The need-fire was the most holy form of fire and it is suggested that whenever possible to use fire started from a need-fire, that is, started from friction caused by the rubbing together or two pieces of wood. In one description of the need fire we saw that those making it removed articles of metal from their self before starting and I would suggest that this be done for your need-fire as well. Creating need-fire is no easy task, especially if one has no experience with it, so if you decide to use need-fire for your next blót be sure to practice it ahead of time. In any case, however you get the fire started, you should always have fire in your blót even if it is as simple as lighting a single candle. Fire carries your words and your offerings to the other worlds.
The blót-feast is the major religious observance in Regintroth.
It is our recommendation that the full blót-feast be conducted at least
twice each year, on Midsummer and Jól. It is, of course, all right to
conduct blót-feasts more often. As we established before, the blóts
primary purpose is the strengthening of bonds, both between kin and between
us and the Regin. The blót also serves to keep us connected with nature,
as we know our Northern European fore-fathers were. In these modern days, where
most of us may not be dependent on the land , and its bounty directly, it is
even more important to observe the turning of the seasons so that we can stay
in sync with nature. I would like to now discuss some ideas on how we might
conduct a blót-feast from a practical standpoint as opposed to the more
esoteric and/or spiritual reasons. We might break the feast-blot into five major
sections. These sections would be the procession, the offering, the celebration,
the feast and the full. I'll discuss each one in turn.
The procession: I happened to be flipping around the channels
on TV one day when I happened across a documentary on Leif Eriksson. This was
an older documentary that was, from its appearance, from the 70's or 80's. Part
of the documentary centered on the reclaiming of the Pre-Christian traditions
by Icelanders. They profiled the man responsible for getting the Elder Way (Forn
Sedh as it is called in Europe) recognized as an official religion in Iceland,
Sveinbjorn Beinteinson. They filmed a blót which he conducted which was
quite moving and impressive to see. The blót began with a procession.
Sveinbjorn was in the lead in white robes and he as well as others carried various
standards as they made the trek up the holy mountain where the blót was
to be held. It was a stately and solemn affair. We know from sources in the
lore that this practice was often used in one way or the other especially in
Vanir rites. A procession, in which standards and the tools of the rite are
carried to the holy area can serve very well to get the participates in the
right frame of mind for the rite. Chants and songs which we know were done on
processions can also serve to enhance the experience. The procession's purpose
should be viewed as for preparing the minds of the those participating for the
The blót: This is where the offerings are made. Animal
sacrifices would be done here and the blood sprinkled on those present. Other
offerings would be left at this time as well. Other than that we don't know
much about how the blót was conducted. We, at Northvegr Félag,
have chosen this time to perform what we call the blót-full (strengthening
toast). This is a toast in which the participants strengthen the bonds between
them and their ancestors and the Regin.
The Celebration: At this point in the blót the participants
gather together and celebrate. This could include dancing, singing, story-telling
and competitive games. These activities may vary depending on the purpose of
the blót-feast. For instance, during the Midsummer blót-feast
it was traditional to build a great bonfire and for the youth and any others
that would venture it, to jump over the fire.
The Feast: The feast was a time of joy and fellowship. The animal
that was sacrificed was cooked and everyone enjoyed a holy meal in which it
was considered that the participants were taking part in the meal with the ancestors
and the Regin. The meat was boiled in a kind of stew in cauldrons and the mead
was served from the cauldrons as well. Everyone should give the first portion
of their food to the fire (or in a container to be taken later and burned outside
or left at the foot of a tree) in honor of the Regin and the Ancestors. Although
animal sacrifice is still viable in my opinion, most people will not have the
skills or means to do so. Animals sacrifices should be done only by those skilled
in the methods that will bring the animal's life to an end as quickly and as
painlessly as possible. Also needed would be someone who knows how to butcher
an animal properly and there might be city, state and county laws that apply
as well. Everyone participating in the blót-feast should contribute food
and drink toward the feast and this will, of course, require prior planning.
I think it would be good, if possible, to have a cauldron to keep the mead in
(or whatever you use for the holy drink). The feast should continue until everyone
has had their fill and the feast-jarl calls for the full.
The Full: The full consists of five specific toasts and then an unspecified number afterwards. The first five are, Othinns-full, Freyrs-full, Njorthrs-full, the Braggi-full and the minni-full. The feast-jarl as the right to call for the full. He calls for it and hallows the mead. Then he begins with Othinns-full which is a toast to honor the chief of the tribe of the Regin. Each person starting on the feast-jarl's right honors Othinn with a toast until all have done so. Then the feast-jarl will begin the next full and it is conducted in the same manner for each full. Freyrs-full is a toast given in honor of Freyr for peace in the coming season. Njorthrs-full is given for prosperity in the coming season. The Braggi-full is a toast in which the person either boasts (brags) about a previous oath completed or makes a solemn oath to complete some task. And finally, the minni-full is given to honor one's ancestors and friends that have passed to the other worlds. These full could go on for some time and include multiple rounds of toasts.
I feel I should speak a little on the solemn oath. Contrary to the way some would picture the oath, the oath is not every statement that comes from one's mouth. Saying you will meet someone in one hour is not an oath. Giving your word is not an oath. Although you will certainly suffer a loss of reputation from breaking your word it still is not the same as a solemn oath. A solemn oath is sworn to the gods themselves and is a spiritual action. The solemn oath is a formal statement, the swearing of which affects your orlog. It always has profound effects on your life. Whether or not these effects are beneficial or detrimental all depends on whether or not the oath has been fulfilled or not. Great care should be taken before swearing a solemn oath because you will be held to it by the forces of wyrd. Never ever swear an oath unless you fully intend to fulfill it, because no matter how rash it was, you'll be expected to fulfill it. Stories abound in the lore of people taking rash oaths and having to fulfill the oath even though it might cause their death. I cannot stress this strongly enough. Those who swear solemn oaths lightly and break them just as lightly are, to put it in the vernacular of my homeland, in for a whole heap of trouble. Take as much care in swearing a solemn oath as you would in fulfilling it. I give this caution here because I think it is something that is important to keep in mind while drinking the full. The Braggi-full includes the swearing of solemn oaths and each person should keep these cautions in mind because the drinking of mead has caused many a person to act rashly.
The types of offerings given were many and varied. What seemed to be the case was that it was not so much important what was offered as much as it was that what was offered was valuable to the person offering it. Everything from fruit, bread and clothing to gold, weapons and animals were offered. But the one thing that was common among them all is that they were considered of worth by those giving the offering. While a loaf of bread might be considered a good offering for a poor farmer to make, it might be considered an insult to the gods for a wealthy jarl to offer the same. Offerings were often thrown in lakes, bogs, pools, springs or waterfalls. They also were commonly left at the foot of trees or holy objects such as holy stones. Offerings were also made by throwing them into a fire. Only animals that were eaten by man were considered as worthy to offer the gods. So in modern practice we could say that the most important aspect of the offering should be that it holds value to the person giving the offering. Don't offer something you do not personally value.
A few different methods can be used for hallowing. Any object or land could be hallowed simply be dedicating it to one of the Regin. This could be done at a special blót for the purpose. Using a hammer or the sign of the hammer can be used as well. Fire was also used as we saw from accounts describing how it was used to hallow the mead drank in the full by passing the mead either over or around the fire. In descriptions of blótar we know that the blood of sacrificed animals were used to hallow the hof, instruments and those participating in the blót by sprinkling the blood on them with a tine or twig. We might consider a similar use of the hallowed mead.When to Blót
One of the hallmarks of The Northern Way is its connection to
the land. The Pre-Christian Northern European lived in cooperation with the
cycles of Nature. He did not attempt to control nature or see it as something
evil to be overcome. In modern times we can easily get out of sync with nature.
We no longer need to depend on Mother Nerthus for food or for the hunting of
animals. We need only go to the local supermarket. Observing the major tides
is a way we can reconnect with nature. Even though, for my reconstructed holy
night calendar, I list specific dates for the blóta I suggest that each
person try to use the actual tides to decide when a blót should be held
as the Northern Europeans once did. The summer finding blót could be
held when the first flower blooming is spotted or when the a migratory bird
makes its first appearance after returning from its winter time roost. Winter
Nights could be conducted when the last leaves have fallen from trees. We also
know that the phase of the moon was always an important consideration for when
blótar were conducted.
More practical considerations sometimes come into play as well. Sometimes it may be better to delay a blót for a few days so that it can be held on a weekend, when more people will be able to attend. It is also likely that our Northern European ancestors gathered together more often than on the major tides, perhaps monthly on the full moon, and we know that they also held blót-feasts for special occasions such as marriages and births.
Many times there were other activities at blóts. Singing, dancing, story-telling and games were some of the activities that are attested to in the lore. Specific blóts sometimes had specific activities that were associated with them, which I'll talk more about in the blót instructions for those specific blóts. We should feel free to improvise these activities because, in essence this part of the blót-feast was always about kin getting together and having a good time. This would be a great time for story-telling. Stories from the Sagas and the Eddas could be told in such as a way that they relate the values that The Northern Way holds as desirable in order to teach them to the young ones. In times of old, it was the one of the best ways to teach the young what ideals they should value. This was one of the most important aspects of what the skalds did. They used their stories to relate these values and reinforced them upon the whole culture. This is a tradition that we modern follwers of the Northern Way should work hard to revive. The power of story to teach and reinforce our values while at the same time entertaining should not be overlooked.
I think I have shown that contrary to popular opinion, there is quite a bit of material to be found concerning the traditions of our Northern European ancestors. If one looks hard enough they can find many many pieces to the puzzle that was the religious practices of Pre-Christian North. Although I gathered almost 200 pages of notes which translated into nearly 80 pages of article I, by no means, exhausted the store of information that is out there waiting to be collected. Although I did not find all the pieces of the puzzle (we are unlikely to ever find all the pieces) , I do believe that I found enough to get a good picture of what the true practices of The Northern Way were. I believe that there is enough here for us to take up and rebuild genuine Northern custom. In Regintroth: A Book of the Northern Way, I'll offer guides for these rebuilt customs, but it is my hope that the reader will take this information I have gathered and use it to build their own traditions. It is my hope that these traditions will be passed down from father to son, from mother to daughter just as they were in times of old. We modern followers of the Northern Way have been cut off from the ways of our ancestors for a millennium by the religion of the desert god. It is time now that we take back the ways of our fore-fathers. If this article helps one person do that, then I will be satisfied that the considerable effort I expended to research and write this article will have been well worth it.