Based on the 2016 Paperback version. Originally printed 2011 by Asphodel Press
I didn’t hate this book, but I am going to tear it apart. Many people I know rave about it (of course many people I know also like Baldur’s Magic, DJ Conway and Raven Kaldera). Now I did like parts of this book. It’s a beginners book and it’ll help some people, but it’ll also confuse them. I feel those who love McNallen’s Asatru A Native European Spirituality will love this book.
So, onto it…
Odin’s Chosen was on my “avoid” list for quite awhile. Why? Because whenever Odin is front-and-center regarding Asatru, something isn’t going to be right. Odin being the end-all-be-all of the Aesir is a modern belief originating in the Renaissance era and recently glorified in the 19th century with the word “Odinism” popping up. So I avoided it. And after deciding to purchase a used copy of Amazon, I gotta say I was depriving myself of something different. Different to me is a mix of things and Odin’s Chosen is different. Asphodel says this is copyright 2011, Amazon says 2016 but reviews are from 2015 so the original date of publication I’m going to assume is 2011 with updates.
The author mentions the book contains information relevant to his kindred’s function and that the kindred has been around since 2013, so there’s another number.
Now I received this book 3 weeks ago. And some Asatru/Heathen books I will burn through in a day. This one I had to stop a few times, throw it down and go get a beer. And go back to it.
I feel I need to mention this book is at least 50% ritual workings. Every day of remembrance and celebration/blot is explained in a section then a ritual for it in the second section. This is helpful and IMHO not very thought out. 90% of the Days of Remembrance have “Date Open” as the date to observe it with few with actual dates. The book takes great emphasis in propping up European ancestry as a core tenant of Asatru/Odinism/Heathenry but then doesn’t list a single date from a single organization or country. Being based in America, dates are going to be the same as our European counterparts, just the weather is going to be different. When books put so many rituals together to pad it, I cannot help but reach back to the late 90s and early 2000s when everything pagan was Llewellyn and fluffy. I feel shoving all this in did the book a disservice, as I just skipped over most of it, skimming over the ritual section(s) looking for historical or academic information outside of UPG, MUS and kindred-specific spirituality. I found little.
Also, many CELTIC figures are given days of remembrance. Now these days are for the author’s kindred, not Asatru or Odinism in general and the author does mention this at the open of the section. But the book is Odin’s Children and about Asatru (or Odinism; the author considers them interchangeable), and using Celtic historical figures that are not Nordic or Germanic connect is like using Buddha’s Birthday as a day to remember. Beside the ritual section(s) let’s see what else the book offers. There’s a breakdown of the runes. Good for beginners. Also a snippet of how to make runes. Ok here’s an issue I have – it tells people have to make them with an antler but then how inmates in prison can make them and that section hurt the book. Odin’s Chosen appears to be written for the lay Asatruar and also inmates in prison. There’s sections on how to get a group started in prison, how prisoners can make runes, observe holidays. Ok that’s fine, but you’re singling out a body of Asatruars without touching on a subject that without spotlighting it, does harm; you do not mention race. You ignore it. Asatru and Odinism is prison is largely racist/racialist. There’s great strides being made by The Troth and other orgs to move it away from a white pride/racist religion. The hatred pollutes Asatru. And a shared religion does not a tribe make. Asatru is not a church. You would not make an oath in front of or with inmates from another block “because they’re Asatru”.
Other subjects in the book… sumbel and blot are mentioned. Sumbel is correct, blot is a bit fluffy. For being affiliated with the Asatru Alliance, a decades old organization, faining and blot are being confused here and a large bit of fluff added in. “Reflection” is used rather frequently in the book with tribe-building being absent. Blot does not mean sacrifice or ritual. It means “blood”, as in “blood sacrifice”. Blood from man and animals was sprinkled on those at blots after being made sacred as it was imbued with power. Modernly juice, mead, water, etc is used at some blots. Food sacrifice is faining, not bloting. Some interesting points are touched on here though. At sumbels, oaths taken were/are serious business and those in attendance would question oaths to avoid dishonor. The reason for this is not mentioned as far as I can tell in the book. Frith. Frith is the peace between those in a kindred/family. It is strengthened and weaked by the success and failure of kindred members. A failed oath effects the harmingja of a kindred and strains frith. No where is frith, grith or harmingja touched in in regards to blot or sumbel. Orlog and Wyrd are mentioned,in passing.
The gods and goddesses are touched on. A mixture of modernism and historical referencing, done well. Rune casting as well. I skipped the casting part as this varies too greatly between tribes and cultures and using of which Futhark. The book focuses a lot of Viking-era, but mistakenly used the Elder Futhark, when during the Viking Era – the Younger Futhark was used. The end of the book as a section by Tyrsoak Josephssen about nature and tribe workings/buildings. Interesting, but new age fluffy. I got the feeling land-wights, alfar, disir and nisse/tomte were not being explained well. A story was suggested that we bring the wights and alfar with us (us being Northern European ancestors). Which contradicts the Sagas as land-wights already live on new lands colonized and we adapt to them. Lands are not barren until Vikings arrived. There’s a point made that Asatru on the surface appears like Wicca and Native American beliefs, but deep down they are different. This shows the author’s grasp of tribe isn’t fully understood and cultural differences seem to be favored only as a difference, not how these cultures actually work. A blue wheel rolls, so does a red wheel. But the red wheel isn’t blue, so it isn’t the same. I couldn’t help but think this book is avoiding the subject of non-Europeans being Asatru. Some Folkish believe this, which is fine. But even European-Americans have lost all ties to Europe, have never been to and will never go to these lands. The land our ancestors go can and does hold a power, but it is not the ONLY power Asatruars can tap into or feel a connection to. The section by Josephsson feels like we’re foreigners colonizing a new land, which is special and we love nature, but nature in Europe is powerful and sacred, and ignore the land you live in now.
A section devoted to loving nature, and not once is the wights or nature of the land in which these people live mentioned. I do not know where the authors live, but Viking settlers respected the new lands they discovered and took power from them and built power bases upon them based on ancestry, deeds and family lineage started upon them. All in all, the book touches a lot of subjects – history, gods, runes, tribe building; but also touches none of them deep enough for a true beginner to understand what each of these things mean to a Heathen. Runes are given most of the in depth discussion, which can easily be found in hundreds of other free sources.
Like most beginners books – it’s a beginners book! You can get a basic rundowns of concepts, but not real meat to sink your teeth into. You are told of the gods prowess, but not why they are reversed. Why nature is good, but not it’s soul. How runes are powerful, but not how to work them. You’ll be left wanting more with each section. Id suggest if you buy this book, please purchase another to supplement it. I’d suggest Exploring the Northern Tradition by Galina Krasskova, A Practical Heathens Guide to Asatru by Patricia Lafayllve, Embracing Heathenry by Larisa Hunter and Asatru for Beginners by Erin Lale. Then get The Troth Vol. 1 and 2.
NOTE – this book confuses Odinism and Asatru. They are not the same. The author(s) use Asatru to cover many cultural beliefs, almost all modern and formed between the late 80s and early 90s before the internet boom and none seem to be updated for new information. Druidism is also not Asatru, as is nothing Celtic. They are different cultural paths, both in tradition and practice. Both are rich and beautiful systems that should not be mixed by beginners trying to enter Asatru and/or Odinism and/or Celtic paganism.
2 out of 5 stars
Asphodel Press: http://www.asphodelpress.com/book.html?title=odins-chosen
Reviewed By Matthew Barker