Every once in a while, I come across a blog post or a comment someplace bemoaning the fact that the vast majority of Asatru books are beginner-level books. What those in the “ed biz” might call 100-level books, because in American universities, a class that is numbered between 1 and 199 is aimed at first-year students. That’s where we get the “101 = beginner” idea. The 101 level courses are what Freshmen take in their first semester.
And it’s a fair observation. We are replete with 101-level introductory “What is Asatru?” types of books in print today:
And there are many more that I didn’t include here.
Now, this isn’t to say that such books aren’t valuable, and don’t have a place. They absolutely do. Newcomers to Asatru need to know about the basics of the Gods, the myths, the rituals, and the ethics of Asatru. But what seems to be missing, largely, are the “next step” books.
Specifically, what I mean here are books that deal with particular topics relating to Asatru in depth. There are a few examples out there of what I mean:
But on the whole, once you get past the introductory material, there’s precious little to chew on. (I am deliberately not listing books on runes and magic, which I feel is a completely different discussion, and basics of lore, like the Eddas and Sagas, which are pretty cut-and-dried source material.)
Asatru could certainly use some more books on the 200-300 level. Books that explore a particular facet of life from an Asatru perspective. Books that talk about a topic exhaustively, such as death, or honor, or love, or feminism, or modernity, or land-wights, or marriage counseling, or grief counseling, or child-rearing, or house-spirits, or the logistics of kindred-building, or a particular holiday, or whatever. Brian Wilton has a series of books that cover some of these sorts of topics, and it’s a great start, but he’s only one guy, and a robust intellectual tradition requires more than that. It might be said that Asatru will truly come of age in an intellectual sense when we have entire books being written as responses to other books that are written by Asatru scholars, challenging their conclusions, and engaging in an intellectual dialog spanning years.
I think there’s a huge market for those sorts of books. More on that in a later post, methinks.
But that still leaves us with the problem of the yet-higher-level works. And therein lies an essential conundrum.
People keep saying they want high-level Asatru books. Because everyone is way more advanced than those proles who need beginner books, dontchaknow.
I submit that 400 or 500 level books are downright impossible, outside of possibly an initiatory tradition that has books for ever-higher-levels of initiates, and limits access to them, sort of like the Temple of Set or Rune Gild.
If you want the truly high-level stuff, what I’ve come to call “Deep Asatru”, you’re not going to find that in a book. That’s only going to come with time and practice. Years and years of time, and hundreds of hours of practice. There are things at that level that you just can’t learn from a book. There comes a time when books are only going to hone the edges that you’ve already got.
The 300 level stuff will still be useful, because it’s going to do a deep-dive into a particular corner of Asatru that you might not be familiar with yet, but the really deep stuff, that’s not coming from any written works. That’s learned through direct experience, mouth to ear, from someone who has spent the years delving into that aspect of things. And once you get to the point where you start really being ready for this sort of thing, you’ll know it, and you’ll know that Amazon and the used bookstore down the street aren’t going to get you where you need to go.
That’s when the Deep Asatru starts. In practice, not in pages. Not everyone is going to go there. Not everyone Needs to, or even should. That doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, because everyone is inclined to think they’re special, and they’re the ones that can really handle it, and have the skills to do so, and Need to do so. But it’s true nonetheless.