In one of my earliest posts I wrote about prayer in a Heathen context. In Hávamál there are two lines that ask if you know how to bid (pray) and how to sacrifice. Over the months that I’ve been writing this blog, I have been asked several times by people who are knew to Ásatrú how to make sacrifices and offerings. For the longest time I had difficulty understanding why so many had so much trouble with this element of practice. Eventually I realized that the world so many of us grew up in is a world where personal worship is simply not taught. We are taught that the “proper” way to worship is to sit in rows on hard wooden benches, sing off key on command, listen to someone blather on for a while, and then toss some money into a basket. This is not a personal way to worship. This is not a personal act of communication with the divine. It’s no wonder then that one of the hardest things to do is to learn how to worship on our own. These are simply not skills we are taught and need to learn for ourselves.
There are several different frameworks out there that provide a structure in which to learn these skills. The following outline is the framework I’ve used for some years. This guide assumes group worship but can easily modified for individual practice. It should be understood that this is a general outline of different steps but not instructions on how they must be performed. How you choose to perform each step should reflect your troth, your folk, and your customs. Do you chose to speak in verse or in prose? Do you pass around a communal drinking vessel and have everyone speak a toast? Do you do every step yourself or do you involved the gathered folk? These questions, and more, will be answered as you learn and grow in skill and experience.
1. Hallowing – The hallowing of sacred space can be done in many different ways. Théodish groups often carry fire around the ritual area accompanying it with the singing of a holy song. Some people use a version of Edred Thorsson’s “Hammer Rite.” I consecrate the area with blessed ale and recitation of poetic verse that invokes the local wights to guard the area. You can mark off the hallowed area if a natural enclosure doesn’t exist. If you have a permanent spot to make offerings then you might choose to only do this once and even perform a specific blessing of that area. If you are using public space or a place you’ve never been before, you probably want to hallow the area as “temporary” sacred space.
2. Calling – This is an invocation of the gods, ancestors, and/or wights. It is a prayer to ask them to be present among the gathered folk. You can write a standard invocation or write one specifically for the blót. Again, I use poetry but others prefer ordinary speech. It can take the form of a call and response or a simple prayer spoken by the officiant. Some folk have a song they sing together. It is important to understand that this is an invitation for them to be present and not a command.
3. Rede – The rede, meaning “advice” or “council,” is when the gathered folk are addressed and the purpose for the blót is explained by putting things into mythic context. This can take different forms. It may be a “sermon,” a recitation of specific lore, the telling of a holy myth, or even the performance of ritual drama. What is important is the conveyance of why we are making the offerings we do and to whom they are being made.
4. Offering – To blót is to worship the Holy Powers but it is also to make offerings to them. This is when we present our offerings and sanctify them. When we give gifts they become sacral offerings that cross the boundary between our world and theirs and becomes holy. Offerings can be almost anything, so long as it is appropriate and has some value and worth. Making an offering of something meaningless is an insult. If you make an offering of food, you might leave it out to be eaten by animals or bury it or sink it into water like you would with physical goods. If you are using a libation as the main offering, you will likely want to pour it out on the ground. It is my recommendation that a libation be poured into an offering bowl to be used in the Blessing. It is often common to pass around a communal drink for ritual toasting and praise prior to pouring it out.
5. Blessing – Blessing the gathered folk usually involves the ritual act of sprinkling each person with hlaut and speaking a simple prayer to impart divine favor and protection. It is my belief that it is also good to bless the land where the blót is performed so that it can strengthen the ties between the folk and the local wights and encourage it to be a safe and good place to make future sacrifices.
6. Closing – Over the years I have learned that it is best to make a clear distinction between worship activity and “normal” space. As the the blót has a clear starting point so should it have a clear end. This doesn’t need to be much but it should make it clear that the rite is over.