Asatru means “loyal to the gods” in Old Germanic. It’s the old pagan religion of Scandinavia and the Germanic region. Diana starts by explaining the great migration periods from Asia to Northern Europe and the first section of the book is largely a history lesson of that. She mentions that because there was an abundance of natural resources in the Scandinavian region, the introduction of agriculture was delayed. Once agriculture did appear, the people had to maintain a working relationship with the local spirits of the land. These spirits are known as the “land-wights” and dwell in every rock, crag, waterfall and tree. Diana brings up an interesting point by comparing this idea to the “kami” of the Japanese landscape. She tells us that the Danube River is named after “Danu”, the life-giving moisture-mother whose name provided the root word that evolved to “humanity”.
Getting much further into the book, the author sums up that the giants of Nordic mythology are the spirits (land-wights) of the earth. I’m glad she says this because I didn’t understand why there are frost giants versus fire giants, etc. Even one Scandinavian government (I forget which one) will build roads around certain rocks that trolls are known to dwell in. After the San Francisco Bridge was destroyed in an earthquake, the workers built an iron troll into one of the new support beams to keep it from breaking, again. During the Christian conversion, anyone that was still a follower of the old ways or who practiced magic was considered “troll-wise”.
When the author starts to discuss the various gods and goddesses of Asatru, it is conveyed that the gods/goddesses act as a buffer between the giants and the humans. So I guess, when we’re praying to the gods, we’re really going through a middle-man…Perhaps this ties in with Paxson stating that we approach the Norse gods as allies, not as their servants. The fact that there are many deities to call upon for 1 reason is because (at least I think) the gods and goddesses are men and women who were alive in the human sense but immortalized because of their distinctive qualities. The author writes that the early royal families of England could trace their blood back to Wodan (or Odin, the “Allfather” or “king” of the Norse gods) or Yngvi, a king of early Sweden (now known as Freyr, the god of fertility and sovereignty). Freyja, Freyr’s twin sister, is the goddess of sexuality and magic. Diana mentions a theory that she is the source of early English traditional witchcraft.
As far as magic goes, the author informs us that it is not a major part of Asatru. Back in the old days, the Germanic pagans had people that practiced magic because they had a talent for it and offered their services to the village. It was a profession like blacksmithing or farming. The common form of magic used in Asatru is called “seidhr-magic” which Diana describes as “mind-magic” or “folk-magic and trances”.
Asatru has a strong emphasis on ancestry and believes that spirits are reincarnated through family-lines. Ancestors are reborn later on through their descendants. However, the religion is not exclusive to those of Germanic descent. Anyone can be part of it…There are other aspects of the religion covered in Diana’s book, but I feel they secondary to the points I have made in this review. This religion has a deeper meaning to me because I’m of Germanic/Scandinavian descent. I feel a part of something that encourages pride in my heritage. It’s not meant to exclude others or make those not of Germanic origin feel left out…but I definitely feel closer to this than I ever will of Voudou, for example. That religion was never part of my ancestors’ culture. I think everyone should have pride in their heritage and those who feel a connection to Voudou because it was the way of their ancestors have every inclination to feel that way. They’ll get something out of it that I, unfortunately, never will…but that’s OK. Maybe I’m not meant to.