Asatru and Anthropology-My World View
My World View
My outlook on the world, on existence; is a very complicated one. Formed by knowledge, opinions, and experiences covering a wide range of topics and ideas. Some of these ideas, many people would find conflicting. Rather; these ideas come together like pieces of a puzzle to form the complicated, but necessary “explanation” for my beliefs and outlooks taking the shapes and forms that they do.
In basic terms, my general beliefs are as follows;
There are to main spheres of thought when it comes to the formation of my ideologies.
1. The religious
2. The scientific
We will begin with the religious:
While I follow the faith of Asatru, I do not do so in the sense that many others do. Asatru, as we know it, is a modern-day expression of the pre-Christian religion of the Vikings, or Nordic peoples. Most people who follow this path, base their views off of what they know of the Viking age, and the beliefs at that time etc. my version of Asatru however, is not so simple nor black and white.
It is my belief, that Asatru is the foundation. Yes, I have faith in the Aesir, as the actual definition of Asatru goes; however I like to take things back farther. I like to search for the source of belief and ideology. For me, that simply doesn’t lay during the Viking age.
To limit the resources we use when reconstructing the religion and culture of a people, does not do them justice. To look at the people of Northern Europe, over the thousands of years that they have existed as a distinct cultural group, and only use the 500 year period of the Viking Age to discern their religious beliefs, is ludicrous. The beliefs and ideas of Asatru can be found much farther back in the cultural memory of the European people’s. In fact, most of Asatru, when you strip it down to the bare beams, is no different than most other pre-Christian religions. Within Asatru, is the same general outline of belief used by humans since religion began taking place. This is what draws me to it. The primal, core essence of Asatru, and how it relates the individual to nature, and the divine. It is the specific, later cultural additions of mythology, and specific gods that creates the Asatru of today, and of the Viking age.
It is my view, that too many people stop at the Viking age. They do not go any further, nor care to, which is, of course, their prerogative. For me, it’s not enough. I need to go farther, closer to the source. The drive and need to understand the world, and in some way view it as our ancestors, our true ancestors, is what drives me. I believe I can do this via Asatru.
If you were to take a Paleolithic individual, and take them out of their animistic, shamanistic religion, and placed them within Asatru, I do not feel they would be wholly out of place, or unable to adapt and understand the reasons for certain aspects of the religion. The individual would of course not understand the cultural nuances added later in, but they would still be able to understand much of the reasoning behind everything.
Let’s take three important aspects of Asatru, and dig deeper to reveal more of what I mean. Though we will only discuss three main points here, there are many more to be drawn from.
First, we have a core ideology- the animistic properties of Asatru, commonly and collectively honored as the Vaettir. The Vaettir is a collection of spirits, ranging from highly culturally developed elves, and dwarves; to admittedly more ancient spirits of the land, sea, and air. Heathens believe all things have been, have spirit. That all things are interconnected, have worth and meaning. While there is a sun god, and this god being placed almost in charge of the sun, it is not the actual sun itself, but is a personified spirit all it’s own. I think a Paleolithic person would fit in very easily with these animistic views, and it is these views that are a major aspect of Asatru. The way we would honor such spirits and forces has probably not changed much either; the leaving of a libation or offering of some kind is now universally understood, and most likely would have been millennia ago. While Asatru gods have names, the spirits do not, and they are as old as the land itself in heathen tradition. These beings, which some could even be considered gods, would be the same beings honored millennia ago, and very possibly in the same way. Being Asatru is to honor the land, and everything in it as simply, and primally as possible. This is one reason why Asatru calls so strongly to my primal spiritual needs; the immensely important role and understanding of the vaettir. Human connection to the land is all important.
Secondly, let’s look at one of the main rituals of Asatru, the blót. While by far not the only ritual, the blot incorporates many aspects that are important to look at. The blót is a ritual sacrifice, a gift giving to either the gods, ancestors, or vaettir. The blot is a gift-giving between the two parties, the idea is to be of a mutual exchange, a giving of gifts. We, humans, give the divine items worth much to us for one reason or another, either again intangibles or physical items imbued with meaning; in return for the blessings of the divine. We do this by blood, or animal sacrifice, by libation, or burying items in the ground. Thanks to archaeology, we know our ancestors have been doing the exact same thing, for the exact same reasons for millennia. The only thing that has changed, is the exact ritual structure and procedure, (the core most likely staying the same) and the names of the divine that such gifts were being exchanged with. But the core, the base belief, reason, and method of Asatru, and what would be a Paleolithic Porto European religion, would most likely be extremely similar. This is why Asatru works so well with my particular worldview and belief system. The structure, practice, and beliefs of the religion itself mirror those, and satisfy the needs of what I view would be a Paleolithic community.
Lastly, the final core aspect of Asatru we will be placing a Paleolithic individual into is the gods themselves. While it is unlikely that our most ancient ancestors had such a developed and thought out the pantheon of deities as the Norse, it is clear from archaeological evidence that beings of high honor that were widely recognized existed. We do not, and cannot ever know exactly what the Vikings believed, so to even attempt to understand the paleo mind is a difficult task. Despite that, try we must. Surprisingly we have a lot to go off of, from cave paintings to carvings found throughout Europe, it becomes, clear there was some sort of understood belief structure concerning divine beings. While spirits of the land were probably more often than not honored as gods, and these would have varied by region, there do seem to be some overarching beings. The great mother, for example, the sun, etc. it is not a stretch of the mind to then think that a Paleolithic individual, once informed of the cultural aspects of Asatru, would understand who, and what the gods are. They would understand why they are honored, and thanked, even if they did not understand the exact method of it. The idea of *who* these beings are, and what to do with them is obviously nothing new. The names by which we call our gods, come and go, and change with time and language, but who they are and what they do rarely does. Of course, as we get to more finite gods they may not have a place in the Paleolithic mind; gods of poetry for example. But the god of rain and or thunder? The names by which we know our gods in Asatru, is purely cultural context, as is some of what they do, but not all. In my view, it would not be completely out of order to think all gods of things are of the same stalk, but from thousands of years of cultural development, became the specific visages we know today. It is then up to the individual to decide which lens to view the thunder god that speaks the most to them for example. For me, it is Thor. The idea of Thor personifies the forces of thunder that I can understand and agree with. While a Paleolithic individual may not agree, I’m sure they would understand who Thor is, and his place of importance. So perhaps the lens is not as important as the eye looking through it.
Keeping these ideas in mind, it is my hope that it becomes more clear as to why Asatru, and heathenry for myself fits the need for a Paleolithic religion. While the names of the gods and the myths behind them were formed by cultural views thousands of years later, it is also my view that this was the final result of said paleo beliefs. Thus, if one were to strip away the cultural appropriations, you would have a belief system strikingly similar to those of Porto indo- Europeans. This provides two paths that one can take when viewing this, the added cultural aspects and structures that provide uniqueness, and “modernity” or the more primal, underlying aspects that one can very easily delve deeply into. Of course, Asatru is an entire faith, and we have only scratched the absolute surface in terms of comparisons of beliefs etc. but we have covered the most important ideas and topics for this time in my opinion. Any and all other aspects of Asatru can be taken and viewed with this context and applied to this same hypothesis. That if one strips away the cultural appropriation of Asatru, one has something very similar to a belief system similar to those of Porto into- Europeans, more so than any other system of belief I have yet found. When one adds in the cultural aspects and context, you only add to the development of the individual's discretion. Even when looks to the esoterica; in fact, it is there that perhaps the most revelations concerning this could be found. But we will save that for another day. As far as the hypothesis, this is how I believe through Asatruarfelagid is more modeled. It actually has less of the mythologies than American Asatru and is more of a primal, land-based religion. The gods are metaphors for natural forces of phenomena that we have recognized and honored for millennia. It is only relatively recently that we have assigned such specific designs to these beings. What is lore but another UPG?
Religion, faith, Asatru and its beliefs play an immensely important role in my worldview. How we got here, why we are here, what happens when we die, our motives for our actions etc. all stem from the ideas that Asatru provides my life. Even the formation of the universe and mankind, I believe can be found in Asatru, though I am far from a creationist. Asatru can help explain the what and why, but where I feel like it begins to lack, is the how.
With all my being, I believe in Asatru, it’s lessons, it’s beliefs, and structure, and with all of my heart, I believe in my gods. That being said, I do not think any one method of understanding the world would fill enough gaps in my understanding that I would be satisfied. But chalk that up to the wanderlust so commonly exhibited, and honored by our most high ranking god, Odin himself. The constant search for knowledge, and never being satisfied with the simple answer I believe is something the all father wishes to instill in all of us, something that is present in all of us and only needs to be awake. It is this constant drive that pushes me onward to develop my views and ideologies towards the world. I cannot simply fathom a world where nothing beyond what we see exists, but I also cannot fathom completely disregarding what the eyes the gods gave me plainly see, and what my hands can touch.
That is where science comes in. The natural, and rational understanding that science brings can tell me for example how this fossil of a mammoth is here, and in a way why (patterns of migration, food, etc.) but not truly. It can tell you what its made up of, but again not how those things came together to make the mammoth. That is where Asatru comes in. It, in a spiritual sense, can help provide the answers to why.
How science itself forms my worldviews, and especially in correlation with Asatru, and the statements made above.
No one can say that I am not a spiritual man. As I have said, I, with all of my heart believe in the teaching of Asatru, and the gods themselves. That being said, I believe it is my duty, sent by Odin to learn as much as I can about the origins of us. Who, and what we are and where we came from. The mythology gives us some vague answers, and honestly it explains more where our conscious mind comes from rather than our physical bodies, but there are clues. I am a firm believer in evolution, including human evolution. Whether the gods started that process, or it occurred naturally in nature by the laws that the divine have set, evolution is how we got here. Plain and simple, at least in my mind.
To me, science is just another way to which we can view the world around us. Science can explain in detail the hows and whys, but as more answers are discovered, more questions always remain. No matter what, with science, there are just some answers that are not available, at least not yet, and gaps that exist. Faith, and a belief in something higher, for myself, fill these gaps. I see no problem with believing in a world where the laws of nature as we understand them were set in motion by divine powers.
The scientific method is an excellent way to discover answers to complex questions about the world around us. Creating a hypothesis, testing it over and over and getting it approved by your fellow peers, is one of the greatest creations of the human mind. To ignore those capabilities, and the tools and hints that have been placed before us is more than foolish.
Facts. It’s all about facts, and no opinions, that is science is about. If you do not agree with it, it doesn’t care, no matter; its truth. Unhindered science is truth, and to me, that only helps prove the existence of the divine. No matter the question, there is a limit to our capabilities of understanding. I think it is our duty to do our best to reach those limits, and to realize there is more beyond that we simply, at least not yet, can reach.
But how do these facts, and beliefs mix in my head? Well, that is something I struggle with each day, but take this, for example, something that perfectly explains how the science can coexist with the spiritual.
Imagine Homo-Habilis, the first of the Genus Homo, also known as the tool maker, sitting around making tools, and minding his own business. We are not sure where they came from, possibly from the logs of trees, or from an earlier Australopithecus species. Either way, what happens next is the basis of our faith. Three figures approach out of the mist. We would recognize them as Odin, Vili, and Ve of course, but this simple, and yet extremely advanced creature would be unsure of what to make of them. The three come bearing gifts, gifts which will change this creatures life, and weave strands of fate so strong they change the fate of the world. The gifts are of course what we know from the mythology. Is it not possible that the gifts of consciousness, breathe, and life separated H.Habilis from the rest? Creating a series of events that would create what would then be the first recognizable human, H. Erectus, and so on until you reached us?
In the mythology, the trees were made from the hairs of Ymir, the primordial giant, the gods did not create the trees out of nothing, but of primordial forces, is it not unlikely to think the gods simply intervened in what was an already occurring natural process of the world in which they created? I like to think so.
While this may all seem like rambling, it is all to get to a point. I believe in science almost as strongly as I believe in Asatru. To me, they are interconnected. I believe it is my duty, as an Oden’s-man, to discover as much as I can about the world around us, discover who I am, in the truest sense. Asatru and Science are connected on the deepest levels.
And that's about it, that is how my worldview has formed, and how I look at the world around me. Asatru, as the primordial belief system of our ancestors, mixed with the scientific knowledge that we have today, coexisting and supporting each other in a way like I have never seen with a religion. While my views are still developing and progressing, I think I am on the right track, at least for me.