asatru / heathen

The Masks Of Odin * Elsa-Brita Titchenell (Theosophical University Press 1986 * isbn 0911500731)

However this book is 20 years old, the Dutch translation just saw the light of day. It seems that also the Dutch section of the Theosophical Society realised that people also want to learn about their own past. This book can be regarded as the Theosophical answer to the Antroposophical book Tussen Wodan en Widar (‘between Wodan and Widar’ reviewed elsewhere). Titchenell uses the first half of the book to give Theosophical explanations of Norse concepts. These ideas are often far-fetched and very suggestive. Often she doesn’t name her sources which makes it hard to look things back. The first half of the book is by far not as interesting as the Antroposophical book that has a similar idea.
The second half of the book consists of translations of texts, mostly from the Elder Edda (that the writer still ascribes to Saemund). However she claims that she used an Icelandic original and an old Swedish tranlation, the titles of many texts differ and there are a few other discripancies. “-vida” often becomes “-kvädet”, such as in “Hymiskvädet” for “Hymiskmál”. In the case of “Baldrs Draumer” the title is totally different and somehow became “Vägtamskvädet” and “Rigsthula”, “Kvidet om Rig”. Then we have one text that I only know from this book. “Odens Korpsgalder” is a part of the Edda according to Titchenell, but mostly left out because it is too hard to explain. Further I noticed that the “Svipdagsmál” is in only one of the three Elder Edda translations that I have, strange! What is also strange that the writer writes the names differently. What is usually an “i” in the last accent, becomes an “e”, so “Hymir” becomes “Hymer”, “Ymir”, “Ymer”, etc.

Titchenell has a few weird ideas. “Lorride” is Thor’s electrical counterpart; “Trudgälmer” is the first sound and “Cosmic Thor”; Thor’s sons are “energy” (Modi) and “power” (Magni).
Other odd things. Vidar (one of Odin’s sons) will avenge his father during Ragnarök with Mjölnir! A few verses before the writer rightly translates that Thor’s hammer will be possessed by the two sons that I just named. “Hjkidskáf” is Odin’s (and Frigg’s) throne and the name is usually translated as ‘high throne’, Titchenell makes ‘shelf of compassion’ of it (in the English text in a note, in the translation in the text!). More interesting are the six constellations that the writer filters out of the “Hymskvädet” in with Thor fishes up the Midgardsomr.

All this make the book the book twofold. Sometimes the ideas are a bit too outrageous, but to have another translation of the texts gives a good way to compare them and the writers explanations are sometimes very interesting. I would say that this book is an alright read if you have some background in the subject. You will get a few unorthodox ideas which will force you to think about certain ideas that you might have had. If you are new to the Norse mythology, I suggest that you better first read a few other books about it. Just have a look in my book reviews section.

The English and German (PDF) versions can be found online by the way.

Van Ægir Tot Ymir * Paula Vermeyden & Arend Quak (2000)

This Dutch book with the subtitle “characters and themes from the Germanic and Nordic mythology” is a must-have for anyone interested in that subject and able to read Dutch. For some reason it took quite a while before I learned of the existence of this book, but I am more than happy to have it. The title already suggests that this is a reference-book or even a dictionary/encyclopedia. Indeed, this is exactly what it is! In alphabetical order no less than 77 subjects are written about. Some take several pages, others just half a column, but always the information is very objective and complete (many sources are used and given) and what is particularly nice, the writers have searched for all images (mostly named, not printed though) of a certain theme, other kinds of art, music, etc. which are always noted in the last paragraph of one article. Every article closes with references. “From Ægir To Ymir” is ultimately and the ultimate reference book on the subject!
Of course the book is not all perfect. Every subject is spoken about separately, so there is much double information. When you just use this book for reference purposes, this doesn’t matter. What matters more, is that there are some obvious and silly mistakes and on at least one occasion the book contradicts itself. In the article about giants (p. 158-162) contains most of mistakes. First, Sleipnir is mentioned as one of the giants that Thor has slain, but of course Sleipnir is not a giant, but Odin’s horse. Also the article says that the cow Audhumla licks Buri from a block of ice. This is not correct and on page 219 (under “Ymir”) it says correctly that Audhumla licks Buri from a block of salt. Whereas the book is mostly quite complete (as far as I can judge of course), the article about the giants completely ignores the (possible) naturalistic explanation of the giants (that they represent forces of nature). One last, and minor point is that page 162 (under “Rind”) says “The Codex Regius of the Song-Edda”. This Edda is usually called the ‘poetic Edda’, but that is just a matter of preference, but the Codex Regius contains the poetic Edda and this sentence makes it seem as if it is the other way around.
But, inspite of these minor points, this book belongs on the bookshelf of any ‘pagan’ or person interested being able to read Dutch. A short article with references and information from almost any corner thinkable which will highly simplify your own seeking efforts. The book, even when only 255 pages thick, contains tons of valuable information, is very well readable, has some hard-to-get images and references to books and works of art I had never heard off!
uitgeverij sun 2000, isbn 906168661X

De Godsdienst Der Germanen * R.L.M. Derolez (JJ Romen en Zonen 1959)

After reading the massive Altgermanische by Meyer I didn’t really know if a similar, but much thinner, Dutch book would bring anything new. Well, it does and it doesn’t. Derolez seems to have made a readable summery of the different Altgermanisches that had appeared in his time. He of course read the more modern books such as that of Jan de Vries. Also he is very familiar with (also from then of course) more modern investigations in comperative religion like those of Dumezil. Derolez did a fine job and however his book has by far not as many pages and the Altgermanische that I have, it seems that most information and theories are dealt with. Also Derolez proves himself critical towards the authorities that most people base themselves on in that (and this!) time and shows their flaws and insecurities, but highlights the goods points. This makes this book not only interesting from informational viewpoint, but also for those who want to study the available information critically. Of course -again- the book is 45 years old.

Midzomer In Europa * Aat van Gilst (2006 aspekt * isbn 9059114736)

Van Gilst earlier wrote another book that is reviewed in these pages called De Eeuwige Ordening (‘the eternal order’). His new book is called Midzomer In Europa, het feest van de zomerzonnewende (‘midsummer in Europe, the feast of the summer solstice’). I find De Eeuwige Ordening a nice book. Van Gilst sometimes holds theories different from my own, but his first book is very readable, highly informative and a classic about the prechristian faith in the Dutch language. Midzomer In Europa is thinner (about 200 pages) and entirely dedicated to customs around Midsummer, or the summer solstice. The book mostly consists of massive lists (but then put behind eachother like plain text) of customs and habbits surrounding the longest day in Europe. Herbs, dances, songs, rituals, fires, superstitions, you name it, Van Gilst tracked it down and noted it down. I have the impression that the writer is pretty exhaustive, even my tiny birthvillage is mentioned. The index isn’t specified enough, so you will have a hard to finding something back. Also the book doesn’t read too well since it is often merely an enumeration of facts, dates and customs. A great book if you are interested in the folklore around Midsummer, but not a book to just read for background information.

De Eeuwige Ordening * Aat van Gilst (Aspekt 2004 * isbn 9059113985)

After having read several standard works about Northern religion and mythology in German of 25 to 125 years old, there is finally a brandnew book and in Dutch too. With its 384 pages, it is much thinner than for example the Altgermanische Religionsgeschichtes that I have. Still this new book is big enough to be a reference work. Older books about the subject usually have a part with the history of mythology and the investigation of it, a part with information about spirits, giants, dwarves, etc. and the different gods and goddesses and a part with the (religious) life of the Norsemen. Van Gilst -however- starts with a part about the stone-, bronze and iron-ages to give you an idea of the earlier history. The writer appears to me of a follower of the school of Dumezil, meaning that the Northern tradition is placed in a larger Indo-European context and that parallels are sought with the religion and mythologies of other traditions. Others -however- see in Van Gilst more of a “naturalist” deminicing the gods to natural events or divined human beings. Therefor you will sometimes find other ideas or opinions than in other books or the conclusions of the writer differ from you own. This doesn’t matter, but it may be helpfull to know this in advance. In general I am delighted by this book, the fact that there is finally a recent one about the subject and the fact that it is written in Dutch. The writing is sometimes a bit sloppy, but this doesn’t effect the contence. So, all who can read Dutch are advised to get a copy of “The Eternal Order”.

Extra note, I know people very well informed in the Germanic religion who are not at all happy about this book. I like it myself, but just keep this in the back of your head.

Asatrú! – inleiding tot een traditionele religie * Stefaan van den Eynde (werkgroep traditie vzw 2003)

Traditie” (meaning ‘tradition’ as you may have guessed) is a Belgian group of people interested in the Norse, Germanic and Celtic traditions and Belgian folklore. In time “Traditie” became mostly based on the ancient Norse religion or ́satrú, but they are not exclusive in any way. Since there was no clear book in Dutch about ́satrú and how to practise it in daily life, one of the members (and since late 2004 main man) wrote this very well printed brochure named “Asatrú – introduction to a traditional religion”. Both for ‘newbies’ and for people who have been interested in Norse traditions for some time, this little booklet will be interesting, especially for its practical viewpoint. It is well-written (but in Belgian Dutch (Flemish)) and comes with many pictures. Not the most standard information, but more to tell you how Asatrú can be lived in our modern society. You will see many similarities with ‘other esoteric’ lifestyles, but the New Age movement is slain to the ground.
So, if you can read Dutch and you want to learn more about being or becoming a ‘practising heathen’, you may want to get in contact with “Traditie”. The brochure is E 5,- and I suppose firstly printed for members, but I’m sure that you will get a copy if you ask for it. -22/9/03-

(summer 2005 a revised and expanded version was published)