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The Mjöllnir is a common symbol of spirituality used by Heathens.

Heathenism or Heathenry (also known as Germanic Neopaganism) is the modern revival of historical Germanic paganism. Precursor movements appeared in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. A second wave of revival began in the early 1970s, variously under the branches of Asatru (Norse Heathenism), Odinism (Universalistic Pan-Germanic Heathenism which focuses on the worship of Odin as the Primum Movens), Yrminism (Continental Heathenism, German Heathenism), Fyrnsidu (Anglo-Saxon Heathenism, English Heathenism), Urglaawe (Pennsylvania Deitsch Heathenism) and Theodism (Neotribal Heathenism).

Attitude and focus of adherents may vary considerably, from strictly historical polytheistic reconstructionism to syncretist (eclectic), pragmatic psychologist, occult or mysticist approaches. Heathen organizations cover a wide spectrum of belief and ideals.

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. Heathen 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.

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 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).

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.

Germanic Neopaganism reveres the natural environment in principle; Heathenism opposes neither technology nor its material rewards. More mystical currents of Heathenry may be critical of industrialization or modern society, but even such criticism will focus on decadence, lack of virtue or balance, rather than being a radical criticism of technology itself.

Theodsmen operate under specific "thau". Thau is defined as the customs and beliefs of a specific tribe, and each Theodish tribe has their own thau which may or may not be mirrored in other Theodish (and indeed some non-Theodish) circles.

Heathenism/Heathenry means "teaching/practice of the men of the heath". Heathen ("man of the heath"), originally used by Christians as an insult, is today proudly used by Germanic Neopagans because of its emphasis on connection with nature and the Earth.

Selected article

Symbol of the AFA.

The Asatru Folk Assembly or AFA is a US-based Asatruar organization founded by Stephen McNallen in 1994.

It is the successor organization to a group called the Asatru Free Assembly founded by McNallen in 1974 and disbanded in 1986, itself an outgrowth of a group called the Viking Brotherhood founded by McNallen in 1971. The defunct Asatru Free Assembly is sometimes distinguished from the modern Asatru Folk Assembly by the usage of "old AFA" and "new AFA", respectively.

Gardell (2003) classifies the AFA as folkish. The organization denounces racism (from the Asatru Folk Assembly's Bylaws: "The belief that spirituality and ancestral heritage are related has nothing to do with notions of superiority. Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race. On the contrary, we recognize the uniqueness and the value of all the different pieces that make up the human mosaic." Source).

The AFA has been recognized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit religious organization, or church. It is based in Nevada City, CA. From 1997-2002, the AFA was a member organization of the International Asatru-Odinic Alliance.

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The Poetic Edda, also known as Sæmundar Edda or the Elder Edda, is a collection of Old Norse poems from the Icelandic medieval manuscript Codex Regius ('The King's Manuscript'). Along with Snorri's Edda the Poetic Edda is the most important source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends. The first part of the Codex Regius preserves poems that narrate the creation and destruction of the Old Norse mythological world as well as individual myths about gods such as Odin, Thor and Heimdall. The poems in the second part narrate legends about heroes and heroines such as Sigurd the Dragonslayer, Brynhildr and Gunnar.

The Codex Regius was written down in the 13th century but nothing is known of its whereabouts until 1643 when it came into the possession of Brynjólfur Sveinsson, then Bishop of Skálholt. At that time versions of Snorri's Edda were well known in Iceland but scholars speculated that there once was another Edda - an Elder Edda - which contained the pagan poems Snorri quotes in his book. When the Codex Regius was discovered it seemed that this speculation had proven correct. Brynjólfur attributed the manuscript to Sæmundr fróði, a larger-than-life 12th century Icelandic priest. While this attribution is rejected by modern scholars the name Sæmundar Edda is still sometimes encountered.

Bishop Brynjólfur sent the Codex Regius as a present to the Danish king, hence the name. For centuries it was stored in the Royal Library in Copenhagen but in 1971 it was returned to Iceland.

Selected Deity

Freyja and the apple tree at the end of the world as depicted in an illustration by Arthur Rackham.

Heathen theology is chiefly polytheistic and pantheistic. A common trend is to conceive the gods as human representation of the natural forces, natural things and psychological conditions. Deities are a sort of Jungian archetypes. Pantheism involves a sacralization of the universe, and an attitude of respect and love towards nature.

Freyja (sometimes anglicized as Freya) is a major goddess in Heathenry. Because the documented source of this religious tradition, the Norse Mythology, was transmitted and altered by Christian medieval historians, the actual role, Heathen practices and worship of the goddess are uncertain.

In the Eddas, Freyja is portrayed as a goddess of love, beauty, and fertility. Blonde, Freyja is described as the fairest of all goddesses, and people prayed to her for happiness in love. She was also called on to assist childbirths and prayed to for good seasons.

Freyja was also associated with war, battle, death, magic, prophecy, and wealth. She is cited as receiving half of the dead lost in battle in her hall Fólkvangr, whereas Odin would receive the other half at Valhalla. And the origin of Seid was ascribed to Freyja.

Did you know?

  • A kindred is a group of worship in Heathenism, particularly the Asatruar tradition.
  • An Asatruar temple is scheduled to be built in Reykjavik over next few years. Source.


Main Category:

Detailed information about Heathen tradition can be found under these sub-categories:

Selected Religious Figure

Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson (July 4, 1924December 23, 1993), a native of Iceland, was instrumental in helping to gain recognition by the Icelandic government for the pre-Christian Norse religion. The Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið ("Icelandic fellowship of Æsir faith"), which he founded, and for which he acted as goði (priest), was officially recognised as a religious body in 1972.

Sveinbjörn lived his entire life in West Iceland. From 1944 on, he was a sheep farmer while also pursuing literary interests on the side. He published a book of rímur in 1945, a textbook on the verse forms of rímur in 1953, two volumes of his own verse in 1957 and 1976, and edited several anthologies.

Sveinbjörn was regarded with much respect and affection amongst Ásatrú. Not only was he a well known rímur singer, or kvæðamaður, in Iceland, he also gained an audience and followers in Europe and North America. He sometimes performed at rock concerts and is the opening act in the film Rokk í Reykjavík, directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson. Sveinbjörn can be heard performing Ásatrú marriage rites for Genesis and Paula P-Orridge (now Alaura O'Dell) on Psychic TV's LP Live in Reykjavik and on the double LP entitled Those who do not. Additionally, former Psychic TV member David Tibet (né David Michael Bunting) released a CD of Sveinbjörn performing his own rímur and reciting the traditional Poetic Edda under the title Current 93 presents Sveinbjörn 'Edda' in two editions through the now defunct record company World Serpent Distribution.

Selected Religious Practice

Blót is the historical Norse term for sacrifice or ritual slaughter. In Heathenry, blóts are often celebrated outdoors in nature, the celebrants sometimes clad in home-made Viking Age attire. A blót may be highly formalized, but the underlying intent resembles inviting and having an honored guest or family member in for dinner. Food and drink may be offered. Most of this will be consumed by the participants, and some of the drink will be poured out onto the soil as a libation. Home-brewed mead as the "Germanic" drink par excellence is popular.[1][2]

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. Certain Heathen groups, most notably the Theodish, strictly adhere to historical formulaic ritual, while other groups may use modernized variants. Usual dress for a blót is whatever suits the seasons - many blóts are outdoors, sometimes at sacred sites. Some Germanic Neopagans, most notably the Theodish, wear clothing modeled on those of the Anglo-Saxon or Norse 'Viking' during ritual, while others eschew this practice.

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