Basic Rites

Wednesbury Shire uses two basic outlines for its rites. One is drawn from the Norse Heimskringla, while the other is drawn from the Æcer-Bót in the Lácunga (an originally Anglo-Saxon Pagan text lightly Christianized). In the Heimskingla, Snorri describes how an ancient blót took place as follows:

Það var forn siður þá er blót skyldi vera að allir bændur skyldu þar koma sem hof var og flytja þannug föng sín, þau er þeir skyldu hafa meðan veislan stóð. Að veislu þeirri skyldu allir menn öl eiga. Þar var og drepinn alls konar smali og svo hross en blóð það allt er þar kom af, þá var kallað hlaut og hlautbollar það er blóð það stóð í, og hlautteinar, það var svo gert sem stökklar, með því skyldi rjóða stallana öllu saman og svo veggi hofsins utan og innan og svo stökkva á mennina en slátur skyldi sjóða til mannfagnaðar. Eldar skyldu vera á miðju gólfi í hofinu og þar katlar yfir. Skyldi full um eld bera en sá er gerði veisluna og höfðingi var, þá skyldi hann signa fullið og allan blótmatinn. Skyldi fyrst Óðins full, skyldi það drekka til sigurs og ríkis konungi sínum, en síðan Njarðar full og Freys full til árs og friðar. Þá var mörgum mönnum títt að drekka þar næst bragafull. Menn drukku og full frænda sinna, þeirra er heygðir höfðu verið, og voru það minni kölluð.

“It was an old custom, that when there was to be sacrifice all the bondes should come to the spot where the temple stood and bring with them all that they required while the festival of the sacrifice lasted. To this festival all the men brought ale with them; and all kinds of cattle, as well as horses, were slaughtered, and all the blood that came from them was called "hlaut", and the vessels in which it was collected were called hlaut-vessels. Hlaut-staves were made, like sprinkling brushes, with which the whole of the altars and the temple walls, both outside and inside, were sprinkled over, and also the people were sprinkled with the blood; but the flesh was boiled into savoury meat for those present. The fire was in the middle of the floor of the temple, and over it hung the kettles, and the full goblets were handed across the fire; and he who made the feast, and was a chief, blessed the full goblets, and all the meat of the sacrifice. And first Odin's goblet was emptied for victory and power to his king; thereafter, Niord's and Frey's goblets for peace and a good season. Then it was the custom of many to empty the brage-goblet; and then the guests emptied a goblet to the memory of departed friends, called the remembrance goblet.”

From this one can create a basic outline for worship as follows:

1) Pre-Rite -  In Helgakvida Horrvoardssonar, a boar is lead out to swear oaths on, but it is not clear whether this boar was later slaughtered for blot. In Heiðreks Saga , a boar or sonargöltR (the "leading boar,” the same term used in Helgakvida Horrvoardssonar of the boar) was brought before the king at Yule that was intended for blot, and apparently later slaughtered. This sweasring of oaths on the sacifice, apparently was and intergal part of at least a blót.

2) The Blót -  In ancient times an animal would have generally been slaughtered. For libations, this, of course is not necessary. But for the highest of Theodish rites, the blót it is an intergal part of of the rite. The blót is best done with only the wéofodþegn or priest, and the lord of the theod, and their assistants present. It is not meant to be a circus side show for all to see. As stated above, the animal would have been garlanded and oaths sworn upon it. It would have been treated humanely, and the fact that the boars mentioned in the sagas could be lead around like pets shows this was so. It was and is a very sacred rite. The animal is killed the most humane way possible, the slitting of the jugulat vein, and dies in seconds. Once slaughtered the animal is prepared for feast. Heathen sacrifice is not a wasting of an animal's life. It is a making sacred of the act of slaying an animal for feast. In many ways it can be thought of as a sacred pig roast.

In non-animal rites such as libations or the giving of ordinary food, the items are garlanded and decorated much as an ainmal would be. Fine containers for mead, plates for the salads, and other foods should be used. Even if one is just giving cheese, bread, and mead, it should be made as presentable to the Gods as possible. Prior to the Sith, the food is prepared and laid out.

3) The Sith (optional) - We know from ancient and medieval accounts that some activities took place prior to the rites. The idol of Nerthus we are told in Germania was lead around in a cart.  We also see this in an account of an idol of Frea (Freyr).

4) The Wéonde - *Wéonde is an Anglo-Saxon reconstruction based on the Old Norse word vigja "to make sacred, to separate from the ordinary and mundane and make a part of the gods' realm." It is a making sacred of the area one is worshipping in. In ancient times this was not necessary as there were permanent sites that were already sacred. We know however from Icelandic accounts that land taken for temples had fire carried aroung it. So to make an area sacred today, we carry fire around it with such words as Þórr uiki "Þunor make this sacred," a phrase found on rune stones to make them sacred. In Old English, this would be "Þunor wéoh!"

5) The Hallowing of the food and drink - As in the Heimskringla  account the food and/or drink is then passed over a flame to hallow it. This can be done with the words "Þunor wéoh!"

6) Auspices - Runes are then placed in the blotorc and drawn out to read whether or not the gifts to the Gods and Goddesses will be favored.

7) The Blessing -  As seen in the Heimskringla  account the altar, temple walls, and the folk were sprinkled with the blood of the beast. We still do this today in the case of a blót. Mead is used in non-animal rites. The blood is mixed with mead in the blótorc or blot bowl, and carried around by one of the priest's assitants. The folk and altar are then sprinkled and blessed with words something like "May the Ése (Æsir) and Wen (Vanir) bless you."

8) The Fulls -  The bedes or prayers to the Gods were then said each in the form of a toast to the Gods. The bedes are said, and as each is said, the wwéofodþegn or group leader drinks from the horn. These prayers can be simple or very complex, but are usually no more than three in number.

9) The Bragafull - In the Bragafull, the leader of the group can boast of the group's past accomplishments, and future deeds the group wants to do. It should by all means resemble the boasts of symbel.

10) The Minni - The ancestors of those present are then toasted with a bede. If there are too many present , the leader may wish to do it. Ideally, each person should be alloed to make their own.

11) The Housel - The food and drink are consumed. Usually for blots this may just be a morsel of bread and a drink of mead. Often only mead is used. With a housel, this would be the time the feast is consumed.

12) The Yielding - Some of the leftover food plus those plates laid aside for the Gods and ancestors can then be taken outside and given to them. By no means should it be thrown away or put in the garbage compactor.

13) The Leaving - The rite is formally adjourned, with folks retiring to general merriment, or a symbel could be arranged to follow. Experience has taught it is often best to allow a period of relaxation after eating, and then conduct a symbel an hour or so after the meal is finished. Of course if a simple blót is done with no feast, then there is little reason to wait, and a symbel can be started immediately following the blót.

As stated above another outline can be created from the Æcer-Bót. The Æcer Bót (also known as the "Field Remedy" or "For Unfruitul Land") is found in an Anglo-Saxon work known as the Lácunga or "Leech Cunning." It is a semi-Christianized rite that is thought pagan in origin. It is also the only rite to survive in the Anglo-Saxon corpus, and perhaps the only one to survive outside of the sacrifices detailed in the Heimskringla. Never the less, it has rarely been looked to as an alternative to the standard blót outline (which although used for libations does not adapt well to that usage). It is given below:

Metrical Charm 1: For Unfruitful Land

Here is the solution, how you may improve your fields if the are not fertile, or if anything unwholesome has been done to them through sorcery or witchcraft.

At night, before dawn, take four turfs from the four quarters of your lands, and note how they previously stood. Then take oil and honey and yeast and milk from every cow that is in the land, and part of every kind of tree grown on the land, except hard beams, and part of every identifiable herb except the buckbean only, and add to them holy water.

Then drip it three times on the base of the turfs, and say these words: Crescite, grow, et multiplicamini, and multiply, et replete, and fill, terre, this earth. In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti sit benedicti. And say the Lord’s Prayer as often as the other.

And then take the turfs to church and let a priest sing four masses over them, and let the green surface be turned towards the altar, and then, before sunset, let the turfs be brought to the places where they were previously. And let the man have four crosses of quickbeam made for him, and write upon each end: Matthew and Mark, Luke and John. Lay the crucifix on the bottom of the pit, then say: Crux Matheus, crux Marcus, crux Lucas, crux sanctus Iohannes. Then take the turfs and set them down there, and say these words nine times, ‘Crescite’ as before, and the Lord's Prayer as often, and then turn eastward, and humbly bow down nine times, and then say these words:

Eastward I stand, entreating favours,
I pray the glorious Lord, I pray the great Lord,
I pray the holy warden of heaven,
Earth I pray and heaven above
And the steadfast, saintly Mary
And heaven’s might and highest hall
That by grace of God I might this glamour
Disclose with teeth. Through trueness of thought
Awaken these plants for our worldly profit,
Fill these fields through firm belief,
Make these fields pleasing, as the prophet said
That honour on earth has he who dutifully
deals out alms, doing God’s will.

Then turn yourself three times awiddershins, then stretch out flat and there intone the litanies. Then say; Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus to the end: then sing the Benedicte with arms extended, and the Magnificat, and the Lord's Prayer three times, and commend it to Christ and Saint Mary and the Holy Cross, for love and for reverence, and for the grace of him who owns the land, and all those who are under him. When all that is done, then take unfamiliar seeds from beggars and give them twice as much as you took from them, and let him gather all his plough apparatus together; then let him bore a hole in the plough beam and put in there styrax and fennel and hallowed soap and hallowed salt.Then take the seed, set it on the plough's body, then say:

Erce, Erce, Erce, Mother of Earth,
May the Almighty grant you, the Eternal Lord,
Fields sprouting and springing up,
Fertile and fruitful,
Bright shafts of shining millet,
And broad crops of barley
And white wheaten crops
And all the crops of earth.
May God Almighty grant the owner,
(And his hallows who are in heaven),
That his land be fortified against all foes,
And embattled against all evil,
From sorceries sown throughout the land.
Now I pray the Wielder who made this world
That no cunning woman, nor crafty man,
May weaken the words that are uttered here.

Then drive forward the plough and cut the first furrow, then say:

Hail, Earth, mother of all;
Be abundant in God’s embrace,
Filled with food for our folk’s need.

Then take all kinds of flour and bake a loaf as broad as a man's palm, and knead it with milk and holy water, and lay it under the first furrow. Then say:

Field filled with food, to feed mankind,
Blooming brightly, be you blessed,
In the holy name of He who made heaven, and earth on which we live, May the God who made these grounds grant to us his growing gifts That each kind of seed may come to good.

Then say three times, Crescite in nomine patris, sit benedicti. Amen and the Lord’s Prayer three times

The Christian elements in the prayers themselves can be struck out, leaving wholly Heathen prayers without any damage to them. But this is not what we are looking at, what we are looking at is the general outline of the rite. The aim being to design an alternative outline one can use as a framework for other rites.

The beginning of the rite involves taking four turfs of earth from the field. You then mix, "yeast and milk from every cow that is in the land, and part of every kind of tree grown on the land, except hard beams, and part of every identifiable herb except the buckbean only, and add to them holy water." And you dip the turfs in this. One then has these blessed by a priest. Once this is done one creates four crosses of quickbeam, and place these in a pit with the turfs. Ignoring the obvious Christian actions, this part of the rite could be Heathen in origin. The laying of the quickbeams resemble the use of symbols to perform land takings outlined in the Icelandic Landnamabok

Þeir fóru til Íslands ok sigldu fyrir norðan landit ok vestr um Sléttu í fjörðinn. Þeir settu öxi í Reistargnúp ok kölluðu því Öxarfjörð. Þeir settu örn upp fyrir vestan ok kölluðu þar Arnarþúfu. En í þriðja stað settu þeir kross. Þar nefndu þeir Krossás. Svá helguðu þeir sér allan Öxarfjörð.

"They set an ax on Reistargnúp and called it Öxarfjörð. They set an eagle up in the west and called it Arnarþúfu. And the third they set a cross. They named it Krossás. So they hallowed all of Öxarfjörð.

The use of symbols at cardinal points of the land is seen in other mixed faiths context in the Landnamabok and some Icelandic sagas. The only time one sees the use of anything other than symbols in land taking is for temples (in which case fire was used). Therefore, the Christian who adapted the Heathen rite probably unknowingly included a rite for land taking within the Æcer Bót. The taking of land in the Icelandic corpus had religious overtones whether the land was used as a farm or a temple. Therefore, this portion of the rite is likely to be a way of making the land sacred to the Ése (Æsir) and Wen (Vanir).

One then turns counter clockwise three times, and then lays down flat on the ground invoking deities. The meaning of these actions are unknown, but probably are done in respect to the Gods and Goddesses. It is also likely they may simply be done for luck, or were a Christian substitute for dancing. Being prostate is perhaps a survival of rites mentioned by Taticus in regards to the Semnones. The Semnones would only enter a certain grove bound, and if they fell had to roll out of it. The Christian prayers said at this point are likely a subsitution for some form of Heathen prayers where one laid flat on the ground to pronounce them. The deities could have been Woden, Frea (Frey), and Frige (Frigga) or any variety of two Gods and a Goddess abased on the Christian combination here of Christ, God, and Mother Mary. More than likely these were short prayers inviting the Gods and Goddesses. Again this is speculation, as much of this study of the Æcer Bót is. Next comes the blessing of the plow with unknown seeds, followed by the Earth prayer. The plow is then driven forward and it is followed by another prayer. Bread or cakes (perhaps such as the cakes that were given to the Gods Goddesses Bede mentioned in reference to Solmonaþ, and perhaps of which the the cross buns eaten at Easter are a survival). This was followed by another prayer asking for fertility of the land and good crops.

With this information, we can formulate an outline that is quite unlike that of the blot seen in the Heimskringla. This faining is more suited to non-animal rites such as libations and the giving of bread and cakes. For the outline, one can probably dispense with many of the superstitious elements that may owe more to Christianity than Paganism. One might outline it as below:

1) Preparation: In this portion of the rite outline, one prepares whatever they may need for the rite. Bake bread, prepare turfs such as in this rite, or obtain mead.

2) Blessing of gifts to be given: Here we are going to see part of the blot outline. Although holy water (water drawn from a spring, the dew, or brook before sunrise on a Spring morning) may be used instead of blood or mead. Most modern Heathens would probably prefer the use of mead. Just as in the blót the items would be blessed by sprinkling them with water or mead.

3) Creation of sacred space: One can then perform the Wéonde Song, Hammer Rite, or erect sacred symbols in order to make the land sacred.

4) Ritual Actions: One then turns counter clockwise three times and lays prostate on the ground, and says prayers to three deities. The content of these prayers is unknown, and the Christian substitutions give us no clues. The only possible clue they may give is these are prayers commonly used by Christians for protection. But more than likely they were an invite to the Gods and Goddesses.

5) The First Bede: This prayer is the first of the major two prayers of the rite. This bede if one follows the Æcer Bót is a song of praise. The Goddess Earth is greeted (or rather her mother) with the traditional greeting of "wes hál" which generally would be followed by praise of the deity.

6) More Ritual Actions: As we are trying to create a general ritual action, one need not drive a plow through their yard. But one will need to dig a hole. This hole is where one will put the offering being given to the Gods.

7) The Second Bede: A shorter bede in praise of the Gods and Goddesses giving the gifts to them.

8)Offering: One pours the mead or places bread in the hole and follows this with a prayer asking for gifts from the Gods and Goddeses.

This outline is perhaps more versatile than the blót outline offered by Snorri in the Heimskringla. No doubt it had entirely different uses, and may have originally been a rite for blessing a plow instead of a charm for making land fruitful. That is was a "sacrifice" can be seen by the burial of bread or cakes at its end, just as Bede mentioned in his work De Temporum Ratione.


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Hall, Clark (ed.) A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary. Downsview, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Leach, Maria (ed.) Funk and Waganalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. New York: Harper and Row, 1972.

The Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press.

Polomé, Edgar. "Indo-European Component in Germanic Religion." Jann Puuhvel (ed.). Myth and Law among the Indo-Europeans. Berkley: Univeristy of California Press, 1970.

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Wodening, Swain, Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times, Miercinga Theod, Little Elm, TX: 2004


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