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Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Heathenism: Germanic paganism in the modern world


Wes þu hal, and welcome!

This first article as explained previously will explore Germanic culture. But what do I mean by "Germanic"? I don't just mean "of Germany" but all the known Germanic tribes such as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, Franks, Cherusci and Hermunduri to name but a few. These tribes or confederations of tribes shared similar languages, myths and cultures. And to a large extent still do.
One area of commonality is the concept of a communal place to eat, drink and be merry.
In times past this would be the mead hall of the local Lord, but nowadays it is the pub, beer hall or café.
To use just one pair of Germanic nations as an example, I present Germany & England. As Guy Walters wrote in a 2011 opinion piece "There are lots of things the British and Germans like — which include eating sausages, drinking lager, brass bands, waging wars, forging empires and driving German cars."1 No small town or village in England is (or was until recently) without a public house. Likewise few places in Germany are without a beer hall. These serve as vital community strengthening places, and the growing number of closed Pubs is something to be lamented.

Just as one has an immediate family of siblings, parents and grandparents then a wider family of cousins, there is a national family which expands into the family of your race. So an Englishman is near kin to all other Englishmen and also kin to the other Germanic nations. For our survival we must become aware of our kinship and strong firm to preserve our identity. One means to this end is to embrace our pre-Christian faith, often called Heathenism.

What is Heathenism?


Heathenism is the most common, or accepted umbrella term for the modern attempt to re-create the various forms of pre-Christian Germanic spiritual practises. Some call themselves Asatrur, and their form of Heathenism is called Asatru .(Tru "loyalty" to the Æsir" others practise Forn Sed, some Anglo-Saxon Paganism or Heathenry, some refer to their faith as Odinism and as stated above, some just call themselves Heathen. They may have groups or organisations that they belong to, or they may be alone.

Who are the Gods?


There are two groups of Gods and Goddesses, the Æsir and the Vanir. Here are some of the more important ones.
God or Goddess Area of responsibility
Odin: Óðinn (North Germanic), Wōden (West Germanic), War, Poetry, Patron of Nobles
Thor: Þórr (North Germanic), Þunor (Old English), Thunaer (Old Saxon), Donar (Southern Germanic areas) Storms, protector of Asgard and Midgard/Middle-Earth. Patron of the common man.
Týr (Old Norse), Tīw, Tīg (both Old English), Ziu (Old High German) Justice, law
Heimdallr (Old Norse) Watchman of Asgard at Bifrost
Freyr (Old Norse), Frea (Old English), Yngvi (Old Norse), Ing (Old English) Male fertility God, virility,prosperity, sunshine and fair weather.
Baldr (Old Norse), Bældæg (Old English) Light and purity
Freyja (Old Norse) Love, beauty, gold, seiðr, war, and death.
Hel (Old Norse) Ruler of the realm of the same name where those who die of sickness or old age go.
Sif (Old Norse) Earth
Ēostre (Old English) (Northumbrian Old English: Ēostre; West Saxon Old English: Ēastre; Old High German: *Ôstara) The East (which is her name) the dawn, Harvest.
Rán (Old Norse) The sea, ocean storms

Heathen Cosmology

Heathen cosmology centres around Yggdrasill, the world tree that supports all of creation. Yggdrasill is generally assumed to mean "Odin's horse", or "gallows" because of the account of Odin hanging himself from the tree for nine days, and nine nights to gain the power of the runes. Ygg(r) is one of his many names, and drasill means horse (literally "a thing ridden"). Yggdrasil supports the nine worlds, homes or planes of existence. These are:

1.Aesir (Gods): Ásgarðr.
2. Álfar (elves): Álfheimr.
3.Menn (humans): Miðgarðr.
4.Vanir (Gods): Vanaheimr.
5.Jötnar (Giants): Jötunheimr.
6.Náir (corpses, the other world of the dead): Hel.
7. Dvergar (dwarves): Svartálfaheimr.
8. Primordial element of Ice: Niflheimr.
9. Primordial element of Fire: Muspellsheimr.

At the roots of Yggdrasill is the well Urðarbrunnr "well of Urð" at which the three Norns (Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld decide the fortunes of Men. Urðr is literally "that which has come to pass", Verðandi is "what is in the process of happening" (the present participle of the verb cognate to weorþan) and Skuld "debt, guilt" (from a Germanic root *skul- "to owe", also found in English shall. They also water the roots to keep Yggdrasill alive against the ravages of  Níðhöggr "Malice Striker" who from time to time is insulted by the unnamed eagle who sits atop Yggdrasill and sends the squirrel Ratatoskr to convey his messages.

Why be a Heathen? 

Heathenism (and all European Paganism) is part of our heritage, it is in our collective psyche, it is in our blood. To be Heathen is the supreme affirmation that you have pride in who you are, in you ancestors and that you desire to contribute to the great deeds of the past.

You may ask - not unreasonably, why one should be heathen rather than Christian, for if it was so integral to their identity, why did our ancestors become Christians?

As much as I admire all the positive aspects of a Christian Europe, and all that European Christians achieved and continue to achieve I cannot overlook the harm that it has done. Formerly our people were very individualistic, whilst at the same time having absolute loyalty to ones kin. We as White Nationalist say that we too love our people above all else, and I don't dispute this. But many White Nationalists adhere to a religion whose founder is recorded as having said:

"35 For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; "

Again, I know that many White Nationalists would not like to make enemies of their family or friends over religion. Therefore they do not take these verses to heart. But this is an utterance of their God, that their loyalty must be with him - regardless of what their kin say. Many of us - myself included know what it is like to be ostracised by our family because of our White Pride and though we may be saddened by it, we know it is for them that we stand up for our race. How much more disheartening would it be to allow ourselves to cut off from our kin and friends over a religion? If a Priest, Pastor or Elder encourages you to do so, I encourage you to think for yourself, what is more important, loyalty to your folk or to a religion? Blood above dogma must be our creed in all such matters.

This disregard for ones family, both living and dead was and is against European values. It cost the missionaries at least one Kingly convert. Radbod of Frisia (680-719 CE) was close to being converted by Wolfram, former Archbishop of Sens but before he was baptised, he asked "Where are my dead ancestors at present?” To which Wolfram replied "In Hell, with all other unbelievers." upon which, Radbod declared "Then I would rather live there with my honourable ancestors than go to heaven with a parcel of beggars." meaning that he would prefer eternity in their company than in that of his enemies (Frisia was often in conflict with the Christian Franks). He then expelled all missionaries and held out against renewed efforts to force conversion upon him and his people.

How were the Germanic peoples converted?

The Christian missionaries used several tactics in their efforts to convert the various peoples of Europe.

1. They told the natives that their Gods were false and/or demons.
2. They targeted leaders, so that once they had converted, they'd be able to order their subjects to convert.
3. Economic threats. i.e. "If you don't become Christian, no-one will trade with you." As effective a threat then as it is now.
4.Naked aggression as with Charlemagne. His massacre at Verden of 4,500 unarmed Saxons who refused to be converted was followed by a law decreeing: " If any one of the race of the Saxons hereafter concealed among them shall have wished to hide himself unbaptized, and shall have scorned to come to baptism and shall have wished to remain a pagan, let him be punished by death."
5.To prevent re-lapses, (or sometimes to encourage conversions) they would destroy or Christianize pagan sites of worship.

"So when almighty God has led you to the most reverend man our brother Bishop Augustine, tell him what I have long gone over in my mind concerning the matter of the English: that is, that the shrines of idols amongst that people should be destroyed as little as possible, but that the idols themselves that are inside them should be destroyed. Let blessed water be made and sprinkled in these shrines, let altars be constructed and relics placed there: since if the shrines are well built it is necessary that they should be converted from the worship of demons to the service of the true God, so that as long as that people do not see their very shrines being destroyed they may put out error from their hearts and in knowledge and adoration of the true God they may gather at their accustomed places more readily. " 2

Boniface destroys Donar's (Thor's) Oak, a sacred tree. Work title "Boniface chops down a cult tree in Hessen" engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1781

As time went on, nation after nation was converted with Iceland being considered the last to convert. Ancient Gods & Goddesses were demonised or made into saints. Timeless festivals, such as Easter and Yule (re-named/merged with Christmas) were either banned or stripped of the true meaning and given a Christian one.

As for why I am a Heathen, I just feel drawn to the Germanic Gods, particularly Þunor. I have always loved thunderstorms, I recall when I was a young boy, and there was a thunderstorm one night. I knew it was there, but it seemed soothing, non-threatening. My poor auntie came to check I wasn't frightened, only to be told grumpily that she'd woken me up! I feel that maybe Þunor has been calling me to the worship of the old Gods my whole life.


Morality in Asatru/Heathenism

 Just like all religions or spiritual paths, Asatru/Heathenism has a moral code, that lays out how people ought to act. Many Heathens attempt to live by the "Nine Noble Virtues" as seen above. Rather than a list of "thou shalt" type decrees from an all-powerful God, they are simple, yet profound guidelines which we can use our judgement as to how and when to enforce them. For example, what should you do when the need to be hospitable conflicts with fidelity, or any other of the virtues? In such a case the man or woman must use their own judgement and be fully prepared to live with the consequences of their actions (or inactions). Thus Heathenism offers a fully developed morality that encourages careful consideration because it is on you, and you alone to deal with the choices you make.
This sort of what I call "adaptive morality" reflects the environment -social and natural - in which our Germanic forebears lived. Theirs was a world in which you constantly had to be able to read subtle changes that if missed could be deadly, a set of unchanging rules in such an environment would have proved disastrous. Even now we are seeing a reawakening of the traditional European mindset of a rejection of absolute rules.
When you die, there is no realm of eternal bliss or pain. Those who live good, honourable lives will generally go to one of the halls of the Gods -usually one with whom they had an affinity. For example, a good lawyer might go to Tyr's Hall. Naturally, warriors who fall in battle might be chosen to become Einherjar, Odin's men who dwell in Valhalla where they fight all day and feast all night in preparation for Ragnarok.
Those who do not live just lives are condemned to Náströnd (Corpse Shore), it is the afterlife for those guilty of murder, adultery and oath-breaking. As such it is an unpleasant place to spend the afterlife, with corrosive poison dripping on the condemned, and attacks from Níðhöggr. Again this is not eternal, as Náströnd is in Hel, and like all of creation save for a single pair of humans,  Líf and Lífþrasir and a handful of Gods, it will be destroyed in Ragnarok.
As the Asatru Alliance puts it:
" Some of the qualities we hold in high regard are strength, courage, joy, honour, freedom, loyalty to kin, realism, vigour, and the revering of our ancestors. To express these things in our lives is virtuous, and we strive to do this. Their opposites - weakness, cowardice, adherence to dogma rather than to the realities of the world, and the like - constitute vices and are to be avoided. Proper behaviour in Asatru consists of maximizing one's virtues and minimizing one's vices. This code of conduct reflects the highest and most heroic ideals of our people."

Rites of Passage & Rituals in Heathenism

Baby naming ceremony

Often held nine days after a child is born, a naming ceremony is when a baby officially is accepted into the folk. During the nine days, the parents should watch the child carefully, and see if any traits become apparent that may hint as to a suitable name. Such things as reminding them of an ancestor* or personality quirks. Where possible, Christian names ought to be avoided (unless the child seems to recall an ancestor with such a name). The nine days reflect both the nine months the baby grew in the mothers' womb and the nine realms.

At the ceremony, the mother affirms that the child is hers and that she presents him/her to be accepted by the family. The father then takes the child, examines him/her and affirms that he accepts it as his and likewise presents it to be accepted into the family.

The child is then laid on the altar and by the laying on of the parents hands is named. Then blessed by the sign of the hammer. After which the baby is taken up again and is wet with a trickle of water to recall the Norns who water the roots of Yggdrasill. Finally, the child is encouraged to be brave, true and honourable in a tough world. A party follows with offerings left to the Norn who are said to attend baby namings.

* With regards to why it may be appropriate to give a child the Christian name of a forebear, it was traditionally believed that a person may send a portion of their soul to be reborn into their family. This would be the part of themselves that contained their personalty, their drive and skills. Therefore if a child seems to be like or to have a connection to old great uncle Joseph, then it may be that the child is him re-born.

Man/Woman making ceremony

These are the ceremonies by which a person becomes a full member of the folk, taking on adult duties and privileges.

The young person is first given a variety of "life lessons" by people close to them. A boy will have the men closest to him give advice and teach him some basic skills that he will need to be a good man, and a girl will have women do likewise to enable her to be a good woman. By tradition, the last person to meet with them will be their father or mother as the case may be.

The child will be asked if they have learnt the lessons needed to be an adult, and on their affirmation are presented with suitable gifts. A boy will receive weapons of some sort and a girl will be given a key ring with a key as a symbol of her future duties as the mistress of a house - keys being a symbol of her authority.She will also be given a weapon, because every adult must defend themselves, not rely on others to do it for them. The appropriate Gods/Goddesses are invoked and asked to bless them as they take on their new responsibilities


Marriage in Germanic culture was a sacred event, a union of two people physically and spiritually.
When a man wished to marry a woman he had to go to her parents and offer a bride price for her. This was not him "buying" her, but rather compensating the family for the loss of a daughter, as women performed many valuable tasks, and having one less woman would mean that the rest would have to take up her share.

Once a Bride price had been agreed to a wedding would be arranged.
At the wedding, a man must have two swords, the first is an ancestral sword that he swears he will leave to his eldest son. The second is the sword with which he vows to protect his family. He presents a gift of money equal to the bride price to his bride for her to keep in the event of his death or their separation. He also presents her with a set of keys to the house that they will live in as a sign of her authority in that house.

The Bride and Groom exchange vows declaring that they will love, honour and treasure one another for the rest of their lives.


Blót is a ritual to honour the Gods and land Wights (spirits of the environment) It can take any form, but the basics of it include praising of the God(s) and/or Goddess(s) you're honouring, offerings of mead and other items and shared drinking of mead. Sometimes, as in times past an animal is sacrificed, but this must be done as quickly and painlessly as possible both for the animals' sake and because a slow death is an ill omen.


Traditionally held in the hall of a Lord, symbel is the second most common ritual of Heathenism.
Stemming from Old English symbel, Old Saxon symbal, sumbal (Old High German *sumbal) and Old Norse sumbl, all these names translate roughly as "feast, banquet, (social) gathering", and come from a common Germanic *sumlan "banquet", which possibly descends from a PIE *sṃ-lo- "joint meal" or "congregation" (literally, symposium or assembly).

At a symbel, the focus is on the relationship between people,as opposed to that between Man & Gods, therefore no offerings are made.
It is a formulaic ritual which is more solemn and serious than just getting together for a drinking session. The primary elements of symbel are the drinking of ale or mead from a drinking horn, speeches are made and often include formulaic boasting and oaths. Gifts are given between all gathered and particularly from the Lord of the hall. 

Why Heathenism is Folkish 

Unlike religions such as Christianity and Islam, Heathenism is not, nor does it (outside of a few aberrant groups) claim to be a religion for all people. Heathenism is strictly for those of Germaninc and in some cases Northern European ancestry (due to mixing of Celtic and Germanic blood via the Viking raids in Scotland and Ireland).

Often we are called racist for this belief, but it is no different to other native religions - if that term is proper to what they are. Shinto, Judaism, Hinduism and various other systems of spiritual beliefs are strongly resistant to "outsiders" practising it. These faiths are considered to be only for those who are from the ethnicity that it arose from.

No doubt you have heard of slogans such as "Race is just a social construct!" and "There's only one race, the Human race!" Well in recent years, these building blocks of Cultural Marxist doctrine on Humanity, formed through shoddy or outright falsified scientific data have begun to crumble. More and more experiments are beginning to show that race is very real, and that some races are - from a scientific standpoint more evolved than others.
This, naturally has the race-deniers worried and they have begun a campaign to suppress findings of racial differences out of fears that if people know the facts, they will all become racists.

More that the purely scientific proof of racial differences, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that there may be some connections between people of the same blood that cannot be explained fully by science.

One of the foremost leaders of Heathenism, Steven McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly calls this growing field "meta-genetics". He writes

"The idea of meta-genetics may be threatening to many who have been taught that there are no differences between the branches of humanity. We of Asatru are concerned about our ancestral heritage, and we consider our religion to be an expression of the whole of what we are, not something that we arbitrarily assume from without. It also explains why those who do not understand us accuse us of extreme ethnocentrism or even racism- for it is clear from meta-genetics that if we, as a people, cease to exist, then Asatru also dies forever. We are intimately tied up with the fate of our whole people, for Asatru is an expression of the soul of our race.
This does not mean that we are to behave negatively toward other peoples who have not harmed us. On the contrary, only by understanding who we are, only by coming from our racial "centre", can we interact justly and with wisdom with other peoples on this planet. We must know ourselves before we can know others. Our differences are great, but we who love human diversity and variation must learn to see these differences as a blessing to be treasured, not barriers to be dissolved."3

Apart from practising the faith of our ancestors, how else might we demonstrate our love for our heritage?

One way might be to learn an ancient language of your forebears. As you saw, I opened this article with a few simple words of Old English. Hwæt, meaning Lo, listen or pay attention is the ancestor of the modern "what" and is pronounced in a similar way. Wes þu hal is a greeting and literally means "be you hale (well)". Here are some words/phrases you might like to try out.

How are you? – Hū gǣþ? (HOO GAYTH?)
Fine, thank you. – Wel, þancie. (WELL, THAN-kih-eh)
What is your name? – Hū hātest þu? / Hwæt is þīn nama? (HOO haat-est thoo? / HWAET iss theen nah-mah?)
My name is ______ . –  Ic hātte ______ . (itch HAHT-teh)
Nice to meet you. – Ēadig, þec tō mētenne. (“AY-diy THETCH TOE MAY-ten-neh”)
Pleased to meet you. – Mē līcode þec tō grētenne. (MAY LEE-koh-deh THETCH TOE GRAY-ten-neh)
That’s a kingly name - þin nama is cynelic. (Thin nam-uh iss koon-uh-litch)
You don't have to try Old English, you might try Old Norse, German or any other Germanic language.
Apart from languages, there are traditional arts and crafts to explore. Music, dance, costume - all are ways in which you can celebrate and keep your culture alive. I encourage you to research your heritage and find something of it to pass on to the next generation.

Hopefully this article has tought something of what Heathenism is, and how it is integral to who we are as a people. Perhaps it may even begin you on your journey to following the ways of your ancestors.

Hail to each and every one of you, and Hail the Æsir, Vanir and the all Holy powers!
2Epistola ad Mellitum

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