Please, have a few laughs at this wonderfully silly video about how to “properly” prepare for a traditional Swedish Midsummer made by the folks at Sweden.se.
Please, have a few laughs at this wonderfully silly video about how to “properly” prepare for a traditional Swedish Midsummer made by the folks at Sweden.se.
On June 8th, 793 CE, Viking raiders sacked and pillaged the monastery on the isle of Lindisfarne, an act that historians mark as the “official” start of the Viking Age. There had actually been a few raids in the years prior to this act but some scholars believe that this raid was unique because it may have been an act of revenge for Charlemagne’s brutal campaign of genocide and forced conversion in Frisia. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has this to say about the raid:
“In this year dire forewarnings came over the land of the Northumbrians, and miserably terrified the people: these were extraordinary whirlwinds and lightnings, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine soon followed these omens; and soon after that, in the same year, on the sixth of the ides of Ianr, the havoc of heathen men miserably destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne, through rapine and slaughter.”
So hoist a drink high and drink to the memory of the brave adventurers who would terrify Europe for nearly 300 years as they changed the world forever!
For those of you who are looking for ideas for a Midsummer blót, here is one that I wrote that you are free to use or modify as you see fit. It is a blót to Sunna and Thor. If you wanted to expand upon it a bit, I would include Freyr and Freyja as well.
|När som jag var på mitt adertonde år, det var en vacker gosse som föll uti min håg. Den tänkte jag förevigt att få äga. Men denna min tanke rätt snarelig försvann, det var en annan flicka som lades i hans famn. Den liknar han vid rosende blomma. |
Nog än jag hållit fader och moder så kär, samt syskon och vänner, som älskat mig här, så går dock denna kärlek över alla. Tack för att du varit min endaste tröst och tack för alla stunder jag vilat vid ditt bröst. I himmlen skall vi åter bli förenta.
|When I was in my eighteenth year, there were a beautiful boy that I fancied. Him I wanted to own forever. But this my thought was soon to disappear. There was another girl who was put into his arms. Her he likens to a rosy flower.
Though I have treasured my father and mother dearly, as well as siblings and friends who have loved me here, this love surpasses them all. Thank you for being my sole consolation and thank you for all the times I’ve rested on your chest. In heaven shall we be united again.
Here is an English version but I don’t think it sounds nearly as good in English as it does in Swedish.
In developing a personal religious and spiritual life it is natural to set up some sort of central focus for worship in the form of an altar or shrine. Setting up an altar is easy enough and there are a couple of different options to consider. The first option to consider is an outside altar called a harrow (ON hörgr, AS hearg). This is a simple option that is either a cairn of piled rocks or a single large stone on which offerings can be left and libations poured. This is more practical for home owners with a private yard or a tree clearing on their property but if you rent a house you can always make build a cairn. Apartments that has a large stone stone on the ground can serve just as well but likely isn’t very private and might not be optimal.
The second option is doable for anyone who has a flat surface in a room that is safe from pets and children. Eyrbyggja Saga gives us an account of an indoor altar in a hof built by Þórólfur Mostraskegg called a stalli.
“…[O]ff the inmost house was there another house, of that fashion whereof now is the choir of a church, and there stood a stall in the midst of the floor in the fashion of an altar, and thereon lay a ring without a join that weighed twenty ounces, and on that must men swear all oaths; and that ring must the chief have on his arm at all meetings.
On the stall should also stand the blood-bowl, and therein the blood-rod was, like unto a sprinkler, and therewith should be sprinkled from the bowl that blood which is called hlaut, which was that kind of blood which flowed when those beasts were smitten who were sacrificed to the gods. But round about the stall were the gods arrayed in the holy place.”
A personal or household shrine, or stall, doesn’t need to be complicated or overly ornate. They do, however, have a tendency to become quite full over time. To set up stall, all you need is a safe, flat surface that you can place god-images or icons and some sort of bowl or cup to make offerings in. You can use a table, the top of a dresser, or even the mantle over a fireplace. In my own home, I use the mantle as it is central to the house and has the added benefit of harkening back to the central hearth.
God-images also don’t need to be complex if you’re just starting out. While there are now several easily available commercial statues of the gods, including historical reproductions, you can use anything that reminds you of the god or gods you wish to represent, including pictures or trinkets. You can also carve or paint faces onto sticks and place them upright in a pot filled with sand. You might also include a means of burning incense. In ancient times, the burning of herbs (ON reykelsi, AS récels) was a way to purify an area and today burning incense can help “clear” the air and help put you in the right frame of mind for worship. Additionally, I recommend some sort of candle holder, particularly for tea candles, as a means of lighting a small need-fire. If you use a table and place a table cloth on it, keep in mind that it should be easily washable as you will spill food, drink, and wax on it eventually. You can choose a color for the table cloth that is appropriate to the god or goddess the stall is dedicated to or an “all purpose” color for a stall for many gods. In this case, I prefer a rich red.
All in all, setting up an altar is one of the easiest and most basic things we can do. Even if you build a harrow, it is worth considering setting up a stall in a safe and secure place. It allows us to have a consistent place to meditate and pray as well as engage in daily practices if we wish to.
One of the interesting things about writing this blog has been the number of people with questions about how to go about doing the things that make us who we are. While there are some books and websites out there that talk about the customs and rites that make up the very core of our practices, there is often very little in the way of guidance on how to perform them. There are plenty of really good reasons for this but the most important is that there simply isn’t one right way. Each tribal group and family would have had their own variation on how a blót or sumbel was to be conducted. Even today there is a wide variation. Sumbel, for example, is far more ritualized in Theodish and Anglo-Saxon groups than in most Ásatrú and Nordic groups. It is my intention to start a new series called “The Basics” that will discuss foundation level material and practices in an effort to provide one perspective on them and hopefully give some guidance to those who are looking for tips or methods on what to do and how to do it. I want to stress that this isn’t the only way and it is meant to be a skeleton structure upon which you can build to produce a practice that fits you and your folk.
A Simple Sumbel
Sumbel is a communal drinking ritual. Where blót binds us to the Gods, sumbel binds a folk together. While there are often humorous and joyful times, it is a serious rite and should not be treated as a frat party. Words spoken over the drinking vessel, often a horn, should always be honest and forthright. If you swear an oath, you had darn well keep it. It is also fair and right for the host, or an appointed representative, to challenge an ill-conceived oath or dishonest boast. If you have a low tolerance for alcohol, or have a bad habit of running off at the mouth when intoxicated, it is advisable to excuse yourself before saying something stupid.
1) Seating the folk – For a simple sumbel, the folk take seats according to personal preference. Many people prefer to form a circle around the area where the sumbel is being held because it makes it easier to pass the horn from person to person. For outdoor sumbels, it is common for a central fire to be lit for light and warmth. I recommend starting a need-fire, a fire started by a source of friction, to hallow the site.
2) Starting the sumbel – Before the beginning of sumbel, especially when hosting
newcomers, it is advisable to speak about the purpose and rules of the sumbel. Many
groups stress that only the gods of our folk be hailed, that certain beings like the
jötnar or monsters not be hailed, or other customs of the host or group be observed. It
is extremely advisable to caution people against making careless or false oaths,
especially after several rounds of drinking. It is also good to stress that the sumbel is
held at a frith-stead, so personal quarrels or arguments must be refrained from. If
people are unable to do this they should be encouraged to leave. Some groups also
have an experienced person tasked to challenge oaths they believe are unlikely to be
fulfilled and run the risk of harming the luck of those in attendance. This is a time for
questions to be asked and clarifications made. Many groups officially start the sumbel
with a few lines of poetry or other meaningful words.
Example: “We wend our way to the Well of Urðr, to speak bold words, örlog to lay, and
wyrd to build. Speak wisely, speak true, and bring honor to the folk gathered here.”
3) Toasting the gods – Historically, the first drink should be to the chief gods of the host
group. Common toasts made by the host are to Odin for victory, Thor for strength, and
Freyr for frith. After the host makes the first toast the horn is passed from person
to person to make a toast. Toasts to a specific god is common, as are toasts to all the
gods. For newcomers who aren’t familiar with the gods, many groups advise them to
raise a toast to all the gods. When people of other faiths are participating and who are
not comfortable raising a toast to our gods it is often considered acceptable for them
to simply pass on this round rather than raising a toast to their god/s.
4) Memory drink – This round is a toast to the ancestors and the dead. The folk are
welcome to make a generic toast to the ancestors, including the álfar and the dísir, or
to raise a toast to the memory of a specific person. This round can be very emotional,
especially for someone who has recently lost a loved one and is still mourning, so
some patience might be needed as some might be moved by very strong emotions.
5) Open toasts – The third, and subsequent, rounds are open rounds where people may
make toasts, boasts, or oaths. The folk may perform songs or recite poetry. Gifts are
commonly given during open toasting, preferably during the third round. As the
sumbel goes on, and as people become more influenced by their drinks, it is
advisable to remain aware of their words and challenge foolish or bad oaths. Open
rounds may continue for as long as the host choses. Open rounds generally come to
an end when it is clear to the host that people are either too drunk to continue, to
tired, or inspiration and mood has left. It is better to end a sumbel than let it continue
and become meaningless.
6) Closing – To close a sumbel the host need only announce that sumbel has come to an
end and thanking folks for attending. If you opened the sumbel with poetry or
meaningful words it is advisable to end it in a similar fashion. This makes it clear that
sumbel has ended and people are free to do as they like.
Example: “Now we wend our way home, bold words have been spoken, örlog laid in
Urðr’s Well. Sumbel has come to an end, honor brought to our folk. Remember the
words you spoke here and keep true your oaths.”
After finding that wonderful picture of Goðafoss, I thought I’d scrounge up a few other pictures of ancient holy sites to share. There are plenty more pictures and locations out there just waiting to be shared.
This image came my way earlier today by way of NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day and it was so beautiful that I just had to share it with you. Also, check out the Wikipedia article and see some additional stunning pictures.
The other day word got out that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs had approved the use of Thor’s Hammer as an Emblem of Faith for headstones and markers. Earlier today several blogs, mine included, were contacted by a member of the Odinic Rite who was a friend of the fallen serviceman. Out of respect for him and his family, certain details are being withheld to ensure their privacy. Here is the email I received:
Due to a number of inquires regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs approval of the Mjölnir – Hammer of Thor Emblem as one of the “Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers” I have decided to write the following statement to try and answer everyone’s questions.
Please note, that at the request of the Departed’s Family, I am withholding the last name and location of the grave markersThe departed’s name is Shane, he was an Odinist and a Sargent in the United States Marine Corp. He was a Loyal Brother and Comrade to me personally for many years here in Midgard and although not a member of the OR, he was close with members of The Northern Winds Hearth and joined us in Blot and Sumbel on many occasions. Shane had passed from Midgard in August of 2012. After his Bael and Burial Ceremonies were held, I discussed with his Mother about the gravestone marker Emblems and how the Mjölnir – Hammer of Thor Emblem was not on the approved list with the VA, even with the previous efforts made by others to get approved. It was then that her quest began to submit a request to the VA to get the Mjölnir – Hammer of Thor Emblem approved. She had written a lengthy heart felt letter to the VA with the request for the approval so her son may have an Emblem of Faith representative of his Beliefs on his gravestone. At this time she also requested that her Husband Mark’s headstone also bear the same Emblem for he practiced and lived by the same core teachings and virtues of Odinism, as their Son did. The VA required that she submit: (1) A three-inch diameter digitized black and white representation; (2) Free of copyright or trademark restrictions, or authorized by the owner for use and publication on the list of publicly available emblems; and (3) Reproducible in a production-line environment in stone or bronze without loss of graphic quality. At that time I enlisted the assistance of Comrades within the OR who were more then willing to assist her with this request. After the VA accepted the image that was provided the waiting game began. She had made countless phone calls and sent numerous e-mails regarding the status of the request. Finally after all of her tireless efforts she received a letter from the VA dated May 2, 2013 advising her of the approval and that both Shane and Mark’s headstones that currently do not have any Emblem of Faith on them, would be replaced with new headstones inscribed with the Mjölnir – Hammer of Thor Emblem.
Although it is with sadness and a heavy heart that this came about, a great step forward has taken place for the Odinist and Asatru communities. From our loss a Great Victory has arisen that will positively affect us all for generations to come!
Hail to the Fallen, Hail Shane and Mark!
Hail to Shane’s Mother for Her Dedication and Perseverance!
Hail to all of Our Service Men and Women! Past, Present, and Future!
Haakon “Hawk” AOR
Guardian of The Northern Winds Hearth, AOR
I’d like to express my thanks to Hawk of the Odinic Rite for this information. This family has done a great service, and paid a high price, so that future soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines do not have to fight this battle for recognition in the future. Memorial Day is Monday, May 27th in America. It is a day to remember all of our fallen. I strongly encourage you to remember the service of these men this year when you raise a toast and hail the glorious names of the einherjar.
The Department of Veteran’s Affairs now lists the Hammer of Thor as option 55 on their list of available emblems of belief for placement on government headstones and markers. This is a bitter-sweet development because it comes at the cost of a human life.
CFR 38.632 rule states that the following individuals may request a new emblem of belief for inscription on a headstone or marker: the decedent’s next-of-kin (NOK), a person authorized in writing by the NOK, or a personal representative authorized in writing by the decedent.
- “Who Can Request a New Emblem of Belief?”
National Cemetery Administration
We do not yet know who’s marker will be the first to bear this sign. If it is someone who was active duty, may they be feasting in Valhöll and leave the mourning to us. If I should happen to learn more, I’ll update this post with appropriate and discreet details. You can go to the National Cemetery Administration’s website to see a full list of available symbols.