Ásatrú is frequently regarded as one of the Neopagan family of religions. That family includes Wicca, Celtic Druidism, and re-creations of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and other ancient Pagan religions. However, many Ásatrúar prefer the term “Heathen” or “Pagan” rather than “Neopagan;” they look upon their tradition as “not just a branch on the Neopagan tree” but as a separate tree. Unlike Wicca, which has gradually evolved into many different traditions, the reconstruction of Ásatrú has been based on the surviving historical record. Its followers have maintained it as closely as possible to the original religion of the Norse people.
Asatru or ‘satr’ is an Icelandic word which is a translation of the Danish word “Asetro.” Asetro was “first seen in 1885 in an article in the periodical “Fjallkonan”. The next recorded instance was in “Hei’inn si’ur ‘ ‘slandi” (“Heathen traditions in Iceland.”) by ‘lafur Briem (Reykjav’k, 1945).” It means “belief in the Æsir,” the Gods. “Ásatrú” is a combination of “Asa” which is the possessive case of the word ‘sir (Æsir) and “Tru” which means belief or religion.
Throughout Scandinavia the religion is called Forn Si’r (which means the Ancient way or tradition), Forn sed (the Old custom), Nordisk sed (Nordic custom), or Hedensk sed (Pagan custom). Other names are:
Norse Heathenism, Germanic Heathenism, the Elder Troth, the Old Way, Asetro, Vor Si r (our way), Forn Si r (Ancient way), Forn sed (the old custom), Nordisk sed (Nordic custom), or Hedensk sed (Pagan custom), Odinism or Folkish ‘satr’.
The religion’s origin is lost in antiquity. At its peak, it covered all of Northern Europe. Countries gradually converted to Christianity. In 1000 CE, Iceland became the second last Norse culture to convert. Their prime motivation was economic. Sweden was ruled by a Pagan king until 1085 CE.
Icelandic poet Goði Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson promoted government recognition of Asatru as a legitimate religion; this status was granted in 1972. Since the early 1970’s, the religion has been in a period of rapid growth in the former Norse countries, as well as in Europe and North America.