So you’re new to Ásatrú and you’re extremely excited to find something that finally speaks to you in a way that nothing else ever has. Heck, it’s like you finally found that one missing thing that makes the world seem not so scary and makes you whole again. Now all you need to do is figure out how this all works and you don’t know where to start and want some basic advice on how to get people to take you seriously. Here is a short list of some basic Do’s and Don’ts that should help you out.
Read the lore: This seems like a simple thing but there’s a lot that goes with this. One of the simplest places to start is becoming familiar with Norse mythology. While there is a lot more to different Heathen traditions than Norse mythology, this is where the largest part of the pan-Germanic mythology survived so it’s worth your time to become familiar with it. Sources like the Poetic and Prose Eddas contain the largest portions of the myths but they can difficult for first timers so I strongly recommend checking out Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Norse Myths. It presents the most familiar myths in easy to read versions with fantastic footnotes. There is also a large number of Icelandic sagas and other texts that you will want to read eventually, but for starters, I recommend starting with the myths and then the Poetic Edda. I am fond of the Larrington translation because she worked hard to get the meaning of the poetry right. It comes at the cost of verse structure and some of the beauty of the poetry but the meanings are easiest to understand.
Read modern resources: There has been a lot of good work by very smart and educated people who have dedicated tremendous amounts of time and energy to reviving our faith and way of life. Take the time to read their work and learn about the modern practices within the wider Heathen world. Of all the material currently in print, I believe the best resource is the two volume set of Our Troth. Give very serious consideration to picking up these books. Over the years I have found them to be an indispensable aid. Our Troth: History and Lore contains a great deal of information about the gods, wights, ancestral traditions and much more that will give you a great working knowledge of essential information. Our Troth: Living the Troth is a resource for how to live and practice your faith, including information on holidays, blóts, and much more. I can’t recommend these strongly enough. If you are interested in Anglo-Saxon customs, take a look at Swain Wodening’s Path to the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism for Beginners and Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times. There are other sources out there, including other blogs and websites that contain good information. Check them out. The more information you have the better off you will be.
Talk to other heathens: The internet is a great tool for connecting with others and may be the best tool you have for getting to meet others. It is not a substitute for person to person contact but if it’s all you have, as many of us really are the only one in a large area, then it can be a lifeline. Either way, get to know others. Not everyone you meet will be worth your time but I’ve found that most people are decent, hardworking, and sincere.
Think for yourself: There’s no doubt that the people you meet will influence your development. This can be a positive or negative thing. What is important to do, however, is think for yourself. Just because someone who seems to know a lot tells you something doesn’t mean what they are telling you is accurate or beneficial. Just because you disagree with them doesn’t mean they are wrong either. There isn’t just one way to do things and people interpret things differently. Take the time to evaluate as objectively as possible everything presented to you. Check sources if you need to, but think for yourself instead of just accepting what you’re told.
Practice your faith: One of the things that newcomers often delay doing is practicing their new faith because they don’t know what to do. The reality is that what you do on Day One will likely look nothing like what you do 10 years later. We all grow, change, learn, and develop. In the forty some years since the rebirth of our way of life there have been a large number of different frameworks and methods developed. Some were better than others but everything has changed several times. We are all working to revive things as best we can and that means we all change how we do things as we learn more and get better at this. If you need a place to start, take a look at my posts on blót and prayer.
Ask questions: This should be self explanatory. There are things all of us don’t know, so don’t be ashamed to ask questions. You’ll probably ask something that someone thinks is stupid. Screw ‘em! Ask anyway. You can’t learn if you don’t ask questions.
Work at becoming truly heathen: While there isn’t one way to live or practice, there are things that are genuinely part of our ways of life and things that really have no place. Those other things aren’t wrong, they just aren’t us. This is something you should keep in mind right now as this will take years to accomplish. Just keep in mind that Heathenry is made up of different ways of living as well as our religion.
Put up with crap: First off, let me start by saying that you will need to grow a thick skin. Frankly, we are notorious for being blunt and online interactions can easily escalate into flame wars. I don’t know what it is about the internet but people often act like bigger jerks online than they’d ever dare to do in person. Sometimes we are just blunt and your feelings will get hurt, even if they didn’t mean to offend you. Developing a thick skin will help with this. None the less, don’t take crap just because people are dishing it out. Behave yourself with some dignity and decorum, try to avoid escalating things if you can, but don’t let someone who is “respected” bully you. You might have to walk away from online or in-person groups but you’ll be better off for it.
Special Snowflake Syndrome: What ever you do, don’t contract this! The website Urban Dictionary defines Special Snowflake Syndrome as “a malady affecting a significant portion of the world’s population wherein the afflicted will demand special treatment, conduct themselves with a ludicrous, unfounded sense of entitlement, and generally make the lives of everyone around them that much more miserable.” The reality of things is simple, just because you “experienced it” or “deeply, firmly believe it” doesn’t entitle you to be taken seriously by anyone, no matter how much credibility you have.
Let fantasies run wild: Nothing destroys credibility and makes people think you’re a joke like trying to establish credibility by talking about how powerful your magic is, how you are related to a famous Viking warrior, you are descended from elves, or other just bizarre things. This kind of behavior is common in Neo-Pagan groups but it just makes people think you’re a fool or an idiot in Heathen circles. Please refer to Special Snowflake Syndrome if this isn’t clear enough on its surface.
Be a jerk: No one is going to want to help you, spend time with you, or pretty much anything else if you act like a moron. Be courteous, polite, and a good guest in other people’s homes. We pride ourselves on hospitality but that also means being a good and proper guest. This should seem obvious but all to often it isn’t.
We have no “Bible:” One common mistake many people make, and this isn’t just for people who are new, is to take the lore (particularly the Eddas) as “holy writ.” We don’t have anything like the Bible. The versions of the myths that are recorded are just that, versions. More importantly, they are the versions that survived. The different tribes, clans, and families of all Heathen cultures had their own versions and understandings and one isn’t more correct than the others. The Poetic Edda has great advice in it but it isn’t holy scripture given to us by Odin and is infalible and perfect. No! Just no!