One of the things I find most fascinating about modern-day Paganism is the attempt to re-imagine and re-construct the spiritual pathways of the European past (note: for my purposes, I define Paganism as pre-Christian European religious traditions and their modern revivals, though this is not to meant to disparage spiritual traditions of other regions), and also to adapt these bygone traditions to modern society. Thus I am blogging on a computer instead of carving a runestone, for example.
With regard to Asatru/Heathenry and the revival of pre-Christian, Germanic-Nordic-Scandinavian religious traditions, something I find very interesting is how many modern day Asatruar in the USA are deeply involved with reimagining and reconstructing the lifestyle and religious beliefs of Viking era Scandinavia, but often seem to have no interest in the further evolution of Scandinavia beyond the Viking era. Now I know one way to explain this is to say, post-Viking, Scandinavia was Christianized, so who cares about it after that? Well, I do.
I have traveled to all the Scandinavian countries, most recently Sweden in spring of 2009, Iceland and Norway in spring of 2007, and also lived in Iceland on a Fulbright graduate student fellowship in 1996. Modern Scandinavia is extremely admirable and impressive, in my view. Strong economies; healthy people; beautiful landscapes; progressive social policies; cultures that retain the old and embrace the new, from rock-carvings to Nokia. It seems to me that the industriousness, imagination and sense of curiosity of the Vikings of the past did not go to waste, in fact never went away at all. These countries have continued to evolve, and the modern-day "Vikings" are just as worthy of respect as the legendary ones of old. I do not know if many American Asatruar share my feeling, and I think part of the reason is politics. In my experience, many American Asatruar are small-town, rural-oriented folks, either by birth or by later in life choice, and they tend toward a conservative, right-of-center political viewpoint that is opposed to the kind of quasi-socialism of the modern-day Scandinavian nations, where "social democracy" (the more respectful term) provides much more security and support to the population than what we see in the USA. I wish we could learn more from the modern Vikings, but I suppose the current health care debate shows how threatened most Americans are by strange, foreign ideas like universal health care. Just call me "Lefty the Viking."