Category Archives: asatru / heathen

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.

2013 Lit Verlag, isbn 9783643801562

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.

Kvilhaug also plunges into the deep explaning elements of the texts, such as the “I”, “me”, “her”, etc. in the Voluspa. This, with her reflections on the choice of translations, surely does shed a different light on the texts. I do not always find Kvilhaug’s reasoning sound, but often enough her interpretation forces me to think over a stanza again. This in itself, makes the little book (100 pages) a suggested reading.
Also, I had been looking for a while for a book with the original texts together with translations. The lay-out used for this is not the way I would have presented it, but at least I now have such a book. Hopefully Kvilhaug will continue with the remaining texts.

2016 CreateSpace, isbn 1507620926

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.

Extra points for being one of the few to write about this subject and for the fact that I ran into things new. To get a better idea of the book, read my article about it.

2016 Pax, isbn 9788253038438

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 find. 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.

Gründer not only divides the groups in “dogmatic” and “undogmatic”, but also in “universalistic” and “Völkish”. The second group of “eco-spirituals and tribalists” are halfway universalistic and Völkish. These groups are Yggdrasil-Kreis e.V. (‘Yggdrasil circle’), founded in 1974 and with about 50 members. Germanische Glaubensgemeinschaft e.V. (‘Teutonic faith society’), founded in 1991; 150 donators, around 15 members. Verein für Germanisches Heidentum e.V. (‘Society for Teutonic heathenry’), the German part of the Odinic Rite, founded in 1995 with about 60 members. Those were the “dogmatic” “eco-spirituals”.
“Undogmatic” are the Heidnische Gemeinschaft Berlin e.V. (‘Heathen society Berlin’), founded in 1985; 150 donators, 15 members.

The last group are the “postmodern” and “anti-Völkische” groups with one “dogmatic” group called Nornirs Aett (1994, 18 people involved).
“Undogmatic” are Rabenclan (‘Raven clan’) (1994, 100 members). Eldaring – The Troth Deutschland e.V. (2001, 200 members) and Asatru-Ring-Frankfurt (2005, 20 people involved).

So there you have the ‘scope of heathenry’ in Germany with a tiny bit of history and magnitude. Of course the numbers are from 2008, but this is better than nothing.

There is, of course, more information in this book. Gründer also has a timeline and scholarly reflections which may (or may not) be a reason to get this book.

2008 Logos, isbn 3832521062

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).

Inspite of the focus on Saxon history, the author (actually authors, since there are also texts of Jan ten Holt), there is quite a bit of use of Icelandic sources, sometimes a bit too easily too perhaps. This is, of course, inevitable, but I wonder if an uninformed reader will always be able to tell the source of the information.

However I laude the effort to give extra attention to the tradition of the particular area and even more so because it is placed in a larger context, but I do not find the book particularly good or convincing. It is mostly gathered information that I already ran into in other places and nothing is specific enough for ‘Achterhoek aha moments’. The book may only be a step up to a larger and better worked out project, but I have not heard of any follow ups of it.

A positive side is that the book mentions visit-worthy sites that I was so far unaware of. Some ‘neo’, like the authors own runestone and a stonecircle of a group called Athanor, but there is also information about interesting remains in areas that I sometimes visit, but was unaware of.

It looks like the first printing is starting to run out, but the book is not too hard to find second hand. Neither is it very expensive and it is nicely printed and comes in a hardcover with photos and about 270 pages of content.

A nice surprise.

2011 Uitgeverij Van de Berg, isbn 9789055123582

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.

What is much different from Snooks book is that where Snook investigated obviously as an experienced insider, Snyder never says where she stands. Is she an interested outsider or, like Snook, an insider with academic aspirations?

This little book may not bring a whole lot of new insights, but there are not that many investigations into contemporary heathenry and it is not very expensive, so it may make a nice in-between-read for you some time.

2009 Lulu.com

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 Lulu.com. 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’.

The 100th Idunna is an A4-sized, magazine-styled, 50 page publication, quite like the normal issues I assume. They did not turn the celebration issue into a thick book or anything looking more festive than a regular issue. The upside of that is that also this issue costs only $ 6,- like any other issue. The lay-out looks a bit like somebody is still trying to find his/her way with DSP software (‘desktop publishing’). Some articles are printed in one column, other in two, yet other in three. Fortunately the fonts and font-size are the same throughout the publication, but the headings get all kinds of weird fonts. A matter of taste I asume.

I guess #100 gives a descent overview of almost three decades of Idunna with a variety of subjects and authors. I found it mostly just an amusing read with a couple of more interesting texts. An intention to buy and read all other issues did not really grow from this encounter, but I guess that when I will make some Lulu order in the future, I just might get myself one or two Idunnas again.

2014 Lulu.com

Rites And Religions Of The Anglo-Saxons * Gale R. Owen (1985)

It had been a while since I read a book like this. On a forum somebody asked about ASH sources (Anglo-Saxon Heathenry) and somebody recommended this book. It is available cheaply second hand, so that was a good inducement to read something ‘heathen’ again.

The persion inquiring about ASH sources might have had a book in mind solely about Anglo-Saxon heathenry. Owen continuously refers to Scandinavian heathenry. This is not unexpectedly, since however there certainly are Anglo-Saxon sources, the Eddas, etc. give a much more complete look at the world of Gods and spirits. Rites And Religions does give a good idea about what is available for Anglo-Saxon souces though. The cross-references are needed to put things in perspective and to explain things that are not available in Anglo-Saxon sources.

The most interesting chapter is the opening chapter “Gods and Legends”. It has quite a few images, quotes from tales and poems and general information about Gods and the like. A chapter about every day life is followed by a chapter about inhumation versus cremation. Both ways of disposing of the bodies of the deceased existed alongside eachother. The fourth chapter about ship burials starts interestingly, but soon becomes but an extremely detailed description of what was found where and when. Something similar happens in the chapter about “The Arrival of Christianity”. The chapter is overflooded with details about artifacts and the like. The last chapter about the Viking age has a few interesting points, but also here tends towards the very historic approach.

The book is good to get a general idea of Anglo-Saxon history, but I did not alway found it a great read. I suppose it works well as something to read as starters on the subject.

There are several versions of this book by the way, published by different publishing houses. I got the following:

1985 Dorset Press, isbn 0880290463

Godless Paganism * John Halstead (editor) (2016)

A while ago I was going around the web like I do not do very often and I ran into a ‘blog’ called “Humanistic Paganism“, a board for atheistic pagans. I never really saw such divisions within ‘the pagan sphere’, but here apparently are people who found it needed to team up and give themselves a voice for having ‘uncommon pagan ideas’. The ‘blog’ has a few entries that make a nice read, but I have not really tried to read up. Soon after I started following the ‘blog’ a book was announced and eventually this book was published in April 2016 Godless Paganism, voices on Non-Theistic Pagans.

I got the book to see what this would be about and soon also experienced why there are people giving “non-theistic pagans” a voice. On an Asatru forum mostly occupied by Americans somebody asked about atheism and Asatru so I said: “Did you know about this book?” After that I get torched for recommending a book by somebody who is not accepted by “the community” and who tries to bring rot to paganism from the inside. So what are these ideas that appear to be offensive to some?

The main point seems to be that there are pagans out there who have a very strict idea of what (mostly) Asatru should be like: a certain kind of polytheism in which the Gods are all separate entities. There are people (like myself I may add) who have other views. A simple example, the Gods are part of a ‘larger Divinity’. So came distinctions between “hard” and “soft” polytheism, because the second view does not deny the Gods, but does have another view on them. The book under review shoves a whole lot of views different from what they call “hard polytheism” under their title and the largest part of the authors of the essays in this books are certainly not anti- or even a-theistic; while others are. There are again nuances within the atheistic group. Also within the confines of this book are pantheists, panentheists, etc.

The book comes up with all kinds of paganisms that I never heard of. “Humanistic”, “naturalistic”, “atheopagans”, PaGaians and whatnot. The authors come from all kinds of backgrounds. There are Wiccas, ecclectics, Southern-European pagans, Northern-European pagans, etc. There are very short and rather lengthy texts. Some are quite scholarly, while other are short and very personal. We run into people seeing Gods as projections of their psyches, people seeing Gods as archetypes or forces. There are worhippers of Mother Earth as Nature (not super-natural). Some texts go into practice. Of course there is quite a bit about how and why somebody who does not believe in literal Gods practices ritual for example and is this with ‘theisitic pagans’ or not? How was this in the past?

There is not much that I did not encounter in some form just as a form of paganism, rather than a ‘branch’ of it. Apparently over time some sort of conformity (dogmatism?) has grown within the pagan community and it has become necessary to give people with ‘other views’ a voice and a platform again. I do not find a whole lot of books with personal and practical contemporary paganism, so there is a reason to get this book already. Do not expect an in-depth learned book about contemporary pagan theology. Rather expect a book with texts by contemporary pagans sharing their views on things. Some even admit that they are not sure about everything they come up with so far and there are some who do not care to fill in all the details of their worldview as practice is more important than theory.

The book is good to get a feel of what the minds of a variety of contemporary pagans keep occupied. A thing I always enjoys learning about. Lots of things I read here are pretty far from my own views. The ecclecticism and New Age-approach of some people are things I cannot symphatise with, but it never hurts to learn about other ways of looking at things. What I do find interesting is that there are a few people describing how they try to make ‘including rituals’ which should work for ‘theists’ and ‘non-theists’ alike; which should even work whether the practitioner is interested in Southern, Northern European or ‘Amerindian’ mythology. The message is: of course there are different ideas within the ‘pagan community’, but why would anyone tell somebody else to be wrong? Does everybody going to the same celebration have exactly the same ideas? Fortunately not, otherwise I would probably be a lonely heathen.

And since I always tend to take sides with the underdog: of course I recommend this book! No matter how far some of the ideas posed here stand from my own, everybody has to walk his/her own path, come to his/her own conclusions and if these are different from my own, that is actually a good thing. So, whether you consider yourself ‘theistic’ (like myself) or not and whether you are pagan or not (or of whatever kind) here we have a book to get a bit of a feel of other people’s ideas.

2016 lulu.com, isbn 1329943570

De Geestelijke Wereld Van De Germanen * Jan de Vries (1943/2016)

In 2004 members of the Dutch heathen group Nederlands Heidendom (‘Dutch heathenry’) started to translate a 1943 work of the famous Dutch ‘Germanist’ Jan de Vries (1890-1964) about ‘the spiritual world of the Germans’ into Dutch. There was a revised edition of De Vries’ book published in 1964 which formed the basis for this translation. Chapters that were finished were published in the “Heidense Jaarboeken” (‘heathen yearbooks’), but now they are bundled together and published with extensive introductions in a well-printed booklet. This booklet is only available for members of the Nederlands Heidendom forum, so if you are one of those and missed it, be quick, the edition is not large. When you are not a member of the forum, you know what to look for on the black market!

The first (unnumbered) 60 pages contain four pieces of introduction from the hand of Boppo Grimmsma. He explains why the translations were started in the first place (even some Dutch find it difficult to read German), he made a biography of Jan de Vries, poses some theories about the lost manuscript of a Dutch version by Jan de Vries himself and then uses De Vries’ own ideas to see how objective the book is. This last part is more or less another biography, because it describes the man’s background and times and how these elements coloured his worldview and consquentally his work. Here you will also learn a thing or two about De Vries’ choices during the Second World War and how these choices polluted his name and fame when the war was over. These 60 pages are informative, well-written and entertaining, but contain some double information.

After these introductionary pages, 176 pages follow with the translation of the book of Jan de Vries. In seven chapters De Vries explains how the early inhabitents of North-Western Europe looked at the world. The subjects include honour; the sib/kindred and man’s place in ancient society; fate, heil, law, the soul; love and relationships; poetry and art (with well printed images); and in the last chapter, religion, cult and magic.

De Vries wrote this in an almost story-like style with many short references to a wide range of texts and sources. He touches upon etymology, comparitive myth, colleague investigators, archeology and what not. Still it remains a fairly easy-to-read book.

What is worth mentioning about this Dutch translation is that however the translation was made by six different people over the periode of about a decade, there are no big differences in writing style between the different chapters. Quite a feat! Even more of a feat is the current project, since members of Nederlands Heidendom started to translate De Vries’ major work of 1000 pages. The current title has “Raven-Reeks deel 1” (‘Raven series part 1’) on the back, so this suggests that more titles will follow. That might take a few more decades then I think.

So, when you have contacts with(in) the group of Nederlands Heidendom, make sure to get your very nicely-priced copy before it is too late.

2016 Nederlands Heidendom