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Author Topic: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction  (Read 5283 times)

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Matt Armstrong

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Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« on: February 06, 2010, 01:12:52 AM »

I suppose the best way to begin is to offer a brief history of Asatru and Germanic heathenism as practiced by adherents today...

Asatru, similarly manifested as Odinism, Forn Si?r, Vor Si?r, Vor Tru, Theodism, or under the umbrella term 'heathenism' is a 'Germanic' reconstructionist movement that began, in it's modern incarnation, in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The earliest prominent figure in modern Asatru was the founder of ?satr?arf?lagi?, an Icelandic farmer named Sveinbj?rn Beinteinsson. ?satr?arf?lagi? was recognized as an official religious organization by the government of Iceland in 1973. Interestingly, this same time period also saw the beginnings of Asatru in the United States and the United Kingdom. Odinist Fellowship founder Else Christensen had begun publishing 'The Odinist' newsletter, Stephen A. McNallen founded the Viking Brotherhood in 1969-1970- which by the winter of 1971-72 was publishing 'The Runestone', and in 1972 the Odinic Rite was founded in the UK by John Yeowell.

By 1974, McNallen's Viking Brotherhood had developed into the Asatru Free Assembly, or AFA, which at the time included prominent early Asatru figures such as Michael "Valgard" Murray, Robert N. Taylor, Edred Thorsson (Stephen Flowers), and James Chisholm. The AFA disbanded in 1986 with the group essentially splitting into two distinct daughter organizations- the Asatru Alliance (AA) founded by Valgard Murray and Robert N. Taylor, and the Troth founded by Edred Thorsson and James Chisholm. Thorsson also founded the Rune Gild in 1979 and today remains the foremost authority on the runes. McNallen revived the AFA as the Asatru Folk Assembly in 1994 and it today is the largest folkish Asatru organization in America. Robert N. Taylor went on to found the Tribe Of the Wulfings, which left the AA in 1999 though remains on good terms with both the AA and AFA. Neither Edred Thorsson nor James Chisholm are any longer associated with the Troth, which has become the largest universalist heathen organization in America. In 1997, the Asatru Folk Assembly, Asatru Alliance, Odinic Rite, and the Assembly Of Elder Troth joined forces to become the International Asatru-Odinic Alliance (IAOA) which is now defunct due to lack of centrality.

In 1976, a former adherent of Seax Wicca named Garman Lord founded the first Theodish organization, known as Witan Theod, in Watertown, New York. Another Theod known as the Moody Hill Theod was founded by Ealdoraed shortly after in the Watertown area. Garman Lord's intent was the rebirth of Anglo-Saxon paganism- though in practice, early Theodism more closely resembled Seax Wicca. Due to it's origins in Wicca, essentially a 'New Age' movement, early Theodism was unrelated to Asatru or Odinism- which in the historical context were the descendants of Alexander Rud Mills' First Anglecyn Church of Odin and more reconstructionist than New Age. After decades of internal strife and long periods of inactivity, the Winland Rice was formed in 1989 and Garman Lord elected ??eling. Winland Rice dissolved in 2002, after which Garman Lord declared that Theodism did not work structurally or in practice and declared the entire movement defunct.

In 1992, former Moody Hill Theod thrall Gert McQueen "became aware" of Swain and Eric Wodening though their writings in Idunna, a newsletter published by the Troth. The brothers Wodening had been members of the Troth since 1989 after discovering that the AFA had disbanded, and began publishing full-length articles on the subject of Anglo-Saxon heathenism in 1991. By the latter part of 1992 McQueen was corresponding regularly with the Wodenings and by 1993 both Eric and Swain were members of Winland Rice and founders of Wednesbury Shire. Eric and Swain became highly influential figures in Theodism. Coming to Theodism from an Asatru background, the Wodenings introduced reconstructionism to the Theods as well as a deeper, more philosophical understanding of the lore. In 1996, Swain Wodening and Winifred Hodge founded the Angelseaxisce Ealdriht, and Eric founded Englatheod in 2007. The Angelseaxisce Ealdriht grew to become the largest Theodish organization in the world, largely due to it's numerous reforms of traditional Theodism and ability to continuously evolve. However, an internal struggle between the N?oweanglia and ?rest groups, the Ealdriht's two largest, caused the N?oweanglia group to break away and become the independent N?oweanglia ??od. Subsequently, the Ealdriht dissolved and the remaining groups became the Miercinga Rice. N?oweanglia ??od was the first Mercian theod, 'arriving at a Merican thew by the reduction of Saxon elements and thus tying themselves to East Anglia'.

Today, legally-recognized heathen organizations exist all over the world. The Odinic Rite opened chapters in Germany and Australia in 1995, the United States in 1997, and the Netherlands in 2006. In Germany, Heidnische Gemeinschaft was founded in 1985, its daughter organization Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft in 1991, Nornirs ?tt in 1997, and the Troth-affiliated Eldaring in 2000. Sweden saw the formation of the Swedish Asatru Society in 1994, N?tverket Gimle in 2001, and N?tverket Forn Sed in 2004. In Norway ?satrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996, and Foreningen Forn Sed in 1999. Forn Si?r was founded in Denmark in 1999.
Now then, that we've got that part out of the way, I will be more than glad to answer any questions, and get into the real good stuff involving customs, practices, beliefs, socio-political implications, and all the like.

So feel free to ask away.

(And by the way, big thanks to Eric Wodening and Englatheod's page for helping me fill the gaps in my Theodism history).
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2010, 04:36:48 AM »

THEOLOGY...

Asatru is often translated as Faith In the ?sir, though more accurately as Loyalty To the ?sir. The ?sir are one of two families of Gods, the other being the Vanir. The ?sir are the Gods of man, reigning over human virtue and human ventures. The Vanir are Gods of the Earth, reigning over nature and natural processes.
The chieftan of the ?sir is Odin (Othinn, O?inn- called Woden by the Anglo-Saxons, Wotan or Votan by the continental Germans, though has many more names). His wife is Frigga, and his sons are Thor, Vidar, Vali, Hoder, and Balder. Thor is married to Sif, and has two sons named Magni and Modi, and a stepson named Ullr. Tyr (Tiw or Tiwaz) is an ?s associated with justice, law, and war- though at one time he was a sky-god and the cheiftan of the ?sir, before the position was usurped by Odin. Odin also swore a blood-oath to a Jotun named Loki, a mischevious entity with a sharp tongue and witty mind, Loki was initially a close and trusted friend of the ?sir. The chieftan of the Vanir is Njord, the God of the sea. His son is Frey, his daughter Freyja.
 
Germanic mythology also features several groups of lesser entities- including giants (frost giants, or thurses, and fire giants), dwarves (black elves), Alfar (white elves), Valkyries (warrior maidens), Einherjer (the chosen slain), Disir (mother spirits), Jotuns (descendants of the frost-giants), and wights (land spirits). When the ?sir and Vanir, they waged a long brutal war against one another, which ultimately ended in a stalemate and subsequently a truce. As was Germanic custom, a truce meant the symbolic exchange of hostages- the Vanir sent to the ?sir Njord and Freyja, and to the Vanir the ?sir sent Hoenir and Mimir. Feeling cheated in receiving Mimir, the Vanir cut off his head and returned it to the ?sir.

In old times, a particular tribe would adopt a patron God which would be considered the progenitor of the tribe as well as it's chief deity. There were generally two types of tribe, warrior tribes and agricultural or 'aristocratic' tribes. Warrior tribes, such as the Danes or the Saxons, were usually Odin/Woden/Wotan cults. More agricultural tribes, such as the Angles and the Swedes, were generally Ingvi/Frey cults. Thor/Thunor/Donar/Donner, as a God of the common working man, was most prominent in Iceland.
Today, most kindreds adopt a kindred patron. Oftentimes the blot (ritual) performed in honor of a kindred's patron is set to coincide with the kindred's founding-day ceremony- though this is not always possible. Most individuals also choose personal patrons, which he or she may more may not share with other members of the kindred.
Because there is not a truly central authority which governs the practice of Asatru, different kindreds of individuals may choose to view or interpret the nature of the Gods, Goddesses, or other entities in different ways. For instance, some people view the ?sir and Vanir as actual, superhuman beings existing in real time and space- though in a difference 'plane' of existence. Others may view them or their attribues as figurative and largely symbolic, as folk archetypes (in the Jungian sense). However- this may be arguable and I may be presumptious- but I believe most view them as very real in all of those capacities.
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2010, 06:34:50 AM »

COSMOLOGY...

Germanic mythology (keeping in mind that myth is that which never happened, but always is) offers a creation myth. In it, the nine worlds were forged in Ginnungagap, a temperate void between frosty Nifelheim and fiery Muspelheim. Where the fire and ice met, there was mist and steam, and from these dew drops was formed Ymir, the first being. Ymir was immense, much larger than the imagination could fathom. As Ymir slept one night he began to perspire, and from the drops of sweat were conceived the Hrim-Thurse, or frost giants. Ymir fed from the four rivers which flowed forth from the sacred mother bovine, Audumla, who in turn licked the salty ices for sustenance. As Audumla fed from the ice, she exposed the body of an entity known as Buri. Buri would marry a Hrim-Thurse woman, and conceive a son named Bor, who along with his wife Bestla would in turn conceive three sons: Odin, Vili, and Ve (or Odin, Hoenir, and Lodur according to Voluspa).

Odin, Vili, and Ve saw that Ymir abused the cosmos, used up it's resources, and took it for granted, so the sons of Bor killed Ymir and dismembered him. Ymir's blood gushed profusely from his wounds and drowned all of the Hrim-Thurse save Bergelmir (one of Ymir's grandsons) and his wife, the two of which would become the forbears of the Jotuns, who would forever despise the Gods for the killing of Ymir.

From the remains of Ymir, Odin, Vili, and Ve would sculpt Midgard, or the Earth, at the very center of Ginnungagap. Ymir's flesh would become the land, his blood the rivers, lakes, and the sea- from Ymir's hair, the trees- from his teeth were made stones and boulders, mountains from his bones. The top of Ymir's skull was hoisted over top of this world and held aloft by four dwarves named Nordri, Sudri, Westri, and Austri to become the sky- into which were thrown Ymir's brains to form the clouds.

One day, Odin, Vili, and Ve were walking about Midgard together and stumbled upon two trees- an Ash named Ask, and an elm named Embla. They were mere trees, and capable of very little more than any other tree. So, Odin gave them spirit, Vili gave them sense, and Ve gave them form. Thus was born the first man and woman.

...from Voluspa:

    Spirit they possessed not, sense they had not,
    blood nor motive powers, nor goodly colour.
    Spirit gave Odin, sense gave H?nir,
    blood gave Lodur, and goodly colour

Later, it is explained in the Lay Of Rig how Rig (Heimdall) later gave structure to human society and created social classes.

* * * *

Also, the lore tells of a story of the end, known as Ragnarok or Gotterdammerung (as popularized by Wagner, meaning literally 'Twilight Of the Gods').

The God Balder is haunted by dreams of his own death. Odin, his father, is troubled. He has been troubled for some time, as he alone knows all that was, is, and ever will be. He knows what doom looms over the horizon, what sense of immenent doom lingers over the nine worlds. Frigga also has these dreams, and fears for her son. So she rides over every inch of the nine worlds and asks an oath from all things that they will not harm Balder- all things but one tiny young sprig of mistletoe, which Frigga feels is too young and harmless to be of any danger.

Loki watches Frigga as she travels the nine worlds frantically, collecting her oaths. He notices that she does not take an oath from the mistletoe. He ponders what damage he may do. He does not like Balder- Balder, the Bold- the Shining One. The Gods were relieved, and all of them- both ?sir and Vanir- take great joy in testing the oaths made by all things by hurling things at Balder. To their amusement, as promised, Balder remained unharmed. So Loki plucks the mistletoe and from it fashions a spear, which he gives to Hoder the blind God, who knows no better. Hoder hurls the spear under the guiding eye of Loki, and Balder falls dead. Infuriated, Vali slays Hoder while Loki slips away to plot his next move.

Balder is laid ceremoniously in the ship Hringhorni, which served as his pyre. As he is carried to his pyre, Odin whispers a charm into his ear that no one but Odin and Balder may know. As he burned, his wife Nanna flung herself upon the pyre to burn with Balder, as did his horse. Thor pushed the dwarf Litr into the flames as well. The giantess Hyrrokin pushed the burning ship out to sea, and Frigga sent the God Hermod to Helheim to ask for Balder's return. Hel agrees to return Balder to the ?sir under the condition that every living thing mourn Balder's death. So the Gods set about the nine worlds once again pleading for Balder's return. Every living thing does indeed mourn for Balder, except one- a giantess named ?okk, who was really Loki in disguise. Balder's return was denied. Shortly afterwards, the Gods discover that ?okk had really been Loki, so they capture him and bind him to three large stones in Jotunheim. They place a serpent over his head, from whos mouth drips burning venom. Loki's wife Sigyn stands over him, catching as much of the vitriol as she can with a bowl, but the venom drips too freely and too fast. Finally, Loki frees himself and vows vengeance. This sets in motion Ragnarok.

Odin consults a volva, or seeress, who tells him in great detail what is to come. "Doom satisfies itself on the blood and gore of common man and king alike. The sky turns black, and the days grow cold. Brothers will kill brothers, sister's children will defile kinship. Harshness and whoredom reign. An axe age, a sword age, shields are splintered. A wind age, a wolf age- before the world meets it's end man will have no mercy on his brother."

The enemies of the Gods prepare for war. Jormungand writhes under the ocean, Hrym of Jotunheim gathers his forces and sails from the east. Loki navigates the ship Naglfar to wage war against the Gods. Surt and the fire-giants of Muspelheim advance from the south. Fenris breaks his fetters and joins Garm against the Gods. Yggdrasil shakes and shudders, Odin consults the head of Mimir. The dwarves weep, and all of the Gods are in council. Mountains crumble, the heavens split apart. The Gods gather themselves, with the aid of the Valkyries and the Einherjer, and meet their enemies on the field of battle. Odin charges Fenris, but is beaten in the fight and devoured- Vidar sees this and rushes to avenge his father, prying open the beast's mouth and holding it open with his shoes, he shoves his sword deep into the wolf's throat and into his heart, Fenris falls dead. Frey engages Surt, but without his sword (that he offered as dowry for his wife Gerd) was killed in the fight. Thor, the protector of the Earth, fights and smashes Jormungand and the two fight so long and hard that after Thor kills the world-serpent he only takes nine steps before falling dead himself. Tyr falls in battle to Garm, and Heimdal fights to the death with Loki but himself, ultimately succumbs to his wounds. The world is in ashes. Only a single woman and a single man- Lif and Lifthrasir (Life and The Will To Live) survive the struggle- nestled safely at Hoddm?mis holt.
 
Lif and Lifthrasir found a new world from the ashes of the old, starting all over again. Balder, Nanna, and Hoder return from Hel. Vidar and Vali live in the homes of the Gods. Magni and Modi inherit Mjolnir. Hoenir also survives, as does Njord. The Goddesses Frigga and Freyja are assumed to survive as well, as Voluspa makes no mention of their doom.

* * * *
 
One could make several assertions about the story of Ragnarok. To begin with, the primary opponents of the Gods are the Jotuns of Jotunheim, and the fire-giants of Muspelheim- both of whom had harbored ill feelings toward the Gods since Odin, Vili, ad Ve slaughtered Ymir before the creation of the world. In that respect, the doom of the world was already imminent from the moment of it's creation. This is a reflection of the concept of wyrd, though usually described as fate, it a fate crafted from our own deeds. The antagonist is Loki, who was an outsider brought into the families of the Gods by a blood-brother oath to Odin. This is the reason that Loki was not killed outright after posing as the giantess ?okk. Despite Loki's betrayal, Odin could not break his oath to Loki by killing him. It is a lesson in honor, steadfastness, and sacrifice. It is also a lesson in carefulness when choosing your friends and allies, as well as one on the dangers of jealousy and blind trust.
 
The enemies of the Gods are referred to as such- not as evil or bad, but as indifferent and impersonal. Whereas the Vanir are representative of a more internal nature, I view the giants as being natural external forces. For example, the Vanir are to fertile soil and plenty of game what the giants are to gravity, absolute zero and solar maximums. Not evil, but still dangerous. Similarly, Loki has been likened to a forest fire. When contemplating the story of Ragnarok, it bears striking resemblance in many ways to an asteroid or comet impact, or perhaps even nuclear war. The earth is reduced to ashes, and the light of the sun is blocked from the earth- though humanity survives to begin anew, as two survivors had taken shelter underground. Even the concept of Gjallarhorn makes me thing Civil Defense alarms and warning sirens. Then again, the very nature of myth prevents it from being interpreted as prophecy. More important than the myth itself is often what may be learned from it.

The creation story also features some interesting points. Life, or rather the conditions essential for it, arise in an area of more moderate temperature between the two extremes of Nifelheim and Muspelheim. In this area, the fires of Muspelheim melt the ice of Nifelheim and rivers flow. There is a parallel here to the habitable zone in which the Earth is located- between th heat of the sun and the frigid extremes of more distant space, in just the right place that the conditions needed for life can exist. Also, note that in the creation story, Odin, Vili, and Ve create Ask and Embla from already living objects. Not responsible for life or consciouness themselves, the Gods merely guided it's development on Earth. Symbolically, this neatly parallels theories of evolution and the diversification of life.
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edens garden

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2010, 02:49:53 PM »

I suppose the best way to begin is to offer a brief history of Asatru and Germanic heathenism as practiced by adherents today...

Asatru, similarly manifested as Odinism, Forn Si?r, Vor Si?r, Vor Tru, Theodism, or under the umbrella term 'heathenism' is a 'Germanic' reconstructionist movement that began, in it's modern incarnation, in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

I'm going to be completely honest, I stopped reading after the first sentence. I'll probably read this later, but it really lacks an interesting hook.
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2010, 03:18:27 PM »

I'm going to be completely honest, I stopped reading after the first sentence. I'll probably read this later, but it really lacks an interesting hook.

Good.
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Earthbound Spirit

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2010, 04:13:51 PM »

Saxon,

I would really be interested in knowing how you feel the Nazi involvement with Asatru has possibly hurt it's image in today's society.  Also, what do you think about certain skin head groups who are trying to revitalize that part of Asatru's history today.

Your not a raciest, are you?
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2010, 05:16:04 PM »

THE GODS...

Odin. Odin is known as Odin, Othinn, O?inn, Woden, Wo?en, Wotan, Votan, Grimnir, Sigtyr, Sigfather, Har, Ygg, Bolverk, Allfather, Herjafather, Valfather, Greybeard, Grey traveler, or Grey Wanderer. All in all, there are over 200 names considered synonymous with Odin, all different guises or reflections of his complex character. Odin is the son of Bor and Bestla, and along with his brothers Vili and Ve (or Hoenir and Lodur) killed the giant Ymir, used his remains to construct the world, and brought into being the race of man from two trees- each of the three brothers offering a particular trait, Odin's offering was spirit. Havamal, or The Sayings Of Har is written from the perspective of Odin, who reigns as the cheiftan of the ?sir and high-ruler of Asgard. Odin pierced himself with a spear and hung himself from the world-tree Yggdrasil (literally the horse of the hanged) for nine days as a sacrifice unto himself in order to win the secrets of the runes. Odin gives one of his eyes to Mimir in exchange for a drink from his well, and the knowledge of all things. Odin is the only ?sir who knows all this was, is, and is becoming- which must be considered when reflecting on his actions, and he is also the only ?sir who can alter the fate, or wyrd of men. Odin has three halls in Asgard, the abode of the Gods- Gladsheim, Valaskjalf, and Vahalla. Odin's high seat, Hli?skjalf, is located in Valaskjalf- and from it he can see all things which come to pass in the world. Vahalla is the hall of the slain, where the warrior-maiden Valkyries and the Einherjer- the chosen slain- wait in preparation for Ragnarok. Odin carries a spear called Gugnir which never misses it's mark and always returns to his hands when thrown. Odin has two ravens- Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory) who fly about the nine worlds and report their findings back to Odin. Also, Odin has two wolves named Freki (hungry) and Geri (ravenous). Odin's horse Sleipnir has eight legs, is the son of Loki, and is the fastest steed in all the nine-worlds.

Odin reigns over a wide array of human venture. Because of his sacrifice unto himself on Yggdrasil, as well as the sacrifice of his eye to Mimir, Odin is seen as a God of wisdom and sacrifice- particularly of wisdom gained by sacrifice. Odin's thirst for wisdom is unquenchable. Oftentimes in the lore Odin may come across a vagrant, spending long periods of time wandering the Earth in disguise learning new insights and seeing to the affairs of men. Tolkien's character Gandalf is an allusion to Odin in the aspect of traveller, and in 1946 Tolkien stated frankly that he imagined Gandalf as an Odinic wanderer often imagined as wearing a blue cloak and a wide-brimmed hat.

Odin is a master of the runes and of rune-galder (a type of chant used to induce a meditative state). In this capacity he is known as Grimnir- a powerful magician, God of mystery, God of death, and master of language and poetry (wisdom gained by the draught taken from Mimir's well, as well as the consumption of Kvasir's blood). The name Odin means fury or frenzy, and he is associated with the Oskorei, or the wild hunt. Because of this, and his ability to know and alter the fates of men, Odin is known as Sigtyr (victory father) and petitioned for favor prior to battles. Odin is fierce and furious in battle and is feared by his enemies more than any other God. Odin sends Hugin and Munin to watch over battlefields, and along with Freyja chooses the best of the dead warriors to become Einherjer, the chosen slain. The Einherjer feast in Vahalla until Ragnarok, where they become a sort of elite fighting force against the giants and instrumental in the survival of the world. In this capacity, Odin is known as Valfather, the father of the slain.

Odin is the God of all that is but does not appear to be. He is the God of secrets and eternal, immeasurable wisdom and insight. Those dedicated to Odin often bear his symbol, the Valknot (see my avatar), known as the knot of the slain. It is never worn casually, as it is taken very seriously and is the symbol of extreme dedication. Heathens dedicated to Gods other than Odin often refer to the Valknot as a target, insert spear here. Because of his personal sacrifices and wisdom obtained, as well as his fearlessness and uncompromising nature, Odin is often viewed as the epitome of Germanic ideals. He is a sort of jack-of-all-trades, an interloper, without boundary, and himself personifies many aspects of other Gods. He is deep, complex, and often requires much reflection. He is very much deserving of his high place among the Gods, as well as among men.
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2010, 06:31:23 PM »

Saxon,

I would really be interested in knowing how you feel the Nazi involvement with Asatru has possibly hurt it's image in today's society.  Also, what do you think about certain skin head groups who are trying to revitalize that part of Asatru's history today.

Your not a raciest, are you?

Actually, no problem at all. That's a question and questions are good. I was about to get to that. It's something that has brought a lot of controversy to Asatru in the past, and it continues to. It's the favorite topic for opponents of folkish Asatru or Asatru in general. Honestly, politics play no role in legitimate Asatru, and a lot of the reason it remains such a popular topic for outsiders looking in is that other outsiders for some reason seem determined to cause us strife.

Asatru, for the complete outsider, can be divided into three groups.

First, there are the racialist, white supremacist Asatruar. These are the types of people you find commonly in prison-ministries, or white supremacist gangs. I recently saw Volksfront on Gangland, and they were performing a ritual that somewhat resembled sumbel. In prison, it often has more to do with prison politics than spirituality. Therein lies the difference- for these people, the names of the Gods or a genuine interest in spirituality are non-existent or even secondary to racial politics. These groups are not accepted members of the Asatru community or even accepted as being legitimate Asatruar. The Asatru Alliance and the Odinic Rite have worked extensively with prison populations in the past in an effort to improve the quality of Asatru practiced on the inside, but were largely unsuccessful. Unfortunately, the involvement of the AA and the Odinic Rite in prison ministries was immediately misconstrued and attacked by their opponents who promoted the baseless assertion that because prison ministries were inherently racialist, the AA and Odinic Rite are inherently racialist for associating with them. The neo-Nazi gangs on the outside are largely lost causes.

Second, there is folkish Asatru. Folkish Asatruar believe that Asatru is an expression of indigenous Northern European spirituality, and is therefore the inheritance of those descended from those people. Folkish Asatruar believe that all ethnic groups have their own unique indigenous culture, and have worked in the past with various Native American groups to promote this concept. For the most part, folkish Asatruar feel that Christianity is a foreign religion that was forced on us and we support the full return of all people to their ethnic spiritual paths. Folkish Asatruar believe that the Gods represent archetypes unique to the Northern-European folk-soul, and regard the worshipping of foreign gods disrespectful to the gods of one's own blood- as well as to the gods being worshipped and the culture they represent. Folkish Asatruar remain strictly reconstructionist, and are very careful not to allow outside elements infiltrate or degrade tradition. However, folkish Asatruar generally respect and cherish one's own personal and religious freedom, as freedom is a primary ideal. Folkish Asatruar tend to be very conservative, but for the most part politics play very little role and emphasis is placed on blot and deed first and foremost. I am a folkish Asatruar, and folkish Asatru organizations include the Asatru Alliance, the Asatru Free Assembly, and the Odinic Rite.

Third, there are universalist Asatruar. Universalist Asatruar believe that Asatru is open to anyone. Universalist Asatruar associated with organizations such as The Troth have had a long history of infiltrating and trying to "expose" so-called "Nazis" within the folkish Asatru community. Sometimes people are unable to distinguish folkish Asatru from white supremacist organizations. Not to say that all universalist Asatruar are this way, but in the past there have been individuals who went well out of their way to cause trouble for other Asatru groups. For this, there is oftentimes a mutual lack of respect between folkish and universalist Asatruar.

For a more detailed look at this topic, I recommend the book Gods Of the Blood by Mattias Gardell.


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Cannaid

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2010, 01:13:27 PM »

Hey Matt, thank you so much for posting this (I read every word, twice  ;D). 

I appreciate your work. 
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2010, 02:01:36 PM »

Hey Matt, thank you so much for posting this (I read every word, twice  ;D). 

I appreciate your work. 

Thank you for your appreciation!
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Firesong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2010, 04:41:33 PM »

I'd like to thank you as well.  We haven't had much comprehensive information on Asatru on the the site and you've provided a really great read for anybody who is interested... very nicely done!

Hope it's ok that I made it a sticky.  I think it rates one.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2010, 04:43:10 PM by Firesong »
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2010, 10:26:30 PM »

I'd like to thank you as well.  We haven't had much comprehensive information on Asatru on the the site and you've provided a really great read for anybody who is interested... very nicely done!

Hope it's ok that I made it a sticky.  I think it rates one.

No, no problem at all. Excellent, actually. I'm kind of trying to break it up into parts, keep it going back and forth. Hopefully that way it can be digested in increments and more fully absorbed and understood. It also helps me keep focused so I don't forget anything. Each segment is pretty much self-contained. Bear with me  ;)

Continuing...

As mentioned before, the core unit of the Asatru community is the kindred, which is a group of individuals, usually from the same general area. Some groups cover a more broad land area and subsequently may meet less often- these types of groups sometimes refer to themselves as tribes, which may also be a general term for a loose alliance of kindreds. Ritual practices are usually led by a high priest, called a gothi and/or a high priestess, known as a gythia. Gothar must be well-versed in the lore and practices of Asatru, and can either be elected or established as such by being kindred founders or owning the land on which rites and rituals are practiced.
Also, some kindreds also appoint a law-speaker, who works to maintain frith, which is an understood peace among bl?t attendees and kindred members. In some instances, a law-speaker may be required to prevent strife by intervention, which may mean the removal of an individual or multiple individuals from the ritual area until whatever disagreement is settled and frith restored.   

Traditional Asatru kindred structure is democratic, and kindred business is usually handled accordingly by vote. Some decisions may be made by majority or unanimous vote, and all members (including the gothar) have equal say in all kindred matters. New visitors to a kindred may be subject to a probationary period according to kindred bylaws, during which a visitor may be extended invitation to all kindred events and entitled to full and equal hospitality, but without receiving full rights and privileges of kindred members. Membership is usually decided by unanimous kindred vote upon the completion of a probationary period. Membership into most kindreds then requires the swearing of a ritual oath to the kindred and it's bylaws in the presence of all full members. Removal from a kindred requires a formal dissolution of kindred oaths, which is also decided by vote.

The rites and rituals of Asatru are usually, though not always, held outdoors. An outdoor ritual area is known as a ve, and for obvious reasons the more the private the ve better. Some kindreds have been able to construct halls or temples, though it is rare. An indoor ritual area is known as a hof. A ve is usually a circular area, which centers around a fire. At the north side of the ve, there is for those kindreds capable of having one, a horgh- which is a stationary stone altar. Ours is made from stones donated by kindred members, who brought them from their respective homesteads. Some kindreds, due to location, are unable to construct a permanent horgh, so many kindreds make do with whatever is available. Within the boundaries of the ve, it is forbidden to break frith, spill human blood, or defecate under any circumstances.

The core Asatru ritual is bl?t (pronounced "blote"), which translates as sacrifice, offering, or worship. In modern Asatru, the ritual of bl?t itself varies widely from kindred to kindred, so giving a general overview of the ritual can be quite difficult. Our kindred usually opens bl?t by calling to the God Heimdall- I bid a hearing from all holy wights, the greater and lesser of Heimdall's children. Heimdall, as the watchman of Bifrost, calls to attendance the Gods of Asgard for bl?t. The phrase given above is from Voluspa, and after it is spoken a blowing horn is blown three consecutive times- representative of Gjallarhorn. The next step is the hammer rite, which may be performed in it's full or modified form. A ritual hammer is raised high to the northern sky, after which the gothi proclaims Hamar ? Nor?ri helga v? ?etta v?r? ok ok hald hindr alla illska!- "Hammer of the north, hold and hallow this stead". This ritual wards off ill wights and places the ve under the protection of Thor. The "hammer sign" is then performed, after which the gothi or gythia may perform the act again in the other three directions or move on to the next part of the bl?t. Following the hammer right, the actual bl?t is performed, which may require the gothi or gythia to recite certain passages of the lore, as well as write and speak their own message in honor of a particular God or Goddess. Immediately following this may be some sort of sacrifice, blessing, or rune galder. There may be more poetry or symbolic or philosophical message after this, then the bl?t is concluded with a blessing and a closing horn-call.

After bl?t usually comes sumbel. Again, different kindreds may practice sumbel in any number of ways. We usually perform sumbel immediately after bl?t, as do many kindreds- though some may do it the night before bl?t, the night after, the morning after, some integrate sumbel into bl?t, some rarely or never practice sumbel at all. Essentially, it is a drinking ritual- traditionally we drink from drinking horns, though it is not required, and we usually drink beer (the finer the better!) or mead, though I have also seen wine at sumbel several times. Our form of sumbel consists of three rounds of toasts. Sumbel is usually less formal than bl?t, and our's usually begins with the person seated at the northernmost seat. Whoever has the horn stands when they speak, and if other members feel strongly or are in agreement with what the speaker is saying, they may also stand in support.

The first round is to a God- it could be your patron, your kindred's patron, the God or Goddess honored at bl?t, or just a God or Goddess you're feeling close to at the moment- though it must be a Germanic God. You may choose, if you like, to elaborate as to why this particular God is special to you at the moment, after which you hail, and all others in attendence may hail in agreement. The second round is to heroes and ancestors. This may be a a person you know personally, a historical figure you admire, a living person you admire but may not necessarily know personally, or any relative or ancestor living or passed on. Again, others may or may not choose to join you, after which you hail. The third and final official round of sumbel is for boasts, brags, toasts, and hopes for the future. You may hail a person, place, or thing, but for the third and final round you're usually dealing with ideas, accomplishments, and goals- so generally in round three you skaal.

Sometimes at moots, high sumbel performed. In this format, the gothar sit at a "high table". The entire group participates in rounds one and three, but only the gothar at the high table participate in the second round.

If possible, most kindreds try to feast for every bl?t and sumbel. Again, this varies kindred to kindred. Some feast before bl?t, some between bl?t and sumbel, and some after the initial three rounds of sumbel. We usually feast first, and by the time formal sumbel is over we're ready for dessert or seconds.

Some kindreds prefer to dress in period garb for bl?t, sumbel, and other rituals, but others do not. Personally, I don't even own any period clothing and I don't think it's necessary. Really, I'm not sure anyone really thinks it's necessary, and that those who do choose to do it do so for the fun of it. It doesn't serve any practical or ritual purpose. I don't suppose the ancestors dressed like cavemen, and I don't think it's necessary I dress like the ancestors. I usually wear my regular sort of clothes, though keeping in mind that I'll be outside for an extended period of time and it may be cold, hot, wet, or muddy.

Again, if there are any questions, feel free to shoot. I'd be glad to answer them.

 



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Cannaid

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2010, 12:15:04 PM »

I have a question (if I may).
During the hammer rite is there any significance, whether internally or externally placed on the Dwarves contribution to the hammer itself (in the form of the forge) or is it only for the recognition and honour of Thor?  I ask because of the names of the directions and that as it is offered to each direction and each name is called.  Also with the premise that the four dwarves hold up the sky (skull) at those four directions and are masters of the forge.

Thanks in advance for any clarity. 
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Matt Armstrong

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2010, 12:55:44 PM »

I have a question (if I may).
During the hammer rite is there any significance, whether internally or externally placed on the Dwarves contribution to the hammer itself (in the form of the forge) or is it only for the recognition and honour of Thor?  I ask because of the names of the directions and that as it is offered to each direction and each name is called.  Also with the premise that the four dwarves hold up the sky (skull) at those four directions and are masters of the forge.

Thanks in advance for any clarity. 

The hammer rite is in honor and recognition of Thor. The emphasis is usually always placed on Thor, rather than Mjolnir, which is just a tool and symbol of it's wielder. As far as I know, there is no correlation between the hammer rite and the dwarves Nordri, Sudri, Austri, and Vestri. As mentioned above, not all kindreds perform the hammer rite in all directions (or at all), the reason for which being that some view this as either unnecessary or impure due to it's similarity to rituals found in ceremonial magic. I would attribute this feature of the blot, most likely, to Edred Thorrson. In a lot of ways, we're still trying to reconstruct a lot of our rites and rituals- the best documented of which performed today is sumbel. Unfortunately, due to a lack of record in certain areas, we're sometimes left with gnosis.

   
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Cannaid

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Re: Asatru and Germanic Heathenism... An Introduction
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2010, 01:23:39 PM »

I have attended several Asatru rituals however it is important for me to state that many of the rits were "public rits" and held ritual elements that could be recognized by many of the pagans and varying paths of spirituality present.  

Thank you for your help with this.  I appreciate it.

ETA: There is a great deal to be said for gnosis.   ;D
« Last Edit: February 10, 2010, 01:25:36 PM by Cannaid »
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