Category Archives: asatru / heathen

Schamanismus Bei Den Germanen – Thomas Höffgen (2017)

I thought I heard of this book, but its publication is so recent (March 2017) that I doubt that it was this book. Its publisher also (re)published the Heidnische Jahrbücher (which are sold out), but there have been none since 2012, so that is not where I can have heard about the current title.

So, ‘Shamanism with the Teutons’. There is something that you hear about every now and then. According to the author, the subject has never been really well investigated and he aims at filling that gap. I am afraid I have to say that, in my opinion, he does so unconvincingly.

In the first pages of the book, the author says that the term “Shaman” is explained so generally, that much can fall under it. That is exactly my feeling about this book. Sure, Odin rides a horse, but is he therefor a shaman (and Sleipnir a drum)? Certainly, Berzerkr wear bear-skins, but does that make them shamans? I do not argue that when you list them all, quite a couple of elements of the Norse religion can be linked to shamanism, but I fail to see the use to do that as indiscriminately as the author does.

Völvas, people performing Utiseti (‘sitting outside’) or healing (wo)man undoubtedly have shaman elements or could be seen as shamans when you use that as a general term, but is an Ulfheðnar a shaman because he wears a wolf-skin and perhaps ate mushrooms before going to fight? Are their battles, ‘battles of the spirit’ then? And why make shamans of all the Gods, when a shaman is actually (at least in my opinion) a human being reaching for the world above? Why would a God need to be a shaman? read more

Icelandic Magic – Stephen Flowers (2018)

Almost three decades after the first edition of his Galdrabók Flowers comes with a follow-up. That book ran out of print rapidly and became wildly expensive. A later reprint (that I reviewed) was pretty expensive as well, but later on the book was again reprinted and it is now well available and affordable. There is also an English and Icelandic edition.

Just as in his Galdrabók, Flowers mostly fills the pages of this new book with introductory information. This again is interesting. Flowers made me feel sorry for not having had the time to visit Strandagaldur, the museum of witchcraft and sorcery when I was in Iceland. The fact that this museum exists proves Flowers’ point that Galdrabekur (‘magic books’) have remained popular in Iceland for a very long time. They were influenced by similar books from the continent, from which many spells were taken, survived the coming of Christianity and (even though less popular) the Reformation. Practitioners copied books, added their own spells and sigils and thus created their own books. Quite a couple of them have found their way to the National Museum of Iceland where Flowers studied them.

In his lengthy introduction the author sketches the history of the books, gives an idea of the lives of some magicians (many Christians!), says a few things about the ‘light’ and ‘dark’ versions and towards the end has a “grey book” part with spells and signs. Flowers wanted to create a practical book of magic, so he explains how the sigils are built up, how you can use them and how you create your own. At the end some pages are left blank so you can add your own workings and create your very own “grey book” just as the Icelandic magicians did in the past (and present). read more

Asatru – Henning Andreas Klövekorn (2013)

I actually do not know how it comes that it took me almost two years to get Klövekorn’s other book. Previously I reviewed his book about Freemasonry.

Like the later edition of the Freemasonry book, Asatru is available as a cheap print-on-demand book. The author surely does not want hindrances for people to obtain his writings.

Besides being a Freemason, Klövekorn is ‘Asatruar’, a “gothi” even. The author was born in Germany, lived in South Africa, but I think it was in Australia (where he still lives) that he started to pursue the path of Asatru. The little book of 226 pages makes a somewhat shallow introduction into the subject. As there are not many writings of contemporary heathens, this is good for people who are looking for first info, but less so for people who hoped for more in depth insides.

There are quite a couple of negative things to say about the book. Klövekorn uses the term “Asatru” as a very general term but I do not know if a new reader will know it is but an umbrella term. What always stings me a bit, is that Klövekorn uses the same term to refer to the religion of old. So people who lived centuries back, were also “Asatruars” while the term is only a few decades old. Even Stonehenge is an Asatru monument to Klövekorn, so the generalisation also crosses cultures.

Then there is the fact that the author is very loose with his retellings of myths and sagas. Odin made his spear Gungir himself from a branch of Yggdrasil. Eh? Also Odin was blown into the same tree by a strong wind and hung there for nine days head-down. Eh?
Oftentimes I have the idea that Klövekorn wrote the book by heart without cross-checking too much. read more

Im Namen Des Wolfs – Andreas Hebestreit (2013)

A German book about “rites des passages” focusing on the Celts. Would that be political correctness? Not really, since the author does not shy to refer to Jan de Vries and Otto Höffler and he even uses the term “Indogermanisch” rather than “Indo-European”, so it looks like he really wanted to focus on the Celts. Obviously it is hard to draw the line that firmly.

“In The Name Of The Wolf” is a relatively expensive book for its size (125 pages) and does not really seem to contain many new insights. It is good that after Kershaw there are still people conducting research to Männerbünde” and warrior initiations of times passed though. Hebestreit seems to be a well-read and multi-lingual author since he not only refers to titles written in German, but also titles written in French and even some Scandinavian titles. The largest part of the bibliography is in German though.

The author seems to like the term ‘rites de passage’. Since he quotes Eliade, I am sure he knows that a ‘rite de passage’ is not the same a an initiation into a warrior bond.

That said, Hebestreit tells a story in which Celtic warriors go down not so much a Wicker Man, but a wicker-wolfs-head during their initiation. He refers to Roman authors, Teutonic sources, a range of anthropologists and investigates the meaning of the wolf in ancient societies onwards to more recent one (after Christianisation).

I like to think that I read German, actually I frequently do, but somehow a text of a century old is easier to me than a recent one. Also in the little book of Hebestreit I have the feeling that I miss a lot of details and nuances and I feel incompetent to go into his theories in detail. Therefor I will refrain to informing you that there is another book about Medieval warrior initiations which may not bring much really new, but there sure are elements that were new to me. read more

The Poetic Edda * Maria Kvilhaug (2016)

I have known the name of the Norwegian Maria Kvilhaug (1975-) for some time, but never got to read anything of her. The apparently most interesting title The Seeds Of Yggdrasil (2012) is very expensive and then my eye fell on this very recent (November 2016) little book with “Six Cosmology Poems” that Kvilhaug had translated herself. What is more, she put the original text and her translations side-by-side and added notes to explain why she made the translations the way she did.

There is a need for these explanations, because Kvilhaug does not shy to come up with wholly different translations from what we are used to. The texts the author translated are the Voluspa, Vafthrudnismal, Grimnismal, Grottasongr, Allvismal and Hyndluliod.
These texts she says are from “creative poets who composed poetry of their own. The Edda poems contain a lot of ancient themes and profoundly Heathen material, but they have also been composed by poets who had an agenda: To convey wisdom through the art of metaphors.” (p. ii)
In the introduction Kvilhaug explains her position further.

The author also sees the symbolism of names and therefor decided to translate most names. The reason is that she thinks the names were not chosen at random, or because they sounded good. Leaving the names untranslated would bereave the reader with some of the depths of the poems. And so Heimdallr becomes “Great World”, Valfadr “Choice-father”, Verdandi “Is About To Happen” and Hoenir… “chicken”.
I will add some parts to the quotes section. read more

Frimurerne I Vikingtiden * Arvid Ystad (2016)

“Freemasonry In Viking Times” is a book written by the Norwegian Freemason Arvid Ystad, a civil engineer and layman historian. He chose a subject that you may have run into more often on this website: origins of Masonic symbolism that can be found in prechristian Northern Europe.

The book is written in Norwegian. I have not found a place to get it outside Norway and the publisher (where I ordered it) has no plans for an edition in another language. So I read the book in Norwegian and I wrote an article based on it from this exercise. You can find that article here.

Of course I do not master the language so I am not the right person to judge the book, but what I understand from it there are a few, somewhat thin, red threads, but also a wealth of interesting similarities, several of which were new to me.

I certainly hope the book will raise some attention and that the author will make an English version of it, so I (and other people) can get more to the bottom of Ystad’s information.

The book has some pretty detailed descriptions Masonic ritual and symbolism of “blue Freemasonry” as the author calls it (the first three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason), so I may need to discourage reading the book to people who plan on joining a lodge, or who have not passed the three mentioned degrees.
The author does mostly refer to the York Rite and probably based his information on some old work(s) of exposure, but in some situations the information just might be a bit too detailed. read more

Germanisches (Neu-)Heidentum In Deutschland * René Gründer (2008)

I had been looking for information about contemporary heathenry in Germany without luck and then I ‘accidentally’ run into this book. I do not even remember how.

“Teutonic (Neo-)Heathenry In Germany” is a small book of 120 pages written with the distant view of an anthropologist and therewith not entirely what I hoped to have found. The book makes a nice read though with some information that I did hope to find.

The book is largely defining definitions and placing contemporary heathenry in a larger context. The author sees three phases for paganism in Germany that also represent three currents. From the 1900’s there are “Völkish” / “folkish” groups, often of an Ariosophic breed. From the 1970’ies there are ecological and New Age groups that grow into “eco-spiritual” and “tribal” groups. Again a few decades later, the “universal” groups start to emerge and the “folkish” elements start to be repressed in the larger heathen community.

Gründer mentions more groups in Germany than I knew, but following his scheme on page 92, I can give you in idea of the heathen landscape in Germany.
Gründer mentions seven groups that he names “ariosophisch”: the Armanen Orde that was founded in 1908 and refounded in 1976. The order currently has about 100 members. The Goden-Orden was founded in 1957 and has about 100 members. The Artgemeinschaft – GGG e.V. was founded in 1951 and has about 150 members. The Dorflinde e.V./ Mittgard-Orden was founded in 1992 and has 10 people involved. The author puts these four groups in the “dogmatic” section of his scheme. “Undogmatic” yet “Ariosophisch” are Arbeitsgemeinschaft naturreligiöser Stammesverbände Europas (ANSE) e.V. (‘working society natural-religious tribal unity from Europe’), number of members unknown. Deutsche Heidnische Front (‘German Heathen Front’) has existed from 1996 until 2005 with about 15 people involved. Arbeitskreiz Naudhiz e.V. was founded in 2000 and has about 20 members. read more

Saksische Tradities * Dominick ten Holt (2011)

Apparently there are people in my country interested in and working with the prechristian religion of our area of whom I never heard. Somehow I ran into an announcement of a newly erected Irminsul (or if you cannot read Dutch, try this Google translation). I am not entirely sure what to think of this project, but when I started to look for more information about the people behind this project, I found a book called “Saksische Tradities”, five years old and I never heard of it.

The title page says that there are German and English versions of the book. I did find the German one, but not an English version. If there is somebody who can point me to this English edition, please do.

Dominick ten Holt stepped into his father’s footstep2 by investigating the traditions of the area where both grew up, the Achterhoek, an area in the Province of Gelderland of the Netherlands. The reasoning is that Saxons lived there and the Saxon area was, of course, much larger. In the Western part is the area where the author is from. To the North it reached the coastal area of the Frisians, then going all the way up to Denmark, the Hartz-area in Germany as the farthest East and the Southernmost part is as South as Köln/Cologne. And of course the Saxons crossed the North Sea to the British Isles.

Ten Holt set out to investigate the religion, folklore, customs, etc. of the entire Saxon area thus showing where elements that can be found in Great Britain came from. The chapters sometimes seem especially written for the book, sometimes they are articles that have been published before. They span a variety of subjects spanning from seasonal feasting customs, etymology, expressions of art, folklore, reports of visits of Saxon sites and areas and of course history. The author is fairly fierce towards Christianisation, particularly the role of Charle’magne’ which he dubbed Charles the Butcher (some call him the Saxon-slayer). read more

Voices of Modern American Asatru Women * Steffanie Snyder (2009)

This is Snyder’s dissertation for her Master’s degree at the Union Institute & University. She put it up on Lulu and you can buy it looking probably quite like what she handed over to her instructors. A ringed, 80 page, A4 booklet with space for all the authographs of approval and a lot of white between the lines. Oddly enough some typos are left. Also Snyder uses some strange transliterations, such as “Seith” (the word is not Seiþr, but Seiðr) and the author is very consequent in leaving away accents (so am I most of the time). Perhaps a word for the reasons would have been in order.

This paper is quite like the book of Jennifer Snook, but predates that investigation by six years. Snyder interviewed 15 women who adhere “the Asatru religion”. These interviews are woven into a story with here and there quotes from the interviews. The questions that the ladies got, are printed in the back, along with a glossary (other terms are explained in notes) with sometimes a bit too easy explanations. All the way in the back is a short bibliography which includes titles from Titchenell, Thorsson/Flowers and Gardell but also Strmiska.

The interviewees (including Diana Paxton of The Troth and Sheila McNallen of the Asatru Folk Assembly) were asked how they see their religion, how they perceive the role of women and how this relates to the Goddess movement, magic, ethnicity and how they see the future of Asatru.
Just as Snooks book shows, there is a lot of overlap between the different approaches to Asatru, but also many differences, also fundamental differences. Snyder approached women in a variety of approaches and says a few times that even though “Asatru” is a somewhat limiting term within the larger “pagan” movement, it still covers a variety of interpretations. These differences mostly show in the subjects of heathen clergy and ethnicity. It is also in these types of subjects that I (as a European) see much difference between European and American heathenry. read more

Idunna #100 (2014)

In 1987 The Ring Of Troth was one of the organisations coming forth from the Asatru Free Assembly (the other was the Asatru Alliance, which would later become the Asatru Folk Assembly). The Ring Of Troth was founded by Edred Thorsson and James Chisholm. The former left the organisation in 1995 due to controversies around his membership of the Temple Of Seth. Thorsson is of course nowadays more famous for running the Rune Gild and as an author on eoteric heathen topics.

The Troth came up with something smart. They digitalised their periodical Idunna which is now available from the self-publishing-on-demand company You can pick an ebook or printed version. Each and every issue, from the first of 1988 to the 103th of Spring 2015 is available from Lulu. When I noticed this, I looked around which issue(s) to buy and I figured I would try the 100th issue (Summer 2014) because it is a ‘best of’ compilation. That should give a good idea of the development of the magazine.

#100 Opens with a recent and an old “Steersman”s introduction. Then follow two (relatively) famous (ex?) members, the earlier mentioned Thorsson and Eric Wodening who is nowadays better known as a major figure in the þheodism-movement (his brother Swain is also featured by the way). Now of course The Troth is an “inclusive” heathen organisation, so a þeodsman, Asatruar or whatever kind of heathen can still be a member, but those are not the first names I expected. Two people who I did expect are Kveldulf Gundarsson and Diana Paxson who are, of course, featured. Of Winifred Hodge a text about oathing is reprinted. Then follows a text is about Seiðr (by Jordsvin), a fairly odd (yet amusing) text about psychic ‘warfare’. There are texts about Alfar, hospitality, handicraft, cooking and there is poety and some humour. The best text (in my opinion) is Ben Waggoner’s “Some Thoughts on Evolution”, a heathen take on the creation of things of someone who is a teacher on the subject of evolution in his ‘normal life’. read more