Essential Asatru: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism by Diana L. Paxson
When I received this book, I racked my brain trying to figure out why the author’s name was so familiar. By the time I got to the acknowledgements, I had the light bulb go off in my head. Ms. Paxson is the very same author who penned those wonderful fiction books with Marion Zimmer Bradley. These very books were my introduction into the worlds of magic back in my 20s. I settled in for what I was sure was to be a very enjoyable ride.
Each chapter starts off with a scene from a Heathen ritual. From this scene the chapter goes off into small segments of history, customs or mythology based on Norse Paganism. The chapters are divided into three sections called “Rounds” and follow the lines of a typical Heathen ritual. The first section (Round one) is dedicated to Heroes and Ancestors, the second is for Gods and Goddesses, and the final one is entitled Toasts, Boast and Oaths. Following these sections there are some pages with resources, a bibliography and an index. I’m not sure an index is necessary though, as the main body of the book is barely 200 pages long.
This book is a basic introduction for a non-Heathen. It is very lean and briefly touches on many topics. It was an easy read and did not require much effort from the reader. I would have liked to see more of Ms. Paxson’s story telling ability in evidence in the mythological sections instead of a bland recounting of the facts related to each personality.
Although I have been to several boasting rituals in the last few decades, I really wasn’t aware of many of the backgrounds behind the rites. This book cleared up many of my misconceptions and some of my ignorance on this fascinating branch of Paganism. The book sheds light on the kindred for the non-heathen, but it is so short and only touches on the surface of so many topics, I doubt anyone but a non-heathen would get much out of it. I would classify this book as an appetizer only, but a tasty tidbit non-the-less.