Question: "What is Asatru?"
Answer: Asatru is a Nordic religion based on the ancient paganism of the Viking age. The word Asatru means “belief or faith in the gods,” specifically a group of Norse gods called Æsir. Recent times have seen the growth of neo-paganism, including a modern version of Asatru.
According to the Norse creation myth, the gods called the first man Ask and the first woman Embla. From this man and woman came all the humans who inhabited “Middle Earth.” Initially, the world was either jungle or desert. The Æsir cleared out the jungle, creating a space for themselves and humans to inhabit. The gods created a home for man and called it Midgard. In the midst of Midgard is Asgard, and there the gods planted a tree, called Yggdrasil. As long as this tree exists, the world will exist.
In pre-Christian Scandinavia, Norse deities such as Odin, Thor, Fey and Feyja were worshipped. Odinists are polytheists who believe that the gods and goddesses are real beings with distinct personalities. Today, Odinism is an attempt to reconstruct the ancient European paganism. Whereas Odinism is sometimes linked with racist Nordic ideology, Asatru may or may not refer to racist ideals. Nordic racial paganism, which is synonymous with the Odinist movement, is a spiritual rediscovery of the Aryan ancestral gods.
A revival of this Germanic paganism occurred in the early 1970s when the Icelandic government recognized Asatru as a religious organization. The Odinic Rite has since been established in Australia, England, Germany, the Netherlands, and North America.
Asatru teaches an underlying, all-pervading divine energy or essence which expresses itself in the forms of various gods and goddesses. There is no concept of “original sin,” and so there is no need to be “saved.” Followers of Asatru pray to their gods and goddesses and commune with them and honor them while seeking their blessing through formal rites and meditation. According to Asatru, people who have lived virtuously will be rewarded in the afterlife, but the main concern is to live life well now and let the next life take care of itself.
By working in harmony with Nature, followers of Asatru become co-workers with the gods. The gods are thought to live within people.
Deities worshipped in Asatru include Odin, Thor, Tyr, Frigga and Loki. One’s ancestors are to be honored, as well. A follower of Odin who dies honorably in battle will go to Valhalla. Each god and goddess has his or her own hall to which followers go after death. Some adherents believe in reincarnation, and some believe that matriarchs go on to become a “disir”—a spiritual guardian angel of the family. A core belief is the never-ending circle of creation and destruction, that the universe will always continue to be created and destroyed.
Despite some similarities with the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve, the religion of Asatru bears no resemblance to Christianity. In Asatru, life and death are controlled by a capricious pantheon of gods and goddesses; in Christianity, one sovereign God rules all (Acts 4:24). Asatru teaches there is an afterlife, but where you go to depends upon which deity you honor; biblical Christianity teaches that a person goes to heaven if he trusts in Jesus and to hell if he doesn’t (1 John 5:12). There is no concept in Asatru of a holy and righteous Creator who gives humans the opportunity to be saved from the consequences of their sin. The Bible teaches that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to die for us (John 3:16).
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