Review of Witchdom of the True by Edred Thorsson
There is much less published on the Vanatru side of Germanic paganism than on Asatru. Whereas Asatru means true to the Aesir (Odin and the gods of Asgard), Vanatru means true to the Vanir (Freyr and Freya, and the gods of Vanaheimr).
The author studied both Germanic and Celtic philology at the graduate level and earned a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Medieval Studies.
Despite his impressive credentials, this book is incredibly accessible and written for a general audience. However, due to his credentials, this author is generally considered reliable with his presentation of history and expected to have done his research.
It is understood that Wicca is a contemporary religion influenced by ancient ideas rather than actual representation of indigenous European religion. Yet, Thorsson asserts that Wicca actually may actually draw upon Vanic traditions. He postulates that Freyr and Freyja are the actual Wiccan Lord and Lady based on the etymology of their names (Freyr and Freyja literally do mean lord and lady).
Now, whether Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca, had this in mind when he created his religion, we can’t say. This theory may seem suspect to some considering that mainstream Wiccans typically place emphasis on the Celtic pantheon.
The Wiccan emphasis on all things Celtic is dubious when one considers that the word Wicca is of Germanic origin. One may also find it mysterious that Ostara, a goddess of the Germans on the continent was grafted into the Wiccan wheel of the year. Even her counterpart in the British Isles, Eostre, is an Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) goddess. While some examples of the “Wheel of the Year” use the Irish Lughnasadh, others use Lammas. Lammas was an Anglo-Saxon holiday. The Wiccan calendar also celebrates Yule for winter solstice, another Germanic holiday. The Celtic winter solstice is Meán Geimhridh.
So, considering Wicca uses a Germanic name and has such precedent of inserting Germanic tradition into their religion, one might consider the Lord and Lady may have been meant to be Frey and Freyja in Gardner’s thought process. Or it might simply be an alternative way of viewing the religion to make it more palatable to people who value historical precedent in their religious practice.
Anyway, this book is not about Wicca. It’s about interpreting the Vanir through the eyes of a former Wiccan who’s personal practice evolved as his knowledge of ancient history deepened. This book will not tell you how to be a Wiccan. But for some Wiccans it may open the doorway of new insights and interpretations of paganism.
While this book is highly recommended for Wiccans looking to deeper their study, it is also recommended for other pagans and Heathens interested in the Vanic gods. This book provides a foundation of understanding the history of the Vanir, and the connection between Vanir tradition and witchcraft. It discusses underground survivals of witchcraft and its revival. It also gives a rudimentary introduction for the Norse/Germanic practice of Seidr (spelled Seith by the author, the ð symbol can be translated as “th” or “d” and the “r” is often dropped in translation).
I have to apologize to any of you reading this right now. I bought this book a few years ago, and as I’m finishing up this review, I’m realizing it has gone out of print. I’ll leave it in our Amazon bookshop anyway in case some reasonably priced used copies turn up. At the least if you click on it in our store, Amazon should suggest similar titles and books by this author. Or, maybe you can find it used with another bookseller!
Anyway, I quite enjoyed this title, and I hope some of you will be able to get your hands on it.
If you are interested in Seidr, we have added another book on it to our shop. “Seidr; The Gate is Open” is a title I haven’t read personally, but it comes highly recommended by other readers.
~ review by Aelfwynne ~