On Blood Offerings

Something that has come across my YouTube, TikTok, and WordPress feeds a few times now have been comments on blood offerings in a Heathen context. Both Beofeld and Wolf the Red are opposed to them because of the lack of context, namely that we are not an agricultural society and blood offerings, especially those of animals, no longer hold the same societal context as they once did.

Sure, but we can approach the same point of view from literally any offering we could make, mead or even water included. Nothing holds the same cache as it once did to the Ancestors of our various religions. It cannot. We are not Them.

Both Beofeld and Wolf have made the point that, before the Gods, human blood is profane. This is one of the goofiest assertions regarding offerings I have seen in a long while whether we are looking at this from a historical standpoint or that of a modern Heathen one. Sacrificial sites containing both human and animal remains are part of most sacred spaces where the ancient Scandinavians are concerned. As noted in Children of Ash and Elm by Dr. Neil Price, bones and blood have been found among the sites, indoor and outdoor (211-218). Uppåkra’s temple (211), Götavi (213-214) and Hofstaðir (216) are just three notable examples. Bog and forest sacrifices show that not only were weapons and boats offered, so too were animals and people.

Wolf notes in his video that the ancient Heathens were giving the whole animal, and all that animal might produce. His assertion is that blood itself was not the offering, which to me seems rather disingenous given how much blood is found at offering sites, and the notion of the hlaut-twig sprinkling blood at blot mentioned in Heimskringla and Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks. In short, blood hallows and there is no reason I have to believe that it is lacking in sacrality.

Among a great many other things, blood is part of our lyke, our body. The body is part of the soul matrix, and since we have neither original sin nor do we have a world-denying component to our religion, this assertion seems wrong-headed to me. Wolf made the point in his video that we are too polluted and that cutting ourselves for ritual purpose is miasmic and blasphemous. I wonder if this is not just a holdover from Christianity. We can offer our sweat, our tears, and the various things we procure through those things, including food, alcohol, herbs, water, and so on. Why would blood suddenly be off the proverbial table? If anything, it falls in line with all the others. Wolf notes in his video that looking at other polytheist religions whose religious terms and practices lived on, such as Hellenismos and Roman religion, blood was profane. I would argue this is where Heathenry differs significantly from them.

When it comes to offering blood I think that folks are more apt to have issues because of the overculture or personal issues rather than anything inherent to Heathenry as a whole. Perhaps there is something within Beofeld and Wolf’s Heathen religion(s?) that is not in my own. I have no reason to not give blood. Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir have called for it from me.

This may be an issue of exoteric practice vs that of esoteric. Exoteric practice are those things that are engaged in by most people while esoteric are not. In religion, exoteric practices are the things that are at the baseline of the religion, that everyone is expected to know and engage in. For Heathens these are things such as hearth cultus, offerings of food and/or drink, and prayers to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Esoteric practice are those things that are still part of the religion, but they are engaged with by a small number of people. The quiet assumption within the word esoteric in how it is used today is that mystical, ecstatic, and similar experiences tend to belong to it, which is my experience with it. While exoteric practice is the firm foundation for my Heathenry, my spiritwork is decidedly in the latter category, and influences how my exoteric work comes about. Most Heathens do not practice seiðr, spá, or Runework to a great degree, so it is little wonder so few engage with esoteric practice.

Exoteric practice, generally speaking, would not call for blood at all, sacrificed by a person or an animal. Most of us have no call or need to work with it, and as Beofeld and Wolf have both pointed out, the sacrifice itself is largely lost on folks who would just buy pigs’ blood, as though the point was just to splash blood on everything. That being said, both exoteric and esoteric practice does have use for blood. It is a connection point. It flows through us, providing a powerful link between the gifter and receiver. Yes, regarding sacrifice of our own blood, you can regain the volume of blood you gift, but the blood you gift you can never come back. The point is the gift of the blood, the pain that it took to get the blood, and the lifeforce connection it carries with you.

We have to harvest the life force of others for any other sacrifice, whether the yeast needs to die for the mead to brew, the chicken dies for its sacrifice, or the herb needs to be harvested. Our entire existence is bound up in ties of Gebo, of gipt fá gipt. Our blood, sweat, and tears are one of the few things that belong to us that we are not taking from someone or somewhere else. We are a living embodiment of the hamingja of our Ancestors and the connections we hold when we make that offering. We are a living embodiment of the megin we have built, the hugr we have. It is a beautiful offering that we can give, though few of us may have cause to give it.

Being a diabetic I have no choice but to bleed every day. My blood sugar testing and my medicines require it. I have no interest in folks engaging in blood offerings or blood magic in an unsafe or unwise manner. There are safe ways to do it. A simple diabetic lancet kit with alcohol pads, cotton balls and bandages should be all a person needs to do blood sacrifice, assuming this is something that they need to do at all. This is where divination and negotiation come in, something all too seldom talked about in Heathen circles. Perhaps Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir have asked it of you, but needles or blood squicks you out, or you do not feel like poking yourself for Their benefit once a week. Negotiate on it. Ask for something else to take the place of that. Don’t engage with Them if that is Their line, or anyone who says you have to. Plenty enough Heathen Runeworkers get great results without going through what I do, and it may simply not be necessary for you.

It is worth pointing out that I have not just given my own blood. I have learned how to properly slaughter and have sacrificed animals to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. The aversion to death in our overculture has rendered much of our relationships with animals, and plants for that matter, to be completely inverse to what I understand it should be: based in reciprocity, with as much care taken as able to ensure a good death for the Being and good effect on the environment in the course of raising and taking the life of that Being. Blood offerings, whether from ourselves or others, are not some useless waste; they are a gift of life force, of blood, and of body. They are to be gifted in a holy way. This is why the animals to be sacrificed need to be treated with the utmost care and to die well, with as little pain as possible. It is why before making sacrifice, whether offering my blood or another’s, I cleanse.

The gifts we give need to be made cleanly whether it is of me or comes through my hands. This necessity to cleanse stands whatever the offering is, whether it is my blood, animal blood or parts, herbs, alcohol, and/or water. The necessity to cleanse is so that what comes from or passes through our hands is clean, free of anything but that gift. Everything needs to be made sacred before we gift it to the Gods so that we are giving in right relationship with Them, not because the world is fallen or that we are inherently polluted. To bring something to the Ginnreginn it needs to be made and/or brought to the Them in a good way. Cleansing is respectful and good spiritual hygiene whatever the gift is.

Most folks will have no cause to give blood whether the practice at hand is exoteric or esoteric. Where I have taken issue is several Heathen folks have made it seem as though blood offerings are outside of Heathen norms. While it may not be, and I would argue should not be common as an offering, it is a normal thing to offer it as a Heathen.

Patreon Song/Prayer/Poem 26 -For Hyndla

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Streaking Fate for Hyndla.

You can trace lines of red back

Back to where the red shifts colors

To light, syrupy sweet sap

Where the branches of lines end suddenly

Where the branches reach into the shadowy places

Where the branches curve, split, rejoin in unexpected ways

You can find them wherever they roam

No matter how hidden

No matter how lost we are

No matter how scattered we are

You, who know all the ways that Urðr has unfolded for each thread woven, each carved tile

You, who knows all the ways Verðandi is weaving now, each tile being scored

You, who cannot see all the ways Skuld will weave and carve

Hail Hyndla, Bloodwalker, Seer, She Who Knows the Lines!

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 25 -For Dionysos

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Alec for Dionysos.

Honey-spattered hands

Wetten the jar

Stirring in the magic

Patience, patience

Brewing takes time

Juice-soaked feet

Dance in the barrel

Pouring down the magic

Patience, patience

Brewing takes time

Green-stained hands

Collect the basket

Simmering the magic

Patience, patience

Brewing takes time

Calloused hands

Grind the mill

Boiling the magic

Patience, patience

Brewing takes time

Protrygaios! Theoinos! Agathos Daimon!

Blessed are the Ways You have taught!

Blessed are the Ways of patience, patience

For brewing takes time!

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 17 -For Thunor

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Fen for Thunor.

The warm arms of a loving husband

The gentle hands of a devoted father

The steel resolve of a people’s protector

The molten rage of a vengeful fighter

The gentle mist of rain

The blazing path of lightning

The furor of thunder

The swing of a mighty hammer

The blow well-struck

The bright grin of a beloved beer

The hidden wisdom behind brawn

The lover of laughter

The union of Earth and Sky

Hail, hail, hail Thunor!

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 15 -For Hygeia

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Alec for Hygeia.

O Goddess of Good Health

O Aegis Against Infection

O Foe of Disease

O Holy Hygeia

May each time I wash my hands be a cleansing

Of body, mind, and spirit

May each time I bathe my body be a cleansing

Of body, mind, and spirit

May each time I don my gear

Your blessing and protection descend

May each day I mind my space

Your blessing and protection descend

Your hands are holy, O Cleansing One

May my hands be clean and cleansed

Your mouth speaks truth and wisdom, O Wise One

May my mouth be full of truth and wisdom

O Husband of Asklepios and Epione

O Sister of Panakeia and Iaso

O Companion of Aphrodite

O Opponent of Nosoi

Bless and protect the reciter of this prayer

Bless and protect the listener of this prayer

Bless and protect the beloved of those who pray to You

O Holy Hygeia

Patreon Topic 12: Sacred Kingship and Heathenry

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Note: Until now I have referred to folks by their level of Patreon support. For some of Patreon patrons I will now refer to them by a name I have permission to use. This makes it easier to organize and find posts. Thank you to all my supporters on Patreon and to all of my readers!

From StreakingFate comes this question:

“For a topic idea, have you covered sacred kingship yet? Historically in Heathenry, how it is seen present day in Heathenry if it is, or both.”

Before I begin to tackle this question it is important to talk about what we mean by Heathenry. There are a lot of cultural wells from which we can drink. Norse Heathenry is one, Anglo-Saxon another, Frankish another, and so on. Then there are folks that mix their paths eclectically or syncretically, neither of which are wrong, but they tend to be different approachs. Myself, I am primarily a Heathen whose sources lie in Icelandic, Norse, and Germanic sources with a smattering of Anglo-Saxon. My approach to the question of “Is Frigg and Freyja a single Goddess or separate Goddesses?” is to treat Them as separate, with Frigg an Aesir and Freyja a Vanir. This may seem like an odd point of departure, but this matters in terms of how we understand the Gods, and how we understand the impact of lore, including myth and archaeology, on our various religions.

Since I am not writing from a primarily Anglo-Saxon, Frankish, etc perspective, there are a lot of potential answers to this question. I cannot tell you what the Anglo-Saxon Heathen answer is to this question because that is not my primary framework any more than the Frankish Heathen is.

I have not covered sacred kingship much on this blog. It simply does not enter much into my understanding of my place with the Gods, Ancestors, or vaettir. I am a goði, a spiritual specialist who is both a chieftain and a priest so far as how we in Mímisbrunnr Kindred use the term.

Let us dig into what is meant by sacred kingship. The Encyclopedia Britannic has a great overview of the concept of sacred kingship, though by no means is it the most detailed or probably accurate overview specific to a given culture. In its article, the Encyclopedia lists three basic forms of a sacred kingship:

(1) the possessor of supernatural power, (2) the divine or semidivine king, and (3) the agent of the sacred.

I do not serve a sacred kingship role as it is often seen in the Fisher King archetype, and only small Heathen, eg Theodish, or Northern Tradition kingdoms, eg The Kingdom of Asphodel, as I have read and understood, hold to such ideas.

Now, if we depart from kingship and dig into sacral status, then this is something most Heathens believe in. However, it is quick to spot that in modern Heathenry that sacral status is not beholden to only a few. If anything differs greatly from historical Heathenry, it is that the goði is not the main arbiter of a community either in terms of how the community runs that they are head of, or that they have inherently more spiritual power than others who live in the community they head. Everyone has access to power through engaging in specific work, eg seið work, spirit work, working with óðr, and so on. A given person may or may not be ‘wired’ for the work, but that does not mean that you have to be born into a certain bloodline to access these spiritual techniques or engage with spiritual power effectively.

Another signficant departure, due in no small part to how diasporic the Heathen communities have become from their historical roots in America and over time from the ancient Heathen cultures we take inspiration and root in, we do not have the kind of passed-on roles that we might have if they had survived until today. Perhaps, had ancient Heathen cultures not been converted, seiðkona and seiðmaðr would have kept up their work they would have passed on the experiences and understanding they had. Had the ancient Heathen cultures not converted, perhaps spiritual techniques like the varðlokkur noted on but not, unfortunately, written out, in the Saga of Erik the Red may have survied until today. We cannot predict how these roles would have come down to us. We can look at the functions they served in the communities they were part of, look at how our own communities are organized, and whether they are still useful to us, or, even more important, if this is even something our Gods are asking to take up and if we are willing to.

From my observation sacred kingship is largely seen as something belonging to the past. This is hardly surprising given America’s history, let alone 1/3 of Americans rent their home, and many Americans who do own land do not own more than than an acre, let alone land in enough acres to justify any kind of kingdom.

Were there sacred kings in Norse or Icelandic culture? Not in the sense of a divine figure akin to a pharaoh of Kemet, no. Not god-kings. Were kings and chieftains seen as particularly spiritually powerful or potent? Yes. So the 1st and 3rd definitions in the Encyclopedia article were certainly part of ancient Norse culture. What about the 2nd? The Ynglings, Ingvaones, Skilfingar, and the Fairhairs were said to be able to trace their ancestry to Freyr, the caste system to Heimdall or Odin (depending on whether you believe Rig is the former or latter), and Frosti was said to be the legendary founder of Skjalf’s line.

Given the practical and political obstacles before it, I am unsure any beyond a few small groups are going to pick up the notion of sacred kingship.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 13 -Praise of Mars

If you want to submit a request for a prayer, poem, or song to be written to you privately or to be posted on this blog or my Patreon for a God, Ancestor, or spirit, sign up for the Ansuz and above level here on my Patreon. This prayer was requested from Fen for Mars.

O unsheathed blade!

O furious reveler in battle’s shroud!

O burning pitch!

O heaving stone!

O roaring gullet!

O crushing hammer!

O stabbing spear!

O unleashed battle fury!

O peerless shield!

O unbowed helmet!

O armor-clad peacekeeper!

O ever-vigilant soldier!

O interlocked strength of the phalanx!

O ceaseless pounding of the pecker’s beak!

O ferocity of the pack’s hunt!

O sharpness of the bear’s claws!

O combat’s joining!

O warrior’s exaltation!

O the harvest’s joy!

O the founder’s friend!

O the ever-loving Father!

O the peerless Avenger!

O receiver of vows!

O fastidious preserver!

O bountiful huntsman!

O Supreme One!

O Victorious One!

O Ever-Holy Mars!

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 11 -A Song for Grandmother Mugwort

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Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Eldest of Herbs, Eldest of Plants, Eldest of Green Power

Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Cleansing, Empowering, Offering

Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Protecting, Healing, Knowing

Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Poison-killer, Blister-killer, Spirit-killer

Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Spirit Blesser, Spirit Empowerer, Spirit Enlivener

Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Gipt fá gipt, gipt fá gipt, gipt fá gipt

Amma Una, Amma Una, Amma Una

Þökk fyrir, Þökk fyrir, Þökk fyrir Amma Una

Patreon Poem/Prayer/Song 8 -For An Morrígan

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Your croaking voice fills the expanse

Echoing across field and in the forest

The waters that wend speak of You

The ground and grave bow below You

 

The poet’s tongue is loosened in Your sight

The warrior’s sword slides from its sheath

The seer’s senses are true

Following the flight of the Phantom Queen

 

The home and the hearth know You

Protector and Purpose-bringer

Ember-eyed and Byre-blesser

Babe-Guardian and Foe-Bane

 

Raven-haired river-maker

Glorious Goddess of gun and grave

Whose hands help Her people

Standing strong in strife and sorrow

 

May our gifts be gladly made

Our offerings given in good worth

In turn may we receive well

Bond unbroken, beautiful and blessed

 

Wind and flame warn of war’s path

Sharpen wit, weapon, and work

Prepare and gather in power and perseverance

So the Sovereign speaks in crows’ song

Patreon Topic 8: On Ordeals

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From my first Ansuz supporter comes this topic:

“Ordeals. I know you’re not an Ordeal Master, but I’d still like to hear your thoughts.”

Ordeals are part of life. The act of being pregnant and bearing a child is an ordeal. Birth itself is an ordeal. The trials and tribulations we go through in order to be human are ordeals of some form or another, though in American society these tend to be more oriented around displaying the grasp of a study subject -or the ability to bullshit paperwork.

The OED says an ordeal is “A very unpleasant and prolonged experience” or “An ancient test of guilt or innocence by subjection of the accused to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence.”. It comes from the “Old English ordāl, ordēl, of Germanic origin; related to German urteilen ‘give judgement’, from a base meaning ‘share out’. 

When we use ordeal in a more modern sense we’re usually using it in the first sense. In a religious or spiritual context we’re usually using the second in a modified way. Rather than testing innocence or guilt, we are being tested to see if we can rise to an initiation, new station or to undertake some new spiritual technology or work. The capitalizing of Ordeal speaks to this; this is not some mundane test of pain or the experiences of everyday life. This is whether we are ready and/or worthy to engage in a given path, to go to the next level, or to offer something new to our Gods, Ancestors, vaettir and/or communities.

Ordeals are not innately cruel. They are tests. I think one of the best science fiction descriptions of one is the test of the pain box and the gom jabbar from Dune. It is a test put to Paul Atreides, the main character, by Reverend Mother Gaius Mohiam of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. She explains that they do this “To determine if you’re human…” and later asks Paul once he has passed his Ordeal “Ever sift sand through a screen?…We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”

So why do this? “To set you free…Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.” She then goes on to explain that this is done to provide a level of continuity to humanity’s bloodlines and separate the humans from the animals. In a very real sense the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and even our own communities, may require this for similar reasons.

The spiritual technology of Rune reading is available to everyone. However, if you wish to take a relationship with Runatyr and the Runevaettir deeper you will, at some point, likely need to go through an Ordeal: encounter Them in ritual, give a blood offering that ties you to Them, and formally deepen your relationship with Them. I hedge this with ‘likely’ because I am not Runatyr or the Runevaettir, and whether They give someone an Ordeal for a given person to develop this deeper relationship is up to Them.

In another way the use of hamfara, faring forth, is open to anyone, as is utiseta, sitting out. What is not available to everyone is entry into the Nine Worlds. There are tests a given God, Goddess, Ancestor, vaettr, and/or human community may give before you are cleared to do certain kinds of spirit work, these included. In my own case, while I do not incorporate Ordeal into this, before anyone who studies from me goes into any deeper spiritual techniques, they have to have at least a year of devotional work with Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. Likewise, they also have to have done at least a year spiritual preparation work which includes doing cleansing, grounding, centering, shielding, and ward work among other things.

There are some spiritual technologies and initiations shut off from us unless we have gone through Ordeal to attain them, or attain access to them. Yet, generally, the point is not the Ordeal itself. The Ordeal is a sift. The goal is to get through, endure, overcome, or pass through it, to be sifted so that you (or the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and/or Elders) can be sure you can handle the spiritual technology or the initiation. It is also to accept that should you fail, that you accept this. Sometimes an Ordeal can only be given once. Other times we can approach it again and again. It depends deeply on the Ordeal and the Work. Some Ordeals are more intense than others, or in different ways. So if you come to an Ordeal, be sure you have done all the preparation you can, make sure you and anyone working with you on it have done all your due diligence in approaching it, and take care in undergoing it. It is not a thing to be rushed into or to grasp for. For those things that require it, it is a necessity to undergo. As I am not an Ordeal Master I do not feel I can comment any further on it.