Asatru is frequently regarded as one of the Neopagan family of religions. That family includes Wicca, Celtic Druidism, and re-creations of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other ancient Pagan religions. However, many Asatruers prefer the term "Heathen" to "Neopagan" and look upon their tradition as "not just a branch on the Neopagan tree" but as a separate tree. Unlike Wicca, which has gradually evolved into many different traditions, the reconstruction of Asatru has been based on the surviving historical record; it has been maintained as closely as possible to the original religion of the Norse people.
Some sources state that Asatru or Įsatrś is an Icelandic word, derived from the Danish word Asetro. Others state that it is a Norse word. It was "first seen in 1885 in an article in the periodical "Fjallkonan". The next recorded instance was in "Heišinn sišur į Ķslandi" by Ólafur Briem (Reykjavķk, 1945)." The title means "Heathen traditions in Iceland."
In Scandinavia the religion is called Forn Sišr (which means the Ancient way or tradition), Forn sed (the Old custom), Nordisk sed (Nordic custom), or Hedensk sed (Pagan custom). The religion's origin is lost in antiquity. At its peak, it covered all of Northern Europe. In 1000 CE, Iceland became the second last Norse culture to convert to Christianity. Their prime motivation was economic. Sweden was ruled by a Pagan king until 1085 CE.
Icelandic poet Gothi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson promoted government recognition of Asatru as a legitimate religion; this status was granted in 1972. Since the early 1970's, the religion has been in a period of rapid growth in the former Norse countries, in Europe and North America.
It is not unknown for otherwise decent religions to become corrupted by incorporating racist, sexist, anti-semitic, and homophobic beliefs. For example, the Christian Identity movement is one wing of the Christian religion which has adsorbed such beliefs. During the early part of the 20th Century, The National Socialist Party in Germany under Adolf Hitler attempted to pervert Asatru by grafting parts of the religion onto the Nazi racist beliefs. This blasphemy died by the end of World War II, although some neo-Nazi groups -- largely in the U.S. -- are now attempting to continue the practice. This activity is in no way related to the restoration of Asatru as a legitimate Heathen religion. There is a very strong anti-racist, anti-Nazi stance among national Asatru groups in the Scandinavian countries. This is also found in almost all Asatru groups in English speaking countries. They typically have a clear rejection of racism written into their constitutions. Unfortunately, some anti-racism groups like the Southern Poverty law Center and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (in its Megiddo report) have mistakenly accused the entire religion of racism.
Information taken from http://www.religioustolerance.org/asatru.htm
Now, after reading all of that dry information, I bet you are wondering why such a free spirited wolf would be practicing such a stringent religion. Well, the answer is, I have done what all should do with their beliefs. I have made them my own.
There are many Gods and Goddesses in the Norse Pantheon, i just want to name a few and give you some information on them.
Odin- The Allfather, ruler of the Norse Gods. He hung on Yggdrasil to obtain the wisdom of the runes. He is known as he wisest of the Gods. He is accompanied by a pair of wolves and a pair of ravens.
Freyr- The fertility God. Brother of Freyja and one of the Vanir.
Freyja- Goddess of fertility, sensuality and femininity. Often seen as the mother goddess. She drove a chariot drawn by cats.
Thor- God of strength. He wielded the hammer Mijolnir in defense of Asgard.
All of the afore mentioned Gods and Goddesses are only a few of a vast pantheon. However, these are the major players within my practices. I would also like to list the holidays that are observed each year.
Jul- Celebration of the Norse New Year; a festival of 12 nights. This is the most important of all the Norse holidays. On the night of December 20, the god Ingvi Freyr rides over the earth on the back of his shining boar, bringing Light and Love back into the World. In later years, after the influence of Christianity, the god Baldur, then Jesus, was reborn at this festival. Jul signifies the beginning and end of all things; the darkest time (shortest hour of daylight) during the year and the brightest hope re-entering the world. During this festival, the Wild Hunt is at its greatest fervor, and the dead are said to range the Earth in its retinue. The god Wotan (Odin) is the leader of this Wild Ride; charging across the sky on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir; a very awe-inspiring vision. In ancient times, Germanic and Norse children would leave their boots out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar, for Sleipnir's journey. In return, Wotan would leave them a gift for their kindness. In modern times, Sleipnir was changed to a reindeer and the grey-bearded Wotan became the kindly Santa Claus (Father Christmas).
Disting-Festival of the Idises, when the effects of Winter are beginning to lessen and the world prepares itself for Spring. Corresponds to the pagan holiday of Imbolc. Disting is characterized by preparing the land for planting. In ancient times, Disting was the time when the cattle were counted and one's wealth was tallied; thus making it a festival of finance as well. It was said that new calves born during Disting were a sign of great prosperity for the coming year.
Ostara- Festival of Ostara (Eostre), the Spring Goddess. This is a festival of renewal, rejoicing and fertility, although for most of the Northern People, the forces of Winter are still at full sway. In ancient times, the gift of colored eggs to one's friends and loved ones was a way of wishing them well for the coming season; a magical ritual of prosperity and fecundity. The rabbit was the symbol of this festival as well because of it's re-emergence during this season, and for its reproductive ability. These two rituals have survived into the modern holiday of Easter (which derives its name from Eostre) as Easter eggs and the Easter bunny. Like most ancient heathen rituals, they are relegated into the world of children; held for naught among adults; but the race memory lingers on.
Walpurgis/Thrimilci-The festival of Walpurgis, a night both of revelry and darkness. The nine nights of April 22 (interestingly enough, the modern festival of Earth Day) to April 30 are venerated as rememberance of the AllFather's self-sacrifice upon the World Tree Yggdrasil. It was on the ninth night (April 30, Walpurgisnacht) that he beheld the Runes, grasped them, and ritually died for an instant. At that moment, all the Light in the 9 worlds is extinguished, and utter Chaos reigns. At the final stroke of midnight, the Light returns in dazzling brilliance, and the bale-fires are lit. On Walpurgisnacht, the dead have full sway upon the earth; it is the ending night of the Wild Hunt. May 1 is the festival of Thrimilci; the beginning of Summer. Thrimilci is a festival of joy and fertility, much like Ostara; however, most of the Northern World is finally escaping from the snow at this time.
Midsummer-Celebration of the Summer Solstice, when the power of the Sun is at its height. It was at this time that most foreign trade was conducted, as well as shipping, fishing expeditions, and raiding. Thus, Midsummer was the festival of power and activity. It was not without its dark side as well. Midsummer was recognized as the longest day of the year; thus, the year began to age after this time and the days grow progressively shorter. The god Baldur is said to have been sacrificed at this time, but is reborn at Jul; the hero Sigurd was also said to have been slain by treachery at Midsummer by his blood-brothers Hagan and Gunthur (Gundahar).
Lithasblot-The harvest festival; giving thanks to Urda (Ertha) for her bounty. Often alms are given to the unfortunate at this time, or loaves in the shape of the fylfot (the Sun-wheel, which fell into regrettable disrepute during the dark times of the second World War when the symbol was perverted as a symbol of chaos and darkeness). Interestingly, Lithasblot 1941 was allegedly the time when the magical lodges of England performed rituals to keep the Nazi forces from invading their country; which may have worked, since Hitler eventually abandoned plans to invade Great Britain. Lithasblot has long been associated with ceremonial magic and magical workings.
The beginning of the winter season for the Northern folk. Rememberances of the dead and one's ancestors were made during this feast. Winternights was a ceremony of wild abandon; much like the Carnivale season in the Mediterranean countries, and it marked the end of the summer season of commerce and travel and the beginning of the winter season of hunting. Much divination was done during Winternights to foretell the fates of those entering the coming year. It was said that if one sat on a barrow-mound (grave) all night long on Winternights, one would have full divinatory, shamanic (galdr and seith), and bardic (skaldr) powers . . . that is, if one retained one's sanity! Winternights marked the beginning of the Wild Hunt, which would continue until Walpurgisnacht. This festival corresponds roughly to the Celtic Samhain, and the modern American festival of Halloween, although the darker aspects of the festival are not as pronounced among the Norse people. (The Norse festival of darkness was Walpurgis, a full 6 months away).