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FAQ

Eplagaršr Kindred, ....

Q: What is Asatru?
Q: Who do you worship?
Q: What are the rituals of Asatru?
Q: What are the high days you celebrate?
Q: What virtues, morals or code of conduct do you follow?
Q: What do you believe as far as the afterlife?
Q: What is expected etiquette of visitors to Eplagaršr events?

 

Q: What is Asatru?
A: Asatru is a reconstructed version of the religion that was practiced among the people called the Norse (Iceland, Norway, parts of Germany) before Christianity was adopted in those regions. Since the religion was no longer officially practiced after Christianity was adopted as the official religion of Iceland in 1000AD, all of our information comes from information written down by outside observers, Christians who were writing stories passed down to them from their ancestors, and archeological information. Our primary sources are the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda, and Sagas.

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Q: Who do you worship?
A: We worship the Norse gods and goddesses known as the Aesir and the Vanir. These include Odin, Frigga, Thor, Sif, Freyr, Freyja, Njord, Baldur, Idunna, and Tyr, among many others.

We also worship our ancestors, known as the Alfar, the Disir and the Einherjar. We consider the veil between the living and the dead to be thin enough that we can communicate with the dead and they can have influence on our lives. We give offerings to our ancestors in order to strengthen our connection to them and to aid in communication.

Lastly we honor the spirits of the land, sometimes called the Landvaettir.

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Q: What are the rituals of Asatru?
A: The primary rituals of Asatru are the Sumble and the Blot.

The Sumbel (also spelled Sumbel or Symbel)
From the outside, sumbles can sometimes appear as though they are just people sitting around drinking and making toasts. In reality, sumbles are a very sacred ritual in Asatru tradition. A sumble is a ritual that builds community and strengthens our relationship with each other and with the gods. 

The ritual itself is seen as carrying our words directly to the gods, our ancestors, and the Norns, setting them directly into our “Wyrd” (very roughly translated as luck). It usually takes the form three or more rounds of toasts. Typically the first is toasts the gods, the second is toasts to the ancestors, and the last is for oaths, boasts, and community toasts. Eplagaršr Kindred calls this the community round. Other Kindreds sometimes use this last round for open toasts, or have more than three rounds of toasting to accomodate the needs of the folk.

The Blot, Faining and Husel
(Excerpts from Andy’s Asatru Rituals and Etiquette article)

At it's most basic form, a blot simply consists of calling upon a god, (or several) and then making an offering of some sort. In old heathen times, this was nearly always an animal sacrifice, with a portion of the sacrificed livestock being offered to the gods, and the remainder going on to form the main course of a sacred feast after the ritual. ... These days, the blot is still an offering of something valuable to the gods, the offering most frequently being alcohol or some sort of hand-crafted object. [Su’s note: Sometimes a blot that does not involve animal sacrifice is called a Faining.] This mirrors the gift giving culture of the ancient Norse, where the primary way that bonds were formed both between man and between man and god was via an exchange of gifts. As mentioned earlier, the core of this ritual form is simply to call the gods and give them your gift, and in simpler rituals such as a daily devotional rite, this may be the entirety of the ritual. More formal rituals usually do include a bit where we formally accept the gods return gift, and also varying amounts of ritual window dressing, which can vary widely from kindred to kindred.

Although the sacred feast used to be fairly integral to a blot, it is less common these days. There usually is food after a ritual, but it is not generally considered to be an actual part of the ritual itself. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in this practice, however, so it may become more common in the future. A ritual that does involve a sacred feast is often referred to as a Husel.

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Q: What are the high days you celebrate?
A: There are a number of high days commonly celebrated among Asatruars.

Yule / Midwinter (Winter Solstice)

Yule is usually seen as twelve days starting on the eve of the Winter Solstice. This eve is called Mother’s Night in some Northern traditions. During Yule people are supposed to stop all work, relax, visit with family and friends, feast, etc. It is often seen as the Norse New Year. It is a time to check in with friends and family to make sure they are surviving the winter, and the last big feast of the year. It is also the time of the Wild hunt, when the dead fly across the land. In Germanic regions, the leader of the hunt is usually either Odin, Holda or Perchte, and the followers are the Einherjar or children who died before their birth or naming. It is best to stay inside to avoid their notice at this time. 

Being the shortest day of the year, there are traditions of sitting vigil through the night to make sure the sun will rise again. People keep fires burning through the night for this purpose. Modern “festival of lights”, putting lights on trees and putting candles in windows all come from the tradition of keeping lights burning through the winter nights to ward off the dark and the hunt and to make the long darkness of winter more cheery. In northern lands, the sun may not have risen at all this time of year, so it was important to find ways to keep everyone’s spirits up. 

Charming the Plough & Idis-Thing (late January or early February)

Charming the Plough is the time for ground breaking, preparing for the first planting, and preparing for the coming for spring. 

Disting, or the Thing of the Idises, is also celebrated around this time. This is a celebration of the Idises (also known as the Disir), the female ancestors who have sway over fertility, hearth and family. It is a celebration and request for help with aspects of fertility such as personal, professional, planting and produce.

Ostara or Summer Finding (Spring Equinox ~March 21)

In Anglo-Saxon culture this holiday is Eostre, named after a Spring Anglo-Saxon goddess whose name is also the namesake of the Anglo-Saxon month of April (Eostremonath). Very little is known about Eostre except that Bede says she is a goddess whose name is given to the Christian holiday and to the month of April. The word Ostara was deduced to be the name of a similar Germanic goddess due to the name occurring quite frequently in the name-places and due to the name being given to the month, like Eostre was. Nothing is known about Ostara as an actual goddess. There is folklore that associates Eostre with rabbits and chickens, as well as a rabbit laying eggs, though I am not clear on what time period this is from. In Northern Germanic regions, there is some speculation that Idunna is, or at least was originally, a very similar goddess (or possibly the same goddess with a different name) as Ostara and Eostre. Idunna is a goddess associated with life, rebirth, youth and innocence. In Slavic regions, eggs were decorated elaborately at this time as a celebration of springtime. Putting all this information together, it can be seen that Ostara is a Spring celebration of life, birth, rebirth, procreation and youth. This holy day is also sometimes called Summer Finding, a time where we begin to find the first signs of the coming of summer. 

Walpurgis & May Day (April 30 / May 1)

Walpurghis night falls on the eve of May 1st, May Day. The pre-Christian name for this holiday did not survive, but it is such a huge holiday in Germanic regions, that it is clear that it once was. The name Walpurgis was given to the day after the name of the Christian Saint Walburga. It was said to it reflects the spirit of the day. Many modern Neo-Pagans use the name Waluburg’s Night after a second century Germanic seeress named Waluburg. Walpurgis Night is seen in Germanic regions as a night when the veils between worlds is thin, so it’s the easiest time to talk with the gods and the ancestors, and when witches are said to dance and cast spells on Brocken Mountain. It is also a time when children dress in costumes and play pranks on people. On May Day, some regions dance the May Pole on this day. It is also a day for courting and for other fertility rituals and games. Due to her connection with witchcraft and magic, and her connection to passion and love, this holiday is strongly associated with Freyja. Other traditions of this day include driving cattle between fires and fire jumping.

Midsummer (Summer Solstice)

Midsummer is a celebration of the height of summer. In Germanic regions, Midsummer was celebrated with fire jumping, dancing of the maypole (Midsummer Pole) and other festive and fire traditions. Today it is specifically marked with singing traditional songs and drinking. It is still today one of the biggest festivals in Northern Europe (along with Walpurgis and Yule). Midsummer was usually a time for celebration of community. As such, it is a good time to honor all the gods of one’s hearth culture; as well as a time to celebrate peace and unity. This is also a time to celebrate fire and sun gods, and the beginning of the yearly descent of the sun, so it is also appropriate to honor fertility and sun gods like Frey and Baldur at this time.

Lammas (mid-August)

Lammas is a corruption of the word Loaf-Mass. In Iceland, this day is also known as Freyfaxi after an Icelandic horse who is the subject of a well known folk story about traditions from this time of year involving horse-fighting. Loaf-mass is generally seen as a first harvest for the year. At this time, Frey is often honored as a god of fertility and the lord of the Alfar – the ancestors who are involved with the fertility of the land. Thor is also sometimes honored at this time and asked to protect the crops through the coming seasons. 

This is also the time of the Icelandic Althing. This was the time when everyone assembled in one place to discuss the laws of the land, and to settle disputes. Because of this, Lammas is a good time to celebrate gods of law and justice, such as Tyr and Forseti. 

Winter-Nights (late October)

This is the time of year for celebrating the end of Summer and the coming of Winter in a celebration called Winter-Nights or Winter-Finding. Bede called it Winter-Full Moon. Because of that, the actual date of Winter-Nights may be the full moon in late October or possibly early November. It is sometimes seen as a time for honoring the Disir, or our ancestral mothers. In many areas of Europe, winter nights are the time of the ride of the “wild hunt”. This hunt is seen differently in different regions. It is sometimes limited to Yule time and sometimes throughout the winter. The hunt is always marked by a leader and followers who are all or mostly some sort of spirits.

Eplagaršr Kindred celebrates Winter-Nights as a time to spend with community, sharing stories and bounty, in preparation for the coming winter.

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Q: What virtues, morals or code of conduct do you follow?
A: Asatruars derive their virtues and code of conduct from those shown in the Eddas and the Sagas of the Norse. These virtues are difficult to codify into a list of virtues, though many have tried to do so. 

Eplagaršr Kindred has decide to separate the virtues out into three primary groups: self-reliance, honesty or honor, and hospitality. 

Self-reliance includes courage or strength, perseverance, industriousness and moderation. We believe the gods expect people to find answers for themselves without relying on the gods to solve all their problems for them. We believe people should be held accountable for what they do (regardless of what state they are in - hence moderation) and that they should work hard to take care of themselves and their Kin.,

Honesty and Honor includes integrity, wisdom trust and oath-keeping or keeping your word. This virtue could mean standing up to peer pressure, it could mean being open to our beliefs even when the fear of discrimination is great or it could mean being honest and honorable with those closest to us. Doing what is right means adhering to a strict moral or ethical code, being honorable and trustworthy and always keeping your word. The Norse god Tyr gives an excellent example of integrity. In one story, he sacrifices his hand in order to bind the wolf Fenrir for the protection of all the gods, even though he had a bond with Fenrir as his foster father. In this and many other ways, Tyr always does what is right even when it physically hurts him or goes against his family. This virtue also says we should take any oaths we take very seriously and that we should not oath lightly.

Hospitality is the graciousness with which one receives guests. It was one of the most important virtues among our Ancestors. In Norse society, life was very harsh. Turning away a traveler who stopped by your homestead looking for some hospitality often meant death for the traveler.  Besides that, one never knew if that traveler might happen to be Odin, or another of the gods. The gracious reception of these guests could make the difference between a prosperity and poverty. According to Norse lore, one should always give guests a seat by the hearth, food and clothing, a meal, a towel, a warm welcome, and a disposition for good words and silence in return. In today’s world, it might be a bit odd to hand someone clothing and a towel when they arrive, however always offering a guest something to drink, a warm welcome, and making sure they are needs are met are still a good policy. 

Likewise, our definition of this virtue includes being an appreciative guest. Being an appreciative guest involves being polite and gracious, being warm and friendly, and being careful not to ask for too much from your host. It is also good to be helpful whenever possible, especially with helping to clean up and to take care of anything that you have brought our used while at someone’s home.

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Q: What do you believe as far as the afterlife?
A: The divider between the afterlife and the current life is a lot thinner in our faith than in many others. We believe that our ancestors are around watching over us, in the form of the Alfar and the Disir. The Alfar are typically seen as male ancestors or those who are associated with prosperity in business and of the land, and the Disir are typically female ancestors or those who are often asked to help with fertility, growth and protection. A third set of ancestors, the Einherjar, are heroes who dwell in Odin’s hall, practicing battle in prepration for Ragnarok, the final battle between the gods and the Jotuns.

The question of where these ancestors dwell is much more complicated. The lore tells us that the dead can dwell in many different places. They can dwell in the hall of one of the gods; they can dwell in Hela’s realm (primarily a place of quiet reflection, not a place of punishment); they can stay in their burial mounds, where they can keep a closer eye on the world of the living; or they can live in an ancestral hall with all their ancestors. These are just some of the possibilities mentioned in the lore. There is even mention of reincarnation in a few cases. 

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Q: What is expected etiquette of visitors to Eplagaršr events?
A: Because words spoken in ritual, and in particular in sumble, are seen as having a lot of weight to them, it is important to be careful of what you say during rituals.

The following contains exerpts from Andy’s Asatru Rituals and Etiquette article. Anyone planning on attending an Eplagaršr Kindred event is encouraged to read the entire article before coming. However, the following guidelines (and the article in general) should be helpful to someone planning on attending any Asatru event.

God Toasts:
Since this is a ritual that is sacred to the gods of the Germanic tribes, it is usually required to resrict your toast to the gods and spirits of the pantheon being honored unless the person leading the sumble specifically says that it is okay to do otherwise. If you are not able to make a toast to a member of this pantheon, then simply raising the horn and saying nothing, or saying "hail the gods" is acceptable. Passing the horn along without doing anything is also acceptable, although it may be seen as a touch on the rude side.

Oaths:
There are some groups that frown upon having any oaths taken in sumble whatsoever, because breaking a sumble oath is believed to bring a massive amount of dishonor down upon yourself and also upon everyone who witnessed you taking the oath. It is critical, therefore, that you carefully weigh any oath that you may consider taking, and evaluate with brutal realism whether it is an oath that you will be capable of fulfilling.

Many kindreds will appoint a person known as a thyle to make certain that no improper oaths are made during the sumble. If a person is filling that position, then he will likely challenge anyone making an oath and ask them questions to determine whether or not their oath is realistic. It's important not to be offended by their questions, as they are working for the protection of everyone in the circle.

Generally you will want to phrase your oath in such a way that is has a clear condition that will determine whether or not it has been fulfilled. It's best not to take an oath such as "I promise to be a better person" because how will you know when you are finished?

Be particularly cautious about swearing an oath that involves the god Tyr. Although Tyr oaths are believed to be particularly holy, his reaction to broken oaths tends to be quite swift and fearsome, even by the standards of our Gods.

Although your oath should be within you ability to fulfill, it is considered rather pointless to make an oath that you can fulfill with no significant effort. "Weak oaths are made by weak people" is a quote that applies well here.

Boasts
Boasts are less problematic than oaths, but you do need to be careful not to significantly exaggerate the deeds that you are boasting of, as your actual deeds are recorded in the wyrd, and lying about them in sumble is another way to dishonor yourself. Also, inappropriate boasting is an invitation for the gods to test your fortitude, which has a way of turning you into the main character in one of the more depressing types of Saga.

The purpose of boasts is to strengthen the community. Things that should be boasted about would be the fulfillment of an oath, (especially one that was originally sworn in front of the same group) doing something good for the community, or doing something that may be inspirational to others in some way. 

Calling on Chaotic Forces
Calling upon a member of the Jotnar in sumble is almost always not allowed, unless the Jotun is one that is specifically known to have an alliance with the Aesir, such as Aegir. Being that we are gathering to honor the Aesir, making a toast to beings that they are known to be actively at war with is considered deeply inappropriate.

Toasting to Loki in a sumble is more complicated, because some kindreds don't have an issue with it, whereas others consider it grounds for ending the sumble, banning whoever did it from events, and possibly finding some rope and an appropriate tree. In a private sumble, it is best not to call upon Loki unless you have discussed the issue with the sumble host beforehand and been told that it is okay. Calling upon him in a large public sumble is almost always a bad idea. It is best to keep in mind that the purpose of a sumble is to strengthen the bonds of frith among the attendees. Whether you feel that Loki is a being of pure evil or merely mischievous, his actions do almost always run counter to that purpose.

[End of exerpts.]

Outside of rituals, anyone attending an Eplagaršr Kindred event is expected to be respectful of the Kindred, of each other, and of the land. We strive to be good hosts, making sure your needs are met and that you are well taken care of. In return, we ask that all our guests attempt to considerate guests.

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