The term Asatru (literally, being true to the Æsir or Germanic
deities) is the most used term for the modern reconstructed
forms of the magical polytheistic religions of the German
and Scandinavian people that have appeared in Europe
and North America since the 1960s. In North America, the first
such group, and for many years the most prominent, was the
Asatru Free Assembly. The assembly was founded in 1972 as
the Viking Brotherhood by Stephen A. McNallen. Shortly after
founding the new organization to give public expression to the
belief that McNallen had slowly appropriated, he went into the
army. The brotherhood became largely moribund, though he
continued to publish the quarterly periodical, The Runestone.
Returning to civilian life in 1976, McNallen worked on refining
the idea of the brotherhood and soon changed its name
to Asatru Free Assembly. The assembly rejected collective ideologies
(especially fascism) and emphasized individualism,
courage, integrity, and independence. A wide variety of belief
and practice was allowed within the general framework of acknowledgment
of the deities. The Asatru people also saw themselves
as over against the Odinists, who emphasize a single
deity rather than the whole of the deities. Celebrations were
held to recognize the deities, such as Yule (December 22) and
the summer solstice. Other holidays included March 28, Ragnar’s
Day, when the assembly remembered the sacking of Paris
in 845 by the Viking Ragnar Lobrok. Local groups called Skeppslags,
or ship’s crews, consisted of 3 to 15 members. Also, interest
groups were formed as guilds to develop skills in activities
from sewing to brewing.
The assembly reached a crisis in 1987, when McNallen felt
unable to continue as the primary leader and disbanded the organization.
In the meantime, a number of mostly small local
Norse groups had arisen, some falling victim to racial ideologies
that alienated them from the larger body of Neo-Pagans.
Among his last productions was the publication of a book of
Norse rituals. The fall of the Asatru Free Assembly also left a
vacuum just as Norse Paganism appeared to be in a growth
phase. Former members began to form new associations such
as the Asatru Alliance and the Ring of Thoth. In 1992 McNallen
returned to active leadership as an Asatru, founding the Asatru
Folk Assembly and reissuing The Runestone.
Hundingbani, Heigi. The Religion of Odin-A Handbook. Red
Wing, Minn. Viking House, 1978.
McNallen, Stephen A. Rituals of Asatru. Breckenridge, Tex.
Asatru Free Assembly, 1985.