By: Personified Moderator / Knowledgeable Aug 17, 2012
Post # 2
Well, Heathenry is quite a large subject. There are several smaller groupings in Heathenry, splitting it up, which could be addressed one by one that would make it easier to learn all of the practices in it. As the previous Gothi in my kindred said: "Get 10 Heathens together in a room and you'll have 13 different ways of practicing Heathenry". It's pretty individualized nowadays, though there are some common things and traditional things still held onto. Anywho, the sub-groupings, like Asatru, Rokkatru, Lokeanism, Folkish, Odinism, etc, might be an easier way for you to break it down and analyze all the different aspects of it.
Here's a list of books I always suggest to those new to Heathenry. It covers everything from the practice's history, to it's application modern day, to which deities and wights are worked with, how to work with them, what type of "magick" most Heathens do, ties into Shamanism, etc:
Elves, wights, and trolls by Kveldulf Gundarson
Essential Asatru: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism Bby Diana L. Paxson
Exploring the Northern Tradition: A Guide to the Gods, Lore, Rites, and Celebrations from the Norse,
Futhark, a Handbook of Rune Magic by Edred Thorsson
Galdrbok: Practical Heathen Runecraft, Shamanism and Magic By Nathan J. Johnson, Robert J. Wallis
German, and Anglo-Saxon Traditions by Galina Krasskova and Swain Wodening
Gods and Worshippers: In the Viking and Germanic World by Thor Ewing
Loki by Mike Vasich
Northern Magic: Rune Mysteries and Shamanism by Edred Thorsson
Northern Mysteries & Magick: Runes, Gods, and Feminine Powers By Freya Aswynn
Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner: A Book of Prayer, Devotional Practice, and the Nine Worlds of Spirit by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera
Our Troth: Volume 1: History and Lore by Kveldulf Gundarsson
Our Troth: Volume 2: Living the Troth by Kveldulf Gundarsson
Runes and Magic: Magical Formulaic Elements in the Older Runic Tradition by Stephen E. Flowers
Seidr: The Gate is Open by Katie Gerrard
The Book of Seidr: The Native English and Northern European Shamanic Tradition by Runic John
The Way of the Heathen: A Handbook of Greater Theodism by Garman Lord
Trance-Portation: Learning to Navigate the Inner World by Diana L. Paxson
Under the Cloak: A Pagan Ritual Turning Point in the Conversion of Iceland by Jon Hnefill Adalsteinsson
When the Norns Have Spoken: Time and Fate in Germanic Paganism by Anthony Winterbourne
If you have any specific questions or want to discuss Heathenry shoot me a mail. It's literally the focus of my studies, nearly 24/7.
By: Personified Moderator / Knowledgeable Aug 18, 2012
Post # 6
No, thank you . Haha. I'm always glad to discuss it!
I also realized that I didn't explain exactly the definition of Heathenry, since I knew that you (final) already knew about it. So for those who have never seen this word before:
So what is Heathenry?
Essentially it is the pre-Christian religion of the Germanic peoples, and in modern day usage of the word it is the reconstruction effort of said religion and practices. It is akin to Germanic Neopaganism in some cases. Within Heathenry there are several subgroups, describing different aspects of the practice: I would venture to say Asatru is probably the most well known form of Heathenry and the most people understand. But there are others. Asatruars tend to work with the Aesir/Vanir with an emphasis on the Aesir, Vanatruars tend to work with more focus solely on the Vanir. and so on. These groupings help narrow down the type of practice and personal beliefs an individual in Heathenry may have.
While newer practices in Heathenry are being made modern-age, it is based off traditional and historical sources. Literary sources are closely followed, these including Icelandic sagas, the Eddas, and so on. Some traditional practices have been adapted for modern times, but sometimes this is necessary. Especially in this case, as several times the literature and sources are missing bits, or need to be adapted for more modern use. Some of these practices tie in heavily with magick and shamanism. Concepts like wyrd and orlog are seen often, and thought to be fundamental to the belief. Runic magick, seidhr, and so on are commonly used by Heathens. Heathenry also ties in to animism-type views at times.
Some groups of Heathenry follow ethical codes, such as the Nine Noble Virtues, the Sixfold Goal, and so on. Again Wyrd and Orlog play a part in this, determining concepts of fatalism, destiny, etc. These tend to be based off older concepts and ideas.Interestingly enough, in Heathenry there is no such thing as salvation, redemption, or undoing wrongs. Honor and character of an individual is highly valued. What is deemed as "good" varies from individual to individual, but ideally a heathen would say to be "good" is to be "someone worth of the Gods". Heathens strive to build relationships with their deities, thus, they strive to be people whom their deities would wish to have relationships with- whatever traits they think these are, they attempt to achieve.
What Gods and deities are honored?
Heathenry is polytheistic and a wide range of deities are honored depending on your personal beliefs, the type of Heathenry you are involved in, etc. There are numerous entities aside from the main pantheon of deities that are honored and worked with as well. This includes various types of wights, ancestral spirits, etc. all based off traditional ideas and concepts. How heathens view their deities tend to be very individualized. Most believe these gods to be distinct individuals and not archetypes. Others see them as more symbolic. Typically the pantheon id divided into the races: Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun. Heathens may work with one race, or all of them, depending on what they do. Major Gods in this religion include: Odin, Thor, Tyr, Freyr, Freyja, Frigg, Skadi, Heimdall, Hel, Loki, Njord and some of the other Aesir/Vanir. Lesser Gods include: Vidar. Ran, Ull, Eostre, Jord, etc- only truly known as a lesser because in literary sources they did not play as big of a role. Jotuns include beings such as Fenrir, Mimir, the Midgard serpent, and so on.
How do Heathens function structurally?
There's no set in stone structure for Heathens. Some Heathens gather together in groups, known as "kindreds" or "hearths"- where they consider each other to be kin. Some kindreds run simply off group effort, with each member taking turns leading. Others and certain communities recognize Gothis and Gythias (the Priests and Priestesses of these practices), and they lead the groups. There is no one central figure for all Heathens. There are several small national/international groups which do encourage networking between Heathens however. And then again, some Heathens are independent.
Two main rites are done in Heathenry: The blot and the sumbel. A blot is a ritual feast, essentially. They are commonly celebrated outdoors, but can be celebrated wherever. It's really the standard all-purpose type of ritual. Blots are held to honor specific deities, to invoke them, gain their favor, thank them, and offer things to them. Mead is commonly poured for the specific deity (into an offering bowl, or a horn, etc) and a feast is held. The Sumbel is a drinking ritual. The basic idea is that a horn of mead is ritually blessed, then passed around, and those who drink from it say a few words, make toasts, oath to deities, name and honor deities, honor their ancestors, and so on.
I feel that's a good summary for anyone who sees this and is interested. :) Aside from that list of books, since you also asked about advice: I would suggest you to determine your personal beliefs in Heathenry. Ask yourself some questions. Which deities do you want to honor and work with? Do you have a specific subset of Heathenry that appeals to you? How do you feel about working with Wights? Or Ancestral spirits? Are there certain magickal practices you are interested in that fall under common Heathen practices? Are you looking for more traditional Heathenry- or something more modern? Do you want a group setting or do you want to do this alone? You could consider looking online to see if there are any local kindreds in your area, and I think it would be neat for you to speak to some practicing heathens, or even a Gothi/Gythia if you get the chance. Anywho, this may help you narrow down your search.