The Asatru Ritual Day
Blot ~ Feast ~ Sumble
This series of article's will describe how one Kindred (mine) practices a ritual day of Asatru.
Practice will vary slightly from kindred to kindred, but the essential elements of 'Blot/Faining', 'Feast' and 'Sumble' should remain basically the same. (I originally tried to pack everything into one article, then quickly realized there was too much information for that, so we are taking it slow, a little at a time in chronological order.)
The first question to address is *why* there are rituals? What is the purpose of them? In ancient times rituals were done for a variety of reasons; the planting, the harvest, the Summer and Winter Solstices, and the Equinox's to name a few. All of these events were critical, pivotal moments in the lives of our ancestors.
Imagine you are planting the crop that is supposed to sustain your family through the upcoming Winter...you need it to do well, it must do well! If ever there was a good time to commune with the Gods and Wights of the land, this is it. The Heathen never asked, however, without also being willing to give; the "gift for a gift" philosophy was very prevalent in this society. So, you ask for the Gods favor on your labors. You also ask the Spirits of the land to help as well; to make the ground fertile and keep harmful pests away. In return, you acknowledge these entities and 'make offering'. A gift for a gift. This is the essential spirit that presided over many rituals.
Besides communing with the Gods, Wights, and ancestors, ritual was also a way to embed customs in the hearts and minds of upcoming generations -- the way songs get stuck in your head and you remember them for the rest of your life.
A great benefit of some rituals was to stay in touch with the Gods, and to boost morale of the people. The Winter Solstice is an example; it has been a long, hard, bitter cold winter...food reserves are low and the perpetual night of the north lands is challenging everyone's sanity. Along comes the Winter Solstice, what a reason to celebrate! Sunna (the sun) is returning to the land from the realm of darkness! Every day will get a little longer now, every day will get a little warmer and soon she will ride high in the sky once again...hope is restored to the people!
There are many elements in a given ritual day, but the primary three as mentioned above are Blot, Feast, and Sumble. Some groups will add their own customs or traditions such as a ritual to honor the land Wights (spirits) and/or an offering to the Norns; the three sisters that weave the fates of men and Gods; this trio also has direct access to runic energy. We will discuss all of these in this series of articles.
Any ritual day usually starts with a 'warding' or 'hallowing' of some kind. The purpose of this is to create a holy, sacred space in which only those energies invited are welcome. The ritual will lower the veil, or open a portal to the realm of Gods and it is a way of protecting against negative interference. In Heathen culture this is usually done with a 'hammer rite'. The Gothi (Kindred leader) will hold a hammer (symbolic of Thor's hammer Mjolnir) aloft, in the four cardinal directions and basically "bless" that field. He does the same thing above and below, resulting in a complete enclosure of sacred space. The hammer is typically used because it is widely known that Thor is the protector of both Gods and man, and the enemy of chaos, the slayer of giants.
If a particular ritual is intended to honor a specific deity, one might use a token representing that deity to do the Warding instead of a hammer; for Odin it would be a spear, for Freyr -antlers, for Frigg it may be a distaff (a tool used in spinning flax, Frigg is known to carry one).
There are many variations to the actual Warding rite; some groups may incorporate drumming and chanting for example, or smudge the perimeter with smoke from a sage wand, but the purpose and intent remains the same; to create a holy space in which ill-wishing Wights and energies are forbidden, and where the Gods of the folk, the ancestors, and the friendly Wights of the land are welcome...so that good work can be done.
In the next article, Part 2, we will discuss to role of the Wights and Norns in more detail, and what role they play in an Asatru ritual.