Germanic Neopaganism

Germanic Neopaganism
A Heathen altar for household worship in Gothenburg, Sweden. The painted tablet on the back depicts Sunna, the two larger wooden idols Odin (left) and Frey (right), in front of them there are the three Norns, and in the front row a red Thor and other idols. In front of the cult images are two ritual hammers.
The hammer Mjöllnir is one of the primary symbols of Germanic Neopaganism. Effigies of Mjölnir are commonly worn amongst Germanic Neopagans.

Germanic Neogapanism (widely known as Heathenism,[1][2] Heathenry,[3][4] or Germanic Heathenry[5][6]) is the contemporary revival of historical Germanic paganism. Precursor movements appeared in the early 20th century in Germany and Austria. A second wave of revival began in the early 1970s. Since its first times Heathenism has developed according to diverse denominations, the most prominent ones amongst all being Ásatrú, Odinism, Forn Siðr and Theodism.[1] Attitude and focus of adherents may vary considerably, from strictly historical polytheistic reconstructionism to syncretist (eclectic), pragmatic psychologist, occult or mysticist approaches. Germanic Neopagan organizations cover a wide spectrum of belief and ideals. Different terms exist for the various types of Germanic Neopaganism. Some terms are specific in reference whereas other are blanket terms for a variety of groups.[7]


Terminology and groupings

Some proponents use Heathenry distinctively for strictly polytheistic reconstructionist approaches, excluding syncretic, occult or mysticist approaches such as Armanism.[8][9] The term Heathenry is promoted by non-denominational groups or umbrella organisations such as the British Heathen Alliance, the American Heathen Nation, and the Canadian Heathen House.

The Irminsul symbol is mostly used by groups focused on Central and Northern German Saxon traditions.


Ásatrú (pronounced [auːsatruː], in Old Norse [aːsatruː]) is an Old Norse compound derived from Áss, which refers to the Æsir, (one of the two families of gods in Norse mythology, the other being the Vanir), and trú, literally "troth" or "faith". Thus, Ásatrú is the "Æsir's faith". The term is the Old Norse/Icelandic translation of Asetro, a neologism coined in the context of 19th century romantic nationalism, used by Edvard Grieg in his 1870 opera Olaf Trygvason[citation needed]. Ásatrúar, sometimes used as a plural in English, is properly the genitive of Ásatrú.

Modern Scandinavian forms of the term, Norwegian Åsatru, Swedish Asatro, Danish Asetro (Ēsatrēowð in Anglo-Saxon), were introduced in Neopaganism in Scandinavia in the 1990s.

In Germany, the terms Asatru and Odinism were borrowed from the Anglosphere in the 1990s, with a chapter of Odinic Rite formed in 1995 and the Eldaring as a partner organization of The Troth formed in 2000. Eldaring takes Asatru as a synonym of Germanic neopaganism in general, following usage by The Troth. Other organizations avoid Asatru in favour of Germanisches Heidentum ("Germanic Heathenry"). Eldaring is the only pagan organization at the national level in Germany self-described as Asatru.[10]

The term Vanatru is coined after Ásatrú, implying a focus on the Vanir (a second tribe of gods in Germanic paganism) rather than the Æsir.

Forn Siðr

Old Norse Forn Siðr, Anglo-Saxon Fyrnsidu, Old High German Firner situ and its modern Scandinavian (Forn Sed) and modern German (Firne Sitte) analogues, all meaning "old custom", is used as a term for pre-Christian Germanic culture in general, and for Germanic Neopaganism in particular, mostly by groups in Scandinavia and Germany. Old Norse forn "old" is cognate to Sanskrit purana, English (be)fore and far. Old Norse siðr "custom", Anglo-Saxon sidu, seodu "custom", cognate to Greek ethos, in the sense of "traditional law, way of life, proper behaviour". In meaning, the term corresponds closely to Sanskrit sanātana dharma, a term coined as a "native" equivalent of Hinduism in Hindu revivalism. In contradistinction to Ásatrú, inn forni siðr is actually attested in Old Norse, contrasting with inn nýi siðr "the new custom", and similarly Heiðinn siðr, contrasting with Kristinn siðr, and í fornum sið "in old (heathen) times".[11] Forn Siðr is also the name of the largest Danish pagan society, which since 2003 is recognized as a religion by the Danish government, meaning they have the right to conduct weddings, etc.


Heathen (Old English hæðen, Old Norse heiðinn, Old High German heidan) was coined as a translation of Latin paganus, in the Christian sense of "non-Abrahamic faith".

In the Sagas, the terms heiðni and kristni (Heathenry and Christianity) are used as polar terms to describe the older and newer faiths. Historically, the term was influenced by the Gothic term *haiþi, appearing as haiþno in Ulfilas' bible for translating gunē Hellēnis, "Greek (i.e. gentile) woman" of Mark 7:26, probably with an original meaning "dwelling on the heath", but it was also suggested[who?] that it was chosen because of its similarity to Greek ethne "gentile" or even[who?] that it is not related to "heath" at all, but rather a loan from Armenian hethanos, itself loaned from Greek ethnos.

The Miercinga Rice Theod and several other groups, narrow the sense of the word to Germanic Neopaganism in particular, and prefer it over Neopagan as a self-designation.[12][13]

Some proponents use Heathenry distinctively for strictly polytheistic reconstructionist approaches, excluding syncretic, occult or mysticist approaches such as Armanism.[8][9] The term Heathenry is promoted by non-denominational groups or umbrella organisations such as the British Heathen Alliance, the American Heathen Nation, and the Canadian Heathen House.

The term Heathenry is promoted by UK groups such as Heathens For Progress.


The term Odinism was coined by Orestes Brownson in his 1848 Letter to Protestants.[14] The term was re-introduced in the late 1930s by Alexander Rud Mills in Australia with his First Anglecyn Church of Odin and his book The Call of Our Ancient Nordic Religion.[15] In the 1960s and early 1970s, Else Christensen's Odinist Study Group and later the Odinist Fellowship brought the term into usage in North America. In the UK, Odinic Rite has specifically identified themselves as "Odinists" since the 1970s, and is the longest running group to do so.

The term "Odinism" tends to be associated with racialist Nordic ideology, as opposed to "Asatru" which may or may not refer to racialist or "folkish" ideals. As defined by Goodrick-Clarke (2002), Nordic racial paganism is synonymous with the Odinist movement (including some who identify as Wotanist). He describes it as a "spiritual rediscovery of the Aryan ancestral gods...intended to embed the white races in a sacred worldview that supports their tribal feeling", and expressed in "imaginative forms of ritual magic and ceremonial forms of fraternal fellowship".[16]

The term Wotanism is used in a somewhat different sense from Odinism. It is the name of a racialist Neopagan current initiated by David Lane.[17][18]

In more recent times, the Odinist community in Australia has endorsed the "Melbourne Creed" of Odinism, which is a 9-point statement of belief, "An Odinist Creed."[19]


Theodism, or Þéodisc Geléafa originally sought to reconstruct the beliefs and practices of the Anglo-Saxon tribes which settled in England. þéodisc is the adjective of þéod "people, tribe", cognate to deutsch. As it evolved, the Theodish community moved past solely Anglo-Saxon forms and other Germanic tribal groups were also being reconstituted; Theodism, in this larger sense, now encompass groups practicing tribal beliefs from Scandinavia and the Continent, following in the model set forth by the Anglo Saxon theods founded in the 1970s. The term Theodism now encompasses Norman, Frisian, Angle, Saxon, Jutish, Gothic, Alemannic, Thuringian, Swedish and Danish tribal cultures. This relaxing of the original term "Theodism" functionally identifies Germanic Neopagans who practice or advocate Neo-Tribalism. [12]


The sickle is one of the primary symbols of Urglaawe.

Urglaawe ("primal faith" in Deitsch) is a North American tradition within Heathenry and bears some affinity with other traditions related to historical Continental Germanic paganism.[20] It derives its core from the Deitsch healing practice of Braucherei, from Deitsch folklore and customs, and from other Germanic and Scandinavian sources. Urglaawe uses both the English and Deitsch languages.

As with other Teutonic religious and philosophical traditions, adherents of Urglaawe may have differing beliefs in worldview and theological view. One of the main deities Urglaawers worship is Holle, an ancient Germanic mother goddess passed down in the Deitch folklore.[20]


The term "Wotanism"[21][22] distinguishes a form of Heathenry with political overtones. Wotanism is the name of a white supremacist current initiated by David Lane.[23] It is based on the essay entitled Wotan by Carl Jung. Unlike other Heathens, most Wotanists emphasize dualism and view the gods as Jungian archetypes.[24][25] Wotanists consider the Havamal to be their holiest text.


Germanic Neopaganism (as opposed to Neopaganism in general) is often defined as reconstructionist. Adherents are mostly polytheists, having faith in a number of gods and goddesses, but in practice a pantheistic or "soft polytheistic" outlook is common; the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið defines "Asatru" as "Nordic pantheism".

Germanic Neopaganism has a strong leaning towards animism. This is most apparent in the worship of Álfar (or Elves), land-spirits, the various beings of folklore (Kobold, Huldufólk), and the belief that inanimate objects can have a fate of their own.

It is believed that Elves or land-spirits can inhabit natural objects such as trees or stones. These spirits can, and do, take sides in the affairs of the inhabitants of their land.[26] This is in imitation of historical Norse paganism, which had strong animistic tendencies, as reflected in sagas such as that of a wizard who goes to Iceland in whale-shape to see if it can be invaded, who is attacked by land-spirits while going on shore, and is forced to flee.[27]

It is believed by some Heathens that inanimate objects can have a soul of their own, or a fate, and therefore should be given a name, the most common cases being the naming of weapons like Gram. The objects are not “charged” before use, but have the fate or innate power within them a priori.


Ethics in Germanic Neopaganism are guided by a concept of personal ørlög or wyrd, encompassing the notions of both fate and luck. The belief in Wyrd — a concept of fatalism or determinism,[28] similar to some Graeco-Roman concepts of destiny is a commonly held belief amongst most Germanic Neopagans.[13][14] People's personal destinies are shaped in part by what is past, in part by what they and others are now doing, by the vows they take and contracts they enter into. The Germanic Neopagan community is primarily bound together by common symbological and social concepts. Personal character and virtue is emphasized: truthfulness, self-reliance, and hospitality are important moral distinctions, underpinning an especially cherished notion of honour.[15] Germanic Neopaganism notably lacks any discussion of redemption or salvation.

The Asatru Folk Assembly and the Odinic Rite encourages recognition of an ethical code, the Nine Noble Virtues, which are culled from various sources, including the Hávamál from the Poetic Edda.

Although Germanic Neopagans revere the forces of nature, Germanic Neopaganism is not a "nature religion" in the sense of other currents often found in Neopaganism, and adherents oppose neither technology nor its material rewards. More mystical currents of Heathenry may be critical of industrialization or modern society, but even such criticism will focus on decadence, lack of virtue or balance, rather than being a radical criticism of technology itself.[29]

Rites and practices

The primary deities of Germanic Neopaganism are those of Anglo-Saxon religion and of Norse Mythology (see list of Norse gods). Germanic Neopaganism also has a component of ancestor worship or veneration. In the simplest form, the gods are viewed as distant ancestors or progenitors who are honoured and revered, while in the adherent's personal practices, direct ancestors (referred to sometimes as Dis) are often praised and honoured during the rituals of sumbel and blót. Animism or land veneration is most evident in the rituals dedicated to the elves and wights.


Blót is the historical Norse term for sacrifice or ritual slaughter. The word blót actually translates to "blood." Historically, the ritual slaughter of a farm animal was central to the rite. Germanic Neopaganism does not usually include this practice. In Germanic Neopaganism, blóts are often celebrated outdoors in nature. A blót may be highly formalized, but the underlying intent resembles inviting and having an honored guest or family member in for dinner. Food and drink may be offered. Most of this will be consumed by the participants, and some of the drink will be poured out onto the soil as a libation. Home-brewed mead as the "Germanic" drink par excellence is popular.[16][17]

Offerings during a blót usually involve mead or other alcohol, sometimes food, sometimes song or poetry, specially written for the occasion or for a particular deity, is delivered as an offering. The blót ritual may be based on historical example, scripted for the occasion or may be spontaneous. Certain Germanic Neopagan groups, most notably the Theodish, strictly adhere to historical formulaic ritual, while other groups may use modernized variants. Usual dress for a blót is whatever suits the seasons — many blóts are outdoors, sometimes at sacred sites. Some Germanic Neopagans, most notably the Theodish, wear clothing modeled on those of the Anglo-Saxon or Norse 'Viking' during ritual, while others eschew this practice.


Symbel (OE) and sumbel (ON) are terms for "feast, banquet, (social) gathering", occasionally used to refer to a special type of solemn drinking ritual attested in more or less comparable forms among various Germanic warrior elites. In such instances, symbel involved a formulaic ritual which was more solemn and serious than mere drinking or celebration. The primary elements of symbel are drinking ale or mead from a horn, speech making (which often included formulaic boasting and oaths), and gift giving.

According to the reconstruction by Bauschatz (1983), eating and feasting were specifically excluded from symbel, and no alcohol was set aside for the gods or other deities in the form of a sacrifice.[30]

The host of the symbel was called the symbelgifa. One of the officiants of symbel was the thyle (ON þulr), who challenged and questioned those who made boasts (gielp) or oaths (béot, bregofull), if necessary with taunts or mockery (flyting). Oaths said over the symbel-horn were seen as binding and affecting the luck and wyrd of all in attendance. The alcoholic drink was served by women or alekeepers (ealu bora "ale bearer"), the first round usually poured by the lady of the house.

The bragarfull "promise-cup" or bragafull "best cup" or "chieftain's cup" was in Norse culture a particular drinking from a cup or drinking horn on ceremonial occasions, often involving the swearing of oaths when the cup or horn was drunk by a chieftain or passed around and drunk by those assembled.

In American Ásatrú as developed by McNallen and Stine, the sumbel is a drinking-ritual in which a drinking horn full of mead or ale is passed around and a series of toasts are made, first to the Aesir, then to other supernatural beings, then to heroes or ancestors, and then to others. Participants may also make boasts of their own deeds, or oaths or promises of future actions. Words spoken during the sumbel are considered and consecrated, becoming part of the destiny of those assembled. The name sumbel (or symbel) is mainly derived from Anglo-Saxon sources. For this reason, the ritual is not known by this name among Icelandic Nordic pagans, who nevertheless practice a similar ritual as part of their blot.[31]

In Theodism or Anglo-Saxon neopaganism in particular, the symbel has a particularly high importance, considered "perhaps the highest rite"[32] or "amongst the most holy rites"[33] celebrated.


Seiðr and Spae are forms of "sorcery" or "witchcraft", the latter having aspects of prophecy and shamanism. Seid and spae are not common rituals, and are not engaged in by many adherents of Germanic Neopaganism. Usually seid or spae rituals are modeled after the ritual detailed in the Saga of Eric the Red: a seiðkona dressed in traditional garb will sit on a high-seat or platform and prophesy in a formulaic manner as women sing or chant galdr around her. In the UK, seidr relies less on formal ritual and more informal practices of healing (Blain, 2002b), protection, and for developing links with land and ancestors. It may be related — in past and present — to alterations of consciousness and negotiations with otherworld beings.

The berserkergangr may be described as a sort of religious ecstasy, associated with Odin, and thus a masculine variant of the 'effeminate' ecstasy of Seid.[18]


Romanticist Germanic mysticism

The first modern attempt at revival of ancient Germanic religion took place in the 19th century during the late Romantic Period amidst a general resurgence of interest in traditional Germanic culture, in particular in connection with romantic nationalism in Scandinavia and the related Viking revival in Victorian era Britain. Germanic mysticism is an occultist current loosely inspired by "Germanic" topics, notably runes. It has its beginnings in the early 20th century (Guido von List's "Armanism", Karl Maria Wiligut's "Irminism" etc.)

The last traditional pagan sacrifices in Scandinavia, at Trollkyrka, appear to date to about this time.

Organized Germanic pagan or occult groups such as the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft emerged in Germany in the early 20th century. The connections of this movement to historical Germanic paganism are tenuous at best, with emphasis lying on the esoteric as taught by the likes of Julius Evola, Guido von List and Karl Maria Wiligut.

In the first two decades of the twentieth century an overtly heathen movement known as "heroic vitalism" became mainstream in Australian art. It had no connection with isolated Continental thinkers like von List. Most leading Australian painters, sculptors and poets of that generation, such as Norman Lindsay, Rayner Hoff and Kenneth Slessor, pioneered this movement. In the 1930s Odinism became an established faith in Australia, led by such people as Rud Mills, Evelyn Price and Annie Lennon.

Nazi period and World War II

Several early members of the Nazi Party were part of the Thule Society, a study group for German antiquity. While it is postulated that occult elements played an important role in the formative phase of Nazism, and of the SS in particular, after his rise to power Adolf Hitler discouraged such pursuits. Point 24 of the National Socialist Program stated that the party endorsed "Positive Christianity."[34]

The eclectic German Faith Movement (Deutsche Glaubensbewegung), founded by the Sanskrit scholar Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, enjoyed a degree of popularity during the Nazi period.[35] Some Germanic mysticists were victimized by the Nazis: Friedrich Bernhard Marby spent 99 months in KZ Dachau, and Siegfried Adolf Kummer's fate is unknown.[36]

Several books published by the Nazi party including Die Gestaltung der Feste im Jahres- und Lebenslauf in der SS-Familie (The Celebrations in the Life of the SS Family) by Fritz Weitzel, as well as the SS Tante Friede illustrate how the National Socialists thought traditional Germanic Heathenry was primitive superstition which needed reworking to better serve the state. Celebrating the traditional festivals like Jul and Sommersonnenwende were encouraged and recast into veneration of the Nazi state and Führer.[37]

The appropriation of "Germanic antiquity" by the Nazis was at first regarded with skepticism and sarcasm by British Scandophiles. W. H. Auden in his Letters from Iceland (1936) makes fun of the idea of Iceland as an "Aryan vestige".[38] but with the outbreak of World War II, Nordic romanticism in Britain became too much associated with the enemy's ideology to remain palatable, to the point that J. R. R. Tolkien, an ardent Septentrionalist, in 1941 found himself moved to state that he had a "burning private grudge ... against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler" for "ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."[39]

Meanwhile, in Australia, several leading Odinists (including Rud Mills and Les Cahill) were sent to concentration camps for advocating that Australian troops should be withdrawn from Europe to Australia to defend that country against Japanese aggression. Their formal religious organisation, the Anglekyn Church of Australia, was dissolved and went underground. In time, older members of the Australian Odinist movement tutored a later generation, which formed the Odinic Rite of Australia in 1994.

Second revival, 1960s to present

Another revival, this time based on folklore and historical research rather than on mysticist speculation, took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In Iceland, Ásatrúarfélagið, led by farmer Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson, was recognized as a religious organization by the Icelandic government in 1973. In the United States, around the same period, Else Christensen began publishing "The Odinist" newsletter and Stephen McNallen began publishing a newsletter titled The Runestone. McNallen formed an organization called the Asatru Free Assembly, which was later renamed the Ásatrú Folk Assembly (AFA).[40] The AFA fractured in 1987-88, resulting in the creation of the Ásatrú Alliance,[41] headed by Valgard Murray, publisher of the "Vor Tru" newsletter. Around the same time, the Ring of Troth (now simply The Troth) was founded by other former members of the AFA.[42]

In 1972 the spiritual descendants of Mills' Odinist movement in Australia obtained from the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia a written undertaking that open profession of Odinism in Australia would not be persecuted. The Odinic Rite of Australia subsequently obtained tax deductible status from the Australian Tax Office. The ATO accepts this as the definition of Odinism: "the continuation of ... the organic spiritual beliefs and religion of the indigenous peoples of northern Europe as embodied in the Edda and as they have found expression in the wisdom and in the historical experience of these peoples".

In 1976 Garman Lord formed the Witan Theod, the first Theodish group. Shortly thereafter, Ealdoraed Lord founded the Moody Hill Theod in Watertown, New York. The Angelseaxisce Ealdriht formed in 1996 and was founded by Swain Wodening and Winifred Hodge. Theodism now encompasses groups practicing tribal beliefs from Scandinavia and the Continent, in addition to following in the model set forth by the early Anglo Saxon peoples.

The Odinic Rite was established in England in 1972, and in the 1990s expanded to include chapters or kindred bodies in Germany (1995),[43] Australia (1995)[44] and North America (1997)[45] and later (2006) to the Netherlands.[46] In 1992, The Odin Brotherhood by Mark Mirabello contained claims of a surviving Odinist "secret society", allegedly founded in 1421 to pagan tradition from Christian persecution, comparable to the Witch-cult hypothesis forwarded by Gerald Gardner (1954).[47] Neopagan groups calling themselves Odin Brotherhood based on Mirabello's account have since been listed in The Encyclopedia of American Religions.[48]

In Germany, the Heidnische Gemeinschaft (HG) founded by Géza von Neményi in 1985. In 1991 the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft (GGG), led by von Neményi, split off from the HG. In 1997 the Nornirs Ætt was founded as part of the Rabenclan and in 2000 the Eldaring was founded. The Eldaring is affiliated with the US based Troth.

In Scandinavia, the Swedish Asatru Society formed in 1994, and in Norway the Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996 and Foreningen Forn Sed formed in 1999. They have been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious society, allowing them to perform "legally binding civil ceremonies" (i. e. marriages). In Denmark Forn Siðr also formed in 1999 (and recognized by the state in 2003[49]) and in Sweden Nätverket Gimle formed in 2001, as an informal community for individual heathens. Nätverket Forn Sed formed in 2004, and has a network consisting of local groups (blotlag) from all over the Sweden.

In the UK, state recognition of Neopaganism occurred as a coincidence of the legal case Royal Mail group PLC versus Donald Holden in 2006. Holden, a member of the Odinist Fellowship, sued his former employer for unfair dismissal.[50]

In 2010, in the US, the State of Missouri officially recognized Jotun's Bane Kindred as a church. Jotun's Bane Kindred is a Folkish kindred based in Kansas City and is most notably know for hosting Lightning Across The Plains, an annual Heathen gathering at Camp Gaea in McClouth, KS. LATP is arguably the largest Heathen gathering in the world.

Distribution of adherents


Today, Germanic Neopaganism is practiced throughout the world. Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, North America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand all have numerous Germanic Neopagan organizations. Groups and practitioners also exist in other parts of Europe and in Latin America.

The exact number of adherents worldwide is unknown, partly because of the lack of a clear definition separating Asatru (or Odinism) from other similar religions. There are perhaps a few thousand practitioners in North America (10,000 to 20,000 according to McNallen[51]), about 1290 in Iceland, a thousand or so in Melbourne, Australia, and 350 organized Asatru in Germany, with other groups scattered world wide. These figures, however, do not include the many thousands of Germanic heathens in Russia (see below).

North America

As of 2001, the City University of New York estimated that some 140,000 people in the USA self-identify as "Pagan"[52] (excluding Wiccan (134,000), New Age (68,000), Druid (33,000), Spiritualist (116,000) and aboriginal religions (4,000)). The total number of Neopagans worldwide has been estimated at roughly one million[53][54] and according to these findings, a third each are located in the UK, the USA, and over the rest of the world.

In Canada according to the 2001 Census 21,080 people identified as Pagan an 381% increase from 5,530 in 1991.[55] How many of these are Heathen can only be speculated and it is possible that the number may be higher, but out of fear of prejudice they do not disclose. However, Heathenry in Canada has grown greatly in Canada since 2001 with the creation of many independent kindreds and some provincial organizations.


Odinic Rite (OR) was founded in 1973 under the influence of Else Christensen's Odinist Study Group. In 1988 the Odinic Rite became the first polytheistic religious organisation to be granted "Registered Charity" status in the UK.


Ásatrúarfélagið was recognized as an official religion by the Icelandic government in 1973, for its first 20 years it was led by farmer and poet Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson. As of 2008, it had 1,270 members, corresponding to 0.4% of the Icelandic population.

In Sweden, the Swedish AsatruSociety (Sveriges asatrosamfund) formed in 1994. In Denmark Forn Siðr formed in 1999, and was officially recognized in 2003[56] The Norwegian Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost formed in 1996; as of 2011, the fellowship has some 300 members. Foreningen Forn Sed formed in 1999 and has been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious organization.

Continental Europe

Interest in Germanic neopaganism in particular becomes apparent in Germany in the later 1990s, based on inspiration from the English speaking world rather than historical Deutschgläubig groups, foundation of the Rabenclan (1994), a German chapter of Odinic Rite in 1995, followed by Nornirs Ætt in 1997 and the Eldaring as a chapter of the US The Troth in 2000.

Werkgroep Traditie is a Flemish (Belgian) group founded by Koenraad Logghe in the 1990s In the Netherlands, there is Nederlands Heidendom, formed in 2000.

In Northern Italy, there is also a chapter of Odinic Rite, Comunità Odinista. There is some Germanic neopaganism found in Spain, including Forn Sidr Ibérica and Comunidad Odinista de España-Asatru (COE). In 2007, COE became the fourth Asatru group to gain governmental recognition as a religious organization, and the first outside of Scandinavia.

In Russia the many neo-pagan groups venerate the "Golden Age of the pre-Christian Rus" (the Rus being early Scandinavian settlers in Russia), and "In general, Neo-pagan newspapers ... appear irregularly in editions ranging from 10–50,000 copies, or more rarely, as many as 500,000 copies".[57]

Structure and subgroupings

Solitary practice, or practice in small circles of friends or family is common. These are often called kindreds or hearths, although often they are not formal.[19] Germanic Neopagan organizations have been active since the 1970s, but most of these larger groups are loose federations and do not require committed membership comparable to a church. Consequently, there is no central authority, and associations remain in a state of fluidity as factions form and break up.[20] [21]

There are several possibilities to analyse Germanic Neopaganism into individual currents or subgroupings.

One common approach is the classification by notions of ethnicity ("folk"). This may range from ethnic nationalist (völkisch) attitudes with far right tendencies on one hand (the Nouvelle Droite of Alain de Benoist notably has ties to such currents of Neopaganism) to moderate "tribalist" notions of ethnicity as based in tradition and culture, and to "universalist" approaches which de-emphasize differences between ethnic traditions (e.g. Seax Wicca).

Another classification is by approach to historicity and historical accuracy. On one hand, there are reconstructionists who aim to understand the pre-Christian Germanic religion based on academic research and implement these reconstructed . Contrasting with this is the "traditionalist" or "folklorist", in Scandinavia known as Folketro or Funtrad (short for Fundamentalistisk Traditionalisme) approach which emphasizes living local tradition as central.

Traditionalists will not reconstruct, but base their rituals on intimate knowledge of regional folklore. Proponents of traditionalism include the Norwegian Foreningen Forn Sed and the Swedish Samfälligheten för Nordisk Sed. Both religions reject the ideas of Romanticist or New Age currents as reflected in Asatru.

At the other end of this scale are syncretist or eclectic approaches which merge innovation or "personal gnosis" into historical or folkloristic tradition.

Note that this scale is largely independent of the approaches to "ethnicity" outlined above. Both ethnocentric and universalist Neopagans may de-emphasize historical tradition in favour of "personal gnosis", albeit for different reasons. "Folkish" currents may rely on postulated racial memory ("metagenetics") as rendering historical tradition superfluous, while universalists may welcome ahistorical input as ultimately of the same universal validity as historical tradition.

Political ideologies

Despite a common Norse or Germanic cosmology and belief system, adherents of Germanic Neopaganism hold a wide spectrum of political beliefs from left to right and green.

Mattias Gardell, reader for religious history at the University of Stockholm, categorizes Germanic Neopaganism into "militant racist", "ethnic" and "nonracist" particularly in North America. In the militant racist position, Asatru is an expression of the "Aryan racial soul". The ethnic position is that of "tribalism", ethnocentric but opposed to the militant racist position. According to Gardell, the militant racist faction has grown significantly in North America during the early 2000s, estimating that, as of 2005, it accounts for 40-50% of North American Odinists or Asatruar with the other two factions at close to 30% each.[58] Beyond such speculation, however, no ample statistics exist on the matter.

Germanic Neopagan groups are generally organized into democratic and republican forms of church government, as inspired by the parliamentary Things of the Viking era and subsequent parliamentary systems of Britain and the Scandinavian countries.[22][23] They promote individual rights and freedom of speech reminiscent of the free jarls of Norse saga.[24][25]

In the USA, early Germanic Neopagan groups such as Else Christensen's Odinist Fellowship held National Socialist philosophies, but later dropped these associations.

Currently, the three largest Germanic Neopagan groups in the USA specifically denounce racism and National Socialism.[59] There is an antagonistic relationship between many neo-Nazis and the membership of most Ásatrú organizations in the USA, who view "national socialism as an unwanted totalitarian philosophy incompatible with freedom-loving Norse paganism".[60]

Germanic Neopaganism and Racism

Odalism (a philosophy of Social Darwinism) and Wotanism (a racist / neo-Nazi position held by e.g. David Lane[58]) are two terms primarily focused,on politics rather than religion.[citation needed] On his homepage, Varg Vikernes, one proponent of Odalism, explains his understanding of 'Paganism' with explicit racist referencing.[61]

Kaplan (1996)[62] documents the growth of Odinism in the United States and its link with the American Neo-Nazi scene. He notes that there is a division between Odinists embracing Nazi ideology and others without racist motivations responding to "childhood memories". The tensions between racist and non-racist Odinists are cast into the "folkish" ("traditional Ásatrú") vs. "universalist" ("New Age Ásatrú") debate.[63] It was these tensions that led to the demise of the Ásatrú Free Assembly in 1986 and the emergence of two separate movements, the Ásatrú Alliance and The Troth in the following year.[64]

Two groups, The Troth and the Asatru Alliance, explicitly denounce racism. The homepage of The Troth states that 'The Troth does not support any misuse of Germanic religion and culture to advance causes of racism, white supremacy, or any other form of discrimination'.[65] The Asatru Alliance webpage states that, 'The Asatru Alliance promotes the native culture of the Northern European peoples. However, we do not practice, preach, or promote hatred, bigotry, or racism.' [66] In addition, prominent figures in Ásatrú today such as Steven McNallen and Freya Aswynn have expressed their distaste for the racist connotations of some of the more radical practitioners of Ásatrú.

When the FBI identified potential threats towards the domestic security of the USA related to the turn of the Millennium in 2000 in the Project Megiddo report,[67] it stated that: "Without question, this initiative [i.e. Project Megiddo itself] has revealed indicators of potential violent activity on the part of extremists in this country. Militias, adherents of racist belief systems such as Christian Identity and Odinism, and other radical domestic extremists are clearly focusing on the millennium as a time of action." [Emphasis added]. The report also states that 'the Project Megiddo intelligence initiative has identified very few indications of specific threats to domestic security'.[67] This report, published in 1999, describes 'threats', however since the turn of the millennium no terrorist activities have been attributed to any Odinist group.

Aesthetics and symbolism

Originally grown out of 19th century Romanticism, the Viking revival had associations with the Gothic novel and Romantic art such as the Pre-Raphaelites or the art nouveau. Also of note is the influence of Richard Wagner's "Ring Cycle." Artistic taste of adherents are often related to the High Fantasy genre based on Germanic mythology. New Age currents are another influence, although not necessarily related. These elements may blend with traditional Germanic folklore.

While generally any symbol deriving from pre-Christian Germanic culture may be used, particularly popular symbols of Germanic Neopaganism are depictions of the Valknut, Mjolnir, the Irminsul, Yggdrasil amongst others. Depictions of Germanic gods are also common. The Runic alphabet is popular, in particular the Odal, Tyr and Algiz runes.[68]

The US Anti-Defamation League listed numerous symbols associated with Germanic Neopaganism as "hate symbols", but following an internet-based campaign by Germanic Neopagan groups inserted a disclaimer to the effect that the symbols listed "are often used by nonracists today, especially practitioners of modern pagan religions."[69] Additionally, the swastika may be used by some groups such as the Odinic Rite, who seek to "rehabilitate"[70] it, based on some archaeological evidence for the symbol's use in Germanic antiquity. The Armanen runes, created by Guido von List indicate an influence deriving from the work of Von Listian Germanic mysticism rather than reconstructive forms of Germanic Neopaganism.

List of organizations

See also

Heathenism symbol.PNG Heathenism portal


  1. ^ a b T. Sheil & A. Sheil. What is Heathenism?. 2008. Retrieved 3rd August 2011. Quote: "There have been several names coined for various Heathen groups: Hedenskap, Asatru, Odinism, Thorism, Theod, Troth, Urglaawe, etc. Most of these terms relate to specific branches of Heathenism. The term, that covers all of them is Heathenism."
  2. ^ Arlie Stephens. Deity and Humanity in Modern Heathenism. Regarding terminology she writes: "Other names for our religion include Asatru, Forn Sed, Norse Paganism, and Heithni. The various names reflect both organizational boundaries and differences of emphasis; I use “Heathenism” in this paper because it’s generally seen as including the broadest range."
  3. ^ Heathenry Portal of the BBC Religions Portal. "Heathenry is a reconstruction of pre-Christian North European religion."
  4. ^ Editorial Preface of The Journal of Contemporary Heathen Thought, a Germanic Neopagan publication with contributions from the Ásatrú Folk Assembly, the Odinic Rite, and other organised or independent adherents, uses "Heathenism/-ry" as the name of the whole movement.
  5. ^ James Hjuka Coulter. Germanic Heathenry: A Practical Guide. 2003. ISBN 1410765857
  6. ^ Lauren Bernauer. Modern Germanic Heathenry and the Radical Traditionalists. Retrieved 30th July 2011. Example of academic publication using the label "Germanic Heathenry".
  7. ^ Arlea Anschütz and Stormerne Hunt, Call us Heathens!
  8. ^ a b Wodening, Swain (2003). Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times. Global Book Publisher. ISBN 1-59457-006-X. 
  9. ^ a b Coulter, Hjuka (2003). Germanic Heathenry. Authorhouse. ISBN 978-1410765857. 
  10. ^ serving as an umbrella organization of numerous regional groups; Kontakt page at
  11. ^ Zoega
  12. ^ From the official Miercinga Rice Theod website
  13. ^ Anschütz, Arlea. Hunt, Stormerne. "Call us Heathens!" for Pagan Dawn journal (1997) Online: [1]
  14. ^ The Works of Orestes A. Brownson: Containing the Second Part of the Political Writings, ed. Henry Francis Brownson, T. Nourse (1884), p. 257
  15. ^
  16. ^ Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (2002). Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3124-4. (Paperback, 2003. ISBN 0-8147-3155-4.) 257.
  17. ^ Wotanism (Odinism) - By David Lane [2], see also Gambanreidi Statement; Wotanism by Professor Carl Gustav Jung Compiled by Jost Turner
  18. ^ Mattias Gardell. Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism Duke University Press. (2003), p. 270 ISBN 0-8223-3071-7
  19. ^ The Creed may be read at at: Odinist Creed
  20. ^ a b Schreiwer, Robert L., 2009. A Brief Introduction to Urglaawe. Bristol, PA:, LLC.
  21. ^ Ron McVan. Creed of Iron - Wotansvolk Wisdom. Fourteen Word Press, 1997. ISBN 0967812305
  22. ^ David Lane. Victory Or Valhalla: The Final Compilation Of Writings. CreateSpace, 2008. ISBN 1438285817
  23. ^ Wotanism (Odinism) - By David Lane (available here)
  24. ^ See the Gambanreidi Statement; Wotanism by Professor Carl Gustav Jung.
  25. ^ Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3071-7
  26. ^ Gunndarsson, Kveldulf, 2006 "Álfs, Dwarves, Land-Wights, and Huldfolk" in "Our Troth". BookSurge Publishing
  27. ^ Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla, History of the Kings of Norway,, transl. L.M. Hollander, University of Texas Press, Heimskringla
  28. ^ Winterbourne, Anthony (2004). When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism. Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp.. ISBN 0-8386-4048-6. 
  29. ^ Coulter, Hjuka (2003). Germanic Heathenry. Authorhouse. ISBN 1-4107-6585-7. 
  30. ^ *Bauschatz, Paul C.. The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1983. ISBN 0-87023-352-1, pp.74-75
  31. ^ Michael Strmiska, Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, P ABC-CLIO, 2005, ISBN 978-1-85109-608-4, pp. 129, 165.
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ The point demanded "freedom of religion for all religious denominations ... so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race.... The Party advocates ... a Positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination." Alfred Rosenberg, in The Myth of the Twentieth Century, defined "positive" Christianity as Germanic against the Etruscan-Syrian-Jewish-African "negative" Christianity, with positive Christianity carrying on the spirit of Nordic paganism, tossing out the Old Testament and well as the "Jew" Paul. Positive Christianity, so conceived, was essentially a sleight-of-hand repudiation of orthodoxy. See generally Chapter 12, "Nazi Religion versus Christian Religion," in Metapolitics: from Wagner and the German Romantics to Hitler, Peter Viereck, Transaction Publishers, 2004, ISBN 0-7658-0510-3. See also "The National Socialist Stand on Christianity," Rev. Thomas D. Schwartz. The Barnes Review, Nov./Dec. 1999, pp. 55-57, available online here. Naturally, the Party's supposed "liberal" views on freedom of religion did not extend to Judaism. The Nazi efforts to "coordinate" German Protestantism (see Gleichschaltung) were moderated after the notorious November 1933 Berlin Sportpalast speech at a "positive" Christian rally attacked the Old Testament and the "Rabbi Paul" and called for the need for a more "heroic" Jesus.
  35. ^ This movement is mentioned by Carl Jung in his 1936 essay "Wotan". Jung, Carl G. (1970); Collected Works, Volume 10; Routledge & Kegan Paul, London; ISBN 0 7100 1640 9; p 190 - 191.
  36. ^ Lange, Hans-Jürgen (1998). Weisthor: Karl Maria Wiligut - Himmlers Rasputin und seine Erben. 
  37. ^ Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas (1993). The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology. NYU Press. ISBN 0-8147-3060-4. 
  38. ^ My name occurs in several of the sagas, Is common over Iceland still. Down under Where Das Volk order sausages and lagers I ought to be the prize, the living wonder, The really pure from any Rassenschänder, In fact I am the great big white barbarian, The Nordic type, the too too truly Aryan. "Letter to Lord Byron IV." This whole section of the poem was dropped from Auden's later collected editions, but may be found in The English Auden, ed. by Edward Mendelson (Faber and Faber, 1977), p. 189.
  39. ^ Letters, p. 55f.
  40. ^ The official Asatru Folk Assembly website can be found here
  41. ^ The official Ásatrú Alliance website can be found here
  42. ^ The official Troth website can be found here
  43. ^ The official Odinic Rite German chapter website
  44. ^ The official Odinic Rite Australian chapter official website
  45. ^ The official Odinic Rite North American chapter website
  46. ^ The official Odinic Rite Netherlands chapter website
  47. ^ 5th edition 2003, Mandrake of Oxford, ISBN 1-869928-71-7. See Charlotte Hardman, Graham Harvey, Paganism today (1995), p. 61.
  48. ^ Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions, 8th edition, Gale Cengage (2009), ISBN 0-7876-9696-X, pp. 861f.
  49. ^ In Danish: Forklaring til Forn Siðr´s ansøgning om godkendelse som trossamfund.
  50. ^ The Extraordinary Case Of The Pagan And The Multicultural Prayer Room at the National Secular Society website: [3]
  51. ^ - Viking Mythology Grows As Religion for Inmates - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News
  52. ^ Per the city University of New York website
  53. ^ According to
  54. ^ According to the Covenant of the Goddess "Pagan/Wiccan" 2000 webpoll website:[4]
  55. ^ "Religion (95A), Age Groups (7A) and Sex (3) for Population, for Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas 1 and Census Agglomerations, 1991 and 2001 Censuses - 20% Sample Data,". Canada Census 2001. Statistics Canada. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  56. ^ Forklaring til Forn Siðr´s ansøgning om godkendelse som trossamfund.
  57. ^ Russian Neo-pagan Myths and Antisemitism.
  58. ^ a b Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Duke University Press. pp. 269–283. ISBN 0-8223-3071-7. 
  59. ^ The positions of the AA, the AFA and the Troth:
    From the Asatru Alliance's Bylaws: "The Alliance is apolitical; it is not a front for, nor shall it promote any political views of the 'Right' or 'Left'. Our Sacred temples, groves and Moots shall remain free of any political manifestations." [5]
    From the Asatru Folk Assembly's Bylaws: "The belief that spirituality and ancestral heritage are related has nothing to do with notions of superiority. Asatru is not an excuse to look down on, much less to hate, members of any other race. On the contrary, we recognize the uniqueness and the value of all the different pieces that make up the human mosaic." [6]
    From the Troth's Bylaws: "Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation shall not be practiced by the Troth or any affiliated group, whether in membership decisions or in conducting any of its activities." [7]
  60. ^ Gardell, p.276. Referring to Stephen McNallen, Valgard Murray and Edred Thorsson; the respective founders of the AFA, the AA and the Troth, which are the three largest Ásatrú groups in the USA.
  61. ^ Paganism: Part I - The Ancient Religion
  62. ^ Kaplan, Jeffrey. 1996. "The Reconstruction of the Asatru and Odinist Traditions ." In Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft, edited by James R. Lewis, State University of New York Press.
  63. ^ Helen A. Berger, Evan A. Leach, Leigh S. Shaffer, Voices from the Pagan Census: A National Survey of Witches and Neo-Pagans in the United States, Studies in Comparative Religion (2003), ISBN 978-1-57003-488-6, p. 16.
  64. ^ Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun (2002), p. 262.
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^ a b Full text of the F.B.I.'s 'Project Megiddo' report
  68. ^ The popularity of these runes can be seen on the follow Germanic Neopagan websites such as this list of symbols: [8] And from the Troth's website: [9]
  69. ^ A listing of the symbols the Anti-Defamation League has listed as well as the added disclaimers can be found here:[10]
  70. ^ "Rehabilitating the Fylfot", First published in ORB No.93 - January 1990. Available online at the Odinic Rite website: [11]


  • Blain, Jenny, 2002a. Nine Worlds of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism. London: Routledge.
  • Blain, Jenny, 2002b. 'Magic, healing or death? Issues of seidr, ‘balance” and morality in past and present'. In P. A. Baker and G Carr (eds) Practitioners, Practices and Patients: New Approaches to Medical Archaeology and Anthropology pp 161–171. London: Routledge
  • Blain, Jenny, 2006. 'Heathenry, the past, and sacred sites in today’s Britain'. In Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives ed. M. Strmiska. ABC-Clio. Available as e-book from .
  • Blain, Jenny and Robert J. Wallis, 2002. 'Contemporary Paganism and Archaeology: Irreconcilable?' Paper given at conference on Archaeology in the Public Domain, Sheffield, 9 March 2002. Online: available
  • Coulter, Hjuka (2003). Germanic Heathenry. Authorhouse. ISBN 1-4107-6585-7. 
  • Dubois, T. 1999 Nordic religions in the Viking Age. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Gardell, Matthias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Duke University Press. pp. 269–283. ISBN 0-8223-3071-7. 
  • Gunndarsson, Kveldulf, 2006 "Alfs, Dwarves, Land-Wights, and Huldfolk" in "Our Troth". BookSurge Publishing
  • Hunt-Anschutz, Arlea, 2002 'Heathenry'. In The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, Ed. S. Rabinovitch and J. Lewis, p. 126-7. New York: Citadel Press.
  • Johnson, Nathan J. and Robert J. Wallis, 2005. Galdrbok: Practical Heathen Runecraft, Shamanism and Magic. Winchester: Wykeham Press.
  • Price, Neil. 2002. The Viking Way: Religion and War in Late Iron Age Scandinavia. Uppsala: Uppsala University Press.
  • Strmiska, Michael (2006). "Heathenry, the past, and sacred sites in today’s Britain by Jenny Blain". Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-608-6. 
  • Wodening, Swain (2003). Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times. Global Book Publisher. ISBN 1-59457-006-X. 

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