Pagan Paths - Asatru
22nd September, 1998
Origins and History
"Asatru" is an Icelandic word used to describe those who follow the ancient pre-Christian Pagan Spirituality of Northern Europe. It means "True to the Gods." Sometimes this "Way" is called the "Elder Troth" or one of a number of other names. It was the principal Pagan spirituality in a range of countries, from England and Iceland, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia to Prussia, the Baltic States and the Steppes of Russia. Of course, in ancient times, many of these areas had different names.
As far as terminology goes, there is some debate over calling Asatru a "Pagan" faith. Many followers of this particular religion prefer to be grouped under the term "Heathen."
The only real differences between the terms "Pagan" and "Heathen" seem to be both linguistic and in the region of origin of the words. Both have the meaning of someone who follows the old pre-christian spiritual ways. "Pagan" is a Latin derived word and "Heathen" from Old English. Many Asatruar see the word "Heathen" as more closely connected to the North European roots of their Spirituality and therefore adopt its use in preference to the term "Pagan" which is considered by some to be misused.
Asatru believe in an underlying, all-pervading divine energy or essence which is generally hidden from us, and which is beyond our immediate understanding. They further believe that this spiritual reality is interdependent with us - that they affect it, and it affects them.
Asatru believe that this underlying divinity expresses itself to us in the forms of the gods and goddesses. Stories about these deities are like a sort of code, the mysterious "language" through which the divine reality speaks to us. Asatru believe in standards of behavior which are consistent with these spiritual truths and harmonious with our deepest being.
The Asatru practice a variety of rituals These include the Blot. The Blot is the most common ritual within Asatru. In its simplest form, a blot is making a sacrifice to the gods. In the old days this was done by feasting on an animal consecrated to the gods and then slaughtered. As most are no longer farmers and needs are simpler today, the most common blot is an offering of mead or other alcoholic beverage to the deities. Sumbel, the practice of toasting the gods and the use of the Sauna for both mundane and ritual cleansing.
The ancient Norse knew four major holidays - the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes that we call Summer and Winter Finding, and the two solstices that we call Midsummer and Yule. However, there were many other minor festivals and modern Asatru have added even more, including Winter Nights and Einjerhar.
Moral Teachings / Practical Ethics
As with most other Pagan groups, the Asatru have no one set of written beliefs. Most groups follow a set code called the Nine Noble Virtues. These are:
Rites of Passage
Marking the individuals passage through life is an important part of Asatru. It begins at birth, which is then followed by manhood or womanhood ceremonies. Marriage and Death are also marked by ritual.
The Asatru have no sacred writings in the sense of the Christian Bible. Rather, they look to the mythologies and legends of their ancestors for guidance. One of the most important of these are the Eddas. The tales that make up this collection tell the story of the world from creation from destruction, tales of the gods and much more. Another is the Saga - epic poems, that tell the stories of gods and heroes.
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