Ásatrú (Icelandic for "Æsir faith", , in Old Norse [aːsatruː]; Norwegian Åsatru, Swedish Asatro, Danish Asetro) is a Neopagan movement inspired by Germanic polytheism, in particular the Norse paganism as described in the Eddas and as practiced prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia.
There are two main strains of Ásatrú, originating near-simultaneously in Iceland (Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið, 1972) and the USA (Asatru Free Assembly, 1974). While the Scandinavian branch emphasizes pantheist spirituality rooted in medieval and contemporary Scandinavian folklore, the American branch postulates a "native religion of the peoples of Northern Europe" reaching back into the paleolithic. In Germany, the term Asatru is used in the wider sense of Germanic neopaganism.
is an Icelandic
(and equivalently Old Norse
) term consisting of two parts. The first is Ása-
, genitive of Áss
, denoting one of the group of Norse pagan gods called Æsir
. The second part, trú
, means "faith, word of honour; religious faith, belief (archaic English troth
"loyalty, honesty, good faith"). Thus, Ásatrú
means "belief / faith in the Æsir / gods".
The term is the Old Norse/Icelandic translation of Asetro, a neologism coined in the context of 19th century romantic nationalism, used by Edvard Grieg in his 1870 opera Olaf Trygvason. The use of the term Ásatrú for Germanic paganism preceding 19th century revivalist movements is therefore an anachronism.
Ásatrúarmaður (plural Ásatrúarmenn), the term used to identify those who practice Ásatrú is a compound with maður (Old Norse maðr) "man". In English usage, the genitive Asatruar "of Æsir faith" is often used on its own to denote adherents (both singular and plural).
As Ásatrú implies a focus on polytheistic belief in the Æsir usage of the term in Scandinavia has declined somewhat. In Scandinavia, forn sed / forn siðr "old custom", Nordisk sed "Nordic custom" or hedensk sed / heiðinn siður "pagan custom" are preferred. In both the Anglosphere and German-speaking Europe, it is widely used interchangeably with other terms for Germanic Neopaganism.
Ásatrú originated as a second (or third) revival of Germanic paganism in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið
was founded on summer solstice, 1972, and was recognized as an official religion by the Icelandic government in 1973, largely due to the efforts of Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson
. Around this time, Stephen McNallen
, a former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger
, began publishing a newsletter titled The Runestone
independently of the Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið
in the United States
. He also formed an organization called the Ásatrú Free Assembly
, which was later renamed the Ásatrú Folk Assembly
which is still extant. Else Christensen's Odinism
, which is sometimes identified with the term Ásatrú
, originated around the same period. An offshoot of McNallen's group is the Ásatrú Alliance
, headed by Valgard Murray, publisher of the "Vor Tru" newsletter. The Ásatrú Alliance
held its 25th annual "Althing
" gathering in 2005.
The Icelandic government has recognized the Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið as an official religion shortly after its inception. Other Scandinavian governments have begun to recognize Germanic Neopagan organizations as religious communities with official status from the 1990s (Sweden: Sveriges asatrosamfund 1994; Norway: Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost 1996; Foreningen Forn Sed 1999; Denmark: Forn Siðr, formed in 1997, recognized in 2003). In June 2007 the Spanish government recognized Asatru, Comunidad Odinista de España-Asatru. The United States government does not officially endorse or recognize any religious group, but numerous Ásatrú groups have been granted nonprofit religious status going back to the 1970s.
Groups and practitioners also exist in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, North America, Mexico, and South America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile).
Beliefs and practice
groups and the individual Ásatrúarmenn
have no standard means of practice.
The Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið
(as of 2007) defines Ásatrú
as belief "in the Icelandic/Nordic folklore
, the spirits and entities the folklore represents, in addition to gods and other beings from the Nordic pantheism
The US Asatru Folk Assembly
defines it as "an expression of the native, pre-Christian spirituality
Many Ásatrú groups celebrate with Blóts. Historically, the Blót was an event that focused on a communal sacrifice at various times of the year for a number of purposes. Families and extended family organizations would gather to participate in the communal event.
Modern blots are celebrated several times during the year. Ásatrú communities (kindreds, hearths, mots) have different approaches to the frequency of blots and their means of celebrating them.
Symbel, or sumbel, is a ritual drinking feast. A drinking horn
is passed around over a course of a number of rounds. The purpose of a Symbel is usually agreed in advance. A symbel includes a toast, brag or boast. The act of speaking over the horn symbolizes taking publicly spoken words into the body.
) is the historical Old Norse
term for a priest
in Norse paganism. Gyðja
signifies a priestess. Goði literally means "speaker for the gods"
, and is used to denote the priesthood or those who officiate over rituals in Ásatrú. Several groups, most notably the Troth
have organized clergy programs. However, there is no universal standard for the Goðar amongst organizations, and the title is usually only significant to the particular group with whom they work.
is a local worship group in Ásatrú. Other terms used are garth, stead
and others. Kindreds are usually grassroots groups which may or may not be affiliated with a national organization like the Ásatrú Folk Assembly
, the Ásatrú Alliance
, or the Troth
. Kindreds are composed of hearths
or families as well as individuals, and the members of a Kindred may be related by blood or marriage, or may be unrelated. The kindred often functions as a combination of extended family and religious group. Membership is managed by the assent of the group.
Kindreds usually have a recognized Goði to lead religious rites, while some other kindreds function more like modern corporations. Although these Goði need only be recognized by the kindred itself and may not have any standing with any other Kindred.
Politics and controversies
Ásatrú organizations have memberships which span the entire political and spiritual spectrum. Many adherents are solitary practitioners who practice their religion alone with their family or a small local community, and are not involved with organized Ásatrú
. Despite the wide divergence of beliefs and politics, the sole common denominator amongst adherents of Ásatrú
is the goal of reconstructing and practicing the historical pre-Christian religion of the Germanic
Folkish Asatru, Universalism and racialism
Some groups identifying as Ásatrú have been associated with neo-Nazi
and "white power
This was notably an issue in the 1980s, when the Asatru Free Assembly
disintegrated as a result of tensions between the racist and the non-racist factions.
Today, the three largest US American Ásatrú organizations have specifically denounced any association with racist groups. A dividing issue is whether a person is "Folkish", meaning that an emphasis on ancestry and ancestor worship is a part of their belief system.
Inmates of the "Intensive Management Unit" at Washington State Penitentiary
who are adherents of Ásatrú in 2001 were deprived of their Thor's Hammer
In 2007, a federal judge confirmed that Ásatrú adherents in US prisons have the right to possess a Thor’s Hammer pendant. An inmate sued the Virginia Department of Corrections after he was denied it while members of other religions were allowed their medallions.
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs does not list any Ásatrú symbols as available emblems of belief for placement on government headstones and markers. According to federal guidelines, only approved religious symbols — of which there are 38 — can be placed on government headstones or memorial plaques. Ásatrú Folk Assembly have demanded such a symbol.
In the Georgacarakos v. Watts case Peter N. Georgacarakos filed a pro se civil-rights complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado against 19 prison officials for "interference with the free exercise of his Ásatrú religion" and "discrimination on the basis of his being Ásatrú".
In the United States, Ásatrú members were in dispute with the Umatilla
over the status of Kennewick Man
, the 9,000 year old remains of a man found in Washington
. The body is anthropometrically
much closer to the Caucasian race
than the groups making up the current Native American population, and was claimed by the Ásatrú as an anscestor.
- New Zealand
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