The word Asatru literally translates to faith in the gods. Asatru is a pagan faith. It is the reconstructed religion of the pre-Christian Germanic people. These people include the Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, and Gothic ethnic groups. The faith is founded from their beliefs, but anyone can be an Asatruar. You do not have to be of blood relation to any Germanic person, in order to hail the Northern gods. It is a faith that holds ancestors, spirits, and deities in high regard.
There are several gods and goddesses in the faith of Asatru. There are two groups/tribes. The Aesir and the Vanir. There was at one point a war fought between these two but peace was soon gained and now they intermingle. The chief of the Aesir is Odin. The Allfather and creator of man and the world as we know it. Of course he had a little help in these endeavors.
Asatruars also hold wights, elves, and other beings in high regard. Not all Asatruars regard the Jotnar (giants) because they are seen as evil. However, this is not the case. Giants are just as wise and powerful as the gods and should receive respect as well. Regardless of the being Asatru is a faith that reveres and respects the divine, the spirits, and our ancestors.
Most of the knowledge of Asatru and Norse Pagan faiths is derived from the Eddas and Sagas. These are a collection of poems and tales that describe the way people lived and worshiped at this time. The Prose and Poetic Eddas are studied and interpreted to rebuild the faith of the Norse/Germanic people.
There are no set rules on how to live your life in Asatru. However there are suggested ethics. The most strongly stressed is that of being true. This means being true to yourself, the gods, and your neighbors and kin. Do not be deceitful or dishonest. Your actions make you who you are.
Another suggested code of ethics is the Nine Noble Virtues. This is a list of behaviors and values that will make you true and good. They are as follows courage, truth, honor, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industriousness, self-reliance, and perseverance.
Have courage in the face of your obstacles. Be true to those you know and yourself. Dont mess around when married. Be disciplined and discipline those who are not. Be hospitable to all. Dont be lazy. Dont be needy. Persevere in the face of all challenges.
These are highly suggested qualities for an Asatruar to have. They are not laws. They are suggestions. It is a good idea to live your life closely with these values. You will be happy and a beneficial member to society.
The gods, wights, elves, etc are hailed in rituals. There are two common rituals that Asatruars use. These are the blot and the sumbel. Both are quite simple and common among various Norse Pagan paths.
The blot is a sacrifice. In the days of old our ancestors sacrificed animal and the word blot derives from blood. In more modern times we use mead, beer, ale, etc. A sacrificial beverage for the gods. There is a process in which the gods are hailed and a drinking horn is filled with mead and the mead is blessed. Then the participants take in that blessing by sipping from the horn and then they pour the mead into a bowl that will be the sacrifice to the gods. In a nutshell that is blot. I will go into further detail later.
The sumbel is more like ritualistic drinking. A drinking horn is filled with mead or another drink or preference and each participant hail the gods or being and then drinks. Sumbels can also be used to swear oaths and make toasts.
There are several organizations that try to keep Asatruars together and establish the norm among Norse pagans. A common group known in Britain is the Odinic Rite. There are other organizations like the Troth and the Asatru Alliance that also organize Asatru groupings. These groups are commonly called Kindreds. They are also sometimes referred to as hearths or halls as well. Family and the community are highly important to members of the Asatru faith. Kindreds include whole families and many various and unique members of the community. The whole group becomes a family.
There is a clergy system of a sort to Asatru as well. There are priests and priestess of the faith. A priest is called a gothi while a priestess is a gythia. Both are equal in leading the Kindred and many Kindreds try to have a gothi and a gythia present during rituals and ceremonies. They perform weddings, landtaking/landleaving rituals, seasonal blots, and naming rituals. They are also a source of wisdom and advice.
Yule-Tide (Jol) - December 20th - January 1st
Disting (Disablot) - January 31st
Ostara (Ostara) - March 21st
May Eve (Valpurgis) April 30th
Midsummer (Midsumarblot) June 21st
Freyfest (Freysblot) July 31st
Fallfeast (Haustblot) - September 23rd
Winter Nights (Vetrnaetr) Mid-October or October 31st
Lesser Feasts: The Days of Remembrance (there are many Leif Ericson Day being one)
A Few Divines
Short list of Gods
Odin - Chief of the Aesir and Allfather. Co-creator of man and the world as we know it. God of poetry, wisdom, and war.
Thor - Son of Odin and god of thunder. Thor is the patron of the common man. He dislikes frost giants and wields the hammer Mjolnir.
Bragi - Bragi is the son of Odin. He looks like an old man yet he is a younger god. He is married to Idunn. He is the god of music, poetry, and inspiration.
Tyr - Tyr is the one-handed warrior god. He is also the god of honor and truth. He lost his arm by making a promise he did not intend to keep. Fenrir was told that no harm would come from the final binding. Fenrir was clever and demanded one of the Aesir to hold their hand in his mouth as they put the binding on. Tyr knew this binding would hold, but the Aesir (Tyr included) promised no harm would fall upon Fenrir. Tyr thus made the promise of safety, then broke it with his fellow Aesir and as a result lost his hand. Some people are puzzled by this because of the new thought that Tyr is a god of justice . Tyr was honored by our ancestors as a god of honor and warfare , not justice and legality . Justice was ruled by the god Forseti.
Freyr - Freyr is one of the Vanir but he spends time mingling with the Aesir. He is the brother of Freya. He is the god of fertility and harvest and he is the lord of the ljosalfs (light elves).
Heimdall - Heimdall is the watchman of Asgard. He stands guard at Bifrost (the rainbow bridge from Asgard to Midgard.) He wields the horn Gjallarhorn which will sound on Ragnarok. He is also known for his excellent sight and hearing.
Loki - Loki is the god of chaos and change. He is actually a giant who lives among the gods. He was bound to a rock with the entrails of his son for his involment in Baldrs death.
Baldr - Baldr is the eternal god of light. He was beloved by the gods and men. Loki however could not stand Baldr and plotted to kill him. He exploited Baldrs blind brother and had him throw a mistletoe dart (Baldrs only weakness) at his heart. Baldr died and was stuck in Helheim. He will return after Ragnarok.
Short list of Goddesses
Frigga - Frigga is the wife of Odin and considered the queen of the Aesir. She is said to be able to know all the fates of men and gods. She has a palace called Fensalir in Asgard.
Sif - Sif is the wife of Thor. She has magnificent golden hair and she is the mother to Magni, Modi, and Ullr. She lives in Thors palace Bilskirnir Asgard.
Idunn - Idunn is the wife of Bragi. She represents eternal youth. She is the keeper of golden apples that keep the gods young forever. She is depicted as young and beautiful.
Freya - Freya is the goddess of love, sex, and magic. She taught Odin the basics of Seidr. She is the sister of Freyr. She rides a chariot pulled by cats. Like Odin she collects chosen slain from the battlefield to stay at her palace Sessrumnir.
Hel - Hel is the goddess of the dead. She rules of Helheim and watches over the dead. She is seen as both beautiful and morbid.
Ostara - Ostara is a goddess of rebirth and renewal. She is the matron of her holy day of Ostara which is also known as Easter. She is the goddess of spring, rebirth, and fertility.
Here are some additional links.
Northern Magic : Rune Mysteries and Shamanism by Edred Thorsson
Way of the Asatru by Michael J. Smith