The following brief guide should hopefully help people understand what we are doing when we participate in a blót .
The person or people leading the blót is/are the priests (male or female–some women might want to be called a priestess, some a priest). They will be doing the words and working the energy and offerings to those we are honoring in the blót .
Intention: Intention, energy, and purpose are what give direction and make a ritual happen. When we say the words we say, whether in thanks to the gods, or the priest calling out to the beings honored by using very specific words, our words and actions have intention behind them. This intention is how each of us empower the blót. It is our belief manifesting in a way to make the entire ritual reach our intended targets as well as make our offerings have the energy of our thoughts so we can accomplish the whole reason we’re having the blot in the first place.
The fire: It is our connection between the worlds and helps us communicate to the gods and goddesses, the ancestors, and the landvaettir (land wights/spirits of the land). It can be a bonfire, a fire in a firepit, a fire in a fireplace, or even a candle.
The drinking horn: It is a tool we use to hold the beverage (mead, beer, cider, or something else appropriate) and to serve a focus for our honoring the gods and goddesses, land wights, or ancestors.
The blessing bowl: After empowering the beverage in the horn through our thanks and prayers to the beings we honor with our words and taking a sip to seal our connection to what we said, we pour the leftovers into a blessing bowl. In a group settings, we then use the empowered and leftover beverage to bless the attendees. In a private setting, we skip to the end of the public blot by offering the leftover liquid to the gods and goddesses, ancestors, and landvaettir.
1. Hallowing the space:
This step is normally done by our group with a torch hallowing, but some might do a hammer hallowing. The purpose of this step is to protect the space from unwanted landwights or other entities that could bear us ill will. It also helps those in attendance get into the right mindset and prepare themselves for the rest of the blót .
2. The call to the deity or deities you will work with (this includes their kennings):
This is how we make sure not just have any old being show up, but we make sure to invite the exact gods, goddesses, ancestors, or land wights we want to have show up. That’s why the kenning needs to have good detail for the titles and other descriptive ways of describing the being summoned.
3. Statement of purpose of the blót.
This is where the priest will explain the concept behind the blót and why we are celebrating it. Sometimes it will be a reference to historical celebrations of the holiday in question or a statement of what the goal the blót is designed to accomplish.
4. Something read from The Poetic Edda, a saga, or poetry/prose written for the occasion.
Sometimes the text here will be taken from a saga, one of the Eddas, or sometime else similar. Other times, the text will be written just for this occasion. Either way, the purpose is to weave an honoring or purpose into a form that will connect the idea behind the blót to the attendees or the beings that the blót is honoring.
5. Loading and blessing the horn.
This is simply where the priest pours the beverage of choice into the horn. This is also where they put the intention and the energy they’ve gathered from performing the blót into the horn so as to empower everyone’s praise and thanks to those honored.
The priests drinks first and last, carries horn to each participant, and hands the horn to them.
Every person who holds the horn empowers it with their intention and their words when they toast the gods or goddesses, the ancestors, or the landwights. When they either take a sip from the horn or kiss the side of it, they are making the horn their own and by doing so, powering up the beverage inside so it may become the sacrifice to the beings honored
8. The blessing of the attendees:
What is left is poured info the blessing bowl and an evergreen sprig is used to bless each participant. The words spoken in thanks or praise have empowered the beverage in the horn, so the remains are used to grant us a blessing from those we honored. This is where the priest will either take the evergreen and tap the liquid to the attendee’s head as a blessing or spray the attendees with the blessing by flicking their wrist with the beverage-covered evergreen. Which ever form of blessing the attendees wants will be given depending up their personal request.
9. The sacrifice:
The remaining contents are given to the gods. Usually, it is poured out onto the base of a tree or the horgr (the altar of stones) while saying some appropriate words.
10. The feast:
The shared meal at a blót is when we, as heathens, connect with one another and by doing so, connect the blót to ourselves. Out of the various pagan groups, heathens are about group connections to their community and worshiping together. It’s also a space where we are feasting with the gods in a way.
Heathens are all about community. And through community, we worship the gods and goddesses, the ancestors, and the landvaettir (the nature spirits). Even gathering and eating afterwards is, in a way, a sacred connection between the community and the gods.
Before you get to the blót, think about what might get you into a spiritual mindset on your way to the event.
One of the first things I recommend is to do a little research if you aren’t familiar with the subject matter of the blót. If you aren’t too familiar with the gods or goddesses being worshipped, do some research online to find out some information about them. I recommend http://www.norse-mythology.org to do a quick read before the blót starts. If the subject of the blót is connected to the Anglo-Saxon pantheon or the Finnish, Germanic, or Slavic pantheons, even Wikipedia can be helpful to learn a bit about who the group will be honoring.
Some wear special clothing or jewelry that they only wear for spiritual reasons or something that even if they wear it elsewhere, it still makes them get in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just something that gets you ready for the blót.
I know people who wear a kilt whenever they are attending a blót as well as a heathen themed t-shirt. I wear a torc, a number of rune pendants, and a leather pouch that holds some things attached to spiritual experiences I’ve had. One of the necklaces I wear was a gift from a pagan class I attended about hospitality; whenever I wear it and I notice it, it reminds me of the workshop and I remember to be hospitable to those present.
Church goers would wear their Sunday best to attend services–it’s the same theory. When wearing their Sunday best, the person would be focused on previous experiences in church, so that it becomes part of their ritual to prepare for services.
Some people meditate or take ritual baths to help focus themselves. I have a soap I only use when showering before blóts called Thor’s Viking that is a combination smell of leather and the ocean. While you can do either a bath or a simple breathing meditation to calm the mind, the purpose is to help center and prepare yourself for the blót ahead.
Another thing I recommend is finding heathen music like Wardruna, Danheim, Runahild, Folket Bortafor Nordavinden, or some other band or a soundtrack that helps get you into the mood. You can listen to the music that morning or on the drive to the location. Either way, it’s something else that can have a subtle impact, but profound impact on your mental state before you arrive at the blót.
As our group, Berkano Hearth Union, uses as a core order of sorts for our blót , we have a number of basic steps that are explained in detail into why we do what we do. Below is the list of what steps we have. Occasionally the order will change somewhat or we might add something special in from time to time.
1. Hallowing the space which is by word and energy, protecting the blót space from ill intent by entities who would wish to mess with our ritual.
2. Calling out to the deities via kennings which is how invite exactly the entities (gods, ancestors, and land wights) to come join us.
3. We state the purpose of the blót so everyone can understand why we are gathered together and celebrating.
4. We read something for the blót which is either from a historic work like the Eddas or something written for the occasion.
5. Blessing the horn is when the priest or priestess bless whatever liquid is in the horn and then bless what is entered, energizing it with all the energy gathered from the blót so far.
6. One of everyone’s favorite part is the toasting with the horn. People say their thanks to the gods, ancestors, or landvaettir and then end with a hearty “HAIL!” When people are toasting while holding the horn, they are putting their personal offerings to the gods into the communal horn and then they take a sip from it. The energy of their toast enters the horn and the sip they take has everyone else’s energy and offering who has come before them.
7. After that, we take what’s left in the horn, and pour it into a bowl which what helps us bless the attendees. Everyone’s offerings and energy is all mixed together and we go around and use an evergreen branch to bless everyone.
8. After that, we pour out the sacrifice to the gods, ancestors, and nature spirits by usually pouring it on the altar or by a special tree for whomever’s property we are on.
9. And finally, we feast together as a community. Part of that is the gods are attending and celebrating with us in their own way.
Other heathen groups will do things differently, so your spiritual mileage might vary.
Step 2 (calling out to the deities via kennings) is one way to understand the gods and goddesses being worked with by learning about the titles and other things they are known for. If you remember, you can always ask the priest afterwards about what some of the stories are connected to the kennings that you weren’t familiar with or piqued your interest.
Hopefully, step 3 (the purpose of the blót ) won’t be a surprise for you. If Berkano Hearth Union or the group you are with did their preparation work, you would have known at least the theme of the blot before you got there. They might fill in some details right before or during the blót. If you did your research beforehand, you can learn more about the specifics of how the entities will be honored.
Step 4 (read something for the blót) is where, in a reconstructed heathen faith, we tend to tap into the established lore we have to learn something about the gods and goddesses being honored. Since we usually read something from the Poetic Edda, an appropriate saga, or create a poem based upon the deities we are working with, you can learn a bit more about the stories surrounding the gods of the day.
Step 6 (toasting with the horn) is really where your focus and pre-blót work comes together. When the horn comes to you, it is your chance to put your energy (megin), intent, and focus on what you are saying as a thanks when you honor the gods or ancestors into the horn you are holding in your hands. Imagine your words not just being spoken to the gathered kindred, but also taking an energetic form and entering into the liquid in the horn.
A quick side note about megin: Megin is a heathen concept similar to chi or mana as other cultures call it, but it is more than that. It is your personal strength and power. When an artist or crafts person creates something, they put some of their megin into the creation. When you hold the horn and put your energy into your hailing to the gods, you are putting some of your megin into it. Also, megin can be shared like before a challenge you face when people are telling you they believe in you and are rooting for you. They are giving a little bit of their megin to you. Also, groups can share megin. A team, a unit, or a heathen group can share megin. By working and celebrating together, our group develops its own megin which is affected by everyone’s energy to a lesser extent (more people means the energy is diluted more, while less people means an individual’s megin has a greater effect on the group’s own megin).
Have you ever played or watched a sport that uses a goal and been so focused on the athlete that you felt yourself sending energy to move the ball to the goal or felt yourself imagining you were giving the athlete the extra boost of speed to break away from the opposing team so they can score? Focusing your words and intent on the horn is similar. I recommend holding the horn for a few moments and imagining everyone’s offerings have imbued the horn and the liquid within with power. You are giving some of your own as well as an offering to the gods.
Step 7 (bless the attendees) is when the priest comes around to take the liquid with all the combined offerings and returns the mixed together offerings back to the gathered kindred. Whether you want the blessing placed upon the top of your head or the blessing is splattered across you as you accept the blessing in the old ways, try to imagine it glowing and full of power and energy. The gods have heard all the combined words honoring them and are returning to us all a gift and thanks.
Heathenry, as well as many other forms of pagan worship, is centered on the idea of a gift for a gift. Holding the horn, saying words of thanks when honoring the gods, and then taking a sip is our gift to the gods. When we receive the blessing from what remains in the horn, that is the gods giving us their gift in return.
Step 8 (pour out the sacrifice to the gods, ancestors, and nature spirits)is a good place to imagine that everything we’ve done is then released out to not just the gods or goddesses being honored in the blót, but to all the ancestors, land wights, and other gods. All the rest of the energy is released into either the base of a tree or on the altar. Imagine that focal point scattering the energy poured out of the bowl into the worlds–the underworld of the ancestors, Midgard (Earth) for the land spirits, and up into the clouds and into the other realms to be delivered to the other gods.
Step 9 (feast together as a community) is usually overlooked as another way to deepen your blot experience, but after completing the ritual, feasting is viewed as eating, drinking, and partying with the gods present. Imagine them with us in their own ways, watching us talking, laughing, and celebrating them and their existence in our lives. By us enjoying each others’ company in this way, the gods are able to feel that they are bringing people together and feel the power of our faith present as we form bonds of friendship in their names.