The short version — Nordic Journeys suggests Scandinavian Asatru is a spirituality while American Asatru is a religion.
- Nordic Journeys, “My understanding of European vs American Asatru“, YouTube (Jan. 15, 2017).
The piece that interests me here is his idea that there is a difference of perspective between those who grew up in Scandinavia and those who grew up in America. The Scandinavians have learned Norse history as part of their own national history. The Americans haven’t.
Let’s remember here that the essence of paganism is not really exotic medieval European gods resurrected so Americans can do cosplay (although you might get that idea sometimes).
The essence of neo-paganism is finding modern ways to (a) connect to your ancestors, and (b) connect to the local land spirits. Maybe not everyone agrees with this assessment but I think on the whole we’re becoming increasingly clear about this.
This two-part search means that Scandinavian Asatruar have both pieces, ancestors and land spirits, in a single Norse cultural package. Americans, on the other hand, only have one of the pieces, ancestors, and sometimes not even that.
The way I learned it, my great grandparents brought their tomte with them to America, but no matter how you look at it, one tomte for hundreds of descendants or one tomte to live among all the other land spirits — the poor guy isn’t going to make much of a difference by himself. He’s certainly had to make friends in America.
My sense is that American simply cannot be Astatrur in the same way Scandinavians can. They are kindred spiritualities, certainly, but it’s not possible for them to be the same.
- Diana L. Paxson, “Essential Asatru: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism” (2006).
- Arith Härger, “What is Asatru?“, YouTube (Apr. 25, 2018).
- Mathias Nordvig, “Ásatrú in Iceland – Interview with Josh Rood“, YouTube (Oct. 1, 2019).
Revised Oct. 28, 2019 to add links.