The fall equinox is celebrated in many different ways by practitioners of Ásatrú and Heathenry. Those who practice modern forms of polytheistic religions rooted in Northern Europe have revived, reconstructed, and reimagined a variety of practices and rituals to mark the turning of the year from summer to autumn. Haustblót (autumn sacrifice) is mentioned by name in the saga of the Icelandic warrior-poet Egill Skallagrímsson. The Ynglinga Saga of Snorri Sturluson tells of laws established by the god Odin, including the timing of the main annual sacrifices:
Þá skyldi blóta í móti vetri til árs, en at miðjum vetri blóta til gróðrar, hit þriðja at sumri, þat var sigrblót. There should be sacrifice toward winter for a good year, and in the middle of winter sacrifice for a good crop, a third in summer, that was victory sacrifice.
The interaction of religion and politics in Ásatrú and Heathenry has long been a contentious one, as we have recently been reminded during the many heated reactions to a divisive public statement by the new Alsherjargothi of the Asatru Folk Assembly. Heathens are not usually shy about sharing their views. There have been some very intense online discussions of current politics by Heathens in the United States. Since worldview is so often stressed as greatly important to Heathen practice, I asked several practitioners the following question:
How does your Heathen worldview affect your view of the presidential election as it now stands? The goal in asking was to present a diversity of opinion from as many Heathens around the nation as possible.
On Saturday, Nov 14, La Ligue Wiccane Ecletique, based in Paris, held a vigil and ritual for its city, country and for the many victims of Friday’s terrorist attack. The ritual was organized through the Facebook event service and was to be held within the homes of each of the participants, or “chez vous.” At exactly 9 p.m. participants were told to follow the prescribed ritual outline and recite a specially written prayer for peace. The results and other words of prayer are now posted on the site. The Wild Hunt is currently in touch with Ligue organizers in Paris and also has reached out to others affected by the recent worldwide terrorist attacks.
KULPMONT, Penn — An on-again, off-again inmate in Pennsylvania’s correctional system has filed a federal lawsuit alleging his religious beliefs were violated when he was required to shave his beard. Randy Elliot, Jr., said in court papers that the incident occurred June 13 of this year, a month and a half before he was released. He was given a choice between shaving his beard, which, according to the filed papers, is “against the Viking way” or being placed on restrictive housing status. Elliot, who is seeking an injunction against such actions and monetary damages, has since been returned to prison due to parole violations. Beards as a religious issue are nothing new in the United States, in or out of the prison system.
“Now that’s what I call magic—seein’ all that, dealin’ with all that, and still goin’ on. It’s sittin’ up all night with some poor old man who’s leavin’ the world, taking away such pain as you can, comfortin’ their terror, seein’ ‘em safely on their way…and then cleanin’ ‘em up, layin’ ‘em out, making ‘em neat for the funeral, and helpin’ the weeping widow strip the bed and wash the sheets—which is, let me tell you, no errand for the fainthearted—and stayin’ up the next night to watch over the coffin before the funeral, and then going home and sitting down for five minutes before some shouting angry man comes bangin’ on your door ‘cuz his wife’s havin’ difficulty givin’ birth to their first child and the midwife’s at her wits’ end and then getting up and fetching your bag and going out again…We all do that, in our own way, and she does it better’n me, if I was to put my hand on my heart. That is the root and heart and soul and center of witchcraft, that is. The soul and center!” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32)
Modern culture has done its best to separate humans from the cycles of life. Once inside our homes we can’t tell if it is January or July, night or day.