Brief Introduction to Heathenism

The Native Religion of the Anglo-Saxons and Norse Peoples


This faith is polytheistic (honours more than one god) and can be practised
in numerous different ways.

The major gods and goddesses seem to have been brought together as the small
tribes of early Europe fought and merged. As a result many of the deities have
very similar roles and the ancient separate cults can either be honoured
independently or combined.

There is no doctrine to follow and the emphasis is on the individual, it
would be hard to find two heathens who honoured the same gods in the same way.
The main patterns of the religion are best shown by example, here is a summary
of the of the main cults, the highlighted names are links to more in-depth
articles on this site.

The Cult of Thor

Thor is the god of the sky, weather, fertility,
hallowing and justice. He is a warrior who defends heaven and earth from
destructive forces, brought to life in the myths as giants, trolls and monsters.
Despite his warrior image he is the god of the common people, the farmers and
artisans, his primary role is protection. Thor’s symbol is the hammer Mjolnir
which signifies lightning.

The oldest goddess associated with Thor is Earth (Norse Jord) the ancient
Indo-European earth mother. However Earth’s influence seem to have died out in
the later pagan period and Thor is now more often worshipped alongside
Frigg, Freyja or Thor’s wife
Sif.

The Vanir Cult (Freyr and Freyja)

Freyr is the god of human fertility, agriculture,
wealth, weather, battle and magic. His images show him with a huge phallus and
like Thor he is a fighter of giants. Freyr’s symbols are the boar and the ship.

Freyja is Freyr’s sister and in the older stories
his wife. Freyja is a goddess of magic, sex, and battle. Half of the warriors
slain in battle are taken to her hall. Despite her aggressive character she is
also a patron of the female arts such as spinning and
brewing.

Other Vanic deities include Njord the god of the sea, Gerd,
Freyr’s wife in later stories and possibly Nerthus, another version of the earth
goddess.

The Cult of Odin

Odin is the patron of professional warriors, magicians, poets and kings. He
has strong associations with magic and the Valkyries collect him dead warriors
from the battlefield. As a patron of kings he is given a regal status in heaven
by his devotees, but this position is not universally acknowledged among
heathens.

Odin’s wife is Frigg, the goddess of mothers,
wisdom and woman’s authority over the household. She has a very strong
personality and always seem to get her way when at odds with her husband. Odin
is also often worshipped alongside Freyja.

The other main god in this cult is Balder, who was slain by the trickster
god Loki and waits in the underworld to return after Ragnarok

The Cult of Tyr

Tyr was originally a very important god of the sky, war and justice but his
influence has declined in the late pagan period. He is best known for his
courage in chaining the monster wolf Fenris, a feat which cost him his hand.

Tyr has strong associations with the sun goddess, who is pursued by wolves
across the sky, but no wife is named anywhere in the myths.

Some of the German tribes worshipped him alongside Odin.

The Cult of the Disir

The Disir are local goddesses, often deified ancestors. They are credited
with considerable powers varying from turning the tide of battle to protecting
possessions and children. In the Disir we see very personal deities who might be
worshipped only by one person or one family

The Cult of the Elves

Elves are the ‘hidden folk’ who live under mounds and even in stones. They
can either work good or ill and the benevolent spirits can be worshipped.