At the moment’s column involves us from Karl E.H. Seigfried, goði of Thor’s Oak Kindred in Chicago. Along with his award-winning web site, The Norse Mythology Weblog, Karl has written for the BBC, Iceland Journal, Journal of the Oriental Institute, On Faith, Faith Stylebook, and lots of different retailers. He holds levels in literature, music, and faith, and he’s the primary Ásatrú practitioner to carry a graduate diploma from College of Chicago Divinity Faculty.
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Every week in the past, as a full moon shone overhead, we celebrated the passing of the longest night time of the yr and the flip in the direction of summertime.
Given the climate patterns in Chicago during the last a number of years, the previous designation of midwinter appears incongruous for a time when leaves are on the bottom, rain pours down, and the temperature pushes as much as fifty levels Fahrenheit. But we nonetheless collect along with household and pals for our postmodern reimagining of the previous celebrations of this turning level within the yr’s progress.
This yr, Thor’s Oak Kindred gathered a number of days early for our annual Xmas blót. Negotiating the work schedules, journey plans, household duties, and myriad different commitments of a gaggle of adults in the course of the vacation season isn’t a easy factor.
Since our first blót collectively, members of the kindred have shared very private particulars whereas talking over the consuming horn. We’ve had many deeply shifting moments over the course of our rites as individuals have expressed the ache of loss, the frustration of challenges confronted, and the enjoyment of obstacles overcome.
These moments, nevertheless, should stay inside the circle across the oak tree and the altar. What I can write of publicly are my very own actions taken and phrases spoken. Our blóts usually are not but open to the general public, however there’s nothing I do in them that I wouldn’t be snug doing in entrance of, for instance, an interfaith gathering.
In order that our members might put together themselves for the gathering, I despatched everybody a observe concerning the blót with descriptions of focus and numerous parts of the occasion.
We often hail a selected deity or sacred group at our blóts. At midwinter, we flip to Odin.
“We be a part of collectively,” I wrote earlier than the ceremony, “to hail the god of knowledge, poetry, creativity, inspiration, magic, and extra. As within the way back time, we collect on the longest night time of the yr (or near it), stand with family and friends, mild flames to light up the darkness, and provides because of the Excessive One.”
We joined along with that mission in thoughts.
As a part of the start of the blót, I recited the Valkyrie’s prayer from the Previous Icelandic poem Sigrdrífumál (“Sayings of the Victory-Inciter”). Though I converse the Previous Norse phrases (with trendy Icelandic pronunciation), American Heathens are in all probability most conversant in the 1923 translation by Henry Adams Bellows:
Hail, day! Hail, sons of day!
And night time and her daughter now!
Look on us right here with loving eyes,
That ready we victory win.
Hail to the gods! Ye goddesses, hail,
And all of the beneficiant earth!
Give to us knowledge and goodly speech,
And therapeutic arms, life-long.
After some ritual acts have been finished and these phrases have been spoken, we turned to Odin.
Addressing gods is a sophisticated factor. How they’re seen can range extraordinarily extensively. For a few of right now’s Heathens, Odin is a god so bloodthirsty and terrifying that he’s seen because the villain of the story, a mad vampiric wizard whose thirst for the blood of his followers can by no means be sated. Some practitioners warn others towards turning to him in ritual, of even sporting any image which may draw his baleful consideration.
That’s not how we see Odin in our personal rites. We’re a gaggle of artistic individuals, a circle of artists, writers, designers, college students, academics, healers, and musicians whose relationship to this specific deity facilities on his position as stirrer of inspiration and asker of questions. We acknowledge the scarier points of Odin, however we select to give attention to his type because the wandering seeker of knowledge and bringer of creativity.
“Odin, Allfather,” I started, holding up the consuming horn. “Sharer of the mead of poetry, instructor of the runes, god of creativity, poetry, language, and magic.
“We thanks in your presents of inspiration, for serving to every of us in our artistic endeavors, in our writing, portray, drawing, designing, performing, and in all of the types of creativity we interact in all through our skilled and private lives, together with the creativity of constructing robust relationships of friendship and love.
“We ask that you simply proceed to encourage us, that you simply transfer via us and assist us discover artistic methods to deal with the challenges all of us face within the coming yr, in no matter type these challenges take. Might your mead of inspiration be shared with every of us, in order that we will proceed to create in constructive methods.
“We ask that you simply proceed to encourage us not solely to create but in addition to raised ourselves by means of ongoing research and studying as college students, as academics, and in our every day lives. Might all of us search knowledge and share what we study, to drive out darkness, ignorance, and hate with mild, information, and love. Hail, Odin!”
In any case within the gathering had addressed Odin, and earlier than we made our particular person choices into the hearth, I started the addressing of the ancestors. We consciously outline ancestors in an expansive and inclusive approach to embrace any who’re not with us and who’ve deep which means for us. Members have hailed misplaced relations and household associates, distant relations and peoples of way back, communities to which they really feel related, figures of current and historic historical past, and so forth.
“To the victims,” I stated over the horn. “To our victims. To the victims of this nation that we name america of America.
“To the Native People who have been right here lengthy earlier than any European or African set foot in these lands, and who proceed to face dying in poverty and lack of entry to enough well being care on the reservations that also exist.
“To the African-American youngsters, males, and ladies who proceed to be gunned down, shot within the again by the stormtroopers we name police, by the cowards in uniform whose salaries we pay and whose bullets we purchase with the taxes we quietly hand over to this authorities we fund with the cash we make from our lengthy hours of labor.
“To all the youngsters we let die, from the primary graders gunned down at Sandy Hook six years in the past this week to the seven-year-old woman who died within the custody of officers of our elected authorities simply this week on the border. To all the youngsters who die due to our obsession with weapons and resolute refusal to do something about them. To all the youngsters who’re killed around the globe by bombs and bullets stamped with the names of American company producers.
“To all our victims.
“We should do one thing extra. I have no idea what that one thing is. However I do know that we should do greater than repost articles of the continued horrors, greater than sharing information tales and memes on social media with a ‘tsk, tsk, how terrible.’ We should do greater than proceed to vote in elections which are gerrymandered by our elected officers, which might be manipulated by operatives of overseas governments, which might be taken over by traitors. We should do greater than march in protests which are organized on Fb and barely get a point out within the media earlier than the subsequent catastrophe has pushed them from the headline.
“We will’t wait to get invited to marches. We will’t look forward to some savior inside the authorities to seem and proper all of the wrongs. Now’s the time for us to do extra ourselves.
“What can we do? I don’t know. We’ve got to determine it out. However we will’t quietly proceed to be a part of this endless horror present that we name America, or our youngsters and grandchildren and great-grandchildren will curse our names for enabling this countless violence and victimization. Hail to our victims!”
Is that this an applicable speech to make over the horn at blót? I consider that it’s. I consider that collaborating in a faith ought to make a distinction in how life is lived, that it ought to form how we work together with the world round us.
Greater than offering solutions, I consider that ritual ought to drive us to ask questions. Just like the looming examination drives college students to review extra deeply, just like the upcoming lesson pushes musicians to apply extra intensely, the rites of the spiritual calendar ought to encourage us to mirror extra thoughtfully on the lives we’re main.
I don’t know what the trail ahead is. Given the bloody historical past of this nation and the oppressive techniques that we’ve got constructed, I have no idea how we will change the course of this nation. I do know that the ritual hailing of ancestors can drive the seek for new methods of dwelling.
We flip to those that lived up to now as we stand with those that stay with us within the current and face our duties to those that will stay sooner or later. We willfully give attention to our relationships with others in three temporal instructions – behind us, beside us, and in entrance of us. This focus can drive us from reflection to phrases to deeds.
I consider that getting ready for ritual speech after which making the speech in entrance of different celebrants has actual outcomes. I consider that collaborating in such exercise with household and associates is inherently extra significant than partaking in on-line interactions with members of digital communities. The sharing and galvanizing that happens in actual world ritual can, at its greatest, construct actual bonds and push us all to be higher residents of our wider communities.
However what does it imply to be a citizen of this nation on this period? How can we train? How can we increase our youngsters? How can we interact in public discourse? How can we stay social lives which are true to our values and beliefs? So many norms have been torn down within the identify of selfishness and hate, and it’s harder to rebuild within the midst of assault than to be swept alongside within the mad present of destruction.
Standing across the altar, in any case had spoken of ancestors and made choices into the hearth, I closed out the ceremony. A part of the ending included reciting the Previous Norse strains that conclude the Odin poem Hávamál (“Sayings of the Excessive One”). In Ursula Dronke’s translation, they run:
Now Excessive One’s phrases are spoken
in Excessive One’s corridor –
important for the sons of males,
ineffective for the sons of giants!
Fortune to him who spoke!
Fortune to him who is aware of!
Let him revenue who learnt!
Fortune to those that listened!
I consider within the energy of phrases, in studying, in listening. I consider that we will push ourselves and one another ahead.
Might Odin encourage all these of constructive intent to seek out new methods and new knowledge within the yr forward. On this axe-age, sword-age, wind-age, and wolf-age, we’d like the facility of creativity and the steerage of knowledge to assist us impact change for the higher.