The Charming of the Plough (The Festival of Labour)
The first celebration of the New Year. Though today many people may not even know what a plough looks like, life depends on it. Land is largely unproductive for food until it has been ploughed, made ready. It is fitting that at the start of a New Year, we understand that for the year to be “fruitful” we must make preparation. To be productive life contains an element of compulsion, where rebellion and protest have no place. Human life needs discipline if the harvest of our body and spirit is to be a good one. As we are interdependent with nature, so a “civilised” society is also dependent upon a variety of “trades and labour” to function. At the blot we hail the men and women whose skills enable us to maintain our existence. We are also reminded of the continuity of life – a new year born. At this ritual we “return the Corn Mother” (placed on the altar at Winter Finding). In the past it would have been ploughed back into the Earth. Today it is presented to a young person during the Blot – a reminder that the future of our folk depends upon our young people and their discipline and fruitfulness. It is not the starting but the continuing that is really important and gives success.
Vali (Festival of the Family)
This is named after Vali, a son of Odin and defender of the family. He symbolises the new light after darkness and in our myths slays the blind Hother (dark) and so is a herald for the approaching of Spring and the Summer Finding (Ostara): a “new awakening”. Rays of light are often called “shafts” and as a light bringer he is often depicted as a bowman firing shafts of light. He thus is also a God of love and it is entirely possible the “Valentine” motif of lovers being smitten by “arrows of love” is based upon the earlier mythology of Vali. Vali’s slaying of Hother also avenges Balder, the fairest of all the Gods. Thus he is also a deity of just vengeance. (This is not to be mistaken with petty or spiteful revenge, but is a balancing and an alteration to allow this balance and harmony to take place). He is a defender of light and good. This blot is the Festival of the Family, a time to remember not only our closest family but those who are our kindred by blood in the extended family of our folk and our fellow Odinists.
The Summer Finding (Festival of Ostara)
Nature constantly renews itself and the message of Summer Finding is one of rebirth. The new Spring has come. It is a time when new life has burst forth from the death of Winter. Humanity as part of nature can see divinity in this law of death and rebirth. It is a time of purification (many ancient customs are based on this). The eggs (of Easter), the “Easter Bunny” (Ostara’s sacred hare) are symbols of new life and fertility. The Sunwheels of “hot cross buns” are symbols of the burning out of Winter. A rebirth of Summer – a time of joy and purification.
Sigurd (Festival of the Homeland)
This is named after the great hero of our mythology Sigurd, who is most commonly known as a Dragon Slayer.. This teaches us to remember that we have to confront life’s evils – not ignore them or try to pretend they don’t exist. This is a principle which should be followed on both the personal level and on the wider level of loyalty to our folk. We must be prepared to defend our community. We must be prepared to stand against that which is harmful, and conquer also our own faults.
Ragnar Lodbrok (Commemoration of the Vikings)
Many of the great achievements in history, such as the climbing of Everest, the crossing of the polar regions, were due to daring and resourcefulness of individuals or small groups. All of us are capable of displaying similar virtues, in varying degrees, often depending greatly on the development of our inner strength and self-discipline. Self-reliance at both a personal and folk level are important for the freedom – noble lives. It celebrates action and the indomitable spirit which inspires action and keeps us going despite obstacles, physical tiredness and danger. This spirit is epitomised by the example of our Viking ancestors. It is named after Ragnar Lodbrok, one of the greatest of the Viking leaders, a man whose audacity combined with contempt for danger and death has made his name immortal. He represents the Aryan concept of the individual as initiator, pioneer and leader. The Festival is a commemoration of the Viking age and a call for us today to emulate Viking courage and enterprise.
Midsummer (Festival of Balder)
We celebrate the year’s “coming of age”, its achievement of maturity. We hail life and remember the wheel of creation. Though we know there must be time of darkness, this we must accept for “If we do not know the dark and cold, would we love the light and warmth so dearly?” We hail Balder, the most beautiful of the Gods, who fell to rise again, and Nanna his partner. In them we see the promise of a bright future. Again this relates to us on a personal level, to our folk, land, the whole of creation.
Sleipnir (Festival of Life)
This festival is called by the name of Odin’s eight legged horse. We call it the festival of life because it reminds us of our link to all creation and that we are part of nature – not separated. We remember how we must return to this earlier wisdom. Our ancestors recognised this link and interdependence: today we see how ignorance of this destroys our very Mother Earth and ultimately ourselves.
Discovery of the Runes (Festival of the Mind)
This celebrates scholarship, learning in all fields and inspiration. The power of the mind is both mythical and awesome. It reminds us of Odin’s sacrifice to gain wisdom, new insight. We strive for parallel spiritual and intellectual development. The runes and the truths they present can be used for personal transformation, psychic development, healing and the building of the environment according to the inner will. They are a vast wisdom. This festival also reminds us of an essential truth: the fallacy that because mankind is created from the same stuff that all are of the same value and should be valued equally. Ancient writings (including the Edda, and some modern) show that the differences in human qualities and capabilities have always been realised. Today this eternal truth is not popular and has led to a desire to drag all down to the lowest common denominator which ultimately benefits no-one. We hail diversity and let us remember, until we respect ourselves, our folk, our folk’s achievements, uniqueness and gifts, we cannot truly respect another’s.
Winter Finding (Festival of Harvest End)
Another Festival which emphasises the wheel of nature. At this time (the Autumn equinox) it reaches its fruition and a period of decline follows. We commemorate the “death of Summer” and now Winter has arrived. We must look into our hearts, assess our achievements and look to the future Spring, knowing we must endure Winter also. This is a season of fruitfulness, yet side by side with this are signs of decay. As at Summer Finding (Spring equinox) the rhythm of life is strong, so amidst the bounty of the year is its move towards dissolution. Mankind is part of the wheel, the Sun descends as a sacrifice into darkness before beginning its ascent again on the Mother Night. With the sacrificial death of Balder we give thanks for the year’s supply of food and hope it will sustain us till the new Spring. The Corn token is presented at this Blot as a symbol of hope and continuity and our debt to Mother Earth.
Hengist (Festival of Settlement)
This commemorates not only of the settlement of our folk in Britain, but of that of all other lands our folk settled. It hails our European homelands and our folk everywhere. It is a link between all tribal groupings of our folk. It is a statement of our identity and calls us to be proud of our heritage. It reminds us how our folk brought law and justice with mercy to all lands they settled. It also calls to us to look again at our past in order to inspire us to ensure a future for our folk as our ancestors ensures a future by their blood and toil.
Einheriar (Festival of Heroes)
At this timer of the year, it seems that much of nature’s manifestations have “died” and returned their physical essence back from whence they came – the Mother Earth. A strange month when the veil between what has been, what is, and what is to come seems thinner. Various festivals broadly to do with this are held at this time. It is a kind of yearly Ragnarok for nature – now will come the cold and dark before the Ragnar Rise, the return and renewal of rebirth. Appropriately our thoughts are especially with our kinsfolk who have passed into other realms. We remember especially all those of our folk who have fallen in conflict, for they died in defence of what they believed to be right. We honour the warriors who fell defending the folk and the warrior spirit which is epitomised by the Einheriar – Odin’s elite warrior company. We honour the warriors and also the women and children who also fell in war. While we wish for peace and freedom, we realise that at times this must be fought for and once won, defended. We are reminded that if our folk are to endure, then we will at times need to sacrifice personal comfort and stand against that which is harmful to our folk and stand boldly though the foe may seem great. Our thoughts are also with those of our community who may even now be in combat situation. And we hail the warriors of the past whose valour and sacrifice have ensured we are here today.
The Mother Night (Yule – the Midwinter Festival)
This celebrates the Winter solstice when the sun, having descended into dark, seems to be “re-born” and begins its ascent again. The end of one cycle, the beginning of a new. A night to honour rebirth and mothers, and to celebrate the hope and joy new birth brings. It is the first night of Yule (from the Old English hweol = wheel). Eleven more nights of festivity follow encapsulating the twelve months of the year. Within these twelve nights, the cosmic spirit of the multiverse seems especially close as end and beginning, death and rebirth, merge. At this time especially, the concentrated essence of the divine and earthly elements are held within the twelve nights. There are many customs surrounding this festive period and virtually all those still common today are based on Odinic practices: the Yule candles and Yule wheels (Yule logs), the evergreen decorations, the so-called “Christmas trees” (symbols of Yggdrasil), the feasting, exchange of gifts, and so on. A time for comradeship and hope. The Wheel has turned full circle: a new cycle begins.
This is a brief summary of the reasons for the monthly blotar. It should be remembered each has many layers of symbolism, meaning, and learning. They apply to personal existence, to immediate family, friends, the Folk, wider and wider to the multiverse itself.
Hail all our Holy Gods and Goddesses.
Taken from The Book of Blotar of the Odinic Rite.