Norse Heathenry is a decentralized religion, meaning it has no “central” authority or core ideology behind it. This is because Heathenry doesn’t have holy books, scriptures, or key religious figures that guide practices and beliefs, nor does it have doctrines, creeds, or dogmas.

This can seem very strange for something called a “religion.” Typically when many of us think of “religion,” we think of high-demand religions. In her paper Visualizing the Transition out of High-Demand Religions, Summer Anne Myers defines them as follows:

“Religions can be described as high-demand when they involve high time and resource commitments; emphasis on leadership, orthodox belief, and scriptural inerrancy or literalism; and strict behavioral codes including rules of diet, dress, tithing, education, sexual practices, media and technology use, language, social involvement, and marriage.”

Heathenry lacks high-demand observances. Old Norse religions grew organically out of their cultures through family / community / regional customs, oral tradition, superstitions, and folklore. These all had differences to them across locations and time. Modern Heathenry likewise has variances from person to person, group to group, and region to region. Issues arise when high-demand requirements are added to Heathenry, as is often the case with Neo-Völkisch or “Folkish” Heathenry.

You’ll become more familiar with what the decentralized nature of Norse Heathenry looks like the more you explore.

Wait! What about the Eddas?

You’ve probably heard about these books if you poked around online Heathen spaces in any form. The Prose Edda and the Poetic Edda are ancient Icelandic texts that contain stories of the Norse gods and other heroes. They are some of the oldest and largest surviving compilations of Icelandic folklore.

Despite their cultural and mythological significance, old texts containing Norse folklore are not religious scripture. Scripture is a very specific kind of text designed to foster religious practice, belief, and community; it’s often treated as divinely-inspired. Scripture is also written by and for members of its religion, but the Eddas were written by Christians long after Scandinavia converted to Christianity. The Eddas also only represent a regional version of Norse mythology and folklore, instead of what all of Scandinavia believed at the time.

Some Norse Heathens derive spiritual connection from these Eddas and their passages, particularly the Hávamál, but this is ultimately a matter of personal preference.

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