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Odinism: Ideology, Customs, and Practices

Page history last edited by Geirrod the Ruthless 10 years, 9 months ago

Introduction 

 

Odinism is the modern revival of an ancient religion widely practiced by various people throughout northern Europe, primarily, the Norse. Odinism goes under many names. To those who study the religion from the outside, it may be called “Germanic Neopaganism.” For those who practice the religion, it may go under the title Heathenry, Ásatrú, and a slew of other names. To create clarification, I will refer to the entire group as “Odinists.” (For further explanation on why I’ve chosen to do this as well as an explanation on the differences between the different groups, please go here.) While the religion has technically been in existence since the creation of it by the Norse people, the modern revival of these beliefs began in the early 20th century. 

 

 

Research Direction

 

Odinists would say that their religion has never had a revival, and that the same beliefs and practices that are done today are the same practiced by their Norse ancestors. Within Odinism, beliefs and practices vary widely. Some may have a focus on the traditional practices of their heritage (which will sometimes call themselves “Heathens” to differentiate from pagans whose rituals come from modern sources). Others may romanticize the Viking belief system and take more of an occultic or mysticist approaches. In either case, all contemporary accounts of Odinism are based off of existing records of Norse mythology dated back to the 11th century.

 

Because of the connection to ancient Germanic identity, some Odinists today have links to Neo-Nazism and white supremacism. While the Neo-Nazi’s that practice their ancient indigenous religion will refer to themselves Odinists, (and usually never Ásatrú), not all Odinists will call themselves Neo-Nazi’s. This difference is illustrated between “folkish” Odinists, which believe that you must have ancestral blood to be a follower, and “universalist” Odinists, which believe anyone can be a follower. However, my research will not focus on the racialist aspect, as my research partner has covered white supremacy and Odinism on another part of this wiki and I cover it here. In my research, I will clearly identify what it means to be an Odinist through looking at the history, practices, ideologies, and customs of Odinism. I will then be comparing this contemporary take on the faith to the “religion” of the historical Norse, or Vikings.

 

 

History

 

Early Germanic Pagans

All religions of the ancient times before monotheism, specifically the Juedeo-Christian belief, are pagan. The ancient Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, etc. all practiced paganism, or polytheism. Among these ancient civilizations we can also mention the Teutons, of which one branch of paganism descended from, which can be called Germanic Paganism.

 

The Teutons, or Germanic peoples, consist of several different tribes in northern Europe, possessing a common origin and sharing many cultural affinities, who speak one or other of the Germanic languages. The important Germanic tribes of ancient times include the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Lombards, Franks, Burgundians and Vandals. All of these nations were originally worshippers of the gods and goddesses of the same pantheon. The descendents of these tribes include the modern peoples of the Germans, Dutch, Flemings, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Icelanders, and the Anglo-Saxons of England and lowland Scotland.

 

While the Odinic gods and goddesses are often synonymous with the Vikings, or the Scandinavian peoples, it actually is a product of the aforementioned Germanic people. While the Gods may go under different names, their nature is quite similar. For example, the Germanic Mercury, the Old English Woden, and Norse Odin all descend from the common “poetic warrior God” of Wodanaz. While the Viking period lasted 500 years, Germanic paganism (which includes Odinism under its umbrella) has an organized history of about 8000 years. Most of what is known about this Germanic religion is derived from descriptions by Roman writers such as Julius Caesar and Tacitus, descriptions from early Christian missionaries, and archaeological evidence including cult objects, amulets, grave goods, and place names. The Germanic brand of paganism is one of the oldest pre-Christian religions that is still in practice today.

 

The success of Christianity largely displaced paganism in Europe during the medieval period. Norse Paganism, the brand of Germanic Paganism that Odinists have revived, died out during this period as well. Anglo-Saxon England was converted from Norse paganism in the 7th century, Scandinavia in the 10th century, and finally, Lithuania officially converted in 1386, which was the last Norse pagan stronghold in Europe. Worship of the Odinic gods and goddesses only lingered in secret in underground movements such as the Odin Brotherhood.

First Resurgence

 

Of all the brands of Germanic Paganism, Norse Paganism was easily survived due to being much better documented than any of its predecessors through Norse mythology depicted in the Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda, as well as the sagas, written in Iceland during 1150 – 1400 A.D. Because of the preservation of these documents, popular and scholarly interest for the history and culture of the Vikings became part of 19th century Romanticism. This movement was called The Viking Revival, or Septentrionalism, of which Thomas Gray, William Blake, and J.R.R. Tolkien were a part of.

 

One individual, Guido von List, became particularly interested in the Runes. In 1862, von List visited the crypt of St. Stephens Cathedral (which was a former pagan shrine), and swore an oath to build a temple to Wotan (the Germanic Odin). This was the birth of Germanic Neopaganism. Von List contributed to other organized pagan and occultic groups during this time, such as the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft (which still exists) and the Thule Society, which studied German antiquity. While many members of the Nazi Party were part of these movements, Adolf Hitler discouraged such pursuits, and the first resurgence died out. Neopagan societies were even persecuted during this time.

 

Guido von List

 

Second Resurgence

 

With the first resurgence of the religion squashed, the second revival began, properly, the birthplace of the Viking Sagas and the Eddas; Iceland. In 1972, a farmer and poet named Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, created an organization called Ásatrúarfélagið (“Fellowship of the Aesir faith”). This organization was instrumental in helping to gain recognition of Asatru (or Odinism) by the Icelandic government in 1973. This allowed the church, whose godi (or priest) was Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, to conduct legally binding ceremonies and collect a share of the church tax. During most of his life, membership did not exceed 100 people.

 

Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson

 

At the same time, Else Christensen began publishing “The Odinist” newsletter in Canada. In the United States, the prolific Odinist writer Stephen McNallen, a former U.S. Army officer, began publishing a newsletter titled “The Runestone.” He also formed an organization called the Asatru Free Assembly, later renamed the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA). Since this resurgence, many splits have occurred within these organizations, such as the Asatru Alliance becoming an offshoot of the AFA. The Odinic rite, started by John Yeowell, was established in England in 1972. In the 1990’s, the Odinist Fellowship emerged as a separate group in the United Kingdom.

 

In the 1990s and 2000s, a variety of Scandinavian associations and networks have formed. Swedish Asatrosamfund (since 1994), NorwegianÅsatrufellesskapet Bifrost in Norway (1996) and Foreningen Forn Sed (1999), recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious society, allowing them to perform "legally binding civil ceremonies" (i.e. marriages). Danish Forn Siðr (1999) and Swedish Nätverket Gimle (2001), an informal community for individual heathens, primarily living in Sweden with no connection to any formal organization, and Nätverket Forn Sed (2004), a network consisting of local groups (blotlag) from all over the country. It was recently founded by members from other Forn Sed societies.

 

Since 1973 the governments of Iceland, Denmark, and Norway have officially recognized Odinism/Asatru. Today, Odinism is practiced primarily in Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, North America and Australia/New Zealand. Small communities are also found in many other countries, including Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Portugal, Poland, and Russia. Active groups are also found in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile.

 

 

 

Folkish vs. Universalist

 

It is important to make a distinction between the folkish and the Universalist Odinists before delving into the nature of Odinism. Universalist Odinists refers to the new age movement of the last 40 years and those that would like to cultivate some form of spirituality and find it in the Norse spirituality. While they may not have any Norse blood in their veins, they like the ideas of Runes, and warriors, and living with nature, etc. These Odinists may even interject other forms of paganism and Native American spiritual practices in with their Odinist spirituality. A good example of this kind of Odinist is one who owns a Viking rune set they bought from Barnes and Noble and uses it for fortune telling similar to Tarot cards, even though the Norse people did not use them in that manner.

 

From the Folkish Odinist perspective, the Universalist Odinist is a joke. The President of the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) Steve McNallen describes this best in his article aimed at Europeans interested in Native American Spirituality “Asafolk and Native American Spirituality.”  Here is an excerpt:

 

 

“Perhaps the most significant issue in Indian spirituality today is the all-pervading presence of a new tribe - the Wannabees. These are non-Indian, overwhelmingly European American, men and women who want to adopt or adapt bits and pieces of Indian religion. Peace pipes and smudge sticks are sold in New Age bookstores , and dream catchers are even more ubiquitous; they clutter the checkout counter and the local five-and-dime. Non-Indians make big bucks sponsoring sweat lodge experiences, drumming sessions, and vision quests. Perhaps the worst abuses are the sun dances done on Astroturf, and the sex orgies conducted under the guise of Cherokee tribal ritual.

 

The Indians are angry, and who can blame them? Excerpts from the "Declaration of War" that accompanies this piece, documents their determination to end the ripping off of their religion. As followers of an ethnic religion ourselves, we cannot help but be sympathetic. Before you moan about us giving space to non-Asafolk, think: Today, they are being ripped off; tomorrow it will be us. In fact, the theft of Asatru started ten years ago with Ralph Blum's Book of Runes, and continues today in the form of attempts to de-tribalize and universalize Asatru."

 

 

Folkish Odinists are more serious about their faith and see it as reviving their connection to their fellow community. Because of this, they believe you must be a descendent of the Norse bloodline to be a part of their faith. While this may be used by white supremacists to bolster themselves above other cultures, the average Odinist advocates that while you must belong to the Norse or Germanic bloodline, they do not necessarily discriminate against other races or faiths. They simply believe that each respective bloodline has its own pagan faith to practice. For a Germanic person to practice Native American spirituality or a Native American to practice Odinism seems illogical to them.

 

Representatives of true Native American spirituality tend to agree with these ideals. To fix the problem of Europeans stealing away their spirituality and commercializing it, Indians are turning away Europeans to their own cultures. Mohawk newspaper editor Doug George said, in a recent issue of New Age magazine, ("A Theft of Spirit?", August 1995) "If you look far enough back, you'll find the Celts and the Anglos and the Saxons and the Jutes all have similar rituals of thanksgiving based on the cycles of the moon and the growing seasons of the Earth. That is what needs to be revived. Maybe we can use this as a kind of spiritual judo. When people come to you with a desperate need to know more, just turn that around and say the solution is within your own self. The solution is in your own community."

 

Perhaps the most controversial tag with folkish Odinism has been that it is inherently racist. While some Odinists may be racist, not all are (in the same way that the Ku Klux Klan is racist and Christian).  Many who align themselves with the “Asatru” tag try desperately to distance themselves from being attached to Neo-Nazi’s, white supremacists, or other “racially aware” organizations. One webmaster of a popular Asatru site posted the following after finding out his site had been attached to Neo-Nazi sites:

 

 

“It has been the sad fate of Asatru to have had our faith highjacked by some subhuman maggots who are trying to hitch their sick and twisted political wagon to our faith.

 

It is the position of The Raven Kindred, Asatru Today, myself personally, and all legitimate Asatruar that race and ethnicity are completely irrelevant to Asatru and Norse Paganism.

 

Asatru is a religion. It is open to anyone who wishes to join it. Those persons who would limit its membership on the basis of race, sex, sexual preference, or other such criteria are not only mentally challenged, but are traitors to the Gods. If the Gods call someone to their service, it is not our business to deny them based on their genetic origin. To do so is to go against the Gods, and thus is to commit treason against Asgard.”

 

Some Odinists find a middle ground between the Asatru perspective and white supremacy Odinists. While they do not advocate racism, they do believe that the only way to be a true Odinist is to have Viking blood flowing through ones veins. Anyone with no Viking blood, by this perspective, should practice their own native ancestral faith. Steve McNallen exemplifies this perspective in his article:

 

 “Is there a connection between race and religion, between biology and spirituality? If we say "yes," does that mean we're racist? Where is the line between pride in one's people - a desire to see one's tribe perpetuated - and the phenomenon the media calls "racism"?”

 

 

While this paper will not discuss the ethical ramifications of racialist or non-racialist Odinist perspectives,, the split that is necessary to address is between the Asatru and folkish Odinists and the universalists Odinists. Where the former studies texts and artifacts, and even learns the original languages, to return to the original mindset of the Vikings. The ladder look at information which is readily accessible and freely build upon it, borrowing from other traditions such as Indians, the Chinese I Ching, and Kabalistic (or Jewish) mysticism. In this paper will look at those groups who seek to revive the Viking belief system (regardless of whether you need to have the right ancestry or not).

 

Interview with Steve McNallen, the founder of AFA:

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The Religion of the Vikings: 

 

What we know about the Viking gods comes from Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) who recorded the myths of the gods. However, he wrote two hundred years after Iceland became Christian, so he says little about actual practice. This has caused problems for groups of Odinists today trying to return to their ancient Nordic beliefs. Many have studied the old religion, but are left filling in the gaps, and deliberately adding new elements to adapt to modern times. As a result, there are several variations in contemporary Odinist practices, especially since there is no central authority or official dogma. However, this, if anything, makes the contemporary Odinism more similar to the religion as it was during the Viking Age, as Vikings had a very similar approach to their faith between different clans.

 

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Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson reciting the Hávamál

 

 

 

Beliefs: 

 

As said before, Odinists beliefs come from the works of Snorri Sturlusson. In relation to belief’s, these particularly come from the Elder Edda and the Prose Edda. It is important to again note that the original Vikings did not have access to these books, so their views of the spiritual world, names for Gods, and cosmology could have been different from Snorri Sturlusons representation.

 

First and foremost, Odinists are polytheistic. They believe in the three main groups of deities as described by Viking Literature:

 

  • Aesir - the gods of the tribe or clan, representing kingship, order, craft, etc. (incl. Odin and Thor)
  • Vanir - gods of the fertility of the earth and forces of nature (incl. Freyr and Freyja)
  • Jotnar - giant-gods who are in a constant state of war with the Aesir, representing chaos and destruction.

 

The four main deities that are worshipped by contemporary Odinists include:

 

  • Odin (Germanic Woden) - god of magic, poetry, riches and the dead; ruler of Valhalla (gave his name to Wednesday)
  • Thor - sky god who wields a hammer, controls the weather, and protects the law and the community (gave his name to Thursday)
  • Freyr - fertility god represented with a phallic statue and seen as the founder of the Swedish royal dynasty
  • Freyja - fertility goddess of love and beauty, sister of Freyr, known by many names (including Frigg, Odin's wife and patron of families, who gave her name to Friday)

 

Other deities also exist, but they may not be worshipped as exlusively as the previous four by modern odinists.

 

  • Njord - father of Freyr and Freyja, god of ships, sea and lakes
  • Tyr (Germanic Tiu) - god of battle, sacrifice, and justice (gave his name to Tuesday)
  • Ullr - god of death, winter, and hunting
  • Loki - the trickster

 

While Vikings respected their gods, they did not revere and honor them in the way that Christians do for example. They respected them, and considered them more powerful than men, but saw them as equal and couldn’t wait to fight by their side in the after life. Their gods were not all-powerful, all-knowing, or even entirely good. Like men, they ate, fought, played jokes, farted, and even died. Odinists have a similar approach to the gods and goddesses.

 

Afterlife

 

The original Germanic religion did not have a unified conception of the afterlife. Some may have believed that fallen warriors would go to Valhalla to live happily with Odin until the Ragnarök, but it seems unlikely this belief was widespread. Others seemed to believe that there was no afterlife. According to the "Hávamál," any misfortune was better than to be burnt on a funeral pyre, for a corpse was a useless object.

 

More often people believed that life went on for a time after death but was inseparable from the body. If men had been evil in life, they could persecute the living when dead; they might have to be killed a second time or even a third before they were finished. Some records imply that the dead needed company; a wife, mistress, or servant would be placed in the grave with them. On the whole, beliefs in afterlife seem rather gloomy. The dead pass, perhaps by slow stages, to a dark, misty world called Niflheim (Niflheimr).

 

Modern Odinist beliefs about the afterlife also vary. The Asatru Folk Assembly website states:

 

 

We believe that there is an afterlife, and that those who have lived virtuous lives will go on to experience greater fulfillment, pleasure, and challenge. Those who have led lives characterized more by vice than by virtue will be separated from kin, doomed to an existence of dullness and gloom. The precise nature of the afterlife - what it will look like and feel like - is beyond our understanding and is dealt with symbolically in the myths. There is also a tradition in Asatru of rebirth within the family line. Perhaps the individual is able to choose whether or not he or she is re-manifested in this world, or there may be natural laws which govern this. In a sense, of course, we all live on in our descendants quite apart from an afterlife as such. To be honest, we of Asatru do not overly concern ourselves with the next world. We live here and now, in this existence. If we do this and do it well, the next life will take care of itself.

 

 

There is no real uniform belief among Odinsts about what happens in the afterlife. This is actually rather similar to the Vikings belief. While we are told from the literature the stories of Valhalla and Ragnarok, most Vikings likely didn’t believe in this concept.

 

Creation:

 

The Eddic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress) reveals the mysteries of Odinist cosmology. According to the poem, between Muspelheim (The Land of Fire) and Niflheim (The Land of Ice) was an empty space called Ginnungigap. The fire and ice moved towards each other and when they collided, the universe came into being. Odinist cosmology describes nine worlds, each representing states of being rather than physical places, which are grouped around the World Tree; Yggdrassil. In order of creation, first were the giants, then the gods, and, finally, humankind.

 

While some Odinists may believe in this, many put more credibility on science to explain the nature  of their creation. This comes from the inherent attitude of Odinism, which is a rejection of Christianity. From this rejection, more credibility is given to evolution and atheism in regards to creation. While the cosmology of the Vikings is decribed thouroughly in the Seeress Prophecy, it is unlikely that many Vikings even knew about this poem or even think about these issues.

 

 

The Odinist Code of Ethics

 

Despite the variance of belief in Odinism, there is a system of ethics that is followed. These are called the Nine Virtues by both Asatru and Odinists, although they do differ. They are the following, taken from the Odinic Rite web page and the Asatru Folk Assembly respectively.

 

The Nine Virtues

Odinic Rite

1.     Courage

2.     Truth

3.     Honour

4.     Fidelity

5.     Discipline

6.     Hospitality

7.     Self Reliance

8.     Industriousness

9.     Perseverance

Asatru Folk Assembly

1.     Strength is better than weakness

2.     Courage is better than cowardice

3.     Joy is better than guilt

4.     Honour is better than dishonour

5.     Freedom is better than slavery

6.     Kinship is better than alienation

7.     Realism is better than dogmatism

8.     Vigor is better than lifelessness

9.     Ancestry is better than universalism

 

The Asatru folk Assembly also included a list of virtues called the “Twelve Traits,” which are to be immediately memorized by any new initiates to the religion. These are:

 

The Twelve Traits 

 

Industriousness - Be productively engaged in life. Avoid laziness. Strive to accomplish good things.

 

Justice - Let equity and fairness be your hallmark. Treat others in accordance with what they deserve, and give each person a chance to show his or her best.

 

Courage - Fear is natural, but it can be overcome. Train yourself to do the things you fear, both physically and morally.

 

Generosity - An open hand and an open heart bring happiness to you and to others. The miserly are never happy.

 

Hospitality - In ancient times, travelers were greeted with food, drink, and a warm place by the fire. See that your guests never want.

 

Moderation - Enjoy all good things, but do not overindulge. No one admires a glutton or a person who cannot control his or her appetites.

 

Community - Cooperate with kin and friends, do your fair share, and remember your responsibilities to others.

 

Individuality - Although we belong to a community, we are also individuals with distinct personalities and clearly-defined rights. Respect the individuality of others, and insist on the same in return.

 

Truth - Be honest and straightforward in all your dealings. Avoid deceit and deception.

 

Steadfastness - Learn to persist, to endure in the face of adversity without discouragement. Do not be blown about by every changing wind.

 

Loyalty - Be steadfast in your commitment to others and to yourself. Have a true heart.

 

Wisdom - Learn from your experiences. Grow in the understanding of the world, and of the human heart. Comprehend as much of the universe as you can in the years available to you.

 

 

There is also another ethical guideline called the Nine Charges that is used by the Odinic Rite:

 

The Nine Charges (Odinic Rite)

 

1.

      To maintain candour and fidelity in love and devotion to the tried friend: though he strike me I will do him no scathe.  

 

2.      Never to make wrongsome oath: for great and grim is the reward for the breaking of plighted troth.

 

3.      To deal not hardly with the humble and the lowly.

 

4.      To remember the respect that is due to great age.

 

5.      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.

 

6.      To succour the friendless but to put no faith in the pledged word of a stranger people.

 

7.      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.

 

8.      To give kind heed to dead men: straw dead, sea dead or sword dead.

 

 

 

Similarly, the Asatru Folk Assembly has its own “charges” or precepts that it follows. These are:

 

Asatru Precepts:

 

We do not need salvation. All we need is the freedom to face our destiny with courage and honor.

 

We are connected to all our ancestors. They are a part of us. We in turn will be a part of our descendants.

 

We are also linked to all our living kin - to our families and to every man and woman rooted in the tribes of Europe. They are our "greater family."

 

We are connected to Nature and subject to its laws. The Holy Powers often express themselves in Nature's beauty and might.

 

We believe that morality does not depend on commandments, but rather arises from the dignity and honor of the noble-minded man and woman.

 

We do not fear the Holy Powers, or consider ourselves their slaves. On the contrary, we share community and fellowship with the Divine. The Holy Powers encourage us to grow and advance to higher levels.

 

We honor the Holy Powers under the names given them by our Germanic/Norse ancestors.

 

We practice Asatru by honoring the turning of the seasons…the ancestors…the Divine…and ourselves - in everyday life.

 

 

Asatru is about roots.

 

It's about connections.

 

It's about coming home. 

 

Of course, the orginal Vikings had no such thing. This idea comes from other religions, such as the Noble Eightfold Path or the Ten Commandments. The idea of having set rules in a religion tends to make it more official. While the Vikings may have stressed some of these virtues, they taught them indirectly through their example.

 

Priests and Priestesses

 

There are several examples of a priest-like figures and spiritual mediums in Viking culture.Old Germanic practice allowed the chieftain or leader of a district to act as the gothi (priest) hosting feasts and leading rituals. Women were considered to have great spiritual power, and could lead rituals or perform divination or prophecy. Family rituals were led by the householders, and individuals with a devotion to specific deities were free to act as priest or priestess (gyhthja) and establish shrines.

 

Today, the idea of a priest or priestess varies in Odinist circles. While there are those who conduct ceremonies, marry people in the religion, and “lead the flock” so to speak, they are generally not given a title, especially not “priest” (due to an undercurrent of distaste for the Christian religion). Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, who started the second resurgence, is probably the closest thing to an “Odinist religious leader.” He referred to himself as a Gothi, named after the priest in Germanic tribes. This started others who considered themselves a religious leader or official in Odinism to call themselves Gothi.

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An interview with Heimgest, leader of the Odinic Rite and self-proclaimed gothi. He explains the Virtues of Odinism.

 

 

The Rites:  

 

The Blot

   

The Vikings primary method of worship to the gods and goddesses was through sacrificing animals to them. To Odin, this sacrifice may even go to include humans. In fact, after a series of bad years with a lot of starvation, legend tells that the Swedes sacrificed their king to the gods for better harvests.

 

These were called the blot (which is pronounced “bloat”). This festival occurred three times out of the year. The first was in the Spring. This was called Sumarmál and worshipped the goddess Eostara. This was the most important time of blot as crops were sown and the survival of Viking families depended on these crops. This was also the time to celebrate fertility. This blot is where we get contemporary Easter.

 

The second was during the Summer, which was considered the “thanksgiving” sacrifice in the late summer to thank the gods for their help in producing a good harvest. This festival usually took place during mid-October and honored ancestors. This is where Halloween-type festivals have their roots.

 

The last was the Yuletide, which would occur at the darkest time of the year. The old year was coming to a close, and the people offered their gods good food and drink to please them in hopes of a good year. This blot was called “The Twelve Nights of Yule,” which we now celebrate as Christmas. The idea of the Christmas tree actually comes from this celebration, as Vikings would decorate trees to attract ancestral spirits to accept their offerings.

 

During these festivities, they would eat food that was dedicated to the Gods. This was considered an exchange of energy between the human and the divine. Today, Odinists perform a similar festival. From the information I gathered, I assume there are no sacrifices. However, if their were, I doubt that it would be publicized by the Odinsts and would be very carefully administered. Below is a video of a contemporary Odinist Blot.

 

 

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The following article ( http://www.odinic-rite.org/Blot%20Structure.htm) from the Odinic Rite web page has the order of the Blot listed for those who would like to celebrate it. However, it is important to note that the celebration of the Blot varies greatly in each Odinist community. Steve McNallen, a self-proclaimed Asatru and leader of the Asatru Folk Assembly, discusses the nature of the Blot from his perspective.

 

 

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Grand Sumbel 

 

This is a Norse drinking rite in which an intoxicating drink (usually mead or ale) is passed around an assembled table. This is one of the rites celebrated at the Blot, but is of particular importance. At each passing of the drink, participants make a short speech, a toast, and an oath. Oaths made during this rite are considered binding upon the individuals making them. basics of a three round sumbel including: raising the horn to the gods, raising the horn to the ancestors/heros, and two samples of the final open round: a boast and a gift giving."

 

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The Althing

 

The Althing is also participated in with contemporary Odinists. The Asatru Folk Assembly has an Althing, but it is not like the original Icelandic Althing. It is not a meeting a parliament or a meeting of different clans, but is rather a gathering of like-minded Odinists getting together to eat, drink, and participate in the rituals mentioned under the Blot and Grand Sumbel.

  

This video has some pictures of the AFA Althing as well as an Odinist wedding 

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While celebrations may differ between different groups, the most accurate list of holidays follows the Old Icelandic calendar. Here is a link to the calendar and list of holidays, as well as the names for the months.

http://www.asatru.org/Holidays.html

 

 

Other Practices:

 

Berserkergangr

 

Berserkergangr is another aspect of Odinism that is worth addressing. Originally, this was used to describe the state of mind that Viking Berserker’s would enter into. In Odinism, it has lost the warrior aspect and is now seen as a form of religious ecstasy, associated with Odin. It is unknown how Vikings would enter into this state. Mystics would call it spirit possession, others thought it was triggered by the fly agaric mushroom. In either case, the only similarities between contemporary Odinism and the Vikings is probably the mushroom.

 

 

Runes

 

Rune reading is also a practice in Odinism brought from the ancient Vikings.Tacitus, in Germania, describes how the ancient Germans cut branches from a fruit-bearing tree, and marked the branches with symbols, called runes. Calling upon the gods, the practitioner casts the branches randomly on a white cloth. New-Agers may use the Runes as a method of divination. More traditional, folkish practitioners, claim the runes are connected with magic, but only indirectly with prophecy. Members of the Odin Brotherhood use the runes not to tell the future, but to summon a dead person so that he will reveal the future, as that is how Odin used the runes in as in Havamal, verse 156.

 

More informaion on Runes is provided on this wiki here.

 

Mead

 

Because Mead is mentioned frequently in Odinic myths, the brewing and drinking of mead has become a part of Odinist practice. More serious Odinists see mead as a cultural inheritance and a feature of their religious community. Some Odinists consider mead in the myths to be a symbol of the lifeforce that animates everything. Unfortunately, within the Odinist community, there is also a tendency toward alcoholism. One web page describing the blot says “Food and drink may be offered, and most of this will be consumed by the participants.” On the Odinic Rite web page, there is a section advising against alcoholism in the Odinist community.

 

As has been reported alcoholism within our community is a problem which cannot be ignored or laughed off. The fact that it is now at least being acknowledged and ways to address it being looked at, is a very positive step and though no one is suggesting we adopt a puritanical or kill joy approach at all, we should realise it is not a matter for humour.

 

This is frowned upon within the community, as the Havamal explicitly speaks against excessive drinking.  

 

A better burden, no man can bear  

On the way than his mother wit: 

 

And no worse provision can he hurry with him

Than too deep a draught of ale. 

 

There are other verses that address this issue as well within the Sayings of the High One. Because of Odin’s advice against excessive drinking, it can be concluded that alcoholism was a problem among the Vikings as well. Mead, and drinking in general, was quite ritualized in Viking culture and even in early Germanic tribes. Unfortunately, many of these drinking customs were lost in history.

 

For information on Mead and how to make it, go to this part of the wiki. 

 

Places of Worship

 

Traditionally, Viking religious ceremonies pre-Christianity took place in the open air or in a special feasting hall. Later in the Viking Age, more and more places in Scandinavia began adopting simple sheds or small temples for places of worship. These buildings can still be found throughout Scandinavia and most have been converted into Christian churches. These churches can be identified by the last three letters HOV, like, for example, Torshov. Today, any church with an HOV suffix was likely a place of pagan worship at one time.

 

The historical evidence of Vikings, much of it written by Christians, says that Vikings worshipped indoors. This is inaccurate to Odinists, as this was post-christian Viking society. Odinists believe that by looking at the early Germanic tribes, there is a more accurate depiction of places of worship. This includes the concept of “sacred space,” which can be created anywhere. Tacitus wrote of these early Germanic tribes places of worship in first century AD in Germania:

 

The Germans, however, do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance. They consecrate woods and groves, and they apply the names of deities to that hidden presence which is seen only by the eye of reverence.

 

How to Become an Odinist

 

There is really no official way to become an Odinist. Many odinist’s claim having a mystical experience, where they are directly summoned by Odin or the other gods to follow their ways. The Asatru Folk Assembly claims that to become an odinist, you simply have to memorize their code of ethics called the “Twelve Traits” and begin “honoring the Holy Powers, honoring the ancestors, and blessing your meals.”

 

Of course, the Vikings would never have been initiated into their religion. There were no other options. They were simply born into their religion. Some contemporary groups try to recapture this and claim that there is no choice to be made in becoming an Odinist. There is no point where you are called, or a decision where you decide Odinism is better than other religions, it is just simply who that person is because of their heritage. They claim it is in their DNA to be an Odinist.

 

Interviews with Odinists

 

Because Odinists tend to be spread out, the web is the primary form of communication. I personally got onto a few forums and asked Odinists some questions about their faith. While some of the forums will boot you once they find out that you are not an Odinist, the others have people that are very helpful and provided me with useful information.

 

See my interviews with Odinists here:

 

Interview with Ravenwolf the OdinistInterview with Chuck the Heathen, Interview with Osgot the OdinistInterview with Ufhedinn the Odinist 

 

Conclusion:

 

In my research, I have found that Odinism does share a lot of similarities with the Viking religion. However, it does seem to be a castrated version of the Viking faith. Wherever there is animal or human sacrifice, berserkers crushing enemies skulls, Odinism is clearly silent. In the other aspects, Odinism may replicate the Viking religion more accurately than they even know. Because of the lack of an official dogma or official religious organization, the lone wolf aspect of contemporary Odinists parallels that of the Vikings. In my encounters on the web with self-proclaimed Odinists, I also found examples of Viking practice that they themselves didn’t even notice. For example, flyting can be found within every Viking forum on the web. I hope that you found this helpful, and if you seek more information, please check the following references!

 

 

References and Links:

 

Here are the links that were used in the making of this site. I collected most of the information in this wiki from other Odinism related sites, actual Odinists, as well as research articles. I suggest checking them out to get more insight into the Odinist religion.

 

Various fellowships:

 

Asatru Folk Assembly

Began Odinism in the U.S. in the 70's. Steve McNallen is the founder and leader of the AFA and his writings are praised among the Odinist and Asatru community. 

http://www.runestone.org/

 

 

Odinic Rite

This is perhaps the closest thing to an establishment of Odinists. Lead by Heimgest. This site has plenty of articles and information. 

http://www.odinic-rite.org/

 

 

Odinist Fellowship

This is an Odinist group from the UK.  

http://www.odinistfellowship.co.uk/

 

 

Asatru Alliance

This is a branch off of the AFA in the U.S.  

http://www.asatru.org/

 

 

The Troth 

Another Asatru organization.  

http://www.thetroth.org/

 

 

Odin Brotherhood

A "secret society for men and women who value “knowledge, freedom, and power.”  

http://www.odinbrotherhood.com/

 

 

Information:

 

 

Religion Facts

An encyclopedia with information on various religions. 

http://www.religionfacts.com/a-z-religion-index/asatru.htm

 

 

Odin.org

Tons of information on Odinism.

http://odin.org/intro.html, 

 

Info on "The Heathen Viking Religion" 

http://www.ragweedforge.com/vikrel.html

 

An Introduction to Odinism  

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos183.htm 

 

The Viking Answer Lady

Offers a huge amount of information that is very scholarly and accurate.

http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/

 

Scholarly Sources:

Lewis, James R. Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. New York: State University of New York, 1996. Print.
Strimska, Michael. "Asatru in Iceland: The Rebirth of Nordic Paganism." Nova Religio vol. 3, No. 1Oct. 2004: 109-30. Print.

 

 

Forums:

 

You can chat with Odinists at:

 

Odin Brotherhood Forums 

http://odinbrotherhood.freeforums.org/index.php

  

Odinist.net

http://www.odinist.net/ 

 

Odinist Heritage forums 

http://www.odinist.com/othala/index.php

 

 

 

Comments (1)

Geirrod the Ruthless said

at 2:10 pm on Dec 18, 2009

i don't know if my computer jsut doesn't like pbworks or what, but I am having some troubles with font and images.

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