A Tentative List of Systems of Religion Applicable to Germanic Religion

Written by Dyami Millarson

I have previously discussed how systems of religion may be defined in universal ways despite their particular origins (e.g. Roman, Greek, and so on) and may then again be defined in a particularly Germanic way such that they are useful for understanding Germanic religion (see my article on universal and particular definitions of systems of religion). Having gained this insight, we may then proceed to ask the following question: which systems of religion are applicable to Germanic religion? There are quite a few systems of religion that are applicable to Germanic religion. Giving an exhaustive list is beyond the scope of this article, as this article is merely meant to demonstrate such a list could potentially be made. Consequently, here follows an incomplete list of systems of religion that appear to be applicable to the Germanic context if defined in a way that fits Germanic religion:

  • Theism
    • Polytheism, Vættirism (Vættir faith)
      • Æsirism (Æsir faith)
      • Vanirism (Vanir faith)
      • Jötnarism (Jötnar faith), Þursarism (Þursar faith)
      • Drekarism (Drekar faith), Ormarism (Ormar faith)
      • Álfarism (Álfar faith)
        • Dvergarism (Dvergar faith)
      • Fylgjurism (Fylgjur faith)
      • Hamingjurism (Hamingjur faith)
      • Nornirism (Nornir faith)
      • Mörurism (Mörur faith)
      • Nykrarism (Nykrar faith)
  • Ancestralism (howe worship, gravehill worship)
  • Heroism
  • Animism (spiritism, spiritualism, spirituality)
  • Shamanism
  • Messianism
  • Millenarianism
  • Totemism
  • Traditionalism (perspective, philosophy, worldview, way, code, matrix, thought), ritualism (custom, rite)
    • Blótism (Germanic sacrificialism)
  • Universism, cosmism, nature worship (or ‘naturalism’ redefined as the worship of natural events and forces of nature), Odinism (rex deorum faith or King of the Gods worship; King of the Gods = King of the Heavens/Clouds and the whole universe)
    • Arborolatry (or ‘arborism’ redefined as blóting to trees), forest worship (Baduhennism)
      • Yggdrasilism (world tree faith)
    • Hydrolatry (water worship, blóting to bodies of water)
      • Lake worship (blóting to lakes)
      • Waterfall worship (blóting to waterfalls)
    • Thorism (thunder worship)
    • Heavenly body worship (heaven worship, celestialism)
      • Sun worship
      • Moon worship
    • Njördism (sea worship)
    • Geolatry
      • Jördism (earth worship)
      • Island worship (fositism)
  • Ørlögism (Germanic fatalism)
  • Omenism (omen belief)
  • Temple worship

Dismissive and loaded interpretations of Germanic religion are superstition and mythology, which we should seek to abolish when speaking of Germanic theology as we should we sympathetic to Germanic religion when studying it, whilst hostility to the object of study only clouds our judgement and understanding. A similarly loaded and dismissive term in the science of language is dialect, which should be abolished just like the terms superstition and mythology when referring to Germanic religion or any other folk religion.

I used the plurals Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, etc. to form Æsirism, Vanirism, Jötnarism, etc. to denote that it is not just about one of the Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, etc. Thus, I used the plurals in the ism-formations to bear the same meaning as poly- in polytheism.

Germanic polytheism requires Æsirism, Vanirism, Jötnarism, Dvergarism, Drakarism, Álfarism, Fylgjurism, Hamingjurism, Nornirism, i.e., belief in the existence of the Æsir, Vanir, Jötnar, Dvergar, Drakar, Álfar, Fylgjur, Hamingjur and Nornir. The exact relationship with these divine beings may differ, as some require worship and others should be warded against. Similarly, Judeo-Christianity requires God faith, Angel faith and Devil faith, i.e., belief in God, Angels and Satan. This is simply how Judeo-Christianity works.

The full package of beliefs native to Germanic polytheism appears quite complex, yet we should not forget that the bulk of the religious emphasis in Indogermanic polytheism lies in (intuitively) recognising supernatural beings whereas the emphasis in the various strands of Semitic monotheism lies in a centrality and reduction of beings by enforcing strict rules. The natural human situation is recognising a multitude of beings and the opposite can only be achieved with strict rules prohibiting the natural human situation.

Germanic religion certainly meant a reverence for whatever was native to the North or more specifically the Northwest of Europe, as this was practical; being in harmony with one’s local environment by having a natural sense of respect for said environment is healthy. This may be described as North worship, Nordic veneration, Northern veneration, or septentrional veneration. After all, septentrional languages was a term used in the past to designate the Germanic languages and it would therefore not to be so strange to speak of septentrional veneration or septentrionalism as a key tenet of Germanic society.

Being Northern is a part of Germanic identity since time immemorial. Names such as Northvegr and Northmenn attest to this. Nevertheless, an even more important current in Germanic thought was the concept of centrality. Germanic identity, as seen in the concept of Mithgarth, was linked with the notion of centrality in ancient times. The Germanic peoples perceived themselves as being in the middle of the world, and so while the perception of being Northern has ancient origins, the prevailing Germanic view was that the Germanic peoples were central in the world, meaning that they were the closest to Yggdrasil, the world tree, at the centre of the world. A comparable perception has existed among the Chinese peoples since ancient times, who perceived themselves as living in the Central Kingdom, which is a concept that ultimately has the same intended meaning as Mithgarth.

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3 thoughts on “A Tentative List of Systems of Religion Applicable to Germanic Religion

  1. Would you consider popular ideations such as the ubiquitous Asatru, or lesser known variants such as Forn Sidr, Theod et. al. to be subjunctives of your above list, or separate entities?

    Without meaning any intentional condescension, I’ve always found the multivariance of religious manifestation surrounding the expression of Folksoul (parcel to my own beliefs) to be well and truly fascinating.

    Do you yourself fall in any of the categories? I’d imagine one would be hard-pressed to compress themselves into a singular trajectory.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I should really praise you for your questions as they are always outstanding and to the point. The list above is an analysis of the features or façets of Germanic religion.

      I analyse Asatru, Forn Sidr, Theodism, etc. as different modern strands or interpretations of Germanic religion. One might say they are modern sects which draw inspiration from ancient Germanic religion to varying degrees. This is very understandable. To make an East Asian comparison, there are many modern Japanese Shinto sects and Chinese folk religious sects as well, and studying them has merit. These Japanese and Chinese sects are often influenced by Christianity to some extent as they seek to reform the old polytheism.

      I have sympathies for what Ásatrú and the others are trying to do, and I have studied them diligently, but they are quite modern in many respects and that usually means too modern for my taste, as my goal is not conforming to modern times but to help modern times conform to ancient times, which is why I am not affiliated with any of these modern projects. My aim is traditional authenticity – the tradition has to be authentic and this can only be achieved if it carries the same spirit or essence as the ancient tradition.

      For instance, although Ásatrú has aspirations of religious reconstruction, the practical Ásatrú interpretation of the blót is usually a point of departure from my studies of Germanic paleopagan religion. Blót, in the paleopagan sense, usually means the sacred slaughter of an animal; removing blood sacrifice from blót and substituting it with something else renders blót something that is not Germanic.

      Modern people are turned off by blood sacrifice and they regard it as uncivilised, yet they do regularly consume meat. I believe this hypocrisy should be highlighted; we should rather oppose modern biases than accommodate them. People have removed themselves from nature. Slaughter is a part of the life cycle, and as such, it is a very important part of life that we should treat with the utmost respect.

      I slaughtered cocks last year around yuletide, as was coincidentally also common during that time of year among our Germanic forebears. Paleopagans around the world still practise blood sacrifice, they embrace slaughtering as a sacred part of life and we should not shun this either; if we consume meat, we better follow the sacred process of our forebears without skipping the part where we have to take responsibility for the act of taking a life.

      One may analyse blót in the following totemic way: the sacrificing of an animal means the absorption of that animal’s power by the Gods. When I consumed one of the cocks that I had slaughtered last year, I could also feel like I absorbed its power; this was an experience strengthened by the fact that the animal had died by my own hands. It is comfortable knowing where the meat comes from and that the animal has lived a good life before I consumed it.

      I dedicate myself to the study of Germanic paleopaganism and thus I regard myself as a student of Germanic paleopaganism. This also means that I will live this philosophy – it is not just a mental abstraction. I integrate what I learn into my daily life, just as I do with the languages that I have been studying. I study other pagan religions as well, because this helps deepen my practical understanding of how Germanic religion works.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. These are wonderful points. I think most of which I’ve come to in my own way in the last few years. I’m exceptionally guilty of having fallen in most if not all of these pitfalls. I’d been a vegetarian on moral grounds for years, as a point of fact, but will be beginning a small family farm as money allows. Goats, we hope.

        I’m trying to be less critical of things as I get older. But my deepest reservation with the Asatru umbrella is that I find it to be superficial. Perhaps it exists best as an introductory gland to encourage folks to dig in deep. Perhaps that’s the modernity of it, I don’t rightly know.

        I do, however, generally advocate the idea of a Pagan Renaissance. Although I think I like the sound of how you define Paleopagan rather more than most.

        Liked by 1 person

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