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Ásatrú is a Norse term meaning literally a faith or belief in Gods, specifically the Old Norse and Germanic Gods known collectively as the Æsir. Ásatrú has its roots in ancient customs and beliefs, although it is best known from the Viking age when the old world view and the emerging Christian faith clashed and which was the period that the stories and customs were written down. As with many other ethnic or folk religions there was no specific name for the religion, although Ásatrú, Vor tru, "our faith," or Forn Sed, "ancient customs/ways" are phrases/words that are used in the modern world to describe this faith. The religion was part of the culture, and the beliefs revealed not only in the mythology, but also in the customs, ethics, and laws, much of which has survived as a cultural ethos.
Ásatrú beliefs are rooted in the past and in the sacred mythos and cosmology of the Old Norse and Germanic people. As an ethnic or folk religion the authoritative source of belief that can legitimately be considered Ásatrú are the precedents found in the traditions, myths, folklore, literature, laws, customs, and cultural concepts which were shaped by belief in the Æsir and other supernatural beings and powers. There is no historical founder or prophet who made revealed pronouncements of law or belief. There is no central authority that lays down dogma or tenets. There is no injunction to proselytize, or any precedent for intolerance of other beliefs.
This deep respect for tradition and custom is based on a underlying concept, ørlog, that is central to the cosmology and belief system of the old Norse and Germanic people, as well as Ásatrú today. . The word is a compound, 'ør,' something that is beyond or "primal" or "above/beyond the ordinary" and "leggja," "to lay," "to place," or "to do." It has the meaning of primal or earliest law, the earliest things accomplished or done. These things are sacred and provide the foundation of the Old Norse beliefs and rites of Ásatrú. They are symbolized in the mythology by the World Tree, which grows at the Well of Urdh or Wyrd. The norns water the World Tree with the water from the Well of Urdh which deposits layers of sediment over the roots, demonstrating the active, accretionary, growing nature of reality.
The perception of being is also a reflection of this basic concept. Like the tree, a person continues to grow and change through experience and study, with each new experience or knowledge growing out of that which was experienced or learned before. A particularly numinous quality called hamingja, "luck" or "fortune", can also be accumulated and passed on to ones descendents. In spiritual terms, this legacy can refer to wisdom, personality, or talent, while in practical terms, this can include one's wealth, reputation and external family ties.
Ásatrú begins with individuals and families who may associate in small groups called félagið, or lagur (fellowships), godhordhs, kindreds, garths and hearths, among other historically based terms. They may be entirely independent or may be affiliated in or with a larger organization. A few larger organizations may be further allianced with one another.
The most common term for an Ásatrú religious leader is Goði (masculine form) and Gyðia (feminine form), Goðar (plural). The word refers to a position comparable to that of a priest, but is translated from the Old Norse as chieftain, as are some similiar terms such as Drighten that may signify essentially the same thing but with more administrative duties in larger groups.
Ásatrú and Odinism
There are Ásatrúar and Odinists who feel that they are the same religion, while many others who are Ásatrúar or Odinist feel there are distinct differences. The term "Odinist" refers to an individual who is primarily dedicated to Odin, and as such could also consider themselves Ásatrú, Wiccan, Neo-pagan or simply Odinist, depending on the rites, fellowship and beliefs that they express their dedication to that deity (and associated deities) in.
Rites and ceremonies
The rites and ceremonies of Ásatrú are based on cultural observances of the old Norse and Germanic people, many of which continued in the culture and societies that followed without a recognition of the sacral aspect that they were imbued with in the beginning. One such ritual is the highly ceremonial toast following a formal meal, which parallels the sumbel (ON sumbl). The sumbel is a ceremony that includes drinking communally and offering up inspired speech that was binding in terms of oath and intent, as illustrated in Beowulf and other Norse/Germanic literature.
A blót, sacrifice or blessing, is an offering to deity or other supernatural beings. The offering may be a simple sharing of food or drink by an individual to a more elaborate community ceremony. These ceremonies may be performed indoors, or outside in a natural setting.
Additonal ceremonies include the naming of a child and its acceptance into the family (ausa vatni), burials, healing, blessings in time of need and divination among others.
Nine Noble Virtues
- Strength is better than weakness
- Courage is better than cowardice
- Joy is better than guilt
- Honour is better than dishonour
- Freedom is better than slavery
- Kinship is better than alienation
- Realism is better than dogmatism
- Vigor is better than lifelessness
- Ancestry is better than universalism
The Nine Charges
- To maintain candour and fidelity in love and devotion to the tried friend: though he strike me I will do him no scathe.
- Never to make wrongsome oath: for great and grim is the reward for the breaking of plighted troth.
- To deal not hardly with the humble and the lowly.
- To remember the respect that is due to great age.
- To suffer no evil to go unremedied and to fight against the enemies of Faith, Folk and Family: my foes I will fight in the field, nor will I stay to be burnt in my house.
- To succour the friendless but to put no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people.
- If I hear the fool's word of a drunken man I will strive not: for many a grief and the very death groweth from out such things.
- To give kind heed to dead people: straw dead, sea dead or sword dead.
- To abide by the enactments of lawful authority and to bear with courage the decrees of the Norns.
Gods & Goddesses
(In alphabetical order):
Freyja, a Vanir hostage
Freyr, a Vanir hostage
Njord, a Vanir hostage
(In alphabetical order):
Hoenir, an Æsir hostage
Mimir, an Æsir hostage