Hail! Welcome to the Hall of the Hammer!
Welcome to the norse and germanic section of the Temple of the Oak, Hammer, and Star. This is where those interested in the old Gods and Goddesses of northern Europe are found. The primary deities of this rebuilt faith are the members of the Æsir and Vanir, two tribes of gods who warred and then joined together. Then there are also elements of ancestor worship, a variety of nature spirits as well. The Hall of the Hammer is the section of the Temple dedicated to exploring the worship of the northern Gods. Asatru, Vanatru, nordic shamanism, Wiccatru, and others walking the northern path, can all find good information here.
Norse and germanic neopaganism is, by and large, a set of reconstructed pagan religions. Based on recovered and translated lore, largely from Iceland, it arguably has the most serious scholarship behind it in the world of modern paganism. Originating from scandinavia and the germanic areas of Europe, the modern practitioners of the faith go by many names. Asatru (Æsir oriented, generic appellation), Vanatru (Vanir oriented), Forn Sed (“Old Way”, Danish), and Heathen (another generic appellation) are the most common ones. They also reflect interior variations of the faith. Robust and yet humane at the same time, it’s a path not for all, but beloved by the followers of it. It is robust, as it is a faith that asks its followers to be independent in mind, body, and spirit; and humane in its extensions of hospitality, its community orientation, and its belief in strong family.
Dedicated norse and germanic groups are often called Kindreds, and they are similar to the Covens of Wicca. They range in size from a handful of people to dozens, and there are often higher level organizations, such as the Troth (an international organization), and the Heathen Freehold Society of BC (BC’s largest Heathen organization). There is currently no Kindred in the interior of BC.
Heathen ritual activity is based around the natural cycle of the seasons, much like many other Pagan earth-based religions. Rituals held are fairly simple affairs, only as long or complex as the people conducting them want them to be. The Heathen pattern of holidays roughly corresponds to this wheel chart:
The most common ritual undertaken by Heathens is the Blot (pronounced bloat), and the instructions for this simple ritual can be found in the Ravenbok pdf in our Library. Any of these holidays may be used for a Sumbel as well, which is a bit more elaborate, and involves toasting and feasting. As you may guess, a Sumbel takes a lot more preparation than a Blot!
Modern Norse and Germanic Paganism has been described as the “religion with homework”, and it’s true. Education and knowledge were highly prized in antiquity and are equally prized by modern Heathens. Combined with a plethora of near original material and new interpretations on old ideas, modern Heathenry is a dynamic and and active religion. New entrants and those interested in the faith are strongly recommended to read up on the material at hand, and to continue to study as they develop their own path and ideas. Traditional practices in Europe had commonality in how they were practised, but not necessarily in how the participants believed. In modern times though, both can vary.
Norse and germanic neopaganism and neopagans have a very mixed reputation in the pagan community. This comes from a selection of misperceptions, misunderstandings, assumptions, and of course, encounters with the fringe elements. So here are some frequently asked questions and misperceptions (using the common appellation of Heathen):
Q: What is Heathenry?
A: Heathenry is a generic term for a selection of religious subgroups that fall under the umbrella of norse and germanic pre-christian belief systems. At the core of it are the Æsir and Vanir pantheons, and attached are a variety of reconstructed systems, drawn from historical and archaeological resources. First recognized as an official religion in Iceland, it has since spread to Europe and the Americas where it is a rapidly expanding presence in the larger Pagan community.
Q: Aren’t heathens all racists?
A: Absolutely not. Unfortunately, like most religions, Heathenry has a small, loud, obnoxious, and extreme fringe element who want to use it for political gain and to support fallacious beliefs and repugnant ideals. True heathens judge an individual on their deeds and words, not by the colour of their skin. The vast majority of heathens are not racist, and the community has spawned groups like Heathens United Against Racism and Heathens Against Hate to combat the spread of hatred in the name of the Gods.
Q: Heathens are all conservative aren’t they?
A: Heathens come in at all political angles and directions. Heathens believe in strong communities and families, things that have become associated with conservatism in the modern political spectrum. Heathens also tend to be more “grounded” and down to earth, which makes them seem more conservative than they actually are.
Q: Heathens are sexist right?
A: Nope. Sexism has little place in a community where in the past, women owned much of the family property and knew how to defend it, and themselves. There are some traditional gender roles associated with both sexes, these are more malleable in the modern world. There is a strong mutual respect between the sexes in modern Heathen circles, and neither side regards itself as dominant. Equality and forms of egalitarianism are strong factors in both the ancestral and modern practice of heathenry.
Q: Are Heathens all warriors and combat obsessed?
A: Kind of? In broad strokes, the majority of the Heathens of old weren’t a belligerently combative people, but were capable of fighting to defend themselves from danger and invasion, or even being mobilized into an aggressive force when the situation demanded. Self defence and combat skills remain an interest of many modern Heathens, in both classical forms and modern forms. Heathenry has also drawn a fair number of military members and veterans internationally, who are unbothered by speaking their minds, adding to this misperception.
Q: Isn’t Wicca and Heathenry like oil and water?
A: No, they aren’t. They share a reverence for the earth, both are polytheistic, and they share a number of holy days. There are some cultural differences, and definite clashes over perceptions of the Gods and Goddesses. That said, there is no reason that they can’t work hand in hand to build a stronger community. Further, Wiccatru exists. While lamented by more dogmatic purists in the Heathen community, they are Wiccans who have adopted a largely nordic or germanic pantheon, and choose to worship and interact with them in Wiccan style. The two can coexist quite easily.
Q: Don’t you have to be from northern Europe to be a part of this? It seems very ethnocentric.
A: The Gods and Goddesses choose who they choose, and your path is your path. The Norns are pretty good at laying out your fate, and it’s to follow the old faith of northern Europe, it’s best to go with it. There are followers of African, Asian, Latino, and mixed descent, to name a few; and while less common than followers of european descent, they are active and proud members of the faith.