Asatru: Nordic Paganism in Iceland and America
chapter four


In the early 1970s, groups of people in Iceland, the United States, and Britain simultaneously formed new religious associations devoted to reviving the ancient religious beliefs and practices of pre-Christian Northern Europe, particularly those of pre-Christian Iceland and Scandinavia but also the related traditions of the Germanic peoples of continental Europe and the Anglo-Saxons of England. In this chapter, the word Nordic will be employed to denote peoples and cultures of Northern Europe. Norse will designate the culture and religion of pre-Christian Iceland and Scandinavia in a general way, with Old Norse or Old Icelandic referring with greater specificity to the language and literature of those past times.
The Icelandic, American, and British Nordic religion revival associations of the early 1970s were not in contact with each other nor even aware of each other’s existence. Each had separately arrived at the same inspiration—that the Pagan religious traditions of the Nordic past should be revived for the benefit of modern people.
In Iceland, the poet and farmer Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson and a group of friends, many of them also poets and devotees of early Icelandic literature, formed the association known as Asatruarfelagid, “the fellowship of those who trust in the ancient gods,” often abbreviated as Asatru (Strmiska 2000). In the United States, Stephen McNallen and Robert Stine formed the Viking Brotherhood, which was soon renamed the Asatru Folk Alliance. In Britain, John Yeowell and associates formed the Committee for the Restoration of the Odinic Rite (Kaplan 1997). These Nordic Pagan revival organizations of the 1970s have since branched and split as larger numbers of people have become involved and introduced new ideas and sometimes divergent directions, while remaining united in their devotion to the religious and cultural traditions preserved in the ancient literature of Iceland and other Nordic nations.
Most modern Nordic Pagans speak of their religion as Asatru (believing in or trusting in the ancient gods) and of themselves as Asatruar (Asatru believers); alternately, they refer to themselves as Heathens (the ancient Germanic term for non-Christians) and their religion as Heathenry. The terms Nordic Paganism, Asatru, and Heathenry will be used interchangeably in this discussion. Nordic Pagan revival associations have also sprung up in many other lands, including Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Australia. This chapter will provide a brief account of the history and development of the Icelandic and American forms of Nordic Paganism and offer a sketch of Nordic Paganism at the start of the twenty-first century, based on interviews and field research in both nations.
Previous studies of Nordic Paganism in the United States have tended to emphasize (and perhaps to overemphasize) certain racist and Neo-Nazi elements within the Nordic Pagan community (Kaplan 1997; Gardell 2003). The majority of modern Nordic Pagans are both enthusiastically devoted to Northern European cultural heritage and firmly opposed to Nazism and racism. The minority of Nordic Pagans with Neo-Nazi leanings are firmly denounced by most modern Nordic Pagans as members of fringe groups that they wish to have nothing to do with. The pride in ethnic heritage felt by Nordic Pagans should not be mislabeled as racism, nor should devotion to Nordic culture be flatly equated with Nazism.
Of the American Nordic Pagans interviewed for this article, one is a lesbian with an Asian lover, another participates in a Nordic Pagan association with an African American member, and yet another has adopted Korean children whom he encourages to investigate their Korean spiritual and cultural heritage and only to become Heathens if they feel a strong motivation to do so. These are hardly the profiles of would-be Nazi goose steppers.

A Brief History of Nordic Paganism in the United StatesAsatru/Heathenry/Nordic Paganism in the United States has gone through several distinct stages and a series of schisms and conflicts since its beginnings in the early 1970s. It has entered the twenty-first century with a new level of organizational sophistication and a general consensus on the need to minimize conflicts and improve cooperation between different Nordic Pagan communities, whatever their positions on particular issues.
The first Nordic Pagan organization in the United States was the Viking Brotherhood, founded by McNallen and Stine in Texas in about 1972. This group metamorphosed into the Asatru Free Assembly (AFA), which operated until 1987 and then reemerged in the 1990s as the Asatru Folk Assembly, as it is known today. The AFA established many of the important organizational and ritual structures that remain operative in American Nordic Paganism to the present time, though later groups and individuals have continued to tinker with these structures and adapt and reinterpret them as they see fit.

Key Ritual Structures: The Sumbel and the Blot
Key among the ritual structures developed by McNallen and Stine are the Sumbel (alternately spelled as symbel) and the Blot, drawn from Old Norse–Icelandic literary sources such as the Eddas and Sagas and other Germanic texts and traditions. The Sumbel is a drinking ritual, typically performed indoors, that may take place at any time or occasion agreed on by participants. In this ritual, as a drinking horn full of mead or other alcoholic beverage is passed and poured into individual drinking vessels or drunk from directly, a series of toasts are made, offering verbal tribute first to the Norse gods and supernatural beings, then to heroes and ancestors, and then to others. Oaths may also be made during a Sumbel, as well as “boasts,” or promises of future actions that participants intend to perform. Such oaths and boasts are considered solemn and binding on the speakers, which underlines the significance of the Sumbel as something much more than a mere drinking party. The words spoken in the Sumbel are considered consecrated and powerful and are visualized as entering the Well of Wyrd, the matrix of time and fate in Norse mythology, to become part of the individual and collective destiny of those assembled on the occasion.
Mead, the beverage of choice in a Sumbel, is brewed from honey and herbs and is a traditional beverage of the ancient Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. The drinking horn from which the ritual beverage is poured or drunk is fashioned, in accordance with medieval tradition, from the horn of a bull or some other similarly large and impressive animal. Many Asatruar and Heathens have become skilled at brewing mead and in crafting drinking horns, which they display, sell, and, of course, drink mead or other beverages from at seasonal Pagan gatherings. This convention is a good example of how reviving traditional skills, crafts, and folk arts of past Nordic culture go hand in hand with reviving spiritual beliefs and activities of past Nordic religion in Heathenry and Asatru; cultural heritage and spiritual heritage are not thought of as separate and distinct areas of life but viewed as different branches of the same tree.
The Blot is the other major ritual form worked out by McNallen and Stine from ancient sources in Old Icelandic literature and elsewhere. Though similar to the Sumbel, it is distinct in a number of ways. It is performed outdoors around a fire and under the open sky at times of annual holy days or feast days, and it involves certain ritual procedures that go beyond what is done in the Sumbel.
The Blot begins with invocations of the gods, similar to those pronounced in the Sumbel. Mead is once more involved, but whereas this is drunk from a horn passed around to the participants in the Sumbel, mead is contained in a sacred bowl in the Blot and not drunk but sprinkled onto the participants and onto altars and images of the gods by the priest or priestess, who performs this action with a sprig or branch of an evergreen tree dipped into the mead. At the conclusion of the rite, the mead is poured into the ground or into the fire as a final offering to the gods or ancestral spirits. A series of publications by McNallen (1986) offers suggestions about Blots for particular deities and occasions.
In past Nordic tradition, the Blot originally involved a ritual of animal sacrifice. Blood, the literal meaning of the word Blot, was caught from the slit throat of the slain animal in a sacred bowl and sprinkled onto participants and then poured or smeared onto images of the gods positioned on altars. Most modern Nordic Pagans have chosen to substitute mead for blood, while believing that they are preserving the same meaning of a distribution of life force between the participants and their gods. The ancient ritual would end with the participants feasting on the slain animal, cooked after its sacrifice. Modern Nordic Pagans likewise conclude their Blots with a feast.
Though the Sumbel and the Blot are the most well-known and widely shared forms of ritual in the overall Nordic Pagan community, there are others as well. These include Seid or Seith (Icelandic Seiðr), a Shamanistic practice involving trancelike, oracular states used for contacting gods and spirits (Blain 2002) and life cycle rites for births, comings of age, weddings, and funerals (McNallen 1986).

Key Organizational Structures: The Kindred, Godi, and Gythia
The AFA also introduced organizational structures, based on the Icelandic Eddas, Sagas, and other lore, that have proven enduring in the Nordic Pagan community. At the local level, Heathens who worship together may

Autumn Blot. Law speaker reading a poem, outside Reykjavík, Iceland, September 1996. (Courtesy of Michael Strmiska)

form associations known as kindreds, also known as hearths or fellowships and by other names. The members of such an association are bound together by oaths of loyalty and mutual assistance, forming a supportive, often closely knit community. These local organizations range in size from as few as several members to as many as 100. An important characteristic of these associations is their generally democratic and nonhierarchical nature, with decisions made by discussion and consensus and leaders elected to various administrative posts, often on a rotating basis. Powerful personalities do, however, dominate, and there is a continuing tendency for dissatisfied minority factions to split away from the main group and form new associations. There is also a further category of Nordic Pagans—“solitaries” who practice rituals alone, as are also found in Wicca and other modern Pagan traditions.
Kindreds meet with other kindreds for regional meetings known as Things, an Old Norse term referring to the ancient Scandinavian practice, well described in the Icelandic Saga literature, of gathering together at regular intervals through the year to reaffirm laws, oaths, and contractual relationships; determine the leadership of local communities; mediate disputes; conduct rituals and commercial transactions; and feast and celebrate. For Nordic Pagans living in the United States today, many of the legal and quasi-governmental functions of the ancient Thing have been taken over by the civic structures of American society, but the Things remain important occasions for solemn worship and reaffirmation of oaths as well as not-so-solemn feasting and celebration, games, and competitions. There are also workshops offering instruction in traditional Nordic crafts and skills and merchants selling wares such as drinking horns, hand-carved runes, medieval-style clothing, small metal hammers of Thor worn as medallions, and other Nordic paraphernalia. Several American Nordic Pagans from the New York metropolitan area who were interviewed for this article spoke of a regional gathering known as the East Coast Thing (ECT) as a seminal event in solidifying links between followers of Asatru and Heathenry in the area.
Nordic Pagan Thing gatherings are comparable in many respects to the Pagan festivals described by Sarah Pike in her 2001 work Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves, but there are some important differences. First of all, where Pike’s festivals are open to a wide variety of different Pagan traditions, Things are for Nordic Pagans only, though within this framework there are to be found subgroups of Germanic, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian-Icelandic Pagans. Pike mentions ritual nudity and, in particular, naked dancing around bonfires as popular elements of many Pagan festivals (Pike 2001, 182–217). Such bacchanalian revelry rarely if ever takes place in Things. Nordic Pagans generally disdain public nudity, firmly stating their wish for all their religious activities to be fully accessible to families and children. They tend to associate public nakedness and the related possibility of free-flowing, polyamorous sexuality with Wicca, a form of modern Paganism that most Nordic Pagans reject as an all-too-modern, made-up religion with overly loose morals, lacking any substantial basis in an actual pre-Christian religious tradition.
There are also national gatherings of Nordic Pagans from across the United States modeled on the Althing, the ancient Pan-Icelandic quasi-parliament that was held each summer in the spectacular natural landscape of Thingvellir in the early period of Icelandic settlement. The American Althing is an annual event, as is another large-scale national gathering called the Trothmoot.
The AFA also introduced a kind of Nordic Pagan clergy modeled on the Icelandic godar (goðar). In ancient Iceland, the godi (Icelandic goði, female equivalent gyðja, here anglicized as gythia) was both a priest offering worship to the Nordic gods and a powerful community leader, often a wealthy landowner with a large retinue of retainers and servants. The godi or gythia in modern Paganism is expected to be knowledgeable in the lore of ancient texts and proficient in Sumbels, Blots, and other ritual practices, though particular Nordic Pagan communities have varying ideas about the kind of training and credentials required of restore “a godi or a gythia” (important).
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as Jeffrey Kaplan has chronicled, the AFA was bedeviled by the persistent efforts of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis, including members of the American Nazi Party, to infiltrate the organization and steer it into an overtly racist direction. Whereas McNallen and Stine were dedicated to a celebration of Scandinavian-Germanic cultural heritage and a revival of spiritual and ritual elements of that heritage, the Neo-Nazis were intent on hijacking the AFA agenda to promote a religious justification of white supremacy and Germanic superiority. After many exhausting clashes with such Neo-Nazi infiltrators and financial and organizational difficulties, McNallen and Stine pulled the plug on the original AFA in 1987. However, they eventually introduced a new organization with the same initials as the old: the Asatru Folk Assembly (Kaplan 1997, 18–20). An important lesson drawn from these early experiences with Neo-Nazis is a widespread recognition of the need to carefully screen potential members to keep out people with extreme political or racial views, as well as the mentally unbalanced. For this reason, many kindreds only allow people to become members if they are already known to someone in the group who can vouch for their character and appropriateness. Therefore, someone interested in joining an Asatru kindred without knowing any of its members would need to begin by making the acquaintance of a kindred member, who could then invite him or her into the kindred at a later date.
Though the disbanding of the original AFA might have appeared to be a bad omen for the future of Asatru in the United States, McNallen and Stine had planted seeds that would take firm root. Those seeds would give rise to a veritable forest of seedlings and saplings in the sense of Asatru and Heathen organizations both large and small that are now, some two decades later, growing to maturity. Two new Asatru umbrella organizations—the Ring of Troth, later to be known simply as the Troth, and the Asatru Alliance—were founded in the 1990s. Together with the AFA’s new incarnation as the Asatru Folk Assembly, the Troth and the Alliance have succeeded in attracting new generations of Americans to Asatru/Heathenry, with the advent of the World Wide Web and Internet discussion groups in the mid-1990s greatly facilitating the spread of modern Nordic Paganism. Though these various organizations have sometimes been rivals and even enemies, it is indisputable that they share many common features. All have a singular devotion to the same Nordic cultural and spiritual heritage, studying the same literary sources from Iceland and other Nordic nations, worshipping the same gods, observing the same rituals of Sumbel and Blot, and taking equal pride in re-creating the lifestyle of Nordic people of the past.

Autumn Blot ritual, outside Reykjavík, Iceland, September 1996. (Courtesy of Michael Strmiska)

Divisions and Disputes: The Folkish versus Universalist Debate
The disputes that have raged between these three divisions of Nordic Paganism in the United States, as well as among dozens of smaller local associations and nonaffiliated solitary worshippers, have generally centered around conflicting definitions and interpretations of the Nordic heritage that all these various organizations and individuals are dedicated to reviving and upholding. A key focus of debate is the issue of whether this heritage is seen as something primarily cultural, preserved in the myths, texts, arts, languages, and other cultural expressions of the ancient Norse-Germanic peoples, or whether it is understood as something genetic or racial, encoded in the genes or DNA, collective unconscious, or racial memory of people of Northern European ancestry. The two views are often mediated in a third position in which the transmission of Nordic heritage is understood as something both genetic and cultural; inherited by some from their ancestors as a genetic predisposition that is activated by cultural stimulation but also passed on and shared via cultural communication to people of unrelated ancestry. There is also a fourth position, which may be termed a more theological perspective: that the Nordic gods exist as actual, supernatural entities and reach out to humans they wish to become Heathens, transmitting Nordic spirituality directly to those that they choose, regardless of genes or culture.
The position that is taken on this genetic/cultural divide determines the stance that each organization and individual member takes concerning who is entitled to join the revival of Nordic Paganism. That is, whether the Nordic heritage is understood as something passed through genes and ancestry, through culture alone, or through some combination of the two affects whether Nordic Pagan groups limit their membership to people of Northern European ancestry or open their doors to anyone who has a spiritual interest in the Nordic cultural heritage.
In the internal discourse of American Asatru/Heathenry, these two positions were long debated as “folkish” versus “universalist” versions of Nordic Paganism. Nordic Pagan associations were described as folkish if they restricted membership in Asatru or Heathenry to Northern European “folk,” that is, people of Northern European ancestry, with some reference to nineteenth-century Romantic ideas of each nation possessing a collective “folk-soul.” The universalist label applied to those who believed in allowing anyone to join a Heathen or Asatru association, regardless of racial or ethnic background, if the person demonstrated a sincere interest in Asatru—if, in a phrase encountered many times in the course of interviews, people felt a definite “pull” to the ancient Nordic gods.
The AFA and the Asatru Alliance have tended to favor the more ancestrally oriented folkish view, and the Troth has more often stood on the open-to-all, feel-the-pull, universalist side of this debate. Some critics have mocked the universalist-oriented Troth as “Wiccatru,” meaning an unholy combination of Asatru and Wicca. However, a neat division of these organizations and the many smaller groups and persons affiliated with these large associations into folkish versus universalist, racist versus nonracist groups is not accurate, however tempting it may be for those seeking neat categories and classifications. The issues involved in the folkish-versus-universalist debate are not settled points of doctrine in any of these organizations but are in fact under continual discussion in all of these communities. An appropriate comparison could be made with the never-ending debates in Judaism about who is entitled to be a Jew and under what conditions and with what restrictions a non-Jewish person may convert to Judaism.
Owing to the decentralized structure of authority in Asatru and Heathenry, with the AFA, Troth, and Asatru Alliance only being umbrella organizations, not hierarchical authorities delineating a strict party line for all to follow, individual kindreds and persons take a wide range of positions on this and many other issues, regardless of the stances of such leading figures as Steven McNallen of the AFA, Valgard Murray of the Asatru Alliance, or Diana Paxson of the Troth. A further complexity is the fact that members of different Nordic Pagan communities are often in friendly communication with each other, regardless of the supposed ideological divisions between their different associations. Even when disputes flare up in e-mail discussion groups or other channels, the commonalities among diverse Nordic Pagans or Heathens generally far outweigh the issues that divide them.
It should be noted that even among the more exclusive or folkish Nordic Pagans, the concern with promoting the cultural and spiritual heritage that they see as a cultural and/or genetic inheritance from Northern European ancestors is not an assertion of superiority over other peoples with other ethnic traditions, nor is it a call for hatred against other peoples and their traditions. As a writer in the AFA publication Runestone explains:
It is a sad comment on our times that whispers raised in pride by European-descended people will draw accusations of “racism,” whereas the angry shouts of other groups will not . . . we are not racists (unless being of European heritage and not hating yourself is racist). We are opposed to racial hatred and intimidation, regardless of who practices it. We salute honorable men and women of all racial, ethnic and religious groups. The AFA sympathizes with the efforts of all cultural and racial groups to maintain their identity and promote their legitimate interests . . . Having said that, we might add that we are not pitiful ethno-masochists, cringing before the court of the politically correct, ready to apologize for living. We are proud of the countless generations that gave us birth, and we will stand, unflinchingly, as their sons and daughters. (“The Asatru Folk Assembly: Building Tribes and Waking the Spiritual Path of Our Ancestors,” Asatru Folk Assembly website)
In contrast, an East Coast Asatru organization called Raven Kindred North promotes the view that although Nordic Paganism is about Northern European heritage, it is not for European people only. The group’s promotional literature states, “Asatru is for anyone who wants to live with honor and worship the Eddic Gods. Anyone who wants to become Asatru can, regardless of gender, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or any other divisive criteria. Being of European ancestry is not a requirement” (North).
To sample a third, still slightly different view, the following is a statement from the promotional literature for the Asatru Alliance: “Asatru is the native/organic religion of the peoples of Northern Europe prior to the Christian domination of Europe . . . Membership in the Alliance is encouraged for those who actively promote and believe in the Aesir and Vanir [the two main groups of gods in Norse mythology] and our collective European Heritage. Anyone interested in joining the Asatru Alliance should contact their Kindred of choice for acceptance” (Asatru Alliance website).

European Ambiguities
When Nordic Pagans in the United States speak of their European origins or ancestors, there is a certain ambiguity in terms of what Nordic Paganism is, where it came from, and whom it is for. It is common for Nordic Pagans to describe Asatru or Heathenry in very broad and general terms as being the religious expression of the cultural heritage of “Northern European” peoples or even, as in the Runestone passage noted earlier, of “European-descended” peoples. Considering the diversity of nations and language groups that have existed in Europe and even Northern Europe from ancient times to the present, the lack of precision about which particular linguistic or cultural group the modern religion is derived from or related to is striking. There seems to be a tendency among many Nordic Pagans to “essentialize” Northern Europe and sometimes Europe in general as the “land of our ancestors,” without actually explaining which ancestors in which land, speaking which language, and so forth. As most Nordic Pagans center their religion on the worship of Odin, Thor, and other gods found in the Old Norse–Icelandic literature, what seems to be occurring is a use of the religious heritage of one particular part of Northern Europe as a convenient, shorthand way of respecting the collective religious heritage of a more diverse set of past peoples and cultures, that of pre-Christian Northern Europe or even Europe in general. The general vagueness of American Nordic Pagan views of the Northern European “homeland” is a poignant commentary on the distance that divides American Heathens and Asatru followers from the lands of their spiritual ancestors, but it also helps to mediate conflicting definitions of Nordic heritage and divergent loyalties toward different specific regions of Northern Europe.
However, it should be noted that some Nordic Pagans are highly knowledgeable and articulate about the regional varieties of ancient Northern European culture and religion and travel to meet with their Pagan compatriots in Iceland and other nations. Those Heathens and Asatruar who acquire substantial knowledge of the texts, traditions, and languages of the various peoples of pre-Christian Northern Europe are greatly respected in their communities, and they often publish articles in Asatru or Heathen magazines as well as compete in lore contests at Things and other important occasions.

Hand-manufactured goods on display at a Viking historical re-creation festival at Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, June 2002. (Gísli Guðjónsson,

Sources of Nordic Paganism
Nordic Paganism is a Reconstructionist form of Paganism. The primary source materials are literary texts written in medieval Iceland in the historical range of 1100 to 1300, in the Germanic-Scandinavian language variously known as Old Norse or Old Icelandic, which is indeed quite similar to modern Icelandic. These texts are believed by modern Nordic Pagans to preserve Pagan beliefs from long before Iceland’s conversion from Norse Paganism to Christianity in the year 1000, an event that will be discussed in a later section. Several categories of texts are important to modern Nordic Pagans. First, there is the collection of largely mythological poems known as the Poetic Edda, with individual Eddic poems providing accounts of the past creation and future destruction of the world, the nature of the Norse universe, and the adventures and misadventures of the various gods, as well as the exploits of certain nondivine heroes and heroines. Further information on the same topics is given in a supplementary text, the Prose Edda, written by the medieval Icelandic scholar and statesman Snorri Sturluson.
The leader of the Norse gods is Odin, the one-eyed god of wisdom, war, magic, and poetry, among other powers and functions. Other prominent Norse deities include Thor, the reliable protector of humankind who brandishes a hammer to smash malevolent giants and other foes; Tyr, god of war and oaths; Frigg, the wise wife of Odin; Baldur, the son of Odin, fated to first be slain by his own brother and then return from death to rule the world; Loki, the sometimes harmful, sometimes helpful god of guile and trickery; Ægir and Ran, god and goddess of the sea; Freyja, the goddess of fertility, love, and war; her twin brother Freyr, also associated with fertility; Njorthur, god of seafaring, fishing, and commerce and father of Freyja and Freyr; and Hel, the goddess of death. Other deities are described in less detail in the Old Norse literature, and other classes of supernatural beings such as Elves and Landspirits, worshipped in both ancient Norse tradition and modern Nordic Paganism.
The Poetic Edda and Prose Edda are the main sources of information on the Norse religion of pre-Christian Iceland and Scandinavia, but an additional category of texts, novel-like narratives known as the Sagas, are equally important for providing a down-to-earth view of Icelandic life and society in the early centuries of Icelandic history. Of particular significance are the so-called Family Sagas, which tell of families, feuds, and political maneuverings among the early generations of Icelandic settlers following the first Viking arrivals in the last third of the ninth century ce. It is from the Sagas that modern Nordic Pagans derive much of their understanding of Norse institutions such as the Thing and the godi and ritual activities such as the Blot. The Sagas also greatly influence modern thinking about the morality and ethics of the Pagans of the past, with the heroes and heroines of the Sagas serving somewhat as role models, much as Jews or Christians might view leading persons of the Old or New Testament.
Although the Eddas and Sagas are by far the most respected and influential texts consulted by modern Nordic Pagans, other texts and sources of information are widely shared and discussed. The Heimskringla, also written by Snorri Sturluson, is a semihistorical, semimythological account of ancient Norwegian kings that provides information about gods, ritual practices, and life and society on the Scandinavian mainland (as opposed to the Icelandic focus of the Sagas). Skaldic poems, an archaic Icelandic genre from Viking times, provide vivid accounts of warrior heroes and gods.
There are also non-Norse, non-Icelandic texts. The medieval Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, which tells of Scandinavian warrior life, is a valued literary treasure from England. More fragmentary Anglo-Saxon texts, such as the Nine Spells Charm (Rodrigues 1993), provide insight into the Anglo-Saxon variants of Norse Paganism—for example, the Norse Odin worshipped as the Anglo-Saxon Woden in England and the poem The Dream of the Rood, which blends Christian and Norse Pagan motifs in strange and startling ways. A fragmentary German text, the Merseburg Charm, tells of

Asatru woman at a Viking festival in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, June 2002. (Gísli Guðjónsson,

spells and incantations containing mythological information. The German epic Nibelungenlied is popular as an illustration of warrior ethics. German and Scandinavian folk and fairy tales are also valued as expressions of Nordic sensibility toward life and nature. The Gesta Danorum, a history of the Danes written in Latin by an antiquarian monk, Saxo Grammaticus, provides alternate and sometimes strikingly different accounts of Eddic myths and gods. The Roman historian Tacitus’s Germania, an account of German tribes on the fringes of the Roman Empire, is also studied with interest as the earliest documentary text related to Germanic-Scandinavian peoples. Most Nordic Pagans read these texts in English translation, but scholarly Pagans study these documents in their original languages.
Various nontextual sources of information about past Nordic life and culture are highly valued. Archaeological remains in the Scandinavian nations—from the ancient kings’ tombs in Denmark and Sweden to Viking tombstones and runic inscriptions on the Baltic island of Gotland to the site of the original Icelandic Thing parliament at Thingvellir—are sites of Nordic Pagan pilgrimage. Discussions of the history and significance of such sites are followed with intense interest in both popular and scholarly media, from documentary programs on the Discovery Channel television network to archaeological journals. Runes, the ancient Scandinavian writing and symbol system, receives intensive interest because of the widespread belief among modern Nordic Pagans that the runes possess esoteric, ritual significance.
Although it is doubtless true that modern Nordic Pagans take an extremely positive, even romanticized view of past Nordic history and culture, theirs is not an entirely uncritical view. They seek to reconstruct only select aspects of the worldview and lifestyle of the Vikings and other past Nordic peoples, and they acknowledge that there are other aspects, such as slavery and wanton violence, that they are all too happy to leave in the past. A good many Nordic Pagans follow scholarly debates about Nordic history and are conscious that the contemporary understanding of the Nordic past is continuously evolving through the clash of multiple perspectives and interpretations, like modern Nordic Paganism itself.

Worldview and Values in Nordic Paganism
The Nordic Pagan view of the world and sense of moral values is strongly influenced by the ancient texts, such as the Eddas and Sagas, but this is not a matter of slavish obedience to a set of absolute dogmas declared by the ancients. Nordic Pagans consult and reflect on the old texts and whatever other information they can find about past Nordic beliefs and ways of life, but they revel in their freedom to think through these matters anew and reinterpret and refit old traditions to modern conditions as necessary. That is, Nordic Pagans, like other Reconstructionist Pagans, are involved in a dialogue with the past, seeking not so much to imitate the past as to learn from it, for the purposes of the present and the future. In this way, they may be said to resemble the Viking explorers of 1,000 years ago who carried their ancestral gods and traditions to new lands and established new societies that did not simply mirror their previous way of life but engaged with new and previously unexpected possibilities as well. A few examples of how modern Nordic Pagans both respect and reinterpret the traditions of old will serve to illustrate the point.
In the Eddas and related Old Norse texts, there are a number of descriptions of the ancient Nordic view of the universe. The different accounts vary on certain details but agree that the Norse cosmos is divided into various levels housing different orders of beings, such as humans, gods, elves, dwarfs, and giants, and also the dead, who are themselves described as divided into different locations. The relationship between these different worlds and their different occupants are not always clearly explained, and such explanations that are given vary, but the general principle of a multilevel cosmos peopled by many types of beings, both human and other, holds firm.
Though the gods of most religions are generally defined as immortal beings immune from death, there is a poignant mortality ascribed to the gods of Norse mythology. In Ragnarok, the catastrophic battle of gods and demons that destroys the world, three of the most famous Norse gods die in combat against demonic opponents. As described in the poem Voluspa and elsewhere in the Eddas, Odin dies fighting against Fenrir, a monstrous wolf who will also devour the sun. Fenrir is the child of Loki, as is Thor’s adversary the Midgard Serpent, a dragonlike being so large that in its home beneath the ocean, it encircles the entire earth (Midgard). Thor slays the serpent, only to die soon after from his wounds. Freyr’s opponent is the fire giant Surtur (sometimes shortened to Surt), who first overcomes the god of fertility and then burns the universe to ashes with his sword of conflagration. After the earth is totally decimated and sinks into the ocean, it rises again, renewed in freshness and fertility, with the new ruler of the world being a reborn Baldur, son of Odin, accompanied by his brother and slayer, the blind god Hoth.
Few Nordic Pagans see the myth of Ragnarok as a literal prophecy of future events; rather, they see it as a symbolic warning of the danger of destruction if humans act unwisely in relation to each other and to nature. The death of the gods, particularly Odin, is viewed as a poignant meditation on the inevitability of death and the need to live with honor and integrity until that day arrives.
In a number of important texts, such as the Eddic poems Grimnismal and Vafthrudnismal and the commentary on the Eddic poems known as the Prose Edda, the different worlds of humans, gods, and other beings are said to be supported and connected by the branches of a great “World Tree” known as Yggdrasil. The Nordic gods are said to hold their daily congress at the base of this tree, gathering together to debate and decide matters much like the ancient Scandinavians in their Thing meetings. The tree itself is tended by three wise female beings known as the Norns, who carve runes (the ancient Norse script used both for communication and magic) that guide the destinies of both gods and humans.
Most modern Nordic Pagans do not generally endorse the view of the universe presented in Norse mythology as a literal description of the nature of our world but regard it more as a symbolic expression of the existence of a higher realm of being beyond our ordinary, everyday experience and of the interrelatedness of that higher world or worlds and our own. Where there is a wider span of views is on the issue of the nature of the Norse deities.
Some Nordic Pagans believe the Norse gods to be actual supernatural beings, and others see the gods as culturally coded symbols of important aspects of life and human nature, with Odin representing wisdom and mystical insight, Thor symbolizing valor, Tyr integrity, Frigg women’s intuition, Freyja female strength and sexuality, and so forth. That is, some see the gods as existing “out there,” whereas for other Nordic Pagans, the gods exist “in here,” possessing reality on an imaginative, psychological level, inside the minds and spirits of those who pay heed to them. There are, of course, intermediate positions between these two and alternate perspectives as well, but the two views are representative of much of the thinking about the nature of the gods within Asatru and Heathenry. What unites all Nordic Pagans, whatever their different understandings of the gods, is their common conviction that the Norse myths and related Nordic traditions provide a coherent set of values for how to live in our world in an honorable and successful manner.
Old Norse religious and mythological texts do not provide any definitive statement of Pagan ethics, though the Eddic poem Havamal (The Sayings of the High One [Odin]) contains a good deal of pithy advice for how to live with integrity and survive in the midst of adversity. The core of Icelandic society for most of its history has been the farmer, whose lot was never easy in the often harsh conditions produced by Iceland’s far northern climate and isolation, and Havamal provides something of a tough Icelandic farmer’s kind of unsentimental, down-to-earth folk wisdom. Some characteristic sayings include the following:

To his friend a man should be a friend
and repay gifts with gifts;
laughter a man should give for laughter
and repay treachery with lies (v. 42)
A farm of your own is better, even if small;
everyone’s someone at home;
A man’s heart bleeds when he has to beg
for every single meal (v. 37)
Average-wise a man ought be,
never too wise;
for he lives the best sort of life,
he who knows a fair amount (v. 54)
Silent and thoughtful a prince’s son should be
and bold in fighting;
cheerful and merry every man should be
until he waits for death (v. 15)
Fire is best for the sons of men,
and the sight of the sun
his health, if a man can manage to keep it,
living without disgrace (v. 68)
Cattle die, kinsmen die,
you yourself shall die
I know one thing which never dies:
the reputation of each dead man. (v. 77)

We do not find in this text any absolute ethical standard or aspiration to saintliness or moral perfection, as in religions such as Christianity or Buddhism, but only the simple but firm determination to live a life of enjoyment, accomplishment, and integrity within an acceptance of human limitations. This grounded and pragmatic view of life is profoundly humanistic without denying the importance of the sacred or the supernatural. One seeks to be on good terms with other people, with the natural world, and with the supernatural world as well, without shrinking from conflict or from defending one’s rights.
The Sagas celebrate tough, shrewd heroes such as Egill Skallagrimsson of Egils Saga, Gunnar of Hlidarend of Njals Saga, and Gisli Sursson of Gislis Saga, who fight on against the odds and do not back down, even at the cost of death. The Sagas contain equally stouthearted and strong-willed heroines, such as Gudrun Osvifrsdottir of Laxdaela Saga. Such steadfastness reflects the attitude of the gods in facing the final battle of Ragnarok. Even though they are fated to fall in combat against demonic forces, they prepare in full earnest and make their maximum effort. The sense of living a dignified life without any hope of a miraculous salvation is central to the ethics and worldview of the ancient Norse texts and is taken up in modern Nordic Paganism as well.
Nordic Pagans in the United States have developed the list of Nine Noble Virtues as a brief, easy-to-remember summary of their overall approach to ethics. The Nine Noble Virtues may seem to outsiders like a kind of Viking version of the Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments that comes up one short, but the number nine has a mystic significance in Norse mythology. Nine is the number of worlds encompassed by the cosmic tree Yggdrasil, the number of nights during which Odin hangs himself on the World Tree in a Shamanistic myth related in Havamal, and the number of steps taken by Thor before he dies after slaying the mighty Midgard Serpent. The Nine Noble Virtues (often abbreviated as NNV) are courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industriousness, self-reliance, and perseverance. Such is the version promoted by Edred Thorsson; an alternate list of strength, courage, joy, honor, freedom, kinship, realism, vigor, and ancestry has been espoused by AFA founder Steven McNallen. The McNallen version of the NNV puts more emphasis on family lineage and ethnic identity than Thorsson’s, but the two are otherwise quite similar.
Nordic Pagans vary in their attitudes toward the NNV, in whichever version. As Asatru or Heathenry has from its beginnings been a nondogmatic, nonauthoritarian, decentralized religion, some Nordic Pagans are opposed to the promotion of something that looks to them rather like a doctrine or creed. Others see the NNV as a valuable tool for stimulating awareness and promoting discussion of ethics among Nordic Pagans. In an essay on the Nine Noble Virtues, Massachusetts Asatru leader Mike Smith reflected:
Yes, about 6 or 7 years ago, I was one of them folks who would proudly repeat them [the NNV] over and over like a mantra . . . But now, I think they do more harm than good in the long run. My reasons for this are rather simple. One, is that no one can take a single word and all interpret it the same . . . I’ve personally heard more than 300 different definitions and descriptions of each and every “virtue” . . . Basically, the NNV are sort of a “cheat sheet” or the really crummy “Cliff’s Notes” that are very loosely based on the Havamal. If, in high school or college, reading the “Cliff’s Notes” or renting the movie never got you an “A+” on that literature test . . . then why do the same for something as important as your religion? (Smith 2003b, 26–27)
Smith’s account of his transition from an initial enthusiasm for the Nine Noble Virtues to a critical awareness of their inadequacy encapsulates a journey from a relatively simple and uneducated version of Asatru to a more sophisticated and scholarly one, based on a progressively greater knowledge of Old Norse texts and Nordic cultural heritage. Many committed Asatruar and Heathens experience a similar process of development.
Though thoughtful Nordic Pagans such as Smith may reject the NNV as simplistic or misguided, the interviews conducted for this article demonstrated a very strong concern with ethics among Asatruar and Heathens. Above all, those interviewed expressed a clear commitment to living with a sense of honor, integrity, and honesty; working hard to improve one’s lot in life, both materially and otherwise; contributing to the betterment of one’s community; and protecting and caring for one’s home and family. Though such ethical concerns are hardly unique, what surely is unique among Nordic Pagans is that their frame of reference for discussing, reflecting on, and acting on these ethical concerns comes from their understanding of ancient Nordic culture and lifestyle, as derived from the Eddas, Sagas, and other sources. If some modern American Christians articulate their approach to ethical matters in the form of the question “What would Jesus do?” their Nordic Pagan counterparts frame the question as “What would the Vikings do?” or “What would the heroes of the Sagas do?”
Nordic Pagan ethics are therefore firmly grounded in Nordic cultural heritage, as best as this can be reconstructed; this is also the case with ritual procedures, organizational structures, and the attitudes taken toward the Norse gods. In all of these areas, we find Nordic Pagans using building blocks from the past to create new religious structures for use in modern society. Debates continue over many issues, but what holds the often quarrelsome community together is a shared belief in the spiritual and moral value of Nordic heritage, which Nordic Pagan individuals and communities continually reexamine and reinterpret from any number of perspectives, based on the availability of information, their knowledge of history and languages, and their personal motivations. For some, the ancient lifestyle is most important, for others the worship of the gods, and for still others the moral integrity they associate with the Vikings and other Nordic peoples of the past. But all agree that there is something of great spiritual value in the Nordic past, which they are determined to revive for the present time and then carry on into the future.

Profiles in Nordic Paganism
A closer look at some individual Heathens and Asatru followers will provide a more three-dimensional understanding of the diversity of beliefs and practices within Nordic Paganism, as well as why modern Americans choose this religious path and what it means to them.

Profile 1: Krei Steinberg
Krei Steinberg was interviewed in January 2004 in Manhattan. She is a gregarious and articulate thirty-year-old Caucasian woman who was born in Florida, schooled in Boston, and is now working as a librarian in the New York City area. Krei calls herself a “Euro-mutt,” with reference to her mixed European ancestry combining German, Hungarian, and other ethnic strands, including Jewish religious identity in past generations. She considers the German ancestry to be the one most important to her because she was very close to her German grandmother during her own childhood. Krei has visited Germany, Hungary, and other parts of Europe, including Iceland, both as a child and as an adult. She has been a Heathen for nearly thirteen years, and after an intensive training program not unlike the training that a Christian minister might receive, including courses in counseling at an area college, she is now a gythia.
How did Krei come to be a Nordic Pagan? She reports that it came about during her first year of college in Boston, when she was eighteen. In a life-threatening crisis that she chose not to describe in detail, Krei called on the Norse goddess of death, Hel, and said, “Get me the f*** out of this . . . if you help me with this, I will do . . . I will be there for you. For the rest of my life. Miraculously, I escaped any real violence . . . and this led me into Heathenry” (Interview with Krei Steinberg, January 2004). From that time on, Krei reports that she has felt a deepening bond with Hel and that this has positively impacted her life.
Though this crisis situation was obviously a catalyst, there were certain factors in her earlier years that may have planted the seed of Heathen interest in Krei. As a child, her German grandmother often told her German folk- and fairy tales, and her interest in European folklore and culture, particularly Germanic traditions, was further sparked by childhood visits to her grandmother’s brother in Germany. Krei also reports that even as a child, she always felt aware of death, and she has had premonitions of others’ deaths that have often turned out to come true. This background may also help to explain Krei’s affinity for the Norse goddess of death.
Apart from the folklore passed on from her grandmother, Krei’s childhood home was decidedly nonreligious, if not antireligious, as her parents were committed atheists with a critical attitude toward religion (though her great-great grandfather was a rabbi in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, New York). However, a close female friend of her mother was a Wiccan. As an adult, Krei is very scornful toward Wicca, which she sees as an artificial and insubstantial religion, but her childhood acquaintance with Wicca may have opened her eyes to Pagan possibilities. Krei also encountered Afro-Caribbean religious traditions in Florida, which she says impressed her in a positive way. It is notable that of the different religious influences in her childhood milieu, there were Jewish, atheist, Wicca, and Afro-Caribbean components, as well as her grandmother’s German folklore, but little if any Christian influence.
It would not, however, be accurate to say that Krei was oblivious to spiritual possibilities during childhood. She recalls various spiritual experiences as a girl, such as a time when she felt herself accompanied by an invisible presence in a forest area that she thought might have been a god of some sort. As a teenager in the years before college, Krei began reading books promoting various forms of modern Paganism, including Asatru, but she was dissatisfied with a perceived lack of authenticity in much of what she read.
In college, Krei met other students with interests in alternative forms of religion and spirituality and found herself increasingly drawn to Nordic Paganism over the other options under discussion among her circle of friends. She delved into the rich libraries of the Boston area to research Germanic mythology and folklore in the broad sense of Germanic, from the Icelandic Eddas and Sagas to the kind of German folktales she remembered from her grandmother, and began to experiment with rituals of worship of the Norse gods. The emergence of Asatru and Heathen discussion groups on the Internet in the mid-1990s provided new sources of information and support, further kindling Krei’s growing devotion to Heathenry.
Her initial decision to commit herself to Heathenry may have been occasioned by a personal crisis, but her deepening involvement came about through months, if not years, of intensive research. Much of this study was done on her own, but when Krei decided to become a gythia after moving to New York City in 1997, she followed an intensive training program supervised by a now-defunct local branch of the Scandinavian-based Nordic Pagan group called Forn Seðr, meaning “Ancient Tradition.” The training involved in-depth study of ancient Norse literature, lore, and rituals, including language study and research papers, which Krei suggests was probably equivalent to a master’s graduate program.
The training also included classes in counseling and social work in a local university and volunteer service in a range of community agencies to obtain the necessary knowledge of mental health issues and psychiatric and community services. The classes had become part of the training because of the need for godi and gythia, as community leaders, to be able to assist people with emotional and social problems and refer them to professional psychiatric services and social service agencies as needed. The training lasted four years and was carried out in tandem with full-time employment as a librarian.
To this day, Krei keeps an extremely busy schedule between her regular job and her gythia duties to provide religious services; the latter includes presiding over or assisting in Blots and other rituals, holding classes for those who wish to learn more about Nordic heritage and Heathenry, and counseling and providing other forms of assistance to members of her religious community. It is therefore not surprising that she speaks with passion about the Heathen commitment to hard work, self-betterment, and community service. Krei expressed scorn for some Wiccans she has known in the New York area, who, she asserts, were too lazy to work but instead made fraudulent claims for government disability assistance on the basis of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Krei traces what she sees as many Wiccans’ lack of ethical integrity back to Wicca’s lack of any core religious and cultural tradition that could provide a more definite sense of morality and ethics. She also feels that Christianity has a serious moral flaw in its idea of forgiveness for all through the sacrifice of Jesus. “In our community, if you do something wrong to someone . . . you pay for it” (Interview with Krei Steinberg, January 2004). Krei clarified that she does not mean resorting to vigilante justice but referring offenders to police and legal authorities.
Krei completely rejects the idea that involvement in Nordic Paganism should be restricted to those of a particular racial, ethnic, or ancestral background. In her view, participation is strictly a matter of feeling a connection to the Norse gods. She worships her own ancestors but sees this as somewhat separate from her devotion to Hel and other Norse deities. She disagrees with “tribal” Nordic Pagans who advocate forming extremely close-knit, somewhat insular Heathen communities—“tribes” that would ultimately function as economically and politically self-sufficient communities largely independent from the rest of American society (somewhat like a Pagan version of the Amish): “I do not want to live in a ninth-century Thing system in twenty-first-century New York City!” (Interview with Krei Steinberg, January 2004). Krei sees Heathenism as having a strictly religious purpose, that is, worshipping the Norse gods and respecting the related cultural heritage, which she suggests is a form of worship in itself.

Profile 2: Mitch Zebrowski
Mitch Zebrowski is a fifty-year-old anesthesiologist of mixed Polish, Russian, German, Dutch, English, and Irish descent. He lives with his family in a comfortable suburban home in Delaware, where he was interviewed in January 2004. He is married for the second time, with two adopted children from his first marriage and one daughter born during his second. Mitch is also a military veteran. He first joined the Asatru Folk Assembly, as a solitary Heathen, in the early 1990s. On forming a kindred in the later 1990s, he joined the Asatru Alliance, which only accepts members from kindreds.
Asked about his original motivation for getting involved in Nordic Paganism, Mitch pointed to two different factors. One was the cumulative effect of intense spiritual experiences of nature that he has had throughout his life, which he describes as “epiphanies.” Hunting has been a cherished part of his life since his teenage years and has become an important part of his Heathenry as well, in ways that will be described. The other experience was the death of his grandfather. Looking at his grandfather’s dead body laid out in a coffin, Mitch had a sudden, urgent feeling that “this . . . is not my grandfather. He is somewhere else now” (Interview with Mitch Zebrowski, January 2004). This intuition about his grandfather led him to contemplate the possibility of other realms of existence, where ancestors and also gods, whom he considers “elder kin” of a sort, might reside.
Mitch noted that many “folkish” Heathens believe in the deification or transformation of ancestors, which fits well with the folkish concern with ancestry and lineage. For himself, he expressed interest in an idea suggested in some Norse texts and elaborated by modern Nordic Pagans that in death, each person’s self divides into several different spiritual essences, which then disperse in different directions. However, Mitch concedes that there is no definite doctrine of the afterlife in Heathenry or Asatru, and he expresses his personal belief that “part of me will live on with ancestors or be reborn in my family line” (Interview with Mitch Zebrowski, January 2004).
While declaring himself to be somewhat in the folkish camp of modern Nordic Paganism, Mitch notes that his family situation as well as his own thinking on the relationship of Heathenry to ancestry shows how inaccurate it is to simplistically equate folkishness with racism. His two adopted children are Korean by birth, and when asked if their racial background would bar them from ever becoming Heathens in his brand of Nordic Paganism, Mitch answered in a manner that partially included and partially excluded people such as his non-Nordic children.
He explained that although he saw Heathenry as being mainly for people of Northern European ancestry, it is possible for persons with different ancestral backgrounds to become Heathens if they meet several conditions: (1) they must demonstrate a sincere reverence for Norse gods and spirituality; (2) they must come to Heathenry after having first investigated their own ethnic heritage and made an informed choice of Nordic Paganism over their own ancestral religious traditions; and (3) they must apply for acceptance into a particular kindred group, demonstrate their good character and sincere intentions to that group, and meet any other

Mitch Zebrowski with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Kimerly, Summer 1999. (Courtesy of Mitch Zebrowski)

admission requirements held by that kindred. Mitch expressed the view that these requirements represented a barrier to people of non-European ancestry that was “high, but not absolute.”
Furthermore, he stated that even though he thought it conceivable that people of, for example, Asian or African ancestry could become Heathens, he considered it “unlikely” because very few people with such ancestry would, in his view, take a great interest in Nordic cultural heritage and the Norse gods. This point of view depends on an assumption that ethnic ancestry is clearly defined and accessible, an assumption that seems increasingly problematic in today’s increasingly intermixed American population. Mitch seemed to indirectly acknowledge this when he mentioned feeling that his adopted Korean daughter had intermingled her soul with that of Mitch’s family, suggesting that family bonds of love and caring were forces that could transcend genes and genealogy. In discussing this point, he pointed to a Norse tradition of adopting outsiders into one’s family line to show that the old ways were more flexible about ethnicity and ancestry than some might think.
Unlike many Heathens who have been in and out of various kindreds, which themselves tend to have a short life span as members move to other regions or break away to form new fellowships, Mitch was a solitary worshipper for a long time until forming a small kindred composed of his wife, his teenage daughter, and a family friend. Other Heathens often visit and join in with Blots and other activities. Mitch explained that his busy schedule as a doctor and a father made it difficult for him to commit more time to running a kindred and organizing ritual events.
Mitch’s wife had been an Episcopalian prior to his entry into Heathenry, and she continues to participate in Episcopalian church services even while joining Mitch in practicing Nordic Paganism. In the same way, Mitch’s family observes a double set of winter holidays, celebrating the Norse Pagan holiday of Yuletide from December 21 to December 31 and pausing on December 25 for Christmas. Some might see such religious flexibility as blasphemous, but there is in fact a precedent in Old Norse texts such as Landnamabok, which describes a number of early settlers who maintained a dual faith in both the Norse gods and the recently introduced god of Christianity.
In the late 1990s, Mitch embarked on a project that represents a quite interesting and controversial extension of Nordic Paganism. On discovering that a handful of other Heathen men in his Pagan network shared his military background, he initially bonded together with them in a kind of “warrior brotherhood,” focused on the lore and rituals of military training in ancient Northern Europe. As several of these men shared Mitch’s interest in hunting, their discussions began to shift from warrior traditions to hunting lore of ancient Northern Europe, and from this developed the Brotherhood of the Sacred Hunt (BOSH), which is dedicated to reviving ancient Nordic hunting rituals. Among the ancient Germanic tribes, hunting appears to have been a rite of passage into manhood, and Norse texts such as the Volsunga Saga, the parallel Eddic poems, and Gisli’s Saga contain many references to hunting practices and related rituals, such as Sigurd gaining magical powers of perception after tasting the blood of the slain dragon Fafnir. A special significance attributed to fierce animals such as wild boars is evident in the boar-design helmets found in graves of Scandinavian kings and warriors (Davidson 1988, 49). The horns of aurochs used as ceremonial drinking vessels likewise indicate religious lore attached to hunting. Inspired by such traces of past Nordic beliefs and practices, as well as the hunting traditions of other Northern European peoples such as the reindeer-herding Saami or Laplanders, the members of BOSH practice hunting in a highly ritualized manner, including ceremonial expressions of respect to the spirit of the animal to be killed.
BOSH is not the sort of hunting party that goes off into the woods armed with rifles and six-packs to casually shoot unthreatening animals such as deer or ducks from a safe distance while enjoying a slightly inebriated camaraderie. BOSH hunting expeditions are dangerous encounters with large, powerful animals such as wild boar and bison that are not hunted with rifles at a distance but are stabbed to death at short range with metal-tipped wooden spears. BOSH members run considerable risk of personal injury and even death should the animals decide to fight rather than flee or should the spearing go awry. The life-or-death stakes of the encounter with the animal are viewed as absolutely central to the spiritual significance of the event.
The hunts are planned months in advance and involve several weeks of intensive training that is both physical and spiritual in nature. First, there are nine days of fasting, nine being a Norse number of high significance, as mentioned earlier. To accommodate the realities of modern life such as jobs and other duties, the nine days need not be consecutive but may be stretched out over a period of weeks.
The next stage of preparation is a ritual of dedication to the spirit of the animal to be hunted. Each BOSH member cuts his hand or arm to allow a small amount of blood to flow into a bowl of mead. The blood is then offered to the animal-spirit along with a declaration of gratitude for the life to be taken, and a solemn oath is made to perform the hunt with honor and dignity and kill the animal as quickly and cleanly as possible to minimize its suffering. A third phase of preparation involves a night vigil spent in meditation on the animal-spirit, while wearing a mask representing the animal to be hunted. The hunters also practice using the heavy spears to be employed in the hunt and undergo various exercises to increase their strength and agility.
The hunt is carefully planned with the consent and cooperation of the relevant authorities at the state or local level and/or with private landowners who provide land and animals for hunting on a fee-for-service basis. Hunts are conducted inside fenced hunting areas of several hundred acres, either within public parks or on private lands. The animals to be killed are bought in advance from gamekeepers or other suppliers, but this does not mean that the animals are docile or that the hunting will be without risk. The bison and wild boar used in BOSH hunts are large, powerful, and fast moving, able to turn on a dime and snap the hardwood spears, inches thick, that have been stuck in their sides. BOSH members are legally required to sign waivers of responsibility for their possible death or injury in their hunting encounters.
Mitch recalls a time when he came within a hair’s breadth of being skewered by a bison; the beast came close to his face, looked him in the eye, and then turned away. Mitch felt the bison-spirit had decided to spare his life, and he later expressed his gratitude in ritual. BOSH members believe that in the hunt, each hunter must risk his life to prove his worthiness to the animal-spirit, who then permits the animal to be slain.
The hunters move in a pack and attack their prey together, bringing the animal down and killing it as quickly as possible to spare it from unnecessary suffering. After the animal has been slain, each hunter dips his spear in the animal’s blood and uses this blood to trace a rune on his forehead, while offering ritual invocations of the animal-spirit and expressions of gratitude. The animal’s body is carved into pieces, which are then cooked and eaten in a feast or distributed for later use among the hunters and their families.
Those who do not participate in the kill are not permitted to participate in the posthunt ritual reaffirming their brotherhood but must hunt again until they successfully kill an animal. Continuing membership in BOSH depends on actively participating in the hunts. If a member does not join in a hunt in a four-year period, his membership may be suspended.
BOSH has had some success in reaching out to the community to provide hunting training to at-risk or delinquent youths, who have, according to Mitch, generally responded well to the physical and mental challenges of the hunt and seemed to earn new self-respect and maturity from their experiences. In this way, BOSH has begun to fulfill its purpose of reviving ancient Nordic hunting rituals for the benefit of modern society.

Profile 3: Mike Smith
Mike Smith, twenty-eight, lives with his wife and two children in central Massachusetts and works in a payroll company. He was interviewed in New Haven, Connecticut, on a snowy night in January 2004. Mike has indisputable Scandinavian ancestry, with Swedish grandparents who immigrated to the United States in the 1890s. He describes himself as having been a “nerd” and a religious searcher in his high school years, reading widely about eastern and other religions before turning toward Asatru after having a very striking dream at the age of fifteen, in 1990.
He dreamed that he was in the form of a wolf, running freely through a wintry tundra landscape. After tracking, killing, and feeding on a deer, Mike the wolf journeyed on to find a mountain with huge oaken doors. Taking human form once more, he opened the doors and ascended a stone staircase, which led to another set of massive doors. Inside, he warmed himself by a great fire burning in the center of the room. Next to the fire sat a one-eyed, white-bearded old man wearing a blue coat and a gray hood, who Mike realized was Odin. Looking directly into Mike’s eyes with his single, piercing eye, the old man shouted accusingly, “Why have you not looked into your ancestry, your blood, your very heart? Why have you turned your back on us?” Understandably taken aback, Mike meekly replied, “I don’t know . . . I didn’t know you really existed.” The dream-Odin exploded, “that is no excuse!”
After further taunting and challenging Mike, Odin finally calmed to tell him, “Yes, you’ll do just fine . . . Heed my words of wisdom . . . A new age will arise. The gods of antiquity will become the gods of the future . . . You must awaken the epic state of your mind.” After Odin offered some further instructions about the religious path Mike should follow from that day forward, the dream ended (interview with Mike Smith, January 2004; also described in Smith 2003b, 8–10).
Mike began to seek out books and magazines on Norse mythology and religion and to haltingly perform rituals of worship, much like Krei Steinberg in her first steps into Heathenry. He contacted Edred Thorsson (also known as Stephen Flowers), who is a gifted scholar of Norse mythology and Nordic culture, a leading figure in the Ring of Troth organization, and the author of A Book of Troth, one of the most influential American Asatru writings. Thorsson advised him to continue studying Norse mythology and Nordic cultural heritage but to wait until he was eighteen to join the Troth, so that he would be making an informed decision as an adult. When he turned eighteen in 1993, Mike joined the Troth as a supporting member, but he was unable to attend any Troth ritual gatherings, known as Trothmoots, because they tended to occur in the western United States where most Troth members lived.
Mike has since come to feel that the Troth is overly open and flexible in its membership policies, as anyone who wishes to join can do so simply by subscribing to Troth’s publication, Idunna, without having to explain his or her intentions or in any way demonstrate a commitment to Nordic Paganism. The AFA and the Asatru Alliance, the other national organizations, also allow anyone interested to subscribe to their publications (the Runestone and Vor Trú) and thereby receive information about kindreds and events, but they do not permit membership without a more rigorous screening process, as discussed earlier. Mike nonetheless continues to support the Troth as a subscriber and occasional contributor of articles to Idunna. His critical yet continuing relationship with the Troth demonstrates how splits between Nordic Pagan organizations and individuals rarely result in the total severing of relations, as the shared commitment to Nordic religion and culture tends to overshadow lesser doctrinal differences.
In the mid-1990s, the new medium of the Internet allowed Mike to locate other Nordic Pagans in the Massachusetts area. In 1997, he became a member of Raven Kindred North (RKN), an Asatru organization that had been formed in the early 1990s by students at the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. He recalls being nervous prior to his first face-to-face meeting with RKN members, for fear that they might be strange or unbalanced people. After meeting them for dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Worcester, Massachusetts, his worries were laid to rest, and Mike blurted out, “Thank the gods that you’re normal!”
Mike was delighted to finally, after many years of searching, find a functioning Asatru community with which to share rituals and discuss lore. He sees an important turning point in the development of the larger regional Asatru/Heathen community to be the birth of the East Coast Thing, which came about when Nordic Pagans who had been attending the open-to-all Pagan festival called Freespirit decided to organize a festival that would be for Nordic Pagans exclusively.
The first ECT took place in August 1999 in a Maryland state park, under careful arrangement with state authorities. Close to ninety Nordic Pagans from various kindreds in the Midatlantic and New England states attended, and the gathering has now become a much-anticipated annual event for Nordic Pagans in the region, as discussed earlier. It was at the ECT that Mike first met Cat Burke, a woman who would eventually become his wife and the mother of his two children.
Cat is of mixed Irish and Belgian descent, and their children’s names bear witness to both Mike’s Nordic, Swedish ancestry and Cat’s Celtic, Irish roots. Their elder child, a daughter, is named Freyjadis, named for the Norse goddess Freyja and female divinities known as Dis or Disir. Their son’s name, Tiarnan, is Irish in origin. As Asatruar, Mike and Cat worship only Nordic, Norse-Germanic gods, not those of Celtic traditions. Though a case could certainly be made that the Celtic peoples of Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, and Brittany are just as “Northern European” as their Germanic, Scandinavian, and Anglo-Saxon counterparts, Nordic Pagans generally see Celtic Paganism as a separate religious tradition with its own rich mythology and lore, lacking the linguistic, historical, and cultural linkages that knit the various Nordic religious traditions together.
From a strictly “folkish” perspective, one might ask whether Mike, having been instructed by his dream-Odin to follow the ways of his ancestors, has erred in his religious duty by marrying a partially Celtic woman and giving a Celtic name to his son. Such a question would, however, assume that strict lines of genealogy and purity of Nordic DNA are of paramount importance for Nordic Paganism, and this notion is not what Mike Smith feels he was called by Odin to uphold. He defines Asatru as the worship of the Norse gods, first and foremost, along with respect for related cultural traditions. Though people of Scandinavian or other Nordic ancestry might be especially inclined by their cultural identity and family traditions to respect Nordic culture and worship the Norse gods, they are not the only people on earth who can feel the “pull of the gods” and seek knowledge of their ways. Mike speculates that there could be some genetic component in people of Nordic ancestry that would give rise to a natural predisposition or talent for Nordic Paganism, but he does not see this as any reason to exclude people with other ethnic backgrounds. Like Mitch Zebrowski, Mike takes the view that people of non-Nordic ethnic roots should be permitted to join Nordic Pagan rituals and communities, provided they are able to demonstrate their sincere reverence for the gods and ways of the Nordic past.
Mike left Raven Kindred North to found his own Asatru organization, Athelingulf Fellowship, in 2001. The main motivation was his desire to perform Nordic Pagan rituals with the highest possible degree of fidelity to original Norse practices, as known from texts, archaeology, or other sources. Mike felt especially dissatisfied with the widespread practice of substituting mead for blood in modern Blots, considering that the word Blot has the literal meaning of blood, and he was determined to reintroduce animal sacrifice and put the blood back in Blot. He also felt it important for modern people to regain knowledge of the linkage of life and death and the place of human beings in the natural order.
Mike and his associates not only researched the ancient Norse and other texts describing sacrifices but also investigated with great thoroughness the methods of killing animals used by professional butchers and by members of other religious communities, such as Muslims and Jews. A Nordic Pagan farmer from New Hampshire, who raises free-range poultry and livestock, supplies animals and participates in their sacrificial killing. Athelingulf now regularly practices animal sacrifice Blots several times per year.
Prior to the day of sacrifice, the animal victim is treated well and lives in a free-range environment. The ritual proper begins with the lighting of a sacred fire, followed by a hallowing of the ritual area by carrying a flaming torch around the perimeter if the site has not been previously sanctified and an invocation of the gods to be honored with the sacrifice. The animal is then sanctified by holding over it a special ritual hammer, evoking the magical hammer of the god Thor, which was able to revive dead animals, cause rain to fall, and fend off the enemies of earth. The ritual participants then each go to the animal, place their hands on it, and thank it for giving its life for their benefit. The animal may also be asked to bear messages to the gods or the dead. During all of this, those handling the animal attempt to keep it as calm and relaxed as possible.
The killing is done by a quick, forceful slitting of the throat, with the animal’s spurting lifeblood caught in a special bowl. Some of the blood is then sprinkled onto the participants or wiped on their foreheads; the remainder is poured over a stone into the earth, in a location near a tree, with the invocation, “From the gods to the earth to us; from us to the earth to the gods; a gift for a gift.” The animal is then cooked and eaten.
Athelingulf Fellowship has also developed or reconstructed other forms of rituals, such as the Forn, a ritual of votive offering to the gods that is an

Mike Smith conducting an Asatru wedding ceremony. (Courtesy of Mike Smith)

alternative method of making offerings from the Blot. In the Forn, objects either taken from daily life or specially crafted for the occasion are intentionally destroyed by burning, smashing, burying, or other means. Through their destruction in our world, the items are conveyed to the world of the gods. This ritual is based on the abundant archaeological evidence from Northern Europe of weapons and other items that were bent or otherwise damaged to the point of uselessness, then burned in fires, buried in pits, or deposited into bogs or rivers.
Many other rituals are described in Mike Smith’s writings (2003a). As a serious Reconstructionist, Smith generally takes pains to explain the textual, archaeological, or folkloric basis for each ritual, as well as openly admitting elements that he and his associates have created and introduced. His attitude in this regard is typical of many Nordic Pagans, who make great efforts to follow the paths of past Nordic tradition but do not hesitate to carve out and explore new paths as needed. The extent to which the old ways are or should be followed and new ways invented and introduced is always a matter of debate, but Nordic Pagans generally agree on the need for both reconstruction and experimentation to connect the ways of the past to the world of today.

Profile 4: Galina Krasskova
Galina Krasskova was interviewed by telephone in February 2004. At the time, she was a thirty-one-year-old resident of Brooklyn, New York, originally from the nearby state of Maryland. She works in the financial service industry. Galina is a gythia in the Anglo-Saxon-based “Theodish” form of Heathenry. An aspiring ballet dancer until an injury short-circuited this ambition, Galina remains physically active by practicing martial arts. She has Russian and Lithuanian ancestry on her father’s side and Irish, Swiss, English, and German ancestry through her mother.
Galina’s grandmother was a highly devout Methodist who later converted to Catholicism. Galina imagines that her grandmother might well have become a nun if she had been raised Catholic. She feels that her grandmother’s intense religiosity influenced her own involvement with Paganism by introducing her to emotional modes of spirituality that have become central to her own religious practices.
Galina recalls reading books of Greek and Norse mythology as a child and setting up a play altar to a Greek goddess when she was eight or nine. After exploring different religions as a teenager, she became involved in a syncretistic religious group centered on Egyptian deities, the Fellowship of Isis, after moving to New York City to pursue her ill-starred career in ballet. As the religious organization was open to members exploring other deities and traditions, Galina began to explore Nordic Paganism by praying to different Norse gods and contemplating the runes. What caused her to completely shift her allegiance to Heathenry was an intense experience of going into a trance and being possessed by the god Odin, a state she describes as both spiritual and physical.
Galina was aware that similar possession states are described in Afro-Caribbean religious traditions such as Voodoo and Santeria as being “ridden by the god.” She found it extremely helpful to study Afro-Caribbean attitudes and practices as a way of better understanding her own experiences of possession by Odin. Galina has cultivated these trance states, in addition to her other devotional practices, and knows of other “women of Odin” who also experience the “riding” of the god.
Not surprisingly, Galina supports the efforts of Troth leader Diana Paxson and others to revive and refine Norse oracular, divinatory, and trance practices known as Seiðr and Spa by consulting and at times borrowing from other religions’ Shamanistic traditions (Blain 2002). Though Galina’s approach to Nordic Paganism is accepting of a certain degree of eclecticism, this openness is carefully grounded in a bedrock foundation of ancient Nordic texts and culture, particularly those of Anglo-Saxon England. She expresses an intense dislike of Wicca as overly eclectic, historically foundationless, and ethically flimsy, much as Krei Steinberg does. Galina emphasizes that Heathenry is defined not only by devotion to the Norse gods but also by conducting oneself in accordance with ethics and values derived from Nordic heritage.
Galina’s Anglo-Saxon sect is well respected within the overall Nordic Paganism community for its scholarly approach to ancient texts, including the learning of ancient languages. It is also one of the subgroups within Nordic Paganism that most vigorously champions the idea of tribalism, that is, the ideal of small, self-sufficient, and separate communities dedicated to Nordic and particularly Anglo-Saxon lore and religion. Galina embraces this ideal but is somewhat ambivalent about another element of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry—an intensive concern for genealogy and the continuity of ethnic heritage. She thinks that the lengthy discussion of past lineage is less important than building up Heathen organizations and communities and further refining ritual practices in the present time. She also believes that membership should be open to anyone who has a sincere interest in Nordic culture and religion, not only those who have the right genes or family history. Her African American friend and fellow godi is a case in point.
Galina believes strongly in the importance of Heathen ethics, which, for her, largely means a form of warrior ethics focused on such virtues as perseverance and discipline, as well as honesty and integrity. Practicing martial arts and living in the sometimes dangerous environment of Brooklyn, Galina feels keenly the importance of being ready to protect one’s person, home, and family, and she said that in situations of conflict she “does not back down.” Like many other Nordic Pagans in the United States, she supports the right of citizens to arm themselves with guns for self-protection. This conviction is one of the several reasons why Nordic Pagans in the United States tend to be politically libertarian or conservative.
Like her friend Krei, Galina regularly volunteers in her local community and sees community service as an ethical priority for the future of Nordic Paganism. She hopes Heathens will establish local service agencies to rival those of the Catholic Church and other mainstream religious organizations. She has begun the Fighters’ Guild for other Heathens involved in martial arts, and the group’s activities include community service.

Profile 5: Lavrans Reimer-Møller (aka Larry Miller)
Lavrans is a professor of radio communications at the New England Institute of Art in the Boston area; he is in his sixties and lives with his Swedish wife in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A California hippie in the 1950s and 1960s, Lavrans rode the counterculture wave of religious experimentation through a number of phases. A long fascination with occult traditions led him to investigate the Nordic-Germanic runes and drew him in turn to Norse mythology and Nordic culture, which he prefers to refer to as “Germanic.” Having Nordic-Germanic ancestry (half German, one-quarter Danish, and one-quarter Scotch-Irish), Lavrans found the Germanic Heathen milieu very welcoming and spiritually satisfying. He renounced his other spiritual interests in the early 1990s and now devotes himself entirely to Nordic Paganism, which he prefers to term “Germanic Heathenry.” Lavrans publishes a widely respected Heathen magazine, The Marklander. It is available on the Internet, which he playfully refers to as “Cybergard,” the tenth realm of existence beyond the nine mentioned in Old Norse literature. Lavrans is deeply committed to the careful reconstruction of past Nordic-Germanic religion and culture and has enjoyed crafting his own versions of medieval paraphernalia such as the Anglo-Saxon lyre, a stringed musical instrument similar to the harp.
In terms of the folkish-versus-universalist debate, Lavrans takes a somewhat middle-ground position. Acknowledging that a person’s genetic makeup might conceivably contribute some affinity for Nordic-Germanic Paganism and even more so a preservation of Nordic ethnic heritage in a family with Nordic ethnic roots, Lavrans does not believe in excluding people with non-Germanic ancestry from becoming involved in Heathenry or Asatru if they feel inclined to do so. From his vantage point as an editor of an Asatru publication engaging with a wide variety of views, Lavrans estimates that about one-third of Nordic Pagans or Germanic Heathens are “folkish” in an exclusive, Nordic Paganism/Germanic Heathenry manner reserved only for those with Northern European ancestry; one-third are on the opposite end, feeling that Asatru and Heathenry should be open to anyone with interest, regardless of race, ethnicity, or ancestry; and about one-third occupy a middle-ground position similar to his own.
Lavrans stands out in the Asatru-Heathenry community for his political views, which place him on the liberal end of the American political spectrum, unlike many Heathens and Asatruar. This distinction has led to heated disputes, often voiced through Internet discussion venues, about such issues as homosexual rights, gun-control legislation, and the importance of government-funded social programs versus cutting taxes and reducing the size of government—mirroring the debates in mainstream American society. People on different sides of these issues have gone so far as to accuse one another of being “Nazis” and “Commies,” a sure sign that the debate had wandered very far afield of anything related to worshipping the Nordic-Germanic gods or reviving past cultural practices.
A consensus is emerging in terms of putting political differences aside in relation to religious matters and not allowing them to poison Nordic Pagans’ shared devotion to the gods and traditions of the Nordic past. This situation can be nicely illustrated through an anecdote. Lavrans and Mitch Zebrowski had engaged in many liberal-versus-conservative political arguments through the Internet prior to meeting in person. When Lavrans saw Mitch for the first time at one of the East Coast Thing regional events, Lavrans approached him and asked, “Are we cool?” Mitch answered in the affirmative, and the two online antagonists went on to participate in the Thing as religious comrades. Despite their past disputes, they did not want their political spats to pollute the religious environment that they had come to honor. In his interview with Michael Strmiska, Mitch noted that such an attitude is in keeping with Nordic-Germanic lore as far back as the Germania of Tacitus, in which it was observed that Germanic tribesmen, when approaching a temple or other location marked off as a ritual area, would all be obliged as a sacred duty to remove their weapons and leave them outside and to refrain from any conflict or bloodshed for the duration of ritual festivities (Germania, ch. 45).
Nordic Paganism in the United States continues to grow and change. Its disputes and controversies demonstrate the difficulty of adapting beliefs and practices from medieval times to modern society, particularly the challenge of defining who the religion is for. The question is indeed highly pertinent for a religion that was originally situated in an ethnically homogeneous cultural situation but is now being introduced into a cultural context of ethnic intermixture and heterogeneity.

Nordic Paganism in Iceland
Turning to Iceland, we find Nordic Paganism functioning in a context quite different from that in the United States. Many of the ancient texts and traditions sacred to Nordic Pagans are cherished components of national cultural heritage. Icelanders are especially proud of the Eddas and Sagas written in Iceland from the eleventh through thirteenth centuries, as became evident during Iceland’s struggle for independence from Denmark when nationalist intellectuals demanded the return of the original parchment manuscripts to Iceland. One finds the names of Norse gods and Saga heroes everywhere in Iceland, as personal names, street names, business names, and more (Strmiska 2000). Not all Icelanders would agree with worshipping the ancient gods, but very few would not know their names. Nordic Paganism in Iceland therefore has a secure foundation in the national cultural heritage and might even be said to be patriotic.

View of mountains in Iceland and the famous Northern Lights. (Gísli Guðjónsson,

Due to its remote location and history of isolation, with no large-scale immigration since its early settlement period over 1,000 years ago, Iceland is ethnically and genetically homogeneous to an extraordinary degree. For Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson and the other founders of Asatruarfelagid, the issues that were so contentious in the American context—who the religion is for, who should be included and excluded, and whether Asatru should be folkish or universal—hardly even came up for discussion. The founders were all Icelanders sharing the same ethnic identity and the same ancestral and cultural heritage, devoting themselves to the same gods known from a common body of literature and folklore. Icelandic Asatru did not emerge from any need to reclaim lost ethnic identity or forgotten cultural heritage but from a desire to reenergize the spiritual dimension of an already agreed-upon cultural heritage.
Icelandic Asatru shares the same basic worldview and many of the same ritual practices as its American counterparts, with certain differences that arise from the different historical and cultural contexts. One difference is in the choice of textual sources. Where American Nordic Pagans draw on a wide variety of Nordic-Germanic textual sources, consulting Anglo-Saxon, Old English, and other non-Icelandic materials as well as the Icelandic ones, Icelandic Asatruar rely mainly on their rich

A man takes a drink from a horn at a Sumbel. In this ritual, a drinking horn is filled with mead or another alcoholic beverage and then passed around. It is either drunk from directly or poured into individual drinking vessels. A series of toasts are then made, offering verbal tribute first to the Norse gods and supernatural beings, then to heroes and ancestors, and, finally, to others. (Gísli Gudjónsson,

heritage of Old Norse–Icelandic texts and traditions, with secondary use of Scandinavian materials and very little use of the Old English or Anglo-Saxon. For this reason, the drinking ritual known as the Sumbel among American Nordic Pagans is not known by this name in Iceland. The practice of this ritual is in fact known in Iceland as a part or variation of the Blot, but the word Sumbel is more prevalent in the texts of ancient England and occurs only a few times in the Eddas and Sagas of Iceland (Bauschatz 1982, 72–78).
Another intriguing difference is that American Asatruar and Heathens tend toward a more devotional form of worship and a more emotional conception of the Nordic gods than do their Icelandic counterparts, perhaps influenced by the highly emotional forms of Christianity that have become increasingly prevalent in the United States in recent decades. American Nordic Pagans want to feel an intimate relationship with their gods, not unlike evangelical attitudes toward Jesus. Icelandic Asatruar, by contrast, are more focused on devotion to their past cultural heritage rather than to particular gods.

Beginning with Sveinbjorn
When Asatruarfelagid was first established as a religious society in 1972, the membership consisted of no more than twelve men. The society was meant to be a loose organization of people who believed in the old gods and other deities associated with the old Heathen times before Christianity. Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, a farmer and poet from Hvalfjordur, had been chosen to be its first Allsherjargodi (chief priest), a position of Pagan authority unknown in the United States. The Allsherjargodi presides over Asatruarfelagid meetings, Blots, and other such religious events; performs life cycle rituals such as weddings and funerals; and acts as a spokesman for Asatruarfelagid. Other godi may perform similar functions, but the Allsherjargodi is respected as the figure of highest authority.
Sveinbjorn was a gracious and learned older man with a long white beard; one young Icelander noted that his appearance was not unlike an Icelandic Santa Claus. Living a simple life on a farm without electricity and eschewing modern luxuries except for a battery-powered radio, he exuded an aura of past tradition (Strmiska 2000). Sveinbjorn was ideal for his task as a performer of ancient rituals but a little eccentric and shy in his role as a media spokesman. A kind and easygoing man, he got along very well with other members of this young Pagan group. His religious views were liberal toward other religions, including Christianity, and his own funeral ceremony involved Christian as well as Heathen components (Strmiska 2000).
Tolerance toward other religions is an important issue to most members in Asatruarfelagid. In interviews with those members, negativity or bitterness was rarely expressed toward Christianity or other religions. American Nordic Pagans display a much more antagonistic attitude toward Christianity, which they tend to see as an oppressive enemy. The Asatruarfelagid attitude reflects the more relaxed religious and social climate in Iceland, where very few people attend religious services of any kind, let alone wish to argue about religion, as opposed to the more divisive and contentious state of religion in the contemporary United States. However, conflicts do occasionally arise between Icelandic Christians and Asatruar, as will be discussed.
Sveinbjorn was skilled at composing poetic verse in the styles of olden times, which he also enjoyed performing. Indeed, CDs of Sveinbjorn reciting Eddic poems as well as his own rimur, a form of late medieval Icelandic poetry that Sveinbjorn enjoyed re-creating, are still available. Despite his advanced years and general avoidance of modern culture, he enjoyed performing his poetry in public venues, even getting onstage with rock bands and chanting traditional verse over the clash of electric guitars. With his long white beard and stubborn preference for premodern ways, Sveinbjorn left a lasting impression in peoples’ minds in Iceland and gave Asatruarfelagid a reputation for weirdness and eccentricity, which both attracted and repelled the public. Members of Asatruarfelagid were therefore viewed as social misfits to some extent, but as time went on, the religion became more accepted.

From Jormundur to Hilmar
When Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson died in 1993, the man chosen to succeed him was also a white-haired, older gentleman steeped in the ancient literature and skilled in the performance of rituals. This man was Jormundur Ingi Hansen. He was different from Sveinbjorn in that he was also skilled at dealing with the media. A charming raconteur who enjoyed public speaking, Jormundur represented Asatruarfelagid remarkably well to both the Icelandic and the international press. He was also very helpful to members of Asatruarfelagid and other Icelanders who requested his assistance in representing the society and explaining what the old religion stood for.

Asatru leader Jormundur Ingi Hansen conducting a ceremony in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland. (Gísli Gudjónsson,

In some ways, Jormundur Ingi Hansen was a victim of his own success. As Allsherjargodi, he wanted to act as a chairman, cashier, promoter, and religious leader, as Sveinbjorn had done before him. However, with growing popularity bringing an ever-increasing number of members, the workings of Asatruarfelagid had become more complex and time-consuming than in Sveinbjorn’s time. For that reason, the board of the Asatruarfelagid began choosing members to take on the roles that Jormundur wanted to deal with single-handedly. An internal power struggle commenced almost as soon as Jormundur was elected Allsherjargodi in 1993.
Tensions continued brewing within Asatruarfelagid, and during the summer of 2002 dissatisfied members persuaded the majority of the board of directors to sack Jormundur as Allsherjargodi. At first, he refused to accept the situation and claimed that he was still Allsherjargodi. Further arguments erupted within Asatruarfelagid when members loyal to Jormundur tried, without success, to reinstate him. Yet even though Jormundur bitterly disapproved of his dethroning, he did not try to split the society or establish his own breakaway sect. The problem was dealt with by continuing discussion within the organization’s board of directors, and it was kept away from public debate. An agreement was reached that the next Allsherjargodi would be Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson, a well-respected musician and composer in his forties who had been an active member of Asatruarfelagid from his teens.

Present Asatru leader Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson at Þingvellir at his initation in 2003, Iceland. (Gísli Gudjónsson,

Thus, when Hilmar was initiated as the new Allsherjargodi in a ritual at Thingvellir, the site of the ancient Icelandic Thing meetings, on June 27, 2003, no shadow was cast on the ceremony by Jormundur’s followers. Both camps knew that negative media coverage of this disputed transition would not be in Asatruarfelagid’s best interest. Despite the bitter feelings surrounding the situation, Hilmar received Jormundur’s endorsement and full support (Morgunblaðid newspaper [henceforth Mbl.] January 6, 2003).

Thirty Years of Asatruarfelagid
Members of Asatruarfelagid were in a celebratory mood in 2003 because thirty years had passed since the society was first established. Beginning with only 12 members, the society had steadily grown to include 777 people (Hagstofa Islands [Icelandic National Bureau of Statistics] 2004). Today, its ceremonies and rituals have become well established. Asatruarfelagid has moved from being viewed as a small group of eccentrics into a large organization of generally respected people whose religious beliefs and practices have been accepted by Icelandic society as a whole. It has even become somewhat fashionable to be a member of the society. Some very well-known people in the media and the music industry are not shy about admitting

Procession of Asatru members with Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson on his way to be initiated as Allsherjagodi at the site of the ancient Althing parliament at Thingvellir, Iceland, June 2003. Hilmarsson is the man in the middle holding the pinecone. (Gísli Gudjónsson,

their membership and adherence to the old religion, which has also boosted the public image of Asatru.
The transition from leaders who were devoted to Old Icelandic literature to an Allsherjargodi who is a popular musician and recording artist may prove to be of great importance to Asatruarfelagid. In 2002, Hilmar produced a CD called Rimur og Hrapp (Rimur and Rap), which mixed old Icelandic songs and poetry with Icelandic adaptations of hip-hop and rap, with one track even featuring the voice of Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson reciting poetry over a modern electronic soundscape. One Asatruarfelagid member stated that he and Hilmar always tried to compose new musical pieces for each Asatru ritual event (personal communication, January 5, 2004). It seems that music may become increasingly important in Asatruarfelagid ceremonies and rituals and attract new generations of Icelanders to the worship of the gods of old.
When Icelanders think of a religion, most associate it with some impressive and sanctified architectural structure that functions as a site of religious rituals. Asatruarfelagid lacks a central religious temple, or hof in Icelandic. Constructing a hof has been high on the members’ wish list for many years. As a token of the acceptance that Asatruarfelagid has enjoyed in recent years, the mayor of the country’s capital, Reykjavík, has invited the Asatru society to establish hofs in their towns, as have the mayors of two other towns. What these leaders are aiming for is to tap into Asatruarfelagid popularity among Icelanders and foreigners to attract tourists to their locales. Asatruarfelagid has been granted a building site in Reykjavík but still lacks funds to begin construction. The town of Njardvik, southwest of the capital, is building a Viking center and asked Asatruarfelagid to build a temple there. At Akranes, north of Reykjavík, the Settlement Museum has offered Asatruarfelagid land on which to construct a hof. Individuals in other places around Iceland have also expressed their interest (Mbl., October 8, 2003). It should be noted that efforts are also being undertaken by American Nordic Pagans to construct hofs in the United States, as an appeal for financial support in the Asatru Alliance publication Vor Trú demonstrated (Vor Trú, Vol. 66, 2004).
In the elections for the Icelandic parliament in 2003, a godi, or priest of Asatruarfelagid, named Sigurjon Thordarson was voted in as a candidate of the Liberal Party. Sigurjon is the first godi since the fourteenth century to take a seat in the Icelandic parliament (Mbl., May 8, 2003). Yet despite the rising popularity of Asatruarfelagid and the increasing respect it enjoys in Icelandic society, there is still resistance from certain quarters. Not surprisingly, one such source of opposition is the Christian community in Iceland.

A Summer of Anniversaries and Animosities
In the summer of 2000, the Icelandic state and the National Lutheran Church celebrated the millennium anniversary of Christian faith in Iceland. To briefly explain the historical background of this celebration, Christianity had become, by a vote at the Althing, the official religion of all Icelanders in the year 1000, according to the generally accepted account given in the early Icelandic text, Íslendingabók (The Book of the Icelanders [this is conventional translation]). This development came about as the result of several factors. At that time, there was a risk of civil war because of tensions between the growing number of people adhering to the new religion of Christianity and the more traditional people who wanted to hold onto the old Nordic Pagan ways. Furthermore, the Norwegian king at the time, a zealous Christian who was not opposed to using force to spread the Gospel, had taken the sons of some chieftains of the most powerful families in Iceland hostage, with Christianization as the price of their liberty. The king had also threatened to cut all trading ties with Iceland and isolate the struggling country politically as well as economically if Iceland continued to refuse to accept Christianity.
It was this set of grave and gathering dangers both within and without the country that brought the Althing parliament together in the year 1000. Discussing the best way to prevent bloodshed and economic ruin and even consulting an oracle, the parliamentarians agreed to officially declare the Christian religion as the faith of all Icelanders and to restrict the old Pagan religion to private observances. In later times, Norse Paganism was prohibited completely. Iceland’s conversion to Christianity was therefore a multidimensional event, open to many interpretations (Strömback 1975; Aðalsteinsson 1978; Jochens 1999; Karlsson 2000). Was it a peaceful and democratic process or an unfree decision made under threat of force, the religious version of a “shotgun wedding”? Was it a triumph of religious freedom allowing the Christian faith to prosper or the death of religious pluralism, with one religion given sanction and the other voted out of existence? These questions remain matters of debate.
For many in Iceland, the year 2000, marking as it did the thousand-year anniversary of Iceland’s embrace of Christianity, was not the time to ask such questions; it was time to party. Both politicians and church leaders were in a festive mood, and large sums of money had been made available to ensure that the Christian millennium celebration would be as grand as possible. Thingvellir, the location of the ancient Althing parliament where the vote had been taken in favor of Christianity, was chosen as the best spot for the event.
Thingvellir is a nearly sacred place to the vast majority of Icelanders. Beyond its importance in Icelandic history as the site of many events described in the early literature, it is a source of national pride for having functioned as the site of a semidemocratic government body at a time when the rest of Europe was ruled by tyrannical kings. The Iceland of the Saga age had no kings; its highest governmental authority was the Althing assembly of chieftains at Thingvellir. Thingvellir symbolizes the uniqueness of being an Icelander and is accordingly a unifying force in Icelandic nationality. It has been kept as unspoiled as possible throughout the ages, with no large buildings allowed to be built that could endanger the sacred naturalness of the impressive landscape. To accommodate the thousands of people expected to participate in the millennium celebrations, temporary shelters, platforms, and sanitary facilities were erected at Thingvellir. The event organizers, especially church leaders, went to great lengths to present an inspiring spectacle of a unified “Christian Iceland.”
These efforts put the Christian millennium celebration on a collision course with the members of Asatruarfelagid, who were planning to celebrate their Thingid summer solstice festival in Thingvellir on June 22, just as they had in years past. Thingid is the fourth in a series of five major rituals during a yearlong ritual cycle observed by Asatruarfelagid and is understood, because of its location, as the most sacred and solemn of them all.
As part of that year’s Thingid festivities, a special series of land and fire ceremonies dedicated to the god Baldur was to be brought to a close. This ceremony had first been celebrated in Reykjavík, the capital city, in May, after which it had been conducted in the towns of Skagafjordur, Egilsstadir, Hofn, and Hjorleifshofdi in the weeks leading up to Thingid. These sites formed a sacred ceremonial ring around the whole of Iceland, with Thingid intended as the site of the ritual that would close the ring and bring the ceremonies to fulfillment. At the very place where Christianity had officially replaced the Pagan faith 1,000 years ago, the rite would renew Iceland’s ancient beliefs and thus, from the viewpoint of Asatru, make the country whole again.
However, when Allsherjargodi Jormundur Ingi Hansen appealed to the national government for the right to celebrate the Asatru festival Thingid at Thingvellir close to the time of the Christian millennium celebration, the government agreed to allow Thingid in principle but then found many ways to block it in practice. Toilets and sanitary facilities installed with taxpayer money for the Christian celebrations were not available for Pagan use, and the same was true of dining facilities. The composer and future Allsherjargodi Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson complained that he could not perform a special musical piece composed for the occasion because the organizers of the Christian celebration had neglected to install the needed audio equipment. He noted with bitter humor, “It is possible that work methods have changed in Iceland in those six years that I have lived in Denmark, but before that, it didn’t take a week to install a sound system” (Mbl., June 22, 2000). The only reason given for these logistical shortcomings was that the facilities were intended for the use of guests and participants of the Christian celebration and not by a non-Christian religious group.
The media made public the disagreement between the millennium committee and Asatruarfelagid, which led to a public outcry over the apparent intolerance demonstrated by the National Lutheran Church and government leaders, despite the spending of public funds for a celebration supposedly intended for all Icelanders. It came to light that other Icelandic religious groups, Christian and non-Christian alike, had also been barred from participating in the millennium celebrations, and they joined in the public brouhaha. Many of the critics lamented that this historic milestone could have been an excellent opportunity for Icelanders of all faith groups to come together in unity and celebrate their Icelandic heritage in peace and harmony but that this had been spoiled by the one-sided decisions taken by the millennium celebrations committee.
Members of Asatruarfelagid, however, were not deterred from their Thingid festival and went on with their celebrations as planned on June 22, 2000, despite not being able to use most of the facilities that had been erected at Thingvellir for the Christian celebration. Perhaps partly because of unusually fine weather but more likely because of media coverage of the controversy over arrangements at Thingvellir, more people participated in the 2000 Thingid festival than at any other Asatruarfelagid event since the group was established in 1972. Over 1,000 people showed up, some 400 more than the total membership of Asatruarfelagid at that time, and participants in the Thingid celebration later agreed that the event had been very memorable and enjoyable.
Though the Christian millennium celebrations were also successful, they were somewhat less well attended than had been expected, and organizers expressed some disappointment (Mbl., August 17, 2000). In the days leading up to the official Christian events, the press harshly criticized Iceland’s government and National Lutheran Church leaders for their tremendous spending on the millennium celebrations coupled with their mean-spiritedness toward non-Christian groups such as Asatru. Many Icelanders appear to have concurred with this criticism and manifested their disapproval by staying away from the main celebration at Thingvellir and participating instead in local festivals in their hometowns.

A young girl at Viking and Asatru festival in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, June 2002. (Gísli Gudjónsson,

Reflections on Icelandic versus American Nordic Paganism
The Thingvellir controversy demonstrates the high level of respect that Asatruarfelagid has achieved in Iceland. The organization has less than 1,000 members out of a population approaching 300,000, but Asatruarfelagid can make a claim to the nation’s affection and sympathy, even among Christians and members of other religious groups, that is far out of proportion to its small size. Because the traditions and activities of Asatru are inextricably linked with the country’s earliest history and cultural heritage, Asatruarfelagid could not be denied a place at Thingvellir, anymore than the nation’s libraries could ever be expected to throw away their copies of the Old Icelandic texts with their tales of Odin and Thor and Freyja.
In this, we find a quite important distinction between Asatru in Iceland and Nordic Paganism in the United States. In both cultural contexts, Nordic Pagans represent a marginal group outside the social mainstream. Icelandic Asatru, however, is rooted in the national cultural heritage in a very clear and direct way, which lends it influence, respect, and resonance that extend far beyond its numbers. In contrast, American Asatruar and Heathens cannot present their Pagan religion as something quintessentially American but only as a striving for a Northern European heritage from which they are separated by many different kinds of distance. For this reason, although Nordic Pagans in the United States may well be able to carve out a safe and respected niche for themselves in the country’s religious landscape, their religion is unlikely to ever receive the large-scale public approval and support that Asatruarfelagid enjoys in Iceland. However, the situation of Nordic Paganism in the more culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse context of the United States may stimulate new directions for Nordic Paganism that might never come into being in the more homogeneous cultural setting of Iceland.
Insofar as Reconstructionist Paganism involves both reviving past religious traditions and adapting them to the conditions of the present time, it is to be expected that the Icelandic and American forms of Nordic Paganism will develop in different directions, given their very different situations, even while they preserve a common devotion to the religious traditions of the Nordic past.

References and Additional Reading
Print Materials
Major Old Norse and Old Icelandic Texts in Translation
The Eddas
Two English translations of The Poetic Edda are currently in print:
Hollander, Lee, trans. 1962 [1986]. The Poetic Edda. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Larrington, Carolynne, trans. 1996. The Poetic Edda: A New Translation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Two English translations of The Prose Edda are currently in print:
Faulkes, Anthony, trans. 1987. Edda—Snorri Sturluson. London: Everyman.
Young, Jean, trans. 1954 [1964]. The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson, Tales from Norse Mythology. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Eyrbyggja Saga. 1959. Translated by Paul Schach. Introduction and verse translations by Lee Hollander. Omaha: University of Nebraska Press.
Njal’s Saga. 1960 [1983]. Translated by Hermann Pálsson and Magnus Magnússon. New York: Penguin.
The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection. 2000. Various trans. Introduction by Robert Kellog. New York: Viking Penguin. Includes Egils Saga, Laxdaela Saga, and Gislis Saga.
Other Old Norse and Old Icelandic Texts in Translation
Heimskringla: The Lives of the Norse Kings by Snorre Sturlason. 1932 [1990]. Translated by A. H. Smith. New York: Dover.
Landnámabók: The Book of Settlements. 1972. Translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg, Canada: University of Manitoba Press.
Texts by Classical and Medieval Authors
Smyser, H., ed. and trans. 1965. “Ibn Fadlan’s Account of the Rus.” In Franciplegius: Medieval and Linguistic Studies in Honor of Francis Peabody Magoun. Edited by J. Bessinger and Robert Creed, 92–119. New York: New York University Press.
Tacitus on Britain and Germany [Germania]. 1948 [1960]. Translated by H. Mattingly. New York: Penguin Classics.
Tschan, Francis J., ed. and trans. 1959. History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen. New York: Columbia University Press.
Studies of Nordic History, Religion, and Archaeology
Aðalsteinsson, Jón Hnefill. 1978. Under the Cloak. Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell.
———. 1985. “Blot and Thing: The Function of the Tenth Century Goði.” Temenos 21: 22–39.
———. 1990. “Old Norse Religion in the Sagas of Icelanders.” Gripla 7: 303–322.
Andersson, Theodore M. 1967. The Icelandic Family Saga: An Analytic Reading. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bauschatz, Paul C. 1982. The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Brondsted, J. 1968. The Vikings. New York: Penguin.
Byock, Jesse. 1982. Feud in the Icelandic Saga. Berkeley: University of California Press.
———. 1988. Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Clover, Carol. 1982. The Medieval Saga. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Clover, Carol, and John Lindow, eds. 1985. Old Norse-Icelandic Literature: A Critical Guide. Islandica, no. 45. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Davidson, H. R. Ellis. 1964. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Baltimore: Penguin, 1964.
———. 1988. Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Dronke, Ursula. 1996. Myth and Fiction in Early Norse Lands. Variorum Series. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate.
Dumézil, Georges. 1973. Gods of the Ancient Northmen. Edited by Einar Haugen, various trans. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Faulkes, Anthony, and Richard Perkins, eds. 1993. Viking Revaluations: Viking Society Centenary Symposium 14–15 May 1992. London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
Hollander, Lee. 1945 [1968]. The Skalds. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Jesch, Judith. 1991. Women in the Viking Age. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer.
Jochens, Jenny. 1995. Women in Old Norse Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
———. 1999. “Late and Peaceful: Iceland’s Conversion through Arbitration in 1000.” Speculum 74: 621–655.
Jones, Gwyn. 1968 [rev. ed. 1984]. A History of the Vikings. New York: Viking.
Karlsson, Gunnar. 2000. The History of Iceland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Kristjánsson, Jónas. 1988. Eddas and Sagas: Iceland’s Medieval Literature. Translated by Peter Foote. Reykjavík, Iceland: Hið Íslenska Bókmenntafelag.
Lindow, John. 2002. Norse Mythology. A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs. Cambridge: Oxford University Press.
Nasstrom, Britt-Mari. 1995. Freyja—The Great Goddess of the North. Lund Studies in History of Religions, vol. 5. Lund, Sweden: University of Lund Press.
Ólafsson, Haraldur. 1995. “Indo-European Horse Sacrifice in the Book of Settlements.” Temenos 31: 127–143.
Pulsiano, Philip, ed. 1993. Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing.
Rodrigues, L. J. 1993. Anglo-Saxon Verse Charms, Maxims and Heroic Legends. Pinner, UK: Anglo-Saxon.
Roesdahl, Else. 1991. The Vikings. Translated by Susan M. Margeson and Kirsten Williams. London: Penguin.
Samson, Ross, ed. 1991. Social Approaches to Viking Studies. Glasgow, UK: Cruithne.
Strömback, Dag. 1975. The Conversion of Iceland. Translated by Peter Foote. London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
Turville-Petre, E. O. G. 1964. Myth and Religion of the North. London: Oxford University Press.
———. 1976. Scaldic Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon.
Studies of Modern Nordic Paganism
Blain, Jenny. 2002. Nine Words of Seid-Magic: Ecstasy and Neo-Shamanism in North European Paganism. London: Routledge.
Gardell, Mattias. 2003. Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Harvey, Graham. 2000. “Heathenism: A North European Pagan Tradition.” In Pagan Pathways: A Guide to the Ancient Earth Traditions, 2nd ed. Edited by Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman, 49–64. London: Thorsons.
Kaplan, Jeffrey. 1997. Radical Religion in America. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Pike, Sarah M. 2001. Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Strmiska, Michael. 2000. “Ásatrú in Iceland: The Rebirth of Nordic Paganism?” Nova Religio 4, no. 1: 106–132.
Thorsson, Edred. 1989. A Book of Troth. St Paul, MN: Llewellyn.
Online Resources
American Asatru Associations
Asatru Alliance. At
Asatru Folk Assembly. At
Athelingulf Fellowship. At
Brotherhood of the Sacred Hunt (BOSH). At
The Troth. At
Icelandic Asatru Association
Ásatrúarfelagið (Asatru Fellowship of Iceland). At
Icelandic Photography
Gisli Pall Gudjonsson. Home page of Icelandic photographer. At
Statistical Information
Hagstofa Islands (Office of Statistics, Government of Iceland). 2004. “Ísland í tölum 2002–2003” (Iceland in Numbers). Reykjavík, Hagstofa Islands. At
Asatru Publications Available Online
“The Asatru Folk Assembly: Building Tribes and Waking the Spiritual Path of Our Ancestors.” Available at
Idunna. Journal of the Troth. Available at
Marklander. Asatru/Heathenry journal with diverse contributions, edited and published by Lavrans Reimer-Møller. Available at
McNallen, Stephen. 1986. The Rituals of Ásatrú: Volumes One, Two and Three. Payson, AZ: World Tree Publications. Available at

Runestone. Journal of the Asatru Folk Assembly. Available at
Smith, Michael J. 2003a. Ways of the Ásatrú: Beliefs of the Modern Northern Heathens. Athelingulf Fellowship. Available at
———. 2003b. Hugin and Munin Recalls: The Shorter Works of Mike Smith. Vol. 1, Theology and Personal Insights. Athelingulf Fellowship. Available at
Vor Trú. Journal of the Asatru Alliance. Available at
Other Materials
Interview (by telephone) with Galina Krasskova, in Brooklyn, NY, by Michael Strmiska, February 2004.
Interview with Larry Smith by Michael Strmiska, in Cambridge, MA, January 2004.
Interview with Mike Smith by Michael Strmiska, in New Haven, CT, January 2004.
Interview with Krei Steinberg by Michael Strmiska, in New York, NY, January 2004.
Interview with Mitch Zebrowski by Michael Strmiska, in Delaware, January 2004.
Newspaper Articles
Morgunblaðid (hereafter Mbl.). Daily Icelandic newspaper published in Reykjavík.
Mbl. June 22, 2000. Ætla ekki að nota aðstöðu Kristnihátíðar.
Mbl. August 17, 2000. 6% Íslendinga sóttu Kristnihátíð á þingvöllum.
Mbl. January 6, 2003. Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson kjorinn allsherjargodi.
Mbl. May 8, 2003. Godi ekki verid a thingi sidan a 13. old.
Mbl. October 8, 2003. Bygging hofs Asatruarfelagsins.
Promotional Material
North, Raven Kindred, promotional flyer, n. d.
Music and Spoken Word Recordings
Beinteinsson, Sveinbjorn. N.d. Edda. Two-CD boxed set. Recorded by Július Agnarsson. Reykjavík, Iceland: Smekkleysa. SM 40 CD.
Hilmarsson, Hilmar Örn. 2002. Rímur and Rapp. Music CD. Reykjavík, Iceland: Hitt og Órni, Edda miðlun or útgáfa. Available at
Wise, Kirby. 1986. Hammersong: Songs and Poems of Asatrú Written and Performed by Kirby Wise. Audiotape. Payson, AZ: World Tree Publications. Available at


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