Odin's Chosen was not exactly what I expected. It is described as written "for Odinist/Asatruar seeking to expand their knowledge of the Old ways and for individuals who are seeking a comprehensive guide that encompasses the essentials of [Asatru]."

There is an introduction to the basic mythology of Asatrú with the Gods, Goddesses and Wights, the Nordic creation myth, Ragnarok, Yggdrasill and the nine worlds. Rather than present the stories with the lines from the original Eddas, these stories are summarized with almost journalistic succinctness. Emphasis on Runic work dominates. Their symbolic meanings accompany their more basic use as an alphabet. Methods for divination by rune are taught as well. The rituals utilize a different sacred rune for each occasion. Instructions are provided to make your own set.

Curiously the ritual to make runes if incarcerated involves using one's own blood as ink while the ritual for outside of institutions does not. Outreach to prison inmates appears to be a commitment for the authors. For the incarcerated, information is given on how to create prison accepted ritual tools with readily available materials. A step by step guide for inmates to establish an official Asatrú group indicates that this is a population that matters to them.

A chapter on rituals introduces the Blot, Feast and Sumbel. If one is new to polytheist worship, the repetitiveness of these rites might help familiarize one with this format. I would have liked more variety. My sense is the authors strongly value order and conformity. The serious tone and prominence of strength, honor, courage and freedom reminded me of the portrayal of Star Trek Klingon religious rites. There is a marshal mentality that feels very masculine. While the Goddesses and Disir, female ancestors, are included, this books seems aimed more at a men with a fighting spirit.

In addition to traditional holidays recognizing Nordic deities, the authors suggest celebrating kindred recognized holy days. For example, Rauðr the Strong is celebrated as a kind of Asatrú martyr. Various historical heathens killed for refusing to convert to Christianity are honored. Olaf Tryggvason is noted as a murderer of kindred. No mention is made that he was the King of Norway from 995-1000 so I had to search for Olaf “The Lawbreaker” Tryggvason.to discover who he was. To the authors he was an enemy of the folk who held on to the old ways of the ancestors.

Odin's Chosen is not just critical but quite hostile to Christians and Jews. “Our great groves were desecrated and burned by the pious monks...We are back to reclaim the sacred and what is rightfully ours.” Reclaiming extends to the dubious notion that guardian angels are borrowed from Scandinavian disir worship. I struggled to comprehend how ancestor honoring groups trying to reinvigorate a tradition that has been mostly dormant for a thousand years saw no conflict in dissing their very own frowny face Lutheran disir of the past 500 years and the Catholic ones for 500 years before that. How are we supposed to honor our recent ancestors who are considered enemies of the kindred? Ultimately there is more healing of the deep cultural heritage - oorlog needed but no answers to how to do this.

In America there are heathens who don't care if you have an ancestral tie to Northern Europe and those who think it is essential. My personal belief that the divine transcends our physical heritage flies in the face of those who wish to create a very exclusive form of American Asatrú based on blood ties. This was what made me uncomfortable as I read. I did some further research and found that Valgard Murray who wrote the forward is a former member of the American Nazi party which may explain these separatist sentiments:

“It is also imperative to Asatrú worship that such sacred places be used only by the Asatrú worshippers, so as not to confuse or do harm to the spirits of the land.”

“A space filled with various spirits or the energy of other religions or people would cause a distraction and loss of focus. For many of us, this would cause the ritual to be disrupted, useless, and perhaps even harmful.”

AS I said earlier, Odin's Chosen was not exactly what I expected. My first mistake was probably not recognizing that the use of Odin in the title may be intended a kind of code that the authors are propenents of a particularly racialist/folkish vision of Asatrú for those with ancestral ties. Despite belonging to this ethnic background, I found the language used made me feel like an outsider to my own ethnic culture. It is likely that anyone not sharing this ethnicity may feel even more excluded.

Odin's Chosen does introduce the reader to the basics of Asatrú, but I wasn't comfortable with its subtle messages of exclusionism, a kind of 'separate but equal' way of viewing others that had alarm bells ringing the deeper I got. On a positive note however, it did have the benefit of getting me to talk with other practitioners and get a wider viewpoint.

~review by Larissa Carlson Viana

Authors: Faolchú Ifreann and Tyrsoak Josephsson
Asphodel Press, 2015
pp.230, $16.00

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