Welcome to my first blog!
I’ve been an Ásatrúar for about 19 years as of writing this post. “What does that mean?” I hear a lot of you asking yourselves. For those who are unaware, Ásatrú is an Icelandic word that translates to “the god faith”. The gods in question being the native deities of Scandinavia (though in America, this also often extends to those of Germany, Anglo-Saxon England, Finland, etc, which has caused many of us to adopt the more generic word “Heathen”). In other words, Ásatrú is a new word for the rekindled worship of the old gods of Northern Europe (Óðinn, Þórr, Loki, Freyja, etc) and the veneration of the ancestors and the spirits of nature.
When I tell people that I worship the Norse gods and have for a very long time, the response I’m most often met with is, “you can do that?!” Though many people love the old stories of the gods and their adventures, many people tend to forget that for people that lived only about 2,000 years ago (a pinprick in time considering the immense timeline of human spirituality) the gods were more than just entertaining characters in fairy tails, but were considered to be real entities that human beings could form relationships with.
Many people in Europe and the Americas alike have been returning to the faith of the old gods for a variety of reasons. Many people feel called to this path because it makes sense for them to re-adopt a spiritual view of the world that was held by their ancestors for thousands of years before it was forcefully (and almost always violently) driven into disuse by the champions of a conquering, foreign religion. Others feel called to this path due to it’s simple, animistic philosophy and ancestral veneration, which to many is reminiscent of a kind of European Shinto. Other people (myself included) believe that this is a path that they were very directly called to.
Much like my impending journey to Iceland, my journey to reclaiming my ancestral traditions began with dreams. I dont’ have a normal conversion story, and much of what I’m about to share is what I often unceremoniously refer to as “woo woo”, but if human spirituality wasn’t originally born out of dreams and visions, then I don’t know where else it possibly could have come from, so take these stories as you will.
When I was around 7 years old, I started to have dreams about a very handsome man who called himself “Loki”, prior to any knowledge I had about the Norse gods (or that I even had any ancestral attachement to their culture/s). Being what I would call an “open” child, I quickly became friends with this person who visited me so often. My father, being a spiritual seeker his whole life, thankfully didn’t tell me I was crazy. Instead, he did the opposite and introduced me to a Native spirit worker named Tu Bears, who was like a second mom to be through my childhood and helped navigate me through my early interactions with gods, spirits, and ancestors. It was soon after that when my dad bought me my first book about Norse mythology, and I fell even more deeply in love with Loki and his world. My father was also friends with a woman named Mary Jane who owned a new age bookstore in town, and I’m still grateful to her that she would order me any book on Norse magic or spirituality that she could find. Early on in this stage of my life, I asked the gods to show me whether or not this was a path I should follow. As my serious questions have often been answered in the form of dreams, I had a dream that night that Óðinn appeared to me in the form of a wolf, and kept running further ahead of me and urging me to follow him. I took that as my answer, and this road has been a part of my life ever since.
Fast forward to 2010. I had a very intense dream during a very hard period of my life, that I and some friends had stopped at a little roadside store. There was a beautiful woman with long silver hair and an ageless face behind the register. Sitting at a table behind her was a man in a floppy blue cowboy hat, a strong man with muscles, and a thinner man with long blonde hair. Beside the front door of the store there was a bowl, filled with small, chopped up pieces of white bone. I asked the woman behind the counter what they were for, and she told me to take a handful of them and throw them on the ground as an offering to the ancestors. I did as she said, and asked her if she and her friends practiced the Norse tradition. She smiled and said that they did. I felt so at home with her, that I asked if I could come do a blót (which these days is a ritual drink sacrifice to the gods) with them some time soon. She smiled and shook her head and said, “You’ve never been to those countries, so the traditions aren’t a part of you yet”. The dream ended soon thereafter, but while I was with this woman and her friends, I felt one of the strongest feeling of love, peace and happiness I’ve ever felt in my life. It’s impossible to describe, and I’ll never forget it. Upon waking and reflecting on the dream, I have come to believe that the woman behind the counter was Frigga, while her companions were Óðinn, Þórr, and Loki. I was close to the end of completing my BA in History at this time, and it was at this time that I seriously began to consider pursing a graduate degree that would allow me to travel to Scandinavia.
A few years later, I had discovered that the University of Iceland had an MA program in Old Nordic Religion, which for obvious reasons, I was very interested in. Not long thereafter, I had a dream that I was on a beach by the ocean. But the strange thing about the beach was that all of the sand on the beach was completely black like volcanic glass. There was a woman standing on the beach, who was slender and beautiful with long dark brown hair. She invited me into her house, which surprisingly, was directly on the edge of the ocean. When I went inside her house, I saw that the only thing there was a huge television set in the middle of her living room. She told me that that’s where she watched her “stories”. The water from the tide was beginning to creep into the house, and I asked the woman if she wasn’t worried that her television would be ruined. She said that it was fine, and the water always did that.
I woke up from that dream with a feeling that there was some purpose behind it. Before I continue, I’d like to assure you that I don’t take every dream that I have as a message from beyond. Sometimes a dream is just a dream: I’ve never tried to derive any meaning from a dream where Elmer Fudd, Crocodile Dundee, and myself are battling through the zombie apocalypse. But if you are the kind of person who occasionally will “dream true” you will be able to tell that there is a big difference in how a “true dream” feels, and how a “dream dream” feels. Because I felt that this was a true dream, I did a search online to see if I could find a black beach like the one I had seen and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I found it in Iceland in Vík í Mýrdal. Upon considering who the strange woman might have been, I came to the conclusion that it was Sága, goddess of history and stories, who lives in a hall by the sea called Sökkvabekkr (the “sunken bench”), explaining why the water was half in and half out of her house. It almost felt like Sága was trying to tell me that Iceland was going to be a part of my story.
I applied to the University of Iceland in the winter of 2012, and thanks to the support (and recommendation letters) of my friends and family, especially Sowila Oskisdóttir, Kveldulfr Gundarsson, Diana Paxson, Lorrie Wood, and Bari Mandelbaum, I (quite unexpectedly) received notice that I had been accepted to the Old Nordic Religion program on April 30, 2013. Of course, this account is very neat and tidy compared to the ups, downs, and sacrifices that all led up to this acceptance, but many times, it was the dreams that kept me going.
That brings me to the purpose of this blog. Obviously, traveling abroad to study in Iceland is going to largely be a spiritual experience for me. Being able to see the landscape that inspired the Eddas and the Sagas, experiencing the culture of the descendants of the people that once worshipped the old gods and goddesses, being able to study the history of this religion in places where it was actually enacted. It all seems very humbling and overwhelming for me. I’m making a blog because I wanted to be able to share my experiences in Iceland from a spiritual perspective for anyone who’s interested, and hopefully be able to share some of the things I’m learning about the old Nordic religion and the culture of Iceland. I am especially excited about being able to meet the Ásatrúar of the Ásatrúarfélagið, and to learn about how Ásatrú is practiced in Iceland by modern Icelanders. Perhaps not without reason, American heathens have gained a reputation for being know-it-alls when it comes to Ásatrú and how it should be practiced ( we jokingly say that our two mottos are “You aren’t the boss of me” and “You’re doing it wrong”), even when relating to native Scandinavians. To me, this seems as ridiculous as me going to a Paiute sweat-lodge and telling the Natives how they could improve their own rituals because I learned how to do it “right” from a book. Instead, I hope to come in as a blank slate who is open to learning whatever I can from the culture that I admire so much.
It’s my intention to fill this blog with pictures, anecdotes, and videos in time. I plan on leaving for Iceland in late August, and my studies will begin in September. Until then, I may only be putting posts in here once in a while. I’m fortunate enough that my fiancé (who is a devotee of Óðinn, Loki, Freyja, and Sigyn) will also be along for the ride, and you will probably see her in videos occasionally too.
So, those are some of the dreams that have inspired me. Hopefully there will be plenty of new inspiring dreams and life experiences to come.