Who Are the Asatruar?
It's hard to stereotype us, except that we try to be true to the Aesir.
BY: Nissa Annakindt
Reprinted with permission from "The Seeker Journal," December 2000.
There are many names for the kind of people I call "Asatru": Norse Pagan, Heathen, Odinist, the Troth, Theodish Belief, even "the religion of the Vikings." Some of us insist on one term and reject the others. In any case, we are the folk who are "true to the Aesir"--the literal meaning of Asatru. We worship the ancient Gods of the Germanic people of Northern Europe: Freya, Thor, Odin, Frigga, Balder, Hel, Sif.
We are not Wiccans. We believe in many Gods, not a God and a Goddess; we meet in Kindreds, Hearths, and Garths, not covens and circles. An Asatru priest is called a gothi; a priestess is a gythia--though in some groups, they may be called elders. We have a Bible--more than one actually. We use thePoetic Edda
, the Prose Edda, and the other ancient sources, such as theGermania of Tacitus
, to understand the true roots of our faith.
We tend to be more diverse in our opinions than the Wiccans. We have political conservatives and moderates as well as liberals, feminists, and those suspicious of feminism, gay people, and people worried about "the gay agenda." And many of us don't fit any political pattern--supporting both gun rights and gay rights, for example.
We don't trace the history of our religion back to Gerald Gardner. Our religion was revived in 1907 in Germany by the artist Ludwig Fahrenkrog. One of Fahrenkrog's followers, Dr. Ernst Wachler, built an outdoor theater, the Harzer Bergtheater, and produced plays on Germanic themes. During the Nazi era, Fahrenkrog was forbidden to hold public meetings, his group was forbidden to use their group's symbol, the swastika (which they had been using since before the Nazi movement came along), and Dr. Wachler, a man of Jewish ancestry, was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.
The German group died away in the years after the war (though it has since been revived). It was around 1971 that Asatru again sprang to life. Groups began to form independent of one another, in Iceland, England, and the United States. There are a number of Asatru groups in the U.S. today. TheAsatru Folk Assembly
, theAsatru Alliance
, theOdinic Rite-Vinland
, and theAmerican Vinland Association
are some of the best-known groups.