02 May 2011

10 Differences & 5 Similarities Between Irminenschaft and Ásatrú

Ásatrú is a bit more difficult to discuss when compared to the other Heathenrys we’ve considered in this series because it is not only the most populous of modern Heathenrys, but it is also the most varied and inclusive. Because of the anti-dogmatic and fiercely individualist  stance of most Ásatrúar even the very term Ásatrú has come to mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Therefore we are forced here to speak in even broader terms than in our comparisons to Odinism and Théodish Belief.

That being said, here are 10 differences between Irminenschaft and Ásatrú:

1.      Modernism vs. reconstructionism: Ásatrúar attempt to reconstruct rituals and other aspects of ancient tradition in an attempt to rebuild a long dead religion leading to a resistance toward changes in belief and practice. Irminen practice a living tradition and honour living gods and do not find a need to reconstruct the ancient past.
2.      Irminen rely on an authentic Heathen calendar. Ásatrúar rely on a reconstructed calendar.
3.      Many Ásatrú circles are comfortable with “fringe” practices such as the worship of Locho (ON Loki) and soul-cunning (ON seiðR). Irminen find these practices reprehensible.
4.      Irminenshaft is composed of German-descended people practicing a German expression of Heathenry. Ásatrú is composed of “Northern Europeans” practicing an Icelandic expression of Heathenry.
5.      Irminic esoterica is based on Armanenschaft. Ásatrú esoterica is based on Odianism.
6.      Irminenschaft, while encouraging civic action, does not lend itself directly to political involvement. Ásatrú has been consistently divided by various political agendas.
7.      Regarding lore, Irminenschaft recognizes a broad canon with the understanding that many sources may be useful, but that the various sources must all be understood within appropriate contexts. Ásatrú recognizes a much narrower canon, reading anything written after the Thirteenth Century with suspicion.
8.      Ásatrú bears an underlying connection to Viking romance. Irminenschaft lacks a connection to Vikings or anything similar.
9.      Irminenschaft holds tightly to its orthopraxy and orthodoxy. Ásatrú is militantly anti-dogmatic.
10.   Irminenschaft places its emphasis on the ancestors and wihtir. Ásatrú places its emphasis on the gods.

And now for some similarities:

1.      Irminenschaft and Ásatrú share a laissez-faire social structure.
2.       Both Irminen and Ásatrúar believe that an individual can foster an intimate relationship with a deity.
3.      Neither Irminenschaft nor Ásatrú accept the notion of a sacral leader.
4.      Both Irminenschaft and Ásatrú reject the notion that Heathendom is associated with neo-paganism or any other religious movement.
5.      Irminen use a combination of Old High German and Armanic terminology as a liturgical language. Similarly, Ásatrúar use Old Norse and Modern Icelandic as a liturgical language.


  1. "Irminenschaft places its emphasis on the ancestors and wihtir"

    Could you explain, please.

  2. The rationale for this is really very simple. The gods are busy folks with important things to do. Mundilfaro keeps the tides moving in & out in accordance with ewa; Wodan is constantly warding against Godotuom; Heimo guards Ensigart; Donar is constantly travelling to battle the forces of the rîsi; and so on. Not to mention the daily thingstead held next to Urdabrunno to judge the souls of the dead. The gods really don’t have a lot of leftover time or energy to busy themselves with our petty concerns.

    This is not to imply, of course, that they don’t care about us just as we care about them. But we have to set aside time for them and their setting aside time for us is no different. This is why gods are only called upon during times of great crisis or to be honoured during the heilagmâl.

    On the other hand our altmâgâ – the îdisi and tunchelalpâ – are always available to us. Who cares more about the decisions you make in your life than your own ancestors? When you consider that our offspring ARE our ancestors the gravity of this becomes plain. Similarly when it comes to matters of the home or property who will be more involved than the wihtir that haunt these places and look after them?

    To put this another way… If you had a problem with the way a teacher approached your child would you take up the issue with the school principle or would you write your Congressman? Think local and you’ll never go wrong!