Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

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Asatru FAQ: Should I Do Daily Devotions?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A Frequently Asked Question about Asatru is: "Should I be doing devotional practices every day?"

My answer: "Should" doesn't get one very far, in my experience. If what you feel like doing is the standard holidays, do that. If you feel like doing no more than occasionally thinking about the gods and other powers, do that, then-- and if 30 years later you suddenly are excited about sharing joyous times with them, then there you go, change to that. "Should" makes things into church-on-Sunday boredom and obligation, and who wants to be somebody's boring chore? Not the gods, as far as I know. 

When the question becomes not "what should I do" but "how do I do what I am called to do" then I can supply advice on various practices you might try out. If you want to do daily devotions, start by deciding who you want to devote your daily rituals to. Start small; invite the god, or ancestor, or elf, or whoever, in for a drink, as you might invite a neighbor. See where it leads. 

Inviting the gods in for a drink is basically what we're doing when we do a formal sumbel ritual, we're just doing it in a certain way that heathen cultures have found to work for us. In a sumbel, the toast maker raises the horn, said, "Hail so-and-so, exposition/ poetry / prayer, hail so-and-so," and if there is a group of people there, the group responds "hail so-and-so," and then the toast maker sips from the horn, the horn is passed and the next person raises a toast. What we are doing when do this ritual is this: "Hail so-and-so." This part gets the attention of the being the toast maker wishes to devote drink to, and proclaims that the drink the toast maker is about to take is for so-and-so and no other, so no other entity can claim it. The toast maker may or may not make a short speech, but if he does, he may be educating the group about the being who is being honored, addressing the being with words of praise, and / or asking the being for something. Then the toast maker drinks. The energy, flavor, pleasure, and everything else that constitute the drink is being passed from the human experiencing drinking to the noncorporeal being to whom the toast is directed. In a group sumbel, each toast maker will make at least one toast, sometimes many. At the end of the sumbel ritual, the horn is either poured out onto the ground if outside, or into a bowl, which will be poured out later, sometimes after also being used in a blot ritual. That which is poured out is for the landvaettir, also called landwights, the spirits of the land. The land spirits get what is left in the horn at the end of the ritual, and the gods, ancestors, elves, etc. who are toasted get what the toast makers drink. The point of the sumbel ritual is to pass energy and the physical pleasure of drink to the beings to whom the toasts are raised. Without that part, there is only the effect of the drinking on the toast maker. Drinking can indeed induce an altered state of consciousness, but it would do that without the ritual. Sumbel is about giving to the gods, and to whomever a toast is raised. So, that is what it means to invite the gods in for a drink.

If you don't know yet who you want a relationship with, instead of devotional practices, you might try just being open and mentally listening. See what develops.

If you already know how to meditate, or if you already know how to receive inspiration for writing or art or whatever, then you already have the building blocks for listening to the gods and other powers. Be quiet inside; this might require you to first listen to yourself, if your self has messages for your conscious mind stacked up. When you can be quiet inside, then be present. Listen. You might hear. If you don't, that's OK, you can always try again. 

I'll leave you with my father's advice to 5 year old me: "Listen to the wind, listen to the corn, listen to your heart." He was far from a perfect human being, but that part he got right. 

Image: Sif idol and basket of wheat, photo by Erin Lale

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Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners and other books. She was sworn to Freya as Priestess in 1989, given to Sigyn, and is a Bride of Odin and his brothers (Honir, Lodhur, Loki.). She has been a freelance writer for about 30 years, was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, is gythia of American Celebration Kindred, and admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. In 2010 and 2013, she ran for public office. She is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press for 5 years, and is the author of the Heathen Calendar 2017 and 2018.

Comments

  • The Cunning Wife
    The Cunning Wife Wednesday, 31 January 2018

    Love this! Having a drink with spirits is my favorite way to initiate and deepen relationships with them. I also love the emphasis on quietness and perceptivity -- often undervalued, but so crucial to receiving those messages. Great post!

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Wednesday, 31 January 2018

    Thanks!

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