Free Spirit Asatru Blot Workshop

Revision: 6 June 1997 at 1300.

Purpose of the workshop

  1. What are the basic rites of asatru?
  2. How do they fit into our practice of the religion?
  3. What is essential and what is elaboration?

General Introduction

Waes thu hal. Thank you all for coming to our Asatru 101 workshop, my name is Joe Mandato, and this is Manny Olds

*Manny bows, and does a little dance*.

Let me very briefly tell you a little something about myself - this is my second FreeSpirit, I've been pagan for a couple of years, and came to Asatru by way of Wicca about a year ago.

*Manny can take time here for a brief introduction*

We will be focusing mainly on Asatru rituals during this workshop, but we hope to give an adequate introduction to Asatru as a whole, as it is necessary foundation to lay before one can understand how we worship. Throughout the workshop, we will pause frequently and ask if there are any questions, so please keep them in mind, and feel free to ask us for clarifications, examples, or anything else that comes to mind (pass out pads/pencils).

There are a couple more Asatruar here *introduce them*, and during our break, they'd be happy to handle any questions as well *make sure we ask them if its okay*.

I. Introduction.

A. We are polytheists.

1. Types of theology

How many people have read Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon? In it she very concisely and accurately defines a number of different kinds of theologies, and I'd like to share these with you (with the addition of a couple visual aids). *go through all the pictures, and hopefully get a couple of laughs*

Margot Adler, in Drawing Down the Moon, identifies 5 basic theologies and one important hybrid.

Atheism: Belief that there is no god
Pantheism: View that deity is inseparable from nature and that deity is immanent in nature.
Polytheism: Belief that there are many gods
Pantheist-Polytheist (aka Panentheism): Belief that all nature is divinity, which manifests itself in myriad forms.
Monotheism: Belief that there is exactly one god
Henotheism: Worship of one god, without excluding the existence of others

2. Here we stand

Four Bedposts of Asatru by Dirk Mahling of Medoburg Kindred
  1. Asatru is the dedication to (and only to) the Aesir and Vanir: Wotan, Donar, Woldur, FroIng, and friends. These gods are not a jealous lot, but Ganesh is by no stretch of imagination an Aesir. The nature of these gods (entity, archetype, etc.) is an ongoing discussion.
  2. Asatru is the blot and sumbel on the greatest holydays (Yul, Ostara, Midsummer) to honor the Aesir and Vanir, heroes and ancestors. Other holidays exist (Walpurgis, Lammas, Harvest, Einherjar).
  3. Asatru is the daily life of courage based on the thews of our ancestors - ie, to take responsibility for our own deeds, to act true and honest, to be self-reliant and step in for freedom. Such a life creates good orlog. Asatru is DOING - not thinking and talking.
  4. Asatru is a revitalized religion. A synthesis of literary/mythological sources of all germanic folk (and the mix-ins from their germanicized neighbors), contributions from scientific research (linguistics, history, anthropology, archeology, etc.) and deep personal insights. Asatru is a house with 4 rooms (scandic, gothic, anglo-saxon and southern). Regardless of our room, the street-address must be right.
In addition we have quite a bit of gravy: runes, seidh, galdor, spae, lower mythology, holy steads, utisetta, tradition, family, tools, symbols, music, art, education, etc.

Yet if you can't accept the four main points, you will be having trouble with Asatru.

How we worship

Asatruar are polytheists *show visual aid again*, and we worship the Aesir and Vanir exclusively *possibly hold up additional visual aid with smiley faces holding hammers, wearing eye patches and wearing viking helmets*. This is not to say that we deny the existance of other deities (be it Artemis, Buddha or Christ), only that the Aesir are *ours*. Asafolk can attend other religious rituals, such as a friend's full moon circle, or your sister's Christian marriage ceremony, but as a general rule, we cannot practice these rites regularly, or lead them. One can not be Asatruar and Wiccan at the same time, which is certainly not to say that one can't worship the Aesir and be Wiccan at the same time.

Asatruar tend to organize into Kindreds, which are similar to covens, except that there is no heirarchy in the group structure, or the religion itself. Of course, neither Manny nor I are in a Kindred, but we do visit nearby kindreds for monthly rituals, although a group is not required for observances. The only restrictions for joining a kindred is that you're Asatru and the people in the kindred actually like you, and you like them.

Finally, despite the fact that we worship Germanic deities, the notion that one must be Germanic to be Asatru is absolutely ridiculous. I'm 100% Italian, for example, Janna is Portuguese, and last time I checked, the Aesir were okay by this (and believe us, we know when they're pissed). Similarly, Asatru does not discriminate by gender - as you can see by our representation here - nor by sexuality. Okay, that out of the way...

Our gods

Asatruar view our gods as individuals and as colleagues. We don't consider them to be merely different faces of the God or Goddess, and we neither fear them nor are particularly humbled by them. They are like us, they have faults, passions and personalities, and they can die. Our deities don't have job descriptions, you won't hear Manny, for example, refer to Thor as the Norse God of Thunder, and I won't refer to Skadhi as the Norse Goddess of Hunting.

Many Asatruar feel close to one particular deity, perhaps referring to him or her as a patron or patroness. An Asatruar will often appeal to this deity for help regardless of situation. For example, if I were to break a bone this weekend, I might appeal to Skadhi for help before Eir (who according to our lore is knowledgable in the healing arts), because I have a closer relationship with Skadhi. I might later raise a horn to Eir, but my natural reaction would be to go to the deity that I am most comfortable with, regardless of the situation, rather than trying to find a deity who has better job qualifications. Kind of like staying home with mom and her chicken soup when you're sick rather than going to a doctor.

(Segue to part B) However, Asaturar do honor all of the Aesir, regardless of who our patron might be, in our rituals and in our daily lives. We (as a community and as individuals) have a kind of contract with the gods, like in a fast friendship, and one of the ways we hold up our end of the friendship is through ritual...

Take it away Manny:

B. "Rites" of modern asatru

Asatru is based on a documented religion of the past and we begin our reconstruction with the existing lore. From the lore, we know of two important rites--blot and sumbel--and one minor rite that has become popular in modern times.

"Blot" comes from Old Norse. It meant a blessing or sacrifice. It was a verb, also; "to blot" meant to make an offering. "Sumbel" is found in English and Old Norse; the phrase "sit in sumbel" was common. It referred to ritualized drinking as part of a feast. So, our blot and sumbel are more-or-less based on these.

1. Hammer Rite

The hammer rite is on shaky historical ground. We do know that Thor was considered the "hallower", that his hammer was used as a symbol of faith in response to the Christian cross, and that Thor's hammer is brought in "to hallow the bride" in Thrymskvidha.

The modern form of the hammer rite as usually practiced, though, is apparently an adaptation from Ceremonial Magick, possibly by way of Wicca. It's very popular in modern Asatru, and most rituals begin with it. The hammer represents different things to different people:

2. Sumbel: links man to community

There's a lot of information about sumbel in both Old English and Norse sources. A modern change is that sumbels aren't necessarily part of a feast, partly because we can rarely hold feasts of the length and scale that people did in the past. And formal sumbels are much less common now than historically because our culture is less comfortable with spoken lore and with boasting.

A. Purpose of sumbel
B. Rounds of toasts

Each participant, in turn,

  1. Gives a toast, boast, tale, oath, poem, song, ... over the horn.
  2. Takes a drink.
C. Typical structured Sumbel
  1. Introduction by host.
  2. Round 1: The Aesir & Vanir
  3. Round 2: Heroes of the folk
  4. Round 3: Personal ancestors and heroes
  5. Rounds 4 ?: Whatever you like
Don't drink and drive. Come to our sumbel tonight.

3. Blot: links man to Aesir & Vanir

Blots are mentioned frequently in the sagas, though few give details of how the sacrifices were done. An exception is Eyrbyggja Saga, which describes a blot in some detail. Though the authenticity and antiquity of the passage are debated, it's the best source we've got, and the form of modern blots derives from it (though local variations are common). The purpose of the blot:

II. Fro Ing & the Alvar

The purpose of the blot is to communicate with the gods or a god, to review and renew the contract we have with them. How do you know which god to call? The answer is a resounding "It depends".

A. The gods

Suppose you are going to take a trip. Most Neo-Pagans would ask, "Who is the God of Travel?". Asatruar will ask which god you have a contract with, which god you get along with, where you are going, and what the purpose of the trip is. A trip to trade, battle for land, or to satisfy wanderlust all would pique the interest of different gods.

And the terms of your own particular "contract" with a particular god must be considered first of all.

Today, we plan to honor the Fruitful One, Freyr, because his interests resonate with our lovely outdoors setting. And it gives us a chance to mention the Asatru view of the afterlife.

B. Freyr

1. His character and role

Frey is the bravest and the best among the Aesir; he grieves no maiden and no man's wife; he frees who he finds in fetters.
He determines the fruitfulness of the earth and he is good to invoke for peace and plenty. He also brings about the prosperity of men.

2. Names and Kennings

Frey is known as Fro Ing, God of the World, Ingvi-Freyr, Frodhi (the Fruitful), Beli's Foe, Njördhr's Son, Husband of Gerdhr, Most Famed of Gods, Up-Rider, Blessing-God of the Swedes, Protector of the Ases, Ruler of the Armies of the Gods, Harvest God, Wealth-God, Lord of the Alvar, and Mound-God.

3. Summary of Associations

Frey lives in Elf-home and is the lord of the elves and dwarves. He owns the marvelous ship Skidhbladhnir, which always has a wind, which can hold all the gods and their gear, and which can be folded up and carried in a pouch. He drives a chariot pulled by the golden boar known as Golden Bristle or as Cutting Tusks. Frey's two servants are called Bee and Barley and are generally taken to be the personification of brewed beverages, which represent the fruits of the land.

Once he rode to battle on the horse Bloody Hoofs with a magical sword of great power that could fight by itself, but he had to give them up to win his wife Gerd. Now he fights with an antler and rides his boar. This will cost him his life on Vigridh (at Ragnarok), where he will fight Surt, the most powerful of the fire-giants, and be killed.

Frey is associated with fruitful peace & defense, protection in battle, good seasons & agriculture, the wild places, family wealth & family lands, burial mounds & the dead. And, of course, fertility.

His cult was known for the sacrifice of boars, stallions, horned cattle, and stags. He had dedicated to him stallions and herds of horses that no man might ride and holy fields in which no blood might be shed. Some followers used a preserved horse phallus as an emblem of Frey. His priests did not carry or use weapons (radical in context). Other than that, we don't know too much about them--the Christians were particularly offended by the "effeminate gestures", the "unmanly clatter of bells", and the "clapping of mimes upon the stage".

Frey can also be associated with apples and nuts, which are basic symbols of fruitfulness and fertility in northern culture.

C. Alvar

We know that Frey is lord of the Alfar, but who exactly are the Alfar? Well, this is a bit tricky, as our ancestors had many different classifications for supernatural beings such as the Alfar. There is the suggestion that the elves will fight alongside the Vanir against the giants at Ragnarok. Whatever their purpose, however, it is clear that these beings are intimately associated with nature and particular places. (They should not be confused with the Landvaettir, which are spirits which are part of a particular place - it is the difference between living on a mountain and being a mountain.)

The light elves live in Alfheim with Freyr and have very little to do with people at all. Some people now associate them with living things in the wild lands.

The dark elves live under the ground, particularly in and near burials. It is said that when some people die, they "go to dwell in the mound", becoming dark elves. Dark elves who were once human are usually associated with the well-being and preservation of family land and wealth.

The dwarf is another kind of elf (also called black elf). This magical and craft oriented race was responsible for the creation of Frey's boar and ship, as well as Thor's hammer Mjolnir, Odin's spear Gungnir, Freya's necklace Brisingamen and countless other treasures of the gods. It is rare for a person to become a dwarf after death, as far as we know.

Countless folktales suggest that both elves and landvaettir aren't terribly concerned with the lives of humans, unless they are interfered with or called upon.

Another classification of spirit is known as the Disir. They are associated with Freya (known as the Vanadis), and are all female. A family's Disir were traditionally honored on Winternights, and these beings are almost certainly linked to a family bloodline, unlike the Alvar, which were more associated with place.

III. The Blot in Detail

A. Basic Blot

This is really IT.

Done daily, at need. Ad hoc.

Dedicate some food and/or drink to the As or Wan du jour.

Have some; share it with the As or Wan du jour (e.g. libate).

B. Typical Communal Blot

Embellished to make into a public ceremony.

1. Mark the beginning.

Role of the gothi.

a. Activity
b. Purpose

2. Hallow the space.

a. Activity
b. Purpose

3. Set the stage.

a. Activity
b. Purpose

4. Invitation

a. Activity
b. Purpose

5. Share drink.

Role of the Valkyrie.

a. Activity
b. Purpose
c. Important and common variations:

6. Give the gift to the gods.

a. Activity
b. Purpose

7. Mark the closing.

a. Activity
b. Purpose

8. Feast.

(Pot luck, take turns)

IV. Develop a blot.

A. Assign segments to small groups. They choose a spokesman to carry it out.

1. Mark the beginning.

2. Hallow the space.

3. Set the stage.

4. Invitation

5. Share drink.

6. Give the gift to the gods.

7. Mark the closing.

8. Feast.

B. Break for groups to compose their part & for individuals to compose toasts (using Frey handout)

C. Review the plan.

V. Carry out the blot.

A. Blot etiquette

B. Do the blot.

To the Land of Confusion

Last Modified 6 June 1997.
Comments to Manny Olds,