Raidho (Raido)

Raidho (Raido)

Pronounced: rah-eed-ho

Astrological: Sagittarius/Virgo

Tarot: The Hierophant

Element: Air

Key Words: Journey, Pilgrimage, Change, Action, Cartwheel

This Rune is concerned with communication, with the attunement of something that has two sides, two elements, and with the ultimate union that comes at the end of the journey, when what is above and what is below are united and of one mind.

Inner worth mounts here, and at such a time you are not intended to rely entirely upon your own power. Instead, ask what constitutes right action. Ask through prayer or meditation, through addressing the Witness Self, the Teacher Within. Once you are clear, you can neutralize your refusal to let right action flow through you. Not intent on movement, be content to wait; while you wait, keep on removing resistances. As the obstructions give way, all remorse arising from trying to make things happen disappears.

The journey is toward self-healing, self-change and union. You are concerned here with nothing less than unobstructed, perfect union. But the union of Heaven and Earth cannot be forced. Regulate any excesses in your life. Material advantages must not weigh heavily on this journey of the self toward the Self. Stand apart even from like-minded others; the notion of strength in numbers does not apply at such a time, for this part of the journey—the soul’s journey—cannot be shared.

Reversed: Receiving Raido Reversed puts you on notice to be particularly attentive to personal relationships. At this time, ruptures are more likely than reconciliations and effort may be required to keep your good humor. Whatever happens, how you respond is up to you.

The requirements for your growth may totally disrupt what you had intended. Desired outcomes may elude you. And yet what you regard as detours, inconveniences, disruptions, blockages and even failures and deaths, will actually be rerouting opportunities, with union and reunion as the only abiding destinations.

Sources: The Book of Runes, Runes: Pagan Portals

Ansuz

Ansuz

Pronounced: ahn-sooz

Astrological: Leo/Virgo

Tarot: Death

Element: Air

Key Words: Communication, Divine Inspiration, Spiritual Power, Wisdom, Ideas, knowledge

The keynote here is receiving: messages, signals, gifts. Even a timely warning may be seen as a gift. The message may be that of a new life unfolding. New lives begin with new connections, surprising linkages that direct you onto new pathways. Take care now to be especially aware during meetings, visits, chance encounters, particularly with persons wiser than yourself. When the Messenger Rune brings sacred knowledge, you are truly blessed.

Loki is the ancient trickster from the pantheon of the Norse gods. He is the heyeohkah of the Native Americans, a mocking shadow of the creator god, as well as the bringer of benefits to humankind. He is a reminder that even scoundrels and arch-thieves can be the bearers of wisdom. When you draw this Rune, expect the unexpected: The message is always a call, a call to new life.

Ansuz is the first of the thirteen Runes that make up the Cycle of Initiation—Runes that focus directly upon the mechanism of self-change—and as such, addresses our need to integrate unconscious motive with conscious intent.

Drawing Ansuz tells you that connection with the Divine is at hand. It is a signal to explore the depths, the foundations of life, and to experience the inexhaustible wellspring of the Divine in your nature.

At the same time, you are reminded that you must first draw from the well to nourish and give to yourself. Then there will be more than enough to nourish others. A new sense of family solidarity invests this Rune.

Reversed: You may be concerned over what appears to be failed communication, lack of clarity or awareness either in your past history or in a present situation. You may feel inhibited from accepting what is offered. A sense of futility; of wasted motion, may overwhelm you. Remember, however, that what is happening is timely to your process. If the well is clogged, this is the moment for cleaning out the old. Reversed, Ansuz is saying: Consider the uses of adversity.

Sources: The Book of Runes, Runes: Pagan Portals

Thurisaz

Pronounced: thur-ee-sahz

Astrological: Leo

Tarot: The Emperor

Element: Fire

Key Words: Strength, Good News, Protection

With a gateway for its symbol, this Rune indicates that there is work to be done both inside and outside yourself. Thurisaz represents the frontier between Heaven and the mundane. Arriving here is a recognition of your readiness to contact the numinous, the Divine, to illuminate your experience so that its meaning shines through its form.

Thurisaz is a Rune of non-action. Thus, the gateway is not to be approached and passed through without contemplation. Here you are being confronted with a clear reflection of what is hidden in yourself, what must be exposed and examined before right action can be undertaken. This Rune strengthens your ability to wait. Now is not a time to make decisions. Deep transformational forces are at work in this next-to-last of the Cycle Runes.

Reversed: A quickening of your development is indicated here. Yet even in times of accelerated growth, you will have reason to halt along the way, to reconsider the old, to integrate the new. Take advantage of these halts.

If you are undergoing difficulties, remember: The nature of your passage depends upon the quality of your attitude, the clarity of your intention and the steadfastness of your will. Be certain that you are not suffering over your suffering.

Drawing Thurisaz Reversed demands contemplation on your part. Hasty decisions at this time may cause regrets, for the probability is that you will act from weakness, deceive yourself about your motives, and create new problems more severe than those you are attempting to resolve. Impulses must be tempered by thought for correct procedure. Do not attempt to go beyond where you haven’t yet begun. Be still, collect yourself, and wait on the Will of Heaven.

Sources: The Book of Runes, Runes: Pagan Portals

Uruz

Uruz

Pronounced: oo-rooz

Key Words: Power, Energy

Astrological: Taurus/Leo

Tarot: High Priestess

Element: Earth

Key Words: Freedom, Healing, Health, Vitality, Strength, Power, Gratitude, Courage, Change

The Rune of terminations and new beginnings, drawing Uruz indicates that the life you have been living has outgrown its form. That form must die so that new energy can be released in a new form. This is a Rune of passage and, as such, part of the Cycle of Initiation.

Positive growth and change, however, may involve a descent into darkness as part of the cycle of perpetual renewal. As in nature, this progression consists of five aspects: death, decay, fertilization, gestation, rebirth. Events occurring now may well prompt you to undergo a death within yourself. Since self-change is never coerced—we are always free to resist—remain mindful that the new life is always greater than the old.

Prepare, then, for opportunity disguised as loss. It could involve the loss of someone or something to which you have an intense emotional bond, and through which you are living a part of your life, a part that must now be retrieved so you can live it out for yourself. In some way, that bond is being severed, a relationship radically changed, a way of life coming to an end. Seek among the ashes and discover a new perspective and new strength.

Reversed: Without ears to hear and eyes to see, you may fail to take advantage of the moment. The result could well be an opportunity missed or the weakening of your position. It may seem that your own strength is being used against you.

For some, Uruz Reversed will serve to alert, offering clues in the form of minor failures and disappointments. For others, those more deeply unconscious or unaware, it may provide a hard jolt. Reversed, this Rune calls for serious thought about the quality of your relationship to your Self.

But take heart. Consider the constant cycling of death and rebirth, the endless going and return. Everything we experience has a beginning, a middle and an end, and is followed by a new beginning. Therefore do not draw back from the passage into darkness: When in deep water, become a diver.”

Sources: The Book of Runes, Runes: Pagan Portals

Three Rune Spread Reading

Three Rune Spread Reading

The number “three” figures prominently in the oracular practices of the ancients. The Three Rune Spread which, according to Tacitus, was already in use 2,000 years ago, is satisfactory for all but the most demanding situations.

With an issue clearly in mind, select three Runes one at a time, and place them from right to left, in order of selection. To avoid consciously changing the direction of the stones, especially as you become familiar with their symbols, you may want to place them blank side up, and then turn them over.

Once you have selected the Runes, they will lie before you.  Reading from the right, the first Rune provides the Overview of the Situation; the second Rune (center) identifies the Challenge; and the third Rune (on the left) indicates the Course of Action Called For.

How you happen to turn the stones may still alter the direction of the glyphs to either an Upright or Reversed position, but this too is part of the process. Since only nine Runes read the same Upright and Reversed, the readings for the other sixteen will depend on how you place or turn the stones.

Sources: The Book of Runes, Runes: Pagan Portals

Fehu

Pronounced: fay-hu

Astrological: Aries/ Taurus

Tarot: Tower

Element: Fire/ Earth

Key Words: Harmony, Fertility, Wealth

Fehu is associated and sacred to the God and Goddess Frey and Freyja. In Norse mythology, Freya is portrayed as a Goddess of love, beauty and fertility. Blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful, Freya is described as the fairest of all goddesses, and people prayed to her for happiness in love. She was also called on to assist childbirths and prayed to for good seasons.

 Fehu is a Rune of fulfillment: ambition satisfied, love shared, rewards received. It promises nourishment from the most worldly to the sacred and the Divine. For if the ancient principle “As above so below” holds true, then we are also here to nourish God.

This Rune calls for a deep probing of the meaning of profit and gain in your life. Look with care to know whether it is wealth and possessions you require for your well-being, or rather self-rule and the growth of a will.

Another concern of Fehu is to conserve what has already been gained. This Rune urges vigilance and continual mindfulness, especially in times of good fortune, for it is then that you are likely to collapse yourself into your success on the one hand, or behave recklessly on the other. Enjoy your good fortune and remember to share it, for the mark of the well-nourished self is the ability and willingness to nourish others.

Reversed: There may be considerable frustration in your life if you draw Fehu Reversed, a wide range of dispossessions ranging from trivial to severe. You fall short in your efforts, you reach out and miss; you are compelled to stand by and watch helplessly while what you’ve gained dwindles away. Observe what is happening. Examine these events from an open perspective and ask, “What do I need to learn from this in my life?

Even if there is occasion for joy, do not let yourself be seduced into mindless joyousness. Reversed, this Rune indicates that doubtful situations are abundant and come in many forms and guises. Here you are being put in touch with the shadow side of possessions. Yet all this is part of coming to be and passing away, and not that which abides. In dealing with the shadow side of Fehu, you have an opportunity to recognize where your true nourishment lies.

Sources: The Book of Runes, Runes: Pagan Portals

Asatru 101

What is Asatru?

Long before Christianity came to northern Europe, the people there – our ancestors – had their own religions. One of these was Asatru. It was practiced in the lands that are today Scandinavia, England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and other countries as well. Asatru is the original or native religious belief for the peoples who lived in these regions.

What does the word “Asatru” mean?

It means, roughly, “belief in the Gods” in Old Norse, the language of ancient Scandinavia in which so much of our source material was written. Asatru is the name by which the Norsemen called their religion.

When did Asatru start?

Asatru is thousands of years old. Its beginnings are lost in prehistory, but it is older than Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or most other religions. The spiritual impulses it expresses are as ancient as the European peoples themselves – at least 40,000 years, and perhaps much older.

Why do we need Asatru? Aren’t most people who want religion satisfied with Christianity or one of the other “Established” religions?

People are attracted to the better-known religions because they have genuine spiritual needs which must be filled. People are looking for community and for answers to the “big questions”: What life is all about, and how we should live it. For many people today, the so-called major faiths do not have answers that work. Asatru has answers, but it has not been an alternative for most seekers because they haven’t known about it. Once they realize that there is another way – a better, more natural, more honorable way – they will not be satisfied with anything less than a return to the religion of their ancestors.

Why is the Religion of our Ancestors the Best One for Us?

Because we are more like our ancestors than we are like anyone else. We inherited not only their general physical appearance, but also their predominant mental, emotional, and spiritual traits. We think and feel more like they did; our basic needs are most like theirs. The religion which best expressed their innermost nature – Asatru – is better suited to us than is some other creed which started in the Middle East among people who are essentially different from us. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are alien religions which do not truly speak to our souls.

Why Did Asatru Die Out if it was the Right Religion for Europeans?

Asatru was subjected to a violent campaign of repression over a period of hundreds of years. Countless thousands of people were murdered, maimed, and exiled in the process. The common people (your ancestors!) did not give up their cherished beliefs easily. Eventually, the monolithic organization of the Christian church, bolstered by threats of economic isolation and assisted by an energetic propaganda campaign, triumphed over the valiant but unsophisticated tribes. 

Or so it seemed! Despite this persecution, elements of Asatru continued down to our own times – often in the guise of folklore – proving that our own native religion appeals to our innermost beings in a fundamental way. Now, a thousand years after its supposed demise, it is alive and growing. Indeed, so long as there are men and women of European descent, it cannot really die because it springs form the soul of our people. Asatru isn’t just what we BELIEVE, it’s what we ARE.

Wasn’t the Acceptance of Christianity a Sign of Civilization – A Step up From Barbarism?

No! The atrocities committed by Christians, Muslims, and Jews throughout history are hardly a step up from anything. The so-called “barbarians” who followed Asatru (the Vikings, the various Germanic tribes, and so forth) were the source of our finest civilized traditions – trial by jury, parliaments, Anglo Saxon common law, and the rights of women, to name a few. Our very word “law” comes from the Norse language, not from the tongues of the Christian lands. We simply did not and do not need Christianity to be civilized.

You Say That Asatru was the Religion of the Vikings, Among Other Early European Cultures. Weren’t They a Pretty Bloodthirsty Lot?

Modern historians agree that the Vikings were no more violent than the other peoples of their times. Remember, the descriptions of Viking raids and invasions were all written by their enemies, who were hardly unbiased. Both the Islamic and Christian cultures used means every bit as bloody, if not more so, than the Norsemen. It was a very rough period in history for all concerned!

We Keep Talking About the Vikings. Does This Mean That Asatru is Only for People of Scandinavian Ancestry?

No. Asatru, as practiced by the Norse peoples, had so much in common with the religion of the other Germanic tribes, and with their cousins the Celts, that it may be thought of as one version of a general European religion. Asatru is for all European peoples, whether or not their heritage is specifically Scandinavian.

What are the Basic Beliefs of Asatru?

We believe in an underlying, all-pervading divine energy or essence which is generally hidden from us, and which is beyond our immediate understanding. We further believe that this spiritual reality is interdependent with us – that we affect it, and it affects us. 

We believe that this underlying divinity expresses itself to us in the forms of the Gods and Goddesses. Stories about these deities are like a sort of code, the mysterious “language” through which the divine reality speaks to us. 

We believe in standards of behavior which are consistent with these spiritual truths and harmonious with our deepest being.

How Does Asatru Differ From Other Religions?

Asatru is unlike the better-known religions in many ways. Some of these are: 

We are polytheistic. That is, we believe in a number of deities, including Goddesses as well as Gods. We do not accept the idea of “original sin”, the notion that we are tainted from birth and intrinsically bad, as does Christianity. Thus, we do not need “saving”. 

The Middle Eastern religions teach either a hatred of other religions or a duty to convert others, often by force. They have often practiced these beliefs with cruel brutality. 

We do not claim to be a universal religion or a faith for all of humankind. In fact, we don’t think such a thing is possible or desirable. The different branches of humanity have different ways of looking at the world, each of which is valid for them. It is only right that they have different religions, which of course they do.

Do You Consider the Norse Myths to be True?

The myths are stories about the Gods and Goddesses of Asatru. They are ways of stating religious truths. That is, we would say they contain truths about the nature of divinity, our own nature, and the relationship between the two. We do not contend that the myths are literally true, as history.

What About These Gods and Goddesses? Are They Real?

Yes, they are real. However, just as most Christians do not think their God is really an old bearded figure sitting on a golden chair in heaven, we do not believe Thor (for example) is actually a muscular, man-shaped entity carrying a big hammer. There is a real Thor, but we approach an understanding of him through this particular mental picture.

Do followers of Asatru Pray to Their Gods and Goddesses?

Yes, but not quite the way most people mean by the word. We never surrender our will to theirs or humble ourselves before them, because we see ourselves as their kin, not as inferior, submissive pawns. Nor do we beg and plead. We commune with them and honor them while seeking their blessing through formal rites and informal meditation. Living a full and virtuous live is a form of prayer in itself. Our religion affects all parts of our lives, not just those fragments that we choose to call “religious”.

Don’t You Worship Stones and Trees and Idols?

No. These objects are not Gods, so we don’t worship them. We do sometimes use these items as reminders of a God or Goddess, and we believe they can become “charged” with a certain aspect of the divine energy, but we would never confuse them with the actual deities.

What are the Standards of Behavior Taught in Asatru?

Some of the qualities we hold in high regard are strength, courage, joy, honor, freedom, loyalty to kin, realism, vigor, and the revering of our ancestors. To express these things in our lives is virtuous, and we strive to do this. Their opposites – weakness, cowardice, adherence to dogma rather than to the realities of the world, and the like – constitute vices and are to be avoided. Proper behavior in Asatru consists of maximizing one’s virtues and minimizing one’s vices. This code of conduct reflects the highest and most heroic ideals of our people.

Don’t all Religions Believe in These Things You’ve Just Named?

No. People may honestly believe that this is the case, but examination does not bear this out. They believe in freedom, yet their scriptures say they are slaves to their God. They accept that joy is good, but their teachings laden them with guilt because of some imaginary “original sin”. Their instinct is to understand Nature’s world from verifiable evidence, yet they are trained to believe black is white, round is flat, and natural instincts are evil without question when the teachings of their church conflict with reason or with known facts. 

Many of us instinctively believe in the values of Asatru because they have been passed down to us from our ancestors. We want to believe that other religions espouse those values, so we see what we want to see. Most people just haven’t yet realized that the major religions are saying things that conflict with the values we know in our hearts are right. To find northern European virtues, one should look where those virtues have their natural home – Asatru.

What do You Have to Say About Good and Evil?

Good and evil are not constants. What is good in one case will not be good in another, and evil in one circumstance will not be evil under a different set of conditions. In any one instance, the right course of action will have been shaped by the influence of the past and the present. The result may or may not be “good” or “evil”, but it will still be the right action. 

In no case are good and evil dictated to us by the edicts of an alien, authoritarian deity, as in the Middle East. We are expected to use our freedom, responsibility, and awareness of duty to serve the highest and best ends.

What Does Asatru Teach About an Afterlife?

We believe that there is an afterlife, and that those who have lived virtuous lives will go on to experience greater fulfillment, pleasure, and challenge. Those who have led lives characterized more by vice than by virtue will be separated from kin and doomed to an existence of dullness and gloom. The precise nature of the afterlife – what it will look like and feel like – is beyond our understanding and is dealt with symbolically in the myths. 

There is also a tradition in Asatru of rebirth within the family line. Perhaps the individual is able to choose whether or not he or she is re-manifested in this world, or there may be natural laws which govern this. In a sense, of course, we all live on in our descendents quite apart from an afterlife as such. 

We of Asatru do not overly concern ourselves with the next life. We live here and now, in this life. If we do this and do it well, the next life will take care of itself.

Does Asatru Involve Ancestor Worship?

Asatru says we should honor our ancestors. It also says we are bonded to those ancestors in a special way. However, we do not actually worship them. 

We believe our forebears have passed to us certain spiritual qualities just as surely as they have given us various physical traits. They live on in us. The family or clan is above and beyond the limits of time and place. Thus we have a reverence for our ancestry even though we do not involve ourselves in ancestor worship as such.

Does Asatru Have a Holy Book, Like the Bible?

No. There are written sources which are useful to us because they contain much of our sacred lore in the form of myths and examples of right conduct, but we do not accept them as infallible or inspired documents. Any religion which does this is deceiving its members about the purity and precision of the written word. The various competing factions of Middle Eastern religions are proof of this. Their conflicting interpretations can not all be correct! 

There are two real sources of holy truth, and neither expresses itself to us in words. One is the universe around us, which is a manifestation of the underlying divine essence. The other is the universe within us, passed down from our ancestors as instinct, emotion, innate predispositions, and perhaps even racial memory. By combining these sources of internal and external wisdom with the literature left us by our ancestors, we arrive at religious truths. This living spiritual guidance is better than any dusty, dogmatic “holy book”, whose writings are often so ambiguous that even clerical scholars disagree and whose interpretations change with the politics of the times.

Asatru has Been Described as a “Nature Religion”. What Does That Mean?

We treasure the spiritual awe, the feeling of “connecting” with the Gods and Goddesses, which can come from experiencing and appreciating the beauty and majesty of Nature. Our deities act in and through natural law. By working in harmony with Nature we can become co-workers with the Gods. This attitude removes the opposition between “natural” and “supernatural” and between religion and science. 

For us, following a “Nature religion” means recognizing that we are part of Nature, subject to all its laws, even when that offends our Christian-influenced misconceptions. We may be Gods-in-the-making, but we are also members of the animal kingdom – a noble heritage in its own right. Our ancestors and their predecessors prevailed through billions of years of unimaginable challenges, a feat which must awe even the Gods themselves.

Where Did the Universe Come From, According to Asatru?

Our myths describe the beginning of the universe as the unfolding of a natural process, rather than one requiring supernatural intervention. Followers of Asatru need not abandon modern science to retain their religion. The old lore of our people describes the interaction of fire and ice and the development of life from these – but this is symbolic, and we will leave it to our scientists to discover how the universe was born.

What are the Runes, and What do They Have to do With Asatru?

Runes are ancient Germanic symbols representing various concepts or forces in the universe. Taken together, they express our ancestors’ world view. Their meanings are intimately connected with the teachings of Asatru. Our myths tell how Odin, father of the Gods, won them through painful ordeal so that Gods and humans alike might benefit from their wisdom.

How is Asatru Organized?

Asatru is non-authoritarian and decentralized, expressing our love of freedom. While we do have definite tenets, we have little dogma. There is no all-powerful spiritual leader whose word is law, no “pope” of Asatru to dictate truth. No guru or priest has an exclusive direct line to the Gods. The Gods live in you!

Sources: asatru.org

Nidhogg

Nidhogg (Norse Níðhöggr) is a ferocious dragon who gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree which supports the nine worlds of Norse mythology. This power-hungry monster is sometimes referred to as “the Malice Striker,” an appropriate name given that he rules over dark criminals and is bent on destroying peace and virtue.

Nidhogg is a tremendous dragon. His body is covered in bright scales, and horns erupt from his head. A pair of forelegs, complete with massive claws, help him to rip at the roots of Yggdrasil, but he has no back legs, only a serpentine tail. Beneath his bat-like wings, he carries the corpses of criminals.

His mammoth body can be found twisting through the roots of Yggdrasil, especially around Niflheimr, the cold world from which all the rivers of Midgard spring. Occasionally, he might slither into Hel to visit the dark goddess who some people consider his master.

Balance is extremely important in Norse mythology, and while Nidhogg does represent a ghastly force, he is still important to supporting the balance of Yggdrasil. A great eagle, who represents wisdom and virtue, perches in the uppermost branches of the tree, while Nidhogg, representing chaos and evil, lurks in its roots. The constant tension between the eagle and the dragon is fueled by Ratatoskr, a squirrel who runs up and down the tree ferrying insults between the two enemies. This tension may seem undesirable, but it actually promotes a cycle of growth in the tree of life. After the eagle and the dragon spend the day destroying Yggdrasil in their frenzy to attack each other, the tree is bathed in water from the wells of Urd, which promotes healing and new growth.

In addition to bringing balance to Yggdrasil, the monster also figures in the punishment of criminals. He rules over the dark shores of Nadastrond, to which the corpses of murderers, adulterers, and oath-breakers are banished. A terrifying hall, with walls woven from serpents and a ceiling that drips venom, waits for these criminals, and inside the hall, the dragon chews on their bodies.

Finally, the dreaded dragon has a role to play in Ragnarok, the day when the giants will attack the gods and destroy most of their world. Ragnarok will begin when the dragon finally manages to chew through the roots of Yggdrasil, causing the tree to yellow and the worlds it supports to plunge into a three-year winter. At the end of this frigid and chaotic period, he will fly up from the underworld, carrying dead criminals and leading the giants on an attack against the gods. Ultimately, the he will survive this battle and become the force of evil which balances good in the post-Ragnarok world.

Sources: mythology.net, Sons of Vikings

Modern European Paganism

Just as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam can be grouped together as monotheistic “Abrahamic” religions that believe in a single all-powerful god, polytheistic religions that honor a multitude of deities also form religious “families.” Among them we find the myriad Hindu sects, Buddhism, which is nontheistic in its theology but includes polytheistic elements in its practice, tribal traditions from the Americas and Asia, the African and Afro-diasporic faiths, which include modern Umbanda and Santeria, and European paganism.

Until very recently, the possibility that a Native European polytheistic faith could be a viable option would have been met with incomprehension. Today, however, a linear worldview that includes an inevitable progress toward a cataclysm decreed by a single, all-powerful God is proving dangerously attractive to some, and to the rest of us, simply dangerous. Instead of a worldview in which neither humanity nor nature have intrinsic meaning because all such meaning derives only from God, or polarizes into a conflict between absolute Good and absolute Evil, we need a worldview that sees holiness in everything, recognizes that spirit takes many forms, and believes that history moves in circles, not a straight line.

The first European polytheistic religion to become well known in Europe and North America in the twentieth century was Pagan Witchcraft, or Wicca, which includes a multitude of traditions derived from or inspired by survivals from European folk religion and the work of Gerald Gardner.  However, Wicca is by no means the only kind of European paganism to flourish today. A second, and rapidly growing, branch of the family consists of the “reconstructed” traditions based on the practices and beliefs of specific cultures. These include the Celtic traditions, among them the different kinds of Druids; the Hellenic traditions, which draw from ancient Greece; the Kemetics, who base their practice on the religion of Egypt; Baltic traditionalists, who have revived their native religions in their newly independent nations; and the religions of the Germanic peoples in Scandinavia, on the Continent, and in England.

Sources: Diana L. Paxson from “Essential Asatru”

Vanaheim

Vanaheim (Old Norse Vanaheimr, “Homeland of the Vanir“) is one of the Nine Worlds that are situated around the world-tree Yggdrasil. As the name implies, it’s the home of the Vanir tribe of deities, who tend to be somewhat more associated with fertility and what we today would call “nature” than the other tribe of Norse deities, the Aesir, who have their home in Asgard.

The surviving sources for our information on Norse mythology and religion, as fragmentary as they are, don’t contain any explicit mention of where exactly Vanaheim is located.  The sole clue we have comes from the Lokasenna (“The Taunting of Loki“), one of the poems in the Poetic Edda, which states that the Vanir god Njord went eastward when he went to Asgard as a hostage at the conclusion of the Aesir-Vanir War.  Presumably, then, Vanaheim lies somewhere to the west of Asgard.

Some scholars have gone so far as to claim that Vanaheim was invented by the thirteenth-century Icelandic Christian historian and poet Snorri Sturluson. However, there is one authentic and reliable Old Norse poem that mentions Vanaheim by name, so we can be reasonably certain that it was a genuine element of pre-Christian Norse religion.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the sources are completely silent as to what kind of world Vanaheim is. However, its name may contain an indication of the place’s character. One of the primary ways the pre-Christian Norse and other Germanic peoples classified geographical spaces (as well as psychological states) was with reference to their concept of the distinction between the innangard and utangard. That which is innangard (“inside the fence”) is orderly, law-abiding, and civilized, while that which is utangard (“beyond the fence”) is chaotic, anarchic, and wild. This psychogeography found its natural expression in agrarian land-use patterns, where the fence separated pastures and fields of crops from the wilderness beyond them. Of the Nine Worlds, two are innangard spaces: Asgard and Midgard, the world of human civilization. Both of these contain -gard in their names and are depicted as having a fence or fortification surrounding them. The rest of the Nine Worlds’ names end in -heim, and there’s no reference to their being enclosed in any way, which seems to indicate that they’re essentially utangard places. Such a designation is certainly in keeping with the way these places are described in Old Norse literature. Thus, we can infer that Vanaheim, like the Vanir themselves, is somewhat more wild or “natural,” and less “cultural,” than the world of the Vanir’s Aesir counterparts, or even that of humanity.

Sources: Sons of Vikings, norse-mythology.org