Basics of Asatru
There is knowledge you must seek and obtain before you can understand the true nature of the runes. Likewise, there are things to know and experience before you earn the right to wear the mighty hammer known as Mjolnir. Asatru is a complex religion. It is seri-ous in nature. Asatru is not a trend, nor is Asatru a fashion statement. It is far from being a fad. Furthermore, Asatru is not a religion that anybody can choose because they are inclined to like it. Asatru is not a commodity on the shelf that any person can shop for. Asatru will also never be a form of atheism in disguise. Asatru will never be a form of Christian morality in disguise. We must be clear and concise about what Asatru is not before we can begin to discuss exactly what it is. This article will describe the Basics of Asatru and some of the common misunderstandings about it.
The Basics of Asatru
Hopefully I have made it somewhat clear what the religion is not. Now we must answer the question; what is Asatru? Asatru is simply the revival of the traditional and indigenous religion of the Northern European people. This revival is reconstructing the reli-gion so it may make sense to practitioners in the modern era. With this in mind, Asatru is unlike Wicca and other neo-pagan attempts to misconstrue paganism into a mystical and feel-good identity religion. Instead, Asatru does not promise good feelings or promotion of the after-life. Instead, Asatru emphasizes a relentless vigilance in the struggle for upward spiritual development. It is a tool and a boat for the spiritual development of its followers. It belongs to the powerful tree of the ancient Indo-European religions. Vestiges of its meta-physical structure is found all around. We can find this ancient system in modern names, in behaviors, and other modern customs.
One danger that lurks in the current revival of Asatru is embedded in its 2000 year old competitor, Christianity. This competitor simply grafted itself upon the European land-scape at the start of the first century. What we have seen in some of the modern revivalist movement is a tendency to re-name and re-instate old Christian views and beliefs. Asatru is also not a place for Christian vestiges of a forced converted past. What I have in mind here is the moral residue leftover from the teachings of the church and Christ-god that is very particular to the monotheistic religion. Instead, of having the morality that Nietzsche de-scribed as “slave” morality, Asatru has a lot more in common with the morals imbued in the Hellenic religion of ancient Greece. Furthermore, it is the cousin of the ancient tradition of Hinduism. Despite its commonalities with these two ancient traditional Indo-European religions, there is something it carries with it that is deeply unique and personal. Asatru will always be the religion for those of a warrior and priestly nature. It will always be the reli-gion of the common working people. Within it is a consideration for all personality types and social positions in life.
I have already pointed out that confusion is easy to occur, if not likely, while study-ing Asatru. For this reason, you must study Asatru with a due diligence and a stern objectivity in order to not be confused by the misinformation that is continually published today. Those who publish such nonsense are either enemies to the tradition, or they are simply ignorant of the truths presented by it. Because Asatru has such a stern and honest view of reality it has also created many people and forces who are in opposition to it. You must not be persuaded to steer off the correct path because of them. You must not be ashamed. You are going home. Asatru is the religion of your destiny. It has been handed to you and is therefore your birthright. While studying it, keep a clear mind and be careful to not impose modern views upon the emerging religion. Keep an open mind to the possibili-ties that it offers.
The primary gods of Asatru are the warrior gods of the Aesir race. They are physi-cally manifested and should be viewed as real beings like you or I consider each other. They have desires, emotions, and goals. There have been some claims that the gods are merely archetypes and or metaphors. While this is true to an extent it is a large disservice to the religion. Be wary of anyone who wants to report to you about the gods as something that can be described with another word that does not have divinity within it. The gods are beings and that is the only proper view of them.
Asatru is a religion that has a somewhat harsh and brutal perspective on reality in comparison to the Christian mythos. The central theme of the Teutonic and Nordic mythologies is the concept of struggle. The primary struggle mentioned within the mythologies amounts to a holy war. It involves all beings of the universe, whether willingly or not. The struggle can be surmised as the cosmic order of the gods being upheld in a world of chaos. It is about proper actions in the struggle, while fate even dictates inevitable failure. The enemy of this order comprises of the forces of the Jotun and their spawn. These creatures want to destroy this order. The Jotun want to force the world back to chaos and bring all beings back to the original state of the universe known as void. The gods have used mankind as a sort of upper hand in this holy battle which I will discuss latter on.
At this point it will be proper to reflect on a few central questions. Ask yourself what is a religion? What elements are within a religion? The answers are quite simple. All religions will satisfy the most fundamental questions that offer meaning to human life. These basic questions are; What is the Cosmos? What is mankind? How should humans live?
Perhaps the most crucial question in this article is what makes Asatru a religion? As we progress through below, we will see that Asatru can offer a satisfying answer to all of these. Asatru, as I said before, is your right. It is your destiny. You have known this world for a long time. Only the face of the religion changed form over time. It was intermingled in Christianity. It evolved with it. However, the absolute structure, the foundation is still there. Let’s move forward and look at some of the basics of Asatru.
The Norse Concept of the Cosmos
The ancient Northern Europeans and their religious system did not have a simple view of the universe. Good and Evil were not terms that could describe every situation and every being. Likewise, Heaven and Hell were not concepts that our ancestors knew before the advent of the spread of Christianity. Most importantly all concepts belonging to Utopian dreams were not fashioned in their thoughts. The world of the ancients largely existed within a gray area. Instead, of this simple system that Christianity brought with it the people of ancient Europe envisioned a complex system that represented what we would call a network today. Events were to your benefit or to your detriment. People were to their own accord.
The ancient idea of the universe was that of multiple planes and enclosures interconnected with our own. Their unique view depicted a universe that consisted of nine planes or worlds. In the Teutonic tradition these were all tightly bound together by a great universal tree called Yggdrasil. It is the cosmology of this setting that describes how all things within it interact throughout time. The cosmos, was as much a macro organism as it is a micro organism.
Unlike later motheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, it is hard to describe the tensions and conflicts of the Gods and other beings as being part of a battle between good and evil. Instead, the cosmos is described as being composed of numerous independent agents, who through interaction sometimes arrive at conflict. Other times, their interactions are harmonious. However, because good and evil do not exist, does not mean enemy and foe do not. By their very own nature the Jotun, for example, were the eternal enemies of the Aesir gods. Moving forward keep in mind that all things exist in a gray and nebulous area. However, decisiveness and opinions are the mark of a principled person.
The Two Cosmogonical Substances
In the beginning there was no earth or heaven, no sand nor sea nor cooling waves. There was only Ginnungagap, a great void. According to the ancient Eddas and Sagas, these planes or worlds were born when the realm of fire known as Muspelheim, in the South moved north to meet the icy realm of Niflheim in the North. They met in “the yawning void.”
Within the Yawning Void was only a magical charge. Furthermore, the void of Ginnungagap was a place without movement. The Eddas refer to it as a place that existed with air, but not wind. The Gunnungapap has only two cardinal directions; north and south. On the northern side is ice. On the southern side is fire. When the fire met the ice, the creation process was started. Out of this union came forth the Jotun known as Ymir. His name means “The Sounding One.”
From this union sprang forth two beings. Ymir was the first. He is known as the prime-val giant or Jotun. The second is known by the name Audhumla. She was the giant primeval cow. By licking the ice over time, Audhumla made a new being appear. This being was known as Buri. From Buri sprang Borr who married Bestla, who gave birth to Odin, Villi and Ve. These three brother Gods slew Ymir and from him created the Nine Worlds and the World Tree that supports the worlds. Although the Nine Worlds are linked by the World Tree, they by no means lie near each other, for there are hills, valleys, mountains, and even rivers between them formed by the bark of the tree. Beyond the Nine Worlds are unknown worlds resting in the Útgard “that outside the enclosure”.
The Nine Worlds of the Norse Germanic Cosmos (In descending order):
1. Asgard – The home to the Gods and Goddesses of the Aesir
2. Alfheim – The realm where the Light Elves dwell
3. Vanaheim – The home to the Gods and Goddesses of the Vanir
4. Midgard – The home of the mankind
5. Jotunheim – The realm where the Giants dwell
6. Muspellheim – The world of primal fire where the Muspilli Fire Giants dwell
7. Niflheim – The “world of mists” and primal ice
8. SvartAlfheim – The realm where the Black Elves / Dwarfs dwell
9. Hel – The land of the dead, ruled by the goddess Hella.
In each of these realms there are specific Psychological-Spiritual elements in operation. All of these worlds symbolize the various psychological, physical, universal principles and functions on different levels. These are briefly outlined below each realm in Red.
It is important to note that the various directions given in the descriptions of the various nine worlds should not be thought of as literal directions. They come down to us from many sources and we can not be certain of their accuracy. It is certainly clear that Earthly directions would have little bearing on what are essentially metaphysical planes bordering our own. Still, it may be that these directions may give some idea of where the planes lie in relation to each other and which may be closest to our own.
Space and Time
The ancient Germanic view of time and space were profoundly different than how modern man envisions them today. The view that has arose as a result of the formation of modern philosophy claims that we are merely agents who act upon objects within a space – time continuum. In this perspective we are “outside” of the universe in a way.
The ancient view, however, was that all things were connected and that all events and moments had significant meaning in them. It is only the natural course of European nihilism that has led modern humanity to reject this view and feel as though he or she is an insignificant speck of sand.
Like the Greek Fates, the Nordic people also had 3 norns. Their names were urd, verdandi, and Skuld. However similar the Teutonic idea of these 3 women was in relation to the Greek idea, the Norns should not be simplified as just past, present, and future. The proper view of time is as if it was something binary. There is the past, and there is the pre-sent moment. The future does not get exist. However because of current conditions there are things that must necessarily pass.
Let’s talk about the first norn. She is known as Urd. This Norn Represents what has past. These are events that have already happened, but may change meaning over time. As the flow of time continues, this pool gets larger. We passed, therefore is not some kind of static notion. The past is something that is constantly growing. The bigger it gets, the more impact it has on the present and future course of events. This has a until mental reality shift about it when compared to the modern notions of time. What was true yesterday, and the meaning the truth carried with it, could it be very different today based on what was in the past.
Verdandi represents what is unfolding in the present moment. Her name literally trans-lates as what is currently happening or unfolding. She is responsible for taking the string of events and making a current meaning of them or form of them.
Skuld represents what must necessarily come to pass. This is not to say that Skuld de-termines the future. This is an intricate woven fabric. She only the determines what the future will necessarily appear as because of the present and because of the past. Only neces-sary things are bound by her. This means that the future is always open to possibilities as long as certain seeds were not sown in the past that would necessarily determine a certain outcome.
The Natural Order
The concept of the gods is unlike the worldview that is prevalent today. Instead the gods of Asatru are conceptualized as living and breathing entities. They are materialized. Just as you and I do, the gods have their own thoughts and their own motivations.
The gods’ quest is to redeem the spiritual world from matter. An ongoing struggle against the Jotun who birth the forces of chaos and darkness. This quest is led by Odin. He is respected and acknowledged as the chief of the gods.
Asatru has a major emphasis on ancestral worship. Our ancestors believed that offense to the ancestors would cause disaster in many areas of life. From livestock, to future generations, to offend the dead was to bargain for the worse lot in life.
We talked about the state of mind that has been caused by European nihilism. This state has caused us to view things as random. This has also made us view our lives as a creation of chance. Even worse, it has led us to think that our function in society can be replaced. However, in these most ancient times our ancestors knew that all people had a place and role in society. It was this view that welcomed them to be the best they could be. These stations in life were there to enhance one’s spiritual condition.
The ancients also had the concept of vertical relationships highly ingrained into their mental framework. So much so, that the notion of equality would be absolutely ludicrous to them. There were individuals above you, and there were individuals below you. There were individuals who were obligated to, and there were individuals obligated to you. All of this, was to the benefit of the entire society. This hierarchy, was based upon deeds and the rights earned by past ancestors. The most remarkable concept at this time was the belief that you got what you deserved in life. This is not the same to say that life is fair, however. As I’ve said before all notions given to us by society, or family, and school must be dropped in order to understand the true essence of Asatru.
There were hierarchies beyond those that existed with in human society. At the top of this hierarchy were the gods. However references have been made in the lower that talk about a place with beings who are even higher. Whether or not this is make-believe with Christian influence, however is still open to debate. If the purpose of life is to grow and cre-ate, it would not be an unreasonable thing to believe. The migration of the soul, while not openly claimed to be a reality in the Norse tradition, is certainly expressed in the Hellenic tradition. Men could certainly become Gods.
Underneath the gods in this chain of hierarchy, were the humans who through heroic and noble actions were able to go to the halls of the gods after death. These were known as the heroes, who also have many names in the Nordic and Germanic lore.
Unlike monotheistic religions like Christianity or Islam, Polytheistic religions dictate two primary truths. First, is the proclamation of the differentiation of souls. No two souls are alike. Additionally, the emphasis is that no two souls are equal. One of the basic tenets of the Norse Religion declares that the soul is everlasting.
Each soul has a place and function and is not isolated.
This is why the major religions of today are polytheistic in nature. They seek union with god. They seek union with the cosmos. This is why the reawakening of our people must totally reject the new age cliché of Wicca. Be wary of these types of pagans. Union and “one-ness” has the aim to eradicate the individual spirit, or the soul. The goal of these religions is to disintegrate the West and the person back into the “primordial soup.” This is the goal of the Jotun.
The ancient Northern Europeans viewed the soul in the exactly same way the Hellenic religion viewed the evolution of the soul. The goal of the soul was a natural evolution or progression. From human the soul has the possibility to become a hero. From hero the soul had the possibility of becoming a demi-god. From demi-god the soul could become a god and beyond.
While the ancients did consider predestination as a truth, it was not considered as sub-stantial as it is today.
The two important things when thinking about the concept of predetermination in hea-thenry are Wyrd and Orlög. These are two concepts that it is essential to understand to think like a heathen. To understand those you need to understand the way we look at the past, the present and the future in general.
Orlog is translated into ‘primal law or log.’ It is the thread of one’s life. It is your own individual thread in the Web of Wyrd that is being spun by both the Norns and by yourself.
Orlog is a matrix of cause and effect that is influenced by everyone and also influences everyone. Orlog is determined by many factors, these include present circumstances and situations, but also past factors such as past lives, and deeds. Orlog is not absolutely binding for the present moment is always in flux and modification. Orlog is simply the limit of what is possible within the boundaries of wyrd.
During your life your own life experiences add to your Orlog. This in turn you will pass on to the next generation. And your thread ends when you have reached your (Fate/Destiny/Death). In this sense Orlog is the basis of your wyrd.
The easiest way to View Orlog is to see it as a road system that has been planned out long before you were born. These roads can be closed when en route, and other roads may be forced upon you to take.
Wyrd is a word that has many cognates among the northern languages. This is the con-cept that deals with the future. It is basically one’s fate or destiny
In the current intellectual circle of Asatru it is believed that someone’s fate is predeter-mined. This determination is formed from before one was born. Although, it is predetermined, you do not know your fate, or final destination. All that you can know is that your final fate is death, but the when, how or where is unknown to everyone, including the gods, with exception of the Norns.
Hamingja is the old Norse word for “luck.” It is the force that was believed to run through the family. The lifestyle and conduct of the family affected the Hamingja for good or ill. In one perspective, the Haminga consists of the family and its reputation. The actions of the past, and over the current generations has an effect upon it. The individual is merely one aspect of a familial line. In this view, the actions of one family member can create good or bad luck that can last for generations.
Asatru is a world-affirming, not world-rejecting religion. Christianity, for example, is a world rejecting religion. Christian belief dictates the world is bad and the afterlife is the ultimate goal. This just isn’t how asatruar see things – the world is good even with its flaws, it’s our home, and our ultimate goal is to leave something good behind for it before we leave it. Our deeds last forever.
Additionally, Asatru does not paint a picture of eternal pleasure after life. It is not con-cerned with the afterlife in comparison to the monotheistic religions of the world.
Asatru, while concerned with our gods, is just as concerned with our ancestors. After death, some may be called to the halls of the gods. Most people, however, will spend the afterlife in Hel or in the familial grave mound.
There are a few possibilities of where the soul may travel after death. These are:
1) The Hall of a patron deity of the family or community.
2) In the world known as Hel.
3) A familial gravemound.
4) Reincarnation, would typically be within a familial lineage.
5) Nastrond, a place for oath-breakers and kin-slayers.
Reincarnation of the Soul
This belief is found in all traditional Indo-European religions. While there is some de-bate about what exactly our Teutonic ancestors believed about the afterlife, it would be sound to assume that reincarnation was a possibility. The lore makes allusions to a few ex-amples of possible references to reincarnations. However, scholars debate the true meaning of the verses.
A popular idea in traditional societies is that each soul either evolves or regresses during life. This means that if reincarnation did occur, the soul could move up or down its tier. The goal then, was to move upward and onward. The Poetic Edda contains the following example:
Helgi was the name of a king whose daughter was Sigrun.
She became a valkyrie and rode the air and over the sea.
She was Svava born again.
The common theme of the the soul was to move vertically among a tier of soul-types. While this notion supports the survival of the soul after death, there are attributes of the soul that are not reincarnated. These include memory. Only certain eternal aspects of the soul were reincarnated. These include obligations, personalities, and innate abilities.
The soul of the Teutonic people was not conceived in the dualistic brain that was brought with the advent of Christian thought. This means the body and the soul were con-sidered one object, bound together. The soul was the animating force of the physical body, but not distinct from it. Ancient Greeks also carried with them this notion, as the soul repre-sented a corpuscle.
Because of this belief in the physicality of the soul, most of the ancient Northern Euro-peans burned their dead when they were not buried in familial graves. Some scholars have considered this practice as a way to immobilize the dead. Worrying about the walking dead was a common fear across Europe. However, if we consider the purposes of burning the dead in other Indo-European religions, then there was a deeper purpose.
While it was believed that the soul was intimately connected to the body, and could re-animate, it was also a common belief that souls were able to travel without their bodies. Shamans possessed this ability while alive. Even some of the gods were infamous for their shape-shifting abilities (Odin).
Familial graves were utilized as the final resting place of the dead. Within these mounds, life after death was merely a reflection of life before it. For this reason, the dead were buried with garments and tools of life. The most consistent view of the afterlife in Asatru is the belief of it as a destination. Death and the beyond is not a reward or punishment in itself. Of course, exceptions always apply.
The grave mounds that scattered the Northern European continent were often consid-ered portals to other worlds. They would lead to the ghostly realms of dead kings, heroes and chiefs, halls of the gods and such. And as we have already discussed, fear of the dead animating was a reality in the minds of our ancient ancestors.
One possible destination for the soul after death was a place known as Nastrond. This actually was a realm of punishment. The realm was a shore made of corpses in a particular location within Hel. The realm of Hel is separated from the world of the living by a rapid river. To go across the rapids, the person must cross the Gjallarbrú. The gates are heavy, and close behind those who pass it and will never return again. Hel is the final destination of those who do not die in battle, but of old age or disease. It is unclear however, who exactly goes to hell.
Asgard and Midgard as Higher Worlds
Yggdrasil is a mighty cosmic tree. All things are on Yggdrasil. If you can fathom this, the world tree hosts everything that is and anything that could ever be. In this view, there is no “other” world in the sense we think of today. Instead, Yggdrasil, and the entire cosmos is alive and are the only things that exist.
We are our deeds. This is the essential theme of what it means to be human in Asatru. While no absolute ethical code exists in the lore, attempts have been made to take the virtu-ous behavior inside and reconstruct it. The ancients did not need a list, however, for the purposes of reconstructing the religion it will suffice.
Another common theme we see in Asatru is true respect the Natural Order.
In these times an individual’s role in life was to enhance the honor and integrity of the family and community. The individual was also there to defend it when necessary. This is why we see a common theme of disgust at the acts of stealing and hoarding.
The individual in the ancient Germanic society was bound to consider his actions in how they may affect his or her neighbor.
Individuals were not atoms within society. Instead, the individual who committed a crime could hold the whole family responsible.
Pagans of the past preserved much of their worldview in the must stunningly clever ways. Memories and customers were passed on, even at times unconsciously. There is a certain argument that goes against reconstructing the pagan religion of northern Europe. It claims that the written documents we have were done by Christians. Therefore we can never know how things were.
In some way this is true. We will never reconstruct the religion that was practiced by our ancestors. However, we will reconstruct the religion in a way that is very much proper to us and our time and place in history. We do not need things written down to do this. We have many tools and access points to information that will do this for us.
First, our religion was never as obscure and decimated as we have been led to believe. The most necessary components of it still persist into modern times. They cannot be oblite-rated. Second, we have artifacts and archaeological evidence. We should not, however, depend upon this alone. Physical vestiges should be viewed with a grain of salt allowing all of the possibilities of the past, about. Third, the primary sources of modern belief are said to come from the sagas and other literature after the advent of Christianity. This does not mean, however, that these documents did not necessarily preserve the truth. Fourth, we are not cut off from the past. As we talked about with the Norn section, the past is a pool that changes with time. We are able to read from this pool. We also can trust our gut and intuitions. The ancients considered this the home of the first brain.
As we reconstruct our religion we must remember, Asatru is a living and breathing reli-gion. The gods are real beings. They are not archetypes. They are more than myths. Asatru is not a set of standards or dogmas. It is not a magical formula. It is not a set of rituals. Asa-tru is a way of life. Reconstruction is possible. It will be new in some sense. It will also be as traditional as the first time. Many people are now very involved in this reconstruction, and it is only a matter of time until the work is brought forth into fruition.
The Enemies of Asatru
As I mentioned before, there are many enemies of Asatru. Some of them have the intent of preventing the re-construction of the religion. While others are completely blind and ignorant. These people serve as tools that regurgitate the words and opinions of their masters, unknowingly. While we must consider these types of people enemies, we must also be aware that they cannot be unplugged from the system that gives them meaning and life.
Perhaps our discussion about the enemies of Asatru is best started from the top. There are two forces at play in the cosmos. We have the gods who represent quality. On the other hand, there are the Jotun. They can be said to represent quantity. They also want to see the order established by the gods disintegrate. It is in their interests, to watch the spiritual condition of mankind devolve into the primordial soup. As we discussed before these giants use monotheism and union with God is a tool to do this exact task. The battle has become so involved that this happens in modern times in the most subtle ways. An ideology, for example, that was used by the gods could quickly be used by the Giants and thus change the purpose of the entire plan. I will write a more esoteric guide Asatru in the future however. This will be a subject described in detail within a later book.
Otherworldly beings however, are not the only threat to Asatru. Human beings are of more concern. They can be so overly zealous that it blinds judgment. As a vessel, they can be used by the Giants and this force of quantity. Even those with in the asatru community, may be playing a role that is unhealthy to it.
Globalism and the bourgeoisie are also a serious threat to the development of Asatru. The interests of both served that of the Jotun. This cosmopolitan group of people care little about quality of life on earth. Instead they serve merely hedonistic urges and the worship of a physical supremacy that does not represent the reality of human life. Under their rule, life will continue to decay.
There is a lot of talk about what exactly the Asatru community should believe. Some claims deserve attention, while others are motivated by politics or emotional sentiment. However, for those who have invested the time to study the answer is quite clear and objective. Practicing Asatru demands the belief in three core beliefs.
First, is the belief that we are directly akin to the gods and goddesses. It is the goal of all human life to become more like them.
Second, we are not separate from our ancestors, nor the generations who are unborn. Asatru believes in the connection of the familial line that transcends all notions of time and space.
Third, we are our deeds. Our actions define who we are here, and determine to what extent we are able to fully live our wyrd. By acting in a higher level, we gain access to options in the afterlife.
Subscribe today and get future blog posts your email.