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The Majick of Metal: Germanic Neo Paganism

Germanic Neo Paganism is also often referred to as “heathenry.” Odinism, and paganism that includes the worship of Odin, really needs little introduction when it comes to Scandinavian Black Metal. Unfortunately, when a bastardized version of North European paganism known as Ásatrú came into popularity in the United States in the 1970s, it did not take long for it to become almost like glorified LARPing, flourishing with half-truths and hidden agendas, leaving many Americans with distorted view of the true Scandinavian practice.
Heathens. Stepanovskoye, 30 km from Moscow, Russia. September 24, 2005.

Heathens. Stepanovskoye, 30 km from Moscow, Russia. September 24, 2005.

While a Reconstructionist movement, many Heathens who differentiate themselves with claims that they do not use any rituals with modern sources view Ásatrú as being too modern. Heathens adhere to the fact the rituals preformed today are the same ones that were carried down by their ancestors. Odinists have two schools of thought: one is “Folkish,” believing that you must have ancestral Germanic or Nordic blood to be a follower; and the other is “Universalist,” believing that anyone of any background can be a follower as long as they practice the religion. A poly-theistic religion, Odin sits is the throne of patriarch in this pantheon, one that includes other commonly worshiped gods such as Tyr, Frigg, Thor, Loki and Freya. Another central element is the cosmology of Yggdrasil, a massive tree that links the nine realms. It is commonly believed that since, in essence, Yggdrasil translates as “gallows,” this was the tree which Odin sacrificed himself upon. As the old saying goes, “your god was nailed to a cross, my god carries a hammer.” Mjölnir, the hammer carried by Thor, is one of the most well known symbols of Odinism, often worn in amulet form.

Animism is a large part of the belief system, with practitioners communing not only with spirits of trees and animals, but with the land. With this comes the connection to their ancestors through the land they shared. This the most misunderstood element of the “nationalism” which comes with the folk school, which can also be amplified in some cases to blatant racism and white supremacy. Being a new country, America can often take a myopic view when it comes to other cultures, choosing what suits its own view of itself best. Combine this with human beings’ tendency to use religion of any flavor as platform to elevate personal agendas, and the rotten apples begin to spread.

As with most religions, Odinism’s biggest flaw is it being man made, attaching the finite mortal mind to the quest of seeking something higher. However, if one must practice a religion, it’s like rock ‘n roll in the sense that it’s always better to go with a version closest to the source rather than suffering through a derivative band. This form of paganism has pretty deep roots, as the worship of Odin, Wotan, Woden and even the Germanic Mercury are all derived from theonym of Wodanaz. While the Viking age goes back to 793 AD, the origins of Wodanaz goes back 8,000 years further .



Another bridge between Odinism and metal is its link to the works of Tolkien, who was involved in the Viking Revival of the 19th century, or the Septentrionalism Movement, following in the footsteps of William Blake and Thomas Gray before him. This movement’s origins are traced back to the 16th century, when the national identity of Scandinavian culture saw a rise. In fact, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy borrowed very heavily from Germanic mythology, especially the epic 12th century poem Song of the Nibelung, better known from the Wagnerian operas known as the Ring Cycle penned in 1874, a few decades before Tolkien’s 1937 book Hobbit. Both stories involve an epic quest pertaining to a majick ring; Tolkien simply replaced the poem’s protagonist Siegfried with a smaller protagonist. Though being a dragonslayer was the most prominent connection between the two, elements of Siegfried surfaced in other characters. If a Scandinavian black metal band isn’t screaming about bringing forth Ragnarok, chances are they have been throwing in Tolkien references – if they haven’t already named themselves after something in the black tongue of the orcs.


The Ash Yggdrasil by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine

The Ash Yggdrasil by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine


As for where to start when it comes to the study of Germanic Neo Paganism, the problem is that most available works were written after most of Scandinavia converted to Christianity in 1100, so there tends to be a very apologetic tone to the writing of even the most credible sources, such as Icelandic statesman Snoori Sturluson, who wrote his work after Iceland had already converted to Christianity, so he is not writing to believers. This leaves believers opting for the more poetic Edda, with the best book on the subject being Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by Hilda Roderick Ellis Davidson.




  1. Brett Guyer, Wheeling, WV

    June 10, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Great article. Much better than the nonsense you’ll find on Heathen Harvest.

  2. Patrick L. Bertlein

    May 21, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Was that an article? Felt more like a few random thoughts on the subject thrown together. I agree with the ending remark about Davidson though.

    If you want to read an actual article on the subject (in response to the joke of a Vice article), check out Heathen Harvest.

  3. Joseph Horowitz

    May 16, 2015 at 12:19 am

    Liv Ironside

  4. Spector Joel

    May 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Adam Trusty

  5. Nichole M. Fields

    May 15, 2015 at 8:54 am


  6. Mike Black

    May 15, 2015 at 6:19 am

    We’re talking about a reconstructionist religion that has been distorted to be god focused. Primarily, Heathenry doesn’t focus on the Aesir, but rather the ancestors and wights of the land around you. I’d recommend “Culture of the Teutons” and Tacitus’ “Germania” as starting points for understanding how Heathenry worked day to day.

  7. Matthew Arīmanius

    May 15, 2015 at 4:45 am

    May seem a bit nitpicky, but the viking began in the 8th century CE – try 1300 years, give or take. Europe was still barely Christian at that time period.

  8. Morgan James Taylor

    May 15, 2015 at 1:50 am

    Excuse me, But the line “while the viking age goes back 500 years”. It goes back a little further than that. Numbskulls.

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