Someone asked me what I believe as a follower of Odin and the Gods of Asgard.
Before I tell you any of that, I'll give a bit of background.
I have struggled my whole life with what I really believed. My mother is a dyed in the wool Christian, and wanted to see me grow up to be a Christian as well, but I was never really on board with the program, as it were. It never sat right with me. I even tried seeing if any of the branches held anything for me, and while the people at my mother's church were all very nice and welcoming, and there are a lot of decent Christians out there, I found each group's actual beliefs left me feeling empty as before.
But I knew I believed in the Divine. I've spoken to the Divine a number of times, and I've even received replies. I just didn't believe as these other people did.
So I decided to heed a bit of ancient Roman advice: I "shopped around" and "tried things on" until I found a fit; stories I could believe in and live my life by. The religion of my Old Norse ancestors eventually beckoned, and I answered.
In the old sagas, I found everything I could have hoped for and more. In the tales of Asgard, there are stories and lessons of honor, betrayal, and justice. Songs of brave heroes and wise and powerful Gods who face their destinies, no matter how terrifying or dreadful.
I knew at my first glance that these were the stories I wanted my kids to grow up with; I want my children to be brave and honorable just as their ancestors were.
Do I believe? I know I believe in this more than I believe that a man dying on a cross can forgive every soul's sins, past, present, and future. Do I follow? You bet I do. Every meal is begun with a thanksgiving to Sif. Every hard decision includes an appeal to Odin and Frigga. Anytime I need strength, I wonder what Thor would do, and ask for his assitance. Freyja offers comfort and guidance when my relationships hit a rocky patch, and when all is said and done, at the end of the day I ask Nótt to guard my family against nightmares as we sleep.
And I know I don't feel empty anymore. I feel like I have a purpose for the first time in a long time. There are no more unanswered prayers. I have fewer questions, and I never curse the heavens for my misfortunes; the Gods will do nothing for me that I can do for myself.
My mother and I have our friction over my choice of Gods. But I'm glad she's no longer trying to convert me back (thanks for the advice on that subject, everypony!). This is my path, and I have chosen it for myself.
So onto what I believe, as a follower of Asgard.
It's admittedly a very different faith than most other paths I might have taken.
I believe that Odin and Freyja are looking for warriors to call upon to fight alongside the Gods during the Ragnarok.
The Vikings believed that by giving their life to the glory of battle, they would impress Odin and Freyja, and be taken to their halls to train for Ragnarok by day and regale each other with the stories of glory and conquest by night.
Obviously, that's hard for many of us today. Not all of us can just get up in the morning and pick up an axe and die gloriously in battle against the Roman Empire or whatever. And it's not very nice anyway.
But I have come to the conclusion (after asking Odin for advice on the matter) that if one cannot "Die as a Sword" then one must "Live as a Shield."
Live in good deeds and honorable acts. Reflect well upon the Gods you revere, and bring them honor and glory through your life's actions.
There is also a level of respect for one's ancestors in my faith that I believe is sadly lacking in modern times.
Just as you inherit the honor of your father's name, you should bring new honor to that name as well.
NEVER rely on your ancestors for reputation. Instead do them credit, so that when you meet them in the halls of Asgard, they can say with great pride that their blood led to your life. Name yourself to honor those who came before you.
No boy should ever be less a man than his father. No daughter should be less a woman than her mother.
Some people believe that due to their birth or baptism, they are somehow "God's Chosen" and that this gives them a more or less free pass to heaven, and yet while many do believe this and still follow the path that brings honor and goodness into the world, others who have similar vows continue to behave as dishonorably as a man can act.
I believe that nobody has a birthright to being chosen by the divine; such a notion inspires laziness and spiritual apathy. Nobody is born a hero. It is something you make of yourself.
The favor of Odin or Freyja is something that must be won through a lifetime of work and action.
They forgive mistakes as should any God, but only insofar as your own drive to get up when you fall down and continue to honor yourself, your ancestors, and your Gods. If you cowardly turn from your path, you will be punished and denied a place in their halls, to be cast into Hel's domain in the dark of Niflheim.
So go out and do good. Be a hero how you can. I won't ask you to slay giants or dragons, but I will ask you to help slay evil and malevolence. Protect your fellows, and bring honor to your name. When the Valkryies call on your deathbed, be able to tell them that when destiny demanded it, you stood as a warrior, not that you cowered in a cave like a mouse.
And that's what I believe.
Go make Freyj-- I mean Princess Celestia proud!