So well known was the hero, Raud the Strong, that his story comes to us from several Icelandic Saga’s, the most common of which is the Heimskringla (The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway) by Snorri Sturluson. The story tells of a great seafaring warrior who had Thor and Seiðr on his side.
Around the year 1000, the zealous Norwegian King, Olaf Tryggvason, began an expedition to North Norway to continue his Christianization of the pagan people. Olaf found much success in his efforts, owing largely to his brutal methods of both torturing and killing those who refused, but not all were swayed.
In Godøy, near present-day Bodø, lived the man Raud the Strong. Raud was known to have a strong connection with the Sami people, and to own a remarkable longship that was larger than any that Olaf himself owned. With a gold-plated dragon head, it is what many suppose the popular Viking longship designs are based on.
Upon hearing that Olaf was heading his way Raud gathered as many men as he could and lead a great assault at sea. Despite everything, however, Raud found himself overwhelmed and had to retreat from the battle. Stories say that Raud was able to Seiðr to call on the winds to speed him home safely while also blocking Olaf Tryggvason’s chase.
It was all for naught, however.
Though he made it home, Raud was eventually caught by Olaf Tryggvasson. Despite the King’s efforts, however, Raud refused to turn his back on his gods despite torture. In the end, he was killed when a live snake was forced down his throat. Many of Raud’s men, following his example, were also killed after refusing to convert.
So what can we learn from this story?
Some might make the argument that it is better to fight and die rather than retreat in “shame.” In some cases, this might be true. For every one of us sitting here reading this, however, one of our ancestors made a different choice. The choice to convert saved our lives.
For many of our ancestors, death was the best option. Which of us ever chooses to be killed in a horrible, painful way? Was death the easier option? We have to believe that for some, it was. For Raud the Strong, friend of Thor, it was. To convert was to turn his back on his Heritage, to turn on his Honor, and to turn on his Courage and a warrior and leader.
Our ancestors lived in a very different time. They lived in a world in which men and women could be killed for choosing to remain loyal to their Gods. We are exceptionally lucky that we live in a society that allows us the freedom to worship our Gods.
That very same society that allows us to worship our Gods, however, does not do so without stipulations. That society, so unlike the sort of tribal society our ancestors lived in, would tell us how to worship our Gods. They would tell us who is allowed to worship our Gods. And that society would try to harm us for choosing to do it differently than they tell us we are allowed to do it.
We don’t face the same torture and death as Raud the Strong for choosing to worship our Gods our way, but we do face the possibility of ostracization from society. People, even our families, can turn their backs on us for disagreeing with the “rules” they have given us. We are not free from the effects of the multi-cultural paradigm, but we don’t have to bow to it.
Like Raud the Strong, we can stand tall and be proud of who and what we are. We are Asatruar. Like Raud the Strong, we can stand against those who would tell us to turn our backs on what we know to be Tru. We can live with Honesty, with Courage, and with Honor.