No, most Heathens and Norse pagans are not white supremacists. Heathenry was co-opted by racist groups to benefit white nationalist agendas starting as early as the 1890’s, but this was never a natural part of Heathen spirituality. To learn more about this, see An Abridged History of American Heathenry.
No, Norse pagans are not “vikings.” Víkingr was an ancient occupation, while Heathenry is a modern neo-pagan spirituality.
No. Wearing a beard is a personal choice made by people who practice Ásatrú, Forn Sidr, Norse Paganism and other forms of Heathenry, but it’s not required in Heathen practice.
The reason for this is because Heathenry is a decentralized religion without any doctrines or dogmas. There’s no ultimate authority (be it a book or a person) that determines what Heathen practitioners should do, including whether they must wear beards. Religions that mandate certain dress styles do so because it’s part of their religious doctrine.
Many Heathens choose to wear beards as tribute to Old Norse cultural values of good hygiene and healthy grooming habits. Long hair may also be worn in conjunction with the beard, especially since Heathen identity can also overlap with various musical subcultures where long hair is typical for all genders.
Any individual, group, or resource that claims beards are mandatory in Heathenry are enforcing their personal opinion rather than anything cultural, religious, or even historical.
The benefit of a doctrine-free religion means the choice of practice belongs to the individual, rather than a system. Because of this, Heathens can shave for settings where high sanitization is necessary, like in the military and in medical fields, without it impacting their practices.
No. Heathenry is an open religion and anyone can practice it regardless of their race, ancestry, or country of origin.
How Heathens factor deities into their practices depends on their approach to polytheism:
Soft Polytheism is the view that gods are archetypes as opposed to literal beings. Soft polytheists believe these archetypes are products of the human mind and reflect the human condition.
Hard Polytheism is the view that gods are autonomous beings with an existence outside of our own minds. Hard polytheists believe gods are individuals in their own right.
Unlike in Christianity, Heathens can interact directly with deities without the need for mediators like priests or scripture. The relationships Heathens form with deities are just as various as the relationships we have with each other: They can be casual or formal, occasional or regular, friendly, familial, professional, mentoral, and more. Some Heathens may say they “work with” deities to indicate a collaborative relationship, while others may approach deities with veneration and worship.
Additionally, Heathens can choose which gods they interact with, focusing on some more than others. Some Heathens may be henotheists and work exclusively with one deity without denying the existence of others. Other Heathens may be polyaffiliated and work with additional deities outside of the Norse pantheon (a typical occurrence in modern paganism). And lastly, some Heathens may not work with the gods at all, preferring to focus on ancestor veneration, spirit work, or other aspects of physical practice.
To learn the specifics on how to work with deities, see Deity & Spirit Work 101.
No. Heathenry is a spirituality by and for common, everyday people from all walks of life. Many people—particularly Americans—get the impression that Heathenry is a masculine, dark, warrior faith due to a combination of the commercialized “viking” genre (Vikings, Skyrim, Assassins Creed, Amon Amarth, Wardruna, etc.) and long-standing neo-Völkisch influences in American Heathenry.
In truth, this image of Heathenry is specific to the US and Canada and is not found in European forms of Heathenry.
Homosexuality is permitted in Heathenry. Heathenry doesn’t have universal doctrines that govern morality, let alone ones that govern sexual habits. There is no spiritual basis for prohibiting homosexuality in Heathenry that extends beyond personal interpretation.
Yes. Loki is a Norse god who plays a significant role in the lives of many Heathens worldwide, and is typically one of the most popular gods to work with. Loki is a trickster deity, so not everyone may want to involve him in their personal practice due to his mischievous nature, but the very same can be said about Odin, who is also a trickster deity.
No, Norse Paganism is not at odds with Judaism, nor is it at odds with Christianity or Islam. Norse Paganism is sometimes used to excuse, hide, or justify Antisemitism, anti-Christian, and Islamophobic sentiments, but this is the result of the Neo-Volkisch Movement, which has co-opted Norse Paganism.
There’s no such thing as “sin” in Norse Paganism. In Christianity, “sin” is defined as actions that bring you further from God or goodness. But in Norse Heathenry, all things are thought to possess inherent spiritual essence regardless of their moral alignment—this cannot be corrupted or lost because of actions. But even though actions don’t have a divine consequence, they can still have social ones. This is not, however, mandated by the gods.
Ásatrú roughly translates to “true to the Aesir” or, colloquially, “belief in the [pre-Christian] gods,” and was coined by Icelandic Norse Pagans to give a name to old Icelandic Heathen practices. This corresponds to the founding of the Icelandic Ásatrúarfélagið in 1972. While inspired by old Norse practices, Ásatrú itself is a modern-day neo-pagan religion.
The term ‘Ásatrú’ (Anglicised as “Asatru”) has since acquired exclusive connotations in the US. The name is interpreted to suggest only the Aesir tribe gods should be the focus of deity veneration, which may or may not include the Vanir gods but typically excludes jötunn and other opposition to the Aesir. It’s also been co-opted by some American Folkish Heathen groups, so discernment is required when interpreting this word.
Folkish Heathenry or neo-Völkisch Heathenry, is a racialist form of Heathenry that believes only people of Scandinavian descent should practice Heathenry. This type of Heathenry gets its name from the Germanic Völkisch movement, which was the social precursor Nazi Germany.
Frith is a word crudely translated to “peace.” Frith is a collective social agreement to foster a sense of wellbeing, contentment, happiness, and peace in our environments and our relations. It’s intersectional with other recognized Heathen values such as hospitality and the Gifting Cycle.
Frith is something we collaboratively work towards. It involves things like honest communication, healthy power dynamics, productive conflict resolution, and accountability. Frith is not meant to be a standard of “toxic positivity.” It’s also not a tool to silence all disagreement or to maintain a certain status quo. That’s because Frith is defined by the internal fulfillment we get from good personal relationships. This needs to be felt genuinely for a community to have Frith.
The Norse people lived in small communities in cold, isolated environments. They saw great value in one another and did what they could to foster that. We do the same in modern Norse Pagan Heathenry.
Heathenry is a modern neo-pagan spirituality informed by the folkloric practices, customs, beliefs, and worldviews of pre-Christian Northern European civilizations. Norse Paganism is a modern adaptation of old spiritual practices and beliefs held by the ancient Norse people. Norse Paganism is sometimes also referred to as Ásatrú or Forn Sidr/Forn Sed.
Heathenry is a spirituality that is decentralized, animistic, pluralist, polytheistic, life-affirming, and orthopraxic. To learn more about what these mean, see Norse Pagan Practice.
Odinism is a race-based Neo-Völkisch Norse Pagan movement. It is a new practice originating from the Germanic Völkisch Movement, the writings of Guido Von List, and the ideologies of Nazi Germany. As a fundamentally racialist movement, Odinism is not synonymous with Ásatrú or Heathenry, nor is it a word that means “worshipper of Odin.”
Reconstructionism tries to recreate Old Norse religious practices as accurately as possible given what we know of the past. Revivalism seeks to revive the Old Norse practices in a modern setting with modern approaches.
Both approaches are essential to the integrity and functionality of modern-day Heathenry. How Reconstructionist or Revivalist a Heathen is depends on their personal preference. Both methods have their benefits. Oftentimes, Reconstructionism informs our direction while Revivalism fills in the gaps. Revivalism also makes Heathen practice accessible for many people.
Both can have unhealthy appearances, particularly when taken to extremes. Unhealthy Reconstructionism turns Heathenry into a high-demand religion, treating the past as gospel and using historical inerrancy as a measure of “true Heathen practice.” Unhealthy Revivalism is deceptive. It pretends something is historical when it’s actually new, or when it’s appropriated from a non-Heathen practice. This spreads misinformation about what Heathenry is.
Healthy Reconstructionism accounts for the needs of modern people and ethics of our modern times, while healthy Revivalism is honest about new material. Neither way is an incorrect approach to Norse Pagan Heathenry.