Murderers Don’t Go to Valhalla

In the wake of the tragic mass shooting at the Tops Market grocery store in Buffalo, New York on May 14, 2022 we have been learning more about the murdering criminal who had perpetrated the attack. He was wearing a sonnenrad (a swastika related symbol), the assault rifle and shotgun were adorned with the Othala rune, and the shotgun also featured a Celtic Cross (which is a variation of our solar cross symbol). He also had references on his assault rifle to five other mass shooters (who I am choosing not to name) behind the following attacks: 2011 Norwegian attacks in Oslo and Utøya, 2011 Tree of life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the 2015 Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the 2019 Chabad Congregation in Poway, and the 2019 Christchurch attack.

He signed off his manifesto with the words “Goodbye, God bless you all and I hope to see you in Valhalla.” Compare it to the manifesto from the shooter behind the 2019 Christchurch attack and there’s lots of similarities (basically plagiarized with slight rewordings) including the sign off “Goodbye, god bless you all and I will see you in Valhalla.”

I’d like to say something for the hate spouting extremists in the back. Murderers don’t go to Valhalla. In fact in our lore we know murderers go somewhere else entirely. In Gylfaginning we are told by Odin (in his guise of Þriði) that those who commit evil go to Nifolhel (Misty Hel). In another section of Gylfaginning, and supported also in Völuspá, we learn that within Nifolhel we have Nástrǫnd (Corpse Shore), and that is where oathbreakers and murderers go in the afterlife. Nástrǫnd is home to the serpent Níðhöggr (Malice Striker) who gnaws for eternity on the corpses of murderers and oathbreakers that have been condemned to the serpent’s hall. We think that Nástrǫnd may correlate to the Old English Wyrmsele, which means serpent hall, it appears in the poem Judith found in the Nowell Codex (which is the manuscript source for Beowulf).

The heathen afterlife is first and foremost Hel. Hel, is more than just a name. Her name literally is not only the realm of the dead, but etymologically is the very earth where the dead are buried and reside, from the great cairns and graveyards. To speak of Hel is to speak of both the Goddess, Her realm, and all those who dwell there. Sooner or later we will traverse those halls, because as the Havamal states, “cattle die and kinsmen die” because the most fundamental truth of life is that sooner or later we die. From the sources we know that there were certain places or deities within the afterlife of Hel that played host to the dead: Odin’s Valhalla, Thor’s Bilskirnir within Valhalla, Freya’s Sessrumnir, the hall of Vingolf (mentioned three times: once connected to Odin, once to the Goddesses, and once just generally as a place for the dead), Gimlé where the just go, and then we know that the Goddesses Ran and Gefjon also play host to specific types of the dead (respectively those who died at sea and maidens).

One of the commonly misrepresented beliefs of our afterlife is that the end goal is for us all to go to Valhalla, it isn’t. Valhalla is specifically intended for a select few, and only for those that Odin thinks has the right skillset to his warrior purposes and thus chooses. Killing in self defense, or killing in the course of war is one thing. Gunning down a bunch of innocent people in a grocery store makes you only one thing: a murderer, a nīðing (nithling) which is one of the worst labels given to a person, as it means the person has no honor and is a villain.

This gunman doesn’t represent my religion nor my beliefs. In fact both he and the Q-Anon Shaman from the January 6, 2021 Insurrection in Washington DC use the singular Christian god in messaging, but combine it with some of our religion’s sacred symbols and places. This is sadly yet another despicable real world example of what should be sacred being profaned for the purposes of hate. Let me be clear, in the Northern Tradition these are the races that exist: the Giants, the Gods, the Dwarves, the Disir, the Alfar, other vaettir of land and sea, and the human race. That’s it. If you look at our creation story we see that as the Gods create the first people, Odin breathed life into them, Vili granted them intelligence, and Ve gave them their senses so they could see and hear. So whether an individual or any other cultural or religious group believes that or not, if someone believes and worships Odin then to my mind you should believe he is the All-Father of humanity, not the Father of only some.

You would think after decades of being a Heathen and seeing white supremacists pervert the sacred, I’d be used to this. But I’m not. I’m furious. Each time we’re here I’m just as outraged as the last time. So I had to do something, in this case I made a meme. Yes, it is but a small act, but maybe if we can educate there’d be fewer people misusing Valhalla. If we can burst the fantasy bubble around Valhalla, maybe we can start to dismantle part of the appeal in how white supremacists who don’t even worship our Gods use it to galvanize others to hate. Share it, spread it. Let’s make this go viral.

Murderers don't go to Valhalla. 
Valhalla is but one place in the heathen afterlife. It is specifically intended for a select few, and only for those that Odin chooses because he thinks they have the right skillset 
to his purposes. In Gylfaginning, Odin tells us that those who commit evil go to Niflhel, 
and we learn that oathbreakers and murderers go to Nastrond, where the serpent 
Nidhogg gnaws on them for eternity, for they are nithlings lacking in honor. 
Murderers Don’t Go To Valhalla

Cultic Worship to Loki

Did you know we have possible evidence of cultic worship to Loki from antiquity?

Al-Tartuschi (also known as Ibrahim ibn Yaqub) hailed from the Cordoba Caliphate (specifically the Al-Andalus area from the Iberian peninsula), and wrote of his travels abroad in Europe in 961 – 962 CE.  He records seeing worship connected to the Sirius star in Hedeby, Denmark. The population size is estimated to have been around 1500-2000 people. Hedeby of the time was a commercial center populated by a range of groups: Danes, Frisians, Franks, Germans, Swedes, and Slavs. So that suggests to me the possibility for a much wider dispersion of the practice outside of Hedeby.

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Exploring Our Gods & Goddesses: Sinthgunt [Revised & Expanded]

Our only (specific) surviving reference to the Goddess Sinthgunt comes from the Old High German Second Merseburg Incantation (also known as the “Horse Cure Charm”), which dates to around the 9th or 10th Century. The Merseburg charms are the only examples of pre-Christian Germanic belief recorded in the Germanic language.

sinthgunt_small
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Long May Our Gods Be Hailed!

I saw this over on my Facebook feed today. 

And for anyone having difficulty reading the image the text is quoted below:

The Theodosian Code 16.10.11 tells us that on this day, February 24, in the year 391 CE, Roman Emperor Theodosius I decreed the closing of the temples and shrines. In the next few years there were further erosions to religious practice including the destruction of those holy sites, and the punishment of those polytheists who tried to worship their Gods.

Over 1600 years later and the Gods and Goddesses are still worshipped, new temples and shrines are being erected.

So on this day, let us post pictures of the new temples and shrines, post pictures of your altars to the Gods and Goddesses. Greet the Gods by name, lay offerings out to them, give them your prayers. Long may the Gods be hailed!

Galina Krasskova

While the decree by Emperor Theodosius I obviously had a huge impact on ancient Roman polytheism, these restrictions also impacted other traditional polytheisms as well within the width and breadth of the Empire.

So yes, I think it’s a great idea to post my current altar in testament that the Gods are still hailed. In that spirit here is Weyland, Gerd, Freya, Eir, Hlin, Nott, Odin, Heimdall, Nerthus, Thor, Frigga & Baldr.

The Importance of the Religious Processional within the Northern Tradition

All too often among modern worshippers of the ancient gods of Germania and Scandinavia, they focus on rites like blot (or the modern alternative faining), and traditions like sumble. But they tend to ignore other religious ritual customs we have ample evidence of in both historic textual accounts and archaeologic artifacts, especially including the religious processionals of yesteryear.

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Understanding the Symbols

Every religion and culture has an iconography which is uniquely it’s own, and the Northern Tradition is no different. Common symbols found in conjunction with this religion are the Valknut, Mjolnir, Irminsul, magical staves (known as a galderstav, such as the Ægishjálmur & Vegvisir), Sunwheels (including solar crosses and the misappropriated swastika), etc. But what do they mean?

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Understanding the Sources of the Northern Tradition



So you want to learn about the Northern Tradition, but don’t want to read scholarly analysis, or any ruminations from modern practitioners. You just want one source from the culture to learn everything that’s historically authentic to the culture but tells you about the cosmology, and the details of all the rituals? Well sorry to burst your bubble, but that doesn’t exist.  

There is an old joke, that ours is the religion with homework (and really, all religion has homework). There’s a lot you need to understand in the big picture before you can really start to tease out the details of pre-Christianity.

Before I go down the very nuanced rabbit hole, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: the history, the stories, the folk customs, the archaeology are all useful and important. But a faith is a living thing, and you have to live a religion, which means finding ways to practice it. How do you conduct rituals? What offerings do you give? What prayers do you say? What are your devotions? How do you live a religion? You can find helpful resources and inspiration from the past but at some point you have to venture out and find your own way of living the religion.

I also want to stress that you do not need to be a scholar to follow this religious path. The only thing standing between you developing a relationship with our Gods, the ancestors, and the vaettir is simply you. Some enjoy delving into the history, to immerse themselves and tease out nuances. Others don’t, and merely want a framework of understanding so they can then move onto living the religion through the customs that come with a living and ever evolving practice. But for those of you who want to delve into the vast knowledge from antiquity, the following should help define a helpful framework to have in mind before you start your own explorations of the sources. This is useful as well to read, even if you only ever plan to do a little bit of exploration into the ancient sources on your own.

We can find a lot of information if you’re patient by going through the old literary and archaeological sources, but it’s not easy. For those of us in the Northern Tradition we have the misfortune that so little has survived to us from ancient believers. Unlike some other major polytheisms, like the unbroken tradition of Hinduism, or other major polytheistic traditions that have a large corpus of work by believers from antiquity about their own religious culture that survives into the present day: Kemetic, Hellenic, and Cultus Deorum, etc.

First you have to understand the history, the various sources (and how they connect to the historical context). Then comes the harder element, the fact even when rituals are mentioned it’s usually in passing, or only in vague context. In order to obtain our creation story you have to look at five different sources: Völuspá, Grímnismál, Vafþrúðnismál, Gylfaginning, and Alvissmal.  So it’s very common that we have to take little puzzle pieces from a range of material to try to piece together specific details. This means to fill in the gaps many look at the entirety of the Northern Tradition umbrella from the lore (various literary sources including (but not limited to) the sagas, eddas, & skaldic poetry, various Anglo-Saxon sources, as well as Byzantium, Roman & Arab accounts, late appearing folk customs & tales, and even archaeological finds. Approaching this material with an understanding of how this culture viewed the seasons, and drafted their calendar can help you tease apart the timing of some of the rituals too. While we can find commonalities in the over-arching shared worship to Odin/Woden, there were also unique traditions tied to specific settlements or tribal groups that to our knowledge did not appear elsewhere too. This has led in the modern movement to a range of different approaches, some are strictly reconstructionist from a specific area, and others may be more universal across the entirety of the umbrella, plus a range of other denominations in between.

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An Invocation to the Norse God Odin

Unlike some other traditions, those of us within the Northern Tradition have a scant sampling of prayer that has survived to us from antiquity. Primarily Sigdrifa’s Prayer, and occasionally a snippet of an epithet. This no doubt is the reason why I have long seen within Heathenry that newcomers yearn for examples that they can be inspired by or use within their own religious practice. Newcomers, and sometimes even those who may have been within this sphere of influence for some time, forget or don’t know that even in antiquity offerings could be quite personal and beyond the mere scope of physical goods. Words were deeply valued.

Odin is a god of many things, and here is an invocation I’ve created and I sing in devotion to him.

Ancient God of Wisdom,
Of Magic, and the Dead,
Of Warriors and Poets too,
All-Father we hail!

-Wyrd Dottir

Othala Rune Makes an Appearance at CPAC

Florida is hosting this weekend the Conservative Political Action Conference, which appeals to sections of the Republican GOP Party. Look at the veritable who’s who of political leaders speaking at the event, including controversial figures like Trump and Ted Cruz.

FRIDAYSATURDAYSUNDAY
Florida governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Mike Lee, Former governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker, Senator James Lankford, Former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Sen.Ted Cruz, Rep. Mo Brooks, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Matt Gaetz, Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Josh Hawley, and Donald Trump Jr.Texas attorney general Ken Paxton, Former acting director of National Intelligence Ric Grenell, Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senator Bill Hagerty, Trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Rep. Devin Nunes, Senator Cynthia Lummis, Rep. Burgess Owens, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Andy Biggs, Rep. Lauren Boebert, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, and South Dakota governor Kristi Noem.  Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Former National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow, and Former US president Trump.  

This year there is a rune, specifically the othala rune, at the heart of the CPAC 2021 conference. The rune forms the shape of the stage made specifically for this event where all the headliners–including former president Trump, and Senator Ted Cruz–will speak.

Othala Rune

The othala rune ᛟ originates as a letter in alphabets related to Germanic languages found in parts of Europe. Eventually it (and the other runic letters) fell out of use as Latin-based alphabets were adopted and used. There are multiple examples in the archaeological record of it inscribed on rune stones, jewelry, artifacts, and later in historical manuscripts as we enter into the early part of the Medieval period.

This is a sketch rendering from the since destroyed golden Gallehus horns believed to date from the 5th Century CE. Note the runic inscription, including the use of the Othala rune. ek Hlewagastiz Holtijaz horna tawidō, is believed to translate as “I Hlewagastiz Holtijaz made the horn.”



The Anglo-Saxon Rune poem gives us an idea of what the runic letter represented. It represents concepts of home and inheritance, and the phonetic ‘o’ sound.

Anglo Saxon Rune PoemEnglish Translation
 byþ oferleof æghƿylcum men,
gif he mot ðær rihtes and gerysena on
brucan on bolde bleadum oftast.
[An estate] is very dear to every man,
if he can enjoy there in his house
whatever is right and proper in constant prosperity.


Usually, it was used in surviving examples from the archaeological record as a more prosaic letter, but it also has some magico-religious connotations too. There is evidence pointing to its use in both runemal, and seemingly divination as well.

In more recent history we see a resurgence in the mystical and magical, and the old gods of pre-Christian Europe slowly start to simmer in the later 1800s. Runes come once again into prominence thanks to the writings of Guido von List who was a popular darling for those yearning for German nationalism. His writings combined some explorations into Germanic religion, and the occultism of the runes would be picked up by some aspects of the Nazi Party. The othala rune becomes used as a symbol for two different nazi groups during World War II. One version with serif (feet or wings) attached to the rune was the insignia for the 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen, the other version used by the 23rd SS Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Division Nederland had arrows extending from the othala rune.

Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s we begin to see a big resurgence of pagan and polytheistic belief that has continued through to the present day. For modern pagans and polytheists the runes are sometimes just magical and divinatory symbols, but can also be a symbol of the sacred used to profess religious faith by modern pagans and polytheists. Runes sometimes in more modern times are used as a symbolical representation of certain Gods too. Othala ᛟ is sometimes used for Odin, when spelling out the name of the God Odin in runes, the first runic letter for his name used would be Othala. There are other runes associated with deities as well (for one reason or another) including the rune tiwaz ᛏ is sometimes used for Tyr, the rune sowilo ᛋ as a representation of the solar goddess Sunna, the runic letter thurisaz ᚦ for Thor, etc.

The othala rune has a range of context in the modern era, and understanding what it stands for in any instance can sometimes be quite nuanced. Sometimes it is a magico-religious symbol used by modern polytheists and pagans in profession of religious faith to the Norse Gods and Goddesses, or merely as a magical symbol for divination. But the variation of the othala rune with serif (feet or wings) has been adopted due to its historical Nazi SS past, as a symbol by many Neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups as a unifying symbol for a whites only homeland. To confuse matters, some modern pagan and polytheists don’t understand the Nazi origins of that serifed version of the symbol, and think of it only as a different design on othala and might use the symbol in ignorance of the Nazi connection, and for these persons they may only be using it in support of one of a range of Northern Tradition polytheisms: Asatru, Heathenry, etc.

So when I see a stage at a political conference using a rune, I immediately disregard the prospects that it was used for religious or magical signifiers. If this had occurred a decade ago I would have merely thought it some odd coincidence. But now, I pause and wonder: was this intentionally used to signify to white nationalists?

While Huffington Post is a somewhat biased news outlet, they wrote recently that “every year CPAC does a delicate public relations dance to determine which white nationalists and conspiracy theorists are forbidden from attending the event, and which ones will be given coveted spots speaking on panels or even from the main stage.”  When you combine that with the very present white nationalist groups and iconography spotted during the recent January 6 insurrection on the US Capitol (including the so-called Q Anon Shaman), the fact Nazi iconography was used in Trump’s re-election presidential campaign, and so many other incidences especially in these last few years casts doubt upon this being a mere coincidence.


Netflix’s The Dig

“The Dig” has just debuted on Netflix, which is an adaptation of the novel by John Preston. The story is about the discovery of the Sutton Hoo ship grave, which is among the most significant archaeological finds ever found within the borders of modern England. The archaeological finds there remain among some of the most illuminating and important discoveries for their period of time for Anglo-Saxon culture. For the curious, a Hoo is a spur of land, in this case a parcel of land that overlooks the River Deben that is situated about 8-10 miles or so from the coastline in the Suffolk region of England (southeast coast). Today it’s part of Britain’s National Trust, while many of the artifacts (especially from the 1938-39 excavations) are housed in the British Museum in London, some artifacts (or replicas of the artifacts) are on display at Sutton Hoo.

The Dig – Netflix

So as a Heathen is the movie worth the watch?

Sadly, no—at least not for anything about the ancient culture. There’s very little emphasis placed on the unique discoveries themselves, nor any major discussion of Anglo Saxon history. The glimpses of the treasure are fleeting at best (seconds here, seconds there). It glosses over the archaeological work. You lose the fact that Basil Brown explored 4 mounds, over two years. It creates a love story that never happened (between archaeologist Peggy Piggott and the fictional Rory who never existed), implies that Stuart Piggott was in a homosexual relationship (and I find no evidence that he was queer), and invents a cave in that never happened to Basil Brown.

The film is very much a period character drama. The real events took place on the eve of Britain’s entry into World War II, and the looming war is very present in the film with constant reminders. The film becomes an encapsulation of life, that there is never enough time, and death ever looms. Yet for all of that it’s not a depressing film, just an ode to life. The script takes some biographical liberties with the characters to heighten that theme and the timeframe (right before WW2) in the film. While at the same time, seemingly pushing story elements for the modern consumer.

I enjoyed the film for what it was, an interesting insight into how this find came into being and the people behind ‘the dig’ albeit exaggerated for the purpose of a somewhat fictional narrative. But for the history buffs while it’s perhaps a pleasant diversion and tangential if not historically accurate supplemental, there’s so much more to dig into–pun intended.

The burial mounds at Sutton Hoo


The Real History

During its heyday the Roman Empire stretched from the British Isles, across Europe to Asia Minor and northern Africa. But the empire as it collapses offers opportunity. As the Empire’s power falls and it’s borders shrink, Germanic tribes begin their migration across Europe (taking advantage of the power vacuum and turmoil), including the Germanic tribes of the Angles and Saxons eventually migrating into England.

Source: British Museum

The finds at Sutton Hoo are exceedingly rare and precious, featuring superb craftmanship (some of the best in the time frame across all of Europe). The artifacts tell a story not only of wealth and art, but also of trade in the types of grave goods found. Some of the work was clearly created in the Byzantine Empire, as far away as Antioch (ancient Syria, modern Turkey), and others appear Celtic in origin. Character dialogue in the film have some statements along the lines of this was the end of the dark ages, because the art showed they weren’t just savages, or barbarians.  Keep in mind there was still something of a belief (thanks to how the Romans themselves thought of the Germanic and native Britons as barbarians) that when Rome fell, so too did culture and civilization. This leads to what is called the “Dark Ages” across Europe. When education was heavily classics based for the historians and scholars of the time, this meant Roman scholarship about these other cultures was also taught and the prevailing thought and bias persisted.

There wasn’t just one dig at Sutton Hoo, but a series of digs over the years.

Sutton Hoo – photo by Barbara Wagstaff


Britain’s National Trust has a great overview of the timeline of the ‘digs’ at the site through the centuries. In the 1600s you had treasure seekers (what they found was melted down to new purpose), and in the mid 1800s more treasure seekers, who had ship metal work reworked into horse shoes. Up until this point everyone was looking for profit, not so much for knowledge. Then comes 1938 where an exploration begins and finds some evidence that something good may lurk, but it’s not until 1939 we get the major ship burial discovery (the time in which this film takes place). More work would be done to the area of the original find, but it wasn’t really until the 1980s when significant work resumed at the site that would eventually lead to more burial graves including a woman of status. Currently the tally is at 18 mounds.

The prevailing theory is that King Rædwald of East Anglia’s grave was the one discovered in 1939. This was the ship burial that was so famously discovered with the accoutrements of a warrior: from the now famous helmet, to the shield and sword. The helmet gives to us what is most likely Odinic imagery. The eyes were rimmed with garnets. The right eye had gold foil behind the garnets to reflect the light back through the stone. The left eye did not. Scholars Neil Price and Paul Mortimer examining a reconstruction of the helmet both noted the very intentional difference. The effect by firelight or sunlight made the one eye very visible and the other dark. While much of the decorative paneling of the helmet hasn’t survived intact, some panels of what does remain mirrors Odinic imagery we find elsewhere on Vendel era helmets, with ties to Odin and a warrior cultus.

No bodies have been discovered on site, as the acidic soil decomposed them long ago. However, chemical markers in the soil are consistent with what would happen to a body decomposed in situ, and there have been ‘sand bodies’ found too. In the later case the soil has interacted with the decomposition and left us the form of their bodies in the soil. Wood hasn’t survived in the soil either due to the high acidity. The ribbing of the boat here is a result of the decomposition of the wood reacting with soil to give us this impression, which really gives you an idea of the carefully meticulous work necessary in the excavation NOT to destroy the find.



If after watching the film you’re left wanting to know what biographical details were accurate, and which ones were not, there’s some more factual, accurate historical biographical information on some of the real people depicted in the film at the National Trust website.

At the end of the film, as often occurs with some stories based on real events and people, they did have a little bit about what happened to the people after the timeframe depicted in the film. I feel it was a miss not to show at least at the end here the artifacts they found, or any information about the later discoveries at the site. So to make up for that lack, here are some photos highlighting some of what has been found at Sutton Hoo. (And even this pales in truly presenting the scope from the site and nearby areas). The Sutton Hoo Helmet, one of four Helmets from the period ever discovered, remains in many ways the star of the discoveries. Popularly used on various book covers to represent the Anglo-Saxon culture, and even some adaptations of the early English epic, Beowulf.

Some Sutton Hoo Artifacts