Heathen Kinship Blessings
The Blot is the most common ritual within Asatru. In its simplest form a blot is making a sacrifice to the Gods. In the old days this was done by feasting on an animal consecrated to the Gods and then slaughtered. The animal was hung and the blood drained from the animal into a wooden bowl, the blotting bowl.
Many modern folk will be suspicious of a ritual such as this. Rituals which are deemed "sacrifices," such as the blot, have a certain lurid connotation and have been falsely re-interpreted by post-Pagan sources in order to denigrate or demonize them. The most common myth about ritual sacrifice is that one is buying off a deity e.g. one throws a virgin into the volcano so it won't erupt. Nothing could be further from the truth. The other common misunderstanding of sacrifice is that the purpose is to gain some type of energy from the action of killing or the fear or suffering of the animal. This is also untrue, in actuality, if you do any kind of slaughtering--ritual or mundane--correctly there is neither. Our ancient spiritual forebears were slaughtering animals because they were farmers, and sacrifice was simply a sacred manner of doing so. In the way one might invite a friend to dinner, that bounty would be shared with the Gods. A sacrifice to the gods is a gift given by us to them. Friends give friends gifts. They give us gifts of guidance and comfort when we need them. Our gods will also give us physical gifts or "miracles" when our need is great and there is no way for us to survive without their intervention. In other words they will provide food when you are starving, provided you have done everything within your power to secure food for yourself. They are not here to provide for us, we are here, aspiring to emulate their best characteristics.
The Norse conception of our relationship to the Gods is important in understanding the nature of sacrifice. In Asatru it is believed that we are not only the worshippers of the Gods but that we are spiritually and even physically related to them. The Eddas tell of a God, Rig (identified with Heimdall), who went to various farmsteads and fathered the human race. Symbolically, we see ourselves as kin to the Gods. On a more esoteric level, humankind is gifted with "ond" or the gift of ecstasy. Ond is a force that is of the Gods. It is everything that makes humans different from the other creatures of the world. As creatures with this gift, we are immediately connected to the Gods. We are part of their tribe, their kin. Thus we are not simply buying off the Gods by offering them something that they want, but we are sharing with the Gods something in which we all take joy.
Sharing and gift giving was an important part of most ancient cultures and had magical significance. Leadership was seen as a contract between the leader and follower. It is said, "A gift demands a gift." A good leader among the Norse was known as a "Ring giver," and it was understood that his generosity and the support of his war-band were linked and part of a complementary relationship. Giving a gift was a sign of friendship, kinship, and connection. Among the runes, gebo encompasses the mystery of the blot. In English, the rune is named "gift," and the two lines intersecting are representative of the two sides of a relationship both giving to each other. By sharing a blot with the Gods we reaffirm our connection to them and thus reawaken their powers within us and their watchfulness over our world.
A blot can be a simple affair where a horn of mead is consecrated to the Gods and then poured as a libation, or it can be a part of a larger ritual.
The blot consists of three parts, the hallowing or consecrating of the offering, the sharing of the offering, and the libation. Each of these is equally important. The only physical objects required are the liquid (mead, or ale, preferred); a horn or cup is not necessary, but nice to have; and a ceremonial bowl, known as a Hlautbowl, into which the initial libation will be made (also not necessary). As you can see, the only thing necessary is the mead or ale! The blot begins with the consecration of the offering. The person making the blot invokes the God or Goddess being honored. This is usually accomplished by a spoken declaration with ones arms being held above ones head in the shape of the rune Elhaz. (This posture is used for most invocations and prayers throughout Asatru) The person then speaks a request that the God or Goddess bless the offering and accept it as a sacrifice. At the least one will feel the presence of the deity; at best one will be able to feel in some inner way the God taking of the mead and drinking it.
The mead is now not only blessed with divine power, but has passed the lips of the God or Goddess. At this point the mead is no longer simply a drink but is imbued with the blessing and power of the God or Goddess being honored. When one drinks, one is taking that power into oneself. The person then drinks from the horn and then empties the remainder into the blessing bowl, or possibly directly into the ground if there is no bow.
Obviously this is a very sparse ritual and if performed alone could be completed in only a few minutes. This is as it should be, for blots are often poured not because it is a time of gathering or festivity for the folk, but because the blot must be poured in honor or petition of a God or Goddess on their holiday or some other important occasion. For example, a father tending his sick child might pour a blot to Eir the Goddess of healing. Obviously he doesn't have time to waste on the "trappings" of ritual. The intent is to make an offering to the Goddess as quickly as possible. At some times a full celebration might not be made of a holiday because of a persons hectic schedule, but at the least a short blot should be made to mark the occasion. However, in most cases a blot will at least be accompanied by a statement of intent at the beginning and some sort of conclusion at the end. It might also be interspersed with or done at the conclusion of ritual theater or magic.
One important thing to note about any Asatru ritual is that ours is a holistic religion, integrated into everyday life. We do not limit our Gods or spirituality to a certain time and place. While the sacrament of the blot is usually poured as part of a ceremony, the feast afterwards, singing of sacred songs, reciting of poetry, toasts at mealtime, etc., are all part of our religion. This often leads to the Sumbel. Another important part of our religion!