The Northern Way
"Every speaker of English is an inheritor of a culture shaped by a Germanic (the Anglo-Saxon) world-view." - Kveldulf Gundarsson
The spiritual way of the North is known by many names and traditions. Ásatrú, Heathenry, the Elder Troth, the Northern Way, Forn Sed, Theodism, and others.
Ásatrú, pronounced "AY-sah-true," means "true to the Æsir". "True" can be understood as both family loyalty and a deep respect for the Germanic religious, cultural and historical heritage. Ásatrú strives to celebrate this religious and cultural heritage, rather than to promote political, racial, social or other agendas. Although descended from the social and religious culture of the North, it is open to worthy folks regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation. Ásatrú today is no more "European" than Hinduism is "Indian," Christianity is "Jewish," or Islam is "Arabic."
Most Ásatrúar are polytheists who consider themselves the spiritual kin of the gods and goddesses of the North which consist in part of the tribe of the Æsir: Odinn and Frigg, Tyr and Zisa, Thorr and Sif, and others, and of the Vanir: Freyja and Freyr, Njord and Nerthus, and others. They also work with the spirits of the ancestors as well as the spirits of both the land and the home.
Ásatrú is a living and constantly evolving religion. It is the reconstructed pre-Christian religion of the Germanic peoples practiced openly until the close of the Viking age. Ásatrú grew out of the same Indo-European source as the Celts, Greeks, and early Romans. All were influenced by the religious traditions of their common ancestors. This shared ancestry has resulted in superficial similarities to other religious movements.
Traditionally, the chieftain of a clan or the leader of a community acted as gothi (priest) or gythja (priestess) at public feasts. They hosted the feasts and lead the rituals. In the home, heads of the household led family rituals. Everyone was his or her own priest or priestess. Today, in a group setting, the gothi or gythja is the one who has dedicated themselves to the study of the ancient lore and strives for inspiration from the elder kin, the gods of the North. They are the hosts of a Kindred who provide the place for them to gather. A gothi or gythja is known by his or her generosity and hospitality as much as by his or her leadership. Yet still today, every man and woman is still his or her own priest or priestess.
Ásatrú groups are known as Hearths, Garths, Kindreds, or by other names. Most Ásatrúar prefer to work in groups but many live too far away from other Ásatrúar to be able to join with a group while others choose to remain solitary.
The Nine Noble Virtues
A common modern convention among Heathens.
- Sigrblot/Ostara/Eostre - Spring Equinox
- The feast at the beginning of summer for the success (fertility) of the coming season.
- SumarmAl/Summer-meal or Summer-measure
- The Thursday between April 8 and 15. A celebration of the first day of summer.
- Midsummer's - Summer Solstice
- A folk-holiday throughout the Germanic lands, especially Scandinavia.
- Freyfaxi/Freysfest/Freysblot - July 31
- A celebration of the season's harvest.
- The Saturday between October 11 and 18. The first day of winter, a celebration of the harvest in honor of the disir, female fertility spirits ruled over by Freyja, and female ancestors.
- Yuletide/Mother Night - Winter Solstice Eve
- The beginning of the twelve days of Yuletide. A feast honoring ancestors and family.
- Yuletide/Twelfth Night - December 31st
- The last day of Yuletide. New Year's resolutions are traditionally made by swearing an oath on Freyr's boar.
There are two forms of ceremony in Ásatrú, the Blot, a ritual blessing or feast, and the Sumbel, a formalized ritual toasting.
Gamlinginn's "Nine-Point Blot Plan"
- The Gathering - The participants gather and arrange themselves.
- The Hallowing/Warding - The area is sanctified.
- The Rede/Meaning - An explanation of the purpose of the ceremony is given.
- The Signaling - A signal is sent to those the ceremony is to honor.
- The Loading - The mead is made holy.
- The Blessing - The participants and the altar are sprinkled with mead.
- The Sharing - Each participant gets a small quantity of mead. Each swallows a bit and pours the rest into the blessing bowl.
- The Giving - The mead in the blessing bowl is poured onto the ground.
- The Closing - The ceremony is ended.
History of the Heathen Revival
986 CE, Bjarni Herjolfsson accidentally discovers "Vinland," first known arrival of practitioners of Ásatrú religion to North America.
1000 CE, the people of Iceland vote to convert to Christianity at the Thing (Icelandic Parliament) due to Christian economic pressure.
1005 CE, Snorri Thorfinnsson is the first Ásatrúar born in North America.
1611 CE, Johannes Bureus of Sweden, tutor and advisor of King Gustavus Adolphus, begins drawing and interpreting many of Sweden's runestones, many of which are only known to us through his drawings.
1622 CE, Ole Worm of Denmark collects reports on runestones and other antique monuments of Denmark and the Northern countries.
1642 CE, Bishop Brynjolfur gifts the Codex Regius to King Frederick III, afterwards the Eddic poems began to be published and more widely known.
1790 CE, The Romantic movement inspires Germans and Scandinavians seeking a national identity in their own origins and results in much of the early literature being translated.
1818 CE, The Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, publish their collected fairy tales.
1844 CE, Jacob Grimm publishes Teutonic Mythology, a study of medieval Norse literature's relation to Germanic folklore.
1874 CE, The King of Denmark grants the people of Iceland freedom of religion.
1875 CE, the cathedral of Reykjavik, Iceland is the site of the first public Ásatrú religious service since 1000 CE.
1907 CE, German artist Ludwig Fahrenkrog founds the Germanic Glaubens-Gemeinschaft, a German Ásatrú group.
1933-1945 CE, in the Nazi era, the German Ásatrúar face persecution. Their groups are forbidden to meet and leaders are jailed, Fahrenkrog is not permitted to write or exhibit his art because of his refusal to end his writings with the words "Heil Hitler," and one of his members, Ernst Wachler, a man of Jewish ancestry, ends his life in a concentration camp.
1953 CE, Karl Spiesberger revives Guido von List's Armanen rune-magic. Armanen groups continue still in Germany.
1954 CE, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is published and inspires the modern fantasy genre, which has renewed interest in the magic, history, and the native religion of the North.
1957 CE, A. Rud Mills, an Australian, publishes a series of books on the elder religion.
1972 CE, Sveinbj"rn Beinteinsson founded the Ásatrú movement of Iceland.
1973 CE, Ásatrú is accepted as one of the official religions of Iceland.
1973 CE, The Odinist Committee, now the Odinic Rite, moves to gain acceptance in England.
1973 CE, Stephen McNallen founded the Ásatrú Free Assembly. The AFA established Ásatrú solidly as a re-created Heathen religion.
1976 CE, Garman Lord revived the Northern Anglo-Saxon tradition of Theodism.
1986 CE, Rune-Gild UK, headed by author Freya Aswynn, is founded.
1987 CE, The AFA disbands.
1987 CE, Edred Thorsson and James Chisholm found the Troth, an organization dedicated to the promotion of the Germanic religion and culture.
1988 CE, The Ásatrú Alliance, a small group of loosely organized member Kindreds, was founded.
1989 CE, A Book of Troth by Edred Thorsson, the first book on the Ásatrú religion published by a major American book publisher is printed by Llewellyn Publications.
1993 CE, The disbanded Rune-Gild UK becomes the Ring of Troth UK now the Ring of Troth Europe.
1996 CE, Ásatrú is mentioned in the December 16th Time magazine article, Can Thor Make a Comeback? about religion in cyberspace.
- The Poetic Edda
- translated Lee M. Hollander, University of Texas Press, 1986.
- Edda (the younger Edda)
- translated by Anthony Faulkes, Penguin, 1990.
- translated Lee M. Hollander, University of Texas Press, 1964.
- The Sagas of Icelanders
- translated Katrina Attwood, et al., Viking Press, 2000.
- The Norse Myths
- Kevin Crossley-Holland, York: Pantheon, 1980.
- Nordic Religions in the Viking Age
- Thomas A. DuBois, University of Pennsylvania, 1999.
- Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
- Hilda Roderick Ellis-Davidson, Penguin, 1964.
- Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe
- Hilda Roderick Ellis-Davidson, Syracuse: University Press, 1988.
- Teutonic Religion
- Kveldulr Gundarsson, St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1995.
- Myth and Religion of the North:
The Religion of Ancient Scandinavia
- E.O.G. Turville-Petre, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1964.
- American Vinland Association
- A Heathen, Non-Profit Religious Organization.
- Angelseaxisce Ealdriht
- Anglo-Saxon Heathenry.
- Ásatrú Alliance
- A family oriented association of Kindreds.
- The fastest growing religious group of Iceland.
- Hrafnar Kindred
- A Garth of the Troth with many useful articles.
- Irminsul Aettir
- A voluntary association of Ásatrúar.
- Jordsvin's Norse Heathen Page
- Information on Norse Religion and Magic.
- Norse Heathenry Society
- The reconstructionist Norse Ásatrú site.
- Northvegr: the Northern Way
- A large collection of the Lore on line.
- The Troth
- A recognized church and networking organization.
©2002, Anthony Arndt