Continuing with the theme of Pagan beliefs, this article will cover Norse and Asatru paths. The Asatru path is based on the Eddas, which are a collection of 13th Century Norse poems and stories. The Eddas provide religious and magical guidance along with wisdom and myths. Some people identify as Norse while others call themselves Asatruars and some use the term interchangeable. For the purpose of this article the term Asatru will be used for both paths.
In the Norse pantheon there are two divisions: AEsir and Vanir. The AEsir live in Asgard, are historically fierce, almost Viking-like, and are led by the god Odin. Included in this group of gods is Tyr, the god of law, and Thor, the warrior god. Odin gave of himself to learn the secrets of rune divination by hanging himself upside down on the world tree, Yggdrasil.
The Vanir are gentler gods associated more with farming with Freya being the most prominent among them. After the war between the AEsir and Vanir some of the Vanir gods do move to Asgard while some stayed in Vanaheim. Freya’s twin, Frey, is associated with fertility and love. The was between the two divisions was ended by Njord (Freya and Frey’s father), god of the sea and peacemaking.
Asatru followers also believe in the Norns, who are similar to the Greek Fates, the Valkyries, Odin’s daughters, and the Disir, led by Freya. The Disir are the go-betweens for the people and the gods. A Disir is usually associated with a family, such as a female ancestor, and protect the family in times of battle or bring abundance in times of peace.
Similar to the Wiccan Rede, the Asatruars follow the nine noble virtues. Courage: which is not just lack of fear but the ability to stand up for others. Truth: both honesty and allegiance to your faith. Honor: following of the virtues and it precedes your arrival and follows you after death. Fidelity: being faithful to commitments and vows. Discipline: this is mainly self-discipline to keep yourself on the correct path. Hospitality: treating house spirits with respect and welcoming people into your home with respect. Industriousness: working hard in your career and in your chosen faith, similar to the concept of usefulness. Self-Reliance: try to fulfill your own desires and needs before enlisting the help of others or the gods. Perseverance: continuing your work even when challenges arise.
When an Asatruar passes on, they believe they will either live on in either Hel or Valhalla. Hel is not like the Christian Hell of damnation. Hel is the underworld ruled over by the goddess Hel and is a peaceful place. Dying in battle will send an Asatruar to Valhalla where great feasts and games are held. Some spirits decide to stay on Earth to watch over family and burial mounds. Some Asatruar also believe in either partial or complete reincarnation within the family line.
Asatruars follow the cycle of the seasons for their celebrations with a few additions not found in the Wiccan faith. In addition to the Wiccan holidays Asatruars celebrate: Einherjar (usually held on either Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day), Thorrablot (celebrated in late January), and the Feast of Vali (February 14th). Einherjar remembers and celebrates the lives of those who have fallen in battle or given their life to protect others. This is not actually a joyous celebration. Thorrablot is the feast of Thor. Historically it was celebrated in honor of Thorri not Thor. Modern Asatruars have changed this holiday to represent Thor and to help strengthen a person’s spirit. The Feast of Vali has been modified to be similar to the Western celebration of Valentine’s Day. Historically Vali was the god of vengeance and rebirth. Some followers of Asatru also honor the god Disting on this day.
Other differences between Asatru and Wiccan can be found in the tools used. Instead of a chalice, Asatruars use a drinking horn usually filled with mead or ale but juice can be used in place of those when children are present or the practitioner doesn’t drink alcohol. In the center of an Asatru alter is the Hlautbowl, or offering bowl. It is used to give offerings to the gods or spirits. A Thor’s hammer is often used in ceremony in ritual to create sacred space; this replaces the wand and athame found in Wiccan traditions. Because oaths are so sacred in Norse tradition a kindred (family of followers) will usually have a ring for use when making formal vows to each other or to their god. The last few tools Asatruars use appear similar to Wiccan tool on the surface but their purpose is quite different. The Sax and Rister are types of knives that are used to carve runes into wood. They are used only for that purpose! The Gandr, or wand, is used to create sacred space when working with runes.
A great book to learn about runes is Taking Up the Runes, which can be found at the Biltmore Borders or at The Northern Winds (link below). A local Asatru group willing to teach to others is The Norse Wolf Pack and a schedule of their events and classes can be found on The Northern Winds website. Another Norse kindred located in the Phoenix area are The Hearthsgard Fellowship.