Posts

Why Asatru?

When friends and family learn that I have embraced a faith that honors and worships the pre-Christian Gods of Europe, they are typically bewildered. I recall one family member saying, “Well that’s fine, but I think its crazy.” Others often remained silent choosing not to discuss religion, but clearly thinking much the same.

It’s not too difficult to understand why one might leave Christianity. In fact, according to several studies, the number of Christians as a percentage of the population in the US and many European countries is rapidly declining. Scandals in the Catholic Church combined with changing perspectives on issues like abortion and homosexuality have made the Church appear antiquated and out-of-step with the times.

While there are many who associate with the principles of political “progressivism,” there are others who feel disenfranchised. Our fast-paced materialistic world has replaced traditional values with fads and technology that don’t appear to have long-lasting wo…

Sit Now to Sumbel

The second great ritual of Asatru is Sumbel, a Germanic term for “feast” or “banquet.” It is called sumbl in Old Norse and symbel in Old English. Some have called it “ritualized drinking,” but it is in fact much more. Performed properly, Sumbel is a powerful and magical ritual filled with transformative impact.

My first Sumbel was celebrated at a national gathering to celebrate Winter Nights. As day turned to night, the Asatruar who had gathered retreated to a great hall and began to rearrange the tables and chairs to form a large circle. All food was carefully removed from the hall, but participants filled their glasses or personal horns with the mead or ale of their choosing. The Gothi who was leading the rite stood and called everyone to order. It was announced that we would conduct three rounds; the first to the Gods, the second to our ancestors, and the third to present-day heroes. One was also allowed to boast of personal accomplishments, to offer gifts to other attendees, or e…

May I Speak to You About the All-Father?

While it may be scary to attend your first heathen event, what comes next is likely even scarier. Eventually most people interested in Asatru take the plunge and meet up with a real group of people (as opposed to an on-line group). This may be at a “pubmoot” (essentially a meet and greet at a local area pub) or a hike in the woods, or, as in my case, a weekend-long national event to celebrate a major heathen holiday. But what happens once you go home? Who do you tell? What exactly do you say you were doing?

A friend of mine told me that he was attending heathen events several times a month. When family members and friends at work would ask what he had done on the weekend, he would respond awkwardly, “I went camping.” I struggled with this early on and many of my friends in Asatru have reported that they have as well. But the truth is, we’re not doing anything shameful. Our religious beliefs don’t need to be kept secret. And yet, as sensible as that may sound, announcing to the fam…

The Mystery of the Runes

When one chooses to follow the path of Asatru, they will inevitably discover the Runes. While some discover Asatru after first encountering the Runes, others like me may be introduced to the Runes at a gathering of Asatruars.

My first Asatru event was a well-organized one that lasted for several days. The organizers created a schedule and I was thrilled to see that the days were filled with several promising lectures as well as various rituals. Wanting to gain as much information and knowledge as possible, I attended each class with the enthusiasm of a recent religious convert. One such class was a profane consideration of the Runes. By “profane” it simply meant that the consideration was not going to be religious or magical – but rather a simple look at writing the runes as one might use an alphabet.

The newcomer to Asatru will quickly learn that the runes, on the most simplistic level, were a type of old Germanic alphabet. The set of runes are generally referred to as a “Futhark” w…

Struck by Lightning

At the heart of almost all heathen events is the ritual known as blót (blessing). Historically heathen rituals were bloody affairs. Oftentimes an animal was sacrificed to the Gods or to a specific God in order to win favor for a good crop or perhaps victory in battle. Other types of food were also used as offerings; these could be various crops or even an offering of ale or mead. It is said that there were even human sacrifices, most famously offered to Odin and that such offerings may have occurred at the temple at Uppsala in Sweden.

For those who, like me, were raised on pop culture, the thought of a heathen sacrifice makes our minds leap to Christopher Lee and the classic cult film The Wicker Man  with its imagery of a fiery sacrifice by a Pagan cult. Fans of the History channel series The Vikings may also recall an early episode when Lagertha, the shield-maiden spouse of Ragnar Lothbrok, leads a sacrifice to the God Frey for the coming harvest. An animal is slaughtered and the blo…

A Life-Changing Event

The Internet, books, and even solitary worship is insufficient to become a practicing Asatruar. My introduction to Asatru was likely similar to many who learn that there are, here in the 21st Century, those who choose to worship the old Gods of their ancestors. Today one typically begins by Googling relevant terms on their mobile device of choice. There are countless groups on the Web and social media -- some of which boast incredibly large numbers of followers –sometimes in the tens of thousands. The output of such groups may grow wearisome quite quickly however. If you care to see a drawing of a muscle-bound Thor wielding a hammer every Thursday with the announcement “Today is Thor’s day!” or a voluptuous scantily-clad Goddess with a slogan like “Freya: If you can’t lay ‘em, slay ‘em,” there are plenty such groups that will accommodate this level of commitment – or lack thereof.

Asatru for beginners books are quite plentiful and are of great value to the newcomer. I am rather partia…

A Death in June

A spiritual journey is both long and twisted. At least I can describe mine in that way. Many times I have wondered in amazement at those who appear strong in their faith and have never wandered or strayed from that course. Theirs is a naïve purity, but a purity nonetheless. I met Christians like that. They were literally raised within the church from baptism to adulthood. They could quote scripture by chapter and verse. Very often these people were quite well read. Beyond their Bible, they had read C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel, and various Bible commentaries. Nietzsche however was probably not their cup of tea. I remember attempting to discuss Nietzsche with one such friend who had actually graduated from seminary. His response was limited to a joke.

 “I walked into a men’s room and saw scrawled on the wall ‘God is dead’ … Nietzsche.
 Right beneath it someone else wrote ‘Nietzsche is dead’ … God.”

I joined the church feeling like an outsider. I had read and cherished Nietzsche’s The Anti-Chr…