Am I a Reformed Asatru
Editor’s comment — This article is a response Eric Smith gave to a non Asatru regarding his own northern european philosophy with respect to other Asatru communities and
practitioners– more liberal or more conservative– with the broad categorical comparison to Orthodox vs. Reform Judaism. Would he consider his personal practice akin to “Reform” Asatru?
When I first encountered Asatru, my immediate response was “But that’s what I mostly already do anyway.” Granted, my personal practice did not have a Norse spiritual element then but the 9 Noble Virtues, concepts of honor and the meaning of oaths and giving one’s word were all the same. At the time, I was a devout Atheist but clearly that is a bit different now. For quite sometime after that, I did tend to call myself Asatru when asked or “Athatru” as a joke and have been drawn to Heimdall from the beginning.
When attending FSG events, I did not initially meet many people representing themselves as Asatru but did over time. Eventually, I found that there were core differences between myself and many of the people I met in person or online. They can be expressed as the following:
- A dismissive and often insulting attitude towards Wicca. At this point in my life, a number of my family and friends follow some variation of Wicca or are at least influenced by it. I take this as no less an insult than when an atheist friend of mine refers to Southern Baptists as the Taliban. For the record, many of my relatives are Southern Baptists. It is rude and unseemly.
- My sense of acting as a host and the nature of a Sumbel are violated if I tell a guest how they must toast. This is not something I am willing to change and if it offends you that a friend of mine chooses to honor a non-Norse god or even an ideal, please do not participate.
- Pursuant to the above two points, I took an oath earlier in life to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That includes the First Amendment. I have read my Jefferson and believe that the spirit of that amendment is that no man has a right to tell another what is sacred. EVER. I am never likely to change my position on this. I will not tell someone else how to believe but I am happy to answer questions.
- My experience with a number of Asatru is that they are very insular. I think, in the long term, that pagans/heathens can only be taken seriously when enough of us stand together to be counted and bickering does not help. Believe me, there are a number of flakes who annoy me too but I talk to just about anyone. The Old Norse traveled the world and encountered more cultures than most and not just as raiders. Can’t we aspire to some of the same behavior?
As to my personal practice, I blot to the Einherjar twice a year and Heimdall frequently as well as the Watchman being my opening toast at every Sumbel. But in addition to that, my life is influenced by my principles and by Heimdall in real ways. My desire to finish my rating as a right seater for SAR flying and my careful reading of news including tracking jihadists are part of that. Since the events that led to my tattoo and class, I have found the spiritual part of me a bit more “settled” at the moment and I am concentrating more on family and friends.
Because of my differences with many who call themselves Asatru, I tend to use that term more as shorthand in personal conversations. In writing, I state that I am a Norse pagan and make no claims as to sect. I do tend to use pagan and heathen synonymously for myself.
Having said all of this, I do strongly suspect that most Asatru and I would agree on a long list of issues: oaths, right action, hard work and self reliance, the importance of doing what you say you will do, etcetera. I just don’t see agreement on the items I listed above. I have theories as to why, but they are mostly untested and I am in no hurry to debate them.