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.
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.
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 Ísatrú, but they are not exclusive in any way. Since there was no clear book in Dutch about Ísatrú 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)