REVIEW: Centre of Excellence – Norse Mythology Diploma Course

For the last decade or so, I have been very keen on many online education providers such as EDX and Coursera, and firmly believe in the MOOC Revolution. MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) are a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. Their value really comes from their ability to deliver high quality higher learning classes for free to places that have no access to such a service. When EDX started, for instance, I was taking classes constantly – ones about epidemics, and space science – just all sorts of random topics.

I have used these platforms to broaden my horizons past what I learned during my university education. Rather than waste money, I tried not to venture to far out into my “comfort zone” when I was in school, and only took classes that pertained to my major or minor. To take a page from Odin’s playbook, I hunger for new knowledge and strive to better myself in any way that I can with new knowledge being my point of attention. Granted, I’m not sure I would sacrifice a body part for said knowledge, but who knows.

Sooooo. that brings us to today –

Last week I got a targeted Facebook ad for a UK-based company called Centre of Excellence, which is a for profit online course provider backed by professional accreditation from CMA:

Our courses are accredited by the CMA (Complementary Medical Association), which is internationally recognised as the elite force in professional, ethical complementary medicine by professional practitioners, doctors and, increasingly, by the general public. Upon completion of the course, you can gain membership to the CMA, which in addition to supplying a professional accreditation, offers a number of benefits. Our courses are also endorsed by the ABC Awards and Certa Awards Quality Licence Scheme.

COE Website, FAQ Page

I figured, what the heck – Normally, courses from COE cost upwards of $135.00-$150.00 USD, but I was able to use a coupon code to get the class for around $30.00. The price really isn’t that bad, and they run coupon codes constantly, I’d imagine its hard not to take a class at a large discount. Upon completion, this class comes with a few certificates – Granted, I took a humanities class, so I’m not sure how useful a certificate in this would be in the real world, but that really isn’t my concern. I wanted to test this new service out and see if I can recommend it to everyone.

Compared to the previous two companies I mentioned, Coursera and EDX, there is the fact that there is a giant pay wall around the content. The way those two work is that the material itself is free, but if one wants to get a certificate, a “donation” of sorts for $25-$50 dollars is required. and with EDX, you can only take tests if you have purchased the class. I prefer this method, because you could easily try to take a class way over your head and have to back out – not having wasted money would be a good thing.

Another key difference between those two and COE is that they usually contain video lectures from top teachers in their field, some that are renowned Harvard or MIT professors. This COE class is entirely text-based and reads like an old-school correspondence class. This isn’t a bad thing at all, the material was very well formatted, and just as good as a video, but it makes it come across more antiquated somehow.

Note: Some COE classes may have video content for all I know, this one did not.

This class was split into 12 modules, usually containing 4-5 lessons in each module. at the end, each had a short quiz to make sure you comprehended what you just read. The information contained and structure is reminiscent of a high-level high school, or Gen Ed college class about the same subject. There isn’t much in the way of in-depth analysis on any given topic, and everything is somewhat broad. This class could be used as an outline to further your studies.

Something that could have made this class better would have been assigned readings. Often times, this class makes reference to various sections of the Havamal or Eddas and just gives a quote. Perhaps having guided readings would have given a further understanding of the material. Honestly, as it stands you could probably learn the same material as this course from reading a basic book or, in all honestly, the Wikipedia page for Norse Mythology.

That isn’t to say that this class was bad, I just feel that it was too basic for me, which I can’t really fault it on since this was an experiment, and it lacked the amount of content I am used to from other providers. For example, in my article Free Pagan Learning, I looked at a class on The Icelandic Sagas from the University of Iceland. This was akin to a higher level university course on the subject, and was full of videos, readings, interviews and much more. For the same price, I felt like I had a more complete experience.

One good thing I can say for COE is that they have a WIDE variety of classes that may interest readers of this very blog. A quick glance though their listing for the more metaphysical and religious classes yields courses on Wicca, Khemetic shamanism, and a few Viking classes. Due to this (assuming I can find a coupon lol) I will likely try these guys one more time to see how a second class would go.

In conclusion, this class is a solid introductory class for Norse Mythology, and while its not flashy, the information is sound. Honestly, if I had to pay full price I would have felt ripped off due to the structure and format of the course, but for $30.00 it was not a bad deal. Similar MOOCs are technically the same price, if not more, if you get the certificate. My only issue is the pay wall, I wish the info was free with an option to upgrade. If you are even somewhat well-read in Norse religion, you will feel like you way ahead of the class, so I would only get this if you want to perhaps teach your kids about the subject, or show a total novice what you are into etc.

Stay tuned for more educational posts on here, and perhaps I will revisit COE and see if they are worth your while.

REVIEW: The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition (2017)

A book by R.C. Fordham

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Cover art for The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition (2017)

I did a review sometime last year for R.C. Fordham’s book Iron Alchemy of the Gods that, while not a bad book, was an odd detour into a subculture of obsessive gym rat heathens that somehow believe that exercising will get you into Valhalla. The entire book was half a manifesto on male weakness and a criticism of what he sees as the effimization of manhood, and the latter half was a workout guide. I honestly read it out of confusion, but did come away with a few tidbits that I liked such as a before workout prayer idea.

Once I read this on Kindle Unlimited, I started getting recommendations for some of his other books including more that I assume are macho bravado such as a book on how to be a modern berserker, but then I saw this, The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition, and was intrigued. What does Mr. Fordham believe the building blocks of Asatru are considering his predisposition to all things MANLY?

This book was written for those seeking answers to the Asatru tradition. It is a comprehensive guide that offers all the basics of the religion and much more. It is broken into 3 parts. Part I discusses the proper views of the Norse Religion and Cosmos. Part II details the cosmology of Asatru. It includes in detail, the descriptions of the gods and goddesses, as well as the realms of Yggdrasil. Part III then takes a look at the practices of modern Day Asatru as long as with advice on how to grow your spiritual life and connection with the gods and goddesses of our ancestors.

Amazon sales page

Surprisingly, this wasn’t the colossal trainwreck that I was both expecting and honestly hoping to see. You see folks, I’m a connoisseur of cringe, and I was eagerly chomping at the proverbial bit for some. What I did get was a competent, albeit basic overview of Asatru, and how one can start practicing it. It reminds me of all of the Wicca books geared towards teenagers I would see at the now-defunct bookstore I worked at many moons ago. While no means a classic of literature or scholarship, The Handbook of Asatru: The Official Guide to Learning the Ancient Pagan Tradition lays out a baseline set of views and practices that one could follow if they were just starting to dabble in the Northern Traditions. It isn’t bogged down with too many long Icelandic words or complex mythological descriptions, so it is a bit too basic for anyone that has actually been studying lore for a while.

Fordham does occasionally sneak a bit of his trademark philosophy in there, but its not too “in your face”, and honestly isn’t as bad as some of the stuff I’ve seen in more folkish publications.

So, can I really recommend this? Since its VERY cheap, possibly free, and isn’t a total trainwreck….sure? It depends on how well-versed in Norse Paganism you are. Its very possible you will leaf through this as if reading a Wikipedia article and gain no substance from it. If you are new to Asatru and want an idea of what certain terms mean, how to hold a Blót, how to do a prayer, and a list of Gods to pray to, this might be a good fit.

If you would like a copy of this book for Yourself, please click HERE

REVIEW: The Wife of Freyr: Chapter 1: Yngvi-Freyr (2019)

The cover of The Wife of Freyr: Chapter 1: Yngvi-Freyr

AD 970. Gunnar Thangbrand, eager missionary of the Danish king Harald Bluetooth rages on the coasts of Norway. His goal is to convert the pagan Norwegians to Christianity, to make them faithful citizens of the Danish Empire. But the Norwegians resist bitterly and fight back the Danes. Gunnar, the only survivor of the danish mission, flees from the vengeful Norwegians to the east. To Sweden, Where the Prayers of the bloody Fertility God Yngvi-Freyr are living.

Amazon sales page

The Wife of Freyr: Chapter 1: Yngvi-Freyr (2019) Is an inexpensive historical comic you can find on Amazon that is based on an Icelandic þættir, or short story in the Sagas, called Ögmundar þáttr dytts ok Gunnars helmings which loosely translates to “Ögmundar’s death and Gunnar’s half” (or somesuch). This comic is based entirely on the second half involving the character of Gunnar Thangbrand. An English translation of this Icelandic Saga can be found here for free, if you would like to read it to compare.

In both this and the original story, Gunnar has been suspected of murder and has fled to Sweden, where pockets of paganism still persist, especially fertility cults devoted to Freyr. He has gone there to convert any Pagans he finds to the ways of Christianity for King Harald Bluetooth. Rumor has it, that the Swedes have appointed a young and beautiful woman to serve the fertility god, and Gunnar becomes “acquainted” with this young priestess. He helps her drive Freyr’s wagon with the god effigy in it which angers Freyr. Freyr attacks Gunnar and he has to make a promise to become Christian when he returns to Norway in order to fight against it. He is able to win, and decides to dress as Freyr since the battle had destroyed the wooden statue.

There is more to the story, but that is all that is covered in this chapter.

Internal page of The Wife of Freyr: Chapter 1: Yngvi-Freyr

The artwork in this book is pretty good, you can tell that the author, Volkmar Fleckenstein, is a pinup artist of some degree. I especially like the details he puts into facial expressions and emotions, seeing the various bits of character design is awesome. The comic is in a grayscale color palette, which is in no way bad, it almost gives it an old-school barbarian comic vibe ala Conan or Red Sonja. It’s done digitally, and has a bit of simplicity to the style, but the linework is crisp and dark, so it all fits together very well. The lettering is organized well, and everything is easy to read with no spelling or grammar issues that I noticed, granted I wasn’t scouring with a fine-toothed comb of nitpicking, but everything seemed above-board.

While I did enjoy this (quite a bit, actually), I felt as if the story is presented in a way that makes Gunnar Thangbrand easily one of the least likable protagonists I’ve ever read or seen. He basically runs around murdering anyone that isn’t a Christian at a breakneck pace for about half of the book. Limited to a small page count and a moral disconnect from how things were in past, one has to take a step back reading something like this because a person seen as a noble hero of the past, could easily be seen as a demonic monster by modern standards. Many of the Sagas are like this, for example it is very hard to find ANYONE in Njal’s Saga that isn’t pretty terrible by today’s modern standard.

Internal page of The Wife of Freyr: Chapter 1: Yngvi-Freyr

It would be wrong if I did not point out that this book has a bit of adult content inside. It is not, by any means, the focal point of the story, but once the Freyr fertility cult is shown you can imagine what is shown in the pages. For those wanting to see this as a pure historical item need to be careful – its not really suitable for kids.

While this can be seen, by pagans, as a story of one of the last vestiges of the old ways being trampled on by the Church, as a historical piece this is pretty cool. I really want Mr. Fleckenstein to do more of these if he ever gets the chance, as I would love to see more Saga literature getting translated and re-imagined like this.

As of this writing, Mr. Fleckenstein has posted a campaign for volume two of this story to Kickstarter as seen HERE. There is about a month left, so hopefully this happens!

REVIEW: Iron Alchemy of the Gods: Feed Your Body With the Strength and Wisdom of Valhalla (2015)

A book by RC Fordham

BY FORGING A WILL AND BODY OF IRON WE MOLD OURSELVES
LIKE THE GODS WHO REIGN UP HIGH. THERE ODIN WILL GREET US AT THE GATES AS WORTHY OF HIS HALLS.

– RC Fordham yelling for some reason on the Amazon page

I mentioned in my last article, that I had purchased Kindle Unlimited and started using my Kindle as my primary reading set-up before I go to bed every night. Generally, this has been a good thing with some nice, quick, yet informative reads, however not all books can be winners! I have recently started a bit of light weight training for physical fitness and due to health reasons – I saw RC Fordham (who has a series of books in Kindle Unlimited’s Library) had a book on physical fitness with a pagan tinge to it, and figured – “why not?”

Somewhere in the world there are men training. They are training to kill you. They are training to be better than you. To over take you when the get they chance. They have not fallen for the lie that weakness is some kind of virtue to be admired.

Now the question stands… Are you prepared?

Preparation begins by becoming strong. The stronger you are the harder you are to kill. As we train to become the elite warriors of our gods, we are transforming ourselves into a living and breathing rune of strength. Our rune is Uruz. Our mission is to become it with no apologies or excuses.

– excerpt from Amazon sales page

Sadly, Iron Alchemy of the Gods: Feed Your Body With the Strength and Wisdom of Valhalla (2015) is not something I can recommend to pagans or even weightlifters for that matter. As you cans see above, the entire philosophical side of the book is presented in this weird alarmist manner that seems to be wanting you to be on edge and start furiously exercising as to not displease Odin by being too weak for Ragnarok. The majority of this section is basically trying to make the reader hate weakness, weak people, and left-leaning politics whilst striving to become a killing machine devoting the whole process to the Aesir. It’s honestly a bit much, and is not supported in any lore that I’ve read. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting, since we don’t really see anything like a Nordic weightlifting manual from 1000 AD anywhere, but it wasn’t this for sure.

This book, confusingly, also veers pretty heavily into this unnecessary anti-modern society viewpoint that I don’t wholly disagree with, but the way it’s presented is very much stilted in what I presume to be Mr. Fordham’s one-sided political beliefs, something I do not care about whatsoever.

I will not say that there was nothing in this book of worth, as I found the section on meditation very interesting and actually plan to use something from this book in my daily workout routine. Fordham basically outlines the importance of being strong in both mind and body and suggests meditation to help hone one’s skills. I won’t give away the entire thing on here, but he suggests envisioning the Rune Uruz, widely attributed to be the rune symbolizing “strength” before your workout to try to embody every virtue of the rune. This of course, has no basis in any historical practice in any way, but for most people that use rune magic, this is an interesting idea.

The rest of the book is basically a list of recommended exercises one can do at the gym with pictures to ensure proper form – I would say this amounts to about 60% of the content.

All-in-all reading this book was an interesting experience – Like stated before I was not a fan of the contents, but it is not all bad. The meditation ideas are very good, and something that I plan to try for myself. I have read a few more of Mr. Fordham’s books since starting this read-a-thon and most of them are better than this one.

If you would like a copy of this book for yourself, follow this LINK

Review: Pagan Portals – Odin: Meeting the Norse Allfather (2018)

I have recently starting using a Kindle quite a bit for my daily reading, mostly because I tend to read before I go to bed, and wrangling a book light in such a way as to not wake my girlfriend up is pretty annoying. In my quest to read up on practical applications for Norse Paganism, I stumbled on a series of books called Pagan Portals by the publisher Moon Books. They are quite good for this light nighttime reading. They are quick 100+ page reads that most readers would be able to finish in 1-2 sittings, and aren’t very technical, so you don’t have to stress about details. The first book I checked out, Odin: Meeting the Norse Allfather by Morgan Daimler, is one of the better ones so far mostly because I’m more into Norse Paganism, and the publisher’s usual output is largely Celtic thematically.

“Known by many names and with a wide array of characteristics Odin is a God who many people believe is just as active in the world today as he was a thousand years ago and more. A god of poetry he inspires us to create. A god of magic he teaches us to find our own power. A god of wisdom he challenges us to learn all we can. In this book you will find some of Odin’s stories and history as well as anecdotes of what it can be like to honor him in the modern world. “

Amazon sales page for the book

Daimler goes into this book with two purposes, to give everyone an introduction to the Norse god Odin, and to share her autobiographical information on how she was drawn to him, and how you to could meet him for yourself. This is by no means a structured guide on how devoted Norse pagans, Asatru or Vanatru practitioners would worship Odin – this is more suited for those that dabble in eclectic paganism, or perhaps Witches or Wiccans that borrow from many pantheons. Daimler comes from a background of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, so her insights on Odin are that of someone who had no idea tat they were being drawn to a god from an unfamiliar pantheon, and how she dealt with it.

The Author, Morgan Daimler

The information on Odin here is nothing too detailed, and is similar in many ways to other books on the Norse pantheon I’ve read, but since this book is an introductory piece that is not perhaps aimed at those that may be advanced on their understanding of Norse lore, it serves it purpose. There are some of the basic details, as well as chapters about some of Odin’s misadventures and philosophy as seen in the Eddas of Hávamál.

Perhaps the best parts of the book involve Daimler’s personal work on Odin, as she imparts her path to contacting and forging a relationship with the Allfather, as well as examples of ways to go through a guided meditation to do so. There are passages on the sort of offerings one should make to Odin, and Poetry she has written to / about him. She does touch on some of the downfalls of pledging one’s self to Odin, such as the idea that one that does so could be perhaps on the path to living a shortened life. She gives examples of how her friends tried to talk her out of a Valknut tattoo she got placed over her heart as it can be seen as a “target for a spear”.

All-in-all, this book definitely serves it’s purpose as an introduction to Odin, and how one could bring his wisdom into your own life. If you are looking for a more detailed book on him, such as historical details and his appearance in many, if not all of the Teutonic religions, this is not really the right book. I’m not going to pretend this is some sort of literary classic, by any means, nor am I pretending that this book was not largely information I already knew, but if you are new to Norse Paganism, and need a general overview of everyone’s favorite wanderer god – check this out!

To get your own copy of this book, please follow this LINK, it is available in print form and Kindle for under 10 dollars.

The company behind the book, Moon Books can also be visited HERE.