Heathenry – also commonly known as Germanic neopaganism or Asatru – emerged in the United States and elsewhere in the last several decades of the 20th century. It centers on what adherents understand to be the polytheistic religious beliefs and cultural practices of pre-Christian northern Europe, as described in ancient literature like the Icelandic Sagas and Eddas. Given these specific geographic ties, race has become a contentious issue within Asatru, which some practitioners see as a “white” religion and vehicle for preserving European heritage and identity. Although many heathen groups strongly denounce this ideology and are open to members of diverse backgrounds, because of these associations, racism and bigotry have become a source of great friction within this community.
Without diminishing the importance and poignancy of such debates, this essay focuses rather on the emergence of heathenry in Appalachia, a region whose religious pluralism is often overlooked. Jeremy and Emily Janey, who lead a small heathen community in the hills of southern Ohio, say that this belief system aligns closely with their values as Appalachians, including self-reliance, kinship, and hospitality.