So, we’ve covered a place to worship, and why it is we worship, but how about What we worship. Of course, explaining it is always a bit complicated, and sounds over the top when you do it right:
We worship the Ancestral Gods and Goddesses of the Norse and Germanic tribe of Europe, these being the Aesir and Vanir, two races of divine beings that hail from two of the Nine worlds. These worlds are, respecitvily, Asgard and Vanaheim. In addition to the Aesir and Vanir, there is also the third sacred world of Helheim, ruled by Hel the Goddess of Death.
At this point, most people’s eyes have glazed over and they haven’t got a clue about what you’re talking about an, in my experience, you sigh and say: “I worship Viking Gods.”
Which used to be enough. Till people started going “Who are the Vikings?”
At which point the nervous tick I’ve somehow managed to develop over the last several months really starts acting up.
Still, this post isn’t about who the actual Gods and Goddesses are. That’s going to come later. This is actually about the Lore itself, and the best way to get to know the legends, myths, and ways of our ancestors and Gods.
There’s a few primary sources for Heathenism. The Eddas, Prose and Poetic. The Icelandic sagas/Beowulf/Ring Saga, all of which fall under stories about people and culture, and a few others. Sadly, they aren’t all thrown into one big book like the bible that people can go out and get. But like the bible, the language is often older, the concepts strange, and not the easiest thing to get through without a lot of background.
Give a newbie a copy of the Prose or Poetic Eddas, and you can watch their eyes glaze over. Even I, who have been at this for the better part of a decade, still haven’t managed to really read either (though this is partially because I’ve not had time since I got my copies). They’re written in a really old style, and that’s not always something people have an easy time getting through. Back when I was a Christian, I tried to read the book of Revelations, because frankly everything people said made it sound like the coolest book in the bible, with demons, monsters, worlds ending, epic wars, etc. I read it twice, from start to finish. Well, I read through it from start to finish, my eyes glazed over, and by the end I couldn’t tell you a damn thing that happened.
So I actually have a theory. To read the sources is good, perhaps even best, but only after you have a basis and foundation. In my guiding a new person into Heathen, I came to a decision. Rather than tell her to go out and buy one of the Eddas, I told her to do this. Go out and get a book of Norse Myths.
See, Christians actually tend to do this introduction phase right with their kids. They don’t smack a bible down in front of them and say “Read this and learn.” They start them off with story versions of bible stories. They break them down, remove the archaic language, and make it easy not only to understand, but to get into. The story of Samson and is destruction of his enemies, in the bible, is a chore to get through. But in an illustrated kids book, you get an idea of how awesome it is that some dude with a heck of a lot of strength brought down a temple on his enemies (tough I am sorry to see the destruction of a Pagan temple).
So for all those getting started, go out and get the Eddas and other lore sources if you want. They are something you are going to want later on, certainly. But if you’re just getting started, do yourself a favor. Go get a book like The Norse Myths (Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library) by Kevin Crossley-Holland. It’s actually the book that introduced me to the Norse Gods and their stories. It doesn’t have everything in it, not by a long shot, but help you get an idea of what the Gods are like, who they are, and with a good handful of footnotes for each story, it’s a great start. Another one on my list to get is Gods of Asgard: A graphic novel interpretation of the Norse myths. Which is not only awesome for being a comic book (with really nice art) but it helps bring the stories to life. 🙂
The great thing about these collections of myths is that they’re easy to read, and you can sink yourself in the lore and legends, rather than get lost and glaze over. You will read the Eddas at some point, but while Heathenism is the religion of scholars, and as you get deeper into it you’ll be devouring history books and original sources, that comes later. For now, my young ones, just read the stories in the easiest way possible as you start on your path. 🙂