This essay is written for those that know very little about Asatru or Heathenry, or perhaps have not even heard of it.
by Mark Ludwig Stinson
is a simple question, really. Did your family come to America from
Northern Europe...or do you have Northern European Ancestry? Well, if
you do...then your ancestors were "Heathens."
with Northern European ancestry do not realize that the original
religion of our People and our ancient culture was not Christianity. If
you go back a 1000 years or more, prior to the conversions to
Christianity in Europe, our ancestors had their own native Folk Religion
that was rich and meaningful in their lives.
honored their own Gods and Goddesses, their ancestors, and the spirits
in nature. These original Heathens were the pre-Christian Northern
European peoples who lived in the lands aroudn what is now called the
North Sea. These included the people of Anglo-Saxon England,
Scandinavia, and other areas of Northern Europe.
Some of our ancestors were convinced to convert to Christianity by
missionaries. Some were coerced into converting, based on threats of
physical violence. Others converted due to political or economic
pressures brought on them by Christians. And some of our ancestors were
killed, because they refused to give up the Ways of their People.
THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD "HEATHEN"If you are just hearing about Heathenry, then you are very likely thinking, "But isn't the word Heathen a word for a bad person?
it is true that Christians frequently use it this way. The word
"heathen" refers to people who don't worship the Christian God or follow
the Christian religion. The historical origin of this use of the word
"Heathen" is pretty interesting.
The word "Heathen" comes
from the fact that the country people (those living on the heath),
honored the old gods for centuries after the city-dwellers were already
converted to Christianity.
This is why "heathen" is a bad
word in Christianity. The missionaries and preachers in the cities would
rail against the "heathen" (those living out in the heath), that still
honored the old gods. But we embrace the term, for we are proud of
those ancestors that resisted the conversion to a foreign religion, and
who remained loyal to the Gods and the Ways of our People.
word commonly used for heathenry is Asatru, meaning "loyalty to the
gods." Though, Asatru is normally used to refer to a more Icelandic
influenced heathenry, while the word heathenry itself is a broader term
encompassing those focusing on the Icelandic, the Anglo-Saxon, the
Our Heathen ancestors did not refer to
themselves as "Heathen" or "Asatru." It is believed they did not have a
name for their religion, and simply called it their Way.
HEATHENRY IS A VIABLE OPTION IN OUR MODERN WORLDSo
many modern Americans are dissatisfied with their religious options.
Many of the descendants of our Heathen ancestors have become
dissatisfied with Christianity. Modern Heathens would make the point,
that much of this dissatisfaction comes from the fact that Christianity
did not originate with our People. It is a foreign religion that was
relentlessly pushed on our Ancestors, until our native Folkway was
suppressed or destroyed among our People.
around the world are reviving the Ways of our Ancestors, and find that
the religion of our Ancestors is truly satisfying and feels "like coming
home." Heathenry is very family and community-oriented, and encourages
us to live responsible lives of loyalty and honor. A person's word
matters greatly, and each person is judged by his/her choices and
actions. The Ways of our Ancestors are life-fulfilling and natural to
who we are and how we think, and they work to strengthen and enrich our
You will hear modern Heathenry called many things
by the people who practice it. You may hear it called Asatru, the
Northern Tradition, Odinism, Forn Sed, Germanic Pagan Reconstructionism
or, simply, Heathenry. In Iceland, which did not convert to Christianity
until the 11th Century, Heathenry has once again become an official
(nationally recognized) religion. There are growing numbers of Heathens
and Heathen groups across the United States, and that growth seems to
be accelerating as more and more people tire of the foreign religions.
SOMETHING WORTH CONSIDERING...If
you have found yourself dissatisfied with Christianity and organized
religion, take a little bit of time to look into modern Heathenry. When
your heathen ancestors were pestered, coerced, or forced into giving up
the Ways of the People, I have to imagine that they wondered if years
down the line their descendants would again return to their true
religion and way of life. As someone who has returned to the religion
of my Ancestors, it is hard to describe how much it has improved my
life. In the end, it is something you have to look into yourself and
explore whether it makes sense for you.
A good starting place
to learn more, is this Heathen FAQ. Reading through all the topics
there will give you some idea of what heathenry is all about:
for some basic information on Heathenry and how to start and maintain a
Heathen group (normally called a kindred), you might want to read this
books which is available as a free download or in paperback and hardback
Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods