There are several terms that we use to define ourselves, not just Ásatrú. Some people prefer to call themselves Heathen. Others prefer to call our faith Fórn Siðr / Forn Sed, the Old Custom. Some people consider themselves Theodish, from a particular approach to reconstructing our faith. Then there is the classic Odinism. There are also plenty of other names and terms that people use that I simply don’t want to list because it would just take too long to do so. Simply put, there is no single correct answer as to what we should call ourselves but I do have a particular model of how I think of it.
The largest, most basic layer is Heathenry. This encompasses all of the various expressions of our faith. I look at it as an umbrella term. Regardless of what variation we belong to, we are all Heathens. Under this umbrella term is where I see the different “denominations” existing. Ásatrú, Odinism, Theodism, Forn Sed, and so on are all Heathen traditions but they all have differences that make them unique expressions of our shared Troth with the Gods of the North.
For me, I have chosen to identify as Ásatrú because I believe it is a term that accurately reflects my faith in the gods. It is not a term that you will find in the Lore because it doesn’t appear in writing until Edvard Grieg’s incomplete opera Olav Trygvason. Since then, the word has ignited imagination about belief in the Norse Gods. I like this word because, to me, it deliniates our past from our present. As much as I wish it were not so, there is a very long and large gap of time between the historical practice of our faith and the modern reconstruction of it. I believe that “fórn siðr,” the old custom, best describes how things were while Ásatrú accurately describes what we’ve become.
No matter how hard we work to revive and rebuild our faith, there is a limit to how much we can resuscitate the past. There are also elements of the past that simply can’t be brought forward in time because they simply aren’t appropriate to today’s world. We risk becoming anachronistic if we don’t acknowledge that there is work to be done modernizing our faith so that it meets the needs of folks today. We are deeply tied to our past. It informs us of who we are and where we’ve been. It allows us to rediscover ourselves in a world that has been dominated by Christianity; a world where our inheritance has been stolen from us and buried under foreign beliefs and thought forms. However, we are of the modern age. We are people of indoor plumbing, air conditioning, the Internet, and cell phones. We are not our ancestors and our ways today would be different from their’s even if we hadn’t been so rudely interrupted. That is why I like the name Ásatrú. It is derived from our past but it points us towards our future.