What is Asatru?

Asatru is the modern rebirth of the pre-Christian indigenous faith of the Norse peoples -- the ancestors of the Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, and Icelanders. This faith honored many Gods and Goddesses, some of whose names are still familiar to us today, such as Thor, Odin and Freyja. The indigenous faith of Scandinavia, upon which Asatru is based, fell into shadow after the year 1100, with the advent of Christianity in Northern Europe. The modern Asatru faith practiced by Gladsheim is part of a revival which began in 1973, when the Asatru Free Assembly was founded in the United States. The same year, Asatru was granted official recognition in Iceland, becoming the second recognized faith in that country, along side the Lutheran Church.

Asatru is one branch of the Teutonic family of beliefs, which includes the pre-Christian faiths not only of the Scandinavian peoples, but also the Anglo-Saxons who founded England, and the ancient German tribes such as the Goths, Franks, and Alemanni. Before they were converted to the Roman Church between the years 450 and 1100, all of these nations worshipped the same two families of Gods and Goddesses, known to the Norse as the Ęsir and Vanir.

Asatru is an independent faith. Its tenets are belief in the Ęsir and Vanir; the exchange of gifts with the Gods and one's kinfolk, and living one's life in accordance with Nine Virtues of Asatru. The Havamal, also referred to as "The Words of Odin", has several translations, and are words of wisdom, to help guide one in their daily life. Asatru has no ties to any Judeo-Christian religion, nor is it a part of any New Age or "neo-Pagan" belief system, including Wicca.

Though Asatruar welcome those who wish to enter the Asatru community, Asatru makes no claim to be a universal religion for mankind. Asatru's adherents, however, are found in all parts of the United States and all walks of life. In many cases, a strong interest in the customs and culture of their ancestors led them to Asatru. The American Asatru community is small but steadily growing, as men and women, inspired by the Ęsir and Vanir, take up the old ways once again in the world of the 21st century.

What do you believe?

We believe that in the beginning, the world was a bipolar one, with ice in the North and fire in the South separated by a deep chasm. At the beginning of that which can be known, fire and ice came crashing together in a primal collision of indescribable violence; this cataclysm, however, produced at its heart a warm, mild region, touched with moisture and sweet air and fit for life to emerge. The Ęsir and Vanir themselves arose within this primal womb. The race of Men was created by the God Odin and his brothers, who breathed life into dead wood and made the first man and woman. The world of Men, Midgard, and the world of the Gods, Asgard, are two of nine Worlds created by Odin and his brothers. All these lie within the sheltering branches of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, uncreated and eternal, the pillar and axis of all that is.

We believe that the Ęsir and Vanir are living, independent entities. They are our eldest kin-folk, and that we are descended from them. In order to be worthy of these Ancestors, we strive in our deeds and lives to follow Virtues that are the basis for a strong and decent community. There are Nine Virtues: Honor, Truth, Courage, Fidelity, Self-discipline, Hospitality, Independence, Industry, and Perseverance. We worship the Ęsir and Vanir not in submission, but standing upright; we give gifts to the Gods and Goddesses, in return for the gifts that they give to us. We honor the spirits of our departed ancestors, who watch over us and, we believe, are sometimes reborn among us.

How is Asatru practiced?

Asatru is practiced first and foremost by living one's life in accordance with the Nine Virtues. We also hold rituals and ceremonies in which Asatru folk interact with the Gods and Goddesses. The foremost spiritual practice is the exchange of gifts between Gods and men. In ancient Teutonic societies, peace and trust were secured between individuals and tribes through the exchange of things of value. This was reflected in religious practice; therefore, the main rite of modern Asatru is the blot (pronounced bloat), or offering. In Gladsheim, when we gather for a blot, we use a drinking-horn filled with mead, beer or wine, and, raising it, address one or more of the Gods. We may speak a toast to Them, or to a personal hero or ancestor; or make a vow, or report the fulfillment of a vow. Words thus spoken are made holy by the presence of the God or Goddess, to whom the drink is offered. When the offerer has spoken, he also drinks from the horn before passing it on; usually a blot consists of an opening invocation followed by three rounds of toasts. At the end, that part of the drink that is not consumed is poured out upon the Earth.

There are other rites -- most important among them Profession, where a man or woman wishing to embrace Asatru makes a vow of faith to the Ęsir and Vanir and puts aside all other Gods. Asatru Kindreds also conduct birth-rites, funerals, naming of children, coming-of-age rites for youngsters, and weddings. Offerings to the Gods, however, whether of drink, food or material things, are a part of almost all of these.

How is the faith organized?

The primary group of believers in Asatru is the Kindred. A Kindred is a group of folk who profess belief in the Ęsir and Vanir and who gather regularly to worship Them. Kindreds can range in size from three to twenty members, who normally live in the same area and are able to gather without long-distance travel. The Kindred conducts the most important Asatru rituals and honors the Holy Days of the year. Many Kindreds, including Gladsheim, welcome newcomers with a sincere and positive interest in Asatru to take part in their blots.

Joining a Kindred is the usual way one enters the Asatru faith. Kindreds vary widely in their admission practices. Some (including Gladsheim) require that prospective members make a formal pledge of faith in the Ęsir and Vanir, and the putting aside of all other faiths. Others (not including Gladsheim) do this, but also go one step further, requiring an additional oath of loyalty to the Kindred itself. Others, more loosely organized, do not require formal oaths. Local Kindreds, holding blots, sumbels and study groups and extending hospitality to other Asatruar, are the basis of the faith.