Heathenry

A modern spiritual path rooted in the ancient traditions of Germanic peoples, embracing polytheism and nature reverence.


Heathenry, also known as Germanic Neopaganism, Ásatrú, or Odinism, is a contemporary religious movement inspired by the pre-Christian belief systems of the Germanic peoples of Europe. It is characterized by a polytheistic worship of a pantheon of Norse deities and a deep reverence for nature.

Origins and Revival

Heathenry is based on the historical religions of the Germanic peoples of the Iron Age and early Middle Ages. Its modern revival began in the 20th century, drawing inspiration from medieval Old Norse texts such as the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, Old English literature like Beowulf, and Middle High German texts including the Nibelungenlied. These texts, along with archaeological evidence and folklore, constitute the “Lore” of Heathenry and are central to its practice.

Beliefs and Practices

Heathens honor a pantheon of gods and goddesses such as Odin, Thor, and Freya, each with their unique domain and influence. Rituals, offerings, and feasts, known as Blóts, and communal toasting ceremonies called Sumbels are integral to Heathen practices. Ancestor veneration, acknowledging the spiritual significance of one’s lineage, is also a vital aspect of Heathenry.

Central to Heathen spirituality is the concept of Wyrd, or fate, and the ethical framework provided by the Nine Noble Virtues, which include principles like courage, honor, and perseverance. Runes, the ancient Germanic alphabet, are significant for their symbolic and divinatory value.

Community and Diversity

Heathenry emphasizes community and frith, a principle of peace and harmony. While it has roots in ancient traditions, the religion continues to evolve and adapt, embracing modern values of diversity and inclusivity. Internationally, Heathen communities are primarily centered in Europe and North America.

Environmental Reverence

A key belief in Heathenry is the sacredness of nature. Practitioners view the natural world as a manifestation of the divine and emphasize a reciprocal relationship with the environment. Rituals often take place in natural settings, and environmental stewardship is regarded as a spiritual duty.

Racial and Cultural Issues

Heathenry in the United States has seen debates over “universalist” versus “folkish” interpretations, the former open to all regardless of ancestry, and the latter viewing it as an indigenous religion for people of European descent. Some groups, such as The Troth, advocate for a universalist approach, while others like the Asatru Folk Assembly hold folkish views. Efforts to distance Heathenry from racialist and national socialist elements have been made by many groups, including declarations against organizations with discriminatory practices.