RAVENBOK: THE RAVEN KINDRED RITUAL BOOK

              BY LEWIS STEAD & THE RAVEN KINDRED

                         3RD EDITION



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 (lstead@cais.com)  June 1994, Wheaton, MD



INTRODUCTION



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

legal religion.



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

Neo-Pagan believers.



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

ancient roots.



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



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.



The Sumbel



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

manner.



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

forced intimacy.



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



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

modern culture.



THE HOLIDAYS



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



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

distaff.



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



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.



Midsummer Day



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.



Winter Finding



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

meat.



Winter Nights



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

reborn.



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.



Goddesses



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.



Other Gods



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.



Loki



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

than war.



Tyr



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.



Baldr



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

modern practice.



Minor Gods



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

Balder.



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

circumstance.



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



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

the world.



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

environmentalists.



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.



Demi-Gods



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.



Ancestor Worship:



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

Norse.



ORGANIZATION



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 Priesthood



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 Kindred



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

"cultural differences."



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

Perseverance.



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.



Courage



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.



Truth



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



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

former.



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



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.



Discipline



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



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.



Industriousness



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

world.



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.



Self Reliance



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.



Perseverance



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.



MAGIC



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

meditational symbols.



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

appendix.



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

know.



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

their powers.



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.



Snowmoon/January



1st weekend -- Frig's Distaff -- Celebration of Frigga and the home

(Trad.1/2)



Horning/February



1st weekend -- Disting -- Celebration of Freya and the Disir (Trad.

2/14 )



Lenting/March



1st weekend -- Founding of the World.  Celebration of Odin, Vili, and

Ve*



3/21 -- Summer Finding - Celebration of the Goddess Ostara.  Also a

celebration of the Raven Kindred's founding, Spring Equinox 1991.



Ostara/April



1st weekend -- Alfarblot.  Sacrifice to the elves and nature spirits

(traditionally celebrated as part of Disting)



Merry-Moon/May



1st weekend -- May Day/Walpurgis.  Celebration of spring which we

dedicate to Njord and Nerthus.  (Trad.  5/1)



Fallow/June



1st weekend -- Festival of Mead dedicated to Aegir and also to Bygvir

and Beyla*



3/21 Summer Solstice -- Dedicated to Sunna, Goddess of the Sun



Haymoon/July



1st weekend -- Blot in honor of Baldr*



Harvest/August



1st weekend -- Freyfaxi, first harvest and celebration of Frey and his

horse (Trad.  8/1)



Shedding/September



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)



Hunting/October



1st weekend -- Tyrblot, celebration of Justice and Honor.  (Supreme

Court session begins 1st Monday in October)*



Fogmoon/November



1st weekend -- Einjerhar, celebration of war-dead and Ragnarok

Dedicated to Odin and Freya  (Trad.  11/11 -- Armistice Day)



Wolfmoon/December



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

Years Day)



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.



Hammer Rite



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]."



General Prayer



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

members.



Personal invocations



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

from college.



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.



Meditation



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.



Offer/sanctify mead



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.



Remaining toasts



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.



Thank deity



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.



Pour libation



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'

angle.



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

Sunna!



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.)



Invocation



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.



Blot



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

turns.



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!



Libation



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

refrigerator.



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

appropriate god-name)."



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

on hook.



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

invited.)



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

flavor.



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 1P5 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

mead.



The kit will run around $30P$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 2P5

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

10P20% 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

than alcohol.



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 10P20

minutes, then open the primary fermenter, and add the yeast.  This is

called "pitching" the yeast.  Close the fermenter, and put on the

airlock.



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 65P75!.

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

the kitchen.



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

make dressing.



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

explodes.



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

lstead@access.digex.net.



ORGANIZATIONS:



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

Idunna.



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.



Kindreds:



Asatru Fellowship of Illinois; 858 W.  Armitage (Suite 139); Chicago,

IL 60614

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

52001

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

Gring Thod; PO Box 8062; Watertown, NY 13601

Glen Vdis 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

Nund 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

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 Thod; 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



Recommended Magazines:



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.



Recommended Books:



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)J593-9609 or e-mail to

lstead@access.digex.net.



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

Paganism.)



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:

61-3-796-2180.



The Troth Line is an internet mailing list for Asatru.  To subscribe,

send a message to majordomo@io.com consisting of the following

message: "subscribe troth ".  The list itself is at

troth@indial1.io.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

Norse Paganism.