Q. Anthony: “How would you say an Asatruar can connect with the gods? Like, how does one pray or carry out the Norse equivalent of worship? I know Asatru view their gods differently than say Christians view theirs.”
A. Andrew: You are recognizing the differences between Asatruars and Christians, yet wondering how we as Odinists connect with our gods and goddesses comparable to how Christians connect with their god. You are using “praying” in a Christian manner merely as an example of how their group does it and wondering how our group does it. Right?
Again, I would have to qualify my response by not speaking for all Asatruars, but speaking for our Kindred as Odinists. First of all, rules to prayer are like laws to marriage. Did it start with love? and then become laws? No one needs “law” to be in love.
There is no “rule” or “law” that we follow for prayer. It is an inspiration. Recognizing the “good’ in us and we communicate with that the same way you interact with your conscience. An internal dialog takes place in the conscience where we hear the voice, even an argument of good when situations where we are contemplating something bad, or ungodly. So talk to the gods on that level.
Intuition works a similar way. It is an inspiration of truth. We just feel something is true. It comes to us, or we ask for an answer of how that applies to us, or what do we do with that “truth?”
In short, we talk with the gods as wise, good, loving, honorable, courageous, powerful, agreeable, strong, free…friends.
However, if you are asking about the mechanics of our prayers. Here you go. We connect with our gods and goddesses in the four following ways.
1. We do pray similar to Christians who speak into the air with our eyes closed looking into the landscape of the soul and “seeing” or visualizing them there as we speak to them, about them, and with them.
One difference here is we do not bow or get on our knees in reverence or fear and trembling, or clasp our hands together in a pleading way. We stand and pray with our arms outstretched for the following reasons.
A. We do not bow because it would be like bowing to our fathers and mothers. If I were to bow to my father for instance, he would tell me to get up. Why? Because I am from him and therefore a part of him. If he is a king, then as his heir, so am I. We believe Odin does not want us to bow or subjugate ourselves to him or fear him. We believe he wants to meet us as equals on our feet and means us no harm. He does not count this as disrespect, but rather admires it as the courage to stand as a godly man or woman in faith that the gods have goodwill toward us also.
B. We do not clasp our hands together in a pleading way, because begging is futile, weak, cowardly, and an implied accusation that the gods would withhold some good thing from us unless we beg and grovel in a craven manner that affirms their god’s superiority. (A Christian version of this is the verse, Philippians 2:10-11, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Doesn’t Jesus know he is Lord without others saying it? Odin knows he is god and doesn’t need to be affirmed or recognized by anyone. In fact, he often comes in disguise just SO others don’t recognize him. His goodness, his wisdom, his power and insight are his credentials, not titles or appearances bestowed by others.)
We talk to the gods as those who are already inclined to help us because they are good. If they could grant us what we desire they would. They only need to know what it is we seek. If they have it they will give it…IF…(the biggest little word in the English language!)…IF…it is good for us, good for others, and good for nature. So if the answer is “No.” We believe it must not be “good for us, or good for others, or good for nature.” And we accept their response as a good “wise”, “loving”, “honorable”, etc. as a decision depending on who we are consulting.
C. Even so, we believe one further thing about receiving an answer from the gods we do not desire. We believe we can take our own course of action regardless of what they say, if we “see” a better way, or a necessary way that is different than what has been done before. We believe the gods actually take interest in this approach, because if we fail, then they merely respond that that is why they gave us the counsel they did, and will ask, “How is that working for you?” However, if we succeed and the result is good, then we believe the gods are delighted that a new way has been discovered or created by us, and we will be considered a hero. By doing so, we have expanded the cumulative knowledge and wisdom of the gods and goddesses. We have contributed and progenerated (advanced) the folk to a more godly people, not merely regenerated it. An example of this is Odin learning different ways from the nine worlds that his ravens Hugin and Munin report to him every morning.
So when we pray, we stand with our arms outstretched as a son or daughter opening their arms to be picked up and welcomed by their parents. For we believe we are descendants of the gods (See the Lay of Rig for the three races of mankind.), and that they care for us as good parents would their offspring.
But I digress. I guess I had some things to say about all that! Allow me to return to the three part response to your question.
2. A second way we connect with the gods and goddesses is to identify their presence within us by their qualities within us. In other words, we search for the love in us to connect with Frigga. We search for the wisdom in us to connect with Odin. We search for the willpower in us to connect with Thor, and so on. Once we look inside, or sense its presence, we use that to identify the god or goddess and commune with them through that presence in either verbal or internal ways. If we do not “feel” those “qualities” of wisdom, love, willpower, and so on, then we summon them, call upon them, verbally or internally to inspire ourselves with their presence.
The point here is we do not just use a “name.” We believe names and words can be deceitful. So we identify rather by function. Does this presence result in the function of good? of wisdom? Love? Willpower? And so on. Then it is the presence of god, of Odin, Frigga, Thor, etc. We can thereby be confident we are connecting with the true “gods” by connecting with the true “good” within us. We believe truth is to the soul what reality is to the body. So there is a landscape of the soul, just as there is a landscape of the body. It is there, in truth, in the landscape of the soul that we meet with or connect with our gods and goddess and commune with them for mutual benefit.
3. That brings me to the third way we “connect” with our gods and goddesses. We do Shamanistic type meditations to visualize and summon our gods and goddesses on the landscape of the soul to ask them questions and seek their guidance. We also do this to meet our personal Light Elves and Dark Elves, let alone our Fetch Animal, etc. The communication in this manner occurs internally and is very personal. We consider each Asatruar or Odinist as a prophet or prophetess, not in the idea of “future telling,” but in the idea of having a personal experience with the gods that can be both inspirational for oneself and communicated with others for their counsel and benefit.
4. We can also connect with the gods and goddesses non-verbally through ritual, through music, through art, and other sensory stimulation which amounts to symbolic body language. “A picture is worth a thousand words,” kind of thing. It is not a “logical” or “reasonable” use of language in the faculty of the mind. It is sensible and sensational use of the body to access the heart through the faculty of the senses. The Soul Dance is an example of an individual ritual. Sumbels and Blots are examples of collective rituals that connect us not only to the presence of the gods and goddesses in us, but to the gods and goddesses in others.
Sincerely, Gothi Andrew Webb