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Neo-Germanic Religions

Doctrines Practitioners of the Northern Traditions follow the pre-Christian Pagan traditions of Northern Europe, centred around two distinctive groups of divinities, the Aesir sky gods (such as the chief god Odin, Frigga, Thor and Baldur) and the Vanir earth gods (such as Frey and Freya). Under this umbrella can be found those who call themselves Odinists, after Odin, and those who prefer the term Asatruar, calling their religion Asatru ('loyalty to the Aesir'), as they do not only worship Odin.
The Gods are viewed as immanent and manifest in nature, and are venerated through the seasonal celebrations which are based around the major festivals of Yule (Winter Solstice, c.21st December), which is considered to last for twelve days, each representing a month of the coming year, and Midsummer (Summer Solstice, c. 21st June), a festival of the sun and the triumph of light, and the Spring and Autumn equinoxes called Summer-finding (c.21st March), and Winter-finding (c.21st September).
Asatru is more male-oriented than some Pagan religions, but Asatru groups are led by both men and women and both officiate in religious ceremonies. Women played an important role in Norse-Germanic religion as Volvas and Seidkonas, the priestess-practitioners of magic and divination, and the work of a number of women and men on these roles and the myths of Northern Goddesses is leading Odinism into a less male-oriented future.

History The Norse-German Gods were worshipped all over Northern and Western Europe by the ancestors of the Norse, Dutch, German and English peoples, and were brought to Britain by invaders such as the Angles, Saxons and Vikings.
Iceland was uninhabited until the ninth century when it was settled by Norse invaders, the majority of whom were Pagan though some were Christian . Thus, the myths and stories of the Northern Tradition have always been part of Iceland's cultural heritage, Christianity being adopted as the state religion in the year 1,000 only through a substantial bribe to the law-speaker Thorgeirr. Nevertheless, many must have embraced Christianity wholeheartedly, for in the early thirteenth century, the Icelandic scholar Snorri Sturluson felt it was necessary to preserve his people's traditions and wrote down what he knew in a collection of works known as the Prose Edda. This and the Poetic Edda constitute the main Norse-German religious writings. Asatru was revived earlier this century and in 1973 was recognised as an official state religion along with Christianity, with the right to conduct legally binding weddings and child namings etc.

Symbols The most widely used symbols in Asatru are the runes, believed to have been discovered by Odin. The runic symbols are thought to be embodiments of truth, and are used for divination, magic, and decoration to honour the gods. Various 'alphabets' of runes are used today, stemming from various roots - Anglo-Saxon, Norwegian and Icelandic, for example.
Also used is the Volknut, three interlinked triangles, representing the nine worlds which together make up the Tree of Life, Yggdrasil.

Adherents No official figures are available. Asatru is practised in Iceland, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and further afield in the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Main Centre
 None. The main representative bodies are as follows: Rune Gild - UK, BM Aswynn, London WC1N 3XX, England; Odinic Rite, BCM Runic, London WC1N 3XX, England, and Odinshof, BCM Tercel, London, WC1N 3XX, England. In 1988 and 1987 respectively, the latter two organisations were registered as religious charities, the first polytheistic and pagan organisations to do so.