Gods and Practices
Gods and Goddesses
Our gods are primarily those of the Aesir and Vanir of Germanic lore. They have been honored by various names in many ways by many peoples, across an area stretching from Ireland to Scandinavia and parts of the continent. Some of them are Odin, Thor, Frey, Freyja, Frigga, Heimdall, Baldr, Tyr, Sif, Njorð, and their families . We can add more to this list--Ullr, Skaði, Aegir, Ran, Sunna, Iðunn and so on. Some we know a lot about and others are more of a mystery. Some Heathens would add Loki to the mix, while others frown in disbelief. We believe that we live in the mythic present--much remains to be witnessed, and the story is still unfolding. That Loki plays an important role is not in question, but rather how and when he should be honored.
We see our gods not as omnipotent beings, separate from our world, but immanent and part of it. They are finite beings with limits and ranges of influence. And because we consider them to be elder kin, we don't bow down before our gods, but stand along side them. We find our gods within ourselves and in the world around us, in current events, in happiness and tragedy, sickness and health, life and death, in the weather, in forest, field, river and sea, in the skies above and the earth below, in the food we eat, and so on. Our honoring of the gods involves thanking them for the worlds around us, both near and distant; that which fills us with wonder, and that which sustains our existence. We gift them in return with something appropriate for what they have given and continue to give us- A Gift for a Gift- as the saying goes. The two most common rituals for honoring the gods are Blót and Sumbel.
Blót is a sacrifice of sorts where we give something of ourselves over to the Gods. Our ancestors feasted and gave animals, crops, and objects to the Gods. We try to offer what is appropriate to our circumstances. Unless you live on a farm and routinely slaughter animals, it will likely be mead ,ale, food, or something handmade; something of value that is connected to you in some personal way.
Blót can be short and simple or as complicated as one likes. What is important is the intention and mindset of those involved. All manner of embellishments can and should be added to make the experience pleasant and meaningful for those involved and out of respect for the gods. The location, intention, liturgy, timing, and movements should all be planned in advance, and co-creation and spontaneity will fill in the rest.
Sumbel, the second main building block of Heathen ritual, is often incorporated into Blót. One format would be to continue with several more rounds passing the drinking horn. The first round honoring Gods of choice, the second honoring heroes, ancestors and family, and boasts, stories, and oaths, and whatever in an open third round. It's a flexible format that can be changed as needed. After each round, mead from the horn is added to the offering bowl with a blessing that's appropriate to the round.
In addition to socializing and spending time doing things with one another of common interest, sumbel is where we can share openly, get to know one another, strengthen bonds, and build community. It is a time of trust and openness. What is said or shared in sumbel (and Blót) binds all those present for better or worse.