Some thoughts on liturgy

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to redevelop my religious practices and methodology. In particular, I’ve been thinking about liturgical matters and how I see things done. I’ve run across some articles that reminded me how influenced I’ve become my Théodism. This isn’t something I have an issue with, I’m just not Théodish. Still, there are concepts and methods that I find amongst Théodish practice that I particularly like, especially because they do work to eliminate Neo-Pagan influences and focus on our own history and customs. I’m not trying to bash Neo-Pagans here but I do want to note that I do find their ways incompatible with our ways. If we are ever going to be more than a few thousand adherents, if we are ever going to revive and regain what was taken from us, then we need to follow our ways and not the ways of others.

The question, in my mind, is how can I develop a practice, a liturgical style, that I can use when solitary, as I expect to be most or all the time, that I can comfortably adapt to fit group worship. I find myself wanting, needing, to be around other Heathens. This is one of the reasons I’ve rejoined the Troth. I want to find people like me, who believe as I do, and practice as I do. I want to belong to something again. It is in this vein that I’ve given thought to a key comment I read recently about which way to face during a blót.

The Théodish author was talking about the difference between Théodism and Ásatrú in this regards. According to the author, Théodish custom has everyone facing the same direction, towards the hörgr, while Ásatrú custom tends to have the goði facing the folk in attendance. I can’t speak for the Théodish but it has been my experience that the latter part tends to be true. I’m not sure I agree with the author’s assessment that the latter focuses on those in attendance while the former focuses on worshipping the gods. In some ways I can see his argument. In others, if the gathered folk aren’t able to hear what’s going on then they aren’t involved in worship. Yes, speaking up helps but I guess the real question is “Who is the blót for?”

There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer to this question. In essence, we blót in order to reaffirm our ties with the gods, as individuals and as a community. If the community is disconnected from the ritual activity then they aren’t connecting with the gods. If they aren’t connecting with the gods then the blót is nothing more than empty ceremony. Still, we have to address the question of where the focus is. It is on our troth with the gods and that does mean we need to address them directly as well.

This leads me to what I see as a dual-focused liturgical practice where some parts directly address the gathered folk while other parts directly address the gods themselves. The act of making the offerings is the part where it is most important to “face” the gods and speak to them, not the gathered folk. Invocations and prayers should also be spoken to them and not towards the gathered folk. For me, this means facing my hörgr stone. This is where the gods “live” at my house. This is their holy place. It is upon this stone that I make my offerings. These aren’t the only parts of my redeveloping liturgy, however. When planning for a group blót I do believe it is important to remind people why it is that we are gathered. What is the Holy Tide that we are celebrating? What does it mean in our lives today? These are questions that need to be answered and these are things that need to be addressed to the folk in attendance. It is these answers that builds the pathos and ethos for our worship. This is also something that doesn’t need to be addressed to the gods themselves as this is a human concern.

One other thing that I have been considering is the question of the “bumble.” It has been very common among Ásatrúar to have everyone speak over a passed horn and drink from it, raising a toast to the gods, and effectively combining a blót and a sumble into one activity. While this can be a very moving thing, I have come to see the passing of a drinking horn as a practice best left for sumble where it can be more fully appreciated by the folk and bind us together more tightly. This is something I eliminated from my practices before I lost my way and it is something I plan to keep out of my liturgical methodology now. This does mean that I need to find a way in which to include everyone in the blót. I believe that participation, not just attendance, is needed for folks to feel the power of the gods. Participation means more than just being on the receiving end of a blessing and bing sprinkled with hláut. Participation means speaking prayers. Participation means adding something to the offerings.

I don’t yet know exactly how this should be done, or even if it can be defined prior to writing up the ritual outline. Maybe it shouldn’t be. I do have some ideas, especially where burnt offerings are involved, and maybe this is the best place to start. What is important is that the folk participate in some way. This allows them to connect with the gods directly. This might be an area where I disagree with Théodish custom because I don’t believe in witnessed religion. I believe the job of the goði is to facilitate the blót, to keep things going in an deliberate manner, and to direct our worship. This is a job that takes skill and practice but I don’t believe it is an exclusionary job. I don’t believe that a goði does the work for the folk and acts as a divine representative, an intercessor for the folk and the gods. I’m not sure exactly how Théodish folk see the role of a goði but it is my understanding that whoever is presiding over a blót is someone of rank in the théod, which seems to me to imply specific sacral authority when the théod is gathered for blót.


Some thoughts on liturgy — 2 Comments

  1. My understanding of why Asatruar have the Gothi face into the group is (not just because it makes it easier to hear him/her) but because Asatruar tend to consider the Gods and Goddesses to be in the group with them, rather in the idols or on the altar. Perhaps this is a mix of “we’re all family, we all sit together” and an acknowledgement that the Gods like to pull an “angel unaware” trope, i.e. you will never know if one of the people there is one of the gods themselves. 😉

    • As far as I’m concerned, everyone should feel free to do it as they see fit. For me, even in a group setting, I believe that words to the gods should be spoken in their direction. In this case, what I mean is that I believe that their presence, their “home” if you will, if the blót-stone I’ve set up. It would be rude for me to speak to them with my back to them, only to turn around and face them when pouring the offering on the stone. It also seems a bit silly. Now, this is mostly academic as I’m almost always alone. I think, however, that this is a reflection of historical practices rather than a modern method.

      As for the sentiment of “we’re all family, we all sit together,” that is something I don’t hold to. For me, they are honored guests and the seat of honor is the blót-stone. I have no complaints with how others do things and I won’t “correct” someone and their methods if they are different than mine. This is just how I do it and the reasons for it. It’s no more correct than the opinions of others. I actually like the fact that we have the freedom to decide how to best worship the gods in our own homes without some would-be Ása-pope dictating to us what is acceptable and what isn’t.

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