Approaches to Norse Pagan practice vary greatly from person to person. They also vary between communities and even regions. Family practices look different from solo practices, solo practices look different from organization practices, Icelandic practices look different from Norwegian practices, reconstructionist practices look different from revivalist practices look different from living traditions, and so on.
Heathenry’s decentralized nature means this has always been the case. How practices are supplemented and what they’re informed by after that is a matter of personal preference and circumstance.
Reconstructionism & Revivalism
Two popular approaches to Heathenry are Reconstructionism and Revivalism. 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 essentialism as a measure of “true Heathen practice.” Unhealthy Revivalism is deceptive or appropriative, passing off new or stolen practices as “ancient.” They also may misrepresent Norse Heathenry entirely. 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.
Early Reconstruction Efforts
Early reconstruction efforts are riddled with ideological and methodological issues. Due to modern Norse Heathenry’s origins in German Romanticism, early reconstructionism was geared towards giving white Germans a sense of storied national history as opposed to genuinely and faithfully reconstructing Old Norse practices. These early cases almost always carried connotations of cultural imperialism to them, along with antisemitic and anti-Catholic sentiments.
However, no early efforts actually lead to a genuine and successful reconstruction of old Norse practices. The Old Norse civilizations were used as an aesthetic baseline for a national identity as opposed to a theological baseline for a renewed religious identity. This remains an implicit (or explicit) goal in many reconstructionist branches of Heathenry to this day.