Thursday, 19 April 2012

An Odinist FAQ

Updated: December 2013

This FAQ is continuously being updated and corrected. Please check back for updates.

References include works by Stephen A. McNallen, Edred Wodanson (E. Max Hyatt), Wulfstan (Philip Eden), Heimgest, Odinic Rite, Asatru Folk Assembly, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Circle of Ostara, etc.

See also:

What Is Odinism?

Long before Christianity came to northern Europe, the people there - our ancestors - had their own form of spirituality that influenced every aspect of their culture. One expression of this European spirituality was Odinism (also known as Ásatrú). It was practiced in the lands that are today Scandinavia, England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and other countries as well. Odinism is the original, or native, religion for the peoples who lived in these regions. Nevertheless, Odinism is more than just a religion in the narrow sense of the word. It is our way of being in the world; some of us call it the "Germanic Folkway" to underline this larger concept.

When Did Odinism Start? Is It A 'New Age' Religion?

Odinism is thousands of years old (though it is practiced in a modern form today, to meet the needs of our age). Its beginnings are lost in prehistory, but it is older than Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or most other religions. The spirit it expresses, though, is as ancient as the northern European peoples themselves because it is an innate expression of who and what we are - not merely a set of arbitrary beliefs we have adopted.

See this page regarding Wicca. In addition, see this piece, and this article,

Why do we need Odinism? Aren't most people who want religion satisfied with Christianity or one of the other "established" religions?

People are attracted to the better-known religions because they have genuine spiritual needs which must be filled. People are looking for community, fellowship, and answers to the "big questions": the purpose of life, how we should live it, and what happens after death. For many people today, the so-called major faiths do not have answers that work. Odinism does. Once seekers realize that there is another way - a way that is true to our innermost essence - they will not be satisfied with anything less than a return to the Way of their ancestors.

Why is the religion of our ancestors the best one for us?

Because we are more like our ancestors than we are like anyone else. We inherited not only their general physical appearance, but also their predominant mental, emotional, and spiritual traits. We think and feel more like they did; our basic needs are most like theirs. The religion which best expressed their innermost nature - Odinism - is better suited to us than is some other creed which started in the Middle East among people who are essentially different from us. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are alien religions that do not truly speak to our souls. 

Why did Odinism die out if it was the right religion for Europeans?

Odinism was subjected to a violent campaign of repression over a period of hundreds of years. Countless thousands of people were murdered, maimed, and exiled in the process. The common people (your ancestors!) did not give up their cherished beliefs easily. Eventually, the monolithic organization of the Christian church, bolstered by threats of economic isolation and assisted by an energetic propaganda campaign, triumphed over the valiant but unsophisticated tribes.
Or so it seemed! Despite this persecution, elements of Odinism continued down to our own times - often in the guise of folklore - proving that our own native religion appeals to our innermost beings in a fundamental way. Now, a thousand years after its supposed demise, it is alive and growing. Indeed, so long as there are men and women of European descent, it cannot really die because it springs from the soul of our people. Odinism isn't just what we believe, it's what we are.

Wasn't the acceptance of Christianity a sign of civilization - a step up from barbarism?

No. The so-called "barbarians" who followed Odinism (the Vikings, the various Germanic tribes, and so forth) were the source of our finest civilized traditions - trial by jury, parliaments, Anglo Saxon Common Law, the right to bear arms, and the rights of women, to name a few. Our very word "law" comes from the Norse language, not from the tongues of the Christian lands. We simply did not, and do not, need Christianity or other Middle Eastern creeds in order to be civilized.

You say Odinism was the religion of the Vikings, among other early European cultures. Weren't they a pretty bloodthirsty lot?

Modern historians agree that the Vikings were no more violent than the other peoples of their times. Remember, the descriptions of Viking raids and invasions were all written by their enemies, who were hardly unbiased. Both the Islamic and Christian cultures used means every bit as bloody, if not more so, than the Norsemen. It was a very rough period in history for all concerned!

We keep talking about the Vikings. Does this mean that Oodinism is only for people of Scandinavian ancestry?

No. Odinism, as practiced by the Norse peoples, had so much in common with the religion of the other Germanic tribes, and with their cousins the Celts, that it may be thought of as one version of a general European religion. Odinism is a natural religion for all people of European origin, whether or not their heritage is specifically Scandinavian.

What are the basic tenets or beliefs of Odinism?

We believe in an all-pervading divine essence which is beyond our immediate understanding. We further believe that this spiritual reality is interdependent with us - that we affect it, and it affects us.
We believe that this divine essence expresses itself to us in the forms of the Gods and Goddesses. Stories about these deities are like a sort of code, the mysterious "language" through which the divine reality speaks to us.
We believe in standards of behavior which are consistent with these spiritual truths and harmonious with our deepest being.

How does Odinism differ from other religions?

Odinism is unlike the better-known religions in many ways. Some of these are:

  • We are polytheistic. That is, we believe in a number of deities, including Goddesses as well as Gods. (We have a tongue-in-cheek saying that a religion without a Goddess is halfway to atheism!)
  • We do not accept the idea of "original sin," the notion that we are tainted from birth and therefore intrinsically bad. Thus, we do not need "saving."
  • We do not claim to be a universal religion, a faith for all of humankind. In fact, we don't think such a thing is possible or desirable. The different branches of humanity have different ways of looking at the world, each of which is valid for the ancestral group in question. It is only right that they have different religions.

Do you consider the Norse myths to be true?

"Myth is the symbolic expression of primal truth" - Circle of Ostara (Odinic Mythology)

The myths are stories about the Gods and Goddesses of Odinism. We believe they are ways of stating spiritual truths. That is, we would say they contain truths about the nature of divinity, our own nature, and the relationship between the two. We do not contend that the myths are literally true, as history. Rather, myth can be thought of as "the dream of the race" or "that which never happened, but is always true."

“Myths and fables are man’s attempt to express in words the inexpressible, they point to something beyond normal experience which, if properly appreciated, can help us to understand the world and indeed all life, in an entirely new way; a way which can immeasurably enrich our own lives.” – Wulfstan (Philip Eden), Odinism In The Mordern World, 2007.

"Non-literate cultures, whether of the Stone Age or the rain forests of the Philippines today, devise potent stories to explain why the sun appears in the morning and disappears at night, why the wind blows, why it thunders, why some men are wise and some foolish, why some have the gift of poetry, why each animal has different characteristics, and so forth. In this way, myth very often relates to some aspect of creation and, in the strict sense, it is a dramatic narrative through which humans to explain to themselves their origins on this planet and the wonders they see around them. A definition of myth is that it is a sacred history set in a mythical time, involving supernatural beings who create man and whose actions provide paradigms for men." – Kevin Crossley-Holland, The Norse Myths.

In Defence of the Term “Myth” by Aemma 

Recently, I’ve had the occasion to discuss with a fellow Heathen the use of the term “myth” with respect to its appropriateness in defining what our sacred stories (our lore) really are all about. At the heart of the discussion were two divergent views: one, where it was felt that the term “myth” was not a duly respectful one in terms of defining our lore in that it holds a negative connotation which renders myth as being little more than untruths, falsehoods, and/or wild fabrications (his); the other, the complete opposite (mine). I share with you below my counter-argument to his which defends the view that the term “myth” is most applicable in terms of defining what our sacred stories truly are. Further, it not only defines our sacred stories but defines us as a People who in the end hold a completely different notion with respect to the literary legacy which we determine as sacred.

[Preamble: My response was in direct relation to this fellow Heathen’s presentation of various definitions of the term “myth”, none of which were very flattering and many of which were interpreted from a Christian perspective.]

Here was my response: “Although reading about all of these definitions from various sources is interesting and they do have merit *within a certain context*, I think it is important to consider the following. To compare how a Christian would feel about his/her revealed spiritual truths being considered “mythology” as opposed to how an Odinist would feel about his/her cultural stories being considered mythology is in my view a flawed and erroneous comparison from the get-go. Our worldviews and hence the very source of our respective “sacred stories” (if you want to characterise “mythology” in this way for the sake of argument) are extremely different. It is akin to comparing apples to oranges.

Christians do not believe in their sacred stories as mythology since these sacred stories are believed to be “revealed” to them. All Abrahamic faiths have this notion in common. The basic idea behind this is that a Supreme, Other-Worldly Being sought fit to present himself (to reveal himself) to a people, as it were. As found in Wikipedia, “in monotheistic religions, revelation is the process, or act of making divine information known, often through direct ontological realization which transcends the human state and reaches into the divine intellect.” Thus it is very much the idea of the Abrahamic God acting as an operator upon his people.

Odinists on the other hand *do* subscribe, and quite deliberately and quite strongly I might add, to the view that our sacred stories *are* myths. The notion of myths in this context has nothing to do with issues of veracity of certain stories but instead have everything to do with the *living* oral traditions, as found in sagas, legends, heroic tales, and folklore of a People. This is more properly the overall notion that should be appropriated to the term “myth” with respect to an Odinist approach to its meaning as a word, in my opinion. (Wikipedia gives a well-rounded view of the concept Thus it’s easily recognised that ours is *not* a revealed tradition but one that is clearly very organic, salt-of-the-earth, and grassroots, if you will. Unlike the Christians, our sacred stories were not revealed to us by our Gods and Goddesses. Our oral tradition, hence our myths, have been handed-down to us throughout the ages (albeit neither intact and nor complete, quite unfortunately) and are imbued with the essences of our collective kinfolks’ past life experiences, some related in metaphorical language, some not. It is from this well of collective life experience as a Folk that we may then extract our own concepts of religious life and spiritual expression as Odinists.

I appreciate the underlying message I believe that you are conveying in that our lore is just as important and credible as a source for our faith as is Christian scripture for Christians. But if anything, as Odinists, I sincerely feel that we must put an end to this fear that we have of non-Odinists thinking that our body of sacred stories is less than those of the Abrahamic faiths. Ours is just different. Plain and simple. There is no right; there is no wrong. We as Folk have a different way. It is the Way of the Folk and as such I think we have to take the first steps and to defend and to promote our culturally unique way of seeing and interpreting the world. This type of work however needs to be done not only with outsiders but amongst the ranks with our own at times too. All of this is to say that to consider our sacred stories as myth is not a bad thing, and far from it. Myth is *our* method. It is uniquely ours and for that I am grateful.”

Do Odinists believe in female deities or goddesses?

Yes, most definitely! We have always held the Ancestral Goddesses of our ancient Faith in high esteem and they are considered to be equal to the Gods.

What about these Gods and Goddesses? Are they real?

"Myth is the symbolic expression of primal truth" - Circle of Ostara (Odinic Mythology)

Yes, they are real. However, just as most Christians do not think their God is really an old bearded figure sitting on a golden chair in heaven, we do not believe Thor (for example) is actually a muscular, man-shaped entity carrying a big hammer. There is a real Thor, but we approach an understanding of him through this particular mental picture. - Stephen A. McNallen, 1985

"Yes, they are real. However, we do not believe Thorr (for example) is actually a muscular, man-shaped entity carrying a big hammer. There isa real Thorr, who's true form is beyond our understanding, but he often makes himself known to us through an image we can identify with. Hence the Gods and Goddesses exist in many forms, forms that alter with the passing of time and the particular situation." - Goði E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson), Canada. FAQ from The Hidden Fortress, 2008. (1)

To say that the Gods and Goddesses are real is not to tell us much. The next question is...what are they like?

"Aside from the odd personal encounter and rare representations as statues or on old tapestries, the only descriptions we have of the Holy Powers are in the myths. When we look at the stories, we find Thor pictured as a muscular fellow with a red beard and flashing blue eyes. Odin is a tall, older man with a gray beard and one eye, and he sometimes travels in the company of his two wolves and ravens. Freyr - well, he's a fertility God, with the appropriate physical attributes. Are we to take these vivid, dramatic images literally? That depends on how you want to think of the Gods and the myths in which they appear. Here are two possibilities: We can think of myth as metaphor. In this scheme, the myths are symbolic ways of transmitting spiritual truths. They have multiple layers of meaning. On the most obvious and superficial level, they are entertaining tales that often make a moral point or illustrate virtues like the love of wisdom, sacrifice, and bravery. Below this level, things get trickier. Some mythologists (not themselves followers of our ancestral religion) will say they are allegories describing natural phenomena such as lightning, or the warming of the land with the departure of winter, or the cycle by which vegetation grows, dies in the winter, and comes to life again in the spring. Psychologists, particularly those who are students of Dr. Carl Jung, interpret the myths as depictions of psychic realities rather than external ones. In this model, the ancient stories tell us important things about the personal and collective unconscious. The heroic quest and the growth and maturation of the individual are typical themes. The Gods and Goddesses are thought of as psychic forces in the person and in society, but are not considered objectively real. We can admit the value of these viewpoints in a technical or analytical sense, while not conceding they represent the whole truth. Many Odinists (also known as Ásatrúar) consider the myths to be true - not in the literal sense but in the sense of tales which tell spiritual truths, "those things which never happened, but always are." The tales of Gods become allegories, some of which can be deciphered by reason. Others cannot be interpreted in terms of logic, because they speak a deeper, non-linear "meta-language," the secret code of the unconscious. In this case, the myths communicate with us subtly, without words, influencing our mind and spirit. For Odinists who think of the myths as metaphor, the Gods and Goddesses are real, but the anthropomorphic images of them presented in the old lore are strictly symbolic. Thor is not really a gigantic, muscular, man-like figure with a red beard, any more than Jehovah is a human-shaped entity in a white gown sitting on a golden throne, surrounded by clouds. The description of Thor we find in the stories gives us a way to relate to the very real force in the cosmos that we call Thor, but it is not him. The Gods and Goddesses are not limited by the constraints of flesh and blood. So while it is convenient for us to picture Freya as a beautiful woman wearing a shining necklace, or Heimdal as having golden teeth, these are allegorical. The Gods and Goddesses themselves are mighty spiritual powers, existing within us and without us, capable of manifesting to humans in any form they wish." - Goði Stephen A. McNallen, Welcome to Asatru: An Asatru Primer

Do followers of Odinism pray to their Gods and Goddesses?

Yes, but not quite the way most people mean by the word. We never surrender our will to theirs or humble ourselves before them, because we see ourselves as their kin, not as their property. Nor do we beg and plead. We do, however, commune with them and honor them while seeking their blessing through formal rites and informal meditation. Actually, living a full and virtuous life is a form of prayer in itself. Our religion should affect all parts of our lives, not just some fragments that we choose to call "religious."

Don't you worship stones and trees and idols?

No. We know that trees, wooden statues, the Sun, and other natural or man-made objects are not Gods, so we don't worship them. We do sometimes use these items as reminders of a God or Goddess, but we would never confuse them with the actual deity!

I've heard Odinism described as a "Nature religion". What does that mean?

We treasure the spiritual awe, the feeling of "connecting" with the Gods and Goddesses, which can come from experiencing the beauty and majesty of Nature. Our deities act in and through natural law. By working in harmony with Nature we can become co-workers with the Gods. This attitude removes the opposition between "natural" and "supernatural", and the supposed conflict between religion and science. For us, following a "Nature religion" means recognizing that we are part of Nature, subject to all its laws. We may be Gods-in-the-making, but we are members of the animal kingdom nonetheless! - Stephen A. McNallen, 1985

Yes, but more to the point, it's an "Ancestral" religion, which by its very essence makes it in tune with the natural order of things. Hence we believe that we must harmonize ourselves with our Mother (the Earth) if we wish to survive. To us, the everyday aspects of nature are sacred, just as they were to our ancient Ancestors. The rising of the sun. The coming of the wind, rain and storm. The beauty of the forest, mountains, hills and plain. The coming and going of the seasons. All of these things have deep meaning to us - just as they did long ago. - Goði E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson), Canada. FAQ from The Hidden Fortress, 2008.

You mentioned certain standards of behavior taught in Odinism. What are these?

Some of the qualities we hold in high regard are strength, courage, joy, honor, freedom, loyalty to kin, realism, vigor, 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 our vices and are to be avoided. Proper behavior in Odinism 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.

Don't all religions believe in these things you've just named?

No. People may honestly believe that this is the case, but examination does not bear this out. They believe in freedom on the one hand, yet at the same time admit they are slaves to their God. They agree that joy is good, but their teachings laden them with guilt because of some imaginary "original sin." They want to accept the real world on a pragmatic basis, yet they are trained to believe without questioning when the teachings of their religion conflict with reason or with known facts about the nature of the world ("You must have faith.").

Of course, many people believe in the values of Odinism on a gut level. After all, they're instinctive, passed down to us from our ancestors. We want to believe that the better-known religions espouse those values, so we see what we want to see. Most people just haven't yet realized that the major religions are saying things that conflict with the values we know in our hearts are right. To find European virtues, one has to look to a religion truly consistent with those virtues – Odinism.

What do you have to say about good and evil?

Good and evil are not constants. What is good in one case will not be good in another, and evil in one circumstance will not be evil under a different set of conditions. In any one instance, the right course of action will have been shaped by the influence of the past and the present. The result may or may not be "good" or "evil," but it will still be the right action.

In no case are good and evil dictated to us by edicts written by an authoritarian deity. We are expected to use our freedom, responsibility, and awareness of duty to serve the highest and best ends.

What does Odinism teach about an afterlife?

We believe that there is an afterlife, and that those who have lived lives of virtue and power will go on to experience greater fulfillment, pleasure, and challenge. Those who have led lives characterized by vice, weakness, and a low level of consciousness will be separated from kin, doomed to a vegetative state 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 Odinism 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 governing 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 Odinism 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.

Does Odinism involve ancestor worship?

Odinism says we should honor our ancestors. It also says we are bonded to those ancestors in a special way. One of the implications of this relationship is that the ancestors need our veneration, and that they reciprocate by looking out for us from beyond death.

We also believe our forebears have passed to us certain spiritual qualities just as surely as they have given us various physical traits. They live on in us. The family or clan is above and beyond the limits of time, space, and mortality.

Does Odinism have a holy book, like the Bible?

No. There are written sources that are useful to us because they contain much of our sacred lore in the form of myths and examples of right conduct, but we do not accept them as infallible or inspired documents. Any religion holding such beliefs of infallibility is deceived about the purity and precision of the written word.

There are two real sources of holy truth, and neither expresses itself to us in words. One is the universe around us, which is a manifestation of the underlying divine essence. The other is the universe inside us, passed down from our ancestors as instinct, emotion, innate predispositions, and perhaps even racial memory. By combining these sources of internal and external wisdom with the literature left us by our ancestors, we arrive at religious truths. This living spiritual guidance is better than any dusty, dogmatic "holy book".

Where did the universe come from, according to Odinism?

Our myths describe the beginning of the universe as the unfolding of a natural process, rather than an event requiring supernatural intervention. Followers of Odinism need not abandon modern science to retain their religion. The old lore of our people describes the interaction of fire and ice, and the development of life from these - but this is symbolic, and we will leave it to the physicists to discover how the universe was born.

Does Odinism Proselytize (Convert)?

No. We believe that to be an invasion of basic privacy and freedom. Each individual must must find his or her own way in this life. In Odinism we do inform our people of our existance (through books, websites, etc.), but we never pursue them to join us.

What are the runes, and what do they have to do with Odinism?

Runes are ancient Germanic symbols representing various concepts or forces in the universe - the holy mysteries. Taken together, they express our ancestors' worldview. Their meanings are intimately connected with the teachings of Odinism. Our myths tell the story of how Odin, father of the Gods, won them through painful ordeal so that Gods and humans alike might benefit from their wisdom. The use of the runes for meditation and divination are integral to the modern practice of Odinism. Properly used, they are powerful keys for personal transformation and upward evolution.  - Stephen A. McNallen, 1985
"The Runes are an important part of Ancestral religion – as Odin, Alfather asks us in Havamal - “know how to write them, know how to read them, know how to stain them, know how to understand them?” The importance of the runes within Odinism cannot be overstressed as it is through them that one comes into contact with the “divine” wisdom 'without & within'. Much knowledge is hidden within them and it is up to each individual to decipher it. Worlds can be opened, wisdom can be won – the world of the Runes is vast and unending – one could easily spend a lifetime mastering them sand still learn more." - Goði E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson), Canada. FAQ from The Hidden Fortress, 2008.

"The runes have become very popular as a method for divination. This is my (very basic) interpretation of the runes... I am discussing the single, upright rune only, the reversed and face-down positions often have a different meaning. I have been very inspired by Freya Aswynn’s book “Leaves of Yggdrasil” here, since I also personally have known her and learned a few valuable things about runes from her back in the ‘90s when I was living in London. Experts on runic scripts suggest that there is no evidence that individual runes were ever used for magical practise. However, they also have no evidence that they were not. We do have evidence that runes have become a very popular tool of divination today alongside Tarot cards, I Ching etc." - Andréa Nebel Haugen

"Study of the runes is encouraged in Odinism. It should be remembered that the runes are far more than a divination system as is so often portrayed. Moreover they are a part of the Odinic system and the Odinic system alone. Attempts to merge or fit them to other systems, e.g.the Qabbalah, is pointless and will not lead to any deep understanding of our Runic system – though it may and often does lead to self-delusion. On the other hand, those who believe that runes and runology are the be-all-and-end-all of Odinism have too narrow a vision of the runes, a shallow knowledge of their mysteries and a lack of understanding of the meaning of religion. The runes are the essential mystical ingredient of Odinism but not its sum total." – Odinic Rite

Odinists have always lived in close harmony with the environment, the seasonal and stellar cycles, their Gods and Goddesses, and their ancestors. These forces come together in the mysterious symbols known as Runes. The word Rune means a secret or a whisper. Runes are magical tools for both divination and spell casting. 

What is the Runic Era within Odinism?

The Runic Era (R.E.) dating system within Odinism was formulated and presented to the worldwide Odinist community by the Odinic Rite in 1973 current era (C.E.) where it had been formulated by the founding members of the Odinic Rite, principally John Gibbs-Bailey whose Odinist name was Hoskuld and John Yeowell whose Odinist name was Stubba. The system is based on one of the earliest runic finds, when the first Futhark was discovered in 'contemporary times,' although since its formulation earlier artefacts have been discovered. This is known as the Runic Era. The mythological concept is that this would signify the time when the gods brought us the runes. The initial find of which the dating system is based was dated back to 250 before current era (B.C.E.), making 2006 CE, for example, 2256 RE. The Runic Era was accepted by many other Odinists across the globe, but not all. For example Else Christensen, the real pioneer of Odinist prison outreach, used a different calender and some groups based in Germany use a dating system based on the battle of Teutoberg Wald. However it is true to say in North America and Britain the most common system used is the Runic Era system which was formulated by Odinic Rite members.

"Odinists often use different month names and may even use a different numbering system for the years. Both emphasize a unique identity. The month names relate to the cycles of the year, for example Lenting, Harvest and Fogmoon, and are a reminder of natural rhythms and of the link to our ancestors who also used such names. The year numbering system is more arbitrary and less widely used but is called the “Runic Era” (R.E.) and adds 250 years onto conventional Western calendar dates. This tallies with earliest runic artifacts found when the system was adopted (earlier examples have since been found) and was instigated to emphasize that Odinism is a natural organic religion, existing long before the arrival of Christianity. Some think that even this is an unnecessary limitation, as we know our culture and religion goes back much further still." - Gothi Heimgest, DCG-OR, The Odinic Rite, Britain & Vinland.

"Several decades ago some of the modern-day “founding” Ásatrúar and Odinists got together and decided that we needed our own Teutonic calendar system— one that would better reflect our Heathen beliefs. Why would we in Odinism/Ásatrú, they argued, follow a Christian-based calendar, when we are not followers of that foreign religion from the East? The Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, etc., have their own calendar system, so why not us? At the time of this decision the oldest Runic artifact discovered in Europe had been dated to 250 years before Christ. So they chose that date as the time when Odin revealed the Runes to our race (the beginning of this current Era), and counted that as year “0”, hence the “RE” stands for Runic Era. Since then there have been archeological discoveries that place some of the Runes in use by our Ancestors thousands of years earlier. However, for the sake of unity and solidarity the Ásatrúar and Odinists of today (most of them) have decided to adhere to this original date. It would serve no one if we were constantly changing the date, based on the latest archeological discovery." - Goði E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson), Canada. FAQ from The Hidden Fortress, 2008.

What, if any, is the difference between Ásatrú and Odinism?

"Ásatrú is a specific name used by the ancient residents of Iceland and parts of Scandinavia (it literally means to be loyal to one's Ancestral gods) [ed. It means Belief in the Aesir]. When Christianity began to make inroads in their country, many Icelanders adopted this name as a way to separate themselves from the Christians. These ancient residents of Iceland came from various locations in Northern and Western Europe, and are therefore our ancient cousins. In the late 1960's Ásatrú experienced a rebirth in Iceland, and has since become one of the two officially recognized religions of that country. At the same time (late '60s, early '70s) in both the U.S. and Europe many hearty souls were awakening to the ancient call of their Ancestral gods and goddesses. Some adopted the name Ásatrú to identify their beliefs, while others used the name Odinism . Many believe that the two names are interchangeable, while others disagree. It has been noted by some writers on the subject that Ásatrúar (followers of Ásatrú) seem to be more spiritually oriented, while Odinists seem to be more political in their activities. While this does hold true in some cases, it cannot be applied to all. There are several Odinist organizations that have no political interests, whatsoever. At the same time their are many Folk who go by the name Ásatrúar, and are very political. All of this said, it is true that a large number of Odinists believe that the various gods and goddesses of the Northern pantheon are simply representations of the various aspects of Nature. Whereas, most Ásatrúar believe that while this Nature-aspect is true, in another sense the gods are also real spiritual beings, with unique lives separate from this Earth (i.e. in Asgard). Generally speaking, Ásatrúar and Odinists work together, no matter the specific details of their individual beliefs, to further this Cause." - Goði E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson), from the online Wodansday FAQ. Also available here.

"Ásatrú was a specific name used by the ancient residents of Iceland and Scandinavia. In the late 1960's Ásatrú experienced a rebirth in Iceland. At the same time in both the U.S. and Europe many hearty souls were awakening to the ancient call of their Ancestral gods and goddesses. Some adopted the name Ásatrú to identify their beliefs, while others used the name Odinism. Many believe that the two names are interchangeable, while others disagree. It has been noted by some writers on the subject that Ásatrúar (followers of Ásatrú) seem to be more spiritually oriented, while Odinists seem to be more political in their views. While this does hold true in some cases, it cannot be applied to all. There are several Odinist organizations that have no political interests, whatsoever. At the same time their are many Folk who go by the name Ásatrúar, and are very political. All of this said, it is true that a large number of Odinists believe that the various gods and goddesses of the Northern pantheon are simply representations of the various aspects of Nature. Whereas, most Ásatrúar believe that while this Nature-aspect is true, in another sense the gods are also real spiritual beings, with unique lives separate from this Earth (i.e. in Asgard). Generally speaking, Ásatrúar and Odinists work together, no matter the specific details of their individual beliefs, to further this ancient religion." - Goði E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson), Canada. FAQ from The Hidden Fortress, 2006 edition.

For insight into the opinions of others that see that their is no difference whatsoever between Asatru and Odinism, their defense that they are the same, and that those making a distinction are creating sects and division, please see below.

For a debunking of those that have a conviction the two are completely separate, please see:

* Puryear, Mark: The Nature of Asatru, pages 111-112, The Norroena Society, 2006

Others that use the two terms interchangeably, see below:

* Asatru' - The Hidden Fortress by E. Max Hyatt (Edred Wodanson) - updated 2009 edition Wodanesdag Press. ISBN 0973842326 
* Mark Mirabello. The Odin Brotherhood. Mandrake of Oxford. ISBN 1869928717 

Some who use the term Odinism see no difference between the two terms, but as Odinism is historical established, other modern terms have met with limited success:

* Jameson, Osted: Odinism, present, past and future, page 4, Renewal Publications, 2010.

For the opinion of those that see a difference, please see the below:

* Ten Differences Between Odinism and Asatru (blog link), (website link) by Wyatt Kaldenberg
* Odinism vs. Ásatrú” (A Clarification) by Dr. Casper Odinson Cröwell, sourced from the book, 'Vor Forn Sidr: (Our Ancient Religion)' , Vinland Kindred Publishing. 2012. ISBN 0985476001
* Odinism: The Religion of Our Germanic Ancestors in the Modern World by Wyatt Kaldenberg. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011. ISBN 1461003326
* Folkish Odinism. by Wyatt Kaldenberg, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. ISBN 1492297348
* Folkish Odinism by Wyatt Kaldenberg

In addition, some see it as synonymous with Wotanism and Wodenism also, whilst others object to this:
* Ingessunu, Wulf, ‘Wulf: The Collected Writings of an English Wodenist’, Black Front Press, 2014.

How is Odinism organized?

There is no all-powerful spiritual leader who speaks for all of Odinism, but there are numerous leaders who speak to and for their particular constituencies. While Odinism has definite principles accepted by most of our adherents, we generally allow a considerable degree of freedom in interpreting religious truth.


(1) First published in 1995 as The World Tree, revised in 2006 and published as Asatru: The Hidden Fortress, with a second edition in 2008.

1 comment:

  1. So. Since you guys are using my images AND a link to my Facebook page. When was I going to be consulted about this? Kinda curious. I respect y'all got your own view point and what not. But where was the consultation?