Based on the 2013 Print Edition This book was on my wishlist awhile, but like my fellow heathens, Ive read quite a few beginners books and they all focus on the same thing. After becoming Asatru in 2007, I can recite every story of the gods from memory and essentially give everyone a 5 minute run down on every Aesir, Vanir and Jotun, so I waited to buy this book. Now I have to say, there are many beginners books – the most popular being Essential Asatru by Diana Paxson and Asatru for Beginners by Erin Lale.
Both are great, well read, informed and friendly authors that offer worlds of information on their books. Lafayllve’s does as well. Patricia’s edge is how new it is. Asatru is evolving every year with new academic research and many people joining the faith. Patricia’s book kicks up the basic information into a more intermediate level with a large focus on wights and alfs. The background on heathen worldview is VERY well worded and presented, allowing many who are entering Asatru from other faiths such as Wicca and Buddhism to get a grasp on how Asatru (and Germanic heathenry) views the world. My only gripes about this book are how a “majority” or “most” heathens don’t honor Loki or Jotuns outside the Aesir/Vanir innangard.
If you go to AFA or Troth events, Loki is either forbidden or subjugated to a Ve dedicated to him. The appendix in the back of Patricia’s book is a good addition, but entirely too short. Loki in today’s modern Heathen world is draped in dogmatic Christian baggage that he is a Satan character to Odin’s Yahweh and Baldr’s Jesus. This goes against idea of a world accepting view and one that the past is fixed and influenced the present which creates the future (as Patricia’s book states). And the 2nd gripe – the afterlife. More than once Patricia mentions how Heathens are not so concerned with what happens in the afterlife. This couldn’t be further from the truth. So many heathens scream – SCREAM – Victory or Valhalla! Or even press the opposite, we’re all going to Hel (Helheim). The gung ho heathen Viking crowd is the most vocal and recognized as Asatru by the world as how we are, because they glorized carrying heavy axes, mail, helmets and seem to be overly obsessed with death. This is an extreme focus on a single aspect of Odin which appears in the Sagas written about times when open war was an every day thing. If you compare the Eddas to the Sagas, Odin rarely ever is as blood thirsty as his followers in VICTORY OR VALHALLA groups portray him to be. I do agree that what happens after we die weren’t as a huge a “deal” as many heathens make it be today, and that’s because Valhalla-ism is a Christian left-over. And most heathens will not be going their.
Each chapter in the book cites their sources, which makes the reader’s adventures into further works and academia easier. And also sample rituals, and ritual/holiday breakdowns are available at the end of chapters and even a chapter on our holidays. The gods and wights have meditations at the end of each chapter as well. Reading this book, I can easily see it expanding into a library for Patricia, especially into Seidr. I dont practice Seidr, or Galdr but the books I’ve touched on that want to teach people are heavily mixed between Wicca influenced MUS (no offense, but a lot is MUS) to well documented accounts of Seidr practice in modern times by respected members of the community balanced with Academia. Patricia touches on Seidr and her honesty that one cannot learn it from an intro book is very true. I would love to see a more in depth Seidr book from Patricia. Hopefully it will be cultural and not multi-cultural (influenced by non-continental Shamanistic peoples/tribes).
Patricia’s book NEEDS to be “required reading” for many new heathens entering Asatru. The book balances academia and modern practice perfectly and offers information available out there for heathens to find, but nothing really “new”. And one shouldn’t expect it to give some all-revealing information lost to us about Germanic heathenry. What this book DOES do, is break down the basic information, with modern educated sources by a modern practitioner in clear wording that is not flowery of Norse-wrapped Wicca. I skipped the first few meditations/rituals (because I do my own private ones), but I went back over a few and these will really help people. I honestly would dump the Hammer Rite. The book only lacks in Loki information and condemnation of Nazi bastardization of our symbols. I would say the latter NEEDS to be addressed in any academic or devotional work, as many casual or new readers could stumble across an Othala symbol and become confused. This book easily scores a 4.5/5 for a beginners/intermediate work for Asatruars. A well versed, long time heathen will probably take little to nothing from the book, but from what I’ve seen a majority of heathens NEED this book.
Review by: Matthew Barker