What is the Elder Troth?
The word Troth means trust, loyalty, or a promise; it also means "belief" in the sense "to trust in someone/something". The Elder Troth is the name which we give to the common beliefs of the folk who speak the Germanic languages (English, Dutch, German, and Scandinavian). These beliefs are also often called by the Old Norse name Ásatrú ("the trust in the Æsir"). However, since the Elder Troth is not only Scandinavian, but was also followed by the Teutonic folk of the Continent and the Anglo-Saxon settlers in England; and since the troth is given, not only to the Æsir (Wodan, Thunor, Tiw, and their tribe), but also to the Vanir (Fro Ing, the Frowe, Njord, and Nerthus) and many other wights, the Troth uses the more common term.
The Elder Troth, as it is practised now, is a reconstructed religion with room for the whole of the Germanic world. Most of our myths were written down in Old Norse after the close of the Viking Age; we also know about the practises of our forebears through the accounts of foreign historians such as the Roman Tacitus (first century of the Common Era).
The beliefs of the Elder Troth are that the god/esses of the North live and are mighty; that we stand in the Middle-Garth at the heart of the World-Tree, ringed about by the eight other worlds; that the birth and death of worlds and humans alike are shaped by the three Norns who sit at the Well of Wyrd by the World-Tree's roots; and that it is our duty to be true, honourable, and worthy of our god/esses and our kin who have gone before us.
This book, Our Troth, is a collection of the writings and thoughts of various folk who follow the ways of the North, offering a range of perspectives on the religion of our forebears and its practise today, particularly as carried out by the Troth, the incorporated religious organization of which this is the official handbook. As the Elder Troth covers a wide span of space and time, the Troth does not try to limit its ways to any one place or period (such as Viking Age Scandinavia or pre-conversion England, for instance). While the Germanic languages and religious practises may have differed somewhat, all are equally worthy. For our titles and our official informational products, we try to use modern English or reclaimed/created Germanic English words; however it does not matter whether the one-eyed god with the spear is called on as *Woðanaz (Proto-Germanic), Wodan (Old High German), Woden (Anglo-Saxon), Óðinn (Old Norse), Oden (modern Danish/Swedish/Norwegian), Odin (Anglicized Norse) or *Woþans (Gothic). Nearly all of these names are used by someone in the Troth (although the Warder of the Lore does not currently know of any reconstructed Gothic kindreds), and, since they refer to the same deity, it is better to learn to think of the different linguistic forms interchangeably. For this reaon, different forms of god/ess names appear throughout the book. Where there is no specific indication otherwise, I have used general Germanic forms (Wodan, Thonar, and so forth), but the forms used by other contributors stay as they are, and where a reference is made to Old Norse or Anglo-Saxon sources, the form that appears in the particular source may be used, so that the same god may be called "Freyr" and "Fro Ing" in one sentence. In order to cut down on any confusion this may cause, a word-list is supplied at the back which identifies all the variant name-forms.
The Troth is, and has always been, a living and growing religion woven of many different strands of belief - not only different god/esses and families of god/esses, but of many ways within the path of each. Therefore this book brings together as many different views on the ways of our forebears as we could find folk willing to write or speak about the subject. Nothing in here is a dogma; the closest we have to dogma is the historical facts on which our re-creation is based, and most of those are subject to considerable academic (let alone spiritual) debate. We have no infallible "holy book": source and textual criticism are vital parts of the development of our religion. Therefore, it is not likely that you will agree with every word written here, or practise these rites and no other. The purpose of Our Troth is not to set out absolute doctrine, but to give true folk a wide range of materials from which each may build his or her own troth. You may even mark, as you read through, that some statements in the book could be taken as contradicting one another: however, everything here was written by someone who is true to the ways and god/desses of the Northern folk. We trust that, as a true person yourself, you have the great thew (virtue) of free-standing, and will be able to make your own choice between the differing views, or forge out a view of your own - for that has ever been the way of the Northern folk.