What Is Ásatrú?

by Erich Campbell

     The word "Ásatrú" literally translates as "faith in the gods," but it is best described as the modern rebirth of the indigenous, pre-Christian faith of the Nordic/Germanic peoples. It is a polytheistic faith, meaning that it honors a pantheon of numerous gods and goddesses. Many of the names of these gods and goddesses remain part of our modern culture. One example is found in the days of the week, i.e. Wednesday is Woden's (Odin's) Day, Thursday is Thunar's (Thor's ) Day, Friday is either Frigga's Day or Freya's Day (scholars debate which). Ásatrú has been recognized officially in Iceland, Ásatrúar but also has a large following throughout Scandinavia and in America, England, Germany, and other countries.

     Ásatrú is focused on honoring the two families of gods and goddesses, the Æsir and the Vanir, but it also holds a belief in various other land spirits and a reverence of ancestors. Many follow a list of nine virtues, referred to as the Nine Noble Virtues, that have been culled from the Eddas (our primary sources) and the Sagas. These virtues are: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-reliance, and Perseverance.

     Ásatrú has a strong emphasis on individual spiritual experience, however, Ásatrú people often form small groups. These groups are variously known as kindreds, hearths, garths, felags, halls, etc. Some have a designated priest or priestess, while others rely on inspired volunteers to lead the celebrations. A priest is referred to as a Goði, a priestess as a Gyðja. There is a great deal of importance placed on the study of the literature, folklore, and history pertaining to the original religious and cultural elements upon which Ásatrú is based.

     Ásatrú is open to everyone, and there are many different sorts of Ásatrú people. Anyone who wants to become Ásatrú can do so -- regardless of gender, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, language, sexual orientation, or other divisive criteria.

     Our primary religious celebrations are called Blóts. They are essentially a ritual featuring a votive offering, usually in the form of libation. These Blóts are held at pivotal points during the year, the most important being Yule and Midsummer's Blót. There are various other Blóts that are also celebrated. Sumbels, consisting of rounds of ritual drinking and toasting, are also held occasionally. A typical calendar of celebrations is as follows:

Disablót-31 January     Ostara-21 March     Valpurgis-30 April         Midsummer-21 June  Freysfest-31 July    Haustblót-23 September    Winter Nights-31 October      Yule-21 December 

     Many other social and cultural events may also be held. Common religious rites outside of the major Blóts include weddings, land-taking, Coming of Age rites, professions, personal Blóts to a patron or matron among the gods and goddesses, Blóts done in time of need, etc.

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