One-Eyed Cat: Northern European (Germanic, Celtic and Slavic) Paganism

Teaching safer seidhr (Norse trance work) practice, working with the Gods and spirits. We'll also explore the wider Eurasian influences on central and northern European religion, including Norse, Slavic, Celtic, Baltic, Siberian, Mediterranean and ancient Indo-European beliefs and discuss how to apply them to contemporary practice.

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Asatru 101 - What is Heathenry?

One of the frequent questions I get from budding Heathens, Asatruar and Norse pagans is "Where do I start?" After fielding two such letters in one day from a divination client and a prospective student (who already summons spirits in a Ceremonial framework but wanted to connect with the Norse Gods), I began compiling a page of resources on my website-- and this series of blog posts.


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Heathenry is a pagan faith based on the ancestral practices of Northern and Central Europe.

Heathenry (also regionally called Asatru, Urglaawe and Forn Sidr) is very different from Wicca. Instead, it resembles Hinduism, Shinto and Native American animist beliefs. We do not have covens, initiation by degrees, nor worship a binary "Lord and Lady" or a "Goddess", but a pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, heroes, ancestors and local spirits. Heathenry as a faith does not stress the use of spells and magic, but an ethic of honor, loyalty and excellence, with rituals incorporated into daily life and special occasions year-round. Individual Heathens often form close relationships with certain Gods or Goddesses, or choose to focus on venerating ancestors and nature spirits. Anyone can practice Heathenry, though many people feel especially called to seek out their "roots" in this branch of paganism.

It's not a text-based religion, nor is it limited to Scandinavian sources. Our sacred stories, beliefs, magical practices and customs are recorded in the literature, archaeology, oral lore and histories of countries across the Northern Hemisphere, from Greenland to Russia (and also, surprisingly, the US!). Sources include folklore, sagas, mythic lays, poetry and song, charms, children's games, fairy tales, local holidays and writings from ancient Roman, Byzantine, medieval Islamic and Christian chroniclers.

A Heathen priest/ess is typically known as a godthi or gythia (Godsperson). On our holy days, or during other cause for celebration, we give shared drink offerings known as blots. The most holy festival of Heathenry is Yule, celebrated on the Winter Solstice or during the Christmas holiday season. We call spirits and living sentient beings, including Gods, wights. The most common group rituals are sumbel and forms of hallowing (purification and making something holy). At sumbel, a horn or cup of mead, other alcohol or a non-alcoholic juice is passed around a circle. Each participant takes a sip and hails the Gods of the occasion, the ancestors and nature spirits, and finally boasts about an achievement. Any significant oaths are usually taken before witnesses at this time.

While Heathenry has many symbols, the Thor's Hammer, pictured above, is most commonly used.


Links to other beginner's (and more advanced) resources can be found on my website, here: http://staffandcup.com/resources.html.

Reproduction of a viking amulet courtesy of Wikipedia. Article cross-posted to Staffandcup.com.
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Shirl Sazynski is a priestess trained by Frey, Odin and Freyja and has been practicing the Norse magical and priestly art of seidhr (trance journeying/fate weaving) for fifteen years. Her column, "One-Eyed Cat", runs in Witches and Pagans Magazine. An oracle, icon painter and author, her work has appeared in both popular and pagan media. She teaches workshops and was a popular presenter at PantheaCon.

Comments

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Tuesday, 13 January 2015

    Good summary! That's the exact reason I wrote Asatru For Beginners, because when I was manager of the MSN Asatru Group, beginners would often ask me to recommend a book. They would ask the same few questions, that I put in the group's FAQ file, which eventually developed into my book.

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