Intro to Heathenry
What is Asatru?
Long before Christianity came to northern Europe, the people there - our ancestors - had their own religions. One of these was what we call today Asatru, but originally it was simply known as “the old ways”. It was called being Heathen by the new Christian conquers which means, ‘pagans who lived on the heaths.’ It was practiced in the lands that are today Scandinavia, England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and other countries as well. Asatru is the closest thing we have today to the original or native religious belief for the peoples who lived in these regions.
What does the word "Asatru" mean?
It means, roughly, "True to the Aesir" in Old Norse, the language of ancient Scandinavia in which so much of our source material was written. Asatru is the name by which the modern ‘Heathen’ call their religion.
When did Heathenism start?
Heathenism is thousands of years old. Its beginnings are lost in prehistory, but it is older than Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or most other religions. The spiritual impulses it expresses are as ancient as the European peoples themselves - at least 40,000 years, and perhaps much older.
Why do we need Asatru? Aren't most people who want religion satisfied with Christianity or one of the other "Established" religions?
Modern people worldwide have been born and raised within the better-known organized religions because for the last 1000 years most of the world has been dominated by Monotheist faiths who tout a mandatory belief of “one true God”, and through worldwide domination and assimilation, tried to eradicate all the demographically specific native religions. These religious began in the Middle East, among people who are essential of a different mindset than that of our Northern European ancestors. Simply put, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are alien religions to the Germanic/Teutonic people, therefore these dominating and repressive religious systems do not truly speak to our souls. Until this past century, these dominating religions were the only ones allowable (even by law) to practice, so many of the indigenous belief systems were all but lost to history. Heathenry, as well as all other forms of paganism, 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 in Europe, then worldwide, the monolithic organization of the Christian church (bolstered by threats of economic isolation and assisted by an energetic propaganda campaign) seemed to triumph over the valiant but unsophisticated tribes for well over a thousand years.
Fast forward to today and we can see the good news is (despite this persecution), elements of all Paganism including Heathenry continued down to our own times - often in the guise of folklore - proving that our own Germanic/Teutonic religion appeals to our innermost being in a fundamental way. Now, a thousand years after its supposed demise, it is alive and growing. Indeed, so long as there are men and women who call upon the Old Nose Gods, it cannot really die because it springs from the soul of anyone called to the Norse Gods. Asatru isn't just what we BELIEVE, it's what we ARE and how we LIVE. Paganism has had a resurgence in the past century as people have genuine spiritual needs which must be filled. People in the 21st Century are looking for community and for answers to the "big questions": What life is all about, and how we should live it. For many people today, the so-called major faiths do not have answers that work. Asatru has answers, but it has not been an alternative for most seekers because they haven't known about it. Once they realize that there is another way - a better, more natural, more honorable way - they will not be satisfied with anything less than a return to the religion of their ancestors.
SO HOW DO WE DO IT?? ~How do we do Asatru?
This is the big question and THE reason for this post! To really live a heathen life and to call oneself Asatru, the practitioner must take upon themselves the task of LEARNING. You must read ALL the Lore: known as the Prose and Poetic Edda’s, the Icelandic Sagas, the Hávamál, The Germania Tacitus and all the archeological as well as historical documentation you can find. A Heathen should learn the runes; not for the idea of performing “divination,” but to understand the only surviving writing left to us by our forebears.
But its not just about reading! Once you become familiar with old Norse Traditions and Mythology, as well as the Cosmology of Heathenry, the next step is to make it a LIVING faith, real to each person practicing it; by stepping into sacred space of your own design and honoring your Gods, your ancestors, as well as the spirits of place where you reside, by communing with them on a regular basis! This is accomplished by performing Blots, Sumbels, and by Utiseta (out sitting-meditation) frequently and often!!
Why Norse Paganism? Why not Wicca or any other form of paganism?
Because we are drawn to this path by the Norse Gods as well as our ancestors via our DNA; and when we follow the Norse cosmology and Mythology, (known as the Lore) we find a form of paganism that is unique to all other forms of Pagan Worship in the world. We as Asatru inherited through time and locational changes not only our Ancestors general disposition of freedom, self-reliance, and self-pride, but also their predominant mental, emotional, and spiritual traits of independence and self-responsibility. We think and feel like they did; our basic needs are most like theirs. The religion which best expressed their innermost nature - Asatru - is better suited to us than is some other creed or Gods which started in various differing cultures throughout the world, like Egypt, Greece or even Ireland and the British Isles (although the Celtic culture is very similar to the Norse!) To be a Heathen, we must practice Heathery; which is not what a Strega, a Hindu, or a Native American/Australian practice.
I hope this answers the newcomer's question of “I want to be a Heathen, to practice Asatru; so how do I start?” The Answer: This is called ‘the religion with homework’ for a very good reason. No one can introduce you to the Gods; you must discover them for yourself, and this can only be accomplished through being proactive in your diligence to really seek them out, get to know who they are, as well as develop a solid working familiar relationship with them.
-Bringing the Old Ways to Heathens Today-
This post is to hopefully help answer the common questions asked of newcomers to the Path of the Völva/Vitki which is the Mystic/Shamanic branch of Norse Paganism, known as Heathenry, or Asatru. To be proficient as a Völva/Vitki, and to be adept in the arts of seiðr, one must be an adept practitioner of heathenry!