I’ve started this project for primarily English-speaking heathens who, due to their religion, frequently encounter words which are unfamiliar to them. In many cases this can cause problems which should be easy to resolve, but unfortunately it can be difficult for people to know where to look for help.
Orðstírr means “glory” or “renown” in Classical Old Icelandic – often referred to as Old Norse. It can be found in verse 76 of Hávamál:
deyr sjalfr it sama,
hveim er sér góðan getr.
oneself dies the same,
but good orðstírr
for one who gets it for oneself.
It’s a compound word made up of orð meaning “word,” and tírr meaning “glory,” and although the “word” in this case refers to a person’s reputation, which was indescribably valuable in Norse society and its precursors, rather than literal language, which is the subject of this website, I thought it was still relevant to the site’s purpose.
Though this site is for anyone who is able to make use of it, I am a practicing heathen, a heiðingi, an ásatrúarmaður. My gods are those of pre-Christian Scandinavia, including, but not limited to, Óðinn, Þór, and Freyja (perhaps you know them better as Odin, Thor, and Freya?). My primary goal is to make a some small, easily-digestible, but useful bits of the language of the North Germanic-language speaking peoples more accessible to people who have been frustrated in their attempts to understand.
Language can be a bridge that gives you access to new experiences and personal growth, or it can be an obstacle that prevents the same things. When a person reads or speaks about aspects of a culture with which they identify, but which is displaced from their own culture by time and location, it can produce a feeling of alienation. It can be hard to pray to Njörður when you don’t even know how to say “Njörður.”
There are also many people who — whether by negligence or overestimation of their own abilities — spread misinformation, which can make progress very difficult for people who trust them. For example, a great many people mistakenly believe that ᚨ *ansuz and ᛜ *ingwaz are “Norse” runes, or that wyrd is a Norse word.
Not everyone has the time or resources to learn Old Norse. There are probably many who would love to know more about Proto-Germanic, if only they knew what Proto-Germanic was. Information about such topics can typically fall into one of two categories:
- easily accessible (whether for free on the internet or in cheap, mass-produced books with minimal oversight and designed to sell rather than inform) but absolutely worthless, or
- fact-based and informative, but either impenetrable because of the knowledge you are required to already have or inaccessible because of rarity or outrageous price tag.
My goal is to bridge that gap by providing simple but informative descriptions of basic things that make big differences.
Does it really matter that everyone be able to wrap their heads around the various languages spoken by northern pre-Christian people? It’s debatable, but I sure don’t think it hurts. I believe language is one of the most powerful transmitters of culture there is. And while some may object that proper pronunciation of “Ægir” is not going to make someone a better heathen (true), I would respond that the anxiety potentially caused by the uncertainty could be a significant impediment for some people, especially for the inexperienced.
I am not an expert – I am a native English speaker, and while I can get by in Icelandic, and only occasionally require help from a dictionary to read sagas in Old Icelandic, I am still learning. The primary advantage I have is enough knowledge and experience to know how to find out other things. I will try to only post things on this site if I am reasonably sure of the answer, but it’s likely that I’ll make mistakes from time to time, and I only hope that readers will point them out to me so that I can correct them.
On heathenism and racial discrimination
It is unfortunately the case that I think a formal declaration of my position on this is necessary. I do not believe that heathenism or Norse culture is accessible only to people of certain genetic background. Nor do I believe anyone’s judgments of others based on genetic heritage are in any way legitimate.
If you think Scandinavian culture is only for Scandinavians than you have no use for this website, since I am not Scandinavian.
From the bottom of the Jewish part of my heart, if you have a problem with this þá getur þú sorðið þig (“you can go fuck yourself”).