What is Asatru?
Asatru is the modern name applied to the ancient religion / folk-way of Northern Europe. It means literally "belief in the Asa, or trust in the Asa" The Asa are the north pantheon of Gods and Goddeses. The name Asa is taken from the name of one tribe of these Gods called the Æsir, the other primary tribe of Gods being the Vanir. It is also referred to by Norse paganism, Germanic neopaganism, heathenism, and many more such titles.
In olden times, in Northern Europe people lived a certain way; the way taught to them and passed on by word of mouth from their parents, and their parents, and their parents. It did not require a name, it was simply the way they lived on a daily basis very similar to the ways of the American Indians and other indiginous people.
It included communing with the spirits of the land, water, and air, honoring the ancestors, and communing with the Gods as well. In the practice of this faith there were oferrings made, sometimes of blood, sometimes not. Runic divination and magic were also a component of this practice.
I will go into all of these aspects in more detail in future articles, this article you are reading is designed to be a launching point, an introduction.
This folk-way varied in practice and method somewhat regionally, but was practiced in some form as far south as Germany, as far west as Iceland, east through Russia and all across scandinavia.
Christianity was spreading fast, but Scandinavia was one of the last regions to be converted, partially because their traditional ways were so entrenched in the hearts and lives of the people. The Christianization of Scandinavia took place between the 8th and 12th centuries. Although Scandinavia was eventually considered to be Christian, it actually took a much longer time for actual Christian beliefs to establish themselves among the people...if they ever did. The term "Heathen" was coined to identify people that were not Christian. Pockets of heathenism remained long after the region was supposedly Christianized.
In some cases, conversion to Christianity was done at the end of a sword. Many people lost their heads in those days because they refused to become Christian. The church would sometimes gain the conversion of a certain local king or leader by providing him certain gifts of riches and power, on the condition that all of his subjects would convert...hence the forced conversions (which aren't real conversions at all are they?)
Eventually, Christianity won, as it had many times before on many other continents. The native beliefs becoming outlawed, documents and sacred text being destroyed and eventually, forgotten...but not by all. Enough was preserved, enough pockets of Heathenry survived underground so that a reawakening was possible. It took a while though.
In 1973 Iceland was the first country to recognize Asatru as a religion. This victory was in most part due to the efforts of Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, he had founded "The fellowship of Æsir faith" in 1972 in which he acted as the Gothi, or priest, the organization was officially recognized as a religious body in 1973. Since then it has spread throughout the world and is growing faster and faster.
Now, Asatru is being practiced all over the world. It is a recognized religion in several countries. It has gotten some bad press in recent years, primarily because, in my opinion...bad people applied their own agenda to it. For some, it became an excuse to be a racist, the KKK did the same thing with Christianity remember? These rascist groups still exist and are still saying they are Asatru, but they are not the majority. There are wackos associated with every belief system. The fact is, that racism is not a tenent of Asatru belief. It is not supported in the lore. In my kindred, it never comes up at all. I will address this issue further in future articles.
As I said; this article is meant to familiarize you and make you aware of what Asatru is. In upcoming articles I will start diving into the actual practice of Asatru, how it is applied and "done" from day to day. The elements of our ritual and our ritual day, runes, Wights, Norns, the Gods themselves, and much more. The information is not meant to be the final authority however...this is how we practice, another kindred may do things a little different. One thing that sets Asatru apart from most religions is that we have very little dogma, there are no hard and fast rules other than being true to your oaths.
Until next time.