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World Religions: Asatru

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World Religions: Asatru

There are many religions in the world. While Christianity, Judaism, and Islam tend to dominate, there are other smaller religions, older religions, and religions that aren't based around the concept of a single God. I went in search of a religion that differed from the big three religions. The religion I found was one that I had a long time interest in. It is called Asatru. I was able to find some people that practiced it and was invited to attend one of their meetings. Before the meeting I was able to interview a friend that practices it so that I would have an idea of what I had in store.

Odin. Thor. Loki. Valhalla. Asgard. Ragnarok. These are all names that most of us are familiar with. These are the names of Gods, places, and events in Norse mythology. These names harken back to the days of Vikings and conjure up images of terrifyingly brutal men and ice cold windswept landscapes. While these names had a great and wonderful history filled with vibrant stories and prophecies, they are known only as distant artifacts of a time long gone. Or are they?

Odinism, or Norse Paganism, was the religion practiced by the Scandinavians and early Germanic tribes in Northern Europe. Archeological finds date the start of the religion around 4000 to 2000 B.C.E. based upon carvings and glyphs that have been excavated in Northern Scandinavia. The basic premise of the religion states that Odin the All-Father is the ruler of the Gods of Asgard. Odin is the God of War, Death, Poetry, and Wisdom. Such is his interest in wisdom; he sacrificed his own eye in order to gain the Wisdom of the World.

Much like the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian pantheons, the Norse Pantheon has a particular God that is associated with nearly every facet of the day to day lives of the ancient Scandinavians. Thor was the God of Strength and Storms, Baldur was the God of Light, Joy, and Beauty, and Frigg who is the Goddess of Marriage, Love, and Fertility. Together these Gods ruled over the lives of mortals. One interesting difference in the Norse mythology compared to the Romans, Greeks, or Egyptians, is that the Norse mythology had a definite ending period. This was a period when the end of the world was to come and all of the Gods of Asgard would go to war. This end time was known as Ragnarok or The Doom of The Gods. During this cataclysmic battle, the Gods will perish and the Earth will be destroyed. After this destruction, the universe will be reborn and man and Gods alike will live together in harmony and peace forever after.

Norse Paganism was eventually overrun by Christianity during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. While it was never completely destroyed, it was pushed underground for hundreds of years. When it finally appeared again it was in the new form of Asatru. Asatru tries to keep the old traditions and beliefs alive as best as it is able. This can sometimes prove to be a difficult task because not many aspects of the old religion were written down.

I was able to speak to a modern follower of this ancient religion. He had much to say. I started out by asking him what attracted him to Asatru in the first place. He told me that while he was raised as a Christian in a Christian household, he did not feel fulfilled as a Christian. He was unhappy with being told that God loves and forgives but still treats you as a sinner because that's the way he made us. After spending his teens and early twenties without a religious influence in his life, he took his lifelong interest with Vikings and their cultures and decided to read up on what kind of religion they practiced. This led to his discovery of Asatru and he decided to check it out. After attending some services it seemed to "make sense" to him.

He told me that being an Asatru has shaped his life by giving him the courage to face day to day tasks that he never had as a Christian or as an Atheist. He also told me that he no longer fears death because he doesn't feel that there will be a final judgment of his soul when he passes into the afterlife. He says that Asatru allows him to be human with all the faults and foibles that being human entails, without the begging of forgiveness to get into Heaven that he feels Christianity requires.

One of the struggles of being a practicing Asatru is the fact that many people do not understand the religion at all. People tend to get their information on the Norse Gods from Marvel Comics, not from any official historical texts. Also, in recent years, several racist skinhead groups have latched on to the imagery associated with Norse mythology, so people that see his religious symbol ( a Thor's Hammer) often fall under the misconception that he is a racist as well. He stressed to me that while Asatru membership is predominately Caucasian, it has more to do with its European roots than with any type of exclusion or racist practices. He tells me that Asatru view every human equally.

Another challenge to his religion comes from other religions. He tells me that in our area of the country, many Christians tell him how he is doomed to an eternity in Hell because he is sinning against God by believing in his pagan ways. I was informed that while Christianity preaches tolerance and love of your fellow man, he tends to see very little of that in practice. He told me that he does his best to avoid places that put him in a position to be confronted for his views.

The Norse Pantheon is full of Gods and Goddesses. I asked if all of them were revered equally. I was told that while they are all revered equally, they were not all worshipped equally. My friend worships Thor over the other Norse Gods. When I asked him why, he told me that Thor has the most human qualities of all the Gods. Thor made many mistakes in the old stories, but he always learned from them. My friend tells me that this is something that he can relate to on a much deeper level than he is able to relate to an all powerful all knowing God that is perfect in every way.

While Asatru have a number of holidays throughout the year I was informed that the



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