Norse Heathenry is a living spirituality. Like cities that have stood for a thousand years, it’s a combination of old structures and new ones. Contrary to the impression you may have, Norse Heathen practice doesn’t have to “look old” or only use “old things” to be Norse Heathen. All it needs is to share the same components that all forms of Norse Heathenry share across the globe.

For many Scandinavians, switching to Norse Paganism (or Asatro) can be very simple—it more or less involves switching the gods you worship. But North Americans don’t have it so easy. If we only swapped gods and did nothing else, we’d end up with “Christianity, but with viking gods.” And we often do.

This page was developed to mitigate that as well as give you tools for developing a practice. But before we dive in, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Converting religions/spiritualities takes a while. It’s normal for our minds to go through a nonlinear adjustment period while it adapts to a new mode of thinking.
  • A lot of new Norse Heathens are worried about getting their practice “right” the first time, but figuring out what’s right for you can only be done with trial and error. You’re always free to try new things or change things in your practice.
  • It’s okay to leave Norse Heathenry if you decide this spirituality isn’t for you, or if it ceases to be fulfilling. It’s also okay to take it for a “test run” to see if you like it.

I also highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the components of Norse Paganism if you haven’t yet, since these are essential for understanding this guide as well as Norse Heathenry at its most basic level. Otherwise, feel free to scroll down to Part 1.

Decentralized

Has many appearances

Animistic

Built on Animism

Pluralistic

Many principles

Polytheistic

Many Deities

Immanent

Life-Affirming

Orthopraxic

Personal practice

Are we Vikings?

Disambiguation

Part 1: Philosophical Exploration

  • Understanding your Morals and Values
  • Exploring and Deconstructing Christian Thinking
  • Identifying your Needs and Goals

Understanding your Morals and Values

What do you value? What spiritual ideas do you subscribe to? What makes sense to you, given what you know or believe about the world?

Exploring your morals and values is the most crucial part of developing a Norse Heathen practice, because unlike high-demand religions, Norse Heathenry doesn’t dictate these. Right and wrong are determined by culture, as opposed to divinity, in this spirituality. That means what you think, what your aspirations are, and what the guidelines are for your personal cultivation and growth, are all going to be decided by you.

Naturally, a complete understanding of your own values isn’t going to come to you in one afternoon, nor will they stay the same throughout your life. Perhaps the very idea of determining your own values is discomforting. That’s okay. You don’t need to have a clear idea of your values before diving into a Norse Heathen practice—all you need to do is accept that you’re the one who dictates them. And just like you dictate your own values, so does everyone else with theirs.

What about the Nine Noble Virtues?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Nine Noble Virtues in your exploration of Norse Heathenry. Unfortunately, these, and other similar codes, are the result of fascist, antisemitic, and white nationalist appropriation in Norse Heathenry. They reflect Völkisch interpretations of Germanic values instead of Norse Heathen ones. You can read more about this phenomenon here.

If you’d like, you can devise your own list of values you wish to emulate in your practice. But having something you wish to “attain” is not required in Norse Heathenry.

Exploring and Deconstructing Christian Thinking

This is very important for any American coming to Norse Heathenry to do. Unlike Scandinavian countries, the culture of the United States is Calvinist, so some very rigid Christian thinking may have dug itself into your brain even if you didn’t grow up with the religion.

Two useful articles can be found below. The first is a comparison between Christianity and Norse Heathenry, while the second dives into what it looks like when people accidentally bring Christian attitudes into Norse Heathenry.

Like the development of your values, the deconstruction of old thinking will happen throughout the course of your Heathen exploration. It also won’t be a linear process. Nevertheless, you’ll have better results with Norse Heathenry by addressing the Christian influence in your life, rather than trying to shove it under a rug.

Differences Between Christianity & Heathenry

A Comparison

Christian Influence In Heathenry

Things that aren't actually Norse Pagan

Identifying your Needs and Goals

What do you want out of Norse Heathenry? A sense of place in the universe? A feeling of connection with your pre-Christian ancestors? An answer for the afterlife? A relationship of some kind with Norse divinity?

Think about your motivations behind exploring Norse Heathenry. What brought you here? What, if anything, is inviting you to stay? Identifying this can help you identify the priorities in your practice and what you’d like to explore. Is it deities? Is it history? Is it something else? Like your values, your goals and needs may change over time, so permit those changes to happen when you notice them.

Part 2: Knowledge-Gathering

As you think about the topics in Part 1, you can also begin gathering basic background information about Norse Heathenry. Here’s what this involves:

  • Familiarizing yourself with Norse Mythology
  • Exploring Cosmology and other Norse concepts
  • Understanding the Development of Norse Heathenry

Familiarizing yourself with Norse Mythology

One of the best ways to begin a Norse Pagan practice is by familiarizing yourself with the Norse deities and their stories. The most popular sources for these stories come from the Icelandic Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. While many North Americans recommend starting with these, I personally think a retelling of these stories is more appropriate for your first introduction.

My opinion comes from the fact the Norse myths are not passed down through reading the Eddas, but through oral tradition. To this day, many people in the Nordic countries grow up hearing stories of the gods the same way we hear fairy tales. Even though we may not have access to the oral tradition in North America, that doesn’t mean we can’t seek out retellings that generate the same level of engagement. You can find my recommendations for retellings under the Resources page.

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the Norse myths, older documents will become much easier to explore. You can view a list of different ones on the ‘Our Sources’ page.

Exploring Cosmology and other Norse concepts

These can all be found on the Norse Paganism landing page.

Understanding the Development of Norse Heathenry

This is a tale of two Heathenries. The first was developed by the Norse people. It survived into the modern day through family practices and cultural customs and folklore. The second was developed by German antisemites in the decades leading up to Nazi Germany. It survived into the modern day by fleeing to another country after the end of the Third Reich. That country was the United States.

The history of Norse Heathenry continued long after the last viking ship sailed, and that history impacts a lot of what is going on today. This is especially true if you’re an American. You can read more about this by visiting the History page.

Part 3: Assembling a Practice

  • Experiencing Animism

  • Connecting with Gods, Spirits, and Ancestors
  • Adopting Veneration Practices
  • Choosing Holidays
  • Exploring Magical Practices

Experiencing Animism

Adopting Veneration Practices

Veneration can take on many forms. Veneration is devotional in nature and typically used to deepen one’s practice. Not all Heathens observe the same veneration practices, nor do they practice them all in the same ways. Here are some commonly found in modern practice.

Altars

Many Norse Heathens across the globe build altars or shrines in their homes and/or outside. Altars at their core are dedicated spiritual spots; a small sacred space you curate in your home. These altars can be dedicated areas for your practice or shrines for Norse powers and spirits. Altars are often decorated and commonly feature photos of honored ancestors or iconography of deities. The altar is where food, beverages, and other gifts are left as offerings. Many Norse Pagans start a physical practice by assembling an altar.

(Some people in the greater neopagan community distinguish altars and shrines, the first being an area for magical practice, and the second being specifically a “house” for the deity/spirit/ancestor they are devoted to. While I see this distinction far less in Norse Heathenry than in other forms of neopaganism, it’s worth disambiguating in case you come across any confusion.)

Devotional Acts

Many Heathens will dedicate activities to deities, either as a form of offering or as a way to foster a sense of connection with that deity. Devotional acts sometimes involve performing a task a deity is associated with, such as fibercrafting for Frigg or strength-training for Thor. Other times these acts come in the form of making things for deities, such as drawings, poetry, music, and other art.

In modern practice, devotional acts are done out of a place of affection as opposed to a place of obligation. At its core, these acts are meant to invite a sense of participation between you and the deity.

While “deity” is mentioned here, these acts can also apply to ancestors and other spirits.

Prayer

Heathens may pray to deities for favors, good fortune, or to simply chat or air concerns. Prayer doesn’t have a specific format in Norse Paganism and is not something every Heathen does. But it is an option. It’s always good form to treat a deity with an offering if a prayer has been answered.

You can find more information on the page about Veneration.

Choosing Holidays

Holidays are fickle things in Norse Heathenry. They varied so much between regions that we can’t point to any “official” holidays for this spirituality. Additionally, many were made within the context of Scandinavian geography and latitude, so these holidays often lose their meaning when applied to North America. Celebrating the sun’s return makes perfect sense in Iceland where it’s dark for half the year, but no sense at all in Arizona where the sun never leaves. This has left Americans scrambling a little bit for holidays.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to make the call on which holidays to celebrate. See the page on holidays for more information.

Exploring Magical Practices

Norse Heathenry has a long history of incorporating divination and magic into its practice. You can choose to add a magical practice into your spiritual path, if you so desire. More on Norse magic can be found by visiting the page about Magic.

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