Heathen Ramblings: Musings on Asatru, Heathenry and Life
My name is Karl Adolf Andresson
I am turning 28 this year, short of six feet tall, with a large rugby-player build. I have deep-brown eyes and brown hair with a tinge of red. I am the youngest of three siblings, my brother and sister are both married and have offspring. I am the odd one out. My parents are both alive and kicking and still together after all these years. I am living happily “in sin” with my girlfriend whom I shall just refer to as “my Lady”. I am a Afrikaner, I am also a progressive realist (can you say ironic?) and proudly South African. I have a BSc in Natural and Environmental Sciences and I am the manager at an agricultural practice.
Hail! I am Heathen, I am Ásatrúar. These are my ramblings.
I have always had a deep and abiding fascination with archaeology, palaeontology, natural history, pre-history, history and pretty much any old thing(s) – I was very well read by the time I hit kindergarten. I’ve always felt drawn to the past – maybe it came from listening to my grandmothers’ talk about their childhoods, or retelling the stories their parents told them. But more on this later…
Now, my parents tried to get me to go to church, but only half-heartedly though – for working class Afrikaners, my parents were quite forward-thinking in their general mistrust of organized religion and the church. Unfortunately, living in Alberton; South of Johannesburg on the East Rand, schools were pretty adamant on education on “Christelike grondslag” so every school day, for an hour every morning, I had Christianity shoved down my throat. After awhile, as many Pagans will most likely attest, I just let it roll over me.
I joined Sunday schools and whatnot just so that I could hang out with the people. Unfortunately all they could talk about was their religion and my ideas were deemed heretical; where did dinosaurs come from?, Who made God if God made Jesus and they are one and the same?, so I reluctantly settled for being the outcast. I started to drift away from the holy rollers and retreated to my books and became friends with others who were less religious but nor entirely good for me. Friends came and went, but I always had the books; being a natural loner (or solitary) I would retreat with my books into the nearest sunspot and drift away on a placid stream of knowledge.
So as I grew up, bearing in mind my fascination with all things ancient, I was exposed to all types of codes, creeds and religions. Then the stories and accounts of barbarian Europe took hold, looking past the Christianised histories of these noble peoples took time, but it was time well spent. I can thus correlate more-or-less the path I walked and coincidences I linked to becoming Ásatrúar – All thanks to all that I’ve been exposed to. To cut a long and otherwise boring story short, it all finally fell into place one night in 2009 whilst speaking to a Pagan friend where I was quizzing her on Paganism in general, out of curiosity. She eventually told me about Ásatrú and Germanic Neo-Paganism and my mind opened up like a sunflower at first dawn… I was dumbstruck and light-headed and knew that now, after long last, I have been called home.
And now here I am. Ready to help others who feel that they have not yet been called home by spreading the knowledge.
Ásatrú or Germanic Neopaganism comes in many flavours; Ásatrú, Odinism, Forn Siðr/Vor Siðr (the Old Custom) and Theodism, but they all fall under the umbrella of Germanic Paganism, Nordic pantheism or Heathenry.
Ásatrú is a reconstructionist, polytheist belief system. It bases strong emphasis on worshiping not only the many Gods and Goddesses of our folk but the land and its many spirits as well as our ancestors.
“Reconstructionist? What’s that?” I hear you say. Well it means we aim to understand the pre-Christian Germanic religion based on solid academic research and historical accounts from over a thousand years ago, with the end-result of implementing these reconstructed ideas of duty, honour, community, individuality and respect in the present. We believe that the many creatures of lore such as elves, dwarves, giants and land-spirits have the ability to inhabit natural objects such as trees or stones and have the ability to take sides in the affairs of humans on their lands. Yet we also defer to the works of science as we know that our ancestors had a simplified worldview, one that cannot in totality, be married to our current circumstances. So we try to occupy the happy medium.
Keeping in mind that all objects have an inherent energy, we cannot charge items for ritual use as they already possess an innate power that the skillful can tap into. This is different for the carving of runes – but more on that later.
I summarize my beliefs as follows: I believe that Heathenry is the innate religion and spiritual inheritance of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe, and their brothers, sisters and descendants in all lands and times – across all creeds. I believe in our sacred ancestors, who are eternally with us. I believe in the Gods and Goddesses of our people, however they are perceived by human minds and by whatever names they have manifested themselves to us. Our Gods and Goddesses are worthy of our respect and loyalty, be they beautiful or repugnant, powerful or power-less, benevolent or malevolent, wise or foolish – as their ways are not ours. We are the allies of our deities in their sacred struggle against the forces of chaos. I believe that every person’s personal destiny is shaped in part by what is in their past, in part by what they and others are now doing and by the vows they take and contracts they enter into and the resolution thereof. I believe that every person has their own destiny as decreed by the Three Norns who control the ørlög of even the Gods and Goddesses, and that no path is absolute and that our deeds can change the Web of Wyrd. My loyalty to our deities and their purpose for Trú-folk is absolute, unwavering and eternal. I believe that strength in all its forms and loyalty to the community and to the greater good of the family, whether it is by blood or oath, take precedence over all other loyalties and commitments. Industriousness is a prerequisite.
Now to the nuts and bolts of heathenry. Solitary practice, or practice in small circles of friends or family is most common. These small groupings are often called kindreds or hearths and are often informal groupings of like-minded peoples. There is generally no central authority, although Chieftans as well as Gothi (“Priest”) and Seith-women (“Shaman”) do rise and take up natural positions as the situation demands – unless the group wishes to stay egalitarian. There aren’t (and shouldn’t be) any degrees of initiation – if there is, then the distinction is made between non-member and member. Such initiatory rites are to the heathen allusions of grandeur and will not be pandered too. However, respect will be shown to those of higher social and moral standing and this person will most likely be deferred too in testing times. Most associations will and do remain in a state of flux. Any group that claims such rites – can be classified as Wiccatru and not true Heathenry.
Now for the controversy. There are two major currents or subgroupings across all aspects of heathenry though, folkish/tribalist and universalist. Folkish heathens are of the opinion that since Ásatrú is the innate religion and spiritual inheritance of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe – they can truly claim this inheritance as their own. Some groups in the US and Europe have hi-jacked this and ultra-politicised it to mean only full-on “pure” whiteys can be Ása-folk – this causes me great annoyance, even though I understand what they are trying to say, in this I will not take part. If the Gods and Godessess of our folk call to those of what is perceived as another ethnicity, and this individual lives honourably and trú, I will not judge them unfairly.
Universalist heathens de-emphasize differences between ethnic traditions and include those of all races and creeds. Unfortunately, and much to my discontent, as they are usually not as strict about reconstructionism, they end up adding many aspects of other religions such as Wicca (giving us Wiccatru) etc which ended up giving us initiatory rites, the Hammer-rite and Sign of the Hammer. I mean, really now, that is just making shit up people!
What makes someone Ása-folk? In my opinion you are Ása-folk if you take a proper reconstructionalist angle to Ásatrú or take it as seriously as folkish/tribal heathens do. You serve only the Ása and Vana deities and you do not mix other religious aspects into our reconstructed worldview. You are curious and thirst for knowledge at all times. You live by the Nine Noble Virtues: Courage, Truth, Honour, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness, Perseverance.
This is just the start of a long and meaningfull relationship, I hope, as we delve deeper in the mysteries of the Old Custom – care to join me?
Wassail and frithstead