Converting To Ásatrú

YggdrasilBefore I get started, I’d like to take a moment to apologize for things having been so quiet around here lately. For the last few weeks I’ve had some upheaval in my life and it’s taken a toll on my writing time. I switched back to a day shift at work, which means I’m a lot busier there and have a lot less time to research or write. I also came down with a bad case of food poisoning that left me in bed for 10 days. I also got a promotion at work and that has increased my work load a bit. I’m happy to be doing the new job but it is does mean I have a lot less down time. Things are finally settling out a bit, however, so that means I should be able to get back to writing and updating the blog regularly again. Now, on with the show!

One of the questions I see in a lot of places, whether it’s online, private messages I get, or even at events where newcomers show up, is what someone has to do to “convert” to Ásatrú. Of all the questions I get asked, this one is the hardest for me to answer. Heathenry, in all its forms, is not centralized. Some forms are more hierarchical than others, such as Théodism, and these versions tend to focus more on becoming a member of the group than on religious conversion. Other forms, like Ásatrú, is so highly individualistic that membership in a group isn’t even required to profess faith in the Aesir and Vanir. As someone who does not currently belong to any kind of local group, I am somewhat torn in my own opinions on the matter. I’d like to address the two different aspects present here, as they are both important.

I have said repeatedly that I believe being Heathen is fundamentally a cultural matter. In truth, this is a slight step to the side of Tribalist thought, where the emphasis is placed on tribal membership. I see this cultural approach as a modernized variation. Cultures were made up of many tribes and in today’s world the tribes are long gone. What remains, however, is the culture of now more unified people. To be Heathen necessitates being part of a Germanic culture because the way we think, speak, and act is what makes us Heathen as much as the gods we honor. For most of us, we live in a culture of Germanic origin, so this is partly met already. We do, however, have to work through 1000 years or more of outside influence to regain our identities. In this respect, all of us have some work to do regarding “conversion.” We all have to retrain our thoughts in some way.

In addition to our cultural identity, to be Ásatrú means that we worship the Aesir and Vanir. Our faith is a part of our culture. To the outside world, it is our defining trait. While I disagree with that assessment, it is the thing that most separates us from those around us. This is even at the very core of the issue. It is our faith that began to re-emerge first. It was what has allowed us to begin to revive our cultures and identities. When troth with the Gods of the North was re-established, it gave birth to any number of efforts to become who we once were. It is the faith that draws people in and opens the door to an entire world of cultural values and ideas. A conversion of faith leads to a conversion of being. And this is where we fall flat on our faces.

Because we are not centralized in any way, and because we are newly revived, we do not have hundreds or thousands of years of traditions telling us how to bring someone into the group. Instead, we are figuring that out right now. The truth is, we don’t have a conversion process. What we do have is a wide assortment of group membership customs that are as numerous and varied as there are Heathen groups out there. So, this leaves us with the question of how does someone actually convert?

BlótConversion isn’t just a matter of “accepting” a belief and then professing it. That may work for others but I don’t believe it works here. That’s just the start of things. As I see it, the first step is to do a lot of study. Like so many things in life, what you put into Ásatrú effects what you get out of Ásatrú. There are many different ways to approach Heathen faith. It can be culturally or regionally specific. It can be tribal, historic or modern. It can be pan-Nordic or even pan-Germanic. I can’t say what is right for you but I can say that I prefer a culturally specific approach. Whatever choice a person makes, it means they are going to have to do a lot of research. As I said earlier, being Heathen is about culture, not just religion. That means it’s about folklore and history. It’s about music and art. It’s about song and dance. It’s about being part of a cultural group, not just acting like it.

A person also needs to learn the basic tenets of the faith they are going to practice. This is probably the sticking point for most because there really isn’t one religion, and that doesn’t even count the different interpretations of those faiths. Those who are starting out today have it a bit easier, I think, than I did. There are a lot more books out there that discuss all sorts of different variations on Heathenry and Ásatrú. I suggest that newcomers read several different books and talk to others about those books. There probably isn’t going to be someone to teach you, so you need to be a self-starter and be self-motivated.

A lot of people want to jump ahead of themselves and make some profession of belief soon after discovering Ásatrú. I strongly advise against that. In all the excitement of things being shiny and new it is easy to over-look the obligations that come with being Heathen. A change of heart is also possible. I’ve met several people who were gung-ho at the start but within 6 months, they had decided it wasn’t for them and had moved on. We place a great deal of importance on the value of our word. If you should make a commitment in haste and then disregard it when things are no longer fun or interesting, it isn’t taken very well. I genuinely suggest at least of year or more of study and worship before making a solid commitment and professing belief. That said, I do advocate for a ritualized profession of faith. I believe that it helps mark the event in your life and gives gravity to it. If you belong to a group, this can be part of the process of becoming a full member of that group. This kind of act makes a clear delineation in your life and I have seen it be the action that reinforces a person’s faith when things are tough and belief is hard.

I have no doubt that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other things that can or should go into this article. I hope that this serves as just a starting point for thinking about what you need to do if you are thinking about honoring the Gods of the North or are helping someone through the process. I would love to hear from readers of all experience levels on this subject, so please take a moment to comment on your experiences and ideas. What you add to this conversation just might help someone else.


Converting To Ásatrú — 14 Comments

  1. Well stated, and pretty much true. There are many of us who aren’t close to an established Kindred/Tribe/Clan. I was for a long while, but am now without and yet there are quite a few of us in NNV and we do know each other. Heathenry is not for those who easily tire of study, and definitely not for the easily bored or those who have had issues with completing studies.

  2. Ale, this is an excellent post to help people discover Asatru. I strongly agree with your suggestion to study – there is so much to learn about the gods and goddesses, about the history of the beliefs and ultimately about oneself and how we can bring forward these beliefs into a new time and era. I have quietly practiced Asatru for nearly 40 years, and find I need at least another 40 to learn more, and still not be done! We are so important in reviving…and re-living our cultural heritage. I often wonder how all forms of European paganism would have developed, if Christianity had not decimated the native cultures and religions. How would it look today, 2,000 years later without that influence? That…is where we can step in. Step right back and into those “shoes” and use the wisdom and knowledge we have learned, painfully, since that time, and bring the gods back into our lives. May the blessings of the old gods be with you always:-) And…it is good to see you posting once again!

  3. This was so interesting for me to read. Thank you. I believe now that I have always been a heathen. Conforming to the belief of others, and christianity has never been something that was particularly easy for me to embrace, but it was what I was brought too, and I suppose I just followed. There was, it seemed always something missing, but what that was I could not find.

    Then one day, as part of something else I was doing, and the research. I came upon something that surrounded the religion/worship/belief in the Norse/pagan Gods. This was when I discovered the Asatru, and began the research into it. When reading of these beliefs, I read something along the words of ‘if there is a missing piece for which someone was searching in life’ and I remembered this, and came to look further into it. This was I thought, could be my missing piece

    This Asatru belief made so much more sense. It seemed to be something that was free choice, something, for which the individual was responsible, and not like the Christian deity of perceived force, that we are gods children and we must follow blindly. This was not something I could do. I have more thoughts about that. I hope I am explaining myself, I am quite new to this, and for now I am going and taking things very slowly. I am 70 years of age and all this time of believing, and fighting against Christianity, takes time to adjust. However what I do know, I am no longer Christian, and I know this will be upsetting to some. But that is just too bad though unfortunately.

    However thinking about my life of all those years, I am now so much more at peace than I have ever been. I am happy to just continue along with these thoughts, and the changes that come with it. My life is different now.

    I will tell a story, Recently I was in hospital, having a joint replaced, and a nurse came in to assist me. It was most unusual for me, I took an instant like for this woman, which is unusual in itself, and apparently her to me. We got to talking and the most unbelievable thing happened. She came right out and ask me ‘ in which goddess or god, I place my faith. You are Heathen she continued, I could not believe my ears. She could not have known this, nothing was on the paperwork which could have lead to this question. We talked and then she disclosed she was Wicca, and had been for all of her life. She had been adopted as a baby, and had never known a mother, but had found her place, in that belief. she said. She indicated she could tell, I was not at ease, and that she understood. Her words to me, were – ‘take your time’ I think these 3 words were music to my ears.

    Thank you so much this feels so good to speak this out loud.

    • Amazing story, thank you for sharing and good luck on your quest. It’s never too late to delve into your spirituality. And yes, Wiccans are quite clairvoyant, don’t you think?
      Good luck! (:

    • That is a moving and inspiring story. My conversion happened about 13 years ago. I thought of myself as a Christian up until the age of 27, when I finally admitted to myself that I didn’t believe and only wanted to believe in something. I was an atheist but still felt there was something more out there. For almost 10 years I believed in nothing but still looked.

      One night after going off-duty, I was riding my motorcycle home when the clouds became dark and I found myself in a rainstorm. Rain usually won’t bother me when riding, but it became so intense I had to pull over at an underpass. The rain was bad enough, but hail hurts when it hits your hands even with gloves on.

      The storm didn’t weaken. Lightning was flashing and a light post about 50 meters away was struck. I wasn’t about to leave my bike and call for a ride from my wife. Jokingly at first, I asked Thor, the only storm god I could think of, to get me and my bike home safely. I had a bottle of mead at home that was almost empty and I said to him, he could have it if he got me home.

      I started to ride again, and the gods as my witness the rain subsided. The weird part was the rain subsided on the highway. I could see it falling on either side of the road in sheets, like curtains had been opened. That kept up for the next 14 miles until I rounded the corner into my cul-de-sac and the rain closed in as I pulled into my garage.

      I kept my promise too. I went to my back yard and poured out the remainder of the mead for Thor. As I finished, a thunderbolt struck a streetlight on the corner about 20 meters away. My prayers had never been answered before. But this day they were answered directly, and for me without question.

      I wear Mjolnir proudly around my neck every day.

      • I recently found something out about myself. I learned from my mom and dad that when I was born, a lightning bolt struck in the parking lot as I was born. My mom could see it from the delivery room (back when they had actual delivery rooms!).

        Does this mean something, was it a “hello” from the gods? If anyone knows about things like this, I’d love to hear. Thanks again and I’m so glad I found this blog.

  4. I agree, whole heartedly, in advising newcomers to any Heathen faith, to study the crap out of it before converting/professing! To me, it’s like anything; don’t be quick to commit to something you know little about. Definitely, as Heather said, take your time. There is no rush. Read every resource you can and take it all in. It seems like a big task but its worth it in the end. You get out of it, what you put into it.

    I always felt drawn to Pagan faith but never found one that I felt comfortable with. Until I stumbled upon Asatru and it just felt right. I’ve been studying Asatru for over a year now but unfortunately, there are no kindreds near me (ahh, Australia), so I am in no hurry to profess.

    I think the most difficult part, as a beginner, is where to find the answers to our various questions. Which was a bit of a task for me because I couldn’t just attend a meeting to get my answers, I had to -really- search.
    Asatru is a totally different frame of mind in comparison to the monotheist religions our society is accustomed to, so that is also a big hurdle to overcome. It really is a weight off your shoulders when you find what you’re looking for and everything just clicks. Before I found Asatru, I felt like I didn’t belong. Like I was less because I didn’t conform with society. Now, I am happier than I’ve ever been and I have found my calling.

    I have become a strong, confident woman that my Dísir would be proud of. It is empowering that women are just as important as men in our faith. We should not be shamed by something as trivial as our sex.

    I want to thank you so much for creating this entire Blog. Know with everything you post, you are helping someone on their journey. And by the Gods (and Goddesses!) do we appreciate it!

  5. Hello. So, I have recently found asatru and I am more than stunned about how the religion makes more sense to me than any religion would have ever made! I was raised in a large extended family setting with majority being catholic, and I have never understood how so many could follow these faiths. In no way do I look down on any of them for it however. But any teachings I’ve ever known, seemed like it could be something I could just ‘blindly’ follow. And so the last 10+years I’ve been an agnostic! not because I chose not to believe, but that it was not something I as a person could agree with, with all the contradiction and whatnot in the bible. However, I have felt like something has been missing within me for nearly the last 3 years, and as of about 2 months ago, enter asatru. In these couple months of reading and comparing I seem to have found what feels like I have found something to fill the missing space, as well as interconnect every aspect of myself. From my reading and findings, I feel like there’s a renewed sense of understanding of a simpler time, where what people believed was more important than who you believed in. I’ve always said to anyone, “it really doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you HAVE something to believe in”, and I can honestly say I believe in the tenants of asatru! I’ve strived to live them everyday, well before I even heard the name asatru. I only wish I could invest in more materials to study, as my local library does not seem to carry anything related. But, hopefully in due time I will have the funds to be able to get some materials and learn more of this amazing faith.

    May we always honor our ancestors!
    Hail the all father!
    And hail to thee, my friends!

  6. I’m grateful to have come across this article. As some of the others, I am new to Asatru. And as has been recommended, I am studying and studying. Oath-making is a very big deal in this faith/culture and I want to be sure that I am up to the task before making a commitment. Too many times in my life have I started something, only to become bored or disenchanted or “too busy” to stay focused & committed. Now, before I do anything that involves “giving my word” I see the action as taking an oath, and I ask myself if this thing or task or commitment is truly one I care to devote my time to. This has actually prevented me from getting involved in things that could potentially clutter my life, and it has helped me filter down to the things that really matter.
    To my way of thinking, this is already practicing a part of Asatru. If I see that I continue to grow and expand in the principles, then the time to take that oath (whether with a group or alone) will present itself and I will be ready.

  7. Like Change above me, the more I study Asatru the more I start to believe that it’s been a part of me for longer than I’ve been consciously aware of. Promises have always been so important to me – like oaths to be witnessed – and I take swearing by something very seriously, almost without reason if you look at how laid-back/forgiving my family is about it.

    I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish community but a reform Jewish home by a mother who a) later converted to Christianity (where we fought because I would not follow the Christian god) and b) was the daughter of an unofficial convert FROM Christianity… so I have never really felt as though I have a place in either religion or culture. I have a deep love and respect for Jewish culture and people and history, but I cannot follow their god, it is fraud and the highest untruth to me, and the church and I just don’t get along.

    I’ve always been drawn towards the 9th-11th centuries in Britain and Northern Europe, since before I even KNEW there were religions outside of Judaism. No explanation for why, because my family never really talked about it. That world has always been nestled into my heart and my interests and even if I flit about in other interest circles for the sake of learning about the world, this is where I always come back to.

    Two years ago, I had a sudden pull in my heart, stronger than any love I’ve ever felt for any partner, telling me to go to Iceland. I went by myself and I felt a stronger connection to -something- than I had ever felt before. Leaving and going home threw me into a depression for two months, and eventually I started doing more research about old Norse religion. Last autumn I was finally able to return for three months. My friends and I drove out into nature and I never felt more at home, more spiritually connected, and more connected with the land than being by myself in that nature. I could nearly FEEL a pulling in my heart. It was a sense of peace and contentment I haven’t felt anywhere else, and I have travelled all around my country and to at least five others.

    This year, in a sort of final test for myself if I would ever be able to follow the Jewish god (and I have always said ‘follow’ a god rather than ‘worship’ or ‘believe in,’ though I don’t know why…), I went to Israel and climbed to the top of a desert fortress. I’ve never felt less Jewish in my entire life than at the top of that mountain. I was miserable, I was entirely spiritually disconnected, it was beyond too hot, I felt like a liar and a fraud even being there, I felt like I did not belong there, and I just wanted to go back — to go home — to the mountains in Iceland and sit by myself in the moss and rain, and listen for the gods. Then I heard a clap of thunder overhead. The people I was with told me it was just military things, it wasn’t thunder, it never rains here. I knew it wasn’t something else. Not even half an hour later, there was rain falling in the desert. To me it was a reminder and a message; it cheered me up and gave me just enough strength to climb back down.

    (Not to speak negatively at all about Israel as a whole — I still had a fun trip and got to see many historical sights, learn a lot, do fun activities, meet some amazing and inspiring people, and eat some great food. But it confirmed for me that the Jewish god is not my god, and that faith is not my place.)

    I am still only beginning my study and I will not make an oath until I have studied more and become more sure of it. The only thing I know with certainty about my Asatru study is that when I think of Jewish and Christian religion, I feel like there is no place for me there, and I feel cold and uncomfortable and ashamed of myself. When I think of the old gods, I feel stronger, warmer and fuller in my heart, and I feel like maybe there IS a place for me here. After my experience in the desert, this is only stronger.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts… I’ve just discovered this blog and I am devouring it! 🙂

  8. I love it. All of it. Although I myself have only recently stumbled upon it. I knew it was what I wanted, for one yes study of some things bores me but not Norse mythology, been this way all of my life. Always was fascinated by the pagan ways of my ancestors and have never felt right in Christianity, the moment I put the bust of odin on the beginnings of my personal altars I felt the energy in my room and in my body change in a heart beat, it was a little unsettling at first but after a few moments I adjusted said a small prayer to Odin and for the first time in my life, it felt like something was listening

  9. Thank you everyone for the encouragement and amazing stories. I need to continue my studies. Just a question though, for those who once was Christian, how did you get past all the nagging inside? I don’t know how to explain it really other than nagging. Then again my mother and her family have a great way of guilting me. They have me so worked up on damnation that I’m afraid of reading more. Although i never have really fit into any religion or belief. My husband has opened my eyes to the asatru way and his kindred. I feel as if they are more family to me than my own.
    I have recently been visited by a lady in green and haven’t been sleeping well. I’m not sure if it’s her or what but it’s driving me nuts. Is there a reason for this? I bought some crystals but need to cleanse them.

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