Thank you to Freki Ingela for this question:
Are the Gods great Gods whom anyone on Earth may appeal to, or are they ancestral tribal spirits who confine themselves to looking over the descendants of northern Europe, or are they both? Or are they neither in your opinion? If so, how do understand their nature.
The Gods of the Northern Tradition are Gods I believe anyone can appeal to. I do not hold folkish views regarding the Gods. The peoples who worshiped these Gods (and how, what particular understanding of these Gods were prevalent and practices were done in this regard differed region to region) ranged all over the world. They brought back people from these expeditions, merchant voyages, conquests, and raids. They sometimes settled in the new lands, usually as colonizers. To my understanding there is no barrier to anyone worshiping the Gods of the Northern Tradition so far as ancestry goes. While I do believe that some of the Gods may have brought Their power into tribes of people, such as recounted in the RÍgsÞula (The Lay of Rig), as well as many of the hero stories, I do not think this is what determines if someone is holier or better than another. I also do not believe that having bloodlines connected to people who may have worshiped the Gods of the Northern Tradition automatically makes you better suited for the Northern Tradition, especially given how many Europeans worshiped Greek and Roman Gods in many of the same places the Northern European Gods were worshiped. Prayers for the Gods made with a good heart in the right place are good regardless of who makes them.
To understand the nature of the Gods, I usually recommend people read up as much as they can on the Gods, and then, while they are doing so, set up a shrine to the Gods and to their Disir (powerful female Dead), Väter* (powerful male Dead), and their Ancestors in general. I’ve lived in a dorm room, so I have had to make do with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir all sharing altar space together. When the shrine is set up, make an offering of water, if nothing else, every day. Take at least five to fifteen minutes a day to do this, not just setting down the water, but praying at that shrine. If you have prayers of your own, say them. If you need inspiration, or want to use prayers from others, feel free to use prayers from my blog using the search bar, from NorthernPaganism.org’s wide variety of online shrines, Michaela’s Odin’s Gift website, Galina Krasskova’s prayers, or any others you find. If you don’t have space or if you are in a hostile place you can leave a digital candle to one of the Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir at one the NorthernPaganism.org’s shrine pages, like this one to Odin.
This is the recommended reading list I have for the Michigan Northern Tradition Study Group, with explanation of why we use them:
- Neolithic Shamanism by Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova
- Neolithic Shamanism is an experience of the Northern Tradition spirits, and only works with a handful of Gods, such as Sunna and Mani. The focus of the book is toward establishing right relationship with the Elemental Powers, the landvaettir, one’s Ancestors, and so one from the ground up.
- The Prose Edda by Carolyne Larrington
- This version of the Prose Eddas is very straightforward. Having read both Bellows and Hollander, I agree with Galina that Hollander cuts things out with poetic license so the ‘flow’ goes according to what he wants.
- Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera
- Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner gives a good overview of the Northern Tradition, and has a good deal of practices such as prayers, how to use prayer beads, and what offerings are good or contraindicated for the Gods of the Northern Tradition. This book helped me deepen my religious practice.
- Spiritual Protection by Sophie Reicher
- Spiritual Protection is one of the best books on psychic/spiritual protection I have seen or read. In a book market where protection is often given short shrift, this book goes to the absolute basics and is great to revisit whether you’ve been doing it for a little while, a long while, or not at all. As a word of caution I advise no one to seek to ground to any world but this one, Midgard, as even I haven’t gone and received permission yet to ground to another.
- Exploring the Northern Tradition by Galina Krasskova
- Exploring the Northern Tradition gives a good overview of the demographics of Heathenry, some ideas of varying practice and culture, and is a good guide to the differences between traditions that you may find in them.
- Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
- This book gives an overview of the myths, Gods, and Goddesses. I would probably pair it with the Prose Eddas, but I also like people to dive right into the source material and make discoveries on their own, but if that style of study works better for you I don’t see a reason not to do it, particularly if the Eddas are a bit hard to work through.
Another book I would seriously recommend is Essential Asatru by Diana Paxson. It details some typical practices from both groups and personal practice.
*This is not a traditional name for the powerful male Dead. It is German for “Fathers”. I use it in preference of Álfar, since álfar means ‘elves’.