Asatru: A living history
There are many pre-Christian religions, some more well know that others. Within these pages we will explore a lost tradition and its modern day revival. Thousands of years ago Northern Europe was dominated by a religion known today as Nordic Mythology. Many other names have also been associated with this religion such as Germanic Paganism and Odinism, however Nordic Mythology is a more encompassing term. Through the studies of this ancient religion a new practice called Asatru has emerged. The following paper aims to explain the connection between Nordic Mythology and Asatru. The basis for Asatru lies in Nordic Mythology so it is important to understand its origins. We will look at topics including the location and timeframe when this religion was dominant in Europe and the stories behind their belief structure. This includes the creation of the Earth and man kind, the Gods that ruled over them and the inevitable destruction of the world as we know it. Finally the paper will look at modern day Asatru in order to understand the importance of preserving the heritage of Northern Europe.
Asatru is a modern day religion that is based on the belief structure found in Nordic mythology. What we know of the old Nordic traditions was derived from three main sources: the Sagas, the Eddas and the Rune Stones that are littered all across Northern Europe. The Eddas are a collection of poems that are the main source of the legendary stories that define Nordic mythology as we know it today. These poems can be found in a manuscript composed in Iceland during medieval times knows as the Codex Regius. No one is sure who authored the Eddas the common belief however, is that they were passed on through the oral traditions of minstrels and poets. Many scholars try to approximate the author, origin and timeframe of these works but since these are a collection of various stories spread orally for generations; it is commonly agreed that the answers they are searching for simply do not exist. There is also a certain level of difficulty encountered when translating the old Nordic text and for that reason there are generally several translations for any given Edda. The Sagas are a collection of stories that cover topics like the history of the Germanic peoples and the early Vikings. Unlike the mythology found in the Eddas, the Sagas are more based on accurate historical events. There are some far-fetched Sagas that are considered legendary Sagas, but the majority deal with people and situations that we can relate to. The Sagas also emerged from oral tradition, so there is some debate on how to sort out fact from fiction. These stories cover a vast period of time ranging from the early Viking voyage to Iceland and up until their discovery of what is now North America. Some Sagas told the tale of great kings while others tell us of the everyday life of the common man. The Rune Stones offer very little in the form of actual stories. They do, however, give use the clues we need to understand and better translate the text in which the Eddas and Sagas were written. The Runes were engraved with what is considered the Runic alphabet. This system of writing was around hundreds of years before the Vikings came into being and so far, the earliest Rune Stone found to date was created sometime in the second century. It is believed that the Rune Stones were originally used as gravestone, places to honor the dead and from these gravestones, an alphabet was born and the written history of the Europeans began. This system of writing and language was eventually eliminated in favor of Latin, which is why the Rune Stones left behind are so important when translating the Eddas and Sagas. Out of the five or six thousand Rune Stones spread across Scandinavia, more than half have need discovered in Sweden, for this reason Sweden is considered the center of Runic inscriptions. Outside of Sweden Runes can be found in many other countries...
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