Ten Basics of Heathenry

©2003 Ingeborg S. Nordén


gray knotwork


(Author's note: Several people who saw my original "Ten Basics" posting on the ASHmail list pointed out that I had omitted the concepts of Wyrd and frith. Unfortunately, I am having trouble finding definitions on which all types of Heathen could agree--both reconstructionist and modernist, both Folkish and non-Folkish. If any of my readers want to help me find decent neutral definitions of those concepts, I would be happy to include them in future versions of this page; of course, I would change the title to "Twelve Basics" afterwards.)

I posted a list of basic Asatru beliefs to a general pagan board long ago, and am sure that most Heathens would accept these ideas as central to their religion--


1.   "Hard" polytheism: Heathens believe in many deities as distinct individuals (unlike the "soft" polytheism of Wicca and some Eastern faiths, which regard all gods as aspects of an overarching divine force).

2.   Focus on the Germanic deities: many Heathens (but not all) would say EXCLUSIVE commitment to Germanic deities, without denying the existence of other pantheons.

3.   Emphasis on Germanic history, tradition and lore as foundations. (All groups which claim to be Heathen base their beliefs and practices in such lore up to a point; the difference is where that "point" goes, how strictly the lore should be interpreted and imitated.)

4.   Respect for nature: Heathens regard the natural world as alive and sacred, although most do not treat it as the primary object of worship. Veneration of some nature-related gods and lesser spirits attached to a place ("landwights") is known, but not central to most people. Most so-called nature deities also have other, more "cultural" aspects (e.g., Freyr as a god of peace and kingship).

5.   Emphasis on ethical behavior over creed and ritual: the lore never states that other religions are wrong or invalid, and mentions proper Heathen worship very rarely. Dishonorable behavior, however, is repeatedly condemned and cannot be forgiven without proof that the behavior has changed (physical compensation might be necessary but not always). Some groups encode Heathen ethical standards as a list of virtues; others say that an official list is ahistorical and creates unnecessary limits.

6.   Lack of any "omni" traits associated with gods in other religions: deities are mortal (but hard to kill), fallible (but still responsible for their wrongs), and limited in knowledge (though they do strive to learn from other beings and have spies/messengers to gather some information). See below for a related point.

7.   Evil or imperfection in the cosmos has no supernatural origin: creation is assumed to be flawed from the beginning. Gods are already fallible, all beings are mortal, and no external force is to blame for wrong actions (neither a personal devil like Satan, nor a general state like cosmic illusion).

8.   De-emphasis on the afterlife: honorable behavior and achievements in this world are considered more important. Multiple destinations are possible after death; but Heathens do not seek salvation from an otherwise unavoidable, evil fate (hell, cyclical suffering, cosmic illusion, etc.)

9.   Emphasis on community: genetic bonds/bloodlines, friendship with deity, and voluntary association with fellow Heathens. Some people use ancestry as a basis for determining who can/should be Heathen; others claim this is wrong, with no basis in the lore.

10.                 Acceptance of magic (in various forms) as real and valid, even if one does not practice magic himself. Most Heathens (unlike Wiccans, for instance) keep religious and magical rituals very distinct; spellworking is not usually an integral part of worship, and vice versa.



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