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 Topic 30: Álfablót

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Elfwort comes this topic:

“For the topic can you talk about the Alfablot?”

I do not generally celebrate Alfablot myself, so the beginning of this is mostly going to be from the perspective of other folks and my reflections on it.

From TheLongship.net, a source I highly recommend, comes this:

Winter Nights (Vetrnætr), celebrated in modern times in mid-October. It is a three-day celebration of the harvest and includes both Dísablót, a sacrifice to honor the female ancestors, and Álfablót, a sacrifice to the god Freyr and the elves (male ancestors). Though Dísablót was a public celebration, according to Austrfararvísur, Álfablót was not celebrated communally but by families in the privacy of their homes. The Swedish holiday Disting, which is a modern incarnation of Dísablót, is celebrated in February instead of October.

Huginn’s Heathen Hof had this to say:

There’s not that much known about the pre-Christian Álfablót. It’s mentioned by the Norwegian skald Sigvatr Þórðarson in his Austrfararvísur – when he was travelling through the western part of what is now Sweden (close to where I live, actually) during autumn, he came upon several farms that would not let him in, which was a grave breach of protocol. They told him they were Heathen, celebrating Álfablót, and that they couldn’t let him in for fear of the wrath of Odin, but nothing else about the blót itself is revealed.

…Sometimes connections are drawn to the blót in Vǫlsa þáttr, since it’s described as occurring during autumn. The elves, disir, Odin and Frey are all mentioned in connection with the autumn blót, and there are arguments for this being a festival of the dead. Not the least because of a perceived association between elves and ancestors – elves live in mounds, such as people would be buried in, and how Olaf Gudrødsson upon his death came to be revered as a local deity called Olaf Geirstad-elf. British historian Ronald Hutton, however, has argued that festivals of the dead were celebrated between March and May in european pre-Christian religions and that neither the celtic Samhain nor the norse festivals celebrated at this time of the year would be that.

What to make of all this? As I do not see the Álfar as human or our male Dead, it does not make much sense to me to celebrate it as a festival to that end. We celebrate Vetrnætr, or Winternights, around this time of year. For those that do see the Álfar this way it makes sense to celebrate in this way around this time of year.

I am going to pivot from talking about Álfablót to holidays in general, since there is not much more I can add about it. It may not make sense for folks without a connection to the Álfar to celebrate this blót. This is equally true for any of the holidays one could celebrate as a Heathen. Why?

We exist in relationship with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. With the interaction between these groups of spiritual Beings it may not make sense with regards to our local environment to celebrate Vetrnætr around the last week of October into November, or to celebrate it at all if it starts getting colder/snowy at a different time. This is where the metal of reconstruction as a method meets us in the work of revival. We can and should work with the Ginnreginn to develop our holy cycles. Does it make sense for your local ecosystem to incorporate winter rituals when it is still summer or fall weather?

We need to deeply think about what we are doing, and especially why we are doing it. That is not to say we need to ignore practical questions of ‘can I get this time off?’ and ‘can I do this ritual in a meangful way now?’ We need to get to questions like ‘What function would this ritual have served then, and what function does it serve now?’ We also need to be open to the idea that when we discard a holiday that it may be that another one is waiting for us that better fits the season, the timing, and/or our relationships with the Ginnreginn. We also need to be open to the idea that certrain holidays will not work for us.

Starting now and opening ourselves to living in sync with our local environment together with our Ginnreginn, we can develop our own meaningful holidays and calendars that fit into our right relationships as we live them now. So, if a given holiday or a whole calendar does not work for you, explore that a bit. Maybe another region’s sacred days are better suited to your environment. The landvaettir may have ideas on how to live well with Them in celebrating Their cycles. The Gods may have new celebration cycles They want to start where you are. The Ancestors may want a different cycle of holidays for Them based in the land where you are rather than where They were. Explore, research, ask, divine, and make choices on how you will celebrate throughout the year. When changes need to be made, whether for reasons of environment, schedule, or the input of the Ginnreginn, then make them. Our practices do not need to look the same for all of us to be authentically Heathen.

Patreon Song/Prayer/Poem 27 -For Freyr, God of the Gravemound

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 Maleck Odinsson for Freyr, God of the Gravemound.

You danced in the field

Bells tingling with each step

Blessing

You came to the holy place

Hair wildly dancing

Hallowing

You knelt before the blót vé

Hands open to all

Hailing

You opened the mound

The Dead awaken

Gathering

You open your hands

Inviting Living to Dead

Clasping

You witness the meeting

Binding ties again

Weaving

O Freyr, God of the Gravemound

You bless us with connection

On the mound, on the good Earth

Descendant meets the Ancestor

Ancestor meets the Descendant

By Your blessing!

Hail Freyr, Haugrdróttin!

Patreon Topic 23: Found Offerings

If you want to submit a topic you would like me to write on for this blog or my Patreon, sign up for the Uruz or Thurisaz level or above here on my Patreon.

From Elfwort comes this topic:

“Would you discuss found offerings to the Gods and wights in the Viking age and before, such as bog offerings?”

It’s important to note that not all found offerings were found in bogs, though that is certainly one place they were found. Other places, as noted by Claude Lecouteux in his book The Traditions of Household Spirits, were beneath the threshold and beneath the home otherwise. These sacrifices would be snakes, cats, roosters, and the like and were likely to be understood as guardians of the home.

Some found offerings, such as bog people who were clearly strangled or had their head bashed in may have been outlaws or even willingly made offering of themselves, while whole ships and their contents may have been offered along coastlines and interred for high-ranking people. It is not known for certain if the bog people were human sacrifices, as this article from The Atlantic covering the subject states, though my inclination is towards that being the case. This paper, At the threshold of the Viking Age by Sæbjørg Walaker Nordeide, Niels Bonde, and Terje Thun, explores the ship offerings in a particular case in Kvalsund, Norway. Boat parts and whole boats put into the bog would have been known as bog offerings. The famous Oseberg ship is another example of a ship offering.

Why would this have been done? In the case of the Kvalsund bog offering the authors posit that “Because vessels and water are at the core of the activity at this particular locality, and because there is a high risk of shipwrecking in this area, the vessel offerings may have been related to this danger in order to prevent shipwrecks, and therefore save or bring back lives, which is an element of fertility rituals in the widest sense.” The  Oseberg ship, meanwhile, was a burial site. In the case of coastal offerings we could see non-burial ship offerings as made to Norðr, or perhaps to Rán and Ægir. We can speculate that ship burials on land were likely started with elaborate ceremonies that, when finished, would continue to celebrate the lives of those ‘aboard’. The ship itself was a way of securing good passage to the afterlife.

What does all this mean for the modern Heathen? We have a wide variety of ways to take care of our offerings, and that some of these methods of offerings are as old as time. It also points to some interesting ideas about setting up a household guardian. Now, I am not saying every Heathen should go out and bring home a snake, cat, etc to sacrifice to put under their theshold. However, it is important to think about why these sacrifices were made. These were invitations to the vaettr to take up residence inside the house, to guard and care for it. I am all for reclaiming our traditions of sacrifice, though I do not think folks would sacrifice what we now think of as pet animals like a cat or snake.

So, what can we do instead? We could ask the vaettr of a given animal to inhabit a substitute offering, such as one made of bread that we ritually slaughter and place beneath the threshold. Modern vulture culture provides us another way to bring this idea into modern Heathenry. Most of us work with found remains or those that result from a hunt. We could work with the skeleton or other remains of a willing animal or group of animals, and make offerings to them prior to deposition beneath the threshold. While these methods do not have the potency of a ritual sacrifice, for those who lack the skill or desire to these are important modern ways of engaging in practices alike to the old ways.

What about modern boat offerings? Given the proliferation of trash and waste in our oceans, lakes, rivers, and ponds, it is probably not the best idea to mimic our Ancestors in this way. Besides, as noted in the At the threshold paper, “Kvalsund was a bog at the time, not a lake, but the site was turned into a pond due to ritual construction and deposition.” Our offerings literally have the power to radically alter the environment. Taking care as to what and how we offer is important. So, should we carry on ship offerings? No, I would not. Besides, while the boats were made of materials that could decay over time modern boats do not.

Taking into consideration local needs for trees, including the need to retain old growth forest, to keep soil from eroding, and to reduce habitat loss, the use of whole logs to make a ship for the use of an offering, regardless of how impressive or potent it is, cannot be justified. Even seemingly benign rearrangement of stones in rivers to make cairns can have detrimental effects on the local environment, so here too we should be care what, if anything, we leave behind. If we are to leave offerings they should be compostable, or otherwise able to break down wherever we leave the offering without detrimental effect. Consider how much of the Oseberg ship was left intact despite burial and the composition of materials in it.

So does this mean we Heathens should not leave physical offerings? Of course not. It means that we need to be careful in regards to what we offer, where we offer it, and how we offer things. This honors the thing we offer and the Beings we offer it to. This honors and respects the life of the Beings we make offerings of, the Beings we offer it to, the Beings (such as Fire, Water, etc) that we offer through, and the landvaettir from which the offerings came and where those offerings will be laid down.

Patreon Song/Poem/Prayer 21 -For Freya

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 Maleck Odinsson for Freya.

Seiðkona Who shakes in the throes of vaettir

Spákona Who hears the vaettir speak

Ginnregin Who embodies power

Whose mouth is full of blood

Whose hand hold the sacrificial knife

Whose spear is keen and wet

Whose sword is fierce and eager

Whose hair is braided for battle

Whose eyes pierce the foe

Whose wings cut the air

Whose words stir Urðr

A Prayer to Týr and Forseti

Týr and Forseti, holy Lords of Justice!
Look down on what has happened in this nation
See the tears from mother’s eyes
Hear the screams from open mouths

See injustice heaped on injustice
Borne generation after generation
Indignity heaped upon indignity
Murder on murder

The ears of the authorities are shut -open them!
The eyes of the authorities are shut -open them!
The hands of the authorities are shut -open them!
The hearts of the authorities are shut -open them!

May every injustice be known
May every injustice be reckoned
May every injustice be paid for
May every injustice be set right

Týr, one-handed God Who sacrificed
Recognize the sacrifices
Of body, heart, reputation, and soul
Who risk themselves against wolves

Forseti, Lord of lawspeakers
Foremost of mediators,
Let justice be served in letter and life
Protection and power for the people

Holy Gods hear this prayer
Be swift and bless the nation
That justice is restored
That right relationship is reborn

The #DoMagick Challenge Day 22

Ingwaz

Ingwaz (Wikimedia Commons)

Today I did galdr with Ingwaz.

Worked with earplugs again today.  They were fairly effective at helping me block out the outside world and concentrating fully on the work tonight.

A note: I know that the #DoMagick Challenge was to take place over the course of December, however, due to obligations to my family, Kindred, and getting hit for overtime at my job, I have been playing catch-up with my sleep.  So I will be finishing up the Challenge’s 30 days, just not on the same timetable as all the other folks.

In the first round of galdr I experienced sex.  The generations that grew from roots rooted in sex, then back, farther and farther back until it was no longer sex I was experiencing, but cell division.  It was going from what was familiar to the unfamiliar, from this generation and humanity on back through the lines until our beginning.  It was…odd.  Good, but odd.  I do not have words to adequately describe what going back in time and experiencing each stage of life was like, but suffice to say it was all-connective between ourselves and every thing once you go back far enough.

In the second round of galdr I was in a field.  Cows, or what were near to them, I think they could have been aurochs, were lazing in it.  This was just a feeling of utter peace.  No predators, no worry, no nothing but lazing in a field and relaxing.  When I began the next part of the galdr, they were being guided about the field.  They were being herded or moved around with.  Their waste fed the ground as they shredded the earth with their hooves, they ate the grasses, great big stalking things not like what we’re used to with these manicured lawns.  These were grasses.  They were wild.  As they were eaten many shed their seeds and spread, and the aurochs helped them along to propagate the next generation.  The last part of the galdr was  a huge shift.  Suddenly I was in a wholly different field, different grasses.  Smaller grasses, great furrows in the ground over which grew plants and grasses.  I saw a red flower with a black center, and heard from far off someone singing Flander’s Field.  The song and scene faded as I finished galdring.

In the last round of galdr I was in a special wood-roofed hut, the scent of blood all around.  The auroch’s neck was red, its body wedged into a pair of wooden beams formed into an X, tied tight to it.  My hand was covered in its blood, a long knife in my hand as I held it so it would not fall.  Then, the next galdr began and I and some others were butchering it in the hut, placing its parts onto wooden slats that were taken from us.  In the last galdr, there was a vessel of blood that had been beneath it taken, and its blood was sprinkled on a fire, on the people, on the Gods, which were present in the poles.  As I finished the galdr, it seemed to echo through me, and life was sprinkled on the field, the fire, the people, the Gods.  The land would be fertile.  I could see it.  The people would be too.  The Gods were pleased.  Then, I opened my eyes, and took deep breaths as I settled back into now-time.

I did my prayers of thanks to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir.  I cleansed with the candle and prayed prayers of thanks to the Eldest Ancestor.

Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.

#DoMagick

The #DoMagick Challenge Day 15

Algiz

Algiz (Wikimedia Commons)

Today I did galdr with Algiz.

As yesterday, I cleansed with the Eldest Ancestor, Fire.   Today’s galdr was held before my altar to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir.  When I lit the candle, a white seven day candle, I made the Fire Prayer and thanked the Eldest Ancestor for cleansing me, purifying me for the work ahead.  I then sat the candle on the ground in front of me throughout the galdr.

In my first round of galdr, I felt a hooking into the Earth similar to when I do tree meditation.  The knitting together of roots with my ‘root’, and a connection to Midgard came and hooked roots into my spine.  I felt relaxed as I breathed, and a kind of balance came.  It is worth noting I do not usually do lotus position for meditation work, and here I felt quite comfortable with it.

For the first and some of the second part of the first round of galdr, this is all I experienced.  As I was finishing the second part of the first round and into and through the last part, I experienced being before a great tree.  It was both immensely vast and yet I could still see all its parts, from roots going into the soil to its tower height.

For the second round of galdr  I sat with this great tree.  It was Yggdrasil and it was every sacred tree in connection with It.  It was incredible, it was vast, and Worlds were growing in Its various branches and roots, and yet it was climbable. I could feel the waters taken up in Its roots and I could walk among them.  It felt both like home and uncanny.

For the third round of galdr I had an experience of a rite before a tree.  I felt the blood of sacrifice drip down my upward, outstretched arms, and felt the place become holy.  Then the scene changed and I was standing in a grove and kneeling in prayer, again, arms outstretched.  It felt like arms were reaching down in kind, in answer.  I felt I needed to raise my arms in imitation of the Rune’s form and as I galdred it was a moment of union between the Tree and I, that feeling for a few moments of truly being Ask and Embla’s son.

When I was finished I cleansed with the candle as before, thanking it for cleansing me.  I then did my usual prayers to Rúnatýr and the Runevaettir, asking the Eldest Ancestor to help me come back to normal space as I snuffed the candle, thanking the Eldest Ancestor.  I felt relaxation and peace as the smoke curled up around me.

Link to the Daily Ritual for the Challenge.

#DoMagick

 

ConVocation 2016

Hey folks, I have been asked to do several presentations at this year’s ConVocation.   When I know which rooms I will be presenting in, I will update this blog post.  I am really, really excited for this year’s offerings that were picked.

For those who do not know, ConVocation is:

…a convention of the many mystical spiritual paths and faiths and the people that follow them who desire to teach each other and promote fellowship among all esoteric traditions.
Since 1995, this 4-day event has brought together over 100 classes and rituals presented by local instructors, internationally renowned guest speakers and authors. Along with workshops, ConVocation offers over 35 tables of merchandise in our Merchant Room, an Art Show and the largest indoor Drum Circle in the Midwest.
This year I will be putting on three workshops:

 

Acts of Devotion –  Thursday 8:30pm – 90 minutes

Description:In this workshop and discussion we will explore ways to honor our Gods, Ancestors, and spirits. These ways can be small, such as daily prayer, offerings, everyday mindfulness, and keeping ourselves healthy and engaged in the world, to more intense ways such as learning crafts, writing books, engaging in activism, spiritual work, and making temples. Bring your own experiences to share.

Polytheism 101 –  Friday 4:00pm – 90 minutes

Description:This lecture/discussion will dig into the basics of what polytheism means, and how it is lived. We will be exploring how we can use literary and archaeological resources as springboards and foundations to polytheist traditions. We will also explore what the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits are, how we relate to Them as polytheists, and how to engage Them with respect.

Encountering the Runes –  Sunday 12:00pm – 90 minutes

Description:The Runes are often looked at as simply a divination tool. This workshop is about approaching the Runes as spirits in and of themselves. The workshop explores what the lore can tell us about Them, to how to interact with Them, to appropriate offerings and communication, and will delve into deeper aspects of Runework from a spirit-based approach.