Asatru Notes

I am well aware of the fundamental differences between Ásatrú and Wicca; and speaking as a GM it suits my needs to have them stay different from each other for telling my stories. However, I am also bound by the needs of the game system in which we play. I will do my best to eliminate as many “Wicca-tru”-isms as possible; however, the needs of the game system “win on ties.”

…and in the end, I’m not trying to give game mechanics to a belief system after all. Being neither Wicca nor Ásatrú myself I wouldn’t be comfortable doing so. I just want to tell interesting stories.

Viking Magic and Dresden Files Literary Bias

Ok, first things first, let’s just acknowledge that Jim Butcher’s magic system as well as the visualization of the Fae is distinctly “Wicca”-centric (Pentagram, elements, ritual, etc. etc.) and Celtic-centric (Mab, Leanansidhe, the list goes on). That’s not a bad thing, just something I want to acknowledge up front. My exercise here is to see if I can work from there; backward. My goal is to get something that I can acknowledge as being distinctly Norse/Germanic and different enough to make stories involving it interesting.

Jim Butcher touches on the differences from time to time (Side Jobs: Heorot, and even the very name of the Erlking). It is from those differences (as presented in the books already) that I take this creative license and inspiration.

That whole… Nazi… thing.

If Wicca always has to deal with fallout from the Pentagram being affiliated with Satanism, Ásatrú deals with a similar “perception problem” with neo-Nazi affiliations. To be brutally honest, yes, there are some neo-Nazi/White supremacist individuals and organizations that are involved with the concepts of Ásatrú, there are also those in the movement that are most certainly NOT of that mindset (the Ring of Troth comes immediately to mind). Like with any group… you got morons and great folks and all flavors in between.

In terms of the Dresden Files RPG – the Norse Gods don’t care about skin color or ethnicity. Odin (for example) is getting ready to fight in the Ragnarök and he wants to win. If one of his Valkyries brings him a new Einherjar that happens to be black; and the new guy accepts the “enlistment terms” … it’s a done deal. If a Chinese-American woman with a Dutch grandfather wishes to call upon Freyja, so long as she abides by the rules … so be it. That said… for what should be obvious reasons, people with an ethnic affiliation to northern Europe are the ones most likely to pledge their troth (solemn pledge of faith/loyalty) to old Norse gods.

Faith

Harry Dresden in the books and the presented nature of the Nevernever lend themselves well to the visualization of a magic system without the need of religion. That kinda doesn’t work for Ásatrú since the word (more or less) means “Aesir-troth” (as in loyalty/faith/belief in the Norse Gods: Odin, Freyja, Thor, you get the idea).

As such, the various “Faith Powers” as well as “(-4) Sponsored Magic (Name of Deity)” are perfectly in harmony (not in harmony enough to allow them to use Technology though… nice try… limit of the game system). However, an Ásatrú character is not really interested in all the other powers and spirits out in the Nevernever other than as foes or curiosities … they’re servants of a very, very specific pantheon.

New Types of Sponsored Magic

In Side Jobs: Heorot we see our first glimpse into whatever Jim Butcher has in mind for Norse magic and acknowledgement of Harry Dresden as a “Male practicioner of Seiðr” (Seiðmaðr).. i.e. Wizard. For characters that purchase the full variant of the magic power set… this page isn’t really for that except maybe as for flavor text. This is mainly for characters running with Sponsored Magic.

Seiðkona – woman practitioner. Also note that in Viking mythlore, male practitioners of Seiðr were mocked and considered effeminate or ergi (one of a handful of mortal insults to a viking man)… yeah even Odin got mocked by Loki about it.

Völva, also female practitioner (usually older and more independent) but with a much bigger divination, shamanistic (curses and hexes) and sex magic vibe. The word more or less means wand carrier; the old Norse word for dried preserved horse genitalia is völsi… there’s even a surviving old Norse short story about a völsi that was worshipped for its magic powers and carried like a wand. Wands found in burial digs were wood and/or metal. Female graves that included these wands and whatnot have been found with traces of henbane (hallucinogen), cannabis seeds, as well as phallic statues of Freyr… you figure out the rest.

Seiðr (Odin)


Drawing on the power of the god Odin, you’re able to cast spells that fit his essential nature: war and battle, victory and death, wisdom and prophecy, trickery, cunning, and the hunt. These magics are under Odin’s sway and making use of it will inevitably gain his notice far away in his hall of Valhalla (in the Nevernever – the Ginnungagap – in the realm of Asgard).

Cost: 4 refresh for the package, not to mention approval from Odin himself. Reduce this cost by 1 if you have Evocation or Thaumaturgy; reduce the cost by 2 if you have both.

Agenda: Odin is and has always been preparing for Ragnarok. Those he selects are aggressive warrior types worthy of Valhalla. Though he doesn’t necessarily need mindless warmachines, whoever is selected is invariably willing to take a stand against “the enemy” in the last battle. What is also known, but not really discussed, is that regarding the “last man and woman” (according to the legends, the only ones left after the world comes to an end); Odin’s in charge of making sure the “last man” is worthy. It is generally believed that he will come from among Odin’s chosen.

Benefits: Standard sponsored magic benefits (page 288). Odin’s magic is particularly effective against giants; downgrading the effectiveness of any Toughness ability the target has by one step (Mythic Toughness becomes Supernatural, Supernatural becomes Inhuman, Inhuman goes away) when using this magic against a giant enemy (this is mainly in reference to Norse giants, but large ‘humanoid’ Fae like Ogres and Trolls count too). Odin’s Seiðr may be used as an element for evocation, allowing evocation spell effects that encourage trickery, battle, lightning, pain, fury, and knowledge. Odin’s favored type of Thaumaturgy is without a doubt divination and via casting runestones, can be done with an evocation spell’s methods and speed. Additionally, Odin’s magic tends to take the form of (or incorporate) runes.

Seiðr (Freyja)

Drawing on the power of the goddess Freyja, you’re able to cast spells that fit her essential nature: love and beauty, family, hearth and home, sex, birth and fertility, growing things, rain storms, and protective war. These magics are under Freyja’s sway and making use of it will inevitably gain her notice far away in her hall of Sessrúmnir (in the Nevernever – the Ginnungagap – in her realm of Fólkvangr).

Cost: 4 refresh for the package, not to mention approval from Freyja herself. Reduce this cost by 1 if you have Evocation or Thaumaturgy; reduce the cost by 2 if you have both.

Agenda: Freyja is and has always been preparing for Ragnarok alongside Odin. Those she selects are cunning warriors worthy of Sessrúmnir. Her chosen are willing to take a stand against “the enemy” in the last battle, just not necessarily on the front lines. What is also known, but not really discussed, is that regarding the “last man and woman” (according to the legends, the only ones left after the world comes to an end); Freyja’s in charge of making sure the “last woman” is worthy. It is generally believed that she will come from among Freyja’s chosen.

Benefits: Standard sponsored magic benefits (page 288). Freyja’s chosen are favored by her, and gain a single Rapport stunt of their choice (Sex Appeal or Best Foot Forward are most common). Additionally, Freyja’s Seiðr may be used as an element for evocation, allowing evocation spell effects that encourage family, home, birth, protection, sexual attraction, growth, healing, hearth fires, and rain storms. This includes the ability to produce effects along the lines of biomancy (page 284) with less of a requirement for biological expertise in the spellcaster – Freyja already understands biology pretty well and will do the heavy lifting for the caster – but with an evocation spell’s methods and speed. Freyja’s magic can take many forms but invariably it will be suffused with a warm golden light in some way (or possibly droplets of red-gold water, the signature color of Freyja’s tears).


Thaumaturgy

Ritual, Sympathetic Link, Power

The Sympathetic Link and Power mechanics are the same as with regular Thaumaturgy.

Ritual is slightly different in that the books present Ritual as being heavily involved with magic circles. Seiðr is more about consecrated places: hörgr.

This is a (generally) stone altar upon which the blót may be performed (sacrifices/sprinkling). This can also be a fireplace or hearth, stone table and chairs, or some other place less formal than an altar. These secondary places are especially suitable for blót that just involve drinking mead/beer instead of animal/blood sacrifice. Anciently, these were “temple complexes” with places to boil the meat, do the sacrifices, and all that. These days, such a place would be in the seiðr user’s backyard (most likely).

In a pinch however, inscribing runes in a “circular” area and standing within them serves the same purpose as the classic “magic circle.” It’s a matter of semantics – a temporary hörgr or “altar” drawn with chalk or a Harry Dresden style chalk “magic circle”… both get you to the same result.

The “release” of a spell is also different, the books present the “release” as happening when the magic circle is finally broken and the magic power is unleashed. Likewise the stories so far written involving seiðr present that happening when a rune is broken. Be it a rune inscribed on a small piece of bone or ceramic or whatever that is snapped in two, or simply rubbing out a chalk rune with your foot… the act of “breaking a rune” is the unleash of the magic (see Side Jobs: Heorot and a couple other places).

Also this allows people to walk around a magical area (the hörgr) without disrupting the spell, allowing the social aspect of blót to be accomplished without violation of the integrity of the magic itself (assuming the runes are left intact).

Fun Exception: One totally easy to envision “magic circle” that is also completely thematic to a Nordic spellcaster is a circle created by pouring out beer or mead in a quick circle around the spellcaster (i.e. a libation) and then inscribing the functional rune within it.

Thaumaturgy Declarations

Here I have my first conflict. Modern blót are simple like a hammer to the face (see what I did there?)… and the demands of a game system basically requires Wicca-like “complexity” via Declarations, Consequences, etc. in order to boost the effect. Some nod to rituals/stories/poems found via historical sources given in the selection of these items.

These are not the only Declarations. These are simply very appropriate and thematic Declarations especially suited to Ásatrú/Seiðr type Thaumaturgy. Some are derived from Rick Neal’s cheat sheet some are duplicated in a couple places because they could be either (pick one or the other when casting the spell).

  • Alertness
    • “Acceptable Tokens” – find the “perfect” evergreen bough/sprig, animal, “vintage” of mead, etc.
  • Athletics
    • “Fleet of Foot” – chase the sacrificial animal(s) around prior to the blót
    • “Powerful arm” – When sprinkling the assemblage, can really get some distance on the droplets of mead/blood/whatever.
  • Burglary
    • “Go A-Viking” – steal something used in the ritual from someone/somewhere else
  • Contacts
    • “My Kindred” – get together your fellow heathens
    • “I Know You” – Finding out personal information about your target
    • “Vicious Gossip” – Spreading a rumour to rattle your target and get him on the defenses
    • “Every Move You Make” – Getting a warning when your target is ready to act against you
    • “Borrowed Wisdom” – Getting a friend to share his lore with you
  • Conviction
    • “By the Gods” – faith your magic/prayer will be acceptable
    • “Confidence is Contagious” – Letting your can-do attitude affect those around you
    • “You Won’t Change My Mind” – Holding true to your goals in the face of someone trying to argue you out of them
  • Craftsmanship
    • “Hand-Made Tools” – make your own implements
    • “Microbrewery” – make your own beer and/or mead
    • “Runelore” – Inscribe all the proper runes and poetic passages
  • Deceit
    • “Loki’s (or Odin’s) Trick” – acquire something for the blót by deceiving somebody
  • Discipline
    • “Focused Visualization” – Maintaining a complex mental image during the creation of the magic
    • “Cleansed” – Fasting for two days to purify yourself
    • “Centered” – Meditating to find your centre before beginning the ritual
  • Driving
    • “To Please Aegir!” – Take a sailing vessel out to the location of the blót or while in a wind or oar powered ship, drown the animal sacrifice
  • Empathy
    • “Chink in the Armour” – Sensing the weak spot in your target’s psyche
    • “Simpatico” – Linking your emotions with those of the target
    • “Listening to the Silences” – Understanding what your informant isn’t telling you
    • “Acceptable to the Gods” – animal flesh and drink are passed around all the participants as part of the blót
    • “Golden Libations” – pour out perfectly good mead or beer and dedicate it to the Gods
  • Endurance
    • “Ritual Stamina” – Performing a six-hour blót circle dance without needing a break
    • “Vigil” – Stay up the night before ensuring the sanctity of the blót site
    • “As Odin Did” – Hang from a tree in the wilderness for several days and nights
    • Völva Seiðr” – sexual intercourse (and probably high while doing it)
  • Fists
    • “Ritual Combat” – in the pre-blót festivities, engage in ritual combat to first blood
  • Guns
    • “Odin’s Spear” – Kill the animal sacrifice with hurled spear(s) or throwing axe(s)
  • Intimidation
    • “And if you do not listen, then the hell with you!” – Make a Schwarzenegger Conan style prayer to the Gods, and convince them how bad@$$ you actually are
    • “All Heil Technoviking” – You don’t actually do anything, you just look powerful and muscular like a viking should.
  • Investigation
    • “Confirmed by Independent Sources” – Double-checking the information you got from an old book
    • “Deciphered Rune of Power” – Finding the secret rune hidden in the illustrations of an ancient edition of the Prose Edda or Poetic Edda (or other Scandinavian tale)
    • “Well Sourced” – Find a new source for the best animals, ingredients for beer/mead, etc.
  • Lore
    • “Well Documented Ritual” – Spending time researching the spell you want to cast
    • “Names of Power” – Uncovering the proper invocations to call the attention of powerful spirits
    • War Alles in Ordnung” – Using the proper magically thematic fire woods, runes, and animals favored to the specific gods, etc.
  • Might
    • “All Heil Technoviking” – You don’t actually do anything, you just look powerful and muscular like a viking should.
    • “Wrestling Bessie” – Bring the ritual animals to the blót by raw might and/or holding them down
  • Performance
    • Gammeldans” – in the pre-blót festival, dance a traditional Scandinavian circle dance to empower the seiðr
    • “Golden Libations” – pour out perfectly good mead or beer and dedicate it to the Gods
  • Rapport
    • “Speak with the Gods as with Friends” – make your case to the Gods especially well
    • Völva Seiðr” – sexual intercourse (and probably high while doing it)
    • “Acceptable to the Gods” – animal flesh and drink are passed around all the participants as part of the blót
    • “My Kindred” – get together your fellow heathens
    • “Acceptable to the Gods” – animal flesh and drink are passed around all the participants as part of the blót
    • “Golden Libations” – amidst all involved, pour out perfectly good mead or beer and dedicate it to the Gods
  • Resources
    • War Alles in Ordnung” – Using the proper magically thematic fire woods, runes, and animals favored to the specific gods, etc.
    • “Golden Libations” – pour out perfectly good mead or beer and dedicate it to the Gods
  • Scholarship
    • Skald” – Know all the relevant passages of the Prose and/or Poetic Edda and other Scandinavian texts to make them relevant to your current spell
    • “Runelore” – Inscribe all the proper runes and poetic passages
  • Stealth
    • “Go A-Viking” – steal something used in the ritual from someone/somewhere else
  • Survival
    • “As Odin Did” – Hang from a tree in the wilderness for several days and nights
  • Weapons
    • “Single Stroke” – slaughter the sacrificial animal(s) with a single blow
    • “The Blood Eagle” – defeat your enemy and then do the blóðörn “blood eagle” on him (separate the ribs from the spine with a sword, yank them open to form bloody “wings” and then yank out the lungs – favored of Odin)… dead already, still alive… up to you.
    • “Ritual Combat” – in the pre-blót festivities, engage in ritual combat to first blood
  • Consequences
    • Physical
      • “Deep, bleeding cut” (cut yourself with a seax)
      • “Exhausted” (dancing in circles, forging things by hand, staying up for days, etc.)
    • Composure
      • “High” (various options, especially hallucinogens)
      • “Drunk” (mead or beer or both!)
    • Inflicted (killed and blood is then “sprinkled” around, aka “redden the altar”)
      • Sacrifice Small Animals = 2 (i.e. Mild)
      • Sacrifice Large Animals = 6 (i.e. Mild + Moderate) = specifically adult horses, pigs, cattle
      • Sacrifice Humans = 20 = this is rare (criminals, enemies in wartime, disaster or famine, etc.)

Quick Outline of Ásatrú/Seiðr inspired Thaumaturgy within DFRPG

  1. Figure out what you want to do as per normal (Element options and Thematic Thaumaturgy may apply due to the nature of Sponsored Magic)
  2. Establish the Sympathetic Link to the target as per normal Thaumaturgy
  3. Go to your hörgr or create a temporary one (the absolute basic Ritual requirement)
    • (If the hörgr is especially nice this might be a declaration off Resources or Craftsmanship)
  4. Inscribe a rune to act as the construct that will contain the magical energies
  5. The Blót as a way to meet the Lore Requirement
    • Simple Blót (+ 10-12 Lore easily)
      • Declarations (common ones)
        • Fill a vessel (usually drinking horn) with suitable mead or beer as the offering (Declarations off: Resources, Investigation, Craftsmanship, etc.)
        • Prepare/empower the offering (Declaration off Conviction, Discipline, Empathy, Presence, Rapport, Scholarship, etc.)
        • Make the appeal to the Gods (Declaration off Conviction, Discipline, Empathy, Presence, Rapport, Lore, Intimidation, etc.)
        • Use an evergreen bough to sprinkle the empowered offering mead around the assembly or simply drink it (Declaration off Presence, Athletics, Empathy, Rapport, Contacts, etc.)
      • Consequences (common ones)
        • Mild Mental “Wow That’s Good Stuff” – worth 2 (drinking the mead/beer)
    • Complex Blót (+ 24 Lore or more, possibly up to 40 or so with additional participants)
      • Declarations (common ones)
        • These types almost always take place at a location that is able to gain a Declaration off Resources and/or Craftsmanship for the hörgr
        • Pre-Blót Festivities (Declaration off Contacts, Athletics, Presence, Performance, Fists, Weapons, etc.)
        • Bind the animal offering (Declarations off: Resources, Might, Fists, Survival, etc.)
        • Prepare/empower the animal offering (Declaration off Conviction, Discipline, Empathy, Presence, Rapport, Scholarship, etc.)
        • Kill and Bleed the animal (see Inflicted Consequences below, also possibly a Declaration off Weapons, etc.) catch the blood in a special bowl (hlautbolli)
        • Fill a vessel (usually drinking horn) with suitable mead or beer as the drink offering (Declarations off: Resources, Investigation, Craftsmanship, etc.)
        • Prepare/empower the drink offering (Declaration off Conviction, Discipline, Empathy, Presence, Rapport, Scholarship, etc.)
        • Make the appeal to the Gods (Declaration off Conviction, Discipline, Empathy, Presence, Rapport, Lore, Intimidation, etc.)
        • Use an evergreen bough to sprinkle the empowered blood around the assembly and/or “redden (rauð) the altar (hörgr)” by pouring the remainder of the blood upon it (Declaration off Presence, Athletics, Empathy, Rapport, Contacts, Lore, Scholarship, Performance, etc.)
        • Cook and share the meat and drink (after pouring out a libation) with the assemblage, possibly entertainment during the meal (Declarations off Rapport, Contacts, Performance, Craftsmanship, etc.)
        • Incinerate the uneaten portions of the sacrificed animal’s flesh/entrails/etc. in the flames (Declaration off Alertness, Empathy, Rapport, Investigation, etc.)
  6. Power the spell as per normal Thaumaturgy (Control rolls, etc.), if time is not of the matter, it’s all taken care of during the course of the blót
    • Consequences (common ones)
      • Mild Physical or Composure “Exhausted” – worth 2 (these things are a lot of work)
      • Mild Composure “Wow That’s Good Stuff” – worth 2 (drinking the mead/beer)
      • Inflicted
        • Moderate Physical “Sacrificed a Pig” – worth 6 (as per large animal)
        • Mild Composure “Drunk and Disorderly” – worth 2 per additional participant. Like Celtic magic, 1, 3, and 9 are sacred numbers. Thus participants over 9 don’t count.
  7. Break the rune to unleash the spell

Asatru Notes

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