RAVENBOK: THE RAVEN KINDRED RITUAL BOOK
BY LEWIS STEAD & THE RAVEN KINDRED
Copyright (c) 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 by Lewis Stead. All rights
reserved. Permission granted for free electronic distribution provided
of this work in (and only in) its entirety. Hardcopy editions are
available for $8 from Asatru Today; 11160 Veirs Mill Rd L15-175;
Wheaton MD 20902.
FORWARD: THE HISTORY OF RAVENBOK
When I first became involved with Asatru, there was little available
in the popular press on the subject of our faith, so I began to write
an essay here and a pamphlet there on various topics of interest to
Norse Pagans. At various times I entertained the notion of fleshing
out these various pieces into a book and submitting it to a publisher.
Eventually good quality books became available on Asatru, such as
kveldulfr Gundarsson's TEUTONIC RELIGION, and I decided to take a
different route. While commercial books were available, the best
contender was trapped in a publishers pipeline for almost 2 years, and
there was a clear need for information to be made available quickly,
and more importantly to people who didn't want to spend money to find
out a bit about the Norse tradition. I compiled everything together
in the Spring of 1993, and released the book to the public free of
charge through various computer networks such as America Oline,
CompuServe, and the Internet
So far, hundreds of people have downloaded (and presumably read)
Ravenbok from various computer networks. This new medium has allowed
us to reach people with an unprecedented speed and ease. It also
allows frequent updating, since there is no cost to produce or obtain
the most recent verison. I have been very gratified by the comments
I've received, and would encourage other would-be authors to think
twice about whether we need yet another $9.95 production from Mooncash
books or whether our community would be better served by free
information. I've always been most interested in getting the
informatino out to people. If there's already something in
bookstores, why not get it out to a new audience? After all, religion
is about sharing the faith of the Gods, not making money.
Ravenbok is a continuing project, andthis third edition is new and
expanded. It is the first one to carry the name Ravenbok, which comes
from the original computer name of RAVENBOOK.ZIP. It first saw
physical print in the summer of 1993.
Finally a quick word about intellectual property rights. While it has
been released free of charge, Ravenbok remains copyrighted by me. It
may only be distributed electronically, FREE OF CHARGE, IN ITS
ENTIRETY, with nothing added or removed. Print copies are available
at the address above, and Ravenbok may not be distributed in hardcopy
form either free or for charge. The appendixes are pamphlets my
kindred distributes, and are meant to be distributed. eel free to
copy them, and add your own kindred's name and address (please leave
ours too!) and hand them out.
Finally, my thanks to my kinsmen for providing me with support, ideas,
and contributions to this work. While I have done the bulk of the
writing, this book represents the ideas and concepts of The Raven
Kindred as much as they do my own.
Lewis Stead (email@example.com) June 1994, Wheaton, MD
Less than a thousand years ago the elders of Iceland made a fateful
decision. Under political pressure from Christian Europe and faced
with the need for trade, the Allthing or national assembly declared
Iceland to be an officially Christian country. Within a few centuries
the last remnants of Nordic Paganism, which once stretched through all
of Northern Europe were thought dead. However, Iceland was a tolerant
country and the myths, stories, and legends of Pagan times were left
unburnt to kindle the fires of belief in later generations. In 1972,
after a long campaign by poet and Gothi Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson,
Iceland once again recognized Nordic Paganism as a legitimate and
Iceland and Sweden were the last two bastions of the Pagan religion
originally practiced by the people of the various Germanic tribes.
Today Nordic Paganism also known as Odinism, Heathenism, Northern
Tradition, or Asatru (an Old-Norse term meaning "loyalty to the Gods")
is practiced in virtually all the countries where it originally
flourished as well as America and Australia. It is one of a body of
religions calling themselves Neo-Paganism which include Druidism, the
revival of ancient Celtic Paganism, and Wicca or Neo-Pagan Witchcraft.
However Asatru remains largely unknown even within the community of
This book is intended as a basic introduction to the beliefs and
practices of the Raven Kindred of Asatru. We do not pretend to be
experts and won't act as if we were. Rather we are simply believers
in the Old Gods seeking to share our practice and research with others
who are true to the Aesir. Our aim is to present a simple guide which
will allow easy understanding of the principles behind Asatru and to
give hints for further study and exploration.
While we attempt to be historically accurate to our religion's roots,
it's important to note that there are many things that we simply don't
know or which aren't written in stone. It is very important to us to
stay as true to the ways of the old Pagans as is possible. While we
occasionally need to flesh out our systems where we don't have direct
evidence of our ancestors ways, we are not likely to simply make up
things. In those places where the various myths, legends, and
folklore are not clear, we have tried to indicate this.
The most important thing for modern people to remember about Asatru is
that it is a religion. It is not a system of magick or spirituality
or "New Age Practice" which can be grafted onto something else or onto
which other "systems" can be grafted wholesale. Asatru is a word
derived from "As" a God of the Aesir family and "tru" meaning troth.
To be Asatru is to be bound by loyalty and troth to the Old Gods of
the North. While we may believe in the deities of other religions and
peoples, and even respect them, these are not our Gods. While we may
take part in rituals dedicated to other Gods at Pagan festivals or
ecumenical gatherings which encompass many other religions, we must
not forget that Asatru is our religion and our primary concern. One
simply does not collect membership in Asatru (or any other religion)
as if one were collecting stamps. Our Gods are real and worthy of our
respect. For modern Asatruar, troth also means being loyal to the
ways in which our religion was practiced in the past; thus we are not
eclectic and tend to focus on learning about our ancestors ways of
worshipping. We do not present our way as the only "true" Asatru, but
we do feel that all Asatru should be solidly connected to its roots in
ancient Norse practice. Where we do not know the certain answer to a
question, there is room for exploration, but not for simply making
something up out of whole cloth. While inspiration from the Gods is
an important part of our movement, this is not "make believe" and any
additions to the historical system should be made with respect to our
Today many people "practice" a number of different religions feeling
that this is the best way to avoid intolerance, we have a completely
different view of the world. Asatru is not a universal religion. We
do not see ourselves as a path for everyone. We are true polytheists
and see the world as encompassing many religions which worship many
Gods. While we do not deny the beliefs of others, we also do not
confuse them with our own. The idea that "it is all one" is anathema
to the true Heathen. To claim that Odin is the same God as Zeus is
madness. Would one claim that green and red are the same merely
because they are both colors? If one disagrees with this perspective
or finds it limiting so be it. Our belief is also that Asatru is not
a path for everyone and it is better to find ones own way rather than
bend the religions of others to fit ourselves.
In accordance with this non-universalist conception, as much as we
have been able to, we have not adopted the practices of other Pagan
religions or magickal systems. Those familiar with Wicca will note
that most modern Neo-Pagan systems are derived from it. This is not
the case with Asatru. Our religion began with reconstruction based on
written sources dating from the ancient Pagan period. This has been
followed by over 20 years of innovation and practice within the
Heathen community. While we make no pretensions that this has
resulted in a system that is identical with that of our spiritual
ancestors, it is at least a system that is our own.
In saying this I would reiterate that we do not put down any religion
for it's beliefs. We merely ask for the integrity of our own. We are
not rejecting other systems because they are wrong or because we think
ill of them, we are rather choosing Asatru because of our love and
devotion to it.
THE RITUALS OF ASATRU
The Blot is the most common ritual within Asatru. In its simplest
form a blot is making a sacrifice to the Gods. In the old days this
was done by feasting on an animal consecrated to the Gods and then
slaughtered. As we are no longer farmers and our needs are simpler
today, the most common blot is an offering of mead or other alcoholic
beverage to the deities.
Many modern folk will be suspicious of a ritual such as this. Rituals
which are deemed "sacrifices," such as the blot, have a certain lurid
connotation and have been falsely re-interpreted by post-Pagan sources
in order to denigrate or trivialize them. The most common myth about
ritual sacrifice is that one is buying off a deity e.g. one throws a
virgin into the Volcano so it won't erupt. Nothing could be further
from the truth. The other common misunderstanding of sacrifice is
that the gain some type of energy from the action of killing or the
fear or suffering of the animal. This is also untrue, in actuality,
if you do any kind of slaughtering--ritual or mundane--correctly there
is neither. Our ancient spiritual forebears were slaughtering animals
because they were farmers, and sacrifice was simply a sacred manner of
doing so and sharing the bounty with the Gods.
The Norse conception of our relationship to the Gods is important in
understanding the nature of sacrifice. In Asatru it is believed that
we are not only the worshippers of the Gods but that we are
spiritually and even physically related to them. The Eddas tell of a
God, Rig (identified with Heimdall), who went to various farmsteads
and fathered the human race so we are physically kin to the Gods. On
a more esoteric level, humankind is gifted with "ond" or the gift of
ecstasy. Ond is a force that is of the Gods. It is everything that
makes humans different from the other creatures of the world. As
creatures with this gift, we are immediately connected to the Gods. We
are part of their tribe, their kin. Thus we are not simply buying off
the Gods by offering them something that they want, but we are sharing
with the Gods something that we all take joy in.
Sharing and gift giving was an important part of most ancient cultures
and had magical significance. Leadership was seen as a contract
between a Lord and follower. It is said, "A gift demands a gift." A
good leader among the Norse was known as a "Ring giver," and it was
understood that his generosity and the support of his war-band were
linked and part of a complementary relationship. Giving a gift was a
sign of friendship, kinship, and connection. Among the runes, gebo G
encompasses the mystery of the blot. In English, the rune is named
"gift," and the two lines intersecting are representative of the two
sides of a relationship both giving to each other. By sharing a blot
with the Gods we reaffirm our connection to them and thus reawaken
their powers within us and their watchfulness over our world.
A blot can be a simple affair where a horn of mead is consecrated to
the Gods and then poured as a libation, or it can be a part of a
larger ritual. A good comparison is the Catholic Mass which may be
part of a regular service or special event such as a wedding or
funeral, or it may be done as a purely magical-religious practice
without any sermon, hymns, or other trappings.
The blot consists of three parts, the hallowing or consecrating of the
offering, the sharing of the offering, and the libation. Each of
these is equally important. The only physical objects required are
mead, beer or juice; a horn or chalice; a sprig of evergreen used to
sprinkle the mead; and a ceremonial bowl, known as a Hlautbowl, into
which the initial libation will be made.
The blot begins with the consecration of the offering. The Gothi
(Priest) or Gythia (Priestess) officiating at the blot invokes the God
or Goddess being honored. This is usually accomplished by a spoken
declaration with ones arms being held above ones head in the shape of
the rune Elhaz Z. (This posture is used for most invocations and
prayers throughout Asatru.) After the spoken invocation an appropriate
rune or other symbol of the God or Goddess may be drawn in the air
with the finger or with the staff. Once the God is invoked, the Gothi
takes up the horn. His assistant pours mead from the bottle into the
horn. The Gothi then traces the hammer sign (an upside down T) over
the horn as a blessing and holds it above his head offering it to the
Gods. He then speaks a request that the God or Goddess bless the
offering and accept it as a sacrifice. At the least one will feel the
presence of the deity; at best one will be able to feel in some inner
way the God taking of the mead and drinking it.
The mead is now not only blessed with divine power, but has passed the
lips of the God or Goddess. The Gothi then takes a drink of the horn
and it is passed around the gathered folk. In our modern rituals each
person toasts the deity before they drink. Although this sounds like
a very simple thing, it can be a very powerful experience. At this
point the mead is no longer simply a drink but is imbued with the
blessing and power of the God or Goddess being honored. When one
drinks, one is taking that power into oneself. After the horn has
made the rounds once, the Gothi again drinks from the horn and then
empties the remainder into the hlautbowl. The Gothi then takes up the
evergreen sprig and his assistant the Hlautbowl and the Gothi
sprinkles the mead around the circle or temple or onto the altar. If
there are a great number of the folk gathered, one may wish to drop
the drinking and merely sprinkle the various folk with the mead as a
way of sharing it. In a small group one might eliminate the sprinkling
and merely drink as the blessing.
When this is done the Hlautbowl is taken by the Gothi and poured out
onto the ground. This is done as an offering not only to the God
invoked at the blot, but it is also traditional to remember the
Nerthus, the Earth Goddess, at this time, since it is being poured
onto her ground. Many invocations mention the God, Goddess, or spirit
being sacrificed to, and then Mother Earth, as in the Sigrdrifa Prayer
"Hail to the Gods and to the Goddesses as well; Hail Earth that gives
to all men." (Sigrdrifumal 3) With this action, the blot is ended.
Obviously this is a very sparse ritual and if performed alone could be
completed in only a few minutes. This is as it should be, for blots
are often poured not because it is a time of gathering or festivity
for the folk, but because the blot must be poured in honor or petition
of a God or Goddess on their holiday or some other important occasion.
For example, a father tending his sick child might pour a blot to Eir
the Goddess of healing. Obviously he doesn't have time to waste on
the "trappings" of ritual. The intent is to make an offering to the
Goddess as quickly as possible. At some times a full celebration
might not be made of a holiday because of a persons hectic schedule,
but at the least a short blot should be made to mark the occasion.
However, in most cases a blot will at least be accompanied by a
statement of intent at the beginning and some sort of conclusion at
the end. It might also be interspersed with or done at the conclusion
of ritual theater or magic.
One important thing to note about any Asatru ritual is that ours is a
holistic religion. We do not limit our Gods or spirituality to a
certain time and place. While the sacrament of the blot is usually
poured as part of a ceremony, the feast afterwards, singing of sacred
songs, reciting of poetry, toasts at mealtime, Morris Dancing, etc are
all part of our religion. At the first Raven-Thing, our annual
festival, we began with a great feast, then we held a blot ritual
which involved a mystery play of Thor and the Frost-Giants.
Afterwards, we held a sumbel. All the gathered folk sat for the first
three rounds dedicated to the Gods, Heroes, and Ancestors, but
afterwards people came and went (politely and quietly) as they wished.
The atmosphere of the whole evening was one of ritual and celebration.
When done appropriately, there's no disconnection between the parts.
Asatru is also a very vibrant, intense, and somewhat rowdy religion.
Invocations to the Gods, particularly outside, are often shouted at
the top of ones lungs, and are punctuated by loud "Hails!" which are
echoed by the folk When someone in an Asatru ritual says "Hail!" or
hails a God ("Hail Odin!" for example) it's appropriate to repeat
after them in a similar tone and loudness.
One of the most common celebrations noted in tales of our ancestors is
the Sumbel or ritual drinking celebration. This was a more mundane
and social sort of ritual than the blot, but of no less importance.
When Beowulf came to Hrothgar, the first thing they did was to drink
at a ritual sumbel. This was a way of establishing Beowulf's identity
and what his intent was, and doing so in a sacred and traditional
The sumbel is actually quite simple. The guests are seated, usually
in some formal fashion, and the host begins the sumbel with a short
statement of greeting and intent, and by offering the first toast. The
horn is then passed around the table and each person makes their
toasts in turn. At the sumbel toasts are drunk to the Gods, as well
as to a persons ancestors or personal heroes. Rather than a toast, a
person might also offer a brag or some story, song, or poem that has
significance. The importance is that at the end of the toast, story,
or whatever, the person offering it drinks from the horn, and in doing
so "drinks in" what he spoke.
The sumbel is also an important time for the folk to get to know each
other in a more intimate way than most people are willing to share.
Modern society is at two extremes. At one end are the emotionless
beings who have been robbed of their soul by modern industrial secular
culture. On the other side are those pathetic "sensitive New-Age
guys" who spend their lives consciously attempting to stir their
emotions and who force an unnatural level of intimacy between
themselves and others. There are some levels of emotional intimacy
which are not meant to be openly shared with strangers. Doing so
reduces their meaning to the mundane. At sumbel, barriers can be
lowered in a place which is sacred to the Gods and the Folk. Thoughts
can be shared among companions and friends without embarrassment or
One format for the sumbel with a history in tradition is to drink
three rounds. The first is dedicated to the Gods, the second to great
heroes of the folk such as historical figures or heroes from the
sagas, and the third to personal ancestors, heroes, or friends which
have passed from this world.
Another theme for a sumbel is past, present, and future. This type of
sumbel is more of a magical ritual than one of celebration. The idea
is to make toasts which bring up some aspect of your past and present
situation, and a third toast or brag which represents your wishes for
the future. One might make a toast to the first Asatru ritual one
attended as the past, a second to the companions and kindred then
gathered, and for his third toast might state that he intends to be
initiated as a Gothi in the coming year. The purpose would be to link
the coming event of his initiation with the two already accomplished
events of pledging Asatru and finding a kindred -- two other important
rites of passage. In this case initiation as a Gothi then becomes
something which is linked to a chain of events that have already
occurred, rather than an isolated action which might occur. Thus
magically, this moves the person towards his goal.
A third and everpopular type of sumbel is a free-for-all where stories
are told, toasts are made, and bragging is done until all the gathered
Odinists are under the table. Perhaps this is not quite so esoteric
or purposeful as the previous ideas, but it's certainly in keeping
with the examples of our Gods and ancestors. In any case, no matter
how relaxed a sumbel has become, I have never seen one that was merely
a drinking event. Some of the most intense experiences I have had
with people have come from such "open ended" sumbels.
These are only ideas. The sumbel is a very freeform type of thing and
the framework is very simple to adapt.
The blot and sumbel make up the mainstream of our modern Asatru
tradition. This does not mean that they are the only rituals that
modern Asatru perform, but in one way or another most rituals revolve
around one or both of these "generic" ceremonies.
Profession is one of the most important ceremonies in Asatru. To
Profess one's belief in and kinship to the Gods should be an important
turning point in ones life and the beginning of a new understanding of
the self. Profession is, however, a very simple and rather short
ceremony. In our kindred we usually profess people during a regular
meeting, but either before or after the blot offering.
Profession is not an occult or initiatory ceremony. It is nothing
less than its name: one professes (declares, affirms) his wish to
become one of the Asafolk. This oath is usually taken by the
Kindred-Gothi on the oath ring or some other Holy object as follows:
The Gothi stands in front of the altar and says "Will [insert name
here] please come forward." After he or she does so "Are you here of
your own free will? Is it your intention to solemnly swear allegiance
and kinship to the Gods of Asgard, the Aesir and Vanir?" If the answer
to both these questions is in the affirmative the Gothi takes up the
oath ring (or some other holy object upon which oaths are sworn) and
holds it out to the person professing and says "Repeat after me. I
swear to ever uphold the Raven Banner of Asgard, to follow the way of
the North, to always act with honor and bravery, and to be ever true
to the Aesir and Vanir and to Asatru. By the Gods I so swear. By my
honor I so swear. On this Holy Ring I so swear. Hail the Gods." The
kindred then replies "Hail the Gods!" and the Gothi finishes "Then be
welcome to the service of Asgard and the Folk of the Asatru."
The essence of Profession is making a commitment to Asatru. It should
not be undertaken without thought and prayer. When one Professes, one
is leaving behind other faiths. If one isn't yet comfortable in doing
this, then Profession should be put off, perhaps indefinetly. It
should be reiterated here that there should be absolutely no pressure
put on people to Profess. False or coerced Professions merely cheapen
the ritual and the commitment that it represents. It should also be
said that Asatru ritual is open to anyone. You do not need to have
undergone a ritual of Profession in order to attend kindred events or
worship the Gods.
There may be other celebrations connected to a Profession, just as
other religions hold Bar Mitzvah or Confirmation parties. When
someone joins our kindred, we hold a Sumbel of nine rounds, each
dedicated to one of the values of Asatru (see below) and toast those
values to the new kinsman.
THE ASATRU VE
There are probably as many modern theories of what an ancient Norse Ve
or Hof (temple, holy place) looked like as there were ancient Norse
temples. I've heard everything (with full scholarly accompanyment)
from groves in the woods to constructed buildings which were the basis
for the later Stave Churches of Scandinavia. In general, I think the
multiplicity of descriptions throughout the history of our folk
indicates that our people were of a wide and practical mind about what
should be present in a temple and what form it should take. Our
modern practice tends to reflect this.
The first distinction we might make in our modern practice is between
altars that people have in their homes, and the setup of the rooms
that we perform group rituals in. For rituals, we tend to use any
place which is large enough to fit everyone into. We try to mask the
normal use of the room, which in the past has included such things as
covering the television set with a cloth and moving some of the more
obtrusive furniture out of the room. The one other preparatory thing
that I can't recommend highly enough indoors is to line the room with
candles and get rid of any artificial lights. The darkness isn't an
important part of the religious elements of the ritual, but it gets
rid of a lot of distractions.
The altar itself is actually a rather simple affair. We usually
commandeer a small table for this purpose. There's no specific setup
for an altar in Asatru, other than it should look pleasant and hold
all the implements you will need during the ritual.
Other than whatever sanctification rite (hammer rite) you wish to do
in order to consecrate your space, there's nothing else to be done: no
squiggly Hebrew letters inscribed on the edges of a 9' circle, no
alchemical elements or "quarter castings." The layout of the folk
during ones rituals is determined by your space--there's no magical
formula that requires a circle or any other shape. If the room is
square, arrange people in a square. We tend to form up in a
semi-circle with the altar in the front, and the Gothi and Valkyrie on
either side of the altar.
Of course, whatever else one wishes to do to decorate ones ritual
space is up to them. I know people who have decent sized statues of
the Gods. Our kindred has a kindred banner (The Raven Banner!) which
we usually hang behind the altar. Pictures of the Gods, statuary, etc
are all appropriate.
When one is outside, other considerations come into place. I would
not recommend doing ritual outside at night or in darkness, unless one
has been at the site during the day and/or one is planning on spending
the night. Getting to the site and setting up in the dark tends to
take too much time and detracts from the overall experience. I highly
recommend rituals at dusk, or if you can drag your kinsmen out of bed,
at dawn. Holding a Balder-blot, and meditating on his loss and the
temporal nature of life while watching the setting sun is a truly
incredible experience. The best places to hold rituals tend to be in
groves that are sufficiently mature for the shade to have killed off
most of the ground vegetation (traditionally the continental Germans
held their rituals in groves) or open fields where one can see the
sky. Check that the space you have selected is reasonably flat and
that if you plan on people sitting down that the ground is dry and
without poison ivy. Unless you have a firepit, I don't recommend a
fire--it's more trouble than it's worth. Forget candles and incense.
These can be useful psychological aids indoors, but outside they look
ridiculous--I'll never forget the ridiculous image of a Wiccan ritual
I attended during which a person with utter seriousness and pomp
carried a single stick of incense around the ritual site.
Most everyone I know who is a practicing Pagan of any type has some
type of space set aside in their home for occasional honoring of the
Gods. In some ways this may be a more important thing to concentrate
on than the setup of your Ve for group ritual work because the form of
your home altar takes the place of the ritual trappings found when
working with a group. The major purposes of a home altar are to
remind one of the place of the Gods in ones life, and to provide a
convenient and regular place to make occasional offerings and prayers
to the Gods.
Home altars tend to be very eclectic. In our home, we have the top of
a bookshelf set aside with an altar holding our usual ritual tools,
and a few candles. We have another friend who has no permanent
shrine, but carries a statue of Thor in a small wooden box. One side
of the box can be removed to display Thor, and under the God's seat is
a small piece of lava taken from Thingvellir. It's not necessary to
have all or any of the tools for the blot on ones home altar, unless
one plans to perform full blots at it. Offerings in the home tend to
be candles or incense; not traditional, but simple and part of our
The ancient Norse knew four major holidays the Spring and Autumn
Equinoxes which we call Summer and Winter Finding, and the two
solstices which we call Midsummer and Yule. However, there were many
other minor festivals and modern Asatru have added even more. A
calendar of Raven Kindred rituals is provided in an appendix and I
also encourage anyone to find as many as one is willing to meet for.
We meet monthly, but some groups meet 8 times a year and also
celebrate the cross-quarter days of May Day/Walpurgis,
Halloween/Samhain, February eve or The Charming of the Plow, and
Lammastide or Freyfaxi,
Most of our rituals also honor only one or a few Gods or Goddesses at
any one time. However, there is no reason why the entire pantheon
should not be offered prayers and thanks at any occasion. This would
be particularly appropriate at the major holidays. Unlike most other
groups in the Neo-Pagan movement, we do not necessarily honor Gods in
male/female pairs. The boy/girl notion is one taken from the Pagan
fertility religion of Wicca and isn't necessarily appropriate to our
Gods, who often represent things other than fertility. So while a
Spring ritual held in honor of Freya and Frey as fertility deities
might wish to honor them together, there is no reason to include Frigg
in a ritual dedicated to Odin as the God of War.
Yule is the most important holiday of the year. Everyone is familiar
with the shortness of the deep winter days, but in the Scandinavian
countries this is of even greater importance. At the Yuletide there
is almost no sunlight at all, and the climate would have people bound
in their homes waiting for the return of Spring.
Yule is a long festival, traditionally held to be 12 days or more.
After Yule the days began to get longer and the festival represented
the breaking of the heart of winter and the beginning of the new year.
Yule was the holiday of either Thor or Frey, although there is no
reason not to honor both Gods in modern practice.
Frey is the God of fertility and farming and was honored at Yule in
the hopes that his time would soon return. Frey is also an important
God at this time as shown in the myth "The Wooing of Gerd." Gerd is
Frey's wife, and she was once a frost giant. Frey had seen her while
he was seated on Odin's High Seat, and was utterly taken by her, but
she would not yield until Skirnir, Frey's messenger or perhaps Frey in
disguise, threatened her with an eternity of cold. In this way, Frey
brings back the summer times by wooing a daughter of cold and frost.
His love for her brings warmth to her heart and to the land.
Thor's position at Yule is a bit more savage. He is the sworn enemy
of the Frost Giants and Jotnar who rule the winter months, and as such
is honored as the God who's actions fight off these creatures and
bring back the spring.
Our kindred also honors Sunna, the Sun Goddess, at Yule. However, we
feel she is more important at Midsummer, when she is at her height.
The most important symbols of Yule are still with us today. Most of
the supposedly secular customs of Christmas are actually Pagan in
origin. Evergreen trees and holly which remained green throughout the
long nights and cold were a promise that spring would once again
return to the land. These symbols may also have been a connection to
the nature spirits who have sway over the return of the warm days. The
modern conception of Santa Claus as an elf, for whom offerings of milk
and cookies are left, is possibly a modern continuation of leaving
offerings for the Alvar and other nature spirits. The idea of
children staying up all night in the hopes of catching a glimpse of
Santa Claus may be a remnant of people staying awake to mark the long
night and remind the sun to return. (In the latter case it's
considered an adequate substitution to leave a candle going all night
to light the way for the returning sun.)
Yule is a weeks long festival, not just a single holiday. The Yule
season begins on the solstice, which is the Mother Night of Yule, and
ends with Twelfth Night on January sixth. As a point of interest,
January seventh is St. Distaff's day, which Nigel Pennic has
suggested may have been a day sacred to Frigg, whose symbol is the
While one might expect a rather dour theme to a holiday held in the
darkness and cold, Yule is a time of feasting and gladness.
The most important custom at Yule for modern Pagans is the swearing of
Yule oaths. Our kindred does this at Twelfth Night (aka New Years
Eve). We hold a sumbel and we keep the Yule wreath handy for anyone
who wishes to swear an oath for the coming year.
There are simply so many different Yule customs, both ancient and
modern, that one has almost limitless possibilities even when staying
within Scandanavian and Germanic customs. In modern practice one
might honor Sunna on the Mother Night, then hold a blot a few days
later to Thor, a feast for New Years day which is shared with the
house and land spirits, and then finish on Twelfth Night with a ritual
to Frey, whose time is then officially beginning.
Summer Finding is also known to many groups as Ostara, the holiday
sacred to the Goddess for whom the modern Easter is named. She is a
fertility Goddess and her symbols are the hare and the egg. She was
an important Goddess of spring to the ancient Saxons, but we know
little else of her other than this. Some have suggested that Ostara
is merely an alternate name for Frigg or Freya, but neither of these
Goddesses seem to have quite the same fertility function as Ostara
does. Frigg seems too "high class" to be associated with such an
earthy festival and Freya's form of fertility is more based on
eroticism than reproduction.
The obvious folk tradition at this time of year involves eggs. These
were colored as they are today, but then they were buried, or more
appropriately, planted in the earth. Some have suggested that the act
was purely magical, the fertility of the eggs would then be
transferred from the animal realm to the plant realm and would
increase the prosperity of the harvest. It's also possible that they
were left as an offering to the alvar and the spirits of the plants.
In any case a blot should be prepared to the Goddess of Spring,
however one wishes to honor her, and also to the spirits of the land.
The summer solstice was second only to Yule in importance to the
ancient Northmen. Some groups mark this day as sacred to Balder, but
we disagree with this. While Balder can be seen as a dying and
resurrected Sun God, in the mythology we are most familiar with, he
does not return to life until Ragnarok and it seems like "bad karma"
to symbolically kill the sun when you know Baldr doesn't come back
until the end of the world. Instead, we mark this day as sacred to
the Goddess Sunna, who is literally the sun.
One idea for midsummer is to remain awake all night and mark the
shortest night of the year, then at sunrise to perform a "Greeting of
Sunna" and a blot to her.
Another midsummer custom is the rolling of a flaming wagon wheel down
a hill to mark the turning of the wheel of the year. If fire would
otherwise be a hazard, one could parade a wheel covered with candles
for similar effect. It is also a time for general merriment and in
the Scandinavian countries many of what we know as the traditional May
Day rituals such as May Poles and Morris Dances were celebrated at
Midsummer rather than in May.
In our area Midsummer occurs during a large local Pagan festival, and
we have gone all out in making it a major holiday with blot, sumbel,
feasting and drinking. We are currently in the process of
constructing a "sun ship" which, with sails of copper reflecting the
light from small torches, represents Sunna will be brought forth at
dawning and dusk.
I have not come across a great deal of distinctive traditional lore
about the Autumn Equinox that would distinguish it from the Harvest
festivals found worldwide. It seems to have been overshadowed to some
extent by the Winter Nights which we celebrate at the equinox rather
than at the more traditional time of mid-November.
Winter Finding should be treated as a general harvest festival.
Whichever Gods you invoke for fertility of the land would be most
appropriate to invoke again at this time. We have honored Frey &
Freya and Nerthus & Njord for this purpose. You can take your pick.
Even more so than other holidays, a large feast is appropriate at this
time, perhaps concentrating on local vegetables and grains more than
The Winter Nights are the traditional festival honoring the Disir or
family spirits. It is a time to remember your family, the dead, and
your ancestors. (For more information on the Disir see the chapter
"Elves and other Spirits.")
A Freyablot may be performed at this time as Freya is known as the
Vanadis (i.e. the Dis of the Vanir) or the Great Dis, and she seems
to be the Goddess of the Disir themselves. This is probably connected
to Freya's position as recipient of half the battle-slain or her
ability with seidhr. One might also simply want to honor the Disir as
a whole, or attempt to summon and pour offering to your own family's
Dis. A sumbel which toasts ones ancestors and passed on friends would
also be in order. If a feast is held, it should be quiet and
respectful of the character of the season. Another idea is a silent
"mum feast," a custom which is found the world over.
The various Halloween customs such as dressing in costume or
celebrating this time as a time where the worlds of the living and the
dead connect are more Celtic in origin than Nordic and probably should
not be part of an Asatru celebration.
THE GODS OF ASGARD
The Old Norse reckoned that there were three races of Gods: the Aesir,
the Vanir, and the Jotnar. The Aesir are those beings most often
referred to in the ancient literature simply as "the Gods," in fact
the word "As" means "God." They are the Gods of society, representing
things such as Kingship, Craft, etc. The Vanir are more closely
connected to the earth and represent the fecundity of the land and the
natural forces which help mankind. Once there was a great war between
the Aesir and the Vanir, but this was eventually settled and Frey,
Freya, and Njord came to live with the Aesir to seal the peace. The
Jotnar are a third race of Gods and at constant war with the Aesir,
but there is not and never will be peace in this battle. The Jotnar
are never called Gods, but rather referred to as giants. They
represent the natural forces of chaos and destruction as the Aesir
represent forces of order and society. Just as fire and ice mix to
form the world, this creative interaction of chaos and order maintains
the balance of the world. In the end the two sides will meet in the
great battle of Ragnarok and the world will be destroyed, only to be
The Norse notion of the Gods was very much involved with tribalism.
The Aesir are the Gods of the tribe or clan. The Vanir are those Gods
who are allied with the clan, but who are not part of it. The Jotnar
or Giants are the "outlanders" or more simply everyone else.
The Norse Gods were not held to be all powerful or immortal. Their
youth was maintained very precariously by the magickal apples of the
Goddess Idunna. More importantly at the end of the world a good
number of the Gods will die in battle. The Northern view of the world
was a practical one with little assurance for the future and little
perfection and the Gods are no exception.
It is very important to understand that the Gods are real and living
beings. They are not mere personifications of natural forces, nor are
they Jungian archetypes that dwell only in our minds--although Jung's
work may be helpful in understanding them. Those divinities who we
call "Gods" (i.e., the Aesir and Vanir) are also "personal deities"
who take an active interest in the affairs of mankind, and seek
relationships with their followers. This is important to remember
when we perform ceremonies or pray to the Gods. They aren't magical
symbols to be manipulated, nor is our religion some type of giant
cosmic vending machine where sacrifices are inserted and blessings
come out. The Gods are living beings and offer us benefits because we
are their friends and companions.
The Gods in the Temple: Odin, Thor, and Frey
The three most important Gods were held to be Odin, Thor, and Frey.
These were the deities whose statues stood at the altar of the temple
at Upsalla. They are considered the most important because of what
they represent. Mythologer Georges Dumezil has linked these three
deities with the three classes of Indo-European culture: the Kings,
the Warriors, and the Farmers. Although the fit is not an exact one,
it is probably true that these three deities most concretely
symbolized the various aspects of Norse life and culture and most
people would have found a God who represented their life-experience in
one of these three deities.
Odin is the Allfather, remembered today best as a God of war and of
the berserk rage of the Vikings. However, he has other aspects which
are just as strong or stronger. In the Eddas, he is the leader of the
Gods, but this is a position which most of the Germanic peoples
attributed to Tyr. It's likely that Odin only became ruler during the
Viking Age, when a God of wile rather than strict justice was more
necessary. Being the Allfather, his original position of leadership
was probably familial rather than legislative. Most importantly he is
a God of transcendent wisdom and in relation to that a God of magick.
He is the God of the Runes, the magical alphabet which holds the
mysteries of the universe within it. In most of the non-Viking
countries, Odin's warrior aspect was played down. In England, where
he is known as Woden, he is a gray cloaked wanderer (the inspiration
for Tolkien's Gandalf) who travels the country, usually alone,
surveying his land. Here again we see him in the position of a father
figure, a warder of the land but not necessarily a King. Odin is also
a God of the dead. Half of the slain in battles go to him to prepare
for the Ragnarok. (The remaining half go to Freya.) He also has
associations with the dead as a practitioner of Seidhr, a form of
shamanic magick which he learned from Freya and used on various
occasions to travel to Hel and seek the knowledge of those who have
passed from this world. It's difficult to classify Odin simply because
he was such a popular God during the last stages of Norse Paganism and
thus absorbed many traits of other Gods.
Thor is probably the best known of the Norse Gods. He is a simple
God, the patron of farmers and other folk who are "wise, but not too
wise" as the Eddas advise us to be. Thor is best known for wandering
the world in search of adventure; usually found in the form of giants
or other monsters to kill. He possesses tremendous strength and the
hammer Mjolnir, which was made for him by the Dwarfs. Mjolnir is
considered to be the Gods' greatest treasure because it is sure
protection from the forces of chaos. Using Mjolnir, Thor is a warrior
figure, but he is less a professional warrior than a common man called
upon to defend his land. He loves battle not for itself as do the
berserkers of Odin, nor does he have a strong code of honor such as
that of Tyr--in fact he chronically breaks with honor and kills giants
whether they have the protection of "hospitality" or not. Thor is
associated with thunder, and is also the God of rain and storms, but
it's important to note that he is not the God of destructive storms.
Thor is nature as a benefit to man. The Jotnar are held to be the
source of the destruction found in nature. Thor was the God of
"everyman." He was simple in purpose, strong, and free. He was most
beloved of the freemen farmers who populated the Germanic lands.
Frey is a God of peace and fertility. If Thor is the God of the
farmer, then Frey is the God of the crops themselves. He is a God of
the Vanir, but lives with the Aesir to secure their treaty with the
Vanir. His symbol is the priapus and his blessings were sought at
planting and other important agricultural festivals. The word "frey"
means "Lord" and it's unsure if this is the Gods name or his title. He
is also known as Ing or Ingvi, so some have speculated his title is
properly Frey Ingvi--Lord Ingvi. We do not known a great deal more
about Frey as few myths have survived which give us any insight into
his character. As much as he is a God of fertility, he is also a God
of peace and Ing was said to have brought a Golden Age of peace and
prosperity to old Denmark. Horses are held to be sacred to Frey,
probably because of fertility connections.
In general we know much less about how our ancestors worshipped the
Goddesses than the Gods. Later Norse culture was very bound up with
the vikings and it is likely that the Goddesses were deemphasized at
this point. More importantly, virtually all the mythology we have
today was recorded during the Christian period and Christian culture
had little respect for women, least of all independent and strong
women like those of Nordic society.
Freya is the most important of the Goddesses or at least that Goddess
about which we known the most. She is the sister of Frey and along
with him was sent to live with the Aesir in order to seal a peace
agreement. Freya is a Goddess with two distinct sides to her. First,
she is the Goddess of love and beauty and second a Goddess of war who
shares the battle-slain with Odin. Unlike our modern culture, the
ancients saw no contradiction in this. She was also a sorceress who
practiced the shamanic magick known as Seidhr, which she taught to
Odin. Freya is the Goddess most often invoked by independent women.
While she is a Goddess of beauty, she is not dependent on men as is
the stereotype of so many love Goddesses, but is strong and fiercely
independent. She is also known as the Great Dis and probably has
connections to the family spirits known as the Disir. In many ways
she is like Odin in that she is a Goddess of many functions which are
not always obviously related. In modern Asatru, many groups have
placed Freya alongside Odin and Thor on the altar, in place of her
twin brother Frey.
Frigg is a most misunderstood Goddess. She is the wife of Odin and
many people are too willing to let her be known simply as that.
However, the old Norse had a much different idea of the place of women
and of marriage in general. While marriages for love were certainly
known, marriage was also a business and social arrangement and there
were important duties for a wife. These were symbolized by a set of
keys which hung at the belt of all "goodwives." This symbolized that
the home was under the control of the woman of the house, who was
equal to her husband. Today we think these duties as very minor, but
a thousand years ago they were far from trivial. Up until this
century most of Europe lived in extended families. A house,
especially a hall of a warrior, was not a small building with a
nuclear family, but an entire settlement with outbuildings, servants,
slaves, and an entire clan. The wife of the house was in charge of
stores and trading with other clans. It was she that saw to the
upkeep of the farm, the balancing of the books, and even to the
farming itself if her husband was away trading or making war. It was
as much a job of managing a business as it was being a "wife." For
these reasons Frigg is still very important and can easily be invoked
beyond the home. She would, for example, be a natural patron for
someone who owned a business. Frigg also shares a lot of
characteristics with her husband. She is the only other God who is
allowed to sit in Odin's seat from which can be seen all that goes on
in the nine worlds. It is said that she knows the future, but remains
silent, which is entirely in keeping with the way women of the time
exercised their power: namely indirectly. While in a better world
this might not be necessary, it is still an important tool for women
who must exist in a world where men are sometimes threatened by them.
While Freya is a Goddess who acts independent of "traditional" roles,
Frigg is a Goddess who works within those roles, but still maintains
her power and independence.
There are of course many other Gods and Goddesses. Some of these have
important places in the myths, while some others are mentioned only
once along with their function.
The most perplexing God of Asgard is Loki. He was probably originally
a fire God, but he is best known as the troublemaker of Asgard. In
various minor scrapes Loki arranges to get the Gods into trouble,
usually by giving away their treasures and then arranging to return
them. This is very much in the traditional role of a trickster, who
keeps things interesting by causing trouble. However, it's sometimes
difficult to see Loki merely as a trickster because his actions are
sometimes simply too evil to be ignored. Balder was the most
beautiful and beloved of the Gods and a pledge was extracted from all
the things in the world that they would not harm him. The sole
exception to this was the mistletoe which was deemed too tiny to be a
threat. Amused by his invulnerability, the Gods took turns throwing
objects at Balder, which of course had no effect on him. Loki took
the blind God Hod and put a spring of mistletoe in his hands and
guided him to throw it. The dart pierced Balder's breast and he died.
Later a deal was arranged wherein Balder would be allowed to return to
life if all the creatures of the world would weep for him. Only one
refused, an ogress who said she cared not a whit for Balder when he
was alive and thought him just as well off dead. The ogress is
believed to have been Loki in disguise. For these actions Loki was
chained beneath the earth and it was arranged that venom would drip
upon him in punishment that would last until the end of the world.
With the death of Balder, Loki goes beyond the level of trickster and
becomes a truly evil figure. It is known that when Ragnarok comes,
Loki will lead the legions of chaos against the Aesir and bring about
the end of the world.
Indeed Loki's actions certainly do seem harsh, but they are entirely
in keeping with the Norse way of looking at things. One of the
functions of a trickster God is to keep things from becoming stagnant.
The trickster causes trouble so that people may evolve, for nothing
brings about ingenuity like need. The Norse did not believe anything
was eternal. In the end even the Gods would die in the battle of
Ragnarok, which would also destroy the world. Balder's
invulnerability was not natural. As the Edda says "Cattle die, and
men die, and you too shall die..." It was deemed much more wise and
valiant by the Norse to live up to one's fate than to try to avoid it.
It would likewise be unnatural to return from the dead. One can see
Loki as merely acting as an agent of nature to return things to their
normal and correct course. In such a view, it was not an act of evil,
but an intervention to stop an evil against the natural order.
Likewise Ragnarok must come. It is in the nature of the world to be
destroyed and then be reborn.
On the other hand, Loki is a God of darkness. As far as we know Loki
was never worshipped, at least not in the same way as the other Gods
were. Recognition of his action and his place in the universe is
essential, but Gods of this type are seldom welcome. It is
"fashionable" today to laugh at trickster Gods and see them as a sort
of jester figure, but we must not forget that their nature is much
darker than this even when it does serve a purpose. Change is
important, but nothing changes the world faster and more thoroughly
While seldom reckoned today among the most popular of the Gods, Tyr is
extremely important. He is the God of battle, of justice, and
(secondary to Odin) of Kingship. The most important myth concerning
Tyr shows both his bravery and honor. He gave his hand as surety to
the Fenris Wolf that no trickery was involved in the Gods binding of
him. When the fetter in fact did bind the wolf, Tyr lost his hand.
The honor and reliance on ones word is often overlooked in this myth
in favor of an interpretation of self sacrifice. However, throughout
the myths various deals are made and the Aesir easily get out of them.
It's likely that Tyr could have escaped his fate as well, but one's
word is one's word and thus Tyr lost his hand because it was less
valuable to him than his honor and word. Tyr was held to be the God
of the Thing or assembly. While the ancient Norse were not truly
democratic, and in fact held slaves, within the noble class all were
reckoned to be roughly equal. The Thing was a place where the
landholders would meet for trade and to iron out disputes among them,
in the hope of avoiding feuds. Tyr was originally the chieftain of
the Aesir and the God of Kingship, but he has been gradually
supplanted by Odin, especially during the Viking Age. It is likely
this was because of Tyr's strong sense of honor and justice. For
raiding and pillaging, Odin, the God of the berserker rage, was a much
better patron than Tyr, the God of honorable battle. This is an
important thing to note about Northern religion: it is extremely
adaptable. There are not hard and fast rules about who is what and
while the nature of the Gods cannot be changed they are more than
happy to have the aspects most important to their worshippers
emphasized. Just as a person uses different skills and "becomes a
different person" when they move or change jobs, so the Gods too have
adapted to new climates and needs.
While we only know the myth of Balder's death, it is clear that he was
a God of some importance. Unfortunately, modern writers, coming from
a Christian background, have tried to turn Balder into a Christ
figure. Balder was a God of beauty and goodness, but his name also
translates as "warrior." It is a mistake to turn him into a "Norse
Jesus." The mere fact that he died and will return after Ragnarok is
not enough for this equation. Another interpretation of Balder is
that of the dying and resurrected God of the Sun. This also seems a
mistake, as Balder does not return from the land of death. It makes a
poor symbol to honor Balder on solar holidays, lest the sun not
return! The remaining major interpretation of Balder is as a God of
mystic initiation. While this fits to some extent, we unfortunately
no longer know. The equation with Christ has wiped out a great deal
of lore about Balder and we are left to rediscover his place in our
Of the other important Gods, Heimdall is the guardian of Asgard. He,
as Rig, is also one of the Gods who fathered mankind. Njord is the
God of sailing and sailors. Unless one travels on the sea, he is
probably of little importance to you, but if one does sail, he is your
natural patron. If Njord is the God of sailing and of man's use of
the sea, then Aegir is the God of the sea itself. He is married to
Ran who takes drowned sailors to her home after their death. Aegir is
considered to be the greatest of brewers, and our kindred honors him
in a special holiday due to the importance of mead in our modern
religion. Bragi is a much overlooked God who is the patron of
taletellers and bards. Other Gods more or less overlooked in the
myths include Forseti, who renders the best judgments, Ull, a God of
hunting who is the male counter to Skadi, Vithar, the son of Thor who
is as strong as his father, Vali, Odin's son who will avenge his
fathers death at Ragnarok, and Hod, the blind God who was led to slay
While we might say that certain Gods are more important than others,
this is in many ways not accurate. We would be better served to say
that some are more popular. The Norse concept of the relationship
between men and Gods was one of friendship. A man would honor all the
Gods as worthy and existent, but would usually find one as his special
patron. It is not surprising, considering this, that Thor is the most
popular of Gods. If the average person was searching for a God very
much like himself, Thor would be the obvious choice. Likewise, a God
such as Njord would have been extremely important to sailors and
fishermen, but would have been almost completely unimportant as a
patron to inlanders. The less well known Gods are just as powerful as
their more well known contemporaries, they merely have power over a
less well known aspect of life.
There are also many Goddesses other than Frigg and Freya, but we know
very little of them. Eir was said to be the greatest of healers, and
is for this reason very important. There is no healer God as the
ancients held that medicine was a craft for women and not for men, but
modern male healers should certainly invoke her. While Skadi has a
very small part in the myths, many modern Asafolk find her a
compelling figure. She is the snow-shoe Goddess, who travels in the
isolated mountains hunting with her bow. She is married to Njord, but
they are separated as Njord can't abide the mountains, and Skadi can't
sleep in Njord's hall where she is kept awake by the pounding of the
sea. She is an excellent role model for women who work alone and who
are independently minded. Oaths are sworn to the Goddess Var, but
little else is known of her. Lofn might some day be of importance to
you, she is known to bring together lovers who are kept apart by
I have merely touched upon the Gods here. It is important for
everyone who would practice the religion of the North to get to know
the myths and the Gods. An appendix is included which outlines
various sources for more information.
The Jotnar or giants are the sworn enemies of the Gods. While the
Aesir represent order and the Vanir represent the supportive powers of
nature, the Jotnar represent chaos and the power of nature to destroy
man and act independent of humankind. In the end, it is the Jotnar
who will fight the Gods at Ragnarok and bring about the destruction of
In essence despite being called Giants or Ogres, the Jotnar are Gods
just as much as the Aesir or Vanir. In many cases they correspond
very closely to the Fomoire in Celtic mythology. Most simply put, the
Jotnar are the Gods of all those things which man has no control over.
The Vanir are the Gods of the growing crops, the Jotnar are the Gods
of the river which floods and washes away those crops or the tornado
which destroys your entire farm. This is why they are frightening and
this is why we hold them to be evil.
The Jotnar are not worshipped in modern Asatru, but there is some
evidence that sacrifices were made to them in olden times. In this
case, sacrifices may very well have been made "to them" rather than
shared "with them" as was the case with the Vanir and Aesir. It would
be inappropriate to embrace them as friends and brothers in the way we
embrace our Gods. One doesn't embrace the hurricane or the wildfire;
it is insanity to do so.
As I've suggested earlier, the Jotnar aren't grouped so much by their
commonalities, but by their non-membership in the Aesir. Thus, some
of them are benign, while others are apparently evil to the core.
Aegir, Skadi, and several of the wives or mates of the Aesir are from
Jotnar stock. Others, such as those appearing at Ragnarok, seem to
have no redeeming characteristics and are entirely hostile.
ELVES & OTHER SPIRITS
The world of ancient Paganism was hardly limited to the worship of the
Gods. There are various other beings who were honored, and "Elf
worship" was often the hardest part of Paganism for Christians to
destroy. It was easy enough to substitute one God for another, but it
was quite another to tell the common people that the elves which
brought fertility to the land were not real!
In the various folktales and sagas we find very little which would
lead us to a concrete system of what spirit was responsible for
exactly what. Today, we call these various figures, who are neither
mortal nor God, "Wights." We are sure of the place of the Valkyries,
who were responsible for bringing the slain to Valhalla, and also for
choosing who in battle would die. They seem, judging by their
actions, to be supernatural beings of some type. However, Valkyries
appear in various places as very human figures and their exact nature
is difficult to determine. Sigrdrifa was a Valkyrie who was cursed by
Odin because she refused to bring victory in battle to those whom he
had chosen. Her punishment was to be married to a mortal, and the
implication is clear that this would end her days as a Valkyrie. It's
equally clear that she has great knowledge of the runes as she tutors
Sigurd after he awakens her. In most respects she seems to be a
normal human woman, although a very wise and independent one with
great powers. Elsewhere, Voland and his brothers are said to have
found three Valkyries sunning themselves without their swan-coats.
When the brothers steal their feather-coats and hide them, the
Valkyries again appear as otherwise normal women. This does not seem
entirely in keeping with a supernatural origin, and it's possible that
some kind of magickal order of Priestesses has become confused over
time with the supernatural beings we know as Valkyries or that mortal
women may somehow ascend to the position. The swan-coat seems very
similar in description to Freya's falcon-coat and the entire issue may
be something related to the practice of seidhr. As far as we know,
the Valkyrie were not worshipped as such, but were considered more the
messengers of Odin. They also serve the mead at Valhalla, and because
of this whoever pours the mead into the Horn at Blot or Sumbel is
today known as "the Valkyrie" (no matter what sex).
The other spirits whose place seems fairly clear are the Disir. These
are spirits who are intimately linked with a family. There is also
some indication that they are linked with the land, but this would be
in keeping with the old ways. We forget sometimes that many
landowners in Europe have been living in the same place since before
this continent was discovered. The land becomes an intimate part of
the family and its identity, so it is natural that family spirits
would also oversee the family land. Disir are seen as women who
appear at times of great trouble or change. They are somehow linked
to the family bloodline, and seem most closely linked to the
clanchief. There is one scene in one saga where a spirit, apparently
a Dis, is passed on from one person to another who are not blood
relations. However, these two friends are closer than brothers, so
while the link is apparently not genetic, it is definitely familial.
We know the family Disir were honored with blots at the Winter Nights
and that they have great power to aid their family. As far as their
origin, it's possible that they are ancestral in origin. They may be
ancestors whose power was so great that they were able to continue to
see to their clan. Or it's possible that the Disir are the collective
spirit of the family ancestors. Freya is called the great Dis and
there may be some linkage here to her position as a seidhrwoman. We
know from the sagas that Seidhr was involved with talking to various
spirits (including the dead) and its possible that this is the source
of Freya's name. It is also possible that she performed much the same
function as a Dis to her tribe the Vanir.
Closely linked to the idea of the Disir is the Fylgia. These spirits
are attached to an individual person in much the same way that the
Disir are associated with a family. Fylgia usually appear either as
animals or as beautiful women. They correspond to the "fetch,"
"totem," or "power-animal" in other cultures. Most of the time the
fylgia remains hidden and absent, it is only with truly great or
powerful persons that the fylgia becomes known. They may have
something to do with Seidhr as well, because many sagas offer evidence
of spirit travel in the shape of animals. This corresponds exactly to
notions of shamanism found in other cultures.
The remaining spirits include Alvar or elves, Dokkalvar or dark elves
or Dwarfs, kobolds, and landvaettir. While some have defined one
being as doing one thing and another serving a different function, I'm
not inclined to draw very sharp distinctions between these various
creatures. They all seem "elfish" in origin, and there seems to me to
be no pattern of associating one name with a specific function. We
know that various landvaettir or land spirits were honored with blots.
We also know that Frey is the lord of Alfheim, one of the nine worlds
where the alvar are said to live.
Of all the remaining spirits, the dwarfs are the most consistent in
description. We know that the dwarfs are cunning and misanthropic in
character and incredible smiths, capable of creating magickal objects
so valuable they are considered the greatest treasures of Asgard.
Thor's hammer Mjolnir, Freya's necklace Brisingamen, and Sif's golden
hair are all creations of the dwarfs. They live beneath the earth and
have little to do with mankind or the Gods unless one seeks them out.
What place they had in the religion we no longer know. It would seem
wise to invoke them as spirits of the forge, but I can think of little
other reason to disturb them.
Elves are the most difficult magickal race to pin down. Mythological
sources tell us that the Alvar or light elves live in Alfheim where
Frey is their Lord. However, we also have the enduring belief in
folklore of the elves as faery-folk: beings associated with the
natural world. These two conceptions of elves might still be linked,
however, as Alfheim is known to be a place of incredible natural
beauty, and Frey, their leader, is an agricultural deity. To further
confuse this issue, Norse folklore has a strong belief in the
Landvaettir, or land spirits who may fit into either or both of these
categories. I'm inclined to lump them all together as similar beings
that we simply don't know enough about to tell apart. What is
important is that Asatru, like all Pagan religions, honors the natural
world and the earth very deeply. Whether one calls the spirits of the
land as the elves, the faeries, or the landvaettir, or uses all of
these terms interchangably, respect is all important. Asatru is known
for being one of the most politically "conservative" of the modern
Pagan religions, but you'll find few of us who aren't staunch
One of the most important spirits to honor is the house-spirit.
Folklore is also filled with stories of various spirits variously
called faeries, elves, kobolds, brownies, tom-tin, etc who inhabit a
house and see to its proper conduct. In the usual form of the tale,
they offer to perform some housekeeping functions, but eventually turn
on the owners of the house when they are insulted by overpayment. We
don't have any concrete evidence for how our ancestors honored these
beings, but this is not surprising because such a thing would not be a
public observance and it's unlikely it would be recorded in the sagas
or Eddas. We usually leave a bowl of milk out when we feel we need
their help in something.
In general folklore does not paint the various elves and spirits as
particularly benevolent figures. With the exception of house spirits,
who as spirits of a manmade object are bound to us on some level, they
seem most interested in staying out of the dealings of mankind. There
are numerous stories of people who spy upon elf women and force them
to become their brides. Inevitably the women are unhappy and
eventually escape, leaving their husbands emotionally devastated.
There are also numerous stories of spirits who haunt the woods and who
will drag wayward travelers into rivers to drown or to some other
untimely death. When people do have dealings with the elves these
beings seem to operate on an entirely different set of expectations
than we do. Most of us would be gratified by the gift of a "bonus"
from our employer, yet time and time again in folklore this is the
easiest way to anger a house spirit. We know that elves were honored
with blots, but it's just as possible that these ceremonies were made
in propitiation to them rather than in kinship as are our blots made
with the Gods. We suggest caution in dealing with beings with a set
of values so foreign from our own. They should be approached in the
same way one would approach a person from a country whose ways are
very very different.
In general, we're also very reticent to make decisions about
classifying the various "other peoples." It would be very easy to draw
lines and place certain spirits into little boxes which label their
function, but that seems overly mechanical and of little utility.
Elves and other "wights" are not human, and it might be too much to
try to classify them in other than subjective terms. It's probably
best to simply make your intent clear, experiment, and use the terms
which work for you.
There are a whole classification of Gods which are not truly part of
the Aesir, Vanir, or even the Jotnar. Wayland the Smith is the best
example of this that we can offer. Wayland, called Volund in the
Norse version, is the greatest of smiths, but it's clear in the
mythology that he was more or less a human man. The myth tells of how
he lost his wife and was enslaved by a human King. While his powers
allow him to outwit and take vengeance on the king, it's clear
throughout that he's not on the level of a Thor or an Odin. What one
does about these demi-Gods or local Gods is a good question. I see
nothing wrong with pouring a blot in their honor and dealing with them
as you would any other God or Goddess. On the other hand, they are
not part of the Aesir and I think it might be disrespectful to honor
them with the Aesir or as part of a ceremony dedicated to the Aesir as
they seem of a different nature.
Honoring ones ancestors was one of the most sacred duties of the
Norsemen. One of the most important parts of greeting new people was
the exchanging of personal lineages at sumbel. The worship of the
Disir is closely linked to ancestor worship. However, it is difficult
for modern day Pagans to seriously engage in ancestor worship. We
are, for the most part, without a strong connection to our heritage,
and even if we feel motivated we would probably need to skip at least
a thousand years back to find ancestors who would not have been
appalled by our Heathen beliefs. One substitution for ancestor
worship in the modern Asatru movement has been the veneration of heros
from the Sagas and legends of our people.
The manner of how we honor ancestors is also somewhat troubling. I
reserve the blot ritual to Gods and other powers, and I'm not sure if
it's appropriate to pour a blot to an ancestor, no matter how
important he was. I think the most important part of ancestor worship
is remembering, and the sumbel seems the most important part of that.
While we discuss ancestry, I must mention that some modern Asatru
groups, in part because of holdovers from 19th century cultural
movements, have placed a great deal of emphasis on ancestry in terms
of race and ethnic heritage. Many (although not nearly as many as
some hysterical commentators would have you believe) have held that
Asatru was a religion for whites or Northern Europeans only. In my
not particularly humble opinion, this is pure idiocy. The basic
argument for this is that people of other cultures do not share the
same background and values. This is certainly true, but the key word
in my opinion is culture, and all Americans by definition share a
culture. Also, while I admit I would think it doubtful that people
from outside of our own cultural heritage would be attracted greatly
to Asatru, if they are it is for a reason and they should be welcomed
and not shunned. It proves the worth of our religion and way of life
that it is so strong that one would leave his own cultural path behind
to take up ours.
As far as culture is concerned, the ancestry of the ancient North is
alive and well in modern America. A thousand years ago settlers
sailed to Iceland to avoid the growing influence of powerful kings and
centralized government. This centralization of power was one of the
things which Roman Christianity brought with it. Two hundred years
ago, we in America rebelled against our king for much the same
reasons. Our culture is much more profoundly influenced by the
Vikings than most would care to admit. Our law is based on English
common law, which in turn has roots in Norman and Saxon law. (Both
the Saxons and Normans were descended from Germanic tribes.) Our
culture is based on many of the same ideas which the Northmen held
dear: the importance of the individual and the belief that individual
rights outweighed collective rights. Thus, it is my assertion that we
are all descended, at least in part, spiritually from the ancient
Scholarship offers us little help in determining how organized the
ancient religion of Asatru was. We know that there was a large temple
at Upsulla, and we know that some areas had taxes which were clearly
intended to support the religion. We also have abundant evidence of a
much less organized system in which people met in sacred groves or
built their own Hof's and thus became a Gothi (Priest) or Gythia
(Priestess). Such temples were generally maintained by the family
after the builders death, the title being more or less inherited by
whomever was lord over the land.
Today, most kindreds are independent. The Ring of Troth is the
largest organization and is highly structured in governing, but very
unstructured in beliefs or practices. They offer clergy recognition,
charter kindreds on three levels, depending on how organized the group
is, and have a system of regional stewards to coordinate local
activities. There are also many smaller organizations, either
regionally based or formed from groups with other links, such as The
Raven Kindred Association or Skergard.
The clergy of Asatru are known as Gothi (Godman/Priest) or Gythia
(Godwoman/Priestess). These are honorary titles only. Being called
Gothi does not mark any administrative or religious power or rank
within Asatru as a whole. The Gothar are those who have chosen to
take on more responsibilities. Anyone in Asatru can reach the Gods
through their own prayers or blots without being a Gothi.
As to what makes one a Gothi, the requirements would vary from group
to group. Some might have written criteria, while others might leave
it up to the persons heart. The true test of a Gothi is not one of
credentials, but of whether the folk take one seriously or not.
Certainly a Gothi is one who has a long term relationship with the
Gods and Goddesses. One does not, for example, simply read this book
or practice the religion for a few months and then proclaim oneself
Gothi, to do so would invite scorn and laughter. A competent Gothi
should have studied the Eddas and Sagas and know the history of our
religion. He or she should also know a bit about the runes, and the
other mysteries of our tradition. One should also note that this is a
public office and the Gothi of old had responsibilities as leaders of
the community. Most importantly one must be sincerely dedicated not
only to the Gods, but to the duties and calling of being a religious
leader. There's no push to move to a "higher" level of the Priesthood
as there are in religions or magickal orders with "degree systems" and
if you do not feel compelled to take on the responsibilities of being
a Gothi or Gythia, there is no need for you to and much to say that
you should not.
Most persons who were given the title Gothi in the old days were
dedicated to a single God. The title most often formed their last
name: Thorolf Thorsgothi for example. This dedication to a God or
Goddess was usually part of one's family heritage and was passed down
to your children. While there is no compelling reason why one cannot
act as Priest to the entire community of Gods and Goddesses, it is
most common for one to be dedicated to a single deity. A kindred may
have persons who are each dedicated to a different deity, or it may
orient itself towards a single deity as did families in the Sagas.
One national organization, The Ring of Troth, offers official
ministerial recognition on two levels: Eldership and Godmen. The
Elder program entails a great deal of study in the ways of our ancient
forebears. Elders are intended not so much to be everyday ministers,
but to be teachers and sources of information for the Folk at large.
The second program, entitled one Godman or Godwoman, is intended for
more day to day clergy. A Godman must be informed about the lore of
our modern religion and familiar with the Gods and rituals of Asatru
and capable of performing them, but does not go into deep academic
study in the manner of an Elder.
The most basic unit of Asatru religious worship is the hearth or
homestead. This is nothing more than it sounds like: a household of
Asafolk who worship the old Gods and Goddesses. Several individuals
or hearths may group themselves into a "kindred," which is a term that
has many meanings to many different groups. Some kindreds have many
members and function like mainstream churches, others are more
familylike and attempt to hold to their privacy. The place of a
kindred is more or less analogous to a clan or small tribal group. A
kindred is made up of people you are familiar with and with whom you
meet in person and in it's best sense it's an organic grouping,
however it's not the same sort of bonding that one would find in a
single family or even in an extremely close knit group of friends. In
a true Pagan society, the kindred would be found on the level of a
farmstead or small village.
The ritual blots are most commonly done on the level of the kindred,
or in meetings where more than one kindred comes together. The
rituals of a Hearth might be less formalized and more "homey" in
atmosphere. The blot ritual is based on a religious observance that
was part of the official public aspect of ancient Asatru, and its
likely that there were many other private rituals that would not
necessarily be appropriate for a kindred to take part in together. For
example, a kindred might not honor the individual family Dis or the
house-spirits unless all members of the kindred lived together or were
tied by blood as well as companionship.
Most persons will want to join or found a kindred in their area,
however, before one runs out and begins to solicit people, you should
think about what you are doing. The very name of our groupings,
"kindred," implies a great deal more than does membership in a church.
Today we are accustomed to religious institutions that are more or
less anonymous and sterile. A kindred should not be this way. While
we must be open to all, we need not act as if we were a public
facility with no more intimacy than a department store. It is best to
start small and gather people as they come to you. Once you are
established, get involved in the local Pagan community if you are not
already. Attend a few events of the local Leif Erikson society or the
Sons of Norway. Open one of your blots to the public and take note of
people who are attracted to Asatru.
A kindred is something which should form organically. It's not a good
idea to push ones friends into joining unless they are sincerely
interested. In the Raven Kindreds we usually wait until people ask to
formally join, unless we perceive they are waiting to be asked. On
the other hand, Asatru is not a secret religion or one open only to
"initiates" as many Neo-Pagan faiths are. We must be open to
outsiders who are truly interested.
People in a kindred should be aware that they are making a commitment
to the group. The first duty owed to our kindreds would be regular
attendance. The kindred cannot function if people do not attend. I
have heard some say that making a monetary donation should be
sufficient. I say this is simply not true. While the money most
certainly does help, it cannot make up for the impression made on new
people when they are the only ones showing up for a ritual. Also
since Asatru is still a growing religion a lack of regular attendees
will lead to only one view being put across instead of many peoples
personal takes on a subject.
The next duty we have to our kindred is loyalty. I will assume that
every kindred has some sort of leader whether it be an elected leader
or not. This person has taken on the responsibility of being in
charge of the kindred as a whole. I say that we should ask these
leaders what we can do for them to make there job easier. I am not
saying that we have to center our lives around whatever kindred we may
belong to, but sometimes just asking if we can pick up the mead will
take a lot off the mind of the person in charge.
Another duty we have to our kindred is helping the other members of
that kindred. This could include the simple willingness to give a
ride to events, but also on a deeper level to really be their for each
other in times of need. We must remember that while our religion
espouses the glory of the individual, that individual usually only as
good as the community from which he came. We also do not want to be
like other religions we member of the same church are strangers to
each other. The fact that we have chosen the word "kindred" to name
our religious bodies should mean, in practice as well as definition, a
much closer relationship to each other then is found in most, but
certainly not all, mainstream churches.
THE VALUES OF ASATRU
One of the basic functions of a religion is to offer a set of values
on which mankind is to base it's actions. This, sadly, is one area
where Paganism has often failed. The cult of anti-values has held
sway, taking moral relativism to extremes perhaps even farther from
common sense than fundamentalist moral legalism, even to the point
where I have heard rape, murder, and genocide defended on the basis of
However, values remain important. All one needs to do is look at the
morning paper to see the results of a society that has in many ways
embraced the cult of anti-values. Thievery, murder, and plunder exist
in our cities to extents which would have appalled our ancestors--no
matter how many times they went a' Viking. While this is hardly what
the Pagans who have embraced the cult of anti-values had in mind, it
is to my belief a natural outgrowth of the same basic philosophical
concept. The chaos in our country is the dark shadow of the modern
rejection of moral legalism. What should have been an evolution from
a legalistic moral/religious culture to one of flexible honor based
values and self-responsibility has instead become a morass of chaos
and immorality. The lesson we should all learn is that while there is
no definitive list of sins; right and wrong still exist.
As usual Asatru offers a sensible solution. Our faith deals not in
legalisms and rules nor in unchecked chaos and relativism. We instead
acknowledge the existence of right and wrong, good and evil, but we
deal with actions according to basic philosophical concepts that are
applied by the keen intellect of Odin, the simple common sense of
Thor, and the solid honor of Tyr--the gifts of the Gods to us.
Asatru posits that the basic place of moral judgment is within the
human heart and mind. We as human beings with the gift of
intelligence are sensible and responsible enough to determine right
from wrong and act accordingly. The Gods teach us through the
examples of their lives, as chronicled in the Eddas, and through
various pieces such as the Havamal which directly offer us advice. In
the modern history of our faith, various Asatru organizations have
outlined simple sets of values which they hold up as simple guidelines
on how to live ones life.
The Odinic Rite (the major Asatru group in England) has one of the
most cohesive and sensible of all those we've seen and this set has
been adopted by the Raven Kindred as an "official" statement of our
beliefs. We do this not only as a moral guide for our members, but
also to say to the world what it is that we stand for--our good name
in the community being important to us. Finally, this list is used
when someone formally joins the Raven Kindred and we hold a sumble and
toast the 9 virtues to the new member in the hope that they will apply
them to their life.
The Odinic Rite lists the 9 Noble Virtues as Courage, Truth, Honor,
Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance, and
It would be hard to get much argument on any of these values from
anyone. They simply and briefly encapsulate the broad wisdom of our
Gods and ancestors.
In virtually every statement of values applied to Asatru, Courage is
listed first. As Stephen McNallen has said, courage and bravery are
perhaps the values which the Vikings are best known for. However,
despite our history, few of us face such turmoil as a literal battle
for ones life. In fact, I believe it might be easier to manifest
courage in such a situation than to do so in the many smaller day to
day occurrences in which courage is called for.
The most common of these occurrences for modern Pagans, is the courage
to acknowledge and live ones beliefs. It is also, sadly, the one that
we most often fail at. While we may often be full of the type of
courage that would lead us to face a shield wall, many of us quake at
the thought of the topic of religion coming up at the office or a
friend asking what church we attend. We won't offer easy answers, but
we ask this: if you toast the courage of your ancestors to fight and
die for what they believed in, can you trade away your religious
identity for a higher salary or social acceptance?
In an essay on values there is also the question of moral courage. The
way of Tyr is difficult--to lose ones hand for ones beliefs--but, Tyr
thought the price worth paying. In a million ways modern society
challenges our values, not just as Asatruar who are estranged from
mainstream religious practice, but for religious people in an
increasingly not just secular, but anti-religious culture. Values are
also not in favor in modern society. Breaking or getting around the
rules is encouraged to get ahead. Living honorably is simply too
inconvenient. I think most people, Asatru or otherwise, find this
repugnant, but the only way to change it is to have the courage to
refuse to take part in it.
The second virtue, that of Truth, is the one that most led our kindred
to embrace the Odinic Rite's statement of values as our own. Early in
our discussions, we decided that no matter what values we chose to
hold out as our own, truth must be among them. It is a word that
holds so much in its definition, and includes such a wide variety of
moral and philosophical beliefs that we were all drawn to it as a
simple statement of what we stood for.
At least one of the reasons we wanted to adopt it was the simple issue
of honesty. As Bill Dwinnels said at a recent sumbel while toasting
truth and honesty: "if you don't want people to know about something,
don't do it." Truth, in the sense of honesty, is essential to personal
honor and also to any system or morality that is not based on rigid
legalism. If one is to uphold an honor code, one must be brutally
honest with oneself and with others.
Truth is also the Truth that comes with a capital T--the kind of Truth
that one talks about in terms of religion or morality. It's common to
talk of different peoples having different "truths," but it's equally
important to remember that while we acknowledge that each person or
people has their own belief as to what Truth is or where to find it,
there finally is a single Truth. This is not the Truth as we believe
it, but ultimate Truth. While we may respect other people's "truths"
and seek our own, we must never forget our search for The Truth. Like
the Holy Grail of Christian legend, it may never be ours to reach, but
when we cease to search we perish.
Honor is the basis for the entire Asatru moral rationale. If anything
comes out in the Eddas and Sagas it is that without honor we are
nothing. We remember two types of peoples from ancient times: those
whose honor was so clean that they shine as examples to us and those
who were so without honor that their names are cursed a thousand years
after they lived. Good Asatruar should always strive to be among the
However, honor is not mere reputation. Honor is an internal force
whose outward manifestation is reputation. Internal honor is the
sacred moral compass that each Asatruar and God should hold dear. It
is the inner dwelling at peace which comes from living in accordance
with ones beliefs and with ones knowledge of the Truth of what one is
doing. It is something deeply personal and heartfelt, almost akin to
an emotion. It's a "knowing" that what one is doing is right and
decent and correct.
In many ways while the most important of all the virtues it is also
the most ephemeral in terms of description. It is all the other
virtues rolled together and then still more. The best way I have
found to describe honor is that if you are truly living with honor,
you will have no regrets about what you have done with your life.
Fidelity is a word that is far too often defined by it's narrow use in
terms of marital fidelity. By the dictionary it simply means being
faithful to someone or something. In marriage this means being true
to ones vows and partner, and this has been narrowly defined as
limiting ones sexual experience to ones spouse. While I have found
this to be great practical advice, many treat fidelity as if there
were no other ways in which one could be faithful or unfaithful.
For we Asatruar fidelity is most important in terms of our faith and
troth to the Gods. We must remain true to the Aesir and Vanir and to
our kinsmen. Like marriage, Profession (the rite in which one enters
the Asatru faith, similar to Christian confirmation or Wiccan
initiation) is a sacred bond between two parties; in this case an
Asatruar and the Gods. In order for such a relationship to work, both
must be honest and faithful to each other.
Asatru, although currently being reborn, is at its roots a folk
religion and we also uphold the value of fidelity to the ways of our
ancestors. This is why historical research is so important to the
Asatru-folk: it is the rediscovering of our ancient ways and our
readoption of them.
In any discussion of the values of Asatru, discipline is best
described as self-discipline. It is the exercise of personal will
that upholds honor and the other virtues and translates impulse into
action. If one is to be able to reject moral legalism for a system of
internal honor, one must be willing to exercise the self-discipline
necessary to make it work. Going back to my earlier criticism of
society, if one rejects legalism, one must be willing to control ones
own actions. Without self-discipline, we have the mess we currently
see in our culture.
Looking at discipline in terms of fidelity, we see a close connection.
Many Pagans go from faith to faith, system to system, path to path.
Asatruar are much less likely to do this. The discipline of keeping
faith with our Gods and the ways of our ancestors is part of our
modern practice. In this way, we limit ourselves in some ways, but we
gain much more in others.
Hospitality is simply one of the strongest core values at the heart of
virtually every ancient human civilization. In a community/folk
religion such as our own, it is the virtue that upholds our social
fabric. In ancient times it was essential that when a traveler went
into the world he could find some sort of shelter and welcome for the
night. In modern times it is just as essential that a traveler find
friendship and safety.
In our modern Asatru community, we need to treat each other with
respect and act together for the good of our community as a whole.
This functions most solidly on the level of the kindred or hearth
where non-familial members become extremely close and look out for
each other. It can mean hospitality in the old sense of taking in
people, which we've done, but in modern times it's more likely to mean
loaning someone a car or a bit of money when they need it (that's
need, not want).
Part of hospitality is treating other people with respect and dignity.
Many of our Gods are known to wander the world and stop in at people's
houses, testing their hospitality and generosity. The virtue of
hospitality means seeing people as if they were all individuals with
self-respect and importance. Or perhaps from time to time, they are
literally the Gods in human form. This has profound implications for
social action in our religion. Our response to societal problems such
as poverty (that's poverty folks, not laziness) is in many ways our
modern reaction to this ancient virtue.
In terms of our modern community as a whole, I see hospitality in
terms of frontier "barn raisings" where a whole community would come
together and pool their resources. This doesn't mean we have to
forget differences, but we must put them aside for those who are of
our Folk, and work for our common good.
Modern Asatruar must be industrious in their actions. We need to work
hard if we are going to achieve our goals. There is so much for us to
do. We've set ourselves the task of restoring Asatru to it's former
place as a mainstream faith and by doing so reinvigorating our society
and culture. We can't do this by sitting on our virtues, we need to
make them an active part of our behavior. Industry also refers to
simple hard work in our daily vocations, done with care and pride.
Here's a few concrete examples. If you are reading this and don't
have a kindred, why not? Stop reading now. Go and place ads in the
appropriate local stores, get your name on the Ring of Troth, Wyrd
Network, or Asatru Alliance networking lists, and with other Pagan
groups. Put on a workshop. Ok, now you're back to reading and you
don't agree with what I'm saying here? Well, be industrious! Write
your own articles and arguments. Write a letter to the editor and
suggest this material be banned--better that than passivity. Get the
blood moving and go out and do it. That's how it gets done. The Gods
do not favor the lazy.
The same holds true for our non-religious lives. As Asatruar we
should offer a good example as industrious people who add to whatever
we're involved in rather than take from it. We should be the ones the
business we work in can't do without and the ones who always seem to
be able to get things done. When people think of Asatru, they should
think of people who are competent and who offer something to the
This doesn't just apply to vocational work, but to the entire way we
live our lives. It is just as much a mentality. The Vikings were
vital people. They lived each day to its fullest and didn't wring
their hands in doubt or hesitation. We should put the same attitude
forward in all that we do whether it is our usual vocation, devotion
to the Gods, or leisure time.
Industry brings us directly to the virtue of Self-Reliance, which is
important both in practical and traditional terms. Going back to the
general notion of this article, we are dealing with a form of morality
that is largely self-imposed and thus requires self-reliance. We rely
on ourselves to administer our own morality.
Traditionally, our folkways have always honored the ability of a man
or woman to make their own way in the world and not to lean on others
for their physical needs. This is one of the ways in which several
virtues reinforce and support each other. Hospitality cannot function
if people are not responsible enough to exercise discipline and take
care of themselves. It's for those that strive and fail or need
assistance that hospitality is intended, not for the idle who simply
won't take care of themselves.
In terms of our relationships with the Gods, self-reliance is also
very important. If we wish the Gods to offer us their blessings and
gifts, we must make ourselves worthy of them--and the Gods are most
pleased with someone who stands on their own two feet. This is one of
the reasons for the Asatru "rule" that we do not kneel to the Gods
during our ceremonies. By standing we acknowledge our relationship as
striving and fulfilled people looking for comradeship and a
relationship, rather than acting as scraelings looking for a handout
from on high. It takes very little for a God to attract a follower,
if worship simply means getting on the gravy train. We, as Asatruar,
are people who can make our own way in the world, but who choose to
seek a relationship with the Gods.
In mundane terms being self-reliant is a simple way to allow ourselves
the ability to live as we wish to. In simple economic terms, if one
has enough money in the bank one doesn't need to worry as much about
being fired due to religious discrimination. We can look a bigot in
the face and tell him just where he can put it. It's also nice to
have something in the bank to lay down as a retainer on a good lawyer
so we can take appropriate action.
On the other side of this is self-reliance in the sense of Henry David
Thoreau, who advocated a simple lifestyle that freed one from the
temptations of materialism. Again, here we are able to live as we
wish with those things that are truly important. Religious people
from all faiths have found that adjusting ones material desires to
match one's ability to meet them leaves one open for a closer
relationship with deity and a more fulfilling life. While our
ancestors were great collectors of gold goodies, they didn't lust for
possessions in and of themselves, but for what they stood for and
could do for them. In fact, the greatest thing that could be said of
a Lord was that he was a good "Ring Giver."
Being self-reliant also means taking responsibility for ones life.
It's not just about refusing a welfare check or not lobbying for a tax
exemption, but also refusing to blame ones failures on religious
intolerance, the patriarchy, or an unfair system. The system may, in
fact, be unfair, but it's our own responsibility to deal with it.
In societal terms, we have become much too dependent on other people
for our own good. As individuals we look to the government or to
others to solve our problems and as a society we borrow billions from
our descendants to pay for today's excesses. Most problems in this
world could be solved if people just paid their own way as they went.
The final virtue is Perseverance which I think most appropriate
because it is the one that we most need to keep in mind in our living
of the other values. Our religion teaches us that the world is an
imperfect place, and nothing comes easy. We need to continue to seek
after that which we desire. In this imperfect world there are no free
lunches or easy accomplishments--especially in the subjects we have
set before ourselves. If we truly wish to build an Asatru community
that people will hold up as an example of what committed people can
do, then we must persevere through the hardships that building our
religion is going to entail. We must be willing to continue on when
we are pushed back. If one loses a job for ones religion, the answer
is not to go back and hide, but to continue until one finds a vocation
where one can more forward and live as an Asatruar should.
Finally we must persevere when we simply fail. If one's kindred falls
apart because of internal strife, one should go back and start over.
Pick up the pieces and continue on. If nobody had done this after the
disintegration of the Asatru Free Assembly, this would probably never
have been written. We must be willing to continue in the hard work of
making our religion strong--not just when it is convenient and easy to
do so, but when it gets hard, inconvenient, or just plain boring. To
accomplish without striving is to do little, but to persevere and
finally accomplish a hard fought goal brings great honor.
As with most Neo-Pagan religions, Asatru posits a belief in magic and
the spiritual realm. However, people must remember that the bedrock
of Asatru is faith in the Gods, and magic is but a part of our customs
and folklore, not a substitute for faith or something separate from
it. Practicing magic, even magic of a Northern type, does not make
one Asatru, nor is the practice of magic a requirement to be an
Asatruar or to perform rituals in honor of our Gods.
The most common type of magic found in the Asatru tradition is that of
the runes. The runes are a magical alphabet which in various forms
was found throughout the Germanic world. The most common form used in
Asatru today is the "Elder Futhark" (runic alphabets are called
futharks, a word constructed from the first 6 runes) which is believed
to be an older and more true form than the later versions such as the
Anglo-Saxon set of 33 runes.
People are most familiar with the use of runes for divinatory
purposes, and they are indeed used for this purpose. Asatru believes
that there are forces, shaped by our past and the history of the
world, that affect the world and the way the future comes to be. We
believe that the forces of Wyrd and Orlog (without a dissertation to
explain them fully, both words translate roughly to "fate") can be
examined and to some extent tell us what is going to happen. On the
other hand, we do not believe in predestination. Future events are
shaped by our actions, and we can change them. If we change our
actions, we change the future. So the runes are not a perfect
prediction of what will occur because the future is in flux. They
are, however, an important tool for exactly the same reason.
The most common way to read the runes is to pull forth three runes
representing the past, present, and future. All of these are
important, because only in looking at the past and present can we
understand a prediction of what will occur in the future.
However, divination is but a small part of runic magic. The runes are
important and powerful symbols that represent the very forces that
hold the nine worlds together, and they make very powerful
The runes are also useful in active magic. The most common way to use
them in this manner is to carve a "bind rune" or a symbol made up of
more than one rune, all of which together are intended to produce an
effect. The most common of these would be a rune carved on a single
line with one rune pointing to the left and the other to the right.
However, the more complex a rune is, the more powerful it can become.
For more information on runes, consult the books recommended in the
Another important type of magic is called seidhr, which seems to have
been a "shamanic" tradition within ancient Asatru. This type of magic
involves going into a trance, and journeying to the other worlds.
Here, one could journey to consult the spirits of nature, the Disir,
or the ancestors. Unfortunately little information is left to us
about seidhr. We know that Freya was a skilled practitioner and that
she taught it to Odin. It was considered to be a woman's magic, and
Odin is taunted about it by Loki. Although today most persons
exploring seidhr are women, there is no such prejudice against men
interested in it.
In what records we do have, the trance of the seidhrwoman was created
through another person singing songs or chanting while the seidhrwoman
was elevated on a platform. We don't know much else about the
practice. However, around the world shamanic techniques are
remarkably similar, and the main difference seems to be the cultural
context, which provides a map to interpreting the otherworlds. The
best approach might to be explore some of the material on the general
phenonenon of shamanism, and then apply that to what little we do
The third major type of magic found in modern Asatru is "galdr" or
chant magic. The simplest form of this is "rune galdr" or the simple
chanting and "vibrating" of the sounds of the runes in order to invoke
RAVEN KINDRED CALENDAR
The Raven Kindred meets on the first weekend of each month and for the
four major Norse holidays: Summer and Winter Finding (Spring & Fall
Equinox), Summer Solstice, and Yule. Traditional festivals which have
been moved to fit our monthly schedule have their traditional date in
parenthesis. Festivals marked with a "*" are particular to the Raven
Kindred. There are other holidays which our kindred does not meet to
celebrate, but which are recognized by Asatru and celebrated on an
individual or family basis.
1st weekend -- Frig's Distaff -- Celebration of Frigga and the home
1st weekend -- Disting -- Celebration of Freya and the Disir (Trad.
1st weekend -- Founding of the World. Celebration of Odin, Vili, and
3/21 -- Summer Finding - Celebration of the Goddess Ostara. Also a
celebration of the Raven Kindred's founding, Spring Equinox 1991.
1st weekend -- Alfarblot. Sacrifice to the elves and nature spirits
(traditionally celebrated as part of Disting)
1st weekend -- May Day/Walpurgis. Celebration of spring which we
dedicate to Njord and Nerthus. (Trad. 5/1)
1st weekend -- Festival of Mead dedicated to Aegir and also to Bygvir
3/21 Summer Solstice -- Dedicated to Sunna, Goddess of the Sun
1st weekend -- Blot in honor of Baldr*
1st weekend -- Freyfaxi, first harvest and celebration of Frey and his
horse (Trad. 8/1)
1st weekend -- Discovery of the Runes, celebration of Odin as the God
of Wisdom (Odinic Rite holiday celebrated 8/25)
9/21 Winter Finding -- Disirblot (Disirblot traditionally 10/13-10/15)
1st weekend -- Tyrblot, celebration of Justice and Honor. (Supreme
Court session begins 1st Monday in October)*
1st weekend -- Einjerhar, celebration of war-dead and Ragnarok
Dedicated to Odin and Freya (Trad. 11/11 -- Armistice Day)
1st weekend -- Winterblot, dedicated to Skadi and/or Ullr*
12/21 -- Yule, multiday festival dedicated to Thor et al
(Traditionally a festival lasting from the Mother Night 12/21 to New
RAVEN KINDRED RITUAL OUTLINE
The Raven Kindred has developed a slightly different form of the Blot
ritual which we use. This has come to pass because of a desire for
more personal involvement as well as a smaller group of people than
would be appropriate for a major blot.
The major change, outside of a few cosmetic differences, is that we
have added a "mini sumbel" to the blot ritual in place of the
sprinkling in which we offer three rounds of toasts: the first
dedicated to the God or Goddess being honored and the remaining two to
anything the participants deem appropriate which is not inimical to
the purpose of the blot. (i.e. don't toast the Jotnar during a
ritual to Thor.)
Setting the mood: Chant to Odin, Vili, Ve
To begin each ritual we offer a three round chant of "Odin, Vili, Ve."
This serves two purposes. First we are linking ourselves to the Gods
of creation and thus to the connections between Midgard and the Gods.
Second and perhaps more appropriately it allows people to get
themselves mentally prepared for the service.
We offer an invocation to Fire and Ice which are the central elements
of the creation of the world. We ask that the place we are meeting be
blessed and Holy for the coming of the Gods.
Statement of purpose
We far too often ignore this, but it's a good idea to have the Gothi
or Gythia who is presiding greet the participants and state something
general about the purpose of the ritual. It need not be complicated
"We gather together today to celebrate the Winter Nights as our
ancestors did. To honor our ancestors, the Disir, and Freya the Great
Dis and to renew our bonds as a family [kindred]."
At this point one of our members usually offers up a prayer to the
Aesir and Vanir collectively to thank them for their bounty since the
last time we met and to ask their blessings upon the kindred and its
We reserve a time between the opening of the ritual and the blot
ceremony for people to offer any prayers or other invocations they
feel necessary. This is the time when we Profess new members of
Asatru. Other activities done at this time have included a kindred
member thanking Saga, the Goddess of wisdom, for her recent graduation
Invoke deity of occasion
At this point we make a point to specifically invoke and honor the
deity that we are bloting. We attempt to list as many names and or
functions of the God as possible and this serves a dual purpose in
reminding the attendees of who the God is and why we are honoring Him.
This is, however, separate from the offering.
At this point we like to remind ourselves why we are here and what the
Gods mean to us. We sit and someone either offers a spoken meditation
or more often reads a story from the mythology. While most of us
enjoy the poetic edda, we usually use a modern prose version of the
myth as it is easier to follow.
The Gothi takes up the horn and his assistant (often called "The
Valkyrie" by Asafolk) fills it with mead. The Gothi then steps to the
altar and holds the horn aloft and asks the God to partake of it and
charge it with his power.
Toast to the deity of occasion
This is when we begin to deviate substantially from the standard
Asatru blot ritual. Beginning with the Gothi the horn is raised and a
toast drunk to the God. The horn is then passed around to the Folk
and a personal toast repeated. The only rule here is that the round
is dedicated to the God invoked. Many times the toasts are personal
thanksgiving or requests for aid or wisdom.
At the end of the round the remains of the horn (and there should be
some) are poured into the blotbowl.
We then take two more rounds to toast whatever Gods, ancestors, and
beings each person wishes. There is not necessarily any continuity
from one person to the next. Brags or oaths are also appropriate at
this time. Professions, other major oaths, and major works of
thanksgiving or praise are usually done before the blot. The second
and third toasts are usually reserved for small things.
Finally we always remember to thank the deity and ask for his
continued blessings on the Folk present.
Oath Ring ceremony
Our kindred has a ceremony that affirms our dedication to each other,
to the kindred, and to the Gods. Each full Professed and accepted
Kindred member comes forward and takes hold of the oath ring. (We are
blessed in having a 6" diameter brass oath ring made for us by a
kindred member.) One person then recites a rede concerning itself with
the symbol of a ring and something which connects us to the Gods, the
Earth, and to each other.
I should repeat, only kindred Members participate in this. If you
haven't sworn on the oath ring, you don't take part in the ceremony.
We have enlarged this at public events to all Professed persons, but
change the rede to remove references to the kindred.
Finally we leave the Hof and pour a libation on the physical earth,
adjourning outside to do so if we are indoors. The blot hitting the
ground signals that the ritual is truly over. When we are working
indoors in a living room or other non-dedicated space I always make
sure I am the first to return and extinguish candles, turn on electric
lights, etc. This provides a good hint to people's minds that the
ritual is, in fact, over. If we had a dedicated space, the procession
outside to pour the blot would also empty the Hof and we would adjourn
to the feast rather than returning to the temple.
HAILING THE SUN: A SAMPLE BLOT TO HONOR SUNNA AT THE SUMMER SOLSTICE
This ritual would be ideally performed at sunrise on the day of the
summer Solstice. If possible the folk should gather while it is still
dark or even better, remain awake throughout the night in vigil. A
secondary time would be at noon on the Solstice. This ritual should
not be performed at night.
At any point in this ritual, within the realm of logic and dramatic
flow, the parts marked as Gothi and Gythia may be shared among the
folk. In addition, the parts are not necessarily sex specific, but
the terminology is used as a convenience.
Set Up: An altar should be placed in the center and the folk should
form a circle around it, leaving space in the center for the "action"
to take place. For this ritual you will need some sort of mead or
beer, a horn or chalice, an offering bowl, a hammer for consecrations,
and a wheel of some sort, preferably a wagon wheel to symbolize the
turning of the wheel of the year. Any reasonable tools may be
substituted. The Wheel is placed on the ground near the altar or on
the altar with candles around the rim (unlit).
Consecration of space
The Gothi goes to the center of the folk and forms the invocational
position of the elhaz rune, both hands in the air at a rough 45'
Gothi: We gather here to honor our sacred lady Sunna, who on this
Solstice Morning, reaches her height of power. All hail Sunna!
All: Hail Sunna!
The Gythia takes the hammer and walks to each of the four corners and
consecrates the space.
Gythia: Hammer, hallow and hold this holy stead, that it will be a
fitting place for our worship of our sacred lady Sunna! Hammar, Helga
ve thetta ok hindra alla illska!
Gythia returns hammer to altar and faces the altar.
Gythia: I consecrate and hallow this altar to the work of our sacred
lady Sunna! Here on this Solstice morning may the might of the Gods be
brought to our holy stead. May the warm light of Sunna heat our
hearts and hold our spirits.
Gothi: Our holy lady watches and waits for the blot in her honor. Hail
All: Hail Sunna!
(At this point it would be most appropriate for a song or reading to
be performed. It should obviously be about Sunna or the sun or
something appropriate to the day.)
Gythia: Our lady Sunna is the light of knowledge, the warmth of love,
and the heat of our passion. Let us spend a moment in silence,
contemplating those things which she brings us.
Leave a few moments for silent prayers and meditation.
Gothi: Holy Sunna. Lady of the Sun. Light of the heavens. Ever
pursued and ever free. We gather to greet and welcome you and offer
you gifts on this day. We offer to you our prayers and love, our
devotion and strength, our kinship and honor.
All face the sun and form the elhaz posture.
All: Hail to thee Sunna, light of Har newly risen. She whose holy
light shone upon our ancestors of old and she who's light will shine
upon our children. We give you hail and welcome. Fill our hearts on
this Solstice morning with your warm rays that your fires may burn in
our hearts throughout the year. Hail Sunna!
A few moments of silence are appropriate here.
Gothi: Now it is time to offer sacrifice to our holy lady.
Gythia takes horn and Gothi fills it with mead. Gythia holds horn
above her head, in the direction of the sun.
Gythia: Here is our sacrifice, the essence of our love and spirit. We
offer it to you as a token of our kinship and our love. As you drink
of it, may your power fill this holy hlaut and feed our spirits.
Gythia drinks from the horn and it is then passed around the folk,
each taking a drink, with the horn returning to the Gythia.
Gythia: Hail to thee Sunna!
Gythia pours remainder of horn into the offering bowl. Gythia and
Gothi take the bowl and evergreen sprig and walk around the folk,
sprinkling the mead to the four corners and on the folk. Finally they
return to the center and sprinkle the wheel.
Gothi: Hail the sacred wheel of the sun. Now it is the longest day of
the year and the sun is triumphant, but all changes and the wheel
Gythia lights candles on the wheel and members of the folk take it up
and parade it around the grounds. A song or chant would be
appropriate at this time. "The sun burns, the wheel turns!" for
example. Once the procession is done (this decision should be based
on the subjective feelings of those involved and not planned out) the
wheel should be returned to the altar.
Gothi & Gythia assume the invocation position
Gothi: Sacred Lady Sunna, Summer Sun now strongest. We thank you for
your blessings of warmth and light. May you reign long.
All: Hail Sunna! Hail Sunna! Hail Sunna!
Gothi takes up the hlaut bowl.
Gothi: Now our rite is ended and the sacrifice is made. The wheel
turns. To Sunna, to the Gods, to the Goddesses, and to Earth, mother
of us all, we offer this holy mead, from the Gods to the Earth To us.
From ourselves to the Earth to the Gods. Hail!
Gothi pours contents of the hlaut bowl on the ground, possibly in the
center of the wheel. If this ritual is done indoors, the libation
should be poured outside afterwards. We usually trek outside
immediately even if the ritual is an apartment. The physical action
of pouring the libation is an important psychological trigger to both
Gods and men that the ritual is over.
A DAY IN THE LIFE: A BLOW BY BLOW ACCOUNT OF RUNNING A RITUAL
Our rituals are held on the afternoon of the first Saturday of each
month. We tell people to arrive at 2:00pm, and plan for a ritual at
4:00 followed by a feast. This is a rough timeline, intended to
shepherd people through a complete ritual from when one awakes in the
morning, to when people go home.
At least one week before, get invitations and/or schedules in the
mail. If you give folks some sort of paper to hold onto they will be
much less likely to forget about the ritual.
9:00 Get up. Fritter away time answering e-mail, watching
Scooby-Doo reruns, etc.
10:30 Clean the house. Get personal items such as bills and
checkbooks out of where people might see them. Stash excess books in
bedroom. Sweep and vacuum floor. Clean kitchen, make sure the
dishwasher is run and dishes put away so there will be enough for the
Folk. Put any food or drink items away that one doesn't want the Folk
to eat. Check altar, clean and dust it, offer a prayer and light the
24 hour candle on it. Put out any new magazines or books of interest
on the coffee table.
12:00 Shower and get dressed.
12:30 First people arrive--at this point the only folks present are
a few "core" members of the kindred who are there to help, not just to
attend. Immediately send people out to buy food and drink.
1:30 Food arrives. Unpack it and determine what we've forgotten.
Put out munchies, make sure beer/wine is chilling.
1:45 Other "core" kinsman calls as he is about to leave for ritual
site, let him know what previous "foraging" trip failed to obtain (in
our kindred's case, usually gravy mix), and have him/her stop to pick
it up on the way. Arranging for someone living closeby to call just
before leaving for exactly this purpose is a very good idea.
2:00 First people begin arriving at house. This is when we tell
people to arrive, but generally they float in throughout the
afternoon. As a few people begin to arrive, seek "volunteers" to help
with any food prep tasks that can be done at this point like slicing
vegetables or making stuffing. When this is done, stash it in the
2:30 If everything has gone well, all the prep cooking stuff should
be done and the dishes used washed and dried. Hosts, cooking people,
and organizers can now relax and socialize.
3:45 Person who assured you last night they would be coming calls
to announce they can't make it. Begin to get people to think about
ritual and divide up any parts that aren't previously spoken for. If
you are cooking something like a roast that requires more than an hour
of cooking, put it in now. Get the ritual space cleared out and the
altar set up. Take phone off hook or turn off ringer
4:00 If you do so, get dressed (tunics, etc) for ritual. Begin
Ritual. If you have any new people, even if they purport to be
Asatru, once you have gotten the candles lit, the blot-drink open, and
everyone ready, go over each step of the ritual. This is also a good
way to make sure that each person knows when their part is, and
remembers that they are doing it.
Set the mood: Chant to Odin, Vili, Ve--When the Gothi/person in charge
is sure that everyone is ready, start the Odin, Vili, Ve chant. This
goes for three rounds.
Hammer Rite--Appropriate person steps forward and takes up hammer, and
performs hammer rite.
Statement of purpose--Gothi ritually welcomes people to the blot and
announces what the purpose of the ritual is and otherwise reminds
people of why they have come together.
General Prayer--Someone steps forward to the altar and offers a prayer
to all the Gods and Goddesses for their blessings and asking that they
help us to have continud prosperity.
Invoke deity of occasion--Gothi steps to front of altar, raises hands
in Z position and calls for the God or Goddess of the occasion to come
forth to Midgard.
Meditation--Person leading meditation indicates that people should
sit. A few moments of silence are offered for people to get
comfortable. Meditation is offered. When it is over, the keyword we
usually use is "rise now and receive the blessing of Odin (or
Offer/sanctify mead--The Gothi takes up the horn and his assistant
(called "The Valkyrie") fills it with mead. The Valkyrie replaces the
bottle on the altar. The Gothi steps to the front of the altar and
holds the horn aloft and asks the God to partake of it and charge it
with his power.
Toast to the deity of occasion--After offering the horn to the deity
and making the first toast, the Gothi passes the horn to the person
next to him. If there are a large number of people the Valkyrie
should watch and if necessary come forward with the bottle to refill
the horn. At the end of the round the remains of the horn (and there
should be some) are poured into the blotbowl by the Gothi usually with
some appropriate words, and the Valkyrie then refills it. This
process is repeated for the next two rounds.
Thank deity--The Gothi thanks the deity and bids him/her continue to
watch over the Folk.
Oath Ring ceremony--The Gothi takes up oath Ring and the full kindred
members come forward and grab ahold. The recognized kindred leader
offers up the rede. The Gothi then replaces the Ring on the altar.
Pour libation--Someone, often the Valkyrie, takes up the blotbowl and
leads the people outside for the libration. The Gothi is the last
person to leave, and makes sure the door is closed, etc. After the
libation is finished, the Gothi hurries back to be the first one in
and turns on the lights, which is an important cue to everyone that
the ritual is indeed over.
5:00 Ritual Over. Put someone in charge of getting the room back
to normal. Person in charge of food grabs a few "volunteers" and sets
them to work getting the rest of the food together. Other folks
socialize or help as they wish.
5:30 Set tables and put out anything that people don't need to get
for themselves such as napkins, salt & pepper, butter, etc. Offer a
"last call" for folks to get drinks before the food is served. Slice
roast and anything else that needs to be. Get serving spoons where
they'll be needed or put food onto serving platters, etc.
5:45 If you are serving food out of the kitchen bring it out. If
you aren't, cook and "volunteers" grab plates full and then announce
food is ready for the rest of the people. Much feasting ensues.
5:55 Person who called at 3:30 announcing they couldn't make it
arrives. Says he called, but the phone was busy. Host puts it back
6:30 All the food being gone, the feast is declared over. Host is
thrown out of kitchen and told to sit down while folks wash dishes and
clean up. (If this doesn't happen, reconsider who is invited.)
7:00 First person leaves. Hit everyone up for $$ for feast
contributions (this would be better done when they arrive, but it
rarely happens that way). Write down anyone who doesn't have the cash
and owes you. If this happens with any frequency, reconsider who is
8:00 Put The Vikings in the VCR.
10:30 Vikings movie finishes. Most guests leave.
11:30 Guests have drifted out until "core" kindred members are the
only folks left. Talk over ritual and how it went. Bitch and laugh
about flakey visitor who will never come back (you hope).
12:30 Last people leave. Go to bed.
HOW TO MAKE MEAD
Mead is one of the oldest drinks known to man. In the ancient Norse
tradition it is beloved of both Gods and men. The patron God of mead
and brewing is Aegir, a God of the sea, reckoned as one of the Giants,
who is the greatest of brewers. It is to him that the Gods went to
when they wanted mead and ale brewed for Asgard. Bygvir and Beyla are
servants of the God Frey; their names reckoned as "barley" and "bee."
"Kvasir's blood" is a kenning for mead. Kvasir was an early God, who
was murdered and his blood brewed into mead that gave wisdom. Snorri
tells us that Odin ate no food, but drank only mead.
In modern Asatru, mead is an important part of our basic ritual known
as the blot. In ancient times, the blot was a sacrifice in which the
blood of a slaughtered animal was offered to the Gods. Today, we
generally offer mead or ale in a similar manner.
The essence of brewing is a true wonder of nature. One introduces
yeast in to a liquid that is rich in sugars. The yeast eats the sugar
and excrete's alcohol. In wine, the liquid is grape juice. In beer,
it is a mixture of water and malted grains. In mead, it is a mixture
of honey and water, although occasionally people will mix in fruit for
To brew mead you will need the follow ingredients for each gallon of
mead: 2 1/2 lbs of honey, 2 teaspoons of "acid mix" (Sold as pre-mixed
in winemaking stores. It contains malic, tartaric, and citric
acids.), 1 teaspoon of yeast energizer, one packet of wine yeast (1
packet of yeast will do for 1Ð5 gallons of mead, I suggest champagne
yeast and highly recommend against mead yeast. I have never had a
decent mead made with mead yeast. Bread yeast is absolutely not
acceptable.). You usually make mead in 5 gallon batches.
You will also need some equipment. First, if you don't already have
one, you'll need a good quality pot that will hold at least 2 or 3
gallons. It should be made of either stainless steel or
enameled--your basic corn or lobster pot will do. Second, you'll need
a variety of goods sold at the local beer and winemaking store. If
you are just starting out, you are probably best off buying a kit
which will contain the following: a five gallon plastic keg the cover
of which has a hole in the center meant for a stopper (the primary
fermenter), a plastic siphon hose attached to a piece of hard plastic
tubing (a racking cane), a piece of hard plastic tubing molded into an
"S" shape (an air lock), a little device that either looks like a tiny
plunger or two pieces of plastic, one of which fits over the other (a
corker), a device that looks like a giant glass thermometer (a
hydrometer), a bottle brush, a package of "sanitizer," and a bag of
corks. Oh, you'll also get a little booklet that will give you
helpful advice on brewing grape wines. I've found these booklets are
generally good, but tend to go into more work than is necessary for
The kit will run around $30Ð$50, and the individual items about a
third more than that if you buy them separately. If you are buying
them separately, you don't really need the hydrometer and you can use
household bleach instead of the sanitizer. The yeast and chemicals
will run you another $10, and the honey another $20. I recommend
looking at a health food store, where you can often get higher quality
all-natural honey in different varieties and larger quantites at
prices much cheaper than at the supermarket. Most beer and winemaking
stores will be happy to sell you bottles, but I recommend asking at a
local restaurant as they are usually eager to get rid of a few. You
can't reuse corks. This is all you need. Your bill for making your
first 5 gallons will be about $80, and will make 20 or so bottles. So,
the cost for home-brewed mead is around $4/bottle for the first batch,
and $1.50 thereafter.
Making mead is easy. First find a good quality pot that will hold 2Ð5
gallons. It should be either stainless steel or ceramic coated (a
"corn" or "lobster" pot is usually a good bet). Rinse it out either
with the sanitizer (following the directions on the package) or with a
10Ð20% bleach solution. This is to sterilize it. Everything you use
must be completely sterile, including any spoons or siphons or
anything else that comes in contact with the mead including your
hands. Of course, after sterilizing everything rinse the bleach in
hot water until you can't smell it, and then rinse it a bit more for
good measure. The reason for sterilizing is that yeasts naturally
present in air can contaminate your mead, and unlike the helpful
yeasts mentioned above, most airborne yeast excrete vinegar rather
Dissolve the honey in water, and bring it to a boil, adding the acid
mix and yeast energizer. If your pot will fit all 5 gallons of water,
that's great. Otherwise just put in enough water to dissolve the
honey. Bring the mix to the boiling point, and skim off the "scum"
that floats to the surface. If you wish to add fruit, like a handful
of berries or apple slices, do this now and cook until they are soft
and/or dissolved and then strain them out. If you don't want to go
through this, jelly makes an easily dissolved additive. If you do
decide to add fruit, make allowances for the qualities of the fruit.
If you are adding something tart or acidic like strawberries or
rasberries, reduce the amount of acid mix you add to the brew.
Once you've brought the mix to a boil or boiled down the fruit, pour
the mixture into your large vat--which you have sterilized with bleach
mix and rinsed while you were waiting for the mead to heat up. (Most
books recommend siphoning it into the primary fermenter (the large
plastic vat), so I suppose I should as well, but to be honest I've
always poured it. At the boiling point, there's only so much that can
contaminate the mixture.) If the pot you boiled the honey and water
mixture wouldn't hold enough water, add the remainder to the fermenter
now. If you aren't going to be able to boil all the water, which will
cause most of the trapped gasses to escape, you will probably want to
use bottled water.
Put on the cover and let the mixture cool to room temperature. If it
is hot, it will kill the yeast. Once it's cool, mix the yeast with a
cup of water in a small bowl and let it get rehydrated for 10Ð20
minutes, then open the primary fermenter, and add the yeast. This is
called "pitching" the yeast. Close the fermenter, and put on the
The airlock is a nifty little piece of hard plastic tubing, bent into
an "S" shape--looking and acting a lot like the drain pipe under the
sink. You put some water in it (about 1/2 an inch on each side of the
"S"," and the escaping gasses from the fermentation will push their
way through the water in the airlock. This allows the pressure to
escape, but leaves the fermenter sealed so nothing can get in from the
outside. (You'll understand it when you see one.) In anytime from a
day to a week from when you put the cover and airlock on, gasses will
begin to bubble out of the airlock showing you that the mead is
fermenting. All the books tell you this will start within a day, but
sometimes it takes a little longer. If it doesn't start in a week,
consider throwing in another packet of yeast and a teaspoon of yeast
energizer. You might also see if the room you have placed your
fermenter in is too cold. (Cement floors in basements radiate a lot
of cold and will slow your fermentation to a crawl, even if the room
is heated.) I've had best results with the fermenter between 65Ð75¡.
You might also take some care not to put the fermenter on a carpet.
Sometimes the fermentation will go berserk and foam will ooze out of
the airlock during the first week. Usually this only happens with
beer, but it can be a mess, so the fermenter should probably stay in
In one to three months, you will see the fermentation slow to a stop
or near stop. This happens either because the yeast has converted all
the sugar to alcohol, or, more likely, there is a sufficient amount of
alcohol to kill the yeast (how did this stuff ever evolve?). This is
another reason for using champagne yeast--it is tolerant of higher
levels of alcohol, so you will get a much stronger brew.
You then need to bottle your mead. Soak the corks in water for at
least an hour if not a day before you bottle, to get them soft and
pliable. Sterilize the bottles, and the racking cane and tubing. The
racking cane is a siphon devide with the intake about a 1/2 inch above
the bottom level, so you don't get any of the yeast sludge into the
bottles. The sludge is pretty disgusting looking and tastes twice as
bad. You want to make sure not to disturb it. This means not
swishing around the racking cane. It's also helpful to put the
primary fermenter up on the table a few hours before you are going to
bottle, so any sludge disturbed will have time to settle. One more
thing--always siphon, never pour the mead, and sterilize the siphon
and racking cane.
Finally, you need to cork the bottles. Most kits come with one of two
types of corking devices. Both push the cork through a narrowing
passage that compreses it, so it will fit into the bottle neck and
then expand, forming a seal. The first is a plunger style device,
with a hole in the side. You put the cork in, and place the whole
device over the bottle, and then push down on the plunger and the cork
slides into the bottle. The second type of corker (and the one I
prefer) consists of two pieces of plastic. One is hollow, and you
place the cork inside of it. You then fit the second piece, over the
first. It has a stopper inside which pushes the cork down through the
hollow piece, into the neck of the bottle. I find this latter type a
bit more stable. I was always tipping over bottles with the plunger
type, this doesn't seem to happen with the two piece one. Very
occasionally you'll get corks that simply won't go in. This is
usually due to a knot hidden in the middle of the cork. It usually
means chipping the cork out of the corker with a knife or pushing it
back the way it came.
We've found the bottling works best in teams of three, one holding the
top of the racking cane in the fermenter (and avoiding the yeast
sludge), a second at the bottom of the siphon filling the bottles, and
a third person corking the full bottles. When we get down to the part
with the sludge, we usually put that in a separate bottle and drink it
as soon as its marginally clear to "test" the mead. It will probably
taste horrid, but this will change with age. If it's vinegar, start
buying salad oil because there's not a lot more you can do other than
Once corked, set aside to age until the mead clears. It's best to age
it from four to six months, but at least give it time to clear. During
this time you can get occasional problems. Primarily, if fermentation
hasn't entirely stopped, it will continue in the bottle. This is how
you get the pressure in champagne and sparkling wines and it can make
a wonderful sparkling mead The problem is that champagne bottles are
designed to hold high pressure, and the cork is a special type
"locked" on with a metal cage. If you get too much pressure, the
corks will pop out of the bottles usually spraying mead all over the
place (this happened to us when a heat wave started the fermentation
again and increased the pressure). There's no real remedy for this,
it's part of the fun and actually quite rare. If the bottles you open
seem to be sparkling, then beware of this and store your mead
someplace cool and uncarpeted. If they aren't sparkling I wouldn't
worry about it. Look on the bright side, the crown caps on beer
bottles don't pop off, so when the pressure gets too high, the bottle
Drink and enjoy.
Basic mead recipe:
12 pounds of honey
10 t acid mixture
5 t yeast energizer
1 package champagne yeast
Dissolve honey in water. Bring to a boil. Add acid mix and yeast
energizer. Pour into fermenter. Allow to cool. Pitch and add yeast.
SOURCES AND RESOURCES FOR ASATRU
Copyright ©1994 by Lewis Stead, permission granted for free
distribution. Please send additions and corrections to Lewis Stead;
11160 Veirs Mill Rd L15-175; Wheaton MD 20902 or through e-mail to
The Ring of Troth P.O. Box 25637; Tempe, AZ 85285-5637 The Ring is an
international organization for Norse Pagans of any type. It is
governed by an appointed High Rede of 9 persons who guide the national
affairs of the Ring. They offer a number of programs including an
Elder training program for prospective clergy, and recognition for
local Kindreds. Dues are $24 and include a subscription to Idunna.
If one does not wish to join, Friends of the Troth may receive Idunna
for $24 as well. Family memberships are $33 and include 1 copy of
The Raven Kindred Association 11160 Veirs Mill Rd L15-175; Wheaton MD
20902 The Raven Kindred Association offers correspondence connections,
help with setting up kindreds, regional coordination, booklets and
pamphlets as well as sponsoring a New Year's/Yule Thing. Membership
is available to kindreds or individuals who agree with the RKA
Declaration of Principles. The RKA strongly encourages its members to
join other affiliations in addition to the RKA.
Skergard 9155 Dyer (#B-80-158); El Paso, TX 79924 Skergard is a small
alliance in the SouthWest with three kindreds and a journal. They are
governed by a High Rede and Asst. High Rede, in conjunction with a
council of Gothar, representing each God or Goddess.
Asatru Fellowship of Illinois; 858 W. Armitage (Suite 139); Chicago,
Asatru Fellowship of Ohio; PO Box 271; Carrollton, OH 44615
Barnstokker Garth; PO Box 1972; Seattle, WA 98111
Chimney Rock Kindred; PO Box 448; Bayard, NE 69334
Dragon's Hearth; 1015 Rutledge Ave; Phoenixville, PA 19460
Erntefreude Hearth; 322 Cedar Ave; Highland Park, NJ 08904
Eyvindr Hearth; 210 Alamo; Las Vegas, NM 87701
Fire and Ice Kindred; PO Box 10036; Cranston, RI 02910
First Iowa Church of Asatru; 1600 Buterfield (Suite #211); Dubuque, IO
Freya's Folk Hearth; 537 Jones St #165; San Francisco, CA 94102
Fridrik Kindred; PO Box 1245; Frederick, MD 21702
Garrison Hearth; RD3 Box 298; Averill Park, NY 12018
GŽring ThŽod; PO Box 8062; Watertown, NY 13601
Glen VŽdis Hearth; 19710 63rd Lane NE; Seattle WA 98155
Gray Wolf Kindred; PO Box 441308; Indianapolis IN 46244
Hamilton Hearth; 15558 Spangler Rd; Dillsboro, IN 47018
Hamm Hearth; PO Box 8152; Bridgeport, CT 06605-0996
Hammer Oak Kindred; 1517 San Francisco (Suite #4); Berkeley, CA 94703
Hammer of Thor Kindred; PO Box 222514; Carmel, CA 93922
Hammerstead Kindred; PO Box 22379; Lexington, KY 40522
Heidentor Hearth; 1314 1/2 Lindsley St; Sandusky, OH 44870
Herig Hearg; PO Box 7055; Bryan OH 43506
Hrafnaheimr Garth; 7954 West Third St; Los Angeles, CA 90048
Hrafnar Garth; PO Box 5521; Berkeley, CA 94705
Irminsul Garth; PO Box 18812; Austin, TX 78760
Margivegr Group; 1550 Larimer (Suite #170); Denver, CO 80202
Moonstar Hearth; 1264-L Sheridan Dr.; Lancaster, OH 43130
Mountain Moot Kindred; PO Box 328; Elizabeth, CO 80107
N’und Bara Garth; PO Box 4371; Sunland, CA 91041
Nordland Hearth; PO Box 596; Marshall, MN 56258
Ratakosk Kindred; PO Box 216; Sherwood, OR 97140
Raven Kindred North; PO Box 1137; Sturbridge, MA 01566
Raven Kindred South; 11160 Veirs Mill Rd L15-175; Wheaton, MD 20902
Raven Kindred Vermont; PO Box 1002; Rutland, VT 05701
Ravenswood Kindred; PO Box 212; Sheridan, IN 46069
Ravenwood Sibja; PO Box 1012; Grand Canyon, AZ 86023
Skergard Garth; PO Box 1755 (Suite #250); Nederland, CO 80466
Skergard's Fjallagard Hearth; PO Box 233; Rollinsville, CO 80474
Skergard's Fjallaheim Hearth; 10621 Birthstone; El Paso, TX 79925
Skergard's Naglfar Hearth; 6856 Amster Rd; Richmond, VA 23225
Torwald Kindred; PO Box 417; Rollinsville, CO 80474
Ullrshavn Hearth; PO Box 84396; Fairbanks, AK 99708
Ullsbekk Kindred; PO Box 1156; Denver, CO 80201
Vlissinger Garth; 4019 164th St (Suite #586); Flushing, NY 11358
Vrilhof Hearth; PO Box 472; Cambridge, MA 02139
Wednesbury ThŽod; Route 1, Box 120; Huntsville, MO 65259
Wolfraven Steading; PO Box 1349; Browns Mills, NJ 08015
Yggdrasil Kindred; PO Box 23940; Tucson, AZ 85734
Zakharias Steading; 984 East 900 South; Salt Lake City, UT 84105
Hlidhskjalf Garth; 1513 Thurlow St; Orleans Ontario K4A-2K9 CANADA
Northern Light Hearth; PO Box 8427; Victoria, BC V8W-3S1 CANADA
Wolf's-Joint Hearth; PO Box 36097; Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J-3S9 CANADA
Idunna -- $24/year. The journal of the Ring of Troth. Idunna
concentrates on fairly heavy academic subjects, runelore, translations
etc within a religious framework.
Asatru Today -- $15/year, 11160 Veirs Mill Rd L15-175; Wheaton, MD
20902. Independent Asatru journal. Concentrates on modern religious
Asatru with community news and announcements.
Fjallabok -- $24/year, P.O. Box 233; Rollinsville, CO 80474. Monthly
magazine which also acts as newsletter for Skergard. General Asatru
articles and some controversial opinions.
Theod -- $15/year. P.O. Box 8062, Watertown, NY 13601. Journal of
Theodish Belief, the ancient Anglo-Saxon religion very closely related
to Asatru. Digest sized with nice layout.
The Runestone -- $10/year; P.O. Box 445; Nevada City CA 95959.
Published by Stephen McNallen & Maddy Hutter, this is the
reincarnation of the AFA's seminal journal on Asatru. Interesting
commentary, interested in heroic viking past.
A Book of Troth by Edred Thorsson (Not a book without imperfections,
but presents the basic rituals of Asatru).
Myth and Religion of the North, E.O.G. Turville-Petre (Excellent
academic introduction to Norse mythology.)
The Norse Myths, Kevin Crossley Holland (basic mythology in modern
language and retelling, excellent for readings or meditation)
Our Troth by The Ring of Troth & Friends of the Troth. (A huge volume
of Norse rituals and belief compiled by The Ring of Troth from its
members and associates. Highly Recommended. $17 postpaid for Ring of
Troth members, $25 for non-members.)
The Poetic Edda, Lee Hollander translation (basic mythology in an
excellently translated poetic version.)
The Prose Edda, Jean Young translation (basic mythology)
Rhinegold, Stephan Grundy. (Novel retelling the Volsung Saga, written
from a modern Asatru Viewpoint. Gives an excellent picture of ancient
Germanic life and religion.)
The Raven Kindred Ritual Book (basic text on Asatru ritual and
beliefs, $8 from Asatru Today. Available for free download from
online services or Moonrise BBS at (301)Ê593-9609 or e-mail to
The Road To Hel, and any other works by H.R. Ellis-Davison (All her
works are excellent introductions to Norse myth and worldview)
Teutonic Religion, Kveldulfr Gundarsson (basic text on modern Germanic
Computer Network Resources:
There is a Runes & Asatru conference on the Pagan/Occult Distribution
System (PODSnet). The following are long term stable boards: The
Mountain Oracle, Colorado: 719-380-7886, Mysteria, California:
818-353-8891, Sacred Grove, Washington State: 1-206-322-5450,
Moonrise, Maryland/DC: 301-593-9609, Baphonet, New Jersey:
1-201-434-5026, Pandora's Box, Ottawa Canada: 613-829-1209, PODS,
Sydney Australia: 61-2-833-1848, PODS Melbourne Australia:
The Troth Line is an internet mailing list for Asatru. To subscribe,
send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org consisting of the following
message: "subscribe troth ". The list itself is at
email@example.com. The list operates by echoing messages to your
e-mail account and is accessable through America Online, CompuServe,
Delphi, and tens of thousands of other locations.
An excellent FTP archive of Pagan material can be found at
ftp.lysator.liu.se and includes a section dedicated to Asatru and