A Simple Blót for Freyr (and others) Building Right Relationship: Part 1 A More Personal Heathenry BREAKING NEWS: Texas House bill could prevent Heathens from fostering or adopting children Skaði’s Protection: A prayer for troubled times Fun With Eggs: Celebrating Oschdre Handspinning for Beginners – Finishing Your Yarn A blurb from a Scandinavian on Vikings! Book Review: “The Basics of Heathenry: For Kids” By Jennifer Lohr Anterior líder de Bifrost Stine Helen Skår Buscando Establecer Lazos Oficiales Con La Asociación Yggdrasil de Costa Rica Bifrost’s Former Leader Stine Helen Skår Looking to Establish Official Relations With Yggdrasil Association of Costa Rica The Rational Heathen: Honoring Ancestors: Do I Really Have to Worship Aunt Mabel? Então você quer ser um heathen Why Heathenry is Awesome: A Detailed List Folkish owned company takes stand against racism Book Review: “Norse Mythology” By Neil Gaiman History Channel’s “Vikings” has gone down hill. Loki in Fjölvinsmál: Lævateinn and Lýr Paying the Price Arizona man files suit against The Asatru Community, Heathen Talk Network, and The Troth Making Your Own Butzemann So you want to pronounce Old Norse names… Ranting Recon: ¿Cuáles son las festividades Heathen? Equality and Gender in Heathenry So you want to be a Heathen The (Other) Most Wonderful Time of the Year The Rational Heathen: Is it Time to Abandon the Irminsul? The Ancestors as Bridges Instead of Barriers Asatru Means Faith, Not Hate Heathen Spirituality Heathens Deface Historic German Landmark The Last Breath of the Old Year Exceptionally rare buckle discovered with possible depictions of Loki My Vision for Heathenry Handspinning for Beginners – Plying Yarn 12 Devotional Days of Yule The Sacred Duty of Food The Skirnismal: How (And Why) Freyr Won Gerd Canadian Heathens Spearhead Pagan Declaration Lusse – Midwife of the Sun The Rational Heathen: Getting B!%¢#-Slapped by the Gods [NSFW] Fast-growing Swedish Asatru org exposed Rare Bronze Age Petroglyph Discovered in Denmark Heathens Around The World Take a Stand With Standing Rock Sioux A Heathen’s Journey to Devotional Polytheism Over 200 Oath Rings Just Discovered in Sweden Sigyn: Lady of Oblation and Victory Alvablot and Winternights Declaration 127 The Rational Heathen: Blood Sacrifices and Other Moronic Things The Reconstructionist Method O maior inimigo de Odin – Depressão no contexto Heathen The Rational Heathen: Women’s Role in Cultures Women In Heathenry: Their Words Women in Heathenry Grief and Loss in a Heathen Context A Dedication Contract for Freya São Paulo, A Thriving Hub of Heathenry? Handspinning for Beginners – Starting to Spin Celebrating the Feast of Zisa Michigan Heathen Runs For US Congress Building a Stronger Community The Rational Heathen: When Did the AFA Join the Westboro Baptist Church? Freyja Detroit Harvest Festival: How Some Heathens Are Giving Back To Their Community Urglaawe: One of History’s Best-Kept Secrets How To Write Old Norse In Runes Is Heathenry Really Missing Something? Writer’s Block from a Heathen Perspective The Real Story Behind ‘Camp Courage’ And The AFA Offerings for the Gods, Part 3: The Jotnar New Leadership Takes A.F.A In More Bigoted Direction What You Reap is What You Sow Offerings for the Gods, Part 2: The Vanir Creating Sacred Space Freyr isn’t going to Bless those PopTarts The Younger Futhark Runes: An Instructive Guide Approaching the Gods: Building The Vé “What is Valhalla, and who goes there?” The Rational Heathen: Can a Heathen Follow Christ? Deconstructing the Brisingamen Myth Urglaawe – An Introduction The Elder Futhark Runes: An Instructive Guide Heathen Families’ Summer Camp Offerings for the Gods, Part 1: The Aesir ¿Tenían los vikings tótems animales? Did the Vikings Have Totem Animals? Teaching Heathenry to my Kids Odin’s Greatest Enemy, Depression in a Heathen Context Where Strong Gods Are Found Tales of Ragnarök Hail Frigga What is Forn Sed? Everyday Heathenry: Making Midsummer Heathen Marriage: Anatomy of an Oath A Step In The Right Direction? T.A.C. Takes Action. The Rational Heathen: So, What IS a Heathen, Exactly? Heathenry is a Religion of Questions Handspinning For Beginners – Pre-Drafting and Drafting Fiber Ranting Recon: Becoming The Beast

Did the Vikings Have Totem Animals?


Xander is a student of Anthropology, and a general history nerd. He focuses on studying Heathen Lore and reconstructing the fragments of the ancient traditions, in order to see how they can be applied to a modern community of believers.

There’s an interesting debate that I’ve seen drifting about the edges of the Heathen community for years, and (interestingly) it’s one of the only topics that I’ve ever seen debated more often in person than in the general Heathen “Blog’o’sphere”. Did the ancient Heathens have some concept of a ‘spirit guide’ or ‘totem animal’? I’ve met plenty of Heathens who are perfectly happy to tell you all about their spirit animal, and I’ve also seen plenty who seem offended by the notion; claiming that such an idea is a holdover from Wicca rather than a ‘proper’ Heathen practice. So what does the Lore have to say about it?

Yes and No…

Actually the Lore totally supports the idea, just not in the way that most people probably think of them. When most Americans hear something like ‘Totem Animal’ they tend to envision an oversimplified and generalized ‘Native American’ concept of a spiritual guide; usually with some kind of inherent lesson or values based on species. (An idea that usually bears very little resemblance to any actual indigenous American practices.)

bear picThe Lore is filled with references to beings called fylgjur. Usually seen in dreams or visions, fylgjur usually foreshadow the arrival of important people or events. Never an image to be conjured lightly, the arrival of a fylgja is always an indication of fate in the making. In “Brennu-Njáls Saga” Þórður had a vision of a dead goat, covered in its own gore. Njal told him there was no goat there at all; that Þórður must have seen the death of his own fylgja (considered an ill omen), and was thus fated to die. Then, in “Hávarðar Saga”, Atli has a dream about a pack of seventeen wolves descending upon him, being lead by a fox. This dream foretold the arrival of an army, lead by a cunning sorcerer. Likewise in “Þorsteins Saga” we see an enemy leader and his two sorcerous companions appear in a dream as a great bear accompanied once again by two foxes.

Sometimes these fylgja were even portrayed in a much more tangible way, such as in the climactic battle at the end of “Hrólfs Saga Kraka”. In that tale, Bödvar Bjarki was said to have sat motionless back in his quarters, controlling a great bear that defended the king and slaughtered enemy soldiers. Or in “Óláfs Saga Tryggvasonar”, when young Þorsteinn ran into the hall and seemed to trip over nothing at all. Geitir, who was gifted with ‘the sight’, told him that his fylgja (a white bear cub) had trundled out in front of him and he had tripped over it. The idea of animal spirits representing one’s character are both plentiful and prevalent throughout the Sagas and beyond. Even Odin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn, could potentially be seen as the Allfather’s fylgjur.

So What Exactly IS a Fylgja?

Unlike the common conceptualization of a spirit guide or a totem animal, a fylgja isn’t an independent spiritual entity so much as a reflection of the person it’s attached to. As opposed to the usual idea of a spirit guide, one isn’t chosen by their fylgja; rather, one IS their fylgja. The shape that the fylgja takes isn’t really an indication of some life lesson to be learned, as it is a glimpse into the innate character of the person whom it represents. In Atli’s dream, the cunning fox was a sorcerer. Bödvar the Berserker’s fylgja was a mighty bear. Thieves and outlaws might be represented by wolves, while someone who was strong but tame by nature might be represented by a bull.

The Norse and Germanic cultures didn’t have a unified concept of a ‘soul’, instead each individual was a complex collage of various elements. The fylgja, in many ways, is our deepest self. Stripped of our complex thoughts and emotions, devoid of our agendas and motives, the fylgja is the base nature around which our more nuanced concept of self is built.



If you’re interesting in learning more about Fylgjur, check out:

“The Road to Hel” by Hilda Roderick Ellis
“Dreams in Icelandic Tradition” by Gabriel Turville-Petre

2016 Huginn's Heathen Hof