Interview with Anders Nilsson, Folkbuilder by Ásatrú Folk Assembly Europe
Many of us interested in Paganism and old Traditions have surely heard about Ásatrú, the most important and one of the biggest religious association regarding Nordic/Germanic Paganism in the world. But what does Ásatrú mean and what do they do practically? I had the pleasure to interview Mr Nilsson, the Folkbuilder by Ásatrú Folk Assembly Europe, who has given us an inside of the history of the Assembly, its principles, rules and history. First of all, Ásatrú means "to be true to the Asa - Norse Gods and Goddesses - also called the Aesir". The Aesir were one of the two main tribes of deities venerated by Scandinavians, together with the Vanir who are only nominally distinct from the Aesir; in Old Nordic mythology the word “Aesir” is commonly used to refer to the gods as such, without regard for the nominal tribal distinction. The most important Gods and Goddesses belonging to the Aesir includeOdin,Thor, Frigg, Tyr, Loki, Baldur, Heimdall, Idun and Bragi. Their home is Asgard, one of the Nine Worlds, which is located in the highest, sunniest branches of the world-tree Yggdrasil.
1)So Anders, tell us a bit about the story of this group. What was the idea behind it and what is the goal?
Steve McNallen set us in motion in 1968. Mr McNallen founded the Viking Brotherhood which later became the Asatru Free Assembly; from those roots he founded the Asatru Folk Assembly in 1995. Feeling that Christianity was rootless and not fulfilling to the European soul, Mr McNallen sought to reestablish our folk's ancestral faith. The mission of the AFA is to bring our folk back to the Gods and religion of our people and build upon that authentic faith.
2)What is your role within the association?
I am what we in the organization call a Folk Builder, which is in practice an organizer. My main duty is to check out for my region, which is Europe for now, that the members are following and are upholding our ancestral practices and customs through rituals, prayers, and different sacrifices. Aside from the spiritual part, a Folk Builder has other tasks, the mundane everyday stuff you have to take care of, like handling members application and everything else that comes with organizing a larger area.
3) What are the sources you have used and are using? (I mean documents, books or oral leftovers about the structure of the "priest class", the calendar, the rituals etc)
It’s quite hard to give a handful of book recommendations on this subject due to the great fragmentation of our native beliefs. The Eddas and Sagas are of course highly recommend but we have to look deeper and further behind it. I personally, and many with me, search the origins in the old Vedic text and the Avesta's. We are a native faith that’s based on heritage so to find the core values, the archetypal symbolism one can actually look at every religion that our race has created. To do this you need to deepen your knowledge about alternative history: things have changed a lot with the DNA testing that is proving lots of ancient myths and legends. When one has studied the practice and tradition of our ancestors from all available time periods and regions that we once inhabited, only then can we start drawing conclusions and see the underlying patterns that have survived and continued down through the ages. A few examples of the most important elements in our folkish religious practice is the importance of a "gift for a gift" principle. The blot/ritual is based on the notion that you give something to receive something in exchange: the more value you put in the gift the more you will receive. In this dying age the most precious and valuable thing to sacrifice is our time, which is limited and it’s synonymous to money. Among other things we give great importance to fire. Fire was seen as the carrier and messenger to the Gods and even a God himself. When we light the ritual fire we free the might of the sun. Probably the most important thing in being a Ásatrúar is to do, to be a doer,because this is not a belief system, it’s not a mental construction, it’s all about what you do and how well you do that. To practice rituals is thus the core in our religion, if you don’t physically practice, if you don’t do the blots and rituals you can’t say that you are following the old ways. Go out and give yourself to something bigger and greater than your selfand you will receive the gifts.
4)Who is the God you feel closer to? Can you tell us the reason?
I have always had Odin as my closest friend. He is my main deity, he incorporates all aspects of life. I have met other deities and the ones I get to “know” closer I make bronze statues of for ritual use. Freya is the second closest to my heart or I should say she equals the might and power of Odin but of course in a feminine way that gives balance to each other. In the old days one was normally born in a family with a specific cult and you adapted to your lineage, to the Gods or Goddesses that your family worshipped and often your name was hinting what deity your line worshiped.
5) Is the association open to every folk and ethnicity or is it just focussed on Northern and Western Europe?
Our faith is clearly based on the Methagenetic structure that means that we believe and lay great emphasis on the fact that memory is stored and passed on in our blood or DNA. We promote all races of the earth to have their own religions and cultures working together in a true multiculturalist way, in great contrast to this modern so called multiculturalism where we are forced to dilute and mix all our uniqueness into a easily controlled gray mass of worker bees without history or true diversity. So yes we are only open for a homogeneous group of people sharing the same blood memories.
6) In which countries is Northern Paganism stronger in your opinion?
Might come as a surprise to many especially for people in Europe but America is the place right now and have been for many years the location where Asatru is growing the most. Here some Scandinavians will question that: how can they practice Asatru, we are the real Vikings! These arguments are extremely narrow minded and show the lack of understanding and education of our folk's history. Our faith is not land based, our faith is based in the offspring of millions of ancestors, and a few hundred years ago our ancestors moved to the Americas. Yes they don’t have access to the ancient cult places or the grave mounds but they are still the same carrier of blood memories as we Scandinavians are. What I have experienced by having close contacts with practicing Asatruars is that in the States the lack of closeness and easy access to these cult sites have forced them to dive deeper into the memories that lays dormant inside us. In simple terms we up here have become blind and lazy in the search for our ancestor memories. With this said there is an enormous growth all around the globe, a strong longing for something real and true something that belongs to you and only to you. I have never seen such a wonderful expansion of Asatru as we see it now! Hopefully it will continue to grow even stronger.
7)Why should Northerners return back to their ancestral religion? And why should they choose you? What is the suggestion you would like to give to young people who do not know what spiritual path they should take?
Because it’s what we are! We are the past and we are the future in one, time in that sense does not exist we are the collective essence of millions of past ancestors and at the same time we carry the essence of the millions of future children. That’s my take on why one would restart the practice of our ancestors, it’s that simple, because it’s how we are it’s what we are and learning to express that inner core is way more healthier and has way more therapeutic value than any ideology or modern religion. It’s to become what you are meant to be and becoming that in a natural way. We are an international organization that have kindreds all around the world so it’s quite obvious if you are a Folkish Asatruar than the Asatru Folk Assembly is the only choice. We have quite recently bought and paid off the first Asatru Hof in the Americas and plans for the second Hof are already in motion and actually a third temple is also going to be built. For the young crowd my first advice is to leave the modern world for as often as you can, go out in to the forest because that’s the healer and healing from this modern world is what we first have to do, start detoxify your inner self. Then educate and read as many books as you can!
8)Is Paganism recognized in Northern Europe? How are the relationships with other religions like Christianity? Have you ever been harassed or insulted by them for following the native cults of Scandinavia?
There are some organizations who are recognized, as a government approved religion but none of them is based around the folkish traditions they are more universalist in their approach meaning everybody is welcomed as long as you say you believe in the old Gods. No, we hadn’t had any harassment from other religions yet but I can see that coming.
9)Would you like to leave us you contacts so that people interested in the association can get in touch?
If you are interested to know more about the largest Folkhis organization in the world go to our website at runestone.orgor look us up on FB or VK search for Asatru Folk Assembly or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
10)Will there be any public even in the near future you would like to let us know about? Like Midsommar for example?
We have four main blots dividing the year in four quarters, then there is four lesser blots inbetween the big ones. On top of this we do a Odin ritual every ninth, exactly at nine o' clock in the evening. We normally don’t do public rituals, they are open just for members, family and friends; exceptions are made but we try to keep our rituals as close as they need to be. The main reason is that rituals are not a thing to be taken lightly, we do them to give gifts and offerings to the higher ones. Focus and devotion is of highest importance in the practice therefore friendship and trust is very relevant when standing in the circle.
This was the interview with Mr Nilsson! If you have any further questions please let us know! How did you find the interview? Are you guys now more interested in old Traditions?