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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Asatru Altar for Sumbel and Blot

This photo is my altar for a holiday sumbel and blot, such as Yule. Sumbel is the toasting and blot is the blessing.

Altars for different purposes will have different things on them. This one is a portable altar used for community ritual. A permanent altar dedicated to a god or ancestor or to the gods generally, also called a shrine, would generally have fewer working tools and more symbols, and would probably include representations of the gods or other beings to whom it is dedicated, such as statues or pictures, and possibly sacrifices to them. Some Asatruars keep shrines and some don't, but any Asatru community ritual includes a sumbel, and most include a blot.

The altar for a sumbel has to include something to drink since sumbel is a toasting ritual. Asatru uses a drinking horn for this ritual. We use a cow's horn to honor Audhumla, the sacred cow who was the first self-aware being. Our mythology says that before time began or the World Tree grew, Audhumla licked the gods and the giants out of the ice and nurtured them on her milk. So a cow's horn represents the Great Mother.

There are two bottles and two horns on the altar in this picture because one bottle and horn set is for alcohol and one is for a non-alcoholic beverage. This altar also contains a bottle opener. This isn't a dedicated holy bottle opener, just the normal one from my kitchen, but being used for ritual means this opener is going to have a bit of specialness about it even after being returned to normal use. It is traditional to toast with mead, but other beverages work, too.

The altar for blot almost always contains all the things for sumbel as well because sumbel usually comes first and then blot. In the old days, the blot bowl caught the blood of a sacrificed animal, keeping the blood from touching the ground, and then the blood was sprinkled over the participants to bless them. In modern times, the bowl is partially filled with water, and then the dregs of the horn are poured in the bowl after the sumbel, and the mead / water mixture is sprinkled over the participants to bless them.

The pine branch on the altar is the asperger, which is used to sprinkle the water onto the participants. This pine branch is from a sacred pine tree I maintain at my home for this purpose. Before the main ritual, I ritually cut the asperger from the tree with this ritual knife. The knife can then go on the altar, on my belt, or can be put away.

This basic altar contains only the things necessary for the ritual. It can also be decorated with seasonally appropriate decorations, symbols of the gods, and anything meaningful to the godhi or gythia (the conductor of the ritual) or to the ritual participants.

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Pagan News Beagle: Airy Monday, November 30

Bryan Fuller details his plans for the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The trailer for the film Gods of Egypt is analyzed and critiqued. And Cartoon Saloon, the studio behind films such as The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea announces a new film. It's Airy Monday, our weekly news segment about magic and religion in pop culture. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
December Madness

I don't even remember what finally set me off.

One too many Starvation Army bell-ringers?

One too many Muzak Silent Nights?

One too many smiling faces wishing me something that I don't want?

Whatever it was, by the time that I got to work, I was in a state.

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Glamour Practical: Burn This Place Down

Gather ’round, Charmers.  First, as always, my litany of complaints: it is Heartbreak Hotel in my little corner of the woods which is every bit as depressing as you would expect it to be.  Not for me personally, my heart is currently as more-or-less intact as it’s going to be.  But for four people in my circle of friends, it is less so.  I try to be supportive, I try to be helpful, but no one wants to hear any of that noise whilst heartbroken.  Needless to say, it wears me down.  Working 40 hours a week in an accounting firm where there is no such thing as a small mistake because: accounting also wears me down.  Shopping for Yule gifts, keeping my head above water for the holidaze season as a crafter for my Etsy shop and at shows is exhausting, research and slowly, oh so so so slowly writing my book is anxiety inducing as well as also (surprise!) exhausting.

It’s hard to feel glamorous right now, Charmers.  Not in that (now nostalgic) new Mom-like way that nannying produced for me as a career path with endless amounts of physical labor, vomit, tears and poop,  but in that I am too tired to think let alone look polished and perfect as well as formulating wit and charm.  My brain is tired but my body is wired, the exact opposite of my not too long ago previous life.

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Tales Told In November: Grief and the Perpetual Samhain

In her novel Possession, A.S. Byatt writes about the Celtic roots of Breton folklore, in a series of macabre tales that are only told in the few darkening weeks between All Hallow's Eve and Advent. These collected tales, Tales Told in November, are mysterious and disquieting tales, full of violence, monsters, and shadowy, threatening sexuality. The Dark Goddess is invoked as Melusine, the double-tailed mermaid. October is a time of harvest and revelry as the last of the harvest is brought in. It is a time of great bounty and joy. It's not until after the Wheel has shifted and the Descent has begun, that things become truly frightening. Halloween is the beginning, not the end, of the dark seasons of the shadow, the chthonian, and the Dark Gods below the Earth and Sea.

This transition, this Hinge that comes at Samhain and we in the Northern hemisphere begin our Descent, is marked by so many cultural celebrations. These are occasions of great joy as well as reverence and solemnity. Samhain, Dia de Muertos, Samhuinn, Winter Nights, All Hallows—of these have more than a little joy mixed in with the darker aspects of contact beyond the Veil, and engagement with grief and mourning. For years, the Samhain season was my happiest time of the Year, full of rituals, fun and festivity. It was during this time that I often fell in love, or began new friendships or projects that proved to be important and transformational. Samhain brought so much abundance and pleasure that it was easy to forget the whole death part.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Womb Cauldron, the seat of Feminine Power

The most physically inspiring experience that I have had as a Priestess and as a woman has been the reawakening of a conscious relationship with my womb. 


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The flight to Egypt; dancing in the moonlight

I just recently came back from my [5th, this time] pilgrimage-journey to Egypt; and, I want to tell many stories about my journeys to the land of Netjeru, and my experiences and my spiritual findings and illuminations… so, this would be the first post dealing with the topic, and I need to begin with a story of how I went to Egypt first time ever, and what happened after.

I’ve been drawn to Egypt since my childhood. It was a connection deeper than just fascination by Egyptian art, history, and mythology. In fact, I didn’t like Egyptian mythology much, even, because there were not enough myths in books for children in Soviet Union available, and the myths that were, lacked the adventures which make Greek and Norse myths much more dynamic.

I loved Ancient Egypt as a whole thing. I studied the history, and enjoyed historical fiction; I taught myself not to be frightened in the dim lit Egyptian Hall in the Hermitage, and taught myself not to be disappointed that Egyptian deities look rather obscure, compared to their greek/roman counterparts in the museum halls “next door”. Greek and roman statues of Gods looked like statues of humans, just having all the beauty and perfection. The Netjeru guarded the mysteries.

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