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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.What do you believe?
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.
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
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
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