Thor blot

Jan. 1st, 2006 11:49 pm
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I need to start planning for a Thor blot. (Late January/early February isn't that far away.)

We've not done a Thor blot before.

I guess I should do some research :).
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Winternights is this weekend; I have a piece I wrote for Hella last year that I want to use again, and we are moving our honoring of the dead to the sumbel, so that's not a prepared thing anyway.

I think I'm making corned beef and cabbage, and probably a cheesecake of some kind. Yeah, I know, it's always cheesecake! So I'm going through the Kraft site looking for something good--if nothing strikes me, I'll go with one of my old stand-bys, but I'll look around first.
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I was thinking about Winter Finding coming up later this month; I'd written those two short pieces for Skadhi and UllR, and one of my kindred members found some musio for Skadhi that she wants to use--we don't usually have music, so that will he a nice change.

Usually our blot format is pretty simple--we do a round to each god we are honoring in that particular ritual, and anyone who wants to has an opportunity to say whatever the like, either prepared or off the cuff, or just to hail the god. I guess this is a little unusual, because in other blots I've been in, the horn goes around and folks hail all different gods during all the rounds. Which is fine--just different. I don't really want to switch to that--I rather like the devoted rounds--but am wondering about the possibility of having an additional round so folks can hail gods who they want to hail but who are not being specifically honored in that particular ritual. Just a thought.
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Or, "It's better to do nothing than to do it wrong."

There's been a discussion on one of my heathen groups lately that has made me think about one of the current issues in Hellenism.

Folks were talking about the Hammer Rite--which is something sometimes used to prepare a ritual space. It takes various formats, the one I'm familiar with is "Hammer in the north, hold and hallow this holy stead, etc." It has, to anyone who has any familiarity with Wiccan practice, at least something of a neopagan feel to it and supposedly was based on the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram (or so I'm told). I've seen alternate ways to prepare the space where the dwarves of the directions, or the wights of various elements, are called beforehand. There followed some discussion of how its use had become less common over the years as more people learned that it has no real basis in ancient heathen practice, but some people and groups do still make use of it, because it's familiar, and because there's some question of whether it's functionally the same thing as the LBRP...anyway, so the issue thirty years ago was not only that the reconstructed faith was new and research had not developed as it has now, but that those folks who were trying to get it reconstructed were concerned with making information available so people could get down to the business of honoring the gods.

So while I still think that at some point you really need to put down the books and hold a ritual or remain an armchair reconstructionist, the folks who tend to put things off until everything is "just so" do have a point. Once something gets out into common practice, it's pretty hard to be rid of it, even if it's found later not to be accurate. There's been some discussion of just where some parts of Old Stones New Temples came from--that they may have been innovations rather than taken directly from original sources and, more to the point, that which parts were innovations may not have been identified as such. (Which is fair enough--it's going to be hard to hold a ritual without doing something new to fill in the missing spots, and we have to make our best guess based on the information we do have as to what to do. But the degree of innovation should be specified.)

Where I see a potential problem is here: right now Hellenic reconstructionism is pretty new, and the folks who are active in it are likely to be willing to change their practice if new research directs them in that way. Two things come to mind. One, that there isn't really a standard worshipping procedure now--the outline in OSNT is probably as close as anyone has come to having one, and I know as many Hellenes who don't use it as do. Eventually that'll happen--there will be more-or-less-established ways of doing ritual. Right now the religion is still fairly liquid, but eventually it will become more firm (although hopefully not solidify entirely) and there will be practices that are identifiably Hellenic recon. And two, as the religion grows, there will be a smaller percentage of adherents who do their own research, and a greater one of adherents who just want to worship the gods given a few basic sources.

These two factors mean that it's going to be awfully hard to strip away the "wrong" stuff in just a few years. Just as there are heathens who will continue using the Hammer Rite regardless of what new research brings--maybe because they learned their ritual structure years ago and have not kept up with new research, or because they don't have a strongly reconstructionist bent (when a reconstructed faith gets to a certain point, it will have to stand or fall on its own merits, and not everyone who joins up will do so because of a strong personal interest in reconstructionism per se) and don't care all that much about the original source, or because they feel that the function it performs is a necessary one in the modern context (no modern hofs or temples = no established permanent sacred space, thus the need to create new before ritual), or simply because the modern tradition (years spent doing ritual in a particular way) is more important to them than the ancient one--there will be Hellenic recons who stick to their original model for doing libations or whatever.

I don't really see a good solution, just saying what I think is likely to happen :).
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I think that, now that Midsummer (which was quite mellow and relatively stress-free) is over, I can start counting down to panic time for the next heathen thing we have going on. Just not quite yet--too much to do for that!

(At least I think I may have usable material already written for the blot, although I'm not sure. I'm also not sure I'd be able to resist trying to put something new together, even if I do.)

I just don't want to think about it right now.

Midsummer

Jun. 27th, 2004 12:37 pm
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Our Midsummer was yesterday, a bit late but as still as summery as we seem likely to get this year (it seems to be a cool one overall). We went to a local park, planning to have the whole day out on the beach, but it was a bit chilly there with the wind by the lake, so we decided to stay in the park itself (definitely something to keep in mind for future years regardless of the weather!).

The beach is artificial, and getting anywhere involves walking through stamp sand--and stamp sand is rather larger than normal sand, and such a joy to have in your shoes! Slow going when you're trying to take a five-year-old through it and back up the hill to the park to use the restroom, so it was nice not to have to do that.

The cooler weather did keep folks away, and there was no one on the beach when we went down to do the blot (not that anyone could have heard us over the wind), which was simple--one horn to Sunna, one to all the gods, during which we went in turn to hail them. At the end Dan remembered Aegir, and possibly it's a bit odd to think of Aegir when you are next to a lake, but then again it is Lake Superior. (He is more interested in Aegir's brewing aspect in any case. :))

And we sat around a fire, ate and talked, for many hours. We had a small sumbel later in the evening, nothing even remotely formal. Stayed until after dark, which made cleaning up interesting. :(

And we finished the evening by heading out to the bar for an hour or so of dancing before they closed, which we are almost never able to do, and it was fun.
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I've been following the discussion of animal sacrifice on one of the ADF lists, and it's been interesting. I think they may have shut down the thread as off-topic because no official ADF ritual may include animal sacrifice (or blood sacrifice of any sort, IIRC), which is reasonable given ADF's history and philosophy, not to mention its focus on public worship (and the accompanying need for good PR!), and I don't think anyone was recommending that ADF should allow or condone it.

Where I would have a problem would be if ADF tried to assert this sort of control over their members' private practice, since many ADFers are members of other religions in addition to ADF's unique brand of neopagan druidry--a number are Wiccan, others are various types of reconstructionist, and as long as they don't try to combine it with ADF liturgy in an official rit, it's no problem. Fortunately, ADF has never had any interest in monitoring its members' spirituality outside of ADF. (I personally do not practice ADF-style ritual, finding other systems more personally rewarding, but I have a great fondness for other aspects of the organization. Admittedly I tend to swing a bit toward the recon side of things. :))

I do know folks who do or have done animal sacrifice. I have not yet been to one myself, but I certainly have no objection to it, because in the cases I'm familiar with it has been done by someone who raises their own animals for food already, and the only thing different about the sacrifice is that it is done in the context of ritual rather than in a purely secular manner. I don't think it would ever be a common thing (most Asatruar blot with mead for a reason--practicality) because most people don't live on farms (thus no animals) and don't have the experience or skill to do it properly. However, if you are going to be feasting on the home-grown pork or mutton anyway, I don't see why it would be a problem to kill the animal in a religous context, in which the life taken is especially honored. The only arguments against it that I can see would be the same ones that are against eating meat in general--and, as one who eats meat, I have not personally found those to be compelling. There may be something I am missing here, of course, since I know I've only skimmed over some of the discussion.
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I made a cheesecake--tried something different this time, divided the batter in half and added chocolate to one half, then layered it (debated marbling it instead, maybe next time), then after it was done glazed it with semisweet chocolate. I hope it looks good; it should taste good in any case. You know, I always make cheesecake for these things. (Okay, not always, but really, really, really often.) But I like cheesecake!

We are still undecided as to exactly which spot we will be holding the Mayday blot tomorrow--one would be more convenient, the other would be a bit more dry. But we're pretty much set, I think. (Thinks, do we have a nonalcoholic option for sumbel?...hm, not sure.) The weather should be tolerable--high of about 50, not too much wind, overcast, so not too chilly. (Might rain on Sunday so I guess we picked the right day.) We'll be feasting indoors in any case.
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Went to Pagan Coffee Night tonight, for the first time in...well, a few weeks, I guess. It was nice to see people again; we discussed our upcoming May Day plans for a while; we're having in on the weekend of the 8th because of various folks' scheduling, but that's all right--more likely to be warmer then, and more likely that the site will be dry (at present it's a bit soggy from melted snow). I think we're set--mainly because we're doing about the same thing as any other year, only adding Frey to the gods to be honored (usually it's Freyja alone). I'm going to try to write something new for it, although it's nice to know that we've got material from years past that we can use in case I don't manage to.

I brought the newsletters, which will be distributed to, I think, two different local spots. (I'll find out later, leaving that up to the discretion of others. :)) It turned out all right, I think; the only specifically heathen content this time is a prayer to Freyja, but I do intend to make sure there's at least a bit in every issue :).
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I've decided to stop worrying about next weekend's Ostara. I'm sure that whatever they-who-are-planning-it come up with will be fine. I have a short piece prepared for Ostara and I just remembered that I have a longer piece for Sif that I wrote and have never used. (So yeah, that's why I think I've got a chance at not worrying so much. :)) What gets done, gets done; what doesn't, doesn't. (Let's see how long I can hold that thought...)

I'm going to try to catch up some on online stuff today (that and maybe take a nap--still not quite well).
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I went back to the gym today, after a lapse of some months. It was easy to remember the routine; I hope it's as easy to fall back into the habit of going! But I did the weight machines at the same settings I'd used the last time I was there. I'm guessing that that may have been a bad idea. If so, it will surely be revealed to me in the next couple of days (as in "ow"), but at the moment I'm fine. I really did enjoy the gym when I went, I'm kind of looking forward to it now.

Pagan Coffee Night tonight, fun but cold (it is always cold there, at some times it bothers me more than at others), and me not all that sociable. That's okay, I knew everyone there, they talked enough that my quietness didn't matter :). We talked a bit about the upcoming Yule; it looks now like 12 for sure, and possibly up to 7 more--guess I'd better clear a lot of floor space, although I'm sure not everyone will want to stay the whole night. And make more food. (Thinks of recipes. Not hungry right now, can't think of food. Will do so later.)

Afterward we had to go to Wal-Mart, various necessities, and I found Hawkgirl! (Justice League action figure), which I didn't expect so I'm pretty happy about that. (I'm easily pleased, aren't I? :)) She looks cool (although her mace is pretty puny-looking) but she's a lousy toy, barely articulated. The girls will undoubtedly kidnap her soon enough along with the rest of the League, until then she can stand unsteadily next to my monitor.
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We had our Winter Finding yesterday; it went well, one might even say smoothly (as we are an occasionally anarchic kindred, that's saying something :)). Eight people attending. Thanks to the Vans for our good harvest this year and farewell to summer; welcome to Skadhi and UllR (and winter!); blessings for luck and safety on those who intend to hunt this season.

And food, lots of food. Always lots of food.

Midsummer

Jun. 22nd, 2003 12:28 pm
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We had a wonderful Midsummer! It was so beautiful on the shore of Lake Superior, the weather was warm and breezy. We used a large rock (4' or so) near the breakwater as an altar. We had decided that rather than focusing on a specific deity or deities, we would honor the sun and whichever other gods the people there felt close to, and we had six prayers offered, four prepared and two spontaneous, which was very nice. Eight people were there, which was also very nice :).
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Made whatever-I-can-find-in-the-cupboard brownies for playgroup today; today that meant toffee bits. My eight-year-old won't eat them, says they're "too rich." (Sure she's a picky eater, but turning down chocolate?) Me, I had two for dessert. She's right, of course, I'm experiencing chocolate overload now :).

And our Midsummer is now at 6 p.m. Saturday instead of 3 p.m. A better idea really; since we're having a bonfire on the beach it doesn't get appreciably dark here until 10 p.m. or so, 3 would make for a long day. Looking forward to using my nifty new hammer!
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Another late night, I could get used to this :). (Fondly remembering my college days and all the nights that ended after sunrise--I became quite expert at scheduling no classes before 11 a.m. :))

We've added another blot to our weekly schedule. Started quite a while ago with Thor (and then Sif as well) on Thursdays, next we added Freyja, Frey and Frigga on Fridays, eventually Odin on Wednesdays, and now Tyr on Tuesdays. I guess it's lucky for our mead-'n-ale budget that there aren't any more obvious additions!

Speaking of that sort of thing, we realized today that Midsummer is less than two weeks away and we haven't done a bit of planning yet. Time enough for me to write something once we've got a rough plan in mind but still cutting it a bit close. With a small group you can do that though :), although it's not ideal. Our Midsummer plans vary from year to year so I really do need to wait until after the planning meeting--it's not like Yule (or Ostara!) where we tend to stick with the common traditions, or Winter Finding where we stick to our own tradition of honoring Skadhi and Ullr (hey, up here it's almost winter at the equinox and hunting season is just around the corner!). Or maybe I'm just rationalizing procrastination :).

The first day of summer vacation went well--I'm not sure it's living up to the kid's expectations yet, I think she is anticipating all sorts of adventures and, well, we're just not all that interesting! I don't like to schedule my kids too much--I think they need plenty of time on their own just to do their own thing, and should have a good long summer with days of wandering and playing and coming up with their own cool stuff to do.
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