This FAQ was created by myself, so if you have any questions, ideas, or would like clarification on an issue, write me and I'll make an addition. Hopefully this FAQ is always growing...
What is Asatru?
Can anyone be a Heathen?
What do Heathens believe in?
What is a Kindred?
What is a patron deity? How does one choose one?
What is a Blot?
What is a Sumbel?
Are all Heathens Asatru, or are there different kinds of Heathens? - (submitted by S.F.)
Are Heathens and Pagans the same thing? - (submitted by S.F.)
How can I learn more about Asatru? - (submitted by S.F.)
I can't drink alcohol; is it okay to use some other drink in my blots? What do I do if I'm passed a hornful of mead in sumbel? - (submitted by S.F.)
Do heathens use magic? - (submitted by S.F.)
Is Asatru connected to Nazis/skinheads? - (submitted by S.F.)
Aren't most Asatru men? - (submitted by S.F.)
Can I be Asatru if I don't have a kindred? - (submitted by S.F.)
What are the Nine Noble Virtues?
Quite simply, Asatru is a religion, but more than a religion, it is a way of life for many people. It the ancestral religion of the people of Northern Europe. It reached its peak about a thousand years or so, then was pretty much wiped out by Christianity. I will state now what Asatru is NOT. It is not Wicca. It is not associated with any other religious faith, although it bares similarities to many. Followers of Asatru are called Asatruers or Heathens. Asatru (roughly transated) is from Old Norse and means "to worship the Aesir."
Yes. Asatru sets no restrictions on gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other factor. In fact, you will find that most Heathens are rather vocal in their opposition of discrimination of any kind.
Heathens believe in a variety of Gods and Goddesses which are based on the stories in the Poetic and Prose Eddas, as well as generations of folk tales. The list is long, so I will avoid it here (if you are interested in the topic, read the Eddas, books on Norse mythology, or our mythology page). The Eddas are not like a standard religious text (by standard, I'm referring to such works such as the Bible and the Koran). The Eddas are the stories of the Gods that we read, and hope to learn from.
A Kindred (also known as a Hearth or a Garth) is a group of Heathens that decide to worship together. Again, this is not necessary, since many followers do not live near a centralized consentration of fellow Heathens. Also, some feel that their faith is a private thing, and have no use for a Kindred. Kindreds are often led by a priest (called a Gothi) and/or a priestess (called a Gythia). There are no special qualifications that must met for becoming a Gothi or Gythia, one is usually just chosen by their Kindred.
A patron deity is a God or Godess that one feels especially close to, and has such decided to centralize their faith around.
Choosing a patron is a very important (but not necessary) choice. It doesn't, however, have to be a difficult one. One will most likely choose a deity that they feel personally close to. This does not mean that they are refusing to acknowledge any other deity, just that they are deciding to focus their faith on the worship of one God or Godess. For example, Loki as my patron, but I still worship and honour all of the deities. I have previously mentioned that it is not necessary to choose a patron. Many Heathens choose not to dedicate themselves to one particular deity. This is a personal choice that only you can make.
A Blot (pronounced bloat) is a religious ceremony in Asatru. To generalize it, a Blot is a sacrifice made to the Gods (when I say Gods, I'm referring to both the Gods and Godesses). Traditionally, the sacrifice is a horn of mead. Since many Heathens today do not live close to a meadery, or do not know how to brew it themselves, other drinks such as wine and/or beer are often sacrificed. There are eight major Blots a year; these are: (note, old Norse names are in parenthesis)
Disfest (Disablot): January 31st
Ostara (Ostara): March 20th
May Eve (Valpurgis): April 30th
Midsummer (Midsumarsblot): June 21st
Freysfest (Freysblot): July 31st
Fallfest (Haustblot): September 23rd
Winter Night (Vetrnaetr): October 31st
Yule (Jol): December 21st
However, a Blot can also occur on a special occasion. A wedding, a birth, a job promotion, or any time one wishes to pay tribute and thanks to the Gods.
A Sumbel is another ritual of Asatru which involves toasting. Again, a horn of mead is traditional, but not necessary. A group of Heathens gather together. The first toast is raised to the Gods, or a patron deity in particular. This is done by every member of the group until the horn is back to the first participant. The second toast is raised to one's ancestors. Again, the horn is passed around until it arrives at the first participant. After these two toasts, the horn is raised to personal heroes, feats of accomplishment (of the one giving the toast or someone else in the group), or anything else one feels like toasting. This is done until the horn (or whatever it is you're drinking from) is empty. There are no set times for having a Sumbel, it could be held anytime from once a week, to once a year.
This all depends on your definition of the word Heathen. The term "heathen" was originally used by Christianity to describe one who was Godless (if my memory serves me, it comes from the Latin meaning "people of the hearth" referring to the Germanic tribes). Many in the Asatru community have now embraced the word, which societies often do in order to devalue the insult. There are many that consider themselves to be Heathen, but are not Asatruar. There are many kinds of Heathens, although a great many follow the beliefs of Scandanavia, other follow Germanic, Polish, Russian, Bulgarian, and other North-Eastern European beliefs which differ to various degrees.
In today's society, the term Pagan is used to describe those who have polytheistic belief systems (more that one God/Goddess). So, although they are not the same thing, Heathens are Pagans.
I've often heard Asatru described as "the religion with homework", and quite simply, it's true. The answer is research. Go to your favourite search engine and type Asatru. Of course, always take what you find with a grain of salt. Also, try the links section of this page. You'll find a few useful sites, and you can simply surf from there.
Mead is the traditional drink for a blot or sumbel, but that doesn't mean that's it's the only one you can use. Many cannot find mead in their areas, so they substitute. The Gods are not alcoholics, so alcohol isn't necessary. Any drink will suffice. The sacrifice of a drink during a blot is a symbolic gesture, so any drink will do. (wonder what Thor would look like with a milk moustache)
If you are participating in a Sumbel, chances are that the rest of your group knows that you do not drink. Most often, a substitution is used.
Some do, some don't. That is a personal choice. In theological discussions, I've come across this issue several times. While hearing valid points for both viewpoints, I haven't heard an argument that seals one side as being right, and the other wrong. Simply, it's a personal choice. For example, the casting of the runes is a common practice for many, whereas some see it as being limited to a few individuals.
No! Absolutly not! In the 1930's, Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party attempted to co-opt Norse mythology in order to gain the...friendly...support of Germany's indigenous people. Many misguided people today have tried to do the same. Keep in mind that this IS NOT Asatru. Just as the Crusades were not Christian, and some schmuck blowing up a bus full of children is not Islamic. Many people do acts in the name of a religion that go against it's basic principles, that's what these "white-power Odinists" are doing.
Not at all! I've met many Heathens who, by some random chance, happen to be women. *LOL* Asatru today is still a rather small religion, so it is not often in the public eye. The main reason (I've found) for this misconception is the traditional Viking image. Big burly man with axe going to raid and slaughter. Asatru = Norse = Viking = Misconception.
Most certainly. Many Heathens (myself included) do not feel a need for a Kindred. For many, their faith is an extremely personal thing that they simply wouldn't know how to share with others. In other cases, some feel that a Kindred simply isn't needed.
The Nine Noble Virtues are qualities that all Heathens try to live by. They are: courage, truth/honesty, honour, loyalty/fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industriousness, self-reliance and perseverance.