Lessons from a Norse She-Elf

Alfta Lesson 1


Alfta Lesson 2


How and whom did our
European ancestors worship?

The lessons on this page are based on a previously online “book” by Alfta Svanni Lothursdottir called Book of the Northern Ancestral Ways and her other book (used to be available on CD) Northvegr: Intro to the Northern Spiritual Faith. We wish she had not taken them down from her once-wonderful site Northvegr.org!

Click here to open the PDF format of Alfta’s 2002 book, Religious Practices of the Pre-Christian Viking Age

I have learned a lot from Alfta.  Her work is painstakingly researched, she is on the forefront of reconstructing the true (spelled tru in Teutonic tradition) religion of our foremothers and forefathers of Europe, Britain and Scandinavia.  Her online book, though only 75% finished, is the main textbook for this course.  I encourage you to start wading thru it. Scroll down the above linked page and pick the articles (chapters) that appeal to you.

(Side Note:  Alfta means “She-Elf” in Old Norse, and is a name
Alfta has had for years, long before the Lord of the Rings movies showed
us nicely what elves were really like)


Read the Introduction below.  Then please send your answers to the questions at the end in an email to the Mystery
with the subject line, Alfta Lesson 1 from _________ (your
magikal name

An Introduction to Heithni (Heathenism)

The Norse Ancestral Spiritual Tradition

by Alfta “Svanni” Lothursdottir

What is Heithni? Heithni is the Norse ancestral spiritual tradition of the peoples of Scandinavia before the coming of the Christian conversion. This tradition is one that has been grossly mischaracterized from the very beginning of recorded history in Northern Europe. This mischaracterization began early with Roman writers of the first centuries and was carried on by Christian writers in the Middle Ages, only to be followed by many Norse scholars who either did not have the wisdom to interpret the great storehouse of knowledge they had gathered or had agendas. Now the modern seeker of the Northern Way, as we also call Heithni, is often left adrift without a rudder on a sea of stories of raping pillaging Vikings and/or individualist/anti-social fantasies or a hodge-podge collection of New Age and occult ideals pedaled as genuine ancestral ideals. If this were really what the Northern Way was about it would deserve a quick and painless death.

Luckily this is not the case. The Northern Way is a genuine ancestral spiritual tradition which has a highly developed cosmology, theology and ethic. What is more, it is a tradition which is, at its heart, a family tradition. It is not a mystery tradition nor is it a magical tradition though like most spiritual traditions there are indeed magical and esoteric elements for that small class of people who are drawn to such things.

The Northern Way is the tradition of:

* The Land owning freeman who farmed his land and warded the luck of his kin and community,

* The Wise Woman, also called spæ, volva, valla or seiðkona, who with her powers of magic could see what was to come; who could heal and who could curse,

* The great seamen; explorers and merchants. Men who traveled the known world and even into the unknown world to arrive on the shores of the North American continent almost 500 years before Columbus would set sail.

* The keeper of the hearth, warder of the kin-luck and mother of the children, whose counsel was always given the consideration it deserved,

* The Lawman who warded the luck of his community by insuring the frith and the rule of law,

* The warrior whose highest ideal was to defend kin and community with his life if need be.

These are but a few examples of the rich and vibrant culture that the North housed. These were not maniac filthy barbarians but people who believed in a spiritual tradition that is as rich as any the Earth has known. These were a people who had a highly developed ethic and theology. They were Northmen and Northwomen; Northfolk.

Tribalism: Community and Kin

To truly understand what Heithni is, we must understand, at least in a basic level, the culture of Pre-Christian Northern Europe from which the Northern Way sprang. This culture was what we could call the culture of Tribalism or perhaps a better way to describe it would be a culture of community and kin. For Northfolk the most important thing was his or her community and kin and his whole system of ethics was based on the maintenance and health of kin and community. Small communities existed that were led by tribal chieftains who led by consensus. These “kings,” as their titles are sometimes translated as, were not the kind of kings that most people think of when they hear the word today. Christian kingship was a completely different animal from Northern kingship. We would probably get a much better idea of their function if we used the word chieftain instead.

The chieftain warded the luck and weal of the tribe. It was his duty to make sure that the tribe prospered, by performing “right action.” What this means is that he or in some cases she was responsible for maintaining healthy bonds between the people and the gods and goddesses, the álfar (elves) and the landvættir (land spirits). If the chieftain performed these duties properly then the people prospered. If the chieftain did not do their job correctly then the people suffered. This chieftain ruled by the consensus of the people. In other words he or she did not lead by force but because the people recognized in him or her those qualities that were needed for any good leader. He led by the quality of his character and was the living embodiment of the ethical and spiritual ideal of the people. For their part, the chieftain ruled because of a love for his or her people; because he or she wished them to prosper. The chieftain who led out of greed would more than likely find himself sunk in a bog, which was the likely future of any chieftain who caused ill to their own folk. Luckily perhaps for some “would be Heithnir leaders” today, being removed from leadership only means they are no longer a leader. A true Heithnir leader only enforces the Law which has been established by his or her own people. That chieftain NEVER makes the Law. The people make the Law and the chieftain enforces it. That is true Tribalism.

The Law and Lawlessness: Creating the Holy

Genuine Northern tradition lives within the Law (see definitions below). Unlike modern ideals of what law is, the purpose of Northern Folk Law, as we call it, is to create a state of Holiness . Although we use the word Law, we might as well be able to say standards or commonly accepted norms. All Northern traditions, whether it be Teutonic, Norse or Anglo-Saxon exist on a common ground. This common ground is that Folk Law, and these Laws are the accepted norms of behavior that exist within the Northern Way. Contrary to popular opinion, Heithni is fortunate in that it has a great deal of source material, including historical and literary documents, as well as anthropological and archaeological evidence that lays out just what these norms, or Praiseworthy Virtues of the North are, as we call them at Northvegr. The purpose of these virtues are to promote the Holiness of any tribe, community or kindred. When one lives by these virtues, they are, in affect living within the Law. When a person lives outside the Law they are acting in ways that bring harm to the community. It really is that simple. So in no way does each person decide on their own what is and is not Northern tradition. Anyone who tells you that is lawless. Imagine, if you will, a more mundane example. Imagine in the city you live in, that the Laws that are required there, were decided by each person on their own. Imagine the chaos that would result from that. In the same way, if every person decides on their own what it means to be Heithnir, a similar state of chaos would be the result. Unfortunately in Heithni today, there are far too many groups who indeed take this approach.

One might then ask, who says what is or is not the Northern Way? Is it one person? No. Is there some overlord or some group who can tell us this Law? There is a group. That group is our ancient ancestors. The people, whose tradition we are laboring to reconstruct are the people who have the right to say what the Folk Law is. Their words, in the sagas and Eddas tell us, without doubt, what they felt was praiseworthy and what they thought was not praiseworthy. They gained this wisdom through observation and hard earned experience. We have only to do the work it takes to find what these praiseworthy virtues are by combing the literary sources. This has been done.

One may ask why I am taking so much time going into these detailed aspects of Heathen Law. Many groups in America and elsewhere, suffer from a lack of standards in this modern day. Any tradition which has no standard cannot grow, for the tradition as a whole will remain in a state of chaos. It is time that it must be admitted that there are standards in Heithni. It is equally time, that it must be admitted that people who do not live up to these standards should be shunned from the greater community. These are standards that are common to all Northern ancestral traditions (or should be!), whether it be continental Norse, Teutonic, Icelandic or Anglo-Saxon. There is a common foundation from which all of them spring from. We should be able to count on you being courteous, keeping your oaths, showing hospitality and the rest of the Praiseworthy Virtues of the North. However, this does not mean there is not room for great variation within Heathenism. There most certainly is much room. But those variations must have that foundation; that Common Folk Law, else they are something not Northern. So simply saying that one is Heithnir does not make one so any more than saying one is a doctor makes them so. What makes one Heithnir is when that person lives their lives by that Folk Law. The person who mouths those virtues but does not exhibit them in their every day life is nothing more than a hypocrite.

Valkyrie Brynhild (Brunhilda) by Dave Douglas

Individualism and Meism

“Now this is the Law of the Jungle–as old and as true as the sky; And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk, the Law runneth forward and back– For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.” -Rudyard Kipling.

Some might be tempted to think that all the talk of Tribal Law means that Heithni does not provide a place for individualism or that is some how restricting. Nothing could be further from the truth. The true ideal of individualism is often confused in modern society with what could be called “me-ism.” Me-ism is the ideal most accurately described as “looking out for number one” or “every man for himself.” This is not true individualism. Me-ism is little better than living in a lawless state. The individual, working toward the health and weal of his or her kin and tribe had opportunities to excel that could bring great praise and fame. Few, if any cultures put such a high value on the skald who could weave words in a beautiful and talented way. These were individuals who, through their talent and efforts, rose above the crowds to gain honor and praise, as well as wealth for their “individual” talents. In selfless service to their own kin and tribe, they gained fame, honor and sagas are still with us that sing their praises. The man who was a great warrior could gain praise through his talents and abilities. The woman whose wisdom and hospitality excelled beyond others could easily gain the same praise as could the man who was respected for his knowledge of the law and for his ability to make peace between contending parties. The point here is that in a Tribal society, the individual could excel through their own talents better than anyone with a me-ist ideal ever could, because while the tribal ideal expected them to put the tribe first, it also supported them and allowed them to push higher than they could ever do on their own. So the individual is not only valued in Tribal groups, he or she is encouraged. Find the wolf in yourself.

A Gift for a Gift: The

The purpose of the blót (pronounced to rhyme with the English word “boat”) is to strengthen the ties of kinship between us and the  Regin (Northern gods and goddesses). This strengthening is done by the exchange of gifts.

Friends shall gladden each other with arms and garments,
As each for himself can see;
Gift-givers , friendships are longest found,
If fair their fates may be.
– Hávamál 42, Broedur Trans.

Any relationship is formed by the giving of gifts and one could say that Heathenism is a religion of gifting. The whole structure of the blót is based on this main ideal. Even in the offerings left to land wights at water falls or at the base of trees we see this same principle played out. The gift is given to the land wight to incur its favor and a gift accepted is always returned with another gift. In our lore we know that it was Othinn, Hoenir and Lothurr who gifted us with ond, othr and la. These are gifts of spirit. In reading this introduction it may appear that Heithni is more a social tradition than a spiritual tradition but that is not true. The spiritual aspects walk hand in hand with the more mundane aspects of the tradition. So Heithni has both social and spiritual aspects. It is a way of life and an ideal, both spiritual and mundane, to live up to. We as Northfolk should not forget the gift given to us by the Regin and should strive with our deeds and actions to repay that gift. A gift for a gift.

Definition of Terms:

Aesir: The tribe of gods that include, Othinn, Thorr, and Frigg, among others. (See also Vanir)

Folk Law: The Folk Law are those norms and virtues that are common to all Northern traditions, no matter what variation it might be; Anglo-Saxon, Teutonic or Norse. All Heithni has a common base from which variations have arose throughout time. There are certain virtues and norms that should be expected of a person. We know that the keeping of one’s oath, generosity, hospitality, courage, refraining from slander, courtesy, and the rest of the Praiseworthy Virtues of the North were virtues that were thought praiseworthy by all Northfolk. This is because all forms of Northern Traditions spring from a common root.

garðr (garthr): In Old Norse, the word garðr means basically, “a fenced in yard, stronghold, house or dwelling.” We use it here in the sense of the sovereign home land (in a literal or metaphorical sense) of any kindred or community. In this homeland no one has a right to say anything about that community’s customs and internal law except that community itself. Every chieftain has the right to run their tribe as they see fit and only the members of that tribe have the right to say different.

Holy: The word “holy” is often misunderstand and misused due to the influence of the Christian religion. Holy for them is something set apart from nature, and nature is something corrupt. In Heithni what is Holy is that which is “whole” and “healthy.” It is what is natural and healthy in nature. The word is descended from words in Old Norse, Old High German, Gothic, etc. meaning health and well being. The etymology is: “holy – O.E. halig “holy,” from P.Gmc. *khailagas. Adopted at conversion for L. sanctus. Primary meaning may have been “that must be preserved whole or intact, that cannot be transgressed or violated,” which would connect it with O.E. hal (see whole). Holy smoke (1889), holy mackerel (1903), etc., all euphemisms for holy Christ.” (From the Online Etymology Dictionary – http://www.geocities.com/etymonline/) So when we use the word holy we are implying that which brings about the wholeness and health of one’s self and of one’s kin and tribe.

Law: Law (with an upper case L) is not the same as the common conception of law (with a lower case l) as it is generally understood today. The modern day word is descended from words in Germanic languages that mean “law”, such as ON, lög “law.” Today it is little more than the dictates of an absentee ruler. Today it restricts and it binds. True Northern Law frees us. It is Holy, in that it fosters the weal of the community. Any deed that serves to ward the community is in the Law. Any deed that brings harm to the community is útlög (outlaw, i.e. out of the Law). So when we say that Northfolk should live within the Law, we are not talking about the brittle written statutes that bind us, (even oppress us at times, though we must follow the laws of the society we live in). We are talking about living in ways that bring weal to the community. That is what living within Northern Law is about. You do not follow Northern Law, you live within it. When you act in ways that are harmful to the community you are playing the part of the outlaw and living in a lawless fashion.

Regin: The word “Regin” means literally, “the ruling powers,” and is a term that refers collectively to the Aesir and Vanir.

Vanir: The tribe of gods which include Freyr, Njorthr, Nerthus and Freyja. They are normally considered to be more concerned with fertility than are the Aesir.

QUESTIONS for Alfta Lesson

1.  What is Heithni?

2.  List two traditions of the Northernway.

3.  In your opinion, why did the Christians conquer the Norse, take over their culture and infuse a new system of belief? And why did the people of Europe accept Christianity as opposed to their own heritage.

4.  True or False.  The Chieftain of the typical old Norse tribe ran the community with brute force often swaying the peoples’ thinking into wrong action.

5a.  Define:  Alfar

5b.  Define:  Landvaettir

6.  True or False.  The chieftain made the laws?

7.  What is the purpose of the Northern Folk Law?

8.  Do you believe that the Old Norse system of making and keeping laws worked at those times? Please write a paragraph giving your opinion of why or why not.

9.  Define:   Me-ism.

10.  What is the purpose of Blot?

11.  Define:

11a.  Aesir

11b. Garor

11c.  Holy

11d.  Regin

12.  What does Alfta mean?



[Above:  Modern Gythia Jenny
(who also happens to be a British Anthropologist) officiates at a Wedding]

RE-FORMING THE TROTH by Ari Óðinssen  (Definition of the word Troth)

[Please read the following article by Alfta’s husband, a Swedish born Northern Way Priest, and then answer the questions that come at the end.]

Re-forming the Troth depends upon strengthening the roots. Roots spread out in all directions, bringing in nourishment and stabilizing the entire system, a living anchor that must remain solid and in balance for the tree to thrive. Proper culture of the roots, not only all around but deep, enlivens the entire tree, and grants precious fruit. Culture of a faith must ever keep this balance. Now, used in another way, ‘culture’ not only reflects the entire belief system of a community but also reflects its group values to the world at large in the actions it takes. The greater community of any faith practices its rites and rituals without undue thought as to what lies beneath the structure of their performance, nor do they dwell long on the symbology or the original meanings therein. Such over-thinking isn’t necessary, for these actions have become of a second nature for them and their children, and as such give a commonality of action and purpose, a strength of familiarity, solidity, and comfort across the breadth of the community. Over the ages these actions do not alter much from their original forms, and in their performance the members find communion with their ancestors, their gods, and each other. [Alfta adds:  We also foster communion with land-wights and other nature spirits.]

Those inclined to contemplate and understand the specific whys and wherefores of these things become members of the priesthood, or the mystic genre, in its culturally specific forms. They are necessarily fewer in number yet essential to the living and constantly reforming soul of the community, they carry on the deeper thread with the continuity that understanding and higher experience grants.

Both action done by the greater community and action done, if in a more circumscribed manner by the priest class, or mentally/ ‘magically’ by the mystic class, is vital to the living culture of the faith.

Overemphasis of any one facet of a faith over the balance of the common whole is always detrimental.

One side of what I call the ‘counter’ culture in the Troth is something that has caused many goodhearted and true men and women to cease supporting the culture – and those who do not support either become entirely out of the culture by definition or destructive of it. This first side reflects those in the ‘mystic’ class, and purports to use the workings of our holy rites merely for the individual’s personal, or limited group, benefit alone. They use our elder ways as a prop and overlay, as a borrowing, for their own ends, and they allow for, or encourage, any form of belief or philosophy of the individual within their group, usually with a group ‘ultimate goal’ underneath, or above, everything else. Our elder ways are merely tools for them, as with their misuse of the futhark, our symbols, and the names of our elder kin. In such condition they are free to place upon our Elder Kin [the northern gods and goddesses] any motivation, personality trait, philosophy or energy they wish.

For example, there are those who use Othinn’s name and form, supplanting his characteristics with those of their own making, or determined ‘usefulness’. It suits some of them to implant within his character all the worst the krisjian [Christian] doctrine has ever spouted of him, in that they have for themselves a chaotic demon who is nothing but self-interested and self-motivated, something they aspire to in themselves. They emulate this demonized form, rationalizing his purpose in most fatalistic terms, using the conditions at the end of this age and its entropic state as his sole rationale for actions in the here and now. Their reasoning is very clever, and to the secular philosopher, rationalist, scientist, atheist, it is a charming pile of sense and logic. From their standpoint I understand it well, it does make sense. But I could use anyone’s mythology (or what I prefer to call native-history), and any god of higher status, and impute the same characteristics and leanings to him or her, regardless of his or her true nature, and come up with the same useful parity of ‘faith’ in which to accomplish my own ends. But then, I would be relying on fantasies, utter falsehoods, to suit my own purposes, my own atheism. I would be in essence calling all the elder kin mere myths, creations of the psyche, subject to any manipulation a man may wish to make, all valid, as anything is valid to the materialist. At life’s end, I would be left with nothing but shining death staring me in the face, and nothing beyond it to hope for.

I need not state here that the Father of the Worlds would, from this title alone, be the least self-motivated creature in the Nine. Inner realization, knowing him on a personal level, and being in tune with the elder ways, will teach more than any one man’s opinion or imaginative desires could ever impute. Such truths, for one wholly within the faith, are at one’s fingertips.

The second side of this ‘counter’ culture is again a mockery and misuse of our ways, in this instance it is based on a twisted revision of history by those inclined to the priestly/ruling class, in order to narrow the focus, or blur it entirely. It is a promulgation of a failed philosophy based on false apprehension, fear and self-aggrandizement, with no basis in fact either from the lore we still have, our knowledge of history, or any ‘inner realizations’ manifest to any truly of our faith. That our faith was in a resurgence in the previous two centuries is fact, that some form of it, however stinted and clouded with krisjian color and overlay was alive and well before the two world wars is also a fact. That the fears of madmen and zealots in a competing philosophy sought to overturn these Tru-based movements that were begun and take from it what would suit their own plans is also a fact. That they succeeded in corrupting our symbology and heritage is certain, more surely and more deadly than even the krisjian invasion had done centuries earlier. That they outlawed the upsurge of our faith when they reached adequate power, and imprisoned and killed off its proponents, is history, that done in order to promulgate their own. Why it is that those who seek still to allay their irrational fears do so under guise of this failed, horridly failed regime is beyond me. Why it is they still fall back into our ancestral ways to mask their motivations is not always understood, but the matter is simply this – they are of the same roots as we, and a man will always, always fall back to his ancestral faith seeking comfort. It is as natural as breathing. That it is yet another destructive element in our Troth is the fault of its blinded adherents, not ever the fault of the faith itself.

Every culture large enough to include many clans within it is bound to hold members with aberrant or unbalanced tendencies. In olden times these would have been sent off, or eliminated, for the good of the whole, or more likely yet, they would have wreaked their own destruction through ill-made orlog. This age is more tolerant of evil, and that is all I may say on the matter.

It does us best to attempt to ignore both sides of this, the first side being an aberration of the ‘mystic’ inclination, the second being an aberration of the ‘militant’, or perhaps better stated the second is an unnatural imbalance of the ruling class tendency to power. Either side is indeed, ignorable. I do not say we should ‘tolerate’ them in the sense the Universalists use the term, as where there is shown obvious destruction of the faith by either side we must work to eradicate it in the most nondestructive manner we have available to us.

If We Must Die

by Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
in vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

In cases where our kin are directly and personally threatened there should be an immediate and wholesale condemnation of the perpetrator. Yet, in each instance, we must weigh the good of the whole of our faith against what the perceptions, true or false though they be, of our actions would foster in the worlds. If we would appear to be zealots, that would only reap havoc on this fragile hold we have on a solid foundation. Remember it is always highly commendable to seek council with others before taking any action involving outside groups. Consensus has always been the way of a True rulership, whether of household or court. In the end, ignoring them will often be found the way to spoil their resolve, for if we pay no attention, (and surely our gods are paying them none), who will they have to shake their spears toward?

They challenge us most because they hit closest to our hearts. They challenge us most because they confuse the inexperienced and the neophyte. They challenge us most because they can easily destroy the newly ripening awareness of our young. Yet none of the other faiths hold them in anything but fear and contempt, and no governments take them for anything but misfits or hate-mongers. Merely involving ourselves with them, even in form of accusation, ties us to them inseparably in this media-driven age, and perhaps, most crucially, to our own personal or family orlog. Let them fall off, unless you are absolutely certain your actions will provide swift and certain results. In all likelihood, you will not meet them again in the worlds beyond this, not the worlds ruled by our Elder Kin, at least.    -Ari Óðinssen



Please send your answers to the following questions in an email to the
Mystery School with the subject line, Alfta Lesson 2 from _________ (your magikal name).  
 [Questions created by Oiled Lamp, aka Amber

1. Fill in the blanks: ______ not only reflects the entire belief system of a community but also reflects its group ______ to the world at large in the ______ it takes.

2. T or F: In the performance of their ancestral rites and rituals, followers of the Northern Way find communion with their ancestors, their gods, and each other.

3. T or F: In order to participate in this communion, members need a thorough knowledge of the structure and meaning of their religious rites and rituals.

4. Fill in the blank: Those inclined to contemplate and understand the specific whys and wherefores of the rites and rituals become members of the _________, or “mystics.”

5. T or F: The priesthood is more necessary than the community of believers in maintaining cultural integrity.

6. What is the mystic fallacy which threatens to erode the Northern Way?

7. What is the militant fallacy which threatens to erode the Northern Way?

8. Essay: What is the impact of these two fallacies on the community of the Northern Way? How should the community deal with this threat?


END OF ALFTA LESSONS (More to be added soon!)