There should be more books like this.
Alaric Albertsson in Travels Through Middle Earth walks a fine line between the scholarship heavy but soulless historical descriptions of practice and the practical UPG inspired but rootless descriptions of practice that are on every bookshelf in every metaphysical book store. And he does a fantastic job.
It is a deceptively small book, only 11 chapters and 217 pages(I read it in a couple of days), but that small space is packed full of history, literary analysis and practical tips on how to practice as a Saxon pagan.
Chapter 1, Who Were the Anglo Saxons? has an interesting discussion of history and Tolkien, with the simple yet revolutionary statement, “If English is your primary language, much of the fyrn sidu(which he defines as the old ways) is already familiar to you.”
And the old ways are familiar, embedded in the language we speak.
Chapter 2, The Old Gods, takes us through the familiar Norse gods with slightly different names, Woden/Odin, Thunor/Thor, Freya/Freo, Frey/Ing Frea with a more peaceful aspect than we are used to seeing from a Norse perspective.
Chapter 3, The Weofod, dives into the practicalities and beauties of Saxon practice, starting with the household altar. He also discusses how to build relationships between people and the gods.
Chapter 4, Honor and Wyrd, discusses the concepts of the differences between honor and morals, and the intricacies of wyrd that are tricky for the modern person to understand, but Albertsson makes them very accessible and understandable.
Chapter 5, The Elves, discusses the elves as different kinds of wights. He describes ways to build relationships with these spiritual beings.
Chapter 6, Those Who Have Gone Before, is a great chapter on how to honor not only your genetic bloodline, but the people that have touched you life in important ways.
Chapter 7, The Magic of Middle Earth, discusses the different kinds of magic known to and practiced by the Anglo-Saxons.
Chapter 8, Mead Made Simple, is a practical chapter on how to make mead and the purpose of mead in Saxon practice.
Chapter 9, Gathering at the Hearth, is a great chapter on the organization of groups of like minded people.
Chapter 10, Holy Tides, discusses the different holy days in the Saxon tradition, and explains the links that some of them have to Wiccan holy days. The important part of this chapter is that it builds a bridge between Wicca and Saxon practice. In most books on Heathenry, there is a rejection of anything that smacks of Wicca. Albertsson doesn’t condemn Wiccans, instead he outlines how Gardner took pieces of Saxon practice and integrated into his new/old religion. Albertsson takes them back and returns them to their rightful place, but with gentle humor.
Chapter 11, Rites of Passage, discusses and gives rituals for naming, marriage and funerals from a Saxon perspective.
My overwhelming reaction to this book is positive. Albertsson emphasizes again and again that Saxon practice is a living, changing, organic, flexible belief system. He is egalitarian in his definition of hierarchy, whether it is between people or between gods, wights and us. It is a simple book, a Ph.D. in history is not necessary to understand what he writes, but it is powerful in its simplicity and practical in its presentation.
There were a few things that were jarring for me.
Some of them were cosmological differences, seven worlds instead of nine, no real mention of Loki or his kin other than Hel, to whom Albertsson is very respectful but distant.
Some of them were interpretation, Albertsson sees elves as wights, which is not a view I am opposed to, I’ve just never thought of it that way, and dwarves as another name for dark elves, when in my travels I’ve experienced them as distinctly different.
But none of those jarring things made me like the book any less.
This is a beginner’s book. I would recommend it for anyone that is coming at the Nordic worldview from a Wiccan background, anyone who is just starting out and is not attracted to the “warrior” paradigm of much of modern Asatru, or someone who has tried the modern Asatru way, and it just doesn’t work for them.
I will be reading his next book, Wyrdcraft, which pertains specifically to magic. I’ll let you know what I think.