Report by Asrad CGFirst published in ORB 201, Summer 2006
The 3rd UK Odinic Rite folk camp was held at Uffington in Oxfordshire. The campsite itself was just below White Horse Hill with its famous chalk carving of a horse (more about that later). Dragon Hill and Uffington castle were literally 10 minutes walk from the campsite.
The journey to the camp was good and we arrived in the early afternoon. Mark Sutton, Jo and Randolph had arrived first, stake our claim and were already set up when we arrived. We quickly set about setting up the camp and the new OR banner was placed at the entrance to the site. It was good to have an OR banner up welcoming everyone, though Peter G took it one stage further by driving under the banner on his arrival, fortunately for him he made it through without bringing the banner down.
There was a steady flow of people arriving throughout the afternoon. Hengest and I emptied our cars and set off for Oxford to pick up those that had come by train and had waited patiently for us to collect them. On our return it was all hands to the tents as everyone helped to get the tents and marquee up whilst the rest started preparing the evening meals and starting the camp fire. One of the benefits of this site was that we were allowed to have a fire, most campsite in the UK do not allow this. As darkness fell we gathered round the fire to chat and catch up on news, it had been a year since some of us had seen each other. The night was beautiful, clear sky’s lit by millions of stars, no light pollution here other than the camp fire. The talking and merriment went on long into the night as day one drew to close.
Saturday started very early for some of us, the children seemed to think that because the Sun was up that is was 8 o’clock, instead it was 5 o’clock, never mind we had a lot planned and so an early start was in order.
After breakfast a large group of us decided to take a walk up to Uffington Castle and the Uffington White Horse. We took the footpath opposite the campsite up to the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway is a famous long distance footpath running from Overton Hill in the West, South East of Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon in the East near Edlesborough. 87 miles long it is perhaps one of the oldest tracks in the country, following the same rout used since the prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and warriors.
“For thousands of years, at least 5,000 and maybe many more, people, be they drovers, traders or invaders, have walked or ridden The Ridgeway. As part of a prehistoric track, once stretching about 250 miles (400 km) from the Dorset coast to the Wash on the Norfolk coast, it provided a route over the high ground for travellers which was less wooded and drier than routes through the springline villages below.”
As we walked along the Ridgeway we spotted a bird of prey, possibly a Red Kite or Buzzard, though without binoculars it was impossible to tell, but watching its soaring flight over the beautiful landscape was a real treat.
We made our way across Uffington Castle to the White Horse itself. The Views out across the Vale of the White Horse were superb. A very welcome breeze helped to cool us down after a very hot walk.
The Uffington White Horse is the oldest and most interesting of all the White Horses, there are eight other White Horses in nearby Wiltshire, the oldest at Westbury dates from 1778. The White Horse at Uffington is believed to be 3000 years old.
This would have been the late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age and could be linked with the occupation of the ancient Uffington Hill fort above. The shape of the horse closely resembles those stamped on the early Iron Age coins. Some believe that the figure was put there to act as a totem for those living on the hill as it can be seen from many miles away, but we noticed that it is almost impossible to see the whole of the White Horse from any angle, in fact I believe the only way to see it all is from the air! The only pictures I have seen of the Horse showing its fall glory have all been taken from the air. Surely if this was a symbol of power or a marker to outsiders it would have been visible from the ground. I believe that the Uffington White Horse was carved to honour the Gods and Goddesses.
From the White Horse we made our way down to Dragon Hill. Dragon Hill is a low flat-topped mound situated in the valley below the White Horse. In legend it is the place where Sigurd / St George slew the dragon, its blood spilling on the hilltop and leaving forever a bare white patch where no grass can grow. The mound is natural, though the top appears to have been flattened at some point. The site is a perfect location to hold ritual, being below the White Horse it still has spectacular views across the countryside and can be seen from some distance.
Dragon Hill is one of those places that you just know is special. It has a spiritual feel to it which cannot be mistaken. This site has been a ritual area for as long as the White Horse has been there, of that I am sure. One thing was for sure, we would hold ritual here also.
After lunch back at the camp we set out the area in readiness for the Hammer throwing competition. Now due to an oversight on my behalf we only had a very lightweight mallet for the adults to throw, so to make it somewhat harder I decided that the adults would have to through with their wrong arm, ie right handed people through with their left and vice versa.
We started off with the children’s category. Hakon was first up to the hocky and put in a fairly good throw though he was over taken by my son Peter who was desperate to get he hands on a trophy. Unfortunately for him he was picked at the post with a tremendous throw from Kate.
Next category was the ladies. Another fierce battle raged here between the ladies, you could see the effort on their faces as they tried to hit the markers (the markers being the men!) Fran came closest to hitting her marker, well her husband Hengest actually, but he moved just in time to prevent a trip to casualty, better luck next time Fran. The eventual winner and dark horse was Alice.
Next up it was the gents, and now the wrong hand law came into play. There were some superb throws despite having to use our wrong hands, and the judge had to be very firm with a few who tried to gain that extra few inches by stepping over the line. The reigning champion Tyrsson set a very hard distance to beat, though a few of us came very very close, Tyrsson once again won the men’s hammer throwing competition.
With the fun of the games over we prepared ourselves for the evening Blot and the profession of Steve Swepston. The Blot and profession was to be held at Waylands Smithy, a Neolithic burial chamber on the Ridgeway about one mile East of the White Horse and Uffington castle.
Waylands Smithy is perhaps one of the most impressive Neolithic burial chambers in Britain. Surrounded by trees it is an idyllic setting for a Blot and specially chosen by Steve for his profession. There are a great many myths surrounding Wayland Smithy and a vast amount of information about its history and the archaeology of this very special site, too much to mention here, but a simple search online will bring up masses of information for those interested in the rich history of this site.(see references at the end of this report.)
Once at the site most people took the opportunity to have a closer look at the chambers and the site whilst we prepared the site for the Blot. Once everyone was in place and briefed on what would happen (for some this was there first group Blot) we created the Vé, a Holy space for the Blot. As this was also Steve’s profession I ask him to help form the Vé with Tyrsson and myself. I felt this was important as Tyrsson was to conduct Steve’s profession, Tyrsson is the Hearth Guardian of Sunna Rising Hearth and the sponsored Steve’s profession, thus a spiritual bond was formed which would imbue this ritual with more power.
I lead the Blot, based on the Festival of Balder, we were suitably close to Midsummer and certainly the weather was smiling on us so it was most fitting to hail Balder and Sunna. The Gealdor was particular good, very powerful and the resonance was excellent, enhanced I’m sure by this very special site.
It was then time for Steve’s profession. Steve has put a lot of thought into taking this Oath and during our discussion’s I understood just how important this was to him. Nine times Steve was tested and nine times he chose to continue and so as a symbol of Odin’s armour and Steve’s honour Tyrsson presented Sweppi with his beautiful wooden Torc. Steve has taken the Odinic name of Sweppi and once more Odin’s Holy Nation as grown.
With the Profession finished we continued with the Blot. The High Gods and Goddesses were toasted and honoured followed by many heart felt toasts of congratulations to Sweppi and of course the Ancestral spirit, very appropriate for such a site. We closed the Blot with a song to the High Gods and Goddesses. It is very difficult to report on a Blot, you cannot describe the feelings one gets at holding ritual at a site like Wayland Smithy, nor can you adequately describe the resonance of the Gealdor or the effects it has on you. For many that have not experienced this it can be very power, quite an emotional experience even.
Before we departed from this wonderful site we took some pictures and had another look round the site. Waylands Smithy has a magical feel to it that many places do not have. I will return to this site again as soon as I can, and I’m certain I will not be the only one of those present on this special day that will make the journey once more to Waylands Smithy.
Shortly after our return to the campsite the last of our happy campers arrived, though it was a short visit it was good to meet up with more of our Einheriar Hearth brothers.
With everyone gathered round the fire Hengest organised the Mead Brewers competition, with the help of Alice and Clare. Our judges made themselves comfortable in preparation for what could be a very dangerous task, though this year we were fortunate not to have to suffer Sweppi’s attempt at rocket fuel mead! Last years reigning champion Torthred had some good entries again this year along with Tyrsson’s efforts and the new kid on the block, Ynglingson with his Nine Ladies Mead and his very nice Blood Mead. This year I stepped down as judge for this competition, I’ve only just recovered from Sweppi’s mead after a year!! The judges were very impressed with some of the meads and only one or two points separated first and second places, but after much deliberation and rather a lot of tasting, more than is needed in my opinion, they came to a decision and awarded first Prize to Ynglingson’s Nine Ladies Mead. Second was Ynglingson’s Blood Mead and third was Torthred. This was a massive blow to Sunna Rising hearths brews who had lost their grip of the Brewers cup! Ynglingson was obviously pleased with his victory as he could be seen running around the campsite with his shirt over his head! With the formal tasting over the various entries were passed around the rest of the camp to sample. Most people agreed with the judges decision and all agreed that Tyrsson should put warning labels on his mead “not for consumption”, only joking Tyrsson, it was not that bad! The evening merriment continued into the early hours. There are few things better than sitting round a fire with good company, talking, singing and laughing.
Sunday morning started early for some of us as we decided to take an early walk to the nearby Dragon Hill to perform the Swastika Rising ritual. The walk helped clear the last remnants of sleep from us as we climbed up the hill and prepared for the ritual. Just as at Waylands Smithy the previous evening the Gealdor was very powerful. Creating a cone of power and releasing that positive energy out across the Odal lands from this sacred site was awesome. In this ritual we visualise the dynamic energy of the holy Swastika spreading out across Midgard. From the top of Dragon Hill it was easy to visualise that energy spreading out across our Ur lands, spreading across the countryside laid out before us.
After the ritual we spent some time talking and taking in the wonderful view on this sunny morning. Whilst we were talking a young chap approached me and asked who we were and what we had done. He had come down to the area the previous night and had visit Waylands Smithy with his partner and pet dog. He said that when they had arrived it was dark and as they got out of the car their dog was very agitated. They started to walk towards Waylands Smithy but felt uneasy, he did not know why, he just felt an energy and decided to turn back. I had not mentioned that we had held ritual there only a few hours before so he could not have known we had been there. I explained a little of what we had done at Waylands Smithy and a little about what we are and what we do. He then said “I was talking to my partner last night saying that I must get involved in some chanting group or something, I just felt I should find something like it, then this morning I heard your chanting and it blew me away”, now this is true wyrd, working in ways that we cannot explain, why was he on the hill this weekend? What brought him to Waylands Smithy? etc.etc. I passed him our address and told him to have a look at our website, if you are interested and want to learn more you can contact me. He has not done so yet, maybe we scared him, I don’t think so, but one thing is for sure we certainly awakened something within him and hopefully he will find his way to his rightful path. Just another example of how our ritual does raise positive energy which is felt by our folk, of that I am certain.
Back at camp it was breakfast time for some whilst one or two groups had to break camp and head off home. I had not planned any further events for today as I wanted to give people the opportunity to visit Avebury, Silbury Hill and West Kennett Longbarrow which where only a short distance away and very worth the journey, Avebury being a very interesting site, and to me personally more spiritual than Stone Henge which is not far from Avebury. Hengest’s family, Alice, Clare and my family had decided not to go to Avebury this time, we decided to head to Uffington instead for Sunday lunch in a local pub, and very nice it was too. A welcome break for both Ruth and Fran from the cooking, they had looked after those without cooking facilities and so had earned a break.
The pub was cool as well, it was good to be out of the blazing sun with the added pleasure of a cool beer, not to mention fine food, it was a real pleasure.
Late afternoon we said good bye to a few more folk that had to make there way home. Thorsigurd’s journey would be a real epic, first to London by train, then to Scotland by coach, a plane back to London and then home to Austria by plane. The coach trip back to Scotland was due to the idiotic airlines not allowing him to change his flight arrangements, but he said it was well worth the effort and had enjoyed himself immensely.
Our last night round the fire together was a rather quieter affair than the previous two nights, though no less enjoyable. Perhaps the subdued talk was a sign that we did not want the weekend to end. But like all good things it did come to an end on Monday morning. After breakfast we broke camp, took down our marquee and then I took Hildelith, Njal and Dan back to the station. By the time I returned there were just two parties left, Hengest and Mark Sutton. One final check of the site to make sure nothing had been missed and another folk camp had come to a close.
It is difficult to see how you can improve on each camp, yet each time we do. This was another excellent camp, a beautiful location, beautiful weather and wonderful company. Folk building is all about building better ties with our folk, we have become stronger, closer and will continue to build upon the foundation which grows ever deeper and stronger as we hold these folk events. Across the ocean our brothers and sisters are holding the ORV folk camp as I write this report. As a movement we continue to grow. We are active, we are the vanguard of the new awakening. From these events further camps and meetings are being planned or have taken place. Thank you to everyone that made the effort to attend and that supported this camp. Next year I am sure we will have even greater numbers.