Saturday, February 13, 2016

Guest Post - Asatru and Paleo: A Return to Health

Editor's note: This is the first time I've had someone offer a piece for me to publish here as a guest post, but the author is not only a member of my tribe, but has also come up with an idea that was both cool and unique. I hope you find it as interesting as I did. The choice of images is my own, not the author's.

By Donald van den Andel

While fad diets come and go one recent one that seems to have some real staying power is the Paleo Diet. The basic idea of the diet is that you can lose weight and become healthier by eating the foods that our bodies were “designed to eat.”1

Essentially the diet is based on what we know of the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived some ten thousand years ago.

As you might imagine the diet of the Paleolithic period was largely comprised of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and lean meats and seafood. The argument goes that for the first 2.5 million years of man’s existence we ate this way. The changes in man’s diet over the last ten thousand years and more importantly the last one hundred years have been a disaster for our health. Our modern diet brings with it ill health and obesity. Our foods are highly processed and contain too much sugar, too much salt, and too much fat.

One clear example of the change in diet that has led to many health risks and complications is the consumption of sugar. While our ancestors had a taste for honey and the mead that they produced from it, refined sugars were not a part of their diet. According to Dr. Loren Cordain “In England in 1815, the average person used about 15 pounds of table sugar in a year; in 1970, the average person used about 120 pounds.”2

Progress in our diet symbolized by fast food and frozen foods ready to be “cooked” in a microwave in a matter of mere minutes are disastrous for us because we are not meant to eat in this way. In fact our modern diet is totally alien to us from an evolutionary perspective and is a key contributor to several nutrition-related ailments from heart disease to cancer to diabetes.3

As the Paleo Diet is to food, Asatru is to our spiritual well-being. Asatru is a return to the pre-Christian native spirituality that our European ancestors practiced. From the dawn of spirituality until the great conversions of 800 to 1500 years ago, our ancestors all practiced forms of polytheism or what we typically refer to as Heathenism or Paganism today. Archeological sites like Stonehenge date back some 5000 years and are a monument and reminder of such cultures.

The early transition to an agricultural lifestyle had a direct impact on the religious practices of our ancestors. Diana Paxson writes “Staying in one place required people to maintain a working relationship with the spirits of the land.”4   Similarly, Stephen McNallen comments, “Asatru is our native Way. Just as there is a Native American religion, and a native African religion, so there is a native European religion – and Asatru is one of its expressions.” 5

The values of our European ancestors who worshiped the “old” Gods were transformed with the period of Christian conversion and the years that followed. Asatruar have no equivalent to the Ten Commandments. Rather than a set of “thou shalt not’s” they lived in a culture that valued honor above all else. In the Statement of Ethics composed by the Clergy Board of the Asatru Folk Assembly it is written:
We believe that through ritual, dedication, generosity, honor, and hard work, our lives and consciousness will be touched by the Holy Powers.
Such ethics stand in stark contrast to Christian ethics as well as to the secular ethics of “liberal humanism” which have swept through Western Europe and the United States. As Christian conquerors demonized the old Gods, old ethics were replaced by the theory of Original Sin and the need for salvation that could only come by way of an external savior. Derived from the tale of Adam and Eve’s transgression in the Garden of Eden, Christians believe that every child born into this world is a sinner with no hope for redemption other than by the grace of their God.7 In fact, there is no good work, no action, not even a restraint from sin that can save the Christian from eternal punishment following their earthly death. Salvation from such a eternal damnation is achieved only through faith that God through his grace will grant forgiveness of sins. Honor and courage bow down as one becomes helpless before the Christian cross.

Today “Liberal Humanism” is overrunning the traditional standards of Christianity.8  Liberal Humanism places its emphasis on the subjectivity of values and value systems. This new ethic suggests that one value system (or person) is equal to another. “Equality” becomes the new standard rather than “justice,” “courage,” or “honor.” While devoid of any supernaturalism the new ethics build upon a foundation of Christianity mixed with a bit of Marxism.9 These great equalizing philosophies attack what is traditionally strong in our society in favor of the weak; the victim becomes victorious over the hero. Nietzsche identified this “slave” revolt against what is strong in our society in his On the Genealogy of Morals (Zur Genealogie der Moral).  Nietzsche asserted that this movement is a “revolt which has a history of two thousand years behind it and which we no longer see because it – has been victorious.”10

For the past one hundred years, political philosophers have announced the “decline of the west.”11  Indeed today, the values of our western culture are in full free fall. The only chance for the West as a whole is to return to a way of life that is free of the alien ideas that have initiated the ruin.

Just as our modern diet has brought on physical illness, the adoption of alien Christian values and religion has resulted in a spiritual illness for our people. Returning to the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors will surely improve our physical health just a return to the values of Asatru will improve our mental and spiritual health. We must shed the theology that denies us of responsibility for our lives - leading to an obesity of our hearts and minds. We must remove the unhealthy ingredients of shame and sin and weakness from our way of life. We must rid ourselves of the cancer of spirituality that is alien to all folk of European heritage. We must return to a natural, healthy and native spirituality.

The recipe for our return to health is indeed Asatru.


1 See Loren Cordain, The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011).

2 Ibid. p. 49.

3 Ibid. p. 32.

4 Diana L. Paxson, Essential Asatru: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism (New York: Citadel Press, 2006) p. 9.

5 Stephen A. McNallen, Asatru: A Native European Spirituality (Nevada City, Calif.: Runestone Press, 2015) p. 1.

6 Ibid. p. 93.

7 See online:

8 See Stephen McNallen’s introduction to Edred Thorsson, A Book of Troth (Runestone Press, 2015).

9 Louis Althusser, “Marxism and Humanism,” Cahiers de l’I.S.E.A., June 1964. Online:

10 Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Kaufmann translator, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo (New York: Vintage Books, 1969) p. 34

11 Most famously of course is Oswald Spengler in his The Decline of the West of 1918.

1 comment:

  1. I work in the "health care" field (really it's disease care) and I mostly agree with this. I would point out however that before peoples became settled, when they were still hunter gatherers, there is archeological evidence that they were deliberately sowing grains that they would come harvest later. These grains were stored in communal 'silos' that the whole tribe would have access to. The idea that our paleo ancestors never ate grain is just wrong. Now, maybe they weren't eating bread - but they were most definitely eating whole grains as a part of their diet.

    I think the key is whole grains, not white flour. Fruits in season or dried. Vegetables in season or dried. Meats whatever they could catch. Honey only rarely and in fermented drinks (another long term storage method). We can do this easily now, especially with frozen vegetables and fruits. Beer is another long term storage method for grains, and real beer made in the traditional manner(s) is actually quite nutritious. It makes folic acid available for human use, via the yeast in the beer. Which is essential for preventing spina bifida and other sorts of birth defects. The only other way to get it, since we don't produce our own, would be (for a paleo ancestor or for a paleo follower) via grass fed meats.

    I had a long talk with a new patient yesterday about diet. The wife kept saying diabetes is genetic. I had to correct her several times and point out a few thing: 1. diabetes type I is possibly genetic but diabetes type II is purely lifestyle and diet induced, though you may have more or less of a genetic predisposition to it.
    2. Even 100 years ago the average housewife used 1.5 times more calories to do her jobs than a woman does now, and likewise for men. Even with a lot of carbohydrates in the diet then, people simply were not obese nor were they diabetic or had heart disease like now. They burned it all off.

    I do limit carbohydrates in my diet because I do believe it's healthier, but I don't "paleo" because for me it's not realistic. I do have a gluten allergy so I grind my own flour and make my own bread when I do eat bread. I don't however take part in the daily brownie/donut/cake fests at my place of employmen. I eat wasabi almonds instead. Just as a for instance.

    I am not ever willingly giving up my coffee though! :)