theory and argument that all human societies had passed through an age in which women ruled.  The only real development in this idea over the next 120 years was that Bachofen had proposed that this theoretical matriarchal society was a disaster for everybody, Helen Diner suggested that it had been good for women and her successors proclaimed that it had been marvellous for humanity and for the planet as well.  Meanwhile, the same questioning impulse of the 1960s, which produced not only contemporary feminism and the demolition of the academic orthodoxy concerning the Mother Goddess, led scholars to re-examine the sources upon which Bachofen had depended.

They now had at their disposal a great deal more information about the societies upon which the Greeks had written, and about the motivations of ancient authors such as Dio Cassius or Herodotus, than had been available in 1861.  The cumulative effect of all this material was to destroy any convincing argument for the existence of any matriarchal, matrilineal or matrifocal peoples in Europe or the Near East.

The combination of Bachofen’s myth with modern Wicca proved extremely potent.  By the late 1970s it had become the creed of both radical feminists and Wicca that witchcraft, goddess worship and woman’s rights were intermingled.  Both could portray the ancient pre-Christian religions as Goddess centred, and the Great Witch Hunts as a deliberate attack upon feminism as much as on Paganism.  During the 1970s & 80s Wicca became even more eclectic.  Unfortunately it did not expand and enrich its repertoire by a closer study of the authentic religious practices of the past, but rather it spread sideways to absorb many other diverse and conflicting traditions of religion, magic and culture.

From the “Earth mysteries” it took the idea of Ley Lines and earth energies.  From the Native American traditions they appropriated totemic animals, spirit quests, medicine wheels, sweat lodges and shamanic visions.  From the Religions of the East came meditative techniques, mandalas, chakras and the third eye . All these importations were imposed to differing degrees and in different proportions upon the original Wicca, resulting in an even more extensive and diverse religion composed of a series of interlocking belief systems.  But the greatest influence of all was exerted by radical feminism.  In the early decades of Wicca the Horned God was more or less the equal to the Goddess, but by the 1980s he had generally become the junior partner, her son and consort.   This ideology provided a further excellent reason for modern Wiccans to ignore those pre-Christian religions of which we have real evidence as being ‘patriarchal’ – such as Celtic reconstructionist paganism and Asatru, and to concoct beliefs and rituals conceived to approximate better to a faith set in a prehistoric fairyland.  It also equipped many of them with an intense moral fervor and a martyrology.

It may be observed that Wicca has become a movement which builds upon a closed system of belief, unlike reconstructionist systems of belief like Asatru.  Up to about the 1970s the bibliographies appended in Wiccan books contained works by ‘establishment’ scholars and authors, as well as by people of their own persuasion.  After then, all have tended to read one another’s books and to write for each other. All have almost totally ignored the tremendous outpouring of new academic publications that are actually relevant to their interests, such as the important recent works concerning the Great Witch Hunts and authentic ancient heathenism.

Asatru embraces any new academic and scholarly information that can be found, once you come to a meeting of Asatruar you will find this debated openly and loudly as we believe that secular knowledge and academic teaching are of utmost importance.

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Q: Do Asatruar consider their gods to be the only true ones, do they reject other religions as being false like Christianity does?

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No. Asatruar, as a rule, don’t seek to convert the rest of the world – largely because they don’t see it as the one right religion for everybody.

If a non-Asatru pagan wants to worship Diana or Cernunnos, that is perfectly acceptable; if a Christian wants to remain Christian, that is acceptable.  The Norsemen generally didn’t belittle other people’s gods, or claim that those gods didn’t exist.  Even in the late Viking Age, the attitude towards foreign religions was; “You stick to your gods and I’ll stick to mine”; that attitude has carried on into the modern Asatru revival.

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Q: I’ve noticed that many Asatruar / Heathens practice magic (especially rune magic). Is this a requirement?

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Magic is real and acceptable and many people do indeed come to Asatru through an interest in working with the runes. However, this does NOT mean that everybody is expected to study or practice magic.  Spells and rune-working does not play as strong a role in Asatru as it does in other pagan belief-systems (like Wicca, to name the most obvious example) – and if it is practiced, then it is in individual privacy by one who knows the lore associated with it.   Those that do practice rune magic in some form without following the Asatru religion should be very familiar with the Germanic gods, myths and symbolism as well as using the runes in their cultural context – since if they don’t then they are pandering to New-Age fantasy.

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Q: I’ve heard Asatru called a “nature religion”, does that mean that you really worship the earth, trees, and so forth as gods?

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Asatruar do believe that the natural world is sacred and living. The sun, moon, and earth are personified as deities; there are also local nature spirits (dwarves, elves and landvaettir – land spirits). But “nature” in that sense is only a part of Asatru; the gods are no more one-dimensional than we are.  Thor, for instance, may be a thunder god; yet he is also a protector of man and the social order.  Frey may be a fertility figure, yet he is also a god of peace and kingship. People are as much a part of “culture” as they are of “nature” – why would the gods be any different?

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Q: Why choose to follow the Germanic / Norse gods at all? Aren’t they just aspects of a universal whole – or even of the worshipers themselves?

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Some religions do indeed teach that all deities are one; Asatru, however, does not.

The gods are distinct and individual and exist independently of their worshipers’ minds. A Hindu might call Odin an emanation of the Brahman; a Wiccan might call him an aspect of the Father God; and a Jungian psychologist might call him a Norse version of the Wise Old Man archetype.  To an Asatruar, Odin is ODIN: as unique an individual as his followers, not an aspect of any other god, and definitely not “all in the mind”.

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Q: Isn’t Asatru sexist? The lore does show a definite slant toward male deities and heroes.

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The Germanic tribes were no more patriarchal or sexist than any other pre-Christian society in Europe; neither was their belief-system.  Strong, independent women (and goddesses) do appear in the stories that survived – and were lauded for their steadfastness.  There is evidence that the tribes had some matriarchal and goddess-centred groups – but some scholars have romanticized or exaggerated their importance.  (The matriarchs and goddess worshipers were not totally peaceful, nor were the patriarchs and god-worshipers totally violent.)  Ancient Germanic religion didn’t glorify either gender over the other, and the modern revival doesn’t either – it is not your gender that matters, but your deeds.

It is also worth noting that amongst the Germanic tribes, women were seen as equals in most if not all ways.  Spiritually, politically and domestically, the women of pre-Christian Europe enjoyed more freedoms than in other pre-Christian societies and the female ancestors (dísir) form a special part of the belief-structure of heathenry.

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Q.: Isn’t Asatru racist? I’ve seen US government organizations associate Norse and Asatru symbols and tattoos with racist prison gangs.

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The lore does not show any semblance of racial hate – so the answer is a resounding NO.  Those that profess racial ideology and claim to be Asatru usually were racist before they came to use Asatru as their speaking platform.

Our Northern European cultural heritage is ancient, and we, like any other culture should be proud of it.  The idea that we belong to a “white race” is recent and is not worthy of pride or even respect from Asatruar.  People need to learn to distinguish culture, which is not genetic, from biological traits, which are.  If heathenry and Asatru in itself were genetically inherited traits, conversion would have been impossible and reconstruction wholly unnecessary.

Every culture should be proud of their heritage and every culture should strive to instil this pride in their kith and kin, but using our race as a weapon by proliferating hate brings dishonour.

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Q: But isn’t Asatru / Heathenry anti-Semitic, Violent and Fascist in Nature? After all, Nazi’s claimed to believe in “Nordic” gods, and used Germanic pagan symbols as part of his political agenda.

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No, that is a readily spread and often repeated inaccuracy.

That is not a reflection on those true to the old ways. Hitler himself was raised as a Christian and was himself a devout Catholic, and never actually believed in any of the Germanic gods.  If anything, his beliefs most resembled those of the so-called “Identity Christians”, extremists who use a warped interpretation of the Bible to justify racism and male dominance.  The Germanic symbolism was used mainly because it appealed to the nationalistic feelings of the depressed masses – and even then, its meaning was perverted into something wholly different to what the pagan tribes would have recognized or accepted and essentially to what we are doing in these modern times.  These extremists do not represent all Asatruar / Heathens, just as the Crusades were not representative of all Christians, and some groups blowing up civilians do not represent all Muslims. We are not violent by nature but we do promote the arts of self-defence and the use of regulated combat and competitiveness in the settling of disputes – we do not advocate violence against others.

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Q: Why did Asatru die out if it was the right religion for Europeans? Why didn’t it persist?

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Asatru was subjected to a violent campaign of repression over a period of hundreds of years.  Countless thousands of people were murdered, maimed, and exiled in the process.  The common people (your ancestors!)  did not give up their cherished beliefs easily.  Eventually, the monolithic organization of the Christian church, bolstered by threats of economic isolation and assisted by an energetic propaganda campaign, triumphed over the valiant but ultimately unsophisticated tribes. This led to many of the heathen beliefs being incorporated into Christianity – often in the guise of folklore and Holidays (E.g. Eostre, Yule, Mayday etc.), as well as the days of the week – proving that our own native religion appeals to us in a fundamental way.  Now, a thousand years after its supposed demise, it is alive and growing.  Indeed, so long as there are kith and kin of European descent, it cannot really die.  It springs from the soul of our people.

Asatru isn’t just what we believe, it’s what we are.

We are Heathen and proud.

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Q: Aren’t “Asatru” and “Odinism” just different names for the same religion?

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It depends. Germanic pagans in England and Europe do tend to use those words interchangeably but in the United States and other countries, though, the term “Odinism” is generally avoided: it implies that Odin is the center of attention at all times and for all people, but that simply isn’t true as Asatru is and always was a polytheistic belief system that had limited regional cults for specific deities – Many Asatruar focus on some other deity, and still others believe that putting one deity above others is too narrow-minded.

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Q: Aren’t “Wotanism” and “Odinism” just different names for the same religion? I’ve heard that Wotanism is the racist version of Odinism.

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Wotanism is often referred to as the race-centric interpretation of Odinist belief started by white nationalist David Lane. There is generally an emphasis on white supremacy, racial hatred, blood purity (a fallacy in it’s own right) and National Socialist (Nazi) thought, even though there is no historic basis for it in the lore and sagas.

Wotanism (especially in the USA) has been distinctly different from, and even antagonistic towards wider Heathenry and others of Asatru belief – as they are oftentimes seen as “race-traitors”.

These Wotanists are extremists, just as the Crusades were not representative of all Christians, and some groups blowing up civilians do not represent all Muslims, in this manner, they do not represent all Asatruar / Heathens. In turn, many adherents of Asatru/Heathenry and Odinism have rejected what can be seen as an attempt to appropriate our ancient folkway for political and racial ends.

Rare and few and far between are the Wotanists that wish to reclaim Wotanism as a non-racist and non-fascist entity and as a true expression of our mutual heritage – I have had the pleasure of meeting some myself.

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Q: How literally do you take the myths and sagas? For instance, do you actually believe that a huge, red-bearded man with a hammer is driving a wagon through the sky when it thunders?

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On the one hand, Asatruar definitely believe that the gods are real and that they have power over the world.  On the other, they admit that all myths contain some symbolic language: The Norsemen described Thor as a huge, red-bearded man with a hammer because that’s the best way they could understand him.  (As example; How many Christians, after all, believe that they are actual sheep and that Jesus is an actual shepherd?  Not many – but they still accept that Jesus exists and takes care of his followers.)

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Q: I’ve read that the Norsemen sacrificed animals and even humans as part of their religion. Is this still part of modern Asatru?

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Human sacrifice is definitely NOT part of modern Asatru practice.

Some groups, however, still do practice animal sacrifice; these groups tend to live in areas where farm or game animals are often killed for “mundane” reasons such as for food or for skins anyway.  They see the sacrifice as a vital part of the religion, acknowledging that their food comes from living creatures and consecrating its death to the gods, spirits or ancestors – Unlike some cultures’ version of animal sacrifice, which destroyed the whole offering by fire, the Germanic version was essentially a sacred meal: the edible parts were blessed and shared by the worshipers, and the rest was used or thrown away as it would normally have been.

For the most part, however, modern Asatruar make only a “symbolic” animal sacrifice (consecrating an edible image of an animal, or a piece of meat) if they make one at all.  Some reserve that practice for only the most important rituals; many more do away with the sacrificial animal altogether, offering only a drink.

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Q: I remember reading that the Norsemen believed that only fallen warriors lived with the gods after death – that everyone else was doomed to end up in the cold expanse of Hel. Is this true, and do modern Asatruar still believe this? (If they do, there’s not much point in following Asatru unless you’re on active duty in the military or police force!)

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The idea of an “either/or” afterlife (one place good, one place bad, and no other possible destination) is common in Middle Eastern Abrahamic faiths like Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism.

The Germanic concept of the afterlife was not “either/or”. Valhalla was reserved for Odin’s chosen warriors, true; yet Valhalla is not the only divine residence in Asgard.  Half the battle slain are destined for Freya’s field of Volkvangr – so not all battle-slain are destined for Valhalla in the first place. The other gods have homes and halls of their own, and there is some evidence in period texts that the dead could end up living with some deity other than Odin.

As for Hel, the horrifying images in the Prose Edda were probably influenced by descriptions of the underworld in non-Germanic religions – Christian, Greco-Roman, or both. (Snorri Sturlusson, after all, was a Christian with a classical education; and he did live at least 100 years after Iceland was converted.)  Other sources (the Eddaic poem; Baldr’s Dreams, and some folk tales from present-day Germany) show Hel as a quiet place of rest for the dead, but not a place of torture or sadness.

Only one poem, in fact, mentions an afterlife of torture as part of Germanic belief – and that poem describes Nastrand (“Dead Man’s Shore”) as a separate place from Hel.

Who ends up in Nastrand after they die?

Murderers, oath-breakers, thieves, people who lie to seduce others – in other words, the “bad place” is reserved for people who commit heinous crimes and have not salvaged their honour in the eyes of their kith and kin.

This basically means that modern Asatru shouldn’t be seen as a “warriors only” religion, and that people who can’t die in battle shouldn’t feel “doomed” for missing Valhalla as there are many other splendid halls and dwellings in the hereafter.

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Q: OK – So I don’t have to be a warrior or a magician to practice Asatru / Heathenry; and I haven’t done anything horrible enough to send me to Nastrand. Does that mean that I can do anything I want; as long as I believe the Germanic gods are real?

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NO! This cannot be stressed strongly enough!

Simple belief will not guarantee you anything. The Germanic tribes still believed that right and wrong existed, and that actions have consequences – oftentimes fatal.  Even the gods are limited and have made mistakes – and hey had to pay the price for those mistakes.  As Asatruar we take oaths to honour our people, our kith and kin – and if those oaths are broken then we lose our honour and any respect that we may have earned. Asatruar live by the Nine Noble Virtues, gleamed from the folklore:  Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance and our Gods and Goddesses hold us accountable for our deeds, as well as our Ancestors and our Kith and Kin.

The mythical texts we have may not say that the gods are totally good, or that the slightest mistake leads to eternal torture. They do, however, teach the value of honour and a good reputation: a person (or a god) should be judged on their actions, not merely their words or beliefs.

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Q: You mentioned certain standards of behaviour taught in Asatru. What are these?

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besides the nine noble virtues:  Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness and Perseverance.  Other qualities we hold in high regard are strength, joy, honour, freedom, loyalty to kin, realism, vigour, and the revering of our ancestors.  To express these things in our lives is virtuous, and we strive to do this.  Their opposites – weakness, cowardice, adherence to dogma rather than to the realities of the world, and the like – constitute our vices and are to be avoided.

Proper behaviour in Asatru consists of maximizing one’s virtues and minimizing one’s vices.

This code of conduct reflects the highest and most heroic ideals of us as a people and culture.

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Q: Why is the religion of our ancestors the best one for us?

A.

Because we are more like our ancestors and their culture, than we are like people from across the globe and their culture.   We inherited not only their general physical appearance, but also their predominant mental, emotional, and spiritual traits.  We think and feel more like they did; our basic needs are most like theirs.  The religion which best expressed their innermost nature – Asatru – a belief-system of the forests, mountains and the cold of the North is better suited to us than any other creed.  The religions of dust, deserts and alien lands such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity are alien to us and do not truly speak to our souls.  When you find Asatru, you come home to the embrace of your ancestors.

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IN SUMMATION:

In the 7th Century, Christian missionaries in Frisia had done well.  Radbod, the Heathen king, had agreed to accept the new faith amongst mounting economical and social pressure exerted by the missionaries upon his people. As the day of his baptism drew near, the king voiced one nagging doubt; “What had become of all my ancestors who had died without recourse to Christ?”. Swift and emphatic came the monks reply; “All your heathen ancestors are then writhing in hellish agony.”  The king showed then that noble and proud heathen blood still flowed through his veins and responded; “Then I would rather be suffering there in your hell with my honoured kin than ascend to your heaven with a parcel of beggars.”

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This Q and A was in some places wholly copied and/or adapted from existing Asatru Q and A pages on the internet.  If any copyright issues arise, please contact me directly and changes will be made.
Compiled, altered and edited by Karl Adolf Andresson

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For more information on Asatru in South Africa and to get in touch with fellow Heathens / Asatruar please go to our facebook page/s at:

Johannesburg Heathen and Germanic Studies

SüdAnbruch Kindred – Heathen /Asatru South Africa

or to our forum at http://heathen.vuya.net

Otherwise contact: Anna: papawer@gmail.com or Karl: karl.asatru@gmail.com

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