Of Norse and Men: Finding the Meaning of Masculinity for Modern Asatru
I value my masculinity and demonstrate it when I can. I have a beard, I chop wood and carve for fun, I butcher my own animals for food, and I named my son after my father and am raising him to do all of the same. Yet, as a modern man and Asatru I wonder how to reconcile the deeply masculine nature of the traditions in which our faith is steeped against what I see as the deeply flawed portions of masculinity.
A modern Asatru should find strength in themselves and support the strength in others. Strength demonstrated not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Physical strength is often the easiest to achieve; lifting weights builds our muscles, so it goes with exercising our minds and our emotions.
Read. Read everything you can. Write, too. Poetry especially. Egil of Egil’s Saga from the Sagas of the Icelanders, like many heroes, was as quick with a verse as he was with the sword. Challenge yourself and your points of view. Learn how to defend your points, and how to bend them. Play music, and build things with your hands. Don’t be so quick to search the internet for an answer but struggle to logic out the answer on your own. Critical thinking is mental strength demonstrated.
Emotional strength is even more difficult to develop. For much of our lives masculine values stoicism in the face of emotion. I recall getting in trouble for showing my emotions when I was younger—emotions showed weakness. I learned to choke off my emotions, but over time it was that which made me weak; a weakness that I have worked to overcome by exercising my emotions. I acknowledge when I’m overwhelmed, emotionally. I talk through my emotions with close friends, and even professionals at times. I’ve let my son see me cry. Emotional strength does not mean that you never have them, but that you feel them fully and persevere.
And that is where value is found in the modern masculine Asatru. Perseverance. As Asatru we must find a way to be better than we were the day before. And that is a masculine value.
So the modern Asatru doesn’t need to eschew masculine values be evolve them. To take the values and find a way to apply them to our current times. We cannot take values exactly as they applied to the past and try to shoe-horn them into modern times. Most Asatru, except for our brothers and sisters in the military, don’t fight battles with weapons, but we can stand against the tide of those who would see us falter and show them no fear. We can use masculine dominance to stand up for what is right, and true, and just.
Most importantly, masculinity does not require the dominance of women. Masculinity does not require the subjugation of women. Masculinity, for the modern Asatru, values women as equals. These positive masculine values in Asatru not only include women, but can be demonstrated by women; sometimes more fully than in men.
In Viking times women had equal footing as men. They had divorce rights, regained their dowry lands when separated from their husband, and some, like Guidrid the Far Traveler, lead exploration voyages as far afield as Vinland. So-called modern Viking philosophy wants to use Asatru masculinity to justify Victorian era views of women. For Asatru, this is simply cannot be the case.
Masculinity still has a place in Asatru. From the nine noble virtues to the saga heroes, Asatru values often parallel masculine values. But part of being someone who seeks an honorable life, one which curries the favor of the Gods, is using masculine values to better your own life and to better the lives of those around you; to be hospitable, just, and true. Rather than hold onto the masculinity as it is presented in the sagas we need to update it—hold onto the portions which enrich our lives and shed the ones which hurt our fellow Asatru. Favor awaits the Asatru man who is brave enough to reinvent masculinity.