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An excerpt from 

A Modern Heathen’s Guide 
to Norse Paganism:

The Earth-Centered Religion that Empowers Us 

to Embrace Our Inner Viking 

and Take Charge of Our Fate


Less than a year after graduating from school I left my hometown in Washington state and moved with a friend to Alaska. We lived for six months in a hundred-year-old cabin on a gold mining claim, more than a hundred and sixty miles northeast of Fairbanks. It was late spring. We were there to “brush the lines” of a gold mining claim so that the edges of the 40-acre property were cleared and easy to identify. 

Our first morning there we were jolted awake by pounding on the door. Standing just outside, with fist raised to knock again was a tall sinewy man with shaggy, grey hair and a scruffy beard. He was there to invite us to breakfast. He told us that because we were new to the area, it was okay if we showed up empty-handed, this once. He gave us directions, told us to bring our own dishes, and hurry on over. In less than a minute he was gone. We quickly dressed and headed out the door. It was six o’clock in the morning.

A dozen people were wandering in and out of an even smaller cabin, drinking coffee and visiting with neighbors when we arrived. I got out and a tired-looking woman in mukluks waved and motioned for me to come. We shared introductions as she led me over to a man barely out of his teens. He was sitting on a stump in front of an open fire. It was his breakfast I was there to consume.

The small fire pit was surrounded by softball size stones. An oven rack sat on top holding an industrial-size stockpot. Without looking up, he told me he was making “miner’s breakfast.”

“First, you sauté onions, peppers, and potatoes. Then you add diced chunks of whatever meat you happen to have.”

“What kind is it?” I asked while peering into the large, sizzling pot, breathing in the savory, but unfamiliar aroma.


“Bear?” My friend, who had followed behind us, and I sputtered in unison.

The young man then proceeded to tell the story behind our breakfast. He had left the door of his cabin open to let in some sunlight and fresh air. He was relaxing on his bed, engrossed in a book when a brown bear walked in. “It had to duck its head to fit inside.” He slowly grabbed his rifle that hung on the wall beside the bed. It soon became apparent that the bear was not going to leave on its own, so he had to shoot it. Then, with the help of some neighbors, he spent the night cleaning and butchering. He hadn’t slept since the previous morning. Without refrigeration, the meat needed to be eaten or preserved right away.

Once the meat was cooked, he cracked a massive number of eggs into the mixture, stirring until it was all cooked through. We found out later that each of the other ingredients for the miner’s breakfast was brought by someone else.

An old-timer took the time to explain to us the unwritten rules they all lived by. To be part of that community meant that you stepped up and did your part when necessary. If you need help just ask, and someone will be there for you, “but always give more help than you ask for.” We were also cautioned not to commit to “what you won’t follow through on.”

In that environment, you had to be trustworthy, or the consequences could be severe. If others hadn’t helped butcher the bear, the meat would have spoiled. Reciprocity was at the core of why that community survived through the harsh winter months. Those that helped butcher and dress out the bear now had more food for the winter.

We learned that there were some people in the greater area that wanted nothing to do with anyone else. Nothing was expected from them, but nothing was given to them either.

Years later, as I learned about Norse Paganism, I thought back on that breakfast we shared with our new community. In many ways, it was reminiscent of how the Vikings treated guests and how the guests were expected to respond. Other than the four-wheel-drive vehicles and old trucks that were parked out of the way in the dirt, that communal breakfast could have taken place a thousand years ago. The man with the bear only provided the meat but he knew that’s all he needed. Some people showed up with potatoes or onions, others brought eggs or coffee. Everyone, except us newbies, knew their responsibility. Of course, there is a lot more to this religion than reciprocity and keeping your word.

The faith of my childhood told me to follow the commandments, “let God decide” and to be obedient without question. As an adult, I realized that not everything we were taught as children was always true, at least not for me. 

The Abrahamic religions are filled with a doctrine that is inconsistent with reality. For example, the Bible says, “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Psalms 37:11), and “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 19:24), yet we open our eyes and see the world is run, now and always has been, by the wealthy and powerful. Popular televangelists are multi-millionaires.

Generation after generation has been raised to believe that men are better than women. “Men stand superior to women…”(Qur’an 4.34).  Women are meant to be subservient to men, especially in marriage.  “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22). Women today, around the world, have proven that they are as intelligent, dedicated, responsible, and hard-working as men.  Unfortunately, their religion has not evolved to embrace that reality.

Millions are taught “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move” (Matt. 17:20). How many have lived their entire lives under the burden of feeling that no matter how devout they are, how much they have given, and how hard they have prayed, they are still not good enough because they could not move a single hill. I’ve never seen a mountain move. I’ve studied history, in college and on my own, yet never come across a single incident in which a mountain miraculously moved. Have you? People will argue that despite the wording, it’s meant symbolically. Symbolic for what? What could happen to someone or some tangible thing, that would possibly fill in for that comparison?

The only plausible answer would be that someone prayed and their loved one was healed. What does that say for all those who did the same and yet their loved ones did not recover? Science has proven that our bodies have an amazing ability to heal themselves, occasionally, and to a point. 

There is evidence that prayer can sometimes help, as does meditation and positive thinking. Go into any Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, or Jewish temple, and people have poured out their hearts there in prayer for healing, for themselves, or for someone they love. The same is true for Muslim mosques and Christian churches of every denomination. The evidence shows that there is no difference in results based on which religion you follow or what God or gods you pray to.

Many faiths, or creeds within a larger faith, have been the source of narrow-mindedness and misery in this world since the beginning of organized religion, in cultures that died away millennia ago, and it is still happening today.

God, of the Abrahamic religions, is omniscient, he knows everything, can do anything. He is also omnipresent; he sees every move of every person on earth. Every word ever uttered, or thought ever had, is known by Him. He is perfect. If something is perfect, in order to remain perfect, it must stay the same. If a change would improve it then it wasn’t perfect to begin with.

Unlike monotheism, with its belief in a perfect God and unchangeable, divinely inspired scriptures, paganism adapts and changes as science, and societies advance. We become more aware. Many people, me included, had a hard time coming to terms with the idea that God was all-knowing and all-powerful, and yet he allowed so many bad things to happen in the world. Things that a perfect God could easily prevent or at least make better. The only solace for believers is “have faith, only God knows the reason why.”  

Pagans don’t have that disconnect between what gods can do and what they actually do in the world. The gods aren’t perfect, the world can be cruel and harsh. We can learn from the stories of the gods, but we don’t look to them to “fix it.” Instead, we look to them for strength and wisdom so that we can fix things ourselves.

Norse paganism is based on the beliefs and world views of those we call the Vikings. I would be the last to claim that they did not perpetuate misery on their victims. It was a brutal time when often physical strength determined the victor. Christianity and Islam were also violent against others at that time. Instead of judging any religious tradition, based on how people lived it a thousand years ago, it is far more important to look at how they live it today.

My name is Quinby C. Larson. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, forced to follow practices of a religion I did not believe in, and never felt attached to. Those feelings of emptiness led me to learn about different religions from around the world. I studied the Western Monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Islam, and multiple Christian denominations. Not finding what I was looking for, I investigated many Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Shinto, only to circle back to the West. I began to explore older religious traditions that predated the spread of Christianity.

Ultimately, I found a faith that truly values me and every part of nature that I deeply care about. I am writing this book to empower others and educate people who want to learn more about the Old Norse’s paganism, Forn Siðr, to the people who lived it in the distant past.

At face value, the violence and large-scale thievery the Vikings were known for, hardly seems like a positive, life-affirming religion. But the more I learned about the standing and rights of women, within that society, my heart and mind began to open.  Being meek and humble is not my style. I’m a strong, type-A person who knows what I want in life and is willing to put the work and effort into making it happen. For me, following this path is how I remain true to myself.

Norse paganism is a belief system followed by people beginning in ancient times, which focuses on taking control of your life and valuing intelligence and action over blind obedience. Meek and subservient behavior is not practiced nor preached to men or women. On the contrary, confidence and bravery are highly rewarded and encouraged. That’s good because turning the other cheek does not just seem dumb to me, it feels wrong.

I also connected with this religion because of its animistic ideology, the idea that there is a spirit in all things, not just human beings. I admire the devotion Norse Pagans have for their families, community, ancestors, animals, and the physical world. I appreciate their respect for all living things. Norse paganism is an earth-centered belief. It acknowledges that we are part of the world and need to work in and with it so that all aspects of it, including us, thrive. Ultimately, being a Norse pagan-embracing heathen rings true to me. Within this belief system, I feel validated.

Through Norse Paganism I feel empowered to stand up for what is right. That includes everything from recycling to ease the burden of landfills to standing up to racists, bigots, and bullies. It’s a good thing to be determined, to speak your mind, and be honest about how you feel. Obviously, I don’t encourage anyone to put themselves in harm’s way, but there are always ways to help de-escalate a situation. I could go on and on about this subject, but I think you get the idea. 

Today many people assume Norse paganism is a religion that supports white supremacy. It would be dishonest to say that those factions do not exist. They have used a misinterpretation of ancient text to justify their racist beliefs.  It is an issue I strongly disagree with, and I address it head-on in this book.  

To call Norse paganism a religion can be a bit misleading. It is not just a set of beliefs and stories. It was a way of life for the Old Norse people and is for those who follow its traditions now.

Perhaps you are struggling, questioning the validity of your beliefs. Maybe you are still going along, pasting on a façade, but feeling your true self caged behind a veneer of incredulity. For some, you have already tossed those religious beliefs from childhood aside, but feel a void left behind. If so, you might find Norse paganism interesting, especially for those looking for a religion that matches their own intuitive ideas about how things are in the world and how they should be.

This book is not an encyclopedia of Norse mythology. Instead, I have attempted to distill the values, traits, and goals of the gods from the stories and lore in which they reside. So that as you move forward in your pagan journey you can incorporate those things more intentionally into your daily life.

As a reader, I never gave much thought to the title of books. Now, in writing one of my own, I realize the importance of a well-thought-out title.  I see it as a promise to my readers of what they can expect to learn here. For that reason, although unorthodox, I want to share with you why I named this book what I did.

A Modern Heathen’s Guide to Norse Paganism: means I'm going to talk about the religion from the perspective of an insider, not someone that's presenting it as an outdated religion that no one in modern times would ever think was relevant to their life. There is no “one way” to be a heathen or pagan. Science has advanced, and without written documentation from the people living at that time, much has been lost. I  believe that Norse Pagan gods are as real as Hindu gods, and, yes, the Christian God. The majority of modern heathens and Norse Pagans, myself included, believe that the gods exist in the unseen world, part of the “other side” that lives all around us every day, beyond the view of mortal man. They are part of that “energy” or “higher self” or “ethereal beings” that we can tap into through meditation, prayer, and other means, to help guide us in our lives.

A quick disclaimer, this isn’t a guide to all of Norse Paganism. That would take many times the number of pages written here, but I will do my best to discuss and explain those areas that are covered.

The Earth-Centered Religion that Empowers Us: It is an animistic religion. The divine is all around us, in the trees and ocean, in the animals wild and domestic. There is “spirit” in everything. Because of that belief, it is important to treat the world with respect: protect the environment, leave nature in the same or better condition than when you entered it, don’t overuse resources, and value the life of all beings. This belief guides me and other pagans to treat the world with reverence and respect. It is not a religion confined to one day a week inside a building. It is a way of life.

to Embrace Our Inner Viking: Most people that were raised in a church were taught the importance of being meek and humble before God. A person should not brag or boast. Instead of going by how you feel things should be, chances are you were taught that blind obedience is better than questioning. The All-father God of Norse Pagans, Odin, is a warrior god. He promotes being the best you can possibly be in all ways. Be physically fit (as much as personal health allows), accept responsibility for your actions. Claim ownership of the decisions you make. Be a leader, in full control of your life.

and Take Charge of Our Fate: This goes hand in hand with the last one. Fate or “Wyrd” plays a major role in Norse Paganism. You cannot change the day you were born or the family you were born into.  You cannot change the preordained day you will die. But you and you alone can take charge of your life between those two dates. Change its trajectory away from mediocrity. Norse Paganism acknowledges that life is not fair. Some people are born healthy into successful families that love, nurture, and support them through childhood and beyond so that they can have wonderful, successful lives. Others are born into poverty or into families that abuse or neglect them. The lack of resources, and local opportunities. Those are the parts of our “fate” that we cannot control. What we can and are expected to do is to make the most of the talents or “gifts” we are given, work hard, focusing on long-term goals instead of giving in to instant gratification. We are meant to sacrifice in order to learn and grow as people. It is human nature not to place much value on something that is free and easy to acquire. Those things that make a real difference in your life, that put you in charge, take time, patience, self-sacrifice, knowledge, and hard work. Norse Pagans know that taking charge of your fate is worth the cost.

Odin is well-known as a seeker of knowledge. He sacrificed an eye for it. He hung himself on the World Tree Yggdrasil, a sacrifice to himself, to gain knowledge about the runes. Now you are following in Odin’s footsteps, sacrificing your time and money in a quest for greater knowledge. I commend you for emulating the All-Father, Odin, in your quest for a richer, fuller, more meaningful life.

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