Ásatrú is the modern expression of the ancient indigenous religion of the peoples of Northern Europe. It is the worship of the gods of Asgard; Odin, Thor, Freya, and many more. It is also the worship of the spirits of the land, who dwell in springs, stones, trees, and rivers, as well as the honoring of our ancestors, who help make us who we are.
We worship those gods who were worshiped by our ancestors prior to the conversion of the North to Christianity. But more than that, we believe that the gods literally are our ancestors. Odin is the leader of the gods; he is the All-father and patron of kings, poets, and magicians. Thor is a famous enemy of the evil giants who want to destroy the Earth and return everything to the state of primal chaos. Freyr is a god of fertility and prosperity, while his sister Freya is known not only for her great beauty, but her ferocity as well. There are many other gods besides these; Heimdall, Balder, Frigg, Tyr, and others.
Where the gods are the beings that we honor on special occasions, the spirits of the land are the ones we interact with on a much more frequent basis. They inhabit trees and stones, springs and rivers. Since the land-spirits are much more “local”, they can relate to us much easier than the gods, as they are much closer to our level. Thus, for everyday problems we turn to them, establishing strong bonds of friendship with the spirits that dwell around us. A special type of such spirit is called the house-wight; sometimes called the Tomte or Nisse. These are spirits that dwell in our homes, and are also the focus of a special friendship, as they help the household run smoothly.
We also honor our ancestors, going back through the generations as far as we can go. We believe that a part of each of our ancestors lives on in us, and we honor them with shrines and prayers. Family is very important in Ásatrú, which is why we feel a special closeness to all of our relatives, both living and dead.
Ethics and Morality
Ásatrú provides a strong moral code. One’s personal and family honor is very important, as are the bonds of family in general. Oaths are literally sacred; one of the worst things an Ásatrúar can do is to break an oath. We value strength and independence, but loyalty to someone or something, once given, is sacred as well.
It is a simple but effective code; family, honor, honesty, independence, and loyalty.
Different Ásatrú groups will observe different holidays, sometimes based on traditional Scandinavian, German, or British holidays, sometimes including modern observances as well. Most groups will celebrate four major holidays, however. Yule celebrates the middle of winter, and is the origin of many modern Christmas customs such as the Yule log and wassailing. The coming of spring is observed on one or more of several holidays, as are Midsummer and the autumn harvest. Many of these holidays are observed in traditional fashion; bonfires on Midsummer, Yule trees, May Poles, and so forth.
We believe that there are many different possible homes for us after we die. Not only does a part of our soul live on in our descendants, but it is also possible for one’s spirit to live on in the earth as it did in life. Those who are specially chosen by Odin will dwell with him in Valhalla, while the vast majority of people will reside in Hel (with only one “l”); a place of peace and rest. The especially wicked – murderers, adulterers, and oath-breakers – will be condemned to the Corpse Shore, where they are tormented by venomous serpents.
Is Ásatrú for Everyone?
Ásatrú is a native European spirituality. Those of us who practice tribal religions believe that people of every ethnicity and every race should have the exact same opportunity to practice the religion and spirituality of their pre-Christian and pre-Muslim ancestors.
Thus, there are indigenous African religions like Yoruba and Hausa animism, Asian religions like Shinto and Chinese folk religion, American Indian tribal religions, and so forth. We would like to see a world in which the freedom of all peoples, no matter their race or ethnicity, to practice their ancestral religion without interference or appropriation by outsiders, is recognized.
Ásatrú means “belief in the Gods.” It teaches honor, loyalty, family, wisdom, and bravery. More than a religion, Ásatrú offers a way of living that is deeply fulfilling – honoring the Gods, the Earth, and our ancestors.
Come home to Ásatrú!