Odinism, Asatru, Heathenry?

July 18, 2014 at 11:23 pm 7 comments

My uncle has lived for many years among the Crow Indians on an open reservation in Montana, and has befriended them and been trained as a sweat lodge leader, a very rare honor for a non-Indian. Back in college, I invited him to come to a University Pagan Society meeting, thinking he might find some commonalities. He observed us, rather bemusedly and later commented to me with his trademark mischievous grin: “I’m not a pagan. I’m a heathen“.

I’m not capitalizing it this case because he used idiosyncratically- I think as a way of thumbing his nose at white, Christian society. Certainly I’m aware that his Native friends wouldn’t be likely to call themselves pagans or heathens, as those terms are used offensively by missionaries.

So what does Heathen mean, how is it used properly, and how does it differ from Pagan?

Heathen means “dweller on the heath“- a country-dweller, so the connotation is much like Pagan, but due to it’s Germanic origin, it has become adopted to refer to modern revivals of the religions of the Germanic peoples– and there are more specific terms used for particular ethnic branches, approaches and so on. I also sometimes see Celtic and occasionally Slavic reconstructionists use “heathen” with an ethnic modifier instead of “pagan”, because those cultures tend to find more similarities with Germanic traditions than say, those of the Mediterranean and Near East.

On a socio-cultural level, Heathens differ in many ways from the broader Neo-Pagan community, and while sometimes overlapping, they do often keep to themselves. A great comparison of Wicca and Asatru can be found here.

Asatru– meaning “true to the Aesir“- in Icelandic (Aesir being the gods of the realm of Asgard) Asatru is often use interchangeably with Heathenry- but not all Heathens consider themselves Asatru. It is the label that most American Heathens identify with, a mainly Norse-influenced reconstructionism, and some prefer to use it to be specifically Icelandic. An individual member is called an Asatruar.

Vanatru– “true to the Vanir” The Vanir are another tribe of Norse gods, and people who focus on their worship sometimes use this word for themselves- others may use Vanic Paganism, Vanic Polytheism, or Vanic Heathenry.

Links: Misconceptions about Vanatru, A Defense of Vanatru

Odinism– belief/worship of Odin, is an older term that is less often used- primarily by the Odinic Rite, a British-based organization. Sometimes devotees of Odin will call themselves Odinists, while referring to their religion by a different name. Some Heathens feel this term reflects an erroneous view of Odin the All-father as a Germanic Yahweh figure. Related terms: Wotanism, Wodenism.

Anglo-Saxon Heathenry– focus on the traditions of the Angles, Jutes and Saxon peoples who invaded England from Germany.

Theodism– founded by Garman Lord, this is a specific tradition of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry that has a particular tribal structure (theod means tribe)

Irminism/Irminschaft– continental Germanic Heathenry, name comes from the Irminsul, a pillar representing Yggdrasil, the World Tree.

Urglaawe– Deitsch  Heathen folk religion(Pennsylvania German) see also Pow-wow  (Braucherei)

“The Deitsch Heathen religion of Urglaawe derives many practices and lore from the Heathen elements of Braucherei.[9]Included among these elements is a knowledge of the old Teutonic deities and other spirits. The oral traditions of Braucherei also carried myths regarding the interactions of the deities with enemies, such as the Reifreis (Frost Giants). Certain deities, most notably Holle,[10] Wudan (Odin),[11] Dunner (Thor),[12] and Ewicher Yeeger (Eternal Hunter),[13] have played an ongoing role in the evolution of Braucherei. Some practitioners have historically appealed to these entities, whether in the context of deities or as saints or compassionate spirits, for help in their healing work. Urglaawe practitioners utilize solely Heathen imagery and references in their work.”

Forn Sed– Swedish for Old Way/Old Custom, or just “Sed” (link to org page in English)

Forn Sidr– Danish for Old Way/Custom (link to org page in Danish)

Nordisk Sed– Nordic Way/Custom “in Norway and Sweden the term “Forn Siðr” is mostly bound to the, and considered a synonym for the, Nordisk Sed movement, which is in conscious contrast with Scandinavian Ásatrú groups. Scandinavian Heathens regard Nordisk Sed as a more authentic Scandinavian religion, based on Scandinavian local traditions, in contradistinction with the more eclectic Ásatrú, based on the Eddic material, and influenced by 19th century Romantic trends and 20th century New Age ideas.[2] The ideology of the Nordisk Sed or Forn Sed groups is called þjóðtrúin Icelandic (“troth of the folk / of the theod”,variants folketro or folketru in Norwegian and folktro in Swedish actually meaning folk religion —, or less ambiguously “fundamentalistic traditionalism”- Wikipedia, Neo-Paganism in Scandinavia

Not (Necessarily) Heathen Traditions & Terms

There are some other religious labels that are often lumped in with Heathenry that are seen both among Heathens and by themselves as not being Heathen.

Folkish, Universalist and Tribalist– these refer to socio-political positions an individual or organization may take within Heathenry in regards to how they view ancestry and race. People who use these labels don’t even agree on what they mean, so be careful!

A good nuanced explanation of these differences can be found here.

Norse Wicca– is not a specific tradition, but simply means the practice Wicca worshipping/honoring/invoking Norse gods. As with Wiccans in general, Norse Wiccans will have theological views that vary from “All Gods are Ultimately One” to polytheism, whereas Heathens are generally polytheists.

Norse Paganism– even broader than Wicca, just means they are Pagans of some sort with a Norse focus, many of these folks now call themselves-

Northern Tradition Paganism– founded by Raven Kaldera, is unlike Heathenry, not reconstructionist, culturally has more in common with Neo-Pagans, and includes worship of beings/gods (Loki & giants) that other Heathens may not include. They are staunchly anti-racist/pro-GLBT etc. Note: I’ve noticed more people calling themselves this, but I don’t think they are all necessarily members of Kaldera’s group.

Seax Wicca– tradition founded by Raymond Buckland that draws on Anglo-Saxon lore.

Lokean– just means a person who worships Loki. Partly since honoring him is controversial among many Heathens, Loki worshippers may or may not call themselves Heathen, and they may belong to any number of different non-Heathen traditions or religions. “Lokeanism” is not really a separate religion as such, though I suppose an individual might use that term to describe their path.

Rokkatru– coined by Abby Helasdottir, used mostly by Northern Tradition Pagans for people who focus on the worship of the Jotuns. People who honor individual jotuns (like Loki) may or may not call themselves this.

Norse DruidsADF Druidism is Pan-Indo-European, not just Celtic, so if you see any Norse Druids around, that may be what’s going on. Many of them do consider themselves part of the Heathen community, there is a lot of overlap between ADF and Troth membership. Or they might just be Norse Druids!

Norse-myth influenced Pop Culture Pagans- (for lack of a better term) this can refer to anyone who incorporates pop culture characters that relate to Norse mythology into their magical or spiritual practice. For more explanation/discussion see my post

Germanic Magical/Esoteric Practices & Traditions

There are various forms of folk magic deriving from Germanic cultures which are practiced by both Heathens and non-Heathens, including Christians. As with Paganism, some but not all Heathens practice magic, either as part of or in addition to the practice of their religion.

Pow-Wow–  “Early Pennsylvania was a melting pot of various religious persuasions, as William Penn’s promise of religious freedom opened the doors for many Christian sects: the AnabaptistsQuakersLutheransGerman ReformedCatholics, and all manner of religious mystics and free-thinkers. It is from this blending that the Pennsylvania German Pow-wow tradition was born”It primarily consists of healing charms and protective symbols (hex signs) that were painted on barns.

To be continued…

Advertisements

Entry filed under: Concepts & Definitions, Pagan Blog Project. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Pagan/Neo-Pagan Definitions List Exploring Heathenry

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. raibeartgaoth  |  July 18, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Actually I know of a couple of people who self identify as Wiccatru as their attempt to “reclaim” the term for their own usage.

    I’m one of those folks within the Gaelic spiritual communities that prefer using Heathen over Pagan but then again I am also a Norse Heathen besides being a Gaelic Polytheist.

    While there are many terms that could be addedand explained that are missing from this list, I think it’s a very good basic start to this subject.

    Reply
    • 2. caelesti  |  July 19, 2014 at 1:04 am

      I will just remove the Wiccatru mention then, and just leave Norse Wicca. Yes, this is just a start, mostly off the top of my head with a little research. I will be adding some more, particularly specific ethnic terms like Forn Sed, but I need to research them a bit more. I’ve seen a lot of arguments about what is considered Heathen and what isn’t so I am just taking the position of what people consider themselves.

      Reply
  • 3. raibeartgaoth  |  July 19, 2014 at 12:00 am

    Reblogged this on Raibeart's Hearth and commented:
    One of my favorite bloggers gives us a very basic run down of the various terms or at least some of the most common basic terms describing Germanic and Norse spirituality.

    Reply
  • 4. The Domestic Witch  |  July 19, 2014 at 4:01 am

    What a great article. I’ve always had an affinity for Loki but never knew there was name for it. lol

    I have no problem with the name Wiccatru but the idea that they are reclaiming anything is absurd. Wicca and Asatru are two different paths. Walking a blended path is that, not “reclaiming” anything. In order to reclaim it, it originally had to be yours!

    Reply
  • […] justice communities, Heathenry is an umbrella term for revivals of Germanic polytheism, with specific branches such as Asatru, Vanatru, Anglo-Saxon Heathenry and so forth. The Heathen community tends to be pretty distinct, spiritually and culturally from the broader […]

    Reply
  • […] Odinism, Asatru, Heathenry […]

    Reply
  • 7. Pagan Blog Project Archive Post | The Lefthander's Path  |  January 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

    […] – Odinism, Asatru, Heathenry July […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


Calendar

July 2014
M T W T F S S
« Jun   Aug »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Most Recent Posts


%d bloggers like this: