Monday, July 6, 2015

Review: Asatru: A Native European Spirituality

I've been meaning to start a series of reviews of "beginner's Asatru" books, since one question that keeps coming up in online (and face-to-face) conversations is, "what's a good book I can start with?" So when Stephen McNallen's Asatru: A Native European Spirituality arrived a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I'm not going to go into Stephen McNallen's history or that of his organization, the Asatru Folk Assembly (full disclosure, I'm a member of the AFA). There are some people who are biased against him, and nothing anyone says will change their minds. This review is not for those people.

The book's twenty-five chapters are divided into two parts; "A New-Old Religion", which covers a lot of the history and underlying philosophy of Asatru, and "Practicing Asatru", which, as might be guessed, offers somewhat more practical advice in terms of ritual, calendars, etc.

But even so, what distinguishes this book from many others is that it is both more philosophical and more practical at the same time. Even the chapters that describe the philosophical underpinings of Asatru go out of their way to explain how that philosophy can be expressed in the everyday world. I found this grounding of the history and philosophy in practical application to be refreshing and it turned the book up a notch or two in terms of applicability.

To be sure, the book has the usual descriptions of the Gods and Goddesses, ritual calendars, and outlines of the two main rituals of Asatru; blot and sumbel. But it deliberately does not include sample ritual scripts, or a Yule ritual, then an Ostara ritual, then a Midsummer ritual, and so on. He covers soul-lore and the afterlife, as well. There is a brief obligatory chapter on the runes, and the book closes with thoughts on the future of Asatru, including an intriguing suggestion regarding intentional communities.

While the book is definitely written from a folkish perspective, it is by no means obsessed with the subject. It explains the concept that the Gods are our ultimate ancestors, but there are no lengthy and tedious ramblings on metagenetics and the White Race and so forth; those expecting the stereotypes of who McNallen is will be sorely disappointed. The book simply takes for granted that Asatru is, as the subtitle says, a native European spirituality, and then moves on from there. There is definitely a lot of worth in these pages that even a non-folkish Asatruar will be able to use, if they can just get past the author's name.

On the whole, this is a wonderful book for Asatruar from all ends of the spectrum. It's certainly not perfect; there are a few things in there that I might quibble with, such as "days of remembrance" for Heathen heroes and martyrs and such, which I find both ahistorical and unnecessary. But the pluses outweigh the minuses by a huge margin, and the book is easily worth the modest price.

No comments:

Post a Comment