The precise nature of the afterlife ~ what it will look like and feel like ~ is undescribable, incomprehensible – and in Ásatrú is dealt with in myths and legends.
Traditionally, Ásatrúar believe that ones fate in the afterlife is based on how one lived, how one died and the disposition of ones remains. Some go dwell in the hall of one of the gods in Asgard. Some go to Hvel, the wheel dimension, to wait for reincarnation or the end of this world cycle. Some continue to inhabit this world as guardian spirits for the land or for their families.
There is also a tradition of believing in rebirth within the family line. Perhaps the individual is able to choose whether or not he or she is re-manifested in this world, or there may be natural laws which govern this, or it might be that one stays on the wheels until the lessons are learned. Whatever … in a sense, of course, we all live on in our descendants as such.
Our European Nordic ancestors had no rune aggregate expressing the totality of their belief systems. Their belief systems varied with era and addition of inspired heroes ~ which are gods becoming, or not, if they are forgotten ~ and geography around common themes and (by)laws.
The modern word “Ásatrú” seems to cover several meanings. “True to the Gods” or “Loyal to the Gods” seem to be the two most used. But do understand that “Gods” for the Nordic are not what is understood by “God” in most other traditions. Anyone can become a God. If you are a hero, and are remembered long enough in myths and legends, then apparently your story holds a universal truth, rising above the times and contexts, and you become a God. Apparently your story works. Congratulations!
In Icelandic “Ásatrú” can be taken to mean “The highest religion”. Since the last official “holdouts” to Christianity were the Icelanders and they have played a major role in its revival, Ásatrú appears often as “the religion of the Vikings”.
The revival of Ásatrú draws upon historical records and folk traditions from Icelanders and sparse other Nordic families that did not forget the old ways and realms. Led by the Icelandic poet and Gothi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson, Ásatrú has been recognized by its government as a legitimate religion since 1972.
From the early 1970’s there has been in a period of expansion in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Ásatrú is a living entity, as it has always been.
The Ásatrú spirit is probably as ancient as the northern European peoples themselves – anywhere from between 40,000 years and as much as 150,000 years old. The beginning seems lost in prehistory.
A well known source containing much of current sacred lore in the form of myths and examples of virtues and vices is the Eddas, the Prose and Poetic. The Eddas are not infallible. And they do not have to be. Ásatrú relies on both galdr (written tradition) as well as seidh (oral tradition).
We do not wish to deceive ourselves about the purity and precision of the written word. Most written historic records have been rewritten anyway. Or written in stone, while no longer fitting time and/or context.
In Ásatrú there are two real sources of sacred truth and neither expresses itself to us in words.
One is the universe around us, a manifestation of underlying essence. With runes and aggregates thereof like words, myths and legends, we remember the spirit of Ásatrú and remember that inspiration is possible for each and every one of us. Inspiration itself exists only in the now.
The other is the universe inside us, passed down from our ancestors to us as instinct, emotion, and talents.
By combining these sources of internal and external wisdom with the literature left us by our ancestors, we each arrive at our own truths.