For those new to Asatru, (and even some long time devotees) the task of learning how to pronounce many of the old Norse words can be daunting and frustrating. Fear not, as todays post is to give a phonic glossary to help pronounce some of the most common Scandinavian words used in todays Asatru; in the hopes that we all can begin to speak some of the most familiar Norse words in heathery while understanding the terminology with some fluency, -ensuring you will be on the same page as your heathen brethren when discussing people, places, things and concepts in Norse Paganism!
Why even bother to learn the correct pronunciation of Norse words? Well, like any form of human communication, understand terminology and concepts of a tradition that is not native to our base language; (with ancient cultural differences and historically varied practices) is crucial if we want to accurately share the information and kennings we experience in this wonderful path of Asatru! Our ancestors and the Heathen pantheon hail from the Germanic/Teutonic regions of Europe, so the Edda’s and Saga’s were written in Scandinavian dialect by those people who used those languages as their means of daily communication.
For accuracy to understand and grasp the concepts and Lore has left to us, we must have a good understanding of the language and how these words were used as well as pronounced; especially when translating them into the English language, which is what most Americans use as our common tongue.
Etymology (the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history) can lead to confusion of what we are trying to covey if incorrectly pronounced; (especially if some of these words are still used by their native countries) so below I will try to share some of the most common words we use in Asatru today!
* This glossary is the hard work of our Director of Ambassador Program; Sage Nelson! ~so thank you Sage!!
1. Ásatrú [ASS-uh-troo, OWSS-uh-troo].
Most common term for modern heathen religion; heathenry with a Norse emphasis
2. Ásgarðr /Esageard /Ensigart [OWSS-gahrthrr or AHSS-gahrthrr, with voiced “th,” EY-suh-yay-urd, ENN-si-gahrt]
home of the Æsir, one of the nine worlds–Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Armanic German. Often anglicized Asgard.
3. Alfheim [ALF-heym]
home of the elves, one of the nine worlds.
4. Berserkr, plur. berserkir [BERR-serrrkrr, BERR-serr-keer or berr-SERR-keer, with each single “e” as in “get”] warrior who fought in a crazed state, insensible to pain–Norse, “bear-shirt” or “bare-shirt” (i.e.: shirtless), two possible etymologies. Anglicized berserk, berserker.
5. Bifröst [BIH-fröst, or anglicized BYE-frost]
Rainbow Bridge to Asgard; the rainbow.
6. Blót [bloat] / bletsian [BLET-see-un]
a sacrifice or offering to one or more of the gods; to make a sacrifice, to sacrifice something
7. Dís, plur. dísir [deess, DEE-seer] / idise, plur. idesi [EE-di-say, EE-day-see]
female ancestor who serves as a guardian and advisor to members of a family.
8. Dísablót [DEE-sa-bloat]
ceremonial observance of the dísir and associated festival day
9. Dökkálfar, svartálfar [DÖCK-owl-vahr or –ahhl-vahr, SVAHRRT-owl-vahr or –ahhl-vahr]
black or dark elves, usually identified with the dwarves–Norse.
10. Eostre [EY-oss-trey]
Anglo-Saxon spring festival, originally in honor of goddess of the same name, which gave its name to Easter; non-Anglo-Saxon heathens use Ostara.
11. Ergi [AIR-yee]
depravity; receptive homosexuality; an extremely insulting word with varying meanings in the lore, usually used in modern times in its late Icelandic, anti-homosexual meaning.
12. Etin [Ateen]
giant–anglicization of jötunn / eoten
13. Freyfaxi [FREY-facks-ee]
Harvest-time festival in honor of Freyr/Fréa celebrated by most Ásatrú.
14. Fulltrúi [FULL-troo-ee, full-TROO-ee]
Old Norse term for patron deity, literally “fully trusted one”
15. Fylgja / fæcce [FÜLG-yuh or FILL-gyuh, FA-chey with “a” as in “hat”]
personal tutelary and guiding spirit, usually in animal form, similar in many ways to a Native American totem animal; animal form to which one often transforms when faring forth. Often anglicized as fetch.
16. Galdr [galdrr]
Germanic ceremonial magic, particularly rune-magic; intoning to either charge or work magic with the runes; to intone in association with runes; to work galdr.
17. Ginnungagap [GINN-oon-gah-gap, YINN-oon-gah-gap]
the nothingness that existed in the beginning.
18. Goði [GWO-thee or GO-thee, both with short “o” and voiced “th”; long “o” is a common mispronunciation], plur. goðar [GWO-thahr or GO-thahr, both with short “o” and voiced “th”] priest; on the model of late Icelandic society, sometimes also chieftain, head of a kindred.
19. Gyðja [GITH-ya, with voiced “th”], plur. gyðjur [GITH-yur, with voiced “th”]
20. Hamingja / hama [HAM-ing-yuh, HA-muh]
the part of one’s self that travels when one fares forth.
21. Heilsa [HAIL-sa]
“Hail,” as a greeting; derived from Old Norse and commonly and ungrammatically pluralized as “heilsan” when addressing more than one person; may also be used when hailing the gods in blót.
22. Hlafmæst [HLAHF-mast], Lammas
Anglo-Saxon late summer, early harvest festival, sometimes called Thingtide
23. Hlautbolli / blótorc [HLOUT-bolly or HLOUT-bo-hlee, BLOAT-ork]
24. Hlauttein [HLOUT-teyn] / hlóttán [HLOTE-tahhn]
twig or sprig used to sprinkle or “asperge” participants at the close of a blót.
25. Hof [hoff]
26. Hörgr / hearg [hergrr, HEY-argh]
altar, in particular an outside altar made of rocks.
27. jötunn (plur. jötnar) / eoten [YÖH-tun or frequently YOH-tun, EY-oh-tun]
giant; sometimes modernized as etin.
28. Jötunheim [YÖH-tun-heym or frequently YOH-tun-heym]
Giantland, one of the nine worlds.
30. Kenning, plur. kenningar [KENN-ing-urr]
extended metaphor of two or more terms, a basis of Norse poetry, e.g. “swan-road,” sea, “wave-steed,” ship, “Týr of the meadbench,” warrior.
31. Kindred / mót [mote]
local heathen group (usual terms).
32. Kinfylgja [KIN-füll-gyuh]
fylgja / fetch that descends within a family.
33. Líc [leech]
physical body—Anglo-Saxon. Sometimes modernized as lyke.
34. Ljósálfar [LYOHSS-owl-vahr or -ahhl-vahr], light elves
one of two classes of elves in Norse, the other being the dark or black elves (svartálfar)
35. Megin / mægen [ME-yinn with short “e,” MIE-yun as in “Mayan”]
strength, particularly of psychic origin, sometimes referred to by the modern cognate, main; psychic resources, particularly as influenced by honorable or dishonorable behavior, luck as a function of karmic forces; psychic force with which a valued possession or gift is endowed.
36. Miðgarðr / Middangeard [MITH-garrthrr with voiced “th,” MID-un-yay-urd]
of the nine worlds, the world of humans. Anglicized as Midgard; Armanic German Mittigart.
37. Mjöllnir [MYÖLL-neer, with “y” as in “yum”]
hammer of Thor/Thunor.
38. Múspell, Múspelheim [MOO-spell, MOO-spell-heym]
one of the nine worlds; a fiery place.
39. Nifelheim [NIFF-ul-heym]
Hel’s realm, the realm of the dead, and as such one of the nine worlds; the lower, worse part of Hel’s realm.
40. Óðr / wód [oethrr with voiced “th,” wode]
spirit of life and vigor, particularly as evinced in rage, ecstasy, poetic inspiration, and other heightened states associated with Óðinn/Woden. Sometimes anglicized as wode or wood.
41. Önd [oond]
breath of life; one of the gifts of the Sons of Bor.
42. Orlög [OR-lögh, OR-log]
original, primary fate (from the etymological meaning, “earliest laid down, earliest law”); personal fate within the entirety of wyrd. Sometimes Anglo-Saxonized as orlæg, anglicized as orlay.
43. Ostara / Eostre [OSS-tuh-ruh or oss-TAH-ruh, EY-oss-trey]
spring festival in honor of an Anglo-Saxon goddess that gave its name to Easter. Ostara is actually derived from Old High German and is also used for the month of April.
44. Ragnarök [RAG-nah-rökk]
the end of this world–the cataclysmic last battle in which all but a few of the gods are to die, and associated destruction of the World Tree, several of the worlds, and all but two of humanity–Norse “doom of the regin”
45. Seiðmaðr [SAYTH-mahthrr, with voiced “th’s”]
seiðworker, one who does seiðr.
46. Seiðr [saythrr, voiced “th”]
a form of Norse magic, traditionally forbidden to all males except Óðinn/Woden.
47. Sigrblót [SIGrr-bloat]
Norse spring sacrifice and associated festival calling for victory.
48. Skald [skahlld]
Norse poet, particularly in a tradition involving complex rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration schemes and many kennings and privileging extemporization. Adj. sometimes anglicized as scaldic.
49. Sonargöltr [SO-nahr-göltrr]
boar on which ancient heathens swore oaths at the culminating feast of Yule.
50. Spá, spæ [spa or spau, spay]
subset of seiðr involving journeying to the netherworld and/or calling on spirits and sometimes gods for advice and divination; sometimes called oracular seiðr, sometimes, including in sagas, conflated with seiðr as a whole.
51. Stalli [STA-lly]
small, usually portable altar.
52. Stánbæþ [STAHN-bath]
stone bath. Anglo-Saxon sauna.
53. Stav [stahv]
Rune-based martial art/physical discipline taught by Ivar Hafskjold
54. svartálfar, dokkálfar [SVAHRRT-owl-vahr or –ahhl-vahr, DOCK-owl-vahr or –ahhl-vahr]
black or dark elves, usually identified with the dwarves–Norse.
55. Svartalfheim [SVAHRR-talf-heym]
one of the nine worlds, home of the dark elves, usually identified with the dwarves.
heathen ethical values (Anglo-Saxon), particularly in the Twelve Æþeling Thews
58. þing, thing
meeting, assembly, especially a general gathering (Norse)
time when things were most often held, identified with Anglo-Saxon Hlafmæst or Lammas.
60. Thurs [thoorss, therss; ]
a kind of giant; the most brutish or hostile kind.
61. Trú [true], troth
faith, primarily in the sense of “being true to, good faith, loyalty,” secondarily “belief, religion.” More or less joking terms for various approaches to heathenry, and other belief systems, have been coined with -trú on the model of Ásatrú.
62. Útiseti [OO-tee-set-ee]
spending the night or a lengthy period sitting or lying alone on a grave, particularly that of one’s father or other ancestor, on a mound or other high place even if not a grave, or at a crossroads, for the purpose of receiving guidance or assistance from the dead. English: “sitting out”
63. Vættir [VIE-teer] / wights
supernatural beings of a place, primarily landwights and housewights.
64. Valknútr [VAL-knootrr]
design of three interlocking triangles, dedicating to Óðinn/Woden (Norse: slaughter-knot)
65. Vanaheim [VAN-uh-heym]
ancestral home of the Vanir, one of the nine worlds.
66. Vanir (sing. Van) [VAN-eer, van]
one of the two tribes of gods.
67. varðlokkr [VAHRRTH-lockrr, with voiced “th”]
song to entice helpful spirits performed to facilitate a spæ session.
68. Vé [vey]
69. Vitki [VITT-kee]
70. Völva, plur. völur [VÖLL-vuh, VÖLL-oor]
powerful magical practitioner, commonly translated “seeress” or “witch”–only females are mentioned, so presumed to be seiðr practitioners. Vala is an incorrect form.
71. Wes (þú) hál (sing.), wesaþ (ge) hál (plur.) [wess (thoo) HAHL, wess-uth (yay) HAHL]
“Hello,” “hail” as a greeting or to the gods in blót; Anglo-Saxon equivalent of “heilsa”. In strictly correct Anglo-Saxon, to two rather than more than two, wesaþ git [yit] hál.
spirit of place; from A-S for vættir.
73. Wód [wode]
spirit of life and vigor, particularly as evinced in rage, ecstasy, poetic inspiration, and other heightened states associated with Óðinn/Woden–Anglo-Saxon. Sometimes modernized as wode or wood
74. wyrd [weird]
75. Yggdrasill [ÜGG-drah-zill or IGG-druh-sill]
the World Tree (Norse, “steed of Yggr,” i.e., of Óðinn/Woden)
This is by no means a complete list of terms; but it comprises 75 of the most common words used by American heathens in Asatru today. Feel free to keep adding to your own Norse vocabulary!
~ Skål! [Skaal or skol] A skål is a Scandinavian toast of friendship and goodwill that may be offered when drinking, sitting down to eat, or at a formal event. Some fans of Scandinavian culture have popularized the toast beyond its native countries, and it can often be heard in many peculiar corners of the world, especially in regions with a large Scandinavian population. The word may also be spelled skal or skaal.