Asatru

Germanic neopaganism, also known as Heathenism,[1] Ásatrú, Odinism, Forn Siðr, Wotanism, Theodism, and other names, is the contemporary revival of historical polytheistic Germanic paganism.[2] Precursor movements appeared in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria, and a second wave of revival began in the United States, Great Britain, Iceland, Australia, and other places in the late 1960s. Dedicated to the ancient gods and goddesses of the North,[3] the focus of Germanic neopagans varies considerably, from strictly historical polytheistic reconstructionism to syncretist (eclectic), Jungian, occult or mysticist approaches. Germanic neopagan organizations cover a wide spectrum of belief and ideals.[4]

Beliefs

Germanic Neopaganism (as opposed to Neopaganism in general) is often defined as reconstructionist. Adherents are mostly polytheists, having faith in a number of gods and goddesses.

Most Germanic traditions share a worldview informed by the concepts of Fate or Wyrd. The Wyrd is the connection of forces from the past, the present and the future, mythologically represented by the Norns (or Wyrdae, "Wyrds", the "Wyrd Sisters"), Urd (who is the Old Norse for "Wyrd" itself), Verdandi and Skuld.[5]

The pantheon comprehends various gods divided traditionally into three "races", the Æsir, the Vanir, and the Giants or Jötuns. Every Germanic neopagan tradition uses different names for the gods based on the particular ethnic culture they are drawing from. The Aesir mostly pertain to the sphere of human society, they govern the arts, force, law, wisdom, et cetera; on the other hand the Vanir embody elements and forces of nature, such as fertility, water, beauty. The Jotuns are the gigantic, elemental, primordial chaotic forces which the gods interact with and sublimate in their creative action of shaping reality.[6] The different divine races often overlap in domain and function.

Germanic Neopaganism has a strong leaning towards animism. This is most apparent in the worship of Álfar (or Elves), land-spirits, the various beings of folklore (Kobold, Huldufólk), and the belief that inanimate objects can have a fate of their own.

It is believed that Elves or land-spirits can inhabit natural objects such as trees or stones. These spirits can, and do, take sides in the affairs of the inhabitants of their land.[7] This is in imitation of historical Norse paganism, which had strong animistic tendencies, as reflected in sagas such as that of a wizard who goes to Iceland in whale-shape to see if it can be invaded, who is attacked by land-spirits while going on shore, and is forced to flee.[8]

It is believed by some Pagans that inanimate objects can have a soul of their own, or a fate, and therefore should be given a name, the most common cases being the naming of weapons like Gram. The objects are not “charged” before use, but have the fate or innate power within them a priori.

Ethics and soteriology

Ethics in Germanic Neopaganism emphasizes personal character and virtue. Truthfulness, self-reliance, and hospitality are important moral distinctions, underpinning an especially cherished notion of honour.

The Asatru Folk Assembly and the Odinic Rite encourages recognition of an ethical code, the Nine Noble Virtues, which are culled from various sources, including the Hávamál from the Poetic Edda. In addition to the Nine Noble Virtues there are other ethical axioms, such as the Nine Charges recognised mostly by the Odinic Rite members. Specific groups denominations may implement also their own sets of values, for example Fyrnsidu has the Twelve Great Thews and the Sidungas,[9][10] Urglaawe has additional nine "ancillary virtues" called "Newwereenheide": Generosity, Spirituality, Curiosity, Compassion, Introspection, Self-Improvement, Stewardship, Kinship, and Wisdom.[11]

Regarding afterlife, practitioners may hold different views. According to the lore, the soul is not a single entity, but a composite of parts both physical and metaphysical, a microcosm of the immense macrocosm.[12] The soul is typically thought to have nine to twelve parts, however some groups combine some of the soul parts. These beliefs makes sense since according to myths man was created by the gifts of three gods, Odin, Hoenir and Lodur.[12]

The most famous post-death destination[13] is Valhalla. The devotees of Odin who die heroic deaths will be his guests in Valhalla. The death-song of Ragnar Lodbrók describes this belief, so, too, does the poet of Eiríksmál. In Ynglinga Saga it is further said that warriors who mark themselves with a spear and devote themselves to Odin will go to Valhalla.[14]

A popular belief among Germanic Neo-pagans is reincarnation; this view of reincarnation is exposed in the concept of Apterburder contained in the Edda. Edred Thorsson. Runecaster's Handbook: The Well of Wyrd. Red Wheel/Weiser, 1999. pp. 14–15. The Apterburder (roughly "rebirth") is the process whereby the essence of a man is handed down to his generations allowing him to be reborn later in the same kinship; in other words Heathens believe that reincarnation happens within the boundaries of a kinship, a genetic lineage — for example the grandson is the reincarnation of the grandfather or even earlier generations.

Rites and practices


The primary deities of Germanic Neo-paganism are those of the Germanic pantheons. Paganism also has a component of ancestor worship or veneration. In the simplest form of the adherent's personal practices, direct ancestors (sometimes referred to as Dis) are often praised and honoured during the rituals of sumble and blot. Animism or land veneration is most evident in the rituals dedicated to the Elves and Wights (spirits similar to the Shinto lesser Kami).[15]

Blót

Main article: Blót

Blót literally means, "blood", and survives in the modern Icelandic word, "blóð" and the modern German, "Blut". The blót, in ancient times, was the main ritual for honoring the gods. Several sagas give accounts, the Heimskringla, portions of the Poetic Edda mentions sacrifice, and many observers from Ibn Fadlan in his manuscript concerning the Rus, to Tacitus' Germania, to Adam of Bremen's Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum.[16][17]

Today, offerings during a blót usually involve mead or other alcohol, sometimes food, sometimes song or poetry, specially written for the occasion or for a particular deity, is delivered as an offering. The blót ritual may be based on historical example, scripted for the occasion or may be spontaneous. Many blóts are outdoors, sometimes at sacred sites.

When the rituals are communal, the officiant is normally a priest. "priests" are usually called godi or "godman/men", and priestesses are called gydia or "godwoman/women".[18] The proper plural of godi (or gothi) and gydia (or gythia) is godar (or gothar). Heathen places of worship can be ve, simply "sacred enclosures" which can be woods or natural shrines, and hofs or "hovs", temple buildings which can be constructed within a ve or not. Currently two hofs are planned for construction in Iceland, one in Reykjavík[19] and one in Akranes,[20] the latter designed by Heathen artist Haukur Halldórsson.

Sometimes, communal blots may include — or be part of — rites of passage. Examples of these last are the naming of newborn children to whom the parents give names of Germanic origin, a ceremony which takes place nine days after the birth, but also handfastings and funerals.[21][22]

Sumbel

Main article: Symbel

Symbel (OE) and sumbel (ON) are terms for "feast, banquet, (social) gathering", occasionally used to refer to a special type of solemn drinking ritual attested in more or less comparable forms among various Germanic warrior elites. In such instances, symbel involved a formulaic ritual which was more solemn and serious than mere drinking or celebration. The primary elements of symbel are drinking ale or mead from a horn, speech making (which often included formulaic boasting and oaths), and gift giving.

According to the reconstruction by Bauschatz (1983), eating and feasting were specifically excluded from symbel, and no alcohol was set aside for the gods or other deities in the form of a sacrifice.[23]

The host of the symbel was called the symbelgifa. One of the officiants of symbel was the thyle (ON þulr), who challenged and questioned those who made boasts (gielp) or oaths (béot, bregofull), if necessary with taunts or mockery (flyting). Oaths said over the symbel-horn were seen as binding and affecting the luck and wyrd of all in attendance. The alcoholic drink was served by women or alekeepers (ealu bora "ale bearer"), the first round usually poured by the lady of the house.

The bragarfull "promise-cup" or bragafull "best cup" or "chieftain's cup" was in Norse culture a particular drinking from a cup or drinking horn on ceremonial occasions, often involving the swearing of oaths when the cup or horn was drunk by a chieftain or passed around and drunk by those assembled.

In American Ásatrú as developed by McNallen and Stine, the sumbel is a drinking-ritual in which a drinking horn full of mead or ale is passed around and a series of toasts are made, first to the Aesir, then to other supernatural beings, then to heroes or ancestors, and then to others. Participants may also make boasts of their own deeds, or oaths or promises of future actions. Words spoken during the sumbel are considered and consecrated, becoming part of the destiny of those assembled. The name sumbel (or symbel) is mainly derived from Anglo-Saxon sources. For this reason, the ritual is not known by this name among Icelandic Nordic pagans, who nevertheless practice a similar ritual as part of their blot.[24]

In Theodism and Fyrnsidu in particular, the symbel has a particularly high importance, considered "the highest and most important rite"[25] or "amongst the most holy rites" celebrated.[26] It is considered a fate-weaving ritual, a commitment to future evolution, a ritual conditioning the Wyrd of the community.[25]

Seiðr

Main article: Seiðr

Seiðr and Spae are forms of "sorcery" or "witchcraft", the latter having aspects of prophecy and shamanism. Seid and spae are not common rituals, and are not engaged in by many adherents of Germanic Neopaganism. Usually seid or spae rituals are modeled after the ritual detailed in the Saga of Eric the Red: a seiðkona dressed in traditional garb will sit on a high-seat or platform and prophesy in a formulaic manner as women sing or chant galdr around her. In the UK, seidr relies less on formal ritual and more informal practices of healing (Blain, 2002b), protection, and for developing links with land and ancestors. It may be related — in past and present — to alterations of consciousness and negotiations with otherworld beings.

The berserkergangr may be described as a sort of religious ecstasy, associated with Odin, and thus a masculine variant of the 'effeminate' ecstasy of Seid.[27]

History

Romanticist Germanic mysticism

The first modern attempt at revival of ancient Germanic religion took place in the 19th century during the late Romantic Period amidst a general resurgence of interest in traditional Germanic culture, in particular in connection with romantic nationalism in Scandinavia and the related Viking revival in Victorian era Britain—the latter having associations with earlier Romanticism. Germanic mysticism is an occultist current loosely inspired by "Germanic" topics, notably runes, which has its beginnings in the early 20th century (Guido von List's "Armanism", Karl Maria Wiligut's "Irminism" etc.) The last traditional pagan sacrifices in Scandinavia, at Trollkyrka, appear to date to about this time.

Organized Germanic pagan or occult groups such as the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft emerged in Germany in the early 20th century. The connections of this movement to historical Germanic paganism are tenuous at best, with emphasis lying on the esoteric as taught by the likes of Julius Evola, Guido von List and Karl Maria Wiligut.

In the first two decades of the twentieth century an overtly heathen movement known as "heroic vitalism" became mainstream in Australian art. It had no connection with isolated Continental thinkers like von List. Most leading Australian painters, sculptors and poets of that generation, such as Norman Lindsay, Rayner Hoff and Kenneth Slessor, pioneered this movement. In the 1930s Odinism became an established faith in Australia, led by such people as Rud Mills, Evelyn Price and Annie Lennon.

Nazi period and World War II

Several early members of the Nazi Party belonged to the Thule Society, a study group for German antiquity. While it is postulated (by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier in The Morning of the Magicians in 1960 and by Gerald Suster in Hitler and the Age of Horus in 1981) that occult elements played an important role in the formative phase of Nazism, and of the SS in particular, after his rise to power Adolf Hitler discouraged such pursuits. Point 24 of the National Socialist Program stated that the party endorsed "positive Christianity".[28]

The eclectic German Faith Movement (Deutsche Glaubensbewegung), founded by the Sanskrit scholar Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, enjoyed a degree of popularity during the Nazi period.[29] Some Germanic mysticists were victimized by the Nazis: Friedrich Bernhard Marby spent 99 months in KZ Dachau, and Siegfried Adolf Kummer's fate is unknown.[30]

Several books published by the Nazi party - including Die Gestaltung der Feste im Jahres- und Lebenslauf in der SS-Familie (The Celebrations in the Life of the SS Family) by Fritz Weitzel, as well as the SS Tante Friede - illustrate how the National Socialists regarded traditional Germanic heathenry as primitive superstition which needed reworking to better serve the state. Celebrating the traditional festivals like Jul and Sommersonnenwende were encouraged and recast into veneration of the Nazi state and Führer.[31]

The appropriation of "Germanic antiquity" by the Nazis was at first regarded with skepticism and sarcasm by British Scandophiles. W. H. Auden in his Letters from Iceland (1936) makes fun of the idea of Iceland as an "Aryan vestige",[32] but with the outbreak of World War II, Nordic romanticism in Britain became too much associated with the enemy's ideology to remain palatable, to the point that J. R. R. Tolkien, an ardent Septentrionalist, in 1941 found himself moved to state that he had a "burning private grudge ... against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler" for "ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."[33]

Meanwhile, in Australia, there was a thriving In time, older members of the Australian Odinist movement tutored a later generation, which formed the Odinic Rite of Australia in 1994.

Second revival, 1960s to present

Another revival, this time based on folklore and historical research rather than on mysticist speculation, took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Iceland, Ásatrúarfélagið, led by farmer Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, was recognized as a religious organization by the Icelandic government in 1973. In the United States, around the same period, Else Christensen began publishing "The Odinist" newsletter and Stephen McNallen began publishing a newsletter titled The Runestone. McNallen formed an organization called the Asatru Free Assembly, which was later renamed the Ásatrú Folk Assembly (AFA).[35] The AFA fractured in 1987-88, resulting in the creation of the Ásatrú Alliance, headed by Valgard Murray, publisher of the "Vor Tru" newsletter. Around the same time, the Ring of Troth (now simply The Troth) was founded by other former members of the AFA.

In 1972 the spiritual descendants of Mills' Odinist movement in Australia obtained from the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia a written undertaking that open profession of Odinism in Australia would not be persecuted. The Odinic Rite of Australia subsequently obtained tax deductible status from the Australian Tax Office. The ATO accepts this as the definition of Odinism: "the continuation of ... the organic spiritual beliefs and religion of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe as embodied in the Edda and as they have found expression in the wisdom and in the historical experience of these peoples".

The Odinic Rite was established in England in 1972, and in the 1990s expanded to include chapters or kindred bodies in Germany (1995), Australia (1995) and North America (1997) and later (2006) to the Netherlands. In 1992, The Odin Brotherhood by Mark Mirabello contained claims of a surviving Odinist "secret society", allegedly founded in 1421 to pagan tradition from Christian persecution, comparable to the Witch-cult hypothesis forwarded by Gerald Gardner (1954).[36] Neopagan groups calling themselves the Odin Brotherhood based on Mirabello's account have since been listed in the 8th edition of the The Encyclopedia of American Religions.[37]

In Germany, the Heidnische Gemeinschaft (HG) founded by Géza von Neményi in 1985. In 1991 the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft (GGG), led by von Neményi, split off from the HG. In 1997 the Nornirs Ætt was founded as part of the Rabenclan and in 2000 the Eldaring was founded. The Eldaring is affiliated with the US based Troth.

In Scandinavia, the Swedish Asatru Society formed in 1994, and in Norway the Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996 and Foreningen Forn Sed formed in 1999. They have been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious society, allowing them to perform "legally binding civil ceremonies" (i. e. marriages). In Denmark Forn Siðr also formed in 1999 (and was recognized by the state in 2003) and in Sweden Nätverket Gimle formed in 2001, as an informal community for individual heathens. Nätverket Forn Sed formed in 2004, and has a network consisting of local groups (blotlag) from all over the Sweden.

Terminology and groupings

Heathen (Old English hæðen, Old Norse heiðinn, Old High German heidan) was coined as a translation of Latin paganus, in the Christian sense of "non-Abrahamic faith".

In the Sagas, the terms heiðni and kristni (Heathenry and Christianity) are used as polar terms to describe the older and newer faiths. Historically, the term was influenced by the Gothic term *haiþi, appearing as haiþno in Ulfilas' bible for translating gunē Hellēnis, "Greek (i.e. gentile) woman" of Mark 7:26, probably with an original meaning "dwelling on the heath", but it was also suggested by Jacob Grimm in his Deutsche Mythologie (Teutonic Mythology) that it was chosen because of its similarity to Greek ethne "gentile" or even that it is not related to "heath" at all, but rather a loan from Armenian hethanos, itself loaned from Greek ethnos.

Ásatrú

Ásatrú (pronounced [auːsatruː] in Icelandic, [aːsatruː] in Old Norse) is a modern Icelandic compound derived from Áss, which refers to the Æsir, an Old Norse term for the Gods, and trú, literally "faith". Thus, Ásatrú is the "faith in the Æsir". The term is the Icelandic translation of Asetro, a neologism coined in the context of 19th century romantic nationalism, used by Edvard Grieg in his 1870 opera Olaf Trygvason . Ásatrúar, sometimes used as a plural in English, is properly the genitive of Ásatrú.

Modern Scandinavian forms of the term, Norwegian Åsatru, Swedish Asatro, Danish Asatro (Ēsatrēowð in Old English), were introduced in Neopaganism in Scandinavia in the 1990s.

In Germany, the terms Asatru and Odinism were borrowed from the Anglosphere in the 1990s, with a chapter of Odinic Rite formed in 1995 and the Eldaring as a partner organization of The Troth formed in 2000. Eldaring takes Asatru as a synonym of Germanic neopaganism in general, following usage by The Troth. Other organizations avoid Asatru in favour of Germanisches Heidentum ("Germanic Heathenry"). Eldaring is the only pagan organization at the national level in Germany self-described as Asatru.

The term Vanatru is coined after Ásatrú, implying a focus on the family of the Gods within the Æsir known as the Vanir. After that, the word Røkkatru was coined to imply a focus on the Røkkr or the twilight entities in opposition to the Norse Gods, such as Loki.

Forn Siðr

Old Norse Forn Siðr, Anglo-Saxon Fyrnsidu, Old High German Firner situ and its modern Scandinavian (Forn Sed) and modern German (Firne Sitte) analogues, all meaning "old custom", is used as a term for pre-Christian Germanic culture in general, and for Germanic Neopaganism in particular, mostly by groups in Scandinavia and Germany. Old Norse forn "old" is cognate to Sanskrit purana, English (be)fore and far. Old Norse siðr "custom", Anglo-Saxon sidu, seodu "custom", cognate to Greek ethos, in the sense of "traditional law, way of life, proper behaviour". In meaning, the term corresponds closely to Sanskrit sanātana dharma, a term coined as a "native" equivalent of Hinduism in Hindu revivalism. In contradistinction to Ásatrú, inn forni siðr is actually attested in Old Norse, contrasting with inn nýi siðr "the new custom", and similarly Heiðinn siðr, contrasting with Kristinn siðr, and í fornum sið "in old (heathen) times".[38] Forn Siðr is also the name of the largest Danish pagan society, which since 2003 is recognized as a religion by the Danish government, meaning they have the right to conduct weddings and funerals.

Odinism

Main article: Odinism

The term Odinism was coined by Orestes Brownson in his 1848 Letter to Protestants.[39] The term was re-introduced in the late 1930s by Alexander Rud Mills in Australia with his First Anglecyn Church of Odin and his book The Call of Our Ancient Nordic Religion.[40] In the 1960s and early 1970s, Else Christensen's Odinist Study Group and later the Odinist Fellowship brought the term into usage in North America. In the UK, Odinic Rite has specifically identified themselves as "Odinists" since the 1970s, and is the largest group to do so.

The term "Odinism" is sometimes associated with racialist Nordic ideology, as opposed to "Asatru" which may or may not refer to racialist or "folkish" ideals. As defined by Goodrick-Clarke (2002), Nordic racial paganism is synonymous with the Odinist movement (including some who identify as Wotanist). He describes it as a "spiritual rediscovery of the Aryan ancestral gods ... intended to embed the white races in a sacred worldview that supports their tribal feeling", and expressed in "imaginative forms of ritual magic and ceremonial forms of fraternal fellowship".[41]

According to the Odinist Fellowship, "Odinism is a polytheistic religion. We believe in and honour the life-giving and bountiful gods and goddesses of the Odinic pantheon, whom we refer to collectively as the High Gods of Asgarth, or as the Æsir and Vanir. Our gods are true gods, divine, living, spiritual entities, endowed with power and intelligence, able and willing to intervene in the course of Nature and of human lives. It behoves us to seek their goodwill and succour through prayer and sacrifice. But the gods do not require us to abase and humble ourselves; they do not seek to make of us craven slaves. Odinists therefore do not bow or kneel or kow-tow to the gods, but address them proudly like free, upstanding men and women. Odinists regard our gods, not as our masters, but as firm friends and powerful allies."[42]

In more recent times, the Odinist community in Australia has endorsed the "Melbourne Creed" of Odinism, which is a 9-point statement of belief, "An Odinist Creed."[43]

Theodism

Theodism, or Þéodisc Geléafa originally sought to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of the Anglo-Saxon tribes which settled in England. þéodisc is the adjective of þéod "people, tribe", cognate to deutsch. As it evolved, the Theodish community moved past solely Anglo-Saxon forms and other Germanic tribal groups were also being reconstituted; Theodism, in this larger sense, now encompass groups practicing tribal beliefs from Scandinavia and the Continent, following in the model set forth by the Anglo Saxon theods founded in the 1970s. The term Theodism now encompasses Norman, Frisian, Angle, Saxon, Jutish, Gothic, Alemannic, Thuringian, Swedish and Danish tribal cultures. This relaxing of the original term "Theodism" functionally identifies Germanic Neopagans who practice or advocate Neo-Tribalism. [3]

Wotanism

Main article: Wotanism

The term "Wotanism"[44][45] distinguishes a form of Heathenry with political overtones. Wotanism is the name of a white supremacist current initiated by David Lane.[46] It is based on the essay entitled Wotan by Carl Jung. Unlike other Heathens, most Wotanists emphasize dualism and view the gods as Jungian archetypes.[47][48] Wotanists consider the Havamal to be their holiest text.

Distribution of adherents

Demographics

Today, Germanic Neopaganism is practiced throughout the world. Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all have numerous Germanic Neopagan organizations. Groups and practitioners also exist in other parts of Europe and in Latin America.

The exact number of adherents worldwide is unknown, partly because of the lack of a clear definition separating Asatru (or Odinism) from other similar religions. There are perhaps a few thousand practitioners in North America (10,000 to 20,000 according to McNallen[49]), about 1950[50] in Iceland, a thousand or so in Melbourne, Australia, and 350 organized Asatru in Germany, with other groups scattered world wide. These figures, however, do not include the many thousands of Germanic heathens in Russia (see below).

North America

Further information: Ásatrú in the United States

As of 2001, the City University of New York estimated that some 360,000 people in the USA self-identify as "Pagan"[51] (excluding Wiccan (134,000), New Age (68,000), Druid (33,000), Spiritualist (116,000) and aboriginal religions (4,000)). The total number of Neopagans worldwide has been estimated at roughly three million[52][53] and according to these findings, a third each are located in the UK, the USA, and over the rest of the world.

Further information: Heathenry in Canada

In Canada according to the 2001 Census 21,080 people identified as Pagan, a 381% increase from 5,530 in 1991.[54] It is unclear how many of these are "Heathens."

UK

The Odinic Rite (OR) was founded in 1973 under the influence of Else Christensen's Odinist Study Group. On 24 February 1988 the Rite became the first polytheistic religious organisation to be granted "Registered Charity" status in the UK.[55] This led to some controversy that the Rite had presented Odinism as a monotheistic religion in order to gain acceptance by the Charity Commission.[56] In 1990 a split occurred in the Rite. Two organisations were formed from the schism,[57] initially each claiming the same name and therefore known by their postal addresses. "BCM Runic" is now known as the Odinic Rite with the motto "Faith, Folk and Family".[58] "BM Edda", now known as the Odinist Fellowship,[59] is the part of the organisation which retains charitable status.[60]

An annual gathering of Heathens in the UK called Heathenfest has been held at Peterborough since 2005, it is organised by Woden's Hearth. Past speakers have included Pete Jennings, Jenny Blain, Thorskegga Thorn and Stephen Pollington.[61]

The 2001 UK Census figures did not allow an accurate breakdown of traditions that might fall within the Pagan/Neopagan heading, as a campaign by the Pagan Federation before the census encouraged Wiccans, Heathens, Druids and others all to use the same write-in term 'Pagan' in order to maximise the numbers reported. The 2011 census however made it possible to describe oneself as Pagan-Heathen (or any other chosen subgroup). The figures for England and Wales show 1,958 people self-identifying as Heathen. A further 251 described themselves as Reconstructionist and may include some people reconstructing Germanic paganism. The comparable figures for the UK as a whole in 2001 were 278 Heathen and 92 Asatru:[62]

Scandinavia

Ásatrúarfélagið was recognized as an official religion by the Icelandic government in 1973. For its first 20 years it was led by farmer & poet Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson. As of 2008, it had 1,270 members, corresponding to 0.4% of the Icelandic population.

In Sweden, the Swedish Forn Sed Assembly (Samfundet Forn Sed Sverige) was formed in 1994 under the name Swedish AsatruSociety (Sveriges asatrosamfund) and is since 2007 recognized as a religious organization by the Swedish government. In the spring 2010, on the "year-ting", the Communion changed its name to the current name.

In Denmark Forn Siðr was formed in 1999, and was officially recognized in 2003[63]

The Norwegian Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost was formed in 1996; as of 2011, the fellowship has some 300 members. Foreningen Forn Sed was formed in 1999, and has been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious organization.

Continental Europe

Interest in Germanic neopaganism in particular becomes apparent in Germany in the later 1990s, based on inspiration from the English-speaking world rather than historical Deutschgläubig groups, foundation of the Rabenclan (1994), a German chapter of Odinic Rite in 1995, followed by Nornirs Ætt in 1997 and the Eldaring as a chapter of the US The Troth in 2000.

Werkgroep Traditie is a Flemish (Belgian) group founded by Koenraad Logghe in the 1990s. In Russia the many neo-pagan groups venerate the "Golden Age of the pre-Christian Rus" (the Rus being early Scandinavian settlers in Russia), and "In general, Neo-pagan newspapers ... appear irregularly in editions ranging from 10–50,000 copies, or more rarely, as many as 500,000 copies".[64]

Structure and subgroupings

Solitary practice, or practice in small circles of friends or family is common. These are often called kindreds or hearths, although often they are not formal.[65] Germanic Neopagan organizations have been active since the 1970s, but most of these larger groups are loose federations and do not require committed membership comparable to a church. Consequently, there is no central authority, and associations remain in a state of fluidity as factions form and break up.[65] [66]

There are several possibilities to analyse Germanic Neopaganism into individual currents or subgroupings.

One common approach is the classification by notions of ethnicity ("folk"). This may range from ethnic nationalist (völkisch) attitudes with far right tendencies on one hand (the Nouvelle Droite of Alain de Benoist notably has ties to such currents of Neopaganism) to moderate "tribalist" notions of ethnicity as based in tradition and culture, and to "universalist" approaches which de-emphasize differences between ethnic traditions (e.g. Seax Wicca).

Another classification is by approach to historicity and historical accuracy. On one hand, there are reconstructionists who aim to understand the pre-Christian Germanic religion based on academic research and implement these reconstructed . Contrasting with this is the "traditionalist" or "folklorist", in Scandinavia known as Folketro or Funtrad (short for Fundamentalistisk Traditionalisme) approach which emphasizes living local tradition as central.

Traditionalists will not reconstruct, but base their rituals on intimate knowledge of regional folklore. Proponents of traditionalism include the Norwegian Foreningen Forn Sed and the Swedish Samfälligheten för Nordisk Sed. Both religions reject the ideas of Romanticist or New Age currents as reflected in Asatru.

At the other end of this scale are syncretist or eclectic approaches which merge innovation or "personal gnosis" into historical or folkloristic tradition.

Note that this scale is largely independent of the approaches to "ethnicity" outlined above. Both ethnocentric and universalist Neopagans may de-emphasize historical tradition in favour of "personal gnosis", albeit for different reasons. "Folkish" currents may rely on postulated racial memory ("metagenetics") as rendering historical tradition superfluous, while universalists may welcome ahistorical input as ultimately of the same universal validity as historical tradition.

Germanic Neopaganism and Racism

Mattias Gardell, reader for religious history at the University of Stockholm, categorizes Germanic neopaganism (particularly in North America) into "militant racist," "ethnic," and "nonracist." In the militant racist position, Asatru is an expression of the "Aryan racial soul". The ethnic position is that of "tribalism", ethnocentric but opposed to the militant racist position. According to Gardell, the militant racist faction has grown significantly in North America during the early 2000s, estimating that, as of 2005, it accounts for 40-50% of North American Odinists or Asatruar with the other two factions at close to 30% each.[67]

Odalism (a philosophy of Social Darwinism) and Wotanism (a racist / neo-Nazi position held by e.g. David Lane[67]) are two terms primarily focused on politics rather than religion. On his homepage, Varg Vikernes, notorious Black Metal musician and proponent of Odalism, explains his understanding of 'Paganism' with explicit identitarian referencing.[68]

Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan (1996)[69] documents the growth of Odinism in the United States and its link with the American Neo-Nazi scene. He notes that there is a division between Odinists embracing Nazi ideology and others without racist motivations responding to "childhood memories". The tensions between racist and non-racist Odinists are cast into the "folkish" ("traditional Ásatrú") vs. "universalist" ("New Age Ásatrú") debate.[70] It was these tensions that led to the demise of the Ásatrú Free Assembly in 1986 and the emergence of two separate movements, the Ásatrú Alliance and The Troth in the following year.[71]

Two groups, The Troth and the Asatru Alliance, explicitly denounce racism. The homepage of The Troth states that 'The Troth does not support any misuse of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, white supremacy, or any other form of discrimination'.[72] The Asatru Alliance webpage states that, "The Asatru Alliance promotes the native culture of the Northern European peoples. However, we do not practice, preach, or promote hatred, bigotry, or racism."[73] In addition, prominent figures in Ásatrú today such as Steven McNallen and Freya Aswynn have expressed their distaste for the racist connotations of some of the more radical practitioners of Ásatrú.

Notable organizations

Further information: List of Neopagan movements

See also

Heathenism portal

Notes

References

  • Asatru Folk Assembly, Asatru Book of Blotar and Rituals. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2009. ISBN 1466312653
  • Blain, Jenny, 2002a. Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism. London: Routledge.
  • Davidson, Hilda Roderick Ellis . The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature. Cambridge University Press. 1943. ISBN 0-8371-0070-4
  • Dubois, Thomas Andrew (1999). Nordic Religions in the Viking Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-3511-8
  • Gundarsson, Kveldulf Elves, Wights, and Trolls: Studies Towards the Practice of Germanic Heathenry iUniverse, Inc. 2007. ISBN 0595421652
  • Gundarsson, Kveldulf. Our Troth: History and Lore BookSurge Publishing. 2006. ISBN 1419635980
  • Hunt-Anschutz, Arlea (2002). 'Heathenry'. In The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, Ed. S. Rabinovitch and J. Lewis, p. 126-7. New York: Citadel Press.
  • Johnson, Nathan J. and Robert J. Wallis, 2005. Galdrbok: Practical Heathen Runecraft, Shamanism and Magic. Winchester: Wykeham Press.
  • Jung, Carl G. "Wotan". 1936. In Jung, Carl G. (1970); Collected Works, Volume 10; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London; ISBN 0-7100-1640-9; pp. 190-91.
  • Mirabello, Mark. The Odin Brotherhood. 5th edition, Oxford: Mandrake of Oxford, 2003. ISBN 1-869928-71-7
  • Osred. Odinism: Present, Past And Future 2011. ISBN 144576816X
  • Price, Neil (2002). The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Uppsala: Uppsala University Press.
  • Rommel, Gundula E. Asgard in America: Inventing European Ethnic Identity in a Post-Industrial Pluralist Culture, 2011, ISBN 978-3-640-94603-7.
  • Smith, Michael. Ways of the Ásatrú. Harvest-Moon Publishing. 2003.
  • Strmiska, Michael (2006). Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-608-6.
  • Wolf, Jack. The Way of the Odin Brotherhood. Mandrake of Oxford. 2013. ISBN 190695853X

External links

  • Association of Polytheist Traditions

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