The Poetic Edda
The usefulness of this should be obvious. This is one of our best sources for the myths of the Norse. I would consider this important reading regardless of the variety of heathenry you practice.
Henry Adams Bellows Translation Free Online
Henry Adams Bellows Translation Volume I
Henry Adams Bellows Translation Volume II
The Prose Edda
The Prose Edda often gets a lot of hate by heathens and I believe that this hate is unwarranted. The Prose Edda is like cliff-notes to stories from Norse Myths that have since been lost. Some of the stories overlap with the Poetic Edda but often they do not and so there is plenty of unique material. It is Christianized, but that bias is easy to detect and does nothing to negate the importance of the text. Because it is what we have, we should use it.
Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur Translation Free Online
Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur Translation
Jesse Byock Translation
I am a huge Beowulf fan. Not only is it interesting, but it also can give us insight into the culture of the people for whom it was written. Unfortunately it is not a story filled with gods, but it is a story filled with heroes and monsters and with social interactions. Read this for a glimpse at the world these people lived in and how they believed one should operate in that world.
Lesslie Hall Translation Free Online
Seamus Heaney (Bilingual in OE and Modern English)
Gesta Danorum by Saxo Grammaticus
Contrary to popular belief, the Eddas are not the only source for myths relating to the gods. Gesta Danorum has plenty of material in it that is mythological in nature. This has some earlier versions of some myths that would later appear in the Eddas and the differences might surprise you. It becomes useful as a counterpoint then so that we can see what might be at the root of these myths instead of taking just one account at its word.
Oliver Elton Translation Free Online
Peter Fisher Translation
This predates the rest of it and gives a glimpse of Germanic belief during the Roman Empire. There is plenty here worth reading and as long as you understand the audience you can read through the Roman bias. There is mythological and cultural relevance to this work.
The Oxford Translation Free Online
Harold Mattingly Translation
This is not Germanic but is instead Finnish. It is exceptionally late and came about for Nationalistic reasons. It is therefore in many ways somewhat similar to the work of Jacob Grimm, a nationalist historian who worked with Germanic folklore and myth. This said, it is well worth a read because many of the same mythological themes are present here as in other epic tales. The geographic proximity to the Norse and other Germanic peoples makes it also of interest.
John Martin Crawford Translation Free Online
Keith Bosley Translation
Ibn Fadlan’s Journey to Russia: A Tenth-Century Traveler from Baghad to the Volga River
So this is a Muslim’s view of Pagans in what would essentially be the region around Russia. The account has a lot of bias but if you can read through it there are some nuggets that can give insight into the culture.
Paul Lunde Translation (with other works from the area)
Richard N. Frye Translation
Iliad by Homer
You might be thinking, “but this is Greek”, and you would be right. But here is the thing, the Greeks had a religion that was descended from a common root and their gods and how they behaved and acted and their wants and needs and thoughts can give us a lot of insight into the nature of the gods. Essentially you do not read this for understanding a particular god or goddess, but because it gives insight into gods in general.
Samuel Butler Translation Free online (This version is prose but others are available at the top if desired)
Stanley Lombardo Translation
Odyssey by Homer
You may again be thinking, “but this is Greek”, and you would again be right. But this particular story also has interactions between the gods and men and that understanding of how the gods act with and towards men is a very important thing to understand. We can also gather a better understanding of the nature of what a god can and cannot do and where they can and cannot be and how one should address a god.
Samuel Butler Translation Free online
Stanley Lombardo Translation
Aeneid by Virgil
By now you may be thinking, “he’s lost his mind, that is Latin fan-fiction” and it is indeed Latin fan-fiction. But it also similarly gives insight into the relations between gods and men in general. When it comes to polytheistic literature, beggars cannot be choosers.
John Dryden Translation Free Online
Stanley Lombardo Translation
The Book of Leviticus
You may be thinking, “Alright, hold up now, what the hell do you think you’re playing at!”, but bear with me. The book of Leviticus is often overlooked by Christians because it contradicts their world view and it is often neglected by Jews because they cannot fulfill the requirements in the book due to the Roman destruction of their holy Temple. However, this book is the single best and most concise way to read and understand the concept of do ut des and the gifting cycle. You offer to God and God blesses you in return and you enter into a relationship with him on the basis of these offerings. That is a concept that would have been very familiar across the whole ancient world and this book provides that. Get over your anti-Christian bias for a minute and actually read it, you’ll be surprised how “pagan” the relationship is that is described there.
Read it in whatever version you want here Free Online
Or just go and buy one cheap from Goodwill or steal one out of a hotel room like everyone else.
The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England by Stephen Pollington
This is likely the best overall book for understanding Anglo-Saxon Paganism in general. It is not a how-to guide but if you want the most amount of information in a single book all in a way that is academic but still understandable then it is this book.
Rudiments of Runelore by Stephen Pollington
A very short academic book that provides translations for the rune poems we have access to.
Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing by Stephen Pollington
This is a more concise and far more accessible translation of the leechbooks than the more complete and incredibly inaccessible multi-volume tome by Cockayne. If you’re into herblore or magic then this book will be of interest to you. The Leechbooks were a series of texts written around the time of conversion that preserve the medico-magical methods of the Anglo-Saxons.
The Mead Hall: The feasting tradition in Anglo-Saxon England by Stephen Pollington
This is exactly what it sounds like. The book is more cultural and less about the gods but if you are interested in the cultural aspects of the Anglo-Saxons and indeed in background to help understand Beowulf then this is a book that would be good for you to have.
Looking for the Lost Gods of England by Kathleen Herbert
This book is more of a pamphlet than anything else. It focuses on the gods and what evidence we might have for them in the Anglo-Saxon context. There is some valuable work here with place-names. Do not expect a book though, it is tiny; instead take it for what it is, a short look at Anglo-Saxon evidence for the gods.
The Well and the Tree: World and Time in Early Germanic Culture by Paul C. Bauschatz
This one is way out of print but can be found online in PDF form such as from the link below. This is unfortunate because it is an excellent look at pagan world view regarding the universe and especially time. It should be considered pretty foundational for someone trying to understand or improve their world view.
The Road to Hel: A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature by Hilda Roderick Ellis (Davidson)
H.R. Ellis Davidson (she wrote this before the Davidson was added to her name so typically it is left off if you are searching for it) was researching this subject in a time that it was somewhat taboo to research and indeed when many believed there would be no new understandings to be had in the subject. This is one of those works that has the ability to rewrite your understanding of the subject. It is about the pagan conception of death and it should be something to put on your read list.
Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by H.R. Ellis Davidson
This book is really good for understanding some of the greater themes across Northern Europe in regards to pagan thought and belief. It takes a look at various subjects but is worth looking at for broadening your views of the area and the myths.
The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion by Mircea Eliade
This book is useful for taking a look at the idea of sacred and profane and how the concepts create and underpin religion in general. It is a good book for its more overarching themes that are present in pagan religions.
The Tradition of Household Spirits: Ancestral Lore and Practices by Claude Lecouteux
You want to know about house-wights and cofgodas and all things home-related? This is your book. I cannot recommend it highly enough for someone wanting to further their understanding of domestic spirits.
The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind by Claude Lecouteux
This book makes a wonderful partner book when read after The Road to Hel. This is the more practical of the two and is focused on the cultural beliefs and practices more directly.
Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic by Claude Lecouteux
An encyclopedia, you can search for words inside of it or just read it outright if that’s what you’re into. I am not entirely sure of the overall value of encyclopedias in a post-google world but this one is still just useful enough to make this list.
Demons and Spirits of the Land: Ancestral Lore and Practices by Claude Lecouteux
You want to know about land-wights and land sprits and all things outside but still spirit-related? This is your book. I cannot recommend it highly enough for someone wanting to further their understanding of land wights and lore surrounding them.
The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia by Neil Price
I just ordered this book but it has been recommended very highly to me. It is supposedly THE go-to academic book on Norse magic.
A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism by John Michael Greer
This is a book of polytheistic philosophy which asks many questions and attempts to be stepping stone towards the answers of how we take a doctrine as loose as polytheism into the future as modern pagans.