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New Year’s Eve Ritual

A few days ago, someone asked me about the New Year’s Eve ritual that I typically do for the House. I promised I’d post it here, so here it is. I alter this a little every year, but the barebones scaffolding remains intact: 

New Year’s Eve Ritual

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I don’t usually share House rituals, but I’m moved to share our New Year’s Eve ritual. This is one that many of us will be doing in our own homes as the year turns. I share it with you here, for those who may be wishing for some idea of what type of ritual to do, but who might be coming up short. This New Year’s, my cultus deorum practice took the lead with defining the ritual.
(Do this so that you begin on the 31st and end on the 1st. 🙂 Adapt it as you need and wish. Five Deities are invoked: Cardea, the Goddess of the door hinge, Limentius, the God of the threshold, Forculus, God of the doorway, Janus, God of beginnings, doorways, passages, etc. –January is named after Him, and Hermes.) (The image above is Cardea by L. Perkins)

Pre-ritual prep:

Take a ritual bath to prepare yourself and dress in clean clothing.

I. Begin by cleaning all your shrines, both to the Gods and the ancestors.

II. Make an offering to your ancestors, thanking them for all their help and protection in the previous year and asking for their continued blessings.

III. Make an equal offering to the house spirits.

IV. If you have a mask, don it now and take up a noise-maker (drum, rattle, even a can filled with some coins) and open a couple of windows. Go through every room in the house making as much noise as you can, cleansing it via sound of any stagnant or unhelpful or malignant energy. Sweep your house, every room if possible and sweet out the door. Then vacuum. (I’m practical. My mother was Swiss lol).

Take off the mask and put away the noisemaker.

V. Light four candles and ask the blessing of fire on your home.

VI. Go to the front door. wipe it, the threshold , and the lintels down with an infusion of juniper or verbena, or some other sweet and cleansing herb (I think Florida water is a good substitute). Hang colored streamers from your door (colored wool would have been traditional), anoint the hinges with a dab of olive oil. Asperse the door three times with verbena water, florida water, rose water or some other sweet smelling infusion.

forculus-limentinus-painting-2x4

Offer the following prayers After each prayer, set or pour out an offering glass of wine:

Prayer to Hermes

To Hermes:

I sing of Hermes, the favorite of Bakcheios,
the wily one with mischief and wisdom in his heart.
He stands at the cross-roads, a pillar connecting the worlds,
whose foundation is in the underworld
and whose eyes survey all that transpires in heaven.
He is the lord of magic, the inventor of words and religious rites, the trustworthy one who knows the secrets of the gods
and interprets their will for mankind. (The image here is Forculus and LImentius by G. Palmer).

Praise for Hermes:

In gratitude let my lips pour forth praise
for Hermes, the wily one, the master of many guises
clever in his plotting, who wanders over wide ways
with feet so light they never leave a track
for the huntsman to follow. Ghost-like, shifting,
who flits through our thoughts and knows how
to carry off our deepest, most well-guarded secrets,
King of the land of Sleep who guides the
dreams like sheep through one of the two gates
to find their way to us while our bodies rest,
and with the same staff he uses to check
their step he can conjure illusions and
shape reality to his will, he can cause poisonous
roots to spring up from the earth and brew
strange philters to protect against the witch’s charms,
for Hermes is great in magic and the inventor of
powerful words. Those words he knows how to use,
to bend the rules of society and trick the canny
businessman out of his money. Hermes wants for
nothing for through hard work, cleverness, the
weaving of fine tales and simple treachery or theft
he can get whatever it is he wants and even
managed to sneak his way into the bed of the lovely
Aphrodite whose soft, warm flesh delighted him so.
Hail Hermes, is there anything you cannot
accomplish? If so I am ignorant of it.

(prayers by sannion)

hermespainting2x4

(Hermes by G. Palmer)

Prayer to Cardea

I call to You,
Sweet Cardea,
Guardian of all passageways.
Without your leave no blessings may flow.
You are guardian and keeper of the earth:
You open that which has been closed,
and close that which has been opened.
Bless us this night and in the year to come
with an abundance of all good things.
To You, gracious Goddess
we pray.

(prayer by Galina)

cardea-painting2x4

(Cardea by G. Palmer)

Prayer to Forculus

I hail You, Forculus,
Gracious Guardian of the door.
I ask Your blessings and protection
on my home and in my life
in the year to come;
and I thank you for
for watching over me
in the year now past.
To You,
doorkeeper of the earth,
I pray.

(prayer by Galina)
Prayer to Limentius

I pray to You, LImentius,
God of the threshold.
I thank You for the grace
of Your protection and care
in the year now past.
I ask that You watch over
and protect me
in the year to come.
To You, keeper of the threshold,
I pray.

(prayer by Galina)

Prayer to Janus

Sing I Ianus,
lord with two faces,
who opens the door,
and causes unexpected things to occur.
To those who have your favor,
no obstacle blocks their path.
You create the way where none appeared before,
and bring helpful spirits through to aid us in our work.
No great task is begun without first invoking you,
gatekeeper of Olympos who holds the keys
to all the temples of the gods.
O Ianus, unlock the door of my mind
to let powerful verse spill forth,
like the Nile in flood season.
O Ianus, unblock the gates of the underworld,
so that Demeter’s rich bounty can fill the land.
O Ianus, make smooth the way so that men’s prayers may travel up
and reach the ears of the Blessed Immortals.
Ianus I sing!

(prayer by sannion)

janus-painting

(Janus by G. Palmer)

Make the following offerings:

*refried beans (seriously, a traditional dish for Cardea lol. She likes the ancient Roman equivalent of re-fried beans)
*a bowl of milk and honey
*sweet wine
*fresh water

*bread and butter
*anything else you feel moved to give.

light a little incense

Hang a wreath on the door and ask for the Gods’ protection (if you have hawthorn, this is particularly associated with Cardea and is very protective. Laurel would have also been traditional for these wreaths but don’t sweat it).

Say: “joy to this house” three times.

VII. Go back inside and give an offering of grain and salt or salt and bread to the fire.

VIII. eat something sweet, symbolic of welcoming sweetness in the new year.
It’s also nice if, at this point, you can share a meal – however simple–with those you love

IX. if you have the skill, sit and do divination for the rest of the year. (This is a good time as head of your house to do household divination. You can always follow up with a professional diviner if anything comes up that’s troubling or you feel needs to be further addressed.)

X. When you are next out, give food to the poor/homeless/hungry.

 

(the prayer cards above, unless otherwise noted, are by Grace Palmer. All may be found here.)

Reposting Thoughts on Sacrifice

I’ve been thinking a lot about sacrifice lately. Yule is approaching and that is a time where I often give appropriate sacrifices to Odin and it’s time to start thinking about what the winter will entail, and to start making the necessary preparations should animal sacrifice be part of that.

I take the necessity and goodness of sacrifice for granted but obviously not everyone does. I recently had an issue with a neighbor over my practice. She didn’t see anything (I’m not rude to my neighbors and I have a secluded area and shed in which I do this type of work), but simply knowing that this was part of my practice bothered her extensively, to the point of her lightly interfering and interrupting a non-sacrificial religious rite. It’s easy when surrounded only by people who share one’s worldview, to forget how disconnected our society is from its food cycles, from offertory traditions, from life and death, and from the ways of our ancestors. Think about, people don’t die in the home anymore. They get shipped off to hospitals and hospice to make that passage which denies us contact with them in their last days, and with the process surrounding their dying, something, I might add, that I believe ratchets up the grief afterwards. Unlike with our ancestors, we buy our food neatly pasteurized, sanitized, sterilized, geneticized (yes, i’m making up a word? ) and sealed. There are kids today that don’t know hamburgers come from cows. Disconnection seems at times too mild a word.

Even for those of us engaging in these practices there can be one hell of a learning curve, but so much good can come of facing that head on because sacrifice is essential to polytheistic religions.  To paraphrase Ken Dowden, noted scholar of Roman religion “without sacrifice there is no piety.” (1) Period. End of story and this is not rocket science. Except in fact, for those of us raised in our modern, spiritually oblivious culture, apparently it is. This is, sadly, understandable. How many of us after all have grown up slaughtering our own food? That separation from the origins of what nourishes us creates, I believe, an inability to position the act of slaughtering an animal in one’s world either practically or sacrally. There is a level of disconnect present with which our ancestors never had to deal. Take for example, that neighbor who recently wanted to know why I had to be so “mean” to the chickens I was about to ritually offer, why couldn’t I get my meat at the grocery store?” –(factory farming obviously not a moral issue for the woman). Why indeed and if you could see me now, you’d see the exasperated rolling of my eyes. It can be a really shocking and frightening thing though, for those who have never been exposed to it sacrally, except maybe in media stupidity and sensationalism.

I get really passionate about this subject too. I’m passionate about a lot of things, but fiercely so where sacrifice is concerned, partly because I believe it’s incredibly dangerous and unhelpful to carry unexamined modern attitudes into our practice, and partly because sacrifice is so, so important. I’m really glad that it’s come up recently in discussion again, because it is a much needed impetus for me to write more about this. We talk much about restoring our ancestral traditions but this particular tradition can make some of us cringe: without butchery, i.e. the slaughter of animals, there is no piety. There is no religion. There is no being in right relationship with one’s Gods. Pretty much, to one degree or another, across the board this was the accepted view of our ancestors, and of religious traditions that sustained their people for generations upon generations. Even Judaism, Islam, and some forms of Christianity allow for it in many cases. Our railing against the necessity of sacrifice is just one more way that we assume that we know better than our ancestors. It’s one more way that we assume the death of our traditions was some sort of moral ‘progress.’ It’s what my colleague Raven Kaldera, in our book “Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner,” called “Urdummheit,” the idea that our ancestors were stupid.

I have found over the past couple of years, that in some sections of modern polytheism, even the idea of giving appropriate offerings is problematic. After all, it does highlight that we and our feelings are not the central point of the religious equation, doesn’t it? When Sannion and I were on the air, discussing this (among other things) on our show Wyrd Ways Radio, we had an unexpected call in by a listener who told a fascinating story about Alexander the Great, which can be found here. If I could see our contemporary polytheisms nurture any attitude in its followers, it would be this: we cannot give too much to our Gods. But in a culture, permeated with Protestant values, the values that say “don’t waste that” (or if one is Heathen “Don’t give too much!!!” – as if one *could*) when one is about to lay out an offering of food or drink, as if giving tangibly to one’s Gods and ancestors is a waste, it’s no wonder that we think ourselves kinder and gentler and –let’s be honest–above offering an animal. We as a culture think ourselves better than our pious ancestors.(2) It’s an arrogance unthinkable to the ancient mind.

Sacrifice is one of the holiest of offerings. It is the most solemn and sacred of all rituals. It renews, restores, nourishes in a way that no other offering can. Not every Deity requires this granted, but many, many do. The role of the sacrificial priest, one that I have fulfilled since 1995, is an awesome responsibility. One must learn the mechanics of slaughter adeptly, so that the animal in no ways suffers. One must develop (or have an assistant with this skill) the ability to communicate with and soothe the animal. It is important that the animal suffer neither pain nor terror. They are fulfilling a tremendously sacred role, the apex of what their own wyrd may be, and participating in this communicatory cycle in a way denied us as people. It is an act worthy of recognition, respect, and care. This type of priest must learn all the necessary prayers and purificatory rites required before, during, and after both for oneself and for the animal. It is necessary to develop a very strong connection with one’s ancestors and one’s lineage because the power released during a sacrifice is enormous and the broken threads of our traditions, imperfectly restored (if at all) may not be able to sustain the force of that which once would have nourished a living community. Not everyone is meant to be a sacrificial priest. It’s a specialist position. Even though, for instance, I’ve done this work for years, I still divine before each and every ritual involving sacrifice to make certain that I am cleared to serve in this capacity. Our ancestors had the option in many cases of going to a temple, purchasing an animal, and having the sacrifice done for them. One should not attempt a sacrifice without proper training and, for the first few rituals, oversight. There’s no room for error here. There’s no room either from a religious perspective or a compassionate one for getting it wrong.

I will always divine before planning a sacrifice, even if I am sure one is desired. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’m wrong. I let the Gods and ancestors speak for themselves. I will divine and if there is any further question after that, I will see another diviner for absolute impartiality. I will also divine right before the sacrifice is to be performed, and immediately after to make sure that it was accepted. Well before a rite of this sort is done, I will seek the Gods’ counsel on how it should be disposed of: is it meant to be cooked up to feed and nourish a community too? Is it meant to be given in total immolation to the Gods? Is it meant to be buried or disposed of in a particular place? What do the Gods wish? This is one of the purposes of divination, to give the Gods a chance to convey Their wishes. Even if I am certain that I have heard and understood a Deity directly, I will still confirm with divination. I do this not to question the Deity, but in deference to my flawed human understanding. I do not want *my* errata of comprehension or translation to mar the process.

So I will share how I consecrated my statue of Dionysos several years ago. I first did divination to determine that such sacrifice was appropriate and then asked if He would accept two roosters. (With a shoulder and back injury, I no longer offer four-legged animals without a strong assistant present). The divination was very positive, I also asked if Hermes would require an offering and again, it was positive. After setting the date, acquiring the animals, cleansing and going through my ritual process, I first made offering to Hermes, one of the quickest, cleanest, and most beautiful of sacrifices I have ever done. The bird was field-dressed and cooked up with herbs, lemons (for some reason, it keeps coming up at every Hermes offering that He likes lemons!), and lots and lots of butter and offered to Him as a feast. The blood was used to consecrate His image, and the head and heart put at the base of His herm. Then the Dionysos offering was made and His statue likewise washed in the blood of the two birds. They were then disposed of as divination indicated (and this was long enough ago, that I don’t recall what we did with them). Divination afterwards showed both offerings to have been happily accepted. I made sure to do all requisite cleansing after to remove miasma (even though it is a sacred thing, the killing of an animal, like marriage, carries miasma) and so it was done. Not too long after, I wrote the following:

Sacrifice is important. It’s one of the holiest and most sacred of our rituals. When we engage in sacrifice for our Gods, we are entering into the flow of a very ancient, very, very profound contract We are entering into something tremendously powerful, something that reaches to the very core of our traditions. This is what brings renewal. This is what brings grace and blessing to the community. This is one of the things that nourishes our Gods and in turn nourishes us. It completes a sacred cycle and there is very little if anything that may serve as a truly adequate substitute.

For this reason, I give thanks for those clergy, of all our various traditions who have dedicated themselves to the task of learning and restoring these rituals and protocols. I give thanks to the Gods and ancestors for those who teach and those who do, for those who take up the knife so that our Gods may have the offerings best suited to Their glory. I give thanks for our sacrificial priests (and yes, I am one, but I give thanks to those who taught me, to those from whom I continue to learn, and to the Gods for Their continued patience). I give thanks to the farmers who provide the feast for the Powers. I give thanks to the fire that carries the fullness of the sacrifice away via immolation and I give thanks to those who dress and prepare the sacrifices for feasting, when that is appropriate. I give thanks to the knife and the ones who craft it. I give thanks for the animals and I give thanks for the land that catches the blood as it is spilled. These things are sacred. The hands of the sacrificial priest are sacred, and the process and cycle itself. For these things, I am grateful. I know how they nourish wyrd. I know what it means to restore these rites after two thousand years of our ritual places lying fallow.

I stand by that now. If sacrifice bothers you, consider why and understand that your discomfort does not for a moment render this act any less sacred or any less necessary. The modern lens through which we filter our faith is the problem not the corpus of sacred rites given into our care and safe-keeping. Sometimes veneration is messy.

sacrifice_boar_louvre_g112

Notes:

  1. Ken Dowden, Religion and the Romans, Bristol Classics Press, 1992, p. 1.
  2. The impact of the Protestant work ethic on contemporary Polytheisms and the making of offerings is a topic I’m reserving for another post.

More on sacrifice may be found here and here. See also a post I made earlier in the year on modernity and polytheism. 

Purity in Practice: Ritual Prep

Continuing the conversation on miasma and purity, a reader emailed me this morning asking if I would give examples of what I do in my own practice.(1)

It would be too cumbersome (and I suspect boring) to go into detail of what I do day by day, but I can describe how I prepare myself for a ritual and hopefully that will give some idea of the practicalities of purification within a regular practice. (2)

If I know that I have a ritual coming up, about three days before the ritual, I start preparing. I’ll make sure that the shrine cloths, sacred statues, icons, etc. offering bowls and any other accouterments that I require are clean and in good working order. I’ll also make a list of what offerings I need to acquire and make sure I do that well before the day of the rite (except for flowers. Flowers I tend to buy the morning of a ritual in order to make sure that they are fresh). Once all that is done, I turn to getting myself into the right headspace.

The whole point of avoiding miasma, (and taking care of it quickly when it occurs) is to avoid being in a state that isn’t conducive to the presence of the Gods. Miasma can impact our headspace, our attitude, our energy, our discernment and shift us ever so slightly (or depending on the level of miasma greatly) out of true. We avoid miasma to maintain the best relationship possible with our Holy Powers. When we can’t avoid miasma (and we can’t – it happens as natural side effect to certain things. (3)), it’s important to cleanse it quickly.

So about three days before a ritual, I start taking care with what I read and watch on tv. I’m easily affected by what I take in visually. Under normal circumstances I read and watch what I want (within reason. I don’t want to pollute my mind so I tend to avoid exposing myself to certain things, particularly things that are really really violent. I don’t want the images in my brain) but since I know that I can be affected by media, I’ll limit myself for a couple days approaching ritual. This helps me to get into and maintain a good headspace for approaching the Gods.

I clean my house and make sure I have clean clothes for the ritual. All energetic cleaning begins first with physical cleaning, at least insofar as I was taught. So I’ll take cleansing baths for three days approaching the ritual. While I take regular cleansing baths anyway, usually with white salt or pink Himalayan salt (I find that different salts tend to be more or less intense in their esoteric cleansing properties) before a ritual, I’ll use black lava salt (which I find very strong). Sometimes I’ll also take beer baths – pouring a bottle of dark beer into my bath. It’s a German folk custom that really works like a charm (no pun intended) for cleansing or do some other type of cleansing bath recipe.

I don’t isolate myself during this time. I go about my normal day, work, school, art classes, whatever needs to be done, but I try to do so mindfully. When I get home, I take a bit more care than normal over what I watch or read. I aim to eat healthily and get enough sleep (not doing the latter is one of my migraine triggers and I don’t want to get sick the day of a ritual). I also increase prayers and personal offerings to whatever Deity or Deities for Whom we’re doing the ritual. I may also read Their stories and prayers to Them if I have any.

The day of a ritual, I get up early and set up the altar for the ritual. I go get flowers and whatever last minute items I decide I need and then I sequester myself for a little bit. I take a cleansing bath, dress in clean clothes (usually, if it doesn’t violate any of my taboos, in colors significant to the Deity or Deities involved). Then I take a half hour or so to ground and center myself, pray, and get into proper ritual headspace. Before the ritual begins, I’ll cleanse myself (usually with mugwort recaning or a fire blessing if it’s a Heathen rite, khernips if it’s cultus deorum) and partake of the rite. The only unusual thing that I sometimes find myself doing is covering my head in the days leading up to the rite, and especially the day of – all the more so if it’s a heavy ancestor rite. I find this helps my focus.

Afterwards, I usually have to have time by myself again. I find the transition out of ritual space and back into regular quotidian space difficult sometimes. I’ll often take a cleansing bath again almost immediately afterwards, wrap up in soft, warm, and comfy clothes (the rattier the better LOl, you know, the ones you wear all the time) and get something to eat and drink.

For regular daily veneration and devotional work, I am not at all as diligent. I’ll usually lay out all my preparations (offerings, etc.), do a ritual cleansing (often just head and hands), meditate for a time, and then get on with things. But it depends. I do tend to avoid television, computer, and other media for an hour or so before any type of devotional work. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these things, but doing so helps me get into the appropriate focus.

Of course if I do anything to put myself in significant miasma (and this can happen during good and right things. For instance, when I visit a cemetery and make offerings I’m doing right by the dead, but because I’ve entered a place of the dead, I’m in a state of miasma. I need to do a special cleansing when I return), then I do special cleansings (and I’ll divine if I don’t know what the best type of cleansing to do might be). Otherwise, this is pretty much it. The only other thing that I do is divination before the rituals to see if anything special is required, and afterwards to make sure all offerings were accepted. I also have divination done for myself quarterly to make sure I’m not missing anything in my devotional life.

So I hope that answers my reader’s question. Feel free to shoot me any further questions if you have them, and let me know what you all do. I’d be very interesting in learning new ways to handle miasma and pollution.

Notes:

  1. I use the term miasma for spiritual pollution. It is a neutral term (i.e. miasma is not sin, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, etc.) but it is Hellenic. Most of our traditions have some concept of purification but I find the term ‘miasma’ to be the most comprehensive (granted, this may be due to familiarity given my training as a Classicist). I would very much encourage people to see what the working terminology is or might be (we might have to do some linguistic research) within your own traditions. I plan to do this as soon as I have a spare moment with Heathenry. We know that pre-Christians Heathens had these concepts of purity and pollution (why sanctify a space with fire if it is already clean? Likewise, we have alternate names for two of our creator Gods  (Vili, and Ve) that speak to inherent holiness and integrity. These are concepts that point in some way to the idea of miasma/pollution. We’re not as blessed as the Hellenics and cultus deorum folks out there in having a plethora of surviving material written by Heathens—a significant portion of our lore was written after conversion and little of it deals with religious praxis—but we can still infer a great deal from what we do have extant.
  2. Of course, purification isn’t something to worry about only when we are about to do a ritual. It’s important on a day by day too, for spiritual, emotional, and even physical health and well being.
  3. This doesn’t mean we’re bad or tainted, but it does mean that we’re miasmic and need to do the requisite cleansings.

Recap of Today’s Ritual

Today my husband held a rite to honor Athena, specifically as Protector of the dead. I didn’t know about this aspect of Her cultus until we were prepping for this rite, but I think the ritual was quite powerful. I had never honored Athena before this, being Heathen, but I am immensely moved by this soldier’s Goddess.

We had a full house: nine people attending. It was difficult to get good photos of the altar that we set up and then later of Her shrine, mostly because we didn’t think about it at the time, and the angles and space required for a good, full-on shot were problematic. Still, I thought some of you might like to see what we did. Several people sent in prayers or requests prior to the rite and I made those prayers/requests as promised before the ritual ended.

Aug 20 AThena altar

Here is the altar with all the offerings laid out before it. Some are really obscured in this photo. For instance, in the lower left wrapped in a grey cloth are two loaves of home made bread. the cloth is just visible here. The papers in the lower right are prayers that others who could not attend asked me to say. There had been more offerings, including two bottles of olive oil on the altar itself, but we poured them into the bowls and the empty bottles are outside of the shot. There is a spear, which now graces Her shrine laid in front of the woven mat, and more offering bowls that I just couldn’t get into the shot.

Here is Athena’s shrine after I put Her images back after deconstructing the ritual altar, several hours after the ritual.

Athena shrine Aug 20

You can see the little yarn dolls to represent the dead that were made as part of the ritual. Again, a ton of food offerings are on the ground in front of the flowers but i couldn’t get a decent shot because I couldn’t back up far enough. 

 Here is a playlist Sannion made to get one in the proper headspace for honoring Athena. I’m fascinated by play lists. I don’t relate Gods to music that way (I wish I did!) so this is like some strange, fascinating, and shiny thing for me. I don’t quite get it for myself, but I know it’ll be useful to others and think it very cool, so I’m sharing that here too. 

I also did a new prayer card for Athena in honor of this ritual. I want Her to have nice things, as I want all our Gods to have nice things, images, and devotion. 

Thinking of Mani

I was thinking about Mani tonight and it inspired me to hunt up this example of a nice Monday night ritual that can be done for Him. 

 

Monday: Honoring Mani, the Moon God

(excerpted from “Devotional Polytheism” by G. Krasskova)

For Heathens and Norse Pagans, the moon Deity is male. He is a glorious, gentle, and deeply compelling God named Mani, the son of Time, nephew of Night, brother to the Sun and the Cosmos. He rides across the fabric of night, followed by the wolf Hati, who, it is said, either keeps Him on His course, or chases Him with the intent of devouring Him and bringing on Ragnarok. Only Mani knows the truth of the matter, and perhaps, the wolf. What is attested to in the surviving sources, and in the experience of those devoted to Him, is how deeply Mani cares for humanity, especially children. Some say that it is for this reason that the wolf must follow Him, for otherwise He might easily be swayed off His course out of curiosity or caring for those humans who scurry about beneath the waxing and waning of the orb He bears.

Here is a little something I wrote a couple of years ago about the moon, Mani, and Monday:

Today is Mani’s day. Monday actually means “moon-day” and in our tradition the moon belongs to a lovely God named Mani. Monday is His day and a good day to make offerings to Him. I try to do a little something for Him every Monday. Sometimes I forget–i’m human and I make mistakes. My mindfulness occasionally has its lapses–but I do my best to be as consistent as possible. Fortunately, even when I slip up, Monday will always come round again.

I like to give Him little things whenever i can. Usually, I make my offerings in the evening, because I like to do so when the moon is visible in the night sky. Sometimes though ,He rides high and proud, winking at us from the lightening hues wrought by His sister’s passage and for me, there’s a special delight in that and then I will honor Him when I rise, making my offerings with the brightening day. Offerings like this need not be enormous. I usually give Him a glass of either sambuca or, more recently, Smirnoff’s marshmallow flavored vodka. He seems to like it. I spend a few moments in prayer and that’s that until the next Monday. It’s a stabilizing consistency to the crazy roller coaster of my life.

Some of you might find it strange that we honor a moon God and not a Goddess (our Sun Deity is a Sun Goddess as well –and Mani’s sister– to complete the juxtaposition) but we are not unique in this: Japanese and Egyptian religions also have moon Gods and if i went looking, I suspect there are a few more as well, but I’m feeling lazy today so I’ll leave that research to you, my readers.. One wonders though if all the moon Gods are companions….

When my adopted mom was small she used to call the moon Luna Lunera and would watch as She (my mom of course as a small child thought the moon female) showered the earth with the blessings of her gentle light. She said her father would stand on a balcony of their home while she played in the garden –oh she must have been very small—and throw candies down and she thought they came from the moon. Maybe, in a way, they did.

I never thought about it one way or another until I encountered Mani and then I knew what it was to love the moon. He is beautiful and compelling in His ways. Even I am not immune, though it amuses many and probably Mani too should He ever catch wind of it.

 

 

Evening Rite for Mani

 Begin by setting up a small altar to Him. It need not be elaborate, but should include a candle and incense burner with incense. Moon images and anything else associated with the moon are quite appropriate. Many of us have found that Mani likes beaded necklaces, jangles, time pieces, even bits of clock and watch innards, abacuses, calendars, night blooming flowers, and music. Anything of this ilk, and anything else that one personally feels called to associate with or give to Him is appropriate to place on the altar. You should also have something to offer Him: a glass of alcohol, cookies, flowers….anything that you are moved to give. (If you are including your children in this ritual, have them help you prepare the altar).

Once you have created the altar, which is, in effect, an invocation in and of itself, sit quietly for a few moments centering yourself. This may easily be accomplished by a simple exercise that I call the ‘four-fold breath:’ inhale four counts, hold four counts, exhale four counts, hold four counts. Then repeat for five minutes continually.

Once you feel that you are adequately centered and focused, turn your attention to Mani. Envision the moon in the sky. Think about all that He must have seen as human civilization progressed, all that He must have witnessed. Imagine that you are reaching out to him with heart and hand and spirit. Imagine that, as you breathe, you are breathing in His silver, soothing light. You are filling yourself with the blessed touch of the moon. When you feel ready, light the candle with the words, “with this light, I kindle the light of the moon in my heart, in my mind, in my spirit.”

Light a stick of incense and offer it with the words, “I offer this incense, that I might be blessed by Mani, son of time, keeper of the roads of night.”

Invocation to Mani

 Hail to Mani,

Hail to the God of the Moon.

Hail to the Sweet Light in the darkness,

and Sweet Darkness in the light.

Son of Time, be with me here tonight.

Turn Your gentle gaze in my direction.

Wash me in the sweet caress of Your light.

Allow me to thank You for Your blessings-

especially for the grace of my day.

I know each day is a gift.

Thank you for seeing me through

and thank you for watching over me each night.

By Your grace, may I never lose my awareness of Your blessings.

Ride swiftly across the darkness, Sweet God of the Moon.

May You always outpace the wolf who nips at Your heels.

I hail You Mani with gratitude.

I hail You with love.

I shall hail You always,

in adoration.

Hail best loved son of Mundilfari.

 

Offering:

Please accept these offerings, Mani. (Set out any offerings that you wish to give to Him. This can be as simple as a single glass of alcohol, or a cookie).

Meditation:

Spend a few moments in contemplation. As you sit in silence, imagine that with each breath you are drinking in the presence and blessings of the moon. With each inhalation you are inhaling Mani’s soothing, healing light. Feel or imagine that this light flows through you cleansing away all stress and tension, and any miasma you may have picked up throughout your day.

Continue for as long as you like praying or meditating upon the blessings of the Moon.

Closing Prayer

Thank you, Mani, for holding me in Your light.

May my comings and goings on this day be pleasing to You.

Hail Mani, always.

The rite is now completed. You can either allow the candle to burn down, or save it for your next Mani ritual. I usually find it best to leave the altar out for awhile, but there is nothing amiss if you must, of necessity, deconstruct it right after the rite.

I think that this ritual is best done before bed, but this is a very personal matter. Some people are simply more alert in the morning. Being a night owl, I tend to prefer doing all my ritual work late in the day or early evening. Use your own judgment in this. Do this rite whenever you feel you can best connect to Mani.

Suggestions for Mani

(In each of the rituals for the days of the week, I provide a small section of similar suggestions. These suggestions have been drawn from my own experience with the God or Goddess in question, and discussions with many others who honor Him. They are suggestions and you should not feel limited by them. If you want to offer something not on this list, or feel a strong association go with it).

Colors Associated with Mani: blues, silvers, black, purple/lavender, pale white

Symbols: anything moon shaped, hour glasses, old watches, clocks, and their component parts, knots, calendars, musical scores, flutes, beads, mirrors, mathematical equations, abacuses and other time keepers, astrolabes and other nautical equipment for plotting directions.

Stones: moonstone, labradorite, selenite, quartz, and amethyst.

Flowers: Camellias, jasmine, night blooming flowers.

Food and drink: sambuca, cookies (especially ones with marshmallows or odd shapes. A nice way to incorporate children into the above ritual, is to have them make moon shaped cookies in honor of Him), angel food cake, peppermint flavored sweets.

Other offerings: any volunteer work or donations that benefit abused children or the mentally ill.

Contra-indicated: harming or abusing children in any way; mocking the mentally ill.

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Initiation

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my ordination, something that in many traditions is a day to be celebrated and marked. I don’t generally do so with mine, save by making special offerings to my Gods, but it’s got me thinking: not about the ordination but about the process that, for me, preceded it: initiation. That’s one of those things that a lot of us talk about, but no one ever seems to really explain. Part of that is because it can’t be explained really—oh, I could give you a run down of every single part of the ritual, but doing so would just be discussing the scaffolding; it would do nothing to explain the transformation that initiation can and should bring.

First, I want to note as strongly as possible that A) initiation does not necessarily lead to ordination. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with that. I’ve undergone many initiations at the hands of my Gods and Their people and that the very first one was a predecessor to ordination was simply a reflection of the way that tradition was structured. It is not necessarily the norm; and B). initiation isn’t a matter of one and done. One can undergo more than one type of initiation. It all depends on the tradition, the Gods, and the individual.

This is not a new concept. Polytheisms have always had their mystery cultus and have always, as far as I can tell, had rites of initiation. Sometimes these were ceremonies marking life transitions, such as moving from childhood to adulthood. That is not the type of initiatory ritual that I am talking about here. No, when I talk about initiation, I’m not talking about anything that binds or marks one’s place in the continuum of generational human experiences. I’m talking about those things that bring us, sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes awe struck and weeping into communion with our Gods, those rites that change forever our world both inner and out. There is no going back from an initiation of this sort. It is a type of death, rebirth, and transformation and the person who exits the ritual space at the end of such a rite is not at all the same person who entered it.

Pretty words and I’m sure that some of you reading this think that I’m speaking metaphorically. I’m not. Initiation can fuck you up. A true initiation is not a pretty ritual after which you can go on your way feeling good about yourself. This is a terrifying rite that can strip you bear, open you up, and throw you face down before your Gods. It can open up fractures in your emotional matrix and your psyche, dredging up scars and issues and pain that you may have thought long ago put to rest. It can create internal chaos because it is the Gods effecting a change spiritually, energetically, emotionally, psychologically. It can bring taboos and obligations. It can damage you physically – not because of anything those shepherding the initiate through whatever the rite may entail do, but because of the internal process itself, and the energies in play.

Of course it may also fill you with ecstasy and joy, transform you in such a way that you are in closer, ongoing communion with your Gods, transform your afterlife, mark you as being one of the cultus of a particular God energetically and many other things and usually it is a glorious and joyful transformative experience. Sometimes though, it’s not and there’s no way to tell. I sometimes think the Gods must consider the initiate much as a master jeweler considers a rough stone. How to polish, how to facet? How much pressure to apply and at what angle? It’s such a delicate procedure and only the Gods have a hope of making such a thing work. This is why it’s so very important that They be at the beginning, center, and end of it all. An initiation isn’t something to seek out for one’s own purposes. It should be at the behest of one’s Gods. Divination should be done – thorough and extensive—to make certain that it is the right time (the Gods fix the time), and that the initiate is ready. Divination –thorough and extensive—should be done to figure out what offerings need to be made, what the rite should consist of (even in traditions where there is a strict process, this should still be done. There is always the possibility of the Gods wanting something special), how it should unfold, if there are any taboos or obligations to be kept before, during, or after, and so many more things. Most of all: is this initiate ready for this initiation into this tradition done by these elders? This is all the more important as we are restoring our traditions. Unlike religions like Lukumi or Ifa, our initiatory rites have largely been lost. We don’t have the inter-generational structure. We are restoring it now slowly but surely but so much of that is a matter of finding one’s way, inching nervously forward, and it must be admitted, making terrible mistakes. Initiation is not a place where mistakes can afford to be made. It is dangerous enough all on its own.

This is why it’s so crucial to have competent and trusted elders, and a community that can support and guide the initiate not only before, not only through but after the initiation and by after I mean for weeks, months, and possibly years.

I’m going to tell you a story of an initiation gone bad. I’m going to gloss over many parts of this story because parts of it are not mine to tell. Yes, I have changed personal details. I saw a young man undergo an initiation. I was witness to it. The initiation was done perfectly. The elder in question did everything right. The initiate in question was well-prepared and very devout. The witnesses, including myself were experienced, well-prepared, and devout. All the divination, from several diviners, gave clear and strong go ahead. When the ceremony, lasting several days, was done, there was joy, the overwhelming joy of such a process. There were blessings. Everything looked perfect. I brought my concerns to the elder and was told that perhaps I was over-reacting. That surely I was misreading. I celebrated with the rest and then over the next year watched this young man ,a good friend of mine, destroy his life.

Remember I said sometimes initiation brings up past wounds so that the initiate can address them and move forward into healing, stronger and healthier? Well that was what was happening. He began to spiral down into a very bad psychological place: hoarding, self-harm, cutting off ties to all friends, ceased working on getting clear of a damaging family relationship, became extremely paranoid, lashed out at everyone in the religion, began to encourage others to back away from devotion and throw themselves into mundane life, began to have outbursts of rage, and worse. I believe my friend gave himself over to the Filter rather than continue his spiritual work—work that would have required facing so much pain. He has been lost to us, though still he lives and more than that I cannot say. It is a painful subject…and this is an initiation where everything was done right.

I myself underwent an initiation that was necessary, but done in such a way that I was left partially crippled by pain for months. It was only when the scars to my energetic body, and the blockages were cleared by an elder that I began to heal. I do not mean that my spiritual life was impinged, I mean I would wake up screaming in pain so severe that my husband on more than one occasion nearly took me to the ER. I was lucky. I was able to heal from this damage and the issues that caused it were not mine, but rather a matter, as I found out later, of the one doing the initiation lacking the requisite qualifications. The transfer of energy—in part what an initiation is—could not happen cleanly. The initiation was legitimate, but damn near killed me.

I want to emphasize for those of you who may be wondering that in the above examples neither ritual involved any measure of what we term ordeal work. Both were done within the structure of the respective traditions. In the first case, well, sometimes initiation is a crap shoot and sometimes there is a terrible attrition rate. In the second, a corner was cut that shouldn’t have been and the price was pure agony and ongoing damage. I want to note again: no one laid a hand on me (save to touch my head in blessing). There was no ordeal. There was simply the initiation ritual and the transfer of power. These are horror stories and they’re not the norm. Most initiations leave the initiate feeling liberated and transformed and filled with wonder and joy and a new sense of connection to their Gods. But…even the best of them can go wrong and there’s often no way to tell until well after the ritual how the initiate is going to cope with the changes spiritually wrought. It’s not a game. They’re not words or pretty rites. This can fuck a person up in this life, and it can change the nature of the initiate’s afterlife too. An initiate becomes a carrier of a tradition. (One initiates generally not just to a Deity but within a particular tradition, after all). The changes wrought are often those which allow the initiate to become a container of the Mysteries of their God. It’s a powerful process.

No one, by the way, is owed initiation. That’s also something that I want to put out on the table. These things have real world consequences. I, for instance, am forbidden to initiate into the Mysteries of Dionysos. I love Him dearly. I’ve worked for years helping to build His cultus. I have nearly a decade of ongoing venerative practice to Him and I maintain a household shrine to Him. Hell, I even married a Dionysian! Still, extensive divination showed that I cannot receive His mysteries via initiation. I can honor Him – He is delighted for me to do so. He has helped me and I have had powerful devotional experiences with Him. This is one of the Gods that I deeply love but I will never become a bearer of His mysteries. I cannot, no matter how much I may want to do so. Why? Because undergoing Dionysian initiation can both change where you will go in the afterlife (part of the deal Dionysos made with Hades to liberate His people from the Hades’ control when they’re dead) and change one so that one is wired specifically for Dionysian energies. I belong to Odin. Where I go when I’m dead, the energies I’m wired to carry and receive when alive are His. It is specifically because I am Odin’s and patterned for this God that I cannot receive the mysteries of Dionysos. It doesn’t matter that sometimes I feel left out when Dionysos’ folk gather. It doesn’t matter that I may love Him dearly. It wouldn’t matter if I wanted initiation. I can’t have it and trying to force the act not only would be a deeply impious act, but also a damned stupid and dangerous one. There are consequences for the things we do and the Gods we carry.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have and to respect our competent elders. They carry the weight of their Gods’ tradition on their backs. They are guardians of that tradition just as we become when we take up certain burdens. They are the ones who help navigate these waters. It’s also why it’s so absolutely crucial to have supportive and cohesive community. The community is the container for all of this. When a community gathers to welcome a new initiate back into human/mundane space after that person has been transformed via initiation that is a tremendously holy and sacred act. That is what roots both the initiate and the energies of the rite and the tradition in the here and now. The community is the rootbase of the great tree of whatever tradition they are carrying. They are necessary and it’s the interplay of elders, community, Gods, initiate that gives everyone the best chance for initiations to occur safely and well. We need our initiations. We need all the various levels of interaction with our Gods, all the various rungs on the sacred ladder of our traditions and cultus.

I understand the enthusiasm of wanting to honor the Gods this way and go deeper into devotion but it’s important to follow the necessary protocol. There is a right way to do these things and a right time.

Repost from last October: The Red Thread – Res Ipsa Loquitur

This past week of discussion on the topic of sacrifice — often quite heated discussion–has been incredibly vexing. It’s highlighted for me yet again what a tremendous learning curve there is as we move forward in the restoration of our traditions. Yet again I find myself struggling to hold onto the grim hope that we will, in time, succeed. In a way, it is a gift and a grace when fractures in a working group, a community, a House are highlighted in so clear and undeniable a fashion. To move forward cleanly, after all, one must have a clear and accurate lay of the land. We must know what it is with which we work. Sometimes though, it’s a very ugly process.

Animal sacrifice is not a hip new practice. It’s a tremendously old one. It is one of the oldest and holiest of rites practiced in pretty much every ancestral polytheism across the world (and the three monotheisms, for that matter. It’s a universal practice. Show me an intact polytheism, in a traditional culture, that doesn’t sacrifice to the Powers). Those tapped as sacrificial priests are picking up the threads of a very ancient sacramental contract between humanity, the natural world, and the Powers. There is rigorous training. There is respect. There is devotion. To think that we can restore our traditions with integrity, while neglecting this most fundamental of practices is…naive, to say the least. It’s easier, I suspect, for those of us coming either from a background in working with animals and animal care, or from farm-folk to position these practices as sacred but for those deeply ensconced in modern, post-Reformation, “Enlightenment” values, there can be a powerful learning curve. It really highlights that while we may navigate between our contemporary secular (but really protestant christian) informed society to our ancestral ways, in the end, one must make a choice. The two mindsets are diametrically opposed. It always comes as a bit of a shock to those of us entrenched in our ancestral ways to realize just how deeply so.

That is what I intend to discuss in this post. Those of us in the forefront of this work bear a very heavy burden: the weight of traditions upon our shoulders. It is not enough to rest in the panacea of only those practices that do not challenge our comfort levels. It is not enough to pick and choose only those things that do not force us to call into question the very foundations upon which our modern values rest. We are charged with going deeper. To say that the weight of a tradition rests upon us means that we have a greater, far greater obligation not just to the Gods and ancestors but to the tradition itself, to the very lineage that we are seeking to restore. We must be clean. This week I watched someone I love, step back and release a nascent tradition, withdraw as carrier of the mysteries of Dionysos from a group that he had founded to be the carrier of this received tradition. He will take the Mysteries that he carries and move forward, having cut ties with that group. I’ve seen people questioning why it is that it was necessary to so thoroughly break and move on and the answer is simple: contamination.The original group became so impure, so contaminated by something that goes deeper than miasma, something akin to spiritually corrosive poison that there was no clean choice but to sever ties. Why? Because you do not build a tradition on filth.

There are things that can be discussed, dissented with, argued vehemently, and there is a way to argue vehemently but some things are immutable within their traditions. Sacrifice is one of those things. When one is part of a community, those sacrifices done benefit that entire community, down to the least involved member. It is a reverent portal through which a thousand blessings flow. It is the metaphorical water that nourishes seeds planted in the rich soil of devotion. Through right relationship, reverence, devotional practices, ecstatic ritual, sacrifice and a dozen other ways, threads that were savaged so long ago with the spread of monotheism are woven anew. They are fragile at first, and require care. They must be cultivated, tended, kept free of harm. Instead, we have seen them set upon from within and it is not the first time that I have seen this.

To have people encounter the idea of sacrifice for the first time react with confusion, or with a deeply emotional response, or to question whether or not they can participate, or to want to understand more before making a decision is normal and even a respectful process. We should seek to understand those sacred things that we are given the opportunity to touch. It is a way of deepening our own understanding not just of our traditions and Gods, but of our own spiritual processes too. If someone, for whatever reason, chooses to walk away because of a practice like sacrifice, that is their choice and it does not harm the tradition. If someone chooses to reject sacrifice, maliciously attempt to play upon readers’ unexamined sentiments by bringing up non sequiturs like human sacrifice, slavery, etc., equating these things with animal sacrifice, that is an attempt at violence being done to a tradition. If someone by utter lack of hospitality condemns and attacks the authority of the one who received the Mysteries of a tradition, all the while claiming a desire to stay and *reap the benefits of his knowledge, and of community sacrifices*, that is obscene. It is reprehensible. More to the point, it brings impurity into the line.

There are a thousand chasms to be navigated here. When, for instance, do you sever and withdraw, and when do you bear on, dragging the tradition through to cleaner waters? When does the latter become an impossibility? When do you risk contaminating yourself and all the Mysteries that you have been given to hold, to nurture, to transmit? There are obligations here: to the Gods, to the ancestors, but to those Mysteries themselves, and to future mystai. Each tradition is a gloriously woven tapestry but keep picking at the threads, pulling out certain ones that you don’t like and eventually that tapestry is reduced to nothing. It loses its integrity, physically and metaphorically. The boundaries of a tradition are an immutable line for just this reason.

I believe very strongly that both the Gods and our ancestors watch carefully as this process of restoration grows. I believe that there is a tremendous investment in our progress. I believe we are accountable, those of us so tasked, for what we do and what we neglect to do in the process of this work. I think we are answerable for our choices. But I also think that the Gods and ancestors grieve deeply when we fail. In fact, I know it. I know it because I have been carrying just that grief all week.

I serve the ancestors almost as much as I serve the Gods. Part of my work as a tradition bearer and sometimes as a diviner means that I key very strongly in to the grief that pours like a wailing river from both the dead and the Powers. All this week, since it became clear how deep the vein of dogged ignorance runs and how quickly it spiraled to begin contaminating a tradition, I have found myself carrying, hauling around a growing and heavy grief; and as I watched, I was surprised as I am always surprised by how fiercely people cling to their surety that our ancestors were idiots and their sense of entitlement and privileged belief in their own enlightenment. I’ve been Heathen since 1995 and a sacrificial priest for almost as long. This is not the first time I’ve seen this play out. Each time I sense the same grief and each time I respond to those bringing poison into the Gods’ House with anger and vitriol –admittedly in part my response to the gravity of the grief I am given to bear, grief that is not all mine, but that of the ancestors’ and Gods as well. Incidents like this highlight with ferocious clarity what tangled and difficult work lies before us all. Two steps forward, one step back eternally.

I am bowed over with the grief of the dead, ancestors who saw their traditions torn away, snatched and sundered, destroyed, spat on, and rewritten by the victors as savage fictions. I am bowed over with the grief of ancestors who, each time we lay down threads, hope anew for full, viable, sustainable restoration, only to be, yet again, disappointed, yet again reminded of the ignominy and horror to which their traditions fell. I am filled with a cold, grating fury toward those who willfully refuse to examine the price of their own allegiance to “progress”. It’s because of people just like you that our traditions fell in the first place. It’s because of people just like you that we have to do this restorative work now and there is a screaming fury in my soul that could I but find a way to unleash its wrath would reduce your world to fiery cinders. But such would not serve and so I make offerings to the dead, I make offerings to the Gods, and I pray as fervently as I possibly can to instead turn that raging anger into momentum for renewed inspiration and work.

It is not enough to have separated ourselves from the contamination. Now we must grieve, giving voice to our ancestors, allowing their anguish multiplied down the generations to pour through us into sacred ritual. Now we must pay greater homage to our Gods, divining for and preparing the sacrifices that will cleanse that which is worse by a thousand times than miasma from us and that which we hold. I think on the words of the great Sufi poet Rumi:

“Blood must flow…
for the garden to flower
and the heart that loves me
is a wound without shield.”

and I am filled again with a gratitude so humbling that it drives me to my knees to be given into service. It is a joy even in the face of such despair and I turn my mind to devotion, away from the fury and the fire. I turn my soul to the glorious free-fall of leaping again into the canyon abyss of ecstasy that is adoration of the Gods.

A Further Note on Ritual and Power

As we jumpstart the discussion of Heathenry and ritual, I’m seeing a lot of folks mistaking powerful rituals for those rituals that are elaborate, complicated, and “high church.” I want to note that a ritual can be very, very simple. The power comes from the focus and skill of the facilitator. The way I was trained, both in esoteric arts and in ritual, is this: if you can’t do it naked at two am in an empty room, then you can’t do it. What that means is that a good ritual worker develops a sensitivity to the presence of Other: Gods, spirits, ancestors. A ritual worker, if he or she is competent, develops a facility for demarcating and slipping into liminal space and back again succinctly and ultimately for leading others through that process as well. One becomes efficient at navigating the spaces and sense of the sacred. That need not include complicated praxis (though for many, such structure assists in the necessary cognitive transitions).

While there are deities that are far more protocol heavy than others, in most cases, I’ve always thought that the complicated ritual structures were more for our benefit, to allow us to navigate the pathways of the sacred more safely, to assist in transitioning into and out of ritual headspace. There’s a point where you don’t need them. Unless the Deity in question has indicated (through tradition, divination or direct engagement) a preference for complex liturgy, I actually prefer hard, fast, and to the point. But I can slip into ritual headspace very fast — it’s one of the skills i’ve picked up per Odin over the years. For all that, the simplest of ritual should still involve a palpable shift from mundane headspace to liminal, ritual headspace, should involve a palpable sense of Presence, should effect a shift in the participants, should require transition back to mundane space. There’s a process inherent in a good ritual, no matter how simple. The most important thing is that the Gods are at the center of it, engaging with Them the purpose, and the collective intent focused on just that aim.

House Altar for our Nov. 1 Ritual

Here are a couple of photos from our House ritual for the dead on November 1. We honored our ancestors collectively and the military dead.

HS2014samhain2

These were taken before the ritual began.

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Sacrifice

The day comes for the sacrifice. It is a holy day. In the preceding weeks, since Divination first indicated and was confirmed, that Odin wished a sacrifice, there has been much to accomplish, so much to get done. Have we understood that You wish sacrifice? What precisely do You wish to see offered? Is it to be shared with the people after the rite, or do you wish it all for Yourself? What else do You require? Is there anything that we have neglected to ask or attend?

We’ve prepared. The youngling pig has been acquired, with poultry for the land and the dead, two roosters and a lively young pig. Over the past day or maybe two, they’ve been tended, cared for, fed well and often, soothed, and honored. Praise has been given them for their part in this holy rite. Divination was done by two diviners the night before the ritual, and again the morning of. The ritual knives have been sharpened to a scalpel’s edge. One person is assigned care of the animals, and the sacrificial priest spends the morning in prayer, and ritual cleansing.

The ritual begins with divination – we have learned this is necessary. A diviner and divination tools are kept on hand in case there are any omens during the ritual that must be taken into account. There is consecration, there are prayers, some are sung. Odin is invoked. The ancestors are called. The spirits of the land are thanked. Offerings are made, poured out upon the earth. When the time is right, the roosters are brought out. They are blessed, thanked, aspersed with fresh, clean water. The sacrificial priest carefully takes the bird and tucks it under her arm, holding it carefully both to support the body and restrain the feet. A final blessing is offered and the sacrificial cut is made. The bird is bled out, one for the land, one for the ancestors. The latter is field dressed and cooked up, presented to the ancestors as a feast, after the ritual is concluded. The former is given to the earth. Then it is time for Odin’s offering.

The assistants lead the pig forward. The same blessing and aspersing is given. The pig is stroked gently and given time to assent. The diviner and priest wait for the appropriate time. When the animal is read, the priest kneels and firmly makes the requisite cut. The body twitches, blood flows. The carcass is taken to Odin’s godpole and the blood allowed to flow.

As the sacrifice bleeds out at the foot of the pole, the ritual is concluded. Then the fire is kindled in the fire pit. The carcass is taken with thanks to the newly kindled flames, and people take their places to watch the slow process of immolation.

The priest goes immediately to cleanse, others to prepare the after-ritual feast. The diviner does that which diviners do in order to ensure that the sacrifice was worthy, was acceptable. (Sometimes it is not. Sometimes there is a flaw with the animal. Sometimes the priest or those present are not in the appropriate devotional space, or are unclean in some way. Sometimes the animal does not consent and cannot be sacrificed. Sometimes something went awry). The Powers received Their due. Our sacral contracts with the Gods, ancestors and spirits of the land have been renewed. The priest returns to the people clean and all celebrate the blessings of the Gods and that grace pouring forth upon the people.