WWPN Paths of the Norse People
Welcome all you lovers of Viking lore and Norse sagas. Here we have gathered some of the most in depth information to be presented not only on the paleo-paganistic path of the ancient Norse people, but the neo-pagan paths that were inspired by it. We hope that you find much here to enlighten you, as well as much you may have already known.
The Northern Traditions
Among the myriad of pagan paths, we have found four that are in the category of Norse Traditions. They are Odini, Odinism, Asatru, and Vanatru. Except for Odini, all these paths are neo-paganistic and have no limits to who may follow their paths.
Odini, the oldest of these four paths is far different from its kindred paths. First, Odini is a paleo-paganistic path that is practiced by only a few thousand people in the world, most of them still living in Norway, but there are some abroad. Membership has been restricted to Norse family bloodlines and said bloodlines are well documented within the church. Some people have mistaken this as a racist religion, but that is no more true of Odini than it is of the paths of the Hopi, Apache, Commanche, Crow, or any other North American tribe. For the Odini, religion and ethnic heritage are inseparable, and their gods are as much a part of the family as their children.
There are other strict tenets amongst the Odini. Odini priests, upon entrance into the priesthood, must choose several things that they will "give up to the gods" in exchange for the knowledge and gifts they bestow upon their priests. This usually includes foods they will forsake, hobbies that they might give up, etc. These trades are for the remainder of the priests life. For example, a pork chop loving priest would choose to give up the chops to the gods, and thus may never eat them again. They believe that failing to live up to their promise to the gods is swiftly and harshly punished and thus make their choices carefully.
Odini priests never sacrificed any part of their body to the gods, however, unless the gods themselves engineered it. In other words, while an Odini priest might claim that a body part lost during the course of a battle was "given over to the gods" they would never willingly mutilate themselves to make such a sacrifice. The honors of the gods were for the gods alone to bestow and no man (or woman) could make that decision for the gods. How did these tales of body mutilation come about? The usual sources:
1) The Odini are what is referred to as a "closed" path; (Closed paths are those that are restricted by race, family bloodline, or some other qualifying factor. New agers tend to think of closed paths as being racist, when in fact many of them are trying merely to preserve their way of life and faith from as many outside influences as they are able to. Some closed paths allow the spouses of their followers to join their path, others do not. While this may seem harsh, it is merely a different way of doing things.) because of this, and because they are quite secretive about the specifics of their faith, a great many people have attempted to either vilify or glorify the path that they are not able to walk.
2) Many people have confused the archaic Norseman's love of the glory of battle with the love of the gore of battle. From this confusion have come many wrong assumptions. Odini priests, as part of their training, were required to be what roleplayers think of as "battlefield clerics" in that they were allowed to devote all the time they wished to spiritual concerns prior to battle or after battle, but during battle, they must fight as did any other member of the ranks. This led to many battle scarred Odini, thus furthering the tales of Odini priests scarring themselves for the greater glory of their gods.
3) As Christianity took a greater hold over areas in which the Norse folks dwelt, the Christian priests wove elaborate tales of the bloodthirsty priests of Odin. Even the simplest aspects of the Odini were made to seem horrifying at the pulpits of Christian preachers. Many of the once prominent families who followed the paths of Odin split over bitter conflicts between those relations who wished to embrace the budding Christian religion to keep their social standing and those who felt such a conversion would be disloyal.
4) Emigration from Norway to the other countries (most notably to the United States) took the final and most devistating toll on the ranks of the Odini. In a country where people were told they had freedom of religion, many of the Odini immigrants found themselves ostracized by their mostly Christian neighbors. In an effort to gain greater personal acceptance, many of the Odini who had fought conversion for years in Norway, succumbed to conversion due to excessive social pressures in the United States. There are few remaining Odini, most of the Norse paths followed in these modern times are offshoots of this ancient path and the few who still follow it rarely talk about any but the most basic of information about it.
Odini priests are not creatures of magick, they merely ask for their gods to aid them in certain undertakings such as healings, divination, blessings, etc. They do not do spell craft, though they do have very stylized and sometimes violent rituals to perform. These rituals are only vaguely talked about with those outside the Odini path, and historically any battle that the Norse were involved in was led by one or more Odini priests in the name of the gods as a form of mass sacrifice. However the Odini do NOT believe that blood must be shed for a sacrifice, though there must be pain involved. One can sacrifice of themselves but sacrificing eating beets if you do not like them is no sacrifice at all. If you give up a material possession it must be one that you hold in high regard or that has great value. Similarly, if you sacrifice your efforts it must be your best effort and the one you have put much of yourself into.
Odini has always been a closed path (selective in membership-see above) but became an isolated path in the tenth century in response to the rise of Christianity in Norway which came about during the reign of Olaf I around 995 AD and continued by his successor Olaf II from 1015 until being exiled in 1028. It was Olaf II's policy that any who did not convert to Christianity and be baptized would be killed, usually beheaded. Many Odini publicly allowed themselves to be baptized while privately continuing the Odini ways. As there were many parallels between their worship and the Christian form of worship, it was easy for them to remain undiscovered. It was also at this time that a variant of Thor's hammer (the symbol of the Odini and many of the Norse traditions that followed), that was forged using an elongated top nub, thus making the hammer look more like the Christian crucifix. In this manner the Odini could wear their hammers in public undetected, and the "Norse Cross" is still a popular variant of the Crucifix among Norse Christians.
Odinism, Asatru, and Vanatru, are all neo-paganistic paths. It is common for those of these paths to claim that these are the paths handed down by the Teutonic peoples, however this claim is false and nearly impossible since the Teutons were annihilated by the Roman general Gaius Marius at Aquae Sextiae in 102 BC and left no written records of who or what they believed in that could be translated. Runic writings from that time have been found, but cannot be translated as most of the time Runes were used as a form of shorthand and the meanings changed with each writer. The actual people that inspired the neo-pagan Norse traditions were migrant farmers from Denmark and Sweden who settled in the area after the demise of the Gauls, and also the Cimbri people who traveled with the Teutons until 105 BC and then traveled south without them, thus escaping the fate of the Teutons.
Regardless of where neo-pagans got their knowledge of the Odini ways, there is a kinship between them, though the neo-paganistic paths are nowhere near as strict. Nor are the modern paths any less because of their differences, they are just different. These neo pagan paths are broken up into three basic groups- Odinism, Asatru, and Vanatru. Originally the three names told you much about the followers of the paths, but thanks to the widespread popularity of eclecticism (path mixing) the names themselves have become synonymous.
Originally the Odinists worshipped Odin first, but gave credit and credence to many other Norse deities. The Asatru used to acknowledge only the gods of the Aesir (gods of the tribe or clan), and the Vanatru acknowledged those gods of the Vanir (gods of fertility and earth, forces of nature). However, it seems that most modern Norse Traditionalists pick those deities that appeal to them and ignore the rest.
Among Neo-pagans however, there is still much bickering about their perspective paths. The Asatru and Vanatru often claim that the Odinists are a bunch of racist neo-nazis, and there are web sites galore that lend to that image, however, Odinists are no more or less racist than the Asatru or the Vanatru. This problem began during the early part of the 20th century when the National Socialist Party in Germany under Adolph Hitler attempted to pervert the Norse paths by grafting parts of the religion with the Nazi racist beliefs.
Another sad thing amongst the modern Norse traditionalist is the demonization of Loki. Amongst the Odini, Loki is seen as the embodiment of that part of the universe that remains completely beyond our control and yet seems to have a strange sense of humor. When you wash your car and it rains, that is an example of Loki at work. He is the eternal trickster, but good and evil do not apply to this being. He is Chaos personified. Yet many of the Asatru and the Vanatru will almost scream obscenities at you if you say "may Loki bless you" which among the Odini is only the best of wishes.
The diversity of beliefs amongst the followers of Norse paths is not in and of itself a bad thing, but the endless bickering they engage in is. Whether Odini, Odinist, Asatru, or Vanatru, they could all walk tall together and wear their hammers with pride if they would remember the commonalities that they share.
Sad to say that in these modern times, many people are only introduced to these paths through role-playing games such as Mage The Ascension, though the Asatru of these games bear little resemblance to the real thing, and yet, sad to say, thanks to many who take their role playing too seriously, they are starting to.
ODINISM, WHAT IS IT?
1. What do you mean by Odinism? Odinism is the indigenous religious faith of the Scandinavian, British and other peoples of Northern Europe; it is an amalgam of attitudes, ideas and behavior, both a personal faith and a communal way of life. In its beginnings Odinism is probably as old as our race. Historically it may be divided into three periods: A. Before the coming of Christianity B. Its gradual merging with Christianity and the ensuing Period of Dual Faith, and C. Its efforts in the present century to free itself of Christian influences and to reassert its ancient independence.
2. How have the tenets of Odinism been preserved? Is there an Odinist holy book? The ancient oral traditions of Odinism were during the Middle Ages embodied in writings, the Odinist books of wisdom, the principle of which are the Eddas. The poetic Elder Edda presents the Odinist cosmogony, the mythological lays and the heroic lays, including the story of Sigurd and Brynhild which were in later times molded into the Lay of the Nibelungs. The Younger Edda is a prose synopsis of the Odinist faith.
3. When did Britain and the rest of Europe cease to be Odinist? The first of our Northern countries to succumb to the false promises of the new religion were the Goths, in the fourth century of the Christian era; the Icelanders became Christians by official decree in the year 1000 CE, to be followed by the Scandinavian countries over the next two hundred years. England was "converted" between 597 and 686 CE and Scotland somewhat earlier (although some of the people of Ross-shire were still worshipping the old Gods as late as the seventeenth century). Ireland, when Patrick the Proselytizer landed there in the year 432, was described as "a heathen land"; Dublin and the other principal Irish towns were actually founded by Odinist Vikings, who dedicated the country to the god Thor.
4. Well, the people were converted to Christianity. Would you have denied them their freedom of choice? They had no choice. Most of those who were "converted" had little knowledge of Christian doctrine; the new religion was imposed on them by sword and sermon. The Revd S. C. Olland's Dictionary of English Church History is explicit: "The adoption of Christianity generally depended upon State action: The king and his nobles were baptized and the people largely followed their example. . . . .The wholesale conversions. . . . . could not have implied individual conviction." On one day alone in the year 598 more than ten thousand English "converts" were baptized in a mass ceremony; it is unlikely that they had received a great deal of instruction in the Christian faith. Even in the twentieth century the vast majority of Christians are still quite ignorant of Christian doctrine. It was always so.
5. Why do you say that Odinism was practiced in the Church during what you have called "the Period of Dual Faith"? We can see the evidence everywhere, even today. When the foreign missionaries subverted Britain what they could they repressed and what they could not they ignored or adopted. The ancient spring renewal festival of Summer Finding was transformed into the Christian feast of the resurrection; the Midwinter festival of Yule became Christmas. Not only the folk festivals connected with the great changes of season - May Day and Midsummer and Harvest - but numerous customs associated with life's milestones, birth and marriage and death, all showed that the old Gods lived on in the life and in the language of the people. Many of the external signs of the ancient faith were retained: Water was consecrated and wood was blessed. A Christian writer, Professor P. D. Chantepie de la Saussaye DD, has said, "We recognize in this folklore a form of historical continuity, the bond of union between the life of the people in pagan and In Christian times." Even today when we say, "Touch wood!" we are recalling the sacred nature of an important symbol of our ancient religion; and how many people are aware that they are paying unconscious tribute to the Gods of Odinism when they light their Christmas or Paschal candles or their bonfire on the fifth of November? Or that the very "Christmas tree" is itself the World Ash of Odinism? Even the sign of the cross is really the sign of Thor's hammer!
6. How long did the Period of Dual Faith last? The period during which Odinism was actually practiced within the Church extended in Britain from about the seventh century CE right down to the 1930's, when the purity of ancient worship was revived by a number of groups working outside the Church for the first time for more than a thousand years.
7. But the adoption of Christianity, a creed that preaches peace on earth and the equality of all men was, surely you must agree, a step forward in the civilizing of our people? Odinists were happy enough to put up with the new doctrines so long as they were allowed to go on practicing their own faith in peace. But the inherent contradiction at the heart of Christianity is that it denies in action the faith that it professes verbally. There is no history of religious warfare in Europe before the coming of Christianity. It is ironic indeed that the message of peace on earth has been propagated with so much bloodshed. As for the equality of all men, we just do not believe in it; and even the Christian god has his "chosen people".
8. Why is it now necessary to reassert what you describe as Odinism's ancient independence? Why can you not , in the present unsettled state of society, leave well alone. Surely we should be getting together, not creating more divisions amongst ourselves? First of all it is necessary to state that because of its organic origins and development Odinism is a religion of visual truth. Nevertheless, for just so long as Christian and Odinist ethics coincided - even superficially - it was possible for Odinists to worship the Gods under their Christian designations; but only for so long as they remained adequate interpretations of the true divinities of Odinism (the nature of a god being of greater importance than his name). The Churches are today opposed to many of the things that Odinists hold sacred: They sin against nation and people by espousing causes whose ultimate aim is our destruction; they condone legislation that has given statutory approval to unnatural sexual deviance and perversion; they encourage criminal activities by calling for the exemption from punishment, or even prosecution, of whole categories of lawbreakers; they provide financial aid for revolutionary propaganda and even terrorist activities against our own people; they remain totally indifferent to the rape of our countryside in the short-term interests of economic gain and technology; and they have successfully divided the people of our own islands against themselves (e.g., in Ireland). Life in Northern Europe is today, after fifteen hundred years of Christianity, almost entirely concerned with material wealth and self-indulgence and the Christian clergy have largely forsaken their spiritual vocations in order to preach the causes of subversion and revolution. The people yearn for spiritual bread but have been offered by the Churches only a political stone. It is no longer possible for anyone who is aware of his debt to our past or who has concern for the future of our nation and race to remain within the Christian Church. This must not, however be taken to imply that Odinists bear hatred towards Christians; we recognize that there are many good and sincere people within the Christian community from whose example Odinists themselves could not fail to profit. But the Church is itself largely responsible for the "present unsettled state of society". Odinists see it as their duty to oppose those who menace the things that they regard as holy. If we cannot in justice always blame the sheep we should and do attack the shepherds.
9. But surely it would be preferable to have one god for all mankind? Why? One god or many Gods, it really does not matter. Our true Gods are actually worshipped by peoples all over the world, using their own mythologies and adapting their worship to local cultures and conditions. We prefer to worship the Gods in our own way with people of our own kind. And we respect the right of others to their own beliefs. It was an Odinist gothi (priest), Sigrith, who told the foreign missionaries, "I must not part from the faith which I have held, and my forefathers before me; on the other hand I shall make no objection to your believing in the god that pleases you best."
10. You have mentioned the "Gods of Nature". Does this mean that Odinists are nature-worshippers? Odinists recognize man's spiritual kinship with Nature, that within himself are in essence all that is in the greater world, which perform within him the same functions as in the world. Thus there are in man the four elements, the vegetative life of plants, an ethereal body - the god- soul - corresponding to the heavens, the sense of animals, of spiritual things and reason and understanding. Because in this way man comprises all the parts of the world within himself he is thus a true image of the Gods. Also containing the essence of the universe within themselves, the Gods are everywhere and in everything: They show themselves to us as fire, as a flower, as a tree. Odinists believe that all life should be lived in communion and in accord with the mind of the Gods. Christianity turned away from Nature and concentrated its adherents' attention on the human soul and became obsessed with the fall of man, by which it was implied that man had brought all Nature down into sin with him. Christian teaching encouraged man to see Nature only in her physical form whereas Odinists regard Nature as a true manifestation of the divine. "We and the cosmos are one," wrote D. H. Lawrence, "The cosmos is a vast living body, of which we are still part. The sun is the great heart whose tremors run through our smallest veins. The moon is a great gleaming nerve-centre from which we quiver forever. . . . Now all this is literally true, as men knew in the great past and as they will know again." Whoever shall properly know himself and all things in himself shall know the Gods. The Odinist, because of his awareness of his relationship with Nature, is able to feel a consanguineous kinship with plants and animals and the land - a complete oneness.
11. You speak of "the Odinist mythology". Do you really expect anyone to believe in a myth? Every religion is mythical in its development. Mythology is the knowledge that the ancients had of the divine; it is religious truth expressing in poetical terms mankind's desire for personal and visible gods. The mythology of Odinism consists of a group of legends, fables and tales relating to The Gods, heroes, demons and other beings whose names have been preserved in popular belief. Our object must be to discover, with the help of our mythology, the Gods who manifest themselves throughout Nature: In the streets and in the trees and in the rocks, in the running streams and in the heavy ear of grain, in the splendor of the sun by day and in the star-strewn sky at night. But it is not the myth that Odinists believe in but the Gods whom that myth helps us to understand.
12. What, then, is the Odinist mythology? Briefly, our mythology unfolds in five acts (which may be compared to the evolution of the seasons of the year): A. the Creation (spring) B. the time preceding the death of Balder (summer) C. the death of Balder (summer's end) D. the time immediately after the death of Balder (autumn) E. Ragnarok, the decline and fall followed by the regeneration of the world (winter and spring) The first effort of speculative man has always been to solve the mystery of existence, to ask what was in the beginning. The condition of things before the world's creation is expressed in the Eddas negatively; there was nothing of that which sprang into existence: Nothing was Neither land nor sea, Nor cool waves. Earth was not , Sky was not, But a gaping void And no grass.Ymir was a frost-giant, e.g. chaotic matter: From Ymir's flesh The world was made, And from his blood the sea. Mountains from his bones, Trees from his hair, And the welkin from his skull. There were as yet no human beings upon the earth when one day the Gods Odin, Hoener and Loder were walking along the seashore they saw two trees from which they created the first human pair. Odin gave them life and spirit, Hoener endowed them with reason and the power of motion and Loder gave them blood, hearing, and a fair complexion. The man they called Ask ash)--and the woman Embla (elm). As their abode the newly-created pair received from the Gods Midgarth and from them is descended the whole human race. Balder is the god of the summer, the favorite god of all Nature and a son of Odin; he is one of the wisest and most eloquent of the Gods and his dwelling is in a place where nothing impure can enter. The story of Balder, well-known in the Northern countries, finds explanation in the seasons of the year, in the change from light to darkness; he represents the bright and clear summer and his death is the impermanent victory of darkness over light, of winter over summer, of death over life. When Balder is dead, all Nature mourns. His death presages the disaster of Ragnarok, the consummation of the world, followed by its cleansing and return to the primal state. Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, represents a great conflict between good and evil powers. The idea is already suggested in the story of the Creation in which the Gods are represented as proceeding from giants, that is from an evil and chaotic force. And whatever can be born must surely die. In the seasons and activities of Nature we see a constantly recurring picture of the necessity for death and the equal certainty of its being overcome. At Ragnarok all the worlds of Nature will be destroyed and even the giants must die. But from that catastrophe will emerge a renewed world and the Gods themselves will be born again. We see this drama enacted every year in miniature when autumn heralds the period of decline and decay until with the spring we witness the magic of resurrection and new life. This, briefly told, is the myth that explained to our ancestors their origin and the origin of the world, the creation of life from chaos and the mergence of evolution and harmony.
13. Who is Odin? Odin is the first and eldest of the Gods, the all-pervading spirit of the sun, the moon, the stars, the hills, the plains and of man. With his help were made heaven and earth and the first man and woman. All knowledge came from him; he is the inventor of poetry and discovered the runes; he governs all things, protects the social organization influences the human mind, avenges murder and upholds the sanctity of the oath. He is well named All father. And because he chooses to surround himself with a bodyguard of those who have fallen in battle he is also known as Val father, Father of the Slain. In the mythology Odin's single eye (the other he sacrificed in exchange for wisdom) is the sun, his broad-brimmed hat the arched vault of heaven, his blue cloak the sky. A conspicuous passage in the Edda is Odin's sacrifice of himself to himself: I know I hung on the windy tree nine nights through: I know I hung I know I hung myself to myself, on the tree that springs from roots unknown. Order is the basis of Odin's government. Nature the garment by which he manifests himself. Odinism says: Study the natural laws, conform to them and you will prosper; ignore them or violate them and you must suffer. Just so far as you study and obey Nature exactly so far will Nature reward or punish you. For under Odin the government of Nature is harmonious and unchangeable.
14. Who are the other Gods of Odinism? What kind of Gods are they? We have already spoken of Odin and Balder. Of the other Gods the best- known is Thor, the most famous story concerning whom tells of this Warrior-God crushing the powers of chaos. He rules over clouds and rain and makes his presence known in the lightning's flash. He is the protector of the farm worker, the chief god of agriculture, a helpful deity who makes the crops grow and who also blesses the bride with fertility. In the words of Professor P. V. Glob, " He wishes all men well and stands by them in face of their enemies and against the new God, Christ." Tyr is the God of martial honor, the most daring and intrepid of the Gods. He dispenses justice in time of peace and valor in war. He it was who sacrificed a hand when overpowering the evil Fenris Wolf, showing us that we ourselves must be prepared to make sacrifices in order to protect ourselves and our kin from those who seek to cast our society into anarchy and chaos. Frey is God of the harvest and is therefore also a God of fecundity and growth; some authorities believe that he and Christ may have become blended, in England at least, in so a God of fecundity and growth; some authorities believe that he and Christ may have become blended, in England at least, in the new religion of Christianity. Freya is a Goddess of love and the sister of Frey: Barren women may invoke her and she is also the Goddess of death for all women. Another God, Vali, is called he Avenger because when he was yet only one night old he avenged Balder's death, thus demonstrating the moral obligation we have of punishing society's enemies. Other Gods include Brage, Heimdal, Vidar, Frigg and Forsete. The Gods of Odinism are the ordaining powers of Nature clothed in personality. They direct the world which they themselves created. They are referred to collectively as the Aesir, of whom every living thing forms a part (thus not all the Gods are necessarily good ones). Objects and phenomena that are regarded as greater or lesser Aesir are qualities such as thought and memory, and natural things such as the sun, rivers, mountains and trees as well as animals and ancestral spirits. There are also the guardian Gods of the land, of skills and occupations and the spirits of national heroes, the Einheriar and other men and women whose outstanding deeds and virtues have contributed to our civilization, culture and well-being.
15. Is there a table of commandments that sets out the rules to be followed by Odinists? The main rules of Odinist conduct are listed in the Nine Charges which are:
1. To maintain candor and fidelity in love and devotions to the tried friend: Though he strike me I will do him no scathe.
2. Never to make a wrong some oath: For great and grim is the reward for the breaking of plighted troth.
3. To deal not hardly with the humble and lowly.
4. To remember the respect that is due great age.
5. To suffer no evil to go unremedied and to fight against the enemies of family, nation, race and faith: My foes will I fight in the field nor be burnt in my house.
6. To succor the friendless but to put no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people.
7. If I hear the fool's word of a drunken man I will strive not: For many a grief and the very death groweth out of such things.
8. To give kind heed to dead men: Straw-dead, sea-dead or sword-dead.
9. To abide by the enactments of lawful authority and to bear with courage and fortitude the decrees of the Norns.
The Charges are based on the rules of life indicated by the High Song of Odin and in the Lay of Sigurd in which the Valkyrie gives counsel to Sigurd. They may be summarized as demanding in the struggle for life a self-reliance which should be earned by a love of learning and industry, a prudent foresight in word and deed, moderation in the gratification of the senses and in the exercise of power, modesty and politeness in intercourse and a desire to earn the goodwill of our fellow men.
16. The first four Charges seem fairly innocuous, but I must say the Fifth Charge sounds rather sinister! Isn't it all very violent and retributive? "To suffer no evil to go unremedied," does appear to run contrary to the trends of modern progressive thinking. And the idea of fighting "against the enemies of family, nation, race and faith" would be anathema to many people. Unlike the Christian, whose duty it is to "turn the other cheek" (advice that is more often observed on the breach than otherwise) and to be patient and long-suffering under the most grievous attacks, it is the duty of the Odinist to punish wrongs and above all those wrongs offered to his own family and kin. Society's enemies already know the basic law of life: That the race is to the strong and that the meek will inherit the earth only when the earth inherits them dust to dust. Others should also learn to recognize this truth.
17. What do you mean by "kinship loyalty"? We must of course give loyal service to anyone or any concept to whom or to which loyalty is due. But we owe our loyalty in the fullest degree to our immediate family and to those who are related to us by blood-ties or blood-brotherhood. A husband owes loyalty to his wife, for instance, and vice versa, just as a son owes loyalty to his parents to a greater extent than to anyone outside the immediate family circle. Beyond that we owe allegiance to our own country and racial kindred before we can even consider giving it to strangers who must therefore have the last call upon us. But there may be occasions when loyalty to nation and kin must transcend even our loyalty to our own family. This concern for kin is an essential part of Odinist teaching. More than twelve centuries ago the Christian proselytizer, Boniface, wrote of the Odinists, "Have pity on them, because even they themselves are accustomed to say, "We are of one blood and one bone". Filial love, patriotism and kinship loyalty are religious principles still adhered to by Odinists. In the words of the Edda: We shall help our kinsmen as foot helps foot. . . If one foot stumbles then shall the other restore balance.
18. You seem to have an exaggerated respect for things like law and order! What about unjust laws? No, not an "exaggerated respect for law and order"; just regard for the rules by which civilized man must live. But laws, to be just, must apply equally to all citizens and groups without discrimination. Odinists certainly have a duty to oppose what they regard as unjust laws but in doing so they accept the consequences of their opposition and do not expect to be given exemption or favorable treatment.
19. What view do Odinists take of modern, enlightened substitutes for traditional, repressive forms of punishment? Do you agree that the wrongdoer in our society is more often than not the victim of his environment and that we are thus all guilty? Odinists refuse to accept responsibility for the actions of others. Just as it would be wrong to accept credit for another person's merits so it is wrong to relieve the wrongdoer of responsibility for his actions. "Crime should be blazoned abroad by its retribution," wrote Tacitus. Punishment should be an unpleasant and memorable experience. Those in authority who neglect to punish the criminal adequately place themselves in the position of being accessories after the fact. Odinists believe that anyone who seriously or continually flouts the law should forfeit for a period of time his rights to protection under that law; enemies of the community should not be permitted to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds!
20. The Sixth Charge speaks about putting no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people. What is meant by "a stranger people"? By "a stranger people" we mean those from different cultures than our own. It is a warning that words often mean different things to different peoples, that their standards are not always the same as our own. It is simply one of those things in life that ought to be widely known and appreciated but does not seem to be!
21. Please explain the Ninth Charge, which speaks of "the decrees of the Norns". Who or where are the Norns? The Norns are the three Fates of Northern mythology, the Goddesses of time. They are named Urd (the past), Verdande (the present) and Skuld (the future). They watch over man; they spin his thread of fate at his birth and mark out with it the limits of his sphere of action through life; their decrees are inviolable destiny, their dispensations inevitable necessity. Urd and Verdande, the past and present, may be seen as stretching a web from the radiant dawn of life to the glowing sunset, while Skuld, the future tears it to pieces! Man's fate must be met but the way in which it is met rests with the individual; and by the way in which he meets his fate man is able to demonstrate his free will. This important principle shows a man that it is worth while fighting life's battles courageously while at the same time fate's inexorable nature allows no room for careful weighing of arguments for and against or for anxiety about the nature of things that are in any case destined to happen.
22. What other aspects of human behavior are admired by Odinists? The Noble Virtues are held in high esteem. They are:
The Odinist must do what lies before him without fear of either foes, friends or the Norns. He must hold his own council, speak his mind and seek fame without respect of persons; be free, independent and daring in his actions; act with gentleness and generosity towards friends and kinsmen but be stern and grim to his enemies (but even towards the latter to feel bound to fulfill necessary duties); be as forgiving to some as he is unyielding and unforgiving to others. He should be neither truce breaker nor oath breaker and utter nothing against any person that he would not say to his face. These are the broad principles of Odinist behavior, features of the spirit that made our Northern peoples great.
23. You call industriousness a Noble Virtue? What is so spiritual about that? Industriousness is a virtue which, partly inherited, is nevertheless acquired largely through training and self-discipline; it is at once something we owe to ourselves, to our family and to the community. There is a time for relaxation as there is a time for most things but it is not, for instance, during our working hours; neither should it be at the expense of other members of the community by way of the so-called welfare state.
24. What about material possessions? A principle of Odinism is the realization of the worthlessness and fleeting nature of worldly possessions. Enough should be enough. Adam of Bremen, a Christian, remarked how Odinists with whom he had come into contact "lack nothing of what we revere except our arrogance. They have no acquisitive love of gold, silver, splendid chargers, the furs of beaver and marten or any of the other possessions we pine for". One thing alone is worth while in this life: The stability of a well-earned reputation. "Goods perish, friends perish, a man himself perishes," says the Edda "but fame never dies to him that hath won it worthily."
25. You describe self-reliance as one of the Noble Virtues. Surely even you must admit that none of us is, or can be, self-reliant in these days? Self reliance does not, as you appear to suggest, imply selfishness or mean that a man must live in isolation from his fellows. We recognize that men are dependent upon Nature and on the community of which he forms part; he has obligations to that community as well as to his employer (or employees). He receives from society and he owes a debt to society. Odinism teaches that people must be encouraged to stand on their own feet and not to ask continually, "When is somebody going to do something for me?"
26. Do Odinists believe in prayer? Odinism is not a philosophy invented to ease mankind's comfort or to assuage his fears; that kind of religion acts against rather than in man's interests because it takes from him his independence and self-respect and makes of him a humble supplicant by encouraging him to shed his responsibilities. The person who prays to a saint or God asking for help or guidance is seeking to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders, surrendering his own faculties of thought and physical action, unless he also does something to help himself. To pray is to beg and plead; it is self-abasement ("we worms of the earth"). That is not the object of true religion which, as Carlyle has told us, is "transcendent wonder": Wonder without limit or measure, reverent admiration alike for the immensity of creation, the inspiration of the human heart and the capability of the human brain. Odinists in their inveitan (praise); singular, inveita) call upon the Aesir to approach them in their thoughts as they themselves strive towards the Aesir. Through increased understanding is achieved wholeness, a unity with the Gods that helps us to think out our problems and how they may be overcome. We project the Gods within ourselves and that, externally realized, speaks to the divine in others. Through their invetian Odinists express gratitude for life and the world they live in and resolve to try to make it better - not just to leave it to "someone up there" or hope for something better in the next world.
27 How do Odinists regard good and evil? Evil of itself cannot originate in man but must always be regarded as an intruder, like an illness or an affliction; as such it must be opposed and expelled. Good and evil are relative: There can be no absolute norm and actions must depend upon circumstances and motives as well as time and place. The ethical standards relating to custom and tradition are flexible and responsive to the specific demands of different ages, so that moral judgments of what is right and wrong cannot be placed in a fixed system of standards but must vary according to time and situation. Just as the world is constantly changing so are values constantly changing, so that nothing can be regarded as unconditionally good or evil in all ages. In general, that which disturbs the social order and peaceful evolution and causes unhappiness - including such natural disasters as floods and earthquakes, disease and pollution - obstructs the natural development of the world and must be regarded as evil. As for sin, Odinism knows but two major sins - perjury and murder: That is sin against the Gods and sin against one's fellow man.
28. Do you believe in Original sin? Man is inherently good and the world in which he lives is good. There is no sin in man which has been inherited from his first, or any other, ancestor; it is enough that he should be held responsible for his own actions. But a although his spirit is good, his flesh and his senses may succumb to evil, especially when by neglecting his own spiritual well- being he has left his defenses weakened. So it is necessary for him to be able to distinguish between what is good and what is evil.
29 What do Odinists believe about marriage - and divorce? Odinists support the institution of marriage and marital fidelity. But a broken marriage is and unhappy marriage and traditional Odinic law allows great latitude to separation of husband wife, at the will of both parties, if a good reason exists for the desired change. It is recognized that the worst possible service is rendered to those who are forced to live together against their will; but it must be borne in mind that marriage is basically a solemn exchange of vows between two people and as such can only be ended by agreement between the same two people.
30. Does Odinism offer salvation to those who believe? Odinism offers no salvation in the sense in which that term is used by Christians. Instead, the Odinist seeks liberation by bringing the Aesir into the world of man and into his daily life - whether at home or at work. Liberation refers to the human condition as we know it, which is subject to birth and death and decay. It is not, " the kingdom of God which is with in you," but the Gods themselves which exist within man.
31. Does man possess an immortal soul? Is there a life after death and will people go to Odin in heaven? Odinists believe that man consists of body (i.e. matter) and spirit or soul. Physical man is born, produces young and eventually dies. But the whole of Nature shows us that death is not final: The material body decomposes and recombines, it is regenerated and lives again. As it was in the beginning so it is now; every atom continues to exist and must exist as in the beginning. There is nothing new under the sun and what we call death is really nothing more than transformation. Spiritual man is divided into two distinct souls, one passive, the other active, the divine and the human, which we call God-soul and human-soul. The first is in the fullest sense a divine being, contemplating a past eternity and a future immortality, occupying itself in contemplation rather than in action and to be regarded as a kind of guardian spirit. Although the God-soul and the material body are associated in this life, the former is not bound to man in the way that, say, a limb is (it may indeed absent itself from his body during sleep or periods of unconsciousness). Without the spirit there can be no motivation: When the physical change (i.e. death) takes place the God-soul passes to another living organism -a human being, a tree, an animal, perhaps a bird. This is the element that gives man his mystical attachment to a particular district or country (which is what we call patriotism): Because it is where the God-souls of countless generations of ancestors dwell. It is because of this that man is compelled to nurture, love and defend his country, which is, in the purest sense, a holy land. The philosopher Fichte said, "Death is the ladder by which my spiritual vision rises to anew life and a new nature." This is also the reason why Odinists regard all life as sacred and unnecessary violence as criminal. The human-soul (or self-soul), is essentially individual to a particular person. It may be likened to his personality, his fame or his infamy. Because the whole of man's life is a continuing struggle of the good and light Gods on the one hand and the offspring of chaotic matter (the giants, Nature's disturbing forces) on the other, the human-soul is extremely active. It is involved in a struggle that extends to man's innermost being: Both the human-soul and the God-soul proceed from the Gods; but the body be longs to the world of giants and they struggle for supremacy. If the human-soul conquers by virtue and courage then it goes after death to Valhalla, to fight in concert with the Gods against the evil powers. If on the other hand the body conquers and links the spirit to itself by weakness then after man's death the human-soul sinks to the world of the giants and joins itself with the evil powers in their warfare against the Gods. Long after his individual identity has been forgotten a man's human-soul, absorbed into the corporate spirit of the regiment, college, village, nation or other group, continues to demonstrate its immortality by inspiring future generations to noble deeds - or to acts of degradation.
32. If the God-soul migrates to other living things after death, how can you square this with, for example, the need to slaughter livestock in order to sustain human life? Isn't it rather like killing a God? The God-soul must not be confused with the being that it inhabits. Animals, birds and trees have always been regarded by Odinists with respect; it is indeed probable that the domestication of some creatures arose from their former sacred character. Every living thing is a manifestation of the divine and its spirit is immortal: Every time a tree is felled or an animal slaughtered it is indeed a kind of sacrifice. But the tree or the animal is only a temporary dwelling-place for the immortal God. Everything in Nature has a purpose and it is necessary in order that life may be sustained in others for such "sacrifices" to be made. Such an attitude encourages consideration and reverence for Nature and discourages its wanton despoliation. It is the unnecessary, cruel or unnatural killing of animals (or of human beings), the unjustifiable destruction of trees or landscape and the defiling of natural resources, that is wrong.
33. You have mentioned "ancestral spirits". Does this mean that Odinists believe in ancestor-worship? The human-souls of one's own family ancestors provide us with moral strength and inspiration. Just as we received our spirit from Odin, so we received our physical being through our parents and our ancestors from time memorial. Our respect for ancestors maintains the continuity of the family, the kin and the race. We have a duty to try to attain the ideals of our ancestors and an equal duty of cherishing our descendants so that they in their turn will come to understand and realize our own hopes and ideals. Life is continuing process: We must try to visualize ourselves as ancestors; for ancestors and descendants are genealogically one. Edmund Burke once remarked that society was a partnership between those who were living, those who are dead and those yet to be born; past and present and future are seen as a continuing evolvement and must be looked upon as complete being.
34. What kind of status do women have within the Odinist community? Odinists do not need reminding of women's rights! Our religion anciently held women in high honor: Not only are Goddesses included in the Odinist pantheon, but, when the Odinist priesthood is restored, all offices will be open to women just as they were before the Christian usurpation relegated them to permanent back benches of religious life.
35. What are the chief festivals of the Odinic Rite? In ancient times there were three great festivals: Yule (the Midwinter Festival), Summer Finding (or spring equinox) and Winter Finding (autumn equinox). To these we nowadays add the Midsummer Festival. Yule, the popular Festival of Midwinter (sometimes called the Festival of Light), heralds the beginning of the Odinist year. It is the birthday of the unconquered sun, which at this time begins to new vigor after its autumnal decline when, having descended into darkness, it pauses, kindles the fire of germination and ascends renewed with the fruit of hope. The Midwinter Festival includes the Twelve Nights of Yule, encapsulating the twelve months of the year in miniature, and culminates in the celebration of Twelfth Night. Summer Finding, in March, is the Festival of Odin. It celebrates the renewal, or resurrection, of Nature after the darkness of winter. It was transformed by the Christians into their Easter (named after the Odinist Goddess of the Saxons, Ostara), Rogation and Whitsun and was also recalled in folk custom by the festivities of May Day. The Midsummer Festival, the Feast of Balder, is the great celebration of the triumph of light and the sun. Winter Finding mourns the death of summer and heralds the coming of autumn. It is dedicated to the god Frey, patron of the harvest, and is also sometimes called the Charming of the Fruits of Earth, when we render thanks for the years supply of life-giving foods.
36. What other Odinist festivals are there? Besides the great festivals there are a number of secondary festivals and also some commemorations of local Gods or various aspects of life. The secondary festivals of the Odinic Rite are: The Charming of the Plough, January 3 The festival of Vali, February 14, which commemorates the family and is an occasion for betrothals, the renewal of marriage vows and vows of kinship loyalty. The festival of the Einheriar on November 11, known as Heroes' day, which honors the dead.
37. What is the Odinist Committee? The committee for the Restoration of the Odinic Rite (to give its full title) was set up on April 23, 1973 with the limited objects of restoring Odinist ritual and ceremonies, to define Odinist faith and doctrine and to constitute a teaching order of gothar (singular: Gothi, meaning priest of teacher). When these immediate objects have been achieved the Committee will disband. In the past not a great deal of attention was paid to systematizing the doctrinal aspects of Odinism and consequently the body of writing on the subject has remained limited and uneven. The Odinist Committee will place the worship of the Aesir on a more formal and permanent basis.
38. How do I go about becoming an Odinist? First of all by understanding, then by believing. You do not have to "be born again" but you are expected to live your whole life according to the Odinist precepts. There is a ceremony of reception (or initiation) into the Odinist community for those who wish it. The secretary of the Odinist Committee, 10 Trinity Green, London, E1, will be able to tell you whether there is an Odinist group in your neighborhood or, if there is not one, how you may form one.
39. Can the Odinist Committee supply me with a list of Odinist temples and shall I be permitted to attend some of the inveitan? There are at present no Odinist hofs (temples) in Great Britain open for public worship. Odinism starts with the individual and extends, through the family, to the community and the world. So with worship, which is at present practiced mostly at family level, the festivals of the Odinist year being celebrated in the home, with friends and other Odinist sometimes being invited to participate. But it is expected that various regional meeting places will be authorized when eventually the ritual of Odinist worship has been fully restored and gothar licensed by the successor body to the Odinist committee. These things are thought the best: Fire, the sight of the sun, Good health with the gift to keep it, And a life that avoids vice. The High Song of Odin * * The verse from The High Song of Odin is from Paul B. Taylor and W H Auden's translation of The Elder Edda and is reproduced by permission of Messrs Faber and Faber. Other quotations from the Eddas in the foregoing pages are from the translation by Rasmus B. Anderson. FOR MORE INFORMATION WRITE: Midgard Pagan Computer Bulletin Board P.O. Box 256 North Highlands, CA. 95660