What is Heathenry/Ásatrú?

The quick ‘n’ dirty:

Heathenry or Heathenism is an umbrella term applied to the revived/reconstructed religions of the pre-Christian Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons, and continental Germans. Broadly speaking, the term “Heathenry” can be applied to Germanic neopaganisms.

Ásatrú is the term applied to the modern Icelandic/Norse-focused branch of Heathenry. As a modern religion, Ásatrú was founded first in Iceland in 1972 under the Ásatrúarfelagidh. Other organisations have since popped up in other countries, many in other branches of Heathenry. Ásatrú is sometimes used to refer to Heathenry in general but is more accurately applied to a Scandinavian and especially Icelandic/Old Norse focus.

Heathenry can differ widely in its various forms, but one commonality is that its branches are generally polytheistic, and follow a general pantheon of gods (with small and large regional differences). Broadly, we’re talking about gods like Odin and Thor and Frigga, who are known by different names in different places. In addition to gods, Heathenry often acknowledges spirits of the land and ancestors. Practitioners may also include folkloric influences in their practices.

Heathenry is informed by the literary and archaeological sources available to us about the pre-Christian heathens. This ranges from poetry to runic inscriptions, image carvings to burial goods, sagas to statuettes. All of these vary, again, depending on region, thus allowing for the different branches of Heathenry.

Heathenry is not just about honouring gods and spirits, it is about a philosophy of life and an understanding of culture.

There is nothing inherent in Heathenry or any of the sources available to us that implies a racist ideology. Any racist, neo-Nazi, nationalistic rhetoric you may see slapped onto Heathenry have come from somewhere else. Heathenry is not about race or nationalism. Anyone may practice it. It is an open group of religions.


3 thoughts on “What is Heathenry/Ásatrú?

  1. Katla Hrútsvinr 20. December, 2014 / 18:18

    I put it in capital letters so that people simply scanning the page would be able to see clearly that Heathenry is not racism. While I will trust you that you have more expertise on the subject, as you claim, I am making a statement about modern Heathenry as it has evolved today, not the historical pre-Christian practices. And in context nowadays, universalism has to do with who can and cannot practice, in direct opposition to “white people only”. There is a different meaning than to Christian universalism. At least, that’s how I have understood it.

    • Odinia 17. January, 2015 / 20:43

      Katla, Would you suggest that Black Africans must to allow Swedes to join and to run their voodoo group and that if they did not want to allow Swedes to join that they were racist? Or, would you suggest that the Chinese must be allowed to join Shinto organizations, or even run, them, rather than the Japanese? Ancestor worship implies worship of one’s own ancestors not those of other tribes. The whole idea that our religion must be fundamentally changes to accommodate other religions and races is abusive. The propsition that univeralism is anything other than Christian is not really sound either, although I know there is a great effort to promote this notion. The Walmart religion approach of Chritianity is a fundamental difference in point of view on the part of Pagans and Christians. It is not only about European ancestry people having the right of association only, but also about those who are actually Heathen as opposed to those who are trying to use our religion to promote anti-European, Jewish supremacist, or militant homosexual agendas, agendas that have never have anything to do with our religion.

      • Katla Hrútsvinr 18. January, 2015 / 14:15

        Instead of replying to your comment point by point, I will instead respond with this: you are using propagandic, anti-Semitic language and false equivalences, and on these grounds I announce that these attitudes are not welcome on my blog. You will say that I am shutting up because I have no argument, but really, I cannot make you see my side, and we have irreconcilable views. I will not engage with you any further.

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