From Academic Kids

Ásatrú describes a variety of efforts to revive the indigenous, pre-Christian religions of the Teutonic tribes of Northern Europe. Organizations which identify themselves as Ásatrú usually base their lists of gods on Norse mythology and the Icelandic sagas as well as other scanty historical evidence.

The religion that Ásatrú attempts to resurrect was an integral part of the culture of the region that is today known as Scandinavia, Iceland, Germany, The Netherlands, and parts of the United Kingdom. It served as the justification of the legal and political system of the Norse nations. Reverence for gods, heroes, and ancestors was incorporated in daily customs, diplomacy, parliaments, life rites, holidays, and other events. Custom seems to have dictated that guests should respect the gods and traditions of their hosts. The conversion efforts of the Roman Catholic Church succeeded in exploiting this practice by supporting royal claimants who had converted to Christianity. It should be noted, however, that on several occasions the people under a lord who converted to Christianity refused to follow his lead (this happened to the Swedish kings Olof of Sweden, Anund Gårdske and Ingold I) and would sometimes force the lord to rescind his conversion (e.g. Haakon the Good).

There were two conflicts in Scandinavia, which are considered to have finally introduced Christianity. In one of them, the attempt of the deposed Christian monarch Olaf II of Norway to retake the throne resulted in a bloody civil war in Norway, which ended in the battle of Stiklestad (1030). In Sweden, in the early 1080s, Ingold I was deposed by popular vote for not wanting to sacrifice to the gods, and he was replaced by his brother-in-law Blot-Sweyn. In 1087, Ingold returned secretely to Old Uppsala and during the night the Christians surrounded the hall of the Swedish king and set it on fire. When the king ran out of the building he was immediately slain. This event is held to be the date of the burning of the Temple at Uppsala.

After these events, the reverence for Æsir and Vanir became marginalized and slowly faded, while worship of Christ, in both Christian or heathen ritual, was imposed or voluntarily adopted. Heathen rituals, beliefs, and practices, however, proved extremely persistent. In Sweden, the last documentations of oral traditions about gods and secret sacrifices are from the early 20th century. By then reconstruction efforts were undertaken, but independently of popular traditions, and solely on written medieval sources. The term "Ásatrú" is of late 19th century origin and is pronounced "OW-sah-troo" in modern Icelandic but "AH-sah-troo" is a common pronunciation closer to Old Norse. The term "heathen" stems from the conversion period; pre-Christian practitioners are not known to have had a name for their religion.


Historical forms

Germanic mythology has deep roots in western culture, but its source materials are historically compromised and often fragmented or contradictory. Considerable study is required to get an adequate feel for the mythology as a whole. Important sources include the Eddas and Sagas, written in Iceland during its golden age of literature, 1150 - 1400. A collection of poems known from a manuscript called the Codex Regius known as "The Poetic (or Elder) Edda" is especially important, as it contains some of the earliest known literary sources, and several of its poems were clearly source material for Snorri Struluson when he wrote what is now known as "The Younger (or Prose) Edda." Other guidance can be found in the folklore, history, and antiquities of the Germanic and Nordic peoples, as well as those of their ethno-religious cousins the Slavs, the Balts, the Celts, the Romans,the Greeks, and the early Vedic Hindus and Persians.

The living remnants of the Nordic pre-Christian religion may be regarded as an indigenous ancestral faith, as Shinto is for the Japanese. Many modern practitioners attempt to reconstruct or limit their beliefs to those common to the pre-conversion (roughly the year 1000) inhabitants of present-day Scandinavia, England, Germany and the Low Countries. It is closely related with Finnish paganism and Baltic paganism.

The historical religion appears to be a branch of an earlier Indo-European religion, analogous to the way in which the Proto-Indo-European language evolved into such offshoots as Sanskrit and the Germanic and Slavic languages. Religious siblings include the Greco-Roman religion in southern Europe, the Slavic religion in Eastern Europe and early Hinduism in the east. Numerous scholars such as Georges Dumézil, H. R. Ellis Davidson, and Hans Gunther have commented on the philosophical similarities of these religious systems.

That kind of faith which allows doubt was not as central to the Norse Heathenry found in medieval sources as it was to Christianity. Adepts such as Thorhall the Hunter of Karlsefni's voyage to Vinland journeyed to the gods in an altered state and brought stories back. These stories were an integral part of the culture. There was no clear division between sacred and profane, or body and spirit. The culture in which this form of heathenry flourished was clan-based, with an established honour economy. The individual's identity and worth was tied to membership of an Ætt. Fulfilling the duty to the Ætt was their measure of what was morally right and worthy of praise. Interactions with other Ættr usually took the form of alliance, war or vendetta. These cultural traits were projected onto nature and the Norse culture itself, so that interactions with gods, spirits and ancestors took the form of diplomacy, attempts at befriending or warding off the harmful or beneficial powers which were thought to cause equivalent behaviour or natural events.

Several practices are known to have been important to them. One of the most well known was Blót, seasonal celebrations where gifts were offered to appropriate gods, and attempts were made to predict the coming season. Similar events were sometimes arranged in times of crisis, for much the same reasons.

Modern forms

Ásatrú today is an imaginative, reconstructed, informally structured religion. It is not typically Neopagan in the usual sense, and many believers reject the Neopagan label, generally preferring the general term heathen. Neither is Ásatrú an accurate reflection of the ancient or modern native beliefs and practices of the Norse cultures. Ásatrú exists with a strong literary foundation and its mythology is based on historical record to the extent possible. Practice is generally bare-bones, and for some adherents is modeled very loosely after Christian liturgy. The rites of different groups and individuals vary, but tend to have certain similarities. Some adherents are agnostics and atheists who do not literally believe in the existence of any gods or an afterlife, but participate in the occasional rite or online discussion forum to associate with like-minded individuals. For this reason, a participant in the Society for Creative Anachronism would regard members of Ásatrú as compatriots, but Ásatrú adherents would certainly disagree. To the young, white male in his twenties looking for ways to establish independence for himself from his parents and their religion, Ásatrú may offer the chance to polish a tough-guy image. However, Ásatrú represents people of all ages and descriptions while its membership grows each year as a serious and appealing alternative to conventional spirituality.

The first modern attempt at revival of ancient Germanic religion took place in the 19th Century during the late Romantic Period amidst a general resurgence of interest in traditional Germanic culture. Organized Ásatrú-like groups existed in Germany in the early 20th century. Several early members of the Nazi Party were part of the Thule Society, a study group for German antiquity, although interest in Ásatrú seems to have been something of a fringe element that was not widespread among the party (see Nazi Mysticism). Adolf Hitler is quoted as opposing any open revival of belief in the Norse pantheon, and there is no evidence of official activity in the Third Reich fitting the description of Ásatrú, despite the Nazis' use of runic symbols in various contexts. Nonetheless, many people in Germany today associate Ásatrú with the Nazi movement and neo-Nazi groups, whereas in Iceland it has left wing associations.

A second revival began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ásatrú was recognized as an official religion by the Icelandic government in 1973, largely due to the efforts of Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson. At about the same time, Else Christiansen began publishing "The Odinist" newsletter in Canada. In the United States, Steve McNallen, a former U.S. Army officer, began publishing a newsletter titled "The Runestone". He also formed an organization called the Asatru Free Assembly, later renamed the Asatru Folk Assembly, which held annual "Althing" meetings. An offshoot of McNallen's group is the Asatru Alliance, headed by Valgard Murray, publisher of the "Vor Tru" newsletter.

In the late 1980's - early 1990's there was a cult in Norway run by the infamous Count Grishnack that was responsible for the burning of several Christian churches in a claimed attempt to restore Norway to its Ásatrú roots. Many Ásatrú adherents strongly disapproved of Grishnack's activities.

The Odinic Rite, the world's longest running international Odinist organisation, was established in England but has chapters worldwide. Today, followers of Ásatrú may be found all over the world, but principally in Scandinavia, Western Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand. Estimates of the size of the Ásatrú population vary widely.

Ásatrú organizations generally favor democratic and republican forms of church government, as inspired by the parliamentary Things of the Viking era and subsequent parliamentary systems of Britain and the Scandinavian countries. They promote individual rights and freedom of speech reminiscent of Norsemen of the saga era. There is no central authority, and these groups are mostly small and often fractious.

In the United States, the most prevalent form of Ásatrú organization is a small group called a Kindred, sometimes also known as a Hearth, Garth or Stead. Larger Ásatrú organizations, such as The Odinic Rite, the Ásatrú Alliance [1] (, the Ásatrú Folk Assembly [2] ( and The Troth (, serve as organizers of yearly gatherings ("Things" or "Moots"), and as clearinghouses for religious information.

Appropriate to Ásatrú's philosophical emphasis on the individual is an unknowable number of solitary practitioners. These are often people who enjoy Norse/Germanic mythology and see in it a foundation for religion, but are unaware of others that share their interest. The Internet has made many aware of a larger phenomenon of Ásatrú, but solitary practice continues to be the norm even after many have discovered an Ásatrú association.


Many modern adherents view Ásatrú's mythology not as literal truth, but as metaphorical truth of great weight. It is bound to neither orthodox theology nor dogma (although there are schools of thought), and adherents are not required to believe that any gods exist, that there is an afterlife, that any of the myths ever happened, or in anything else associated with Ásatrú. Typically, organized Ásatrú explains the gods simply as symbolic traits of an individual's personality and leaves it at that. A school of sincere polytheism also exists, that views each god as a real being separate from the individual's mind. That position is marginalized and derided by some larger organized Ásatrú groups. However, other intermediate views also exist. Given the lack of central authority, it can be said with some degree of truth that each view is as legitimate as any other.

Individual personality traits, such as truthfulness, self-reliance, and hospitality are important moral distinctions, underpinning an especially cherished notion of honor. Ásatrú defines "honor" as reputation; that is, what others think of an individual. For example, an individual should boast of creative, productive, and intellectual pursuits, and even better, martial skills and military service, to influence how others think of him.

Ásatrú has a fundamentally different outlook from many other religions. For example, Ásatrú finds in its mythology gods which are not omniscient, omnipotent, immortal, nor infallible. On the other hand, they are wise, powerful, long-lived, and good friends. Furthermore, they are a product of existence, resident in man's own psyche.

Ásatrú sees humanity as an honorable life form, subject to the same consequences of decision and action as the gods. In this wise, the relationship between gods and human is something like a family wherein the human is by no means subordinate. This is important, since the individual may do whatever he wants when he is not literally accountable to some higher power. However, with the ability to do "whatever one wants," comes the obligation to take responsibility for ones actions and their consequences.

Ásatrú notably lacks any discussion of redemption, salvation or perfection, as well as their conceptual precursors. Although some adherents theorize an afterlife that involves a kind of rough justice, Ásatrú's moral system parts ways with other religions in its egoist foundations. Ásatrú does not formalize restraint on individual behavior. For example, it is inimical to lists of wholesale injunctions against specific behaviors, such as the Ten Commandments. However, a tradeoff between freedom and responsibility is one basis of Ásatrú's interpretation of the mythic, legendary, and historical literature, which adherents are expected to read and take to heart. Ásatrú evaluates behavior only for the individual's rewards or consequences in the material world. Some behaviors which other religions condemn, Ásatrú considers virtues when shrewdly founded and carried out. Individual pride is one such example. In essence, the ethic of Ásatrú is: do what you alone want, and earn what respect follows from your actions. Failure to act as you see fit, failure to accept the consequences of those actions, and failure to offer the respect appropriately due to others all lead to discord.

Although it stems from a warrior culture, Ásatrú is not only for men. Although some organized Ásatrú groups may be male-dominated, others emphatically are not. Ásatrú sees men and women as equal in most ways and simply different in others. Indeed, women play a leading role in seidh, an important symbolic rite.

Ásatrú likewise reveres the natural environment in principle; but, unlike some nature-oriented religions, Ásatrú opposes neither technology nor its material rewards.

Besides the Norse/Germanic mythology at its core, Ásatrú has regional varieties of emphasis, often from the subjective interpretations of influential local practitioners. For example, in Iceland, many consider Ásatrú politically left-leaning, and some in Germany and America view it as having a racial aspect. Views within Ásatrú include a Folkish outlook and a Universalist outlook. The Folkish outlook is ethnically oriented (as opposed to racially); it respects all races and cultures. The Universalist outlook, such as that of more liberal Ring of Troth (, takes no account of race. A minority view does range to a more extreme outlook that is patently racist and whose adherents the wider community of Ásatrú shuns. Each Ásatrú association takes a clear stand on the issue.

People come to Ásatrú on their own. Proselytizing is frowned upon.


A Blót (pronounced "bloat") is an Ásatrú rite to honor the gods, usually focusing on one of the gods in the pantheon. Typically, it is celebrated outdoors in nature, the celebrants clad in home-made Viking attire, including loose-fitting tunics and leather helmets. A blót may be highly formalized, but the underlying intent resembles inviting and having an honored guest or family member in for dinner. Food and drink may be offered. Most of this will be consumed by the participants, and some of the drink will be poured out onto the soil with a toast to the earth. Home-brewed mead (honey fermented to taste like champagne) is the drink of choice.

Sumbel (also spelled "symbel") is a rite in which a drink (usually mead or ale) is passed around an assembled circle. At each passing of the drink, participants make a short speech, usually following the pattern of "Toast-Boast-Oath." The Toast honors some mentor, revered relative, or favorite god of the participant. The Boast is an opportunity for the participant to honor himself in terms of some good work accomplished. The Oath is a promise to carry out some good work in the future. Participants are not required to say anything and may simply pass the drink along. Oaths made during Sumbel are considered binding upon the individuals making them. Another common pattern is to toast to a god or virtue, then a hero or ancestor, and the final round being either open, or else given to either a boast or an oath.

Seidh (pronounced "sayth", where the th is voiced) is a shamanistic rite. Most of its practitioners join with mainstream Ásatrú in believing that the gods are but aspects of the human psyche. Thus, seidh journeys are adventures into the human soul.

Nonetheless, some of seidh's practitioners are among the minority who believe that the gods do exist as real beings. Historically, Thorhall the Hunter, a member of Karlesfni's expedition to Vinland, journeyed with Thor in an altered state; this is one example of seidh. Medieval Christianity associated seidh with witchcraft and dangerous spirits and regarded it as a shameful act of disreputable women. However, many Wiccans who are drawn to Ásatrú syncretize seidh into their ritual.

Despite its importance, most in Ásatrú avoid the practice.


Ásatrú is an Icelandic/Old Norse term consisting of two parts. The first is Ása (genitive of Æsir) referring to one of two families of gods in the myths. The second part, trú, literally means "belief," as in belief that someone is telling the truth. It equally means "troth" or "faith". Thus, Ásatrú is the "Æsir's faith." The term did not exist until the 1800s. However, modern adherents eschew the words "faith" and "belief" since actual belief in the religion is strictly optional.

English-speakers sometimes jocularly use Ásatrúar to mean "a practitioner of Ásatrú." However, in Old Norse, trúar never meant "practitioner;" it means "of faith." Ásatrúar is the genitive of Ásatrú. So, Ásatrúar means "Ásatrú's," "of Ásatrú." "These five people are Ásatrúar" means these five people are the property of Ásatrú, suggesting that they may be slaves. Other phrases, such as "Hail, Ásatrúar," make no sense.

Thus, it is simpler just to say Ása-true, the "Æsir's true one(s)."

Ásatrú is also referred to as Norse or Germanic Heathenry. (The Old Norse word for "heathenry" is heiðni.) At the time of the conversion to Christianity, the old religion and customs were simply called forn siðr, meaning "Olden Way." This can refer to the actual historical religion, rather than the modern imaginative reconstruction, Ásatrú. Forn Sed is a version of Ásatrú in Norway, where it enjoys official recognition.

Blót is an Old Norse word that comes from an Indo-European word related to "blood," as does the modern English word "blessing," which means much the same as Blót.

Related topics

External links

da:Asetrode:Asatrues:Ásatrú (religión)fr:Asatruit:Odinismonl:Ásatrúpl:Ásatrúro:Asatrufi:Ásatrúsv:Asatro


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