For those of you who are hard reconstructionists, understand that I know the Alfar Blot was held toward the end of the harvest season, and was a family centred, woman led ritual that was secretive enough to be almost totally lost to history. It was not Samhain as the Celts understood it.
Having established that I know the murky history of the Alfar blot I am a man, thus not pretending to be party to, nor leading women’s mysteries, I celebrate the Alfar blot in a way that is in keeping with my personal thew of adapting the secular holiday observances that we share as a society, and bringing back to them the sacral elements that have been lost. I strive to put the reason back into the season, and teach my children that they can celebrate the holidays with their friends, while adding a sacral awareness and spiritual learning from the different levels hidden in the pagan bones on which the modern consumer muscles and thin Christian skin are stretched. We all celebrate the same, it is just that Heathens remember why.
One of the things that is forgotten by most of the Icelandic Saga reading heathens is that Odin and Frigg (or Frau Holle as some places known) were also gods of the harvest. Odin began in many ways as a god of death, and of the harvest. Holle’s symbols of the twin sickles represent the harvest, but also death in its proper time. The god and goddess are tied to the harvest (as appropriate to Alfar blot), are depicted as leading the wild hunt (there is nothing more appropriate to Halloween than the Wild Hunt), and in Odin’s case, remembered as lord of the dead, necromancer, and winner of secrets from the dead and the underworld.
At the harvest, the last bushel would be left for Frau Holle, or Frigg as a gift in return for the bounty of the harvest. For this reason, the last of the seeds (uncooked) from the gutting of the pumpkins were placed at the offering stone in our front garden. Alfar blot begins the week before Halloween with the offering of the last of the harvest to Frigg or Holle. The pumpkin that was mine was doomed from beginning. As this was to be a sacred offering at Alfar Blot, the knife used was my blot-knife. Large and heavy, the knife has drawn blood many times, from sacrifice and struggle, has known holy oaths, and even bound broken limbs. It has power of its own, and sometimes knows its purpose before I do. Without really any thought, my pumpkin was carved in Odin’s likeness, with the rune Ansuz in place of his sacrificed eye. The rune of inspiration burned with the light of the fire of knowledge in token of the eye Odin gave for knowledge held in the underworld. It seemed a fitting sight to greet the dokkalfar on the first night of their return to the world; and a fitting token of sacrifice for Alfar blot.
The night knew much good looting and company, spirits were high, and the gods gave us a night twice as warm as any in the week before, under hours of grey dry windless sky between the preceeding and following downpours. The gods shaped a night for children and alfar, for the wild untamed things that stalk the borders of reality to dance and play, and pass unknown among each other in shared greed and good clean wild passion. At the end, my daughter asked for a prayer that her job would be un-cancelled, for she needed the money. In turn I promised One Eye a fitting tribute from my hand should he see fit to grant her the chance to win her gold. So, the Victory Father saw fit to un-cancel her job, and thus my debt is incurred.
I had a pumpkin carved to the Battle-Glad, the Feeder of Raven’s, the God of Spears, from which I must make both a sacrifice to the Wise Counsellor, and to the wights. Well clearly we can’t feed the wights an intact pumpkin; unless I’m holding out for trolls. And the god of battle wouldn’t be well pleased with an offering that was not of his arts, of his service. Well, if the army taught me one thing, it was that Halloween and pumpkins means RANGE-EX! Yes, nothing is better for feeding the birds than live rounds and dying pumpkins. While traditionally the sacrifice was done with 7.62mmx51, 5.56x.45mm or 12 gauge (slug for a choice), in civilian practice, I have somewhat more liberty to perform more traditional feats of skill at arms.
The answer, of course to take my bow and spear, and make my offering to the Battle Glad. I have had a really stressful week, so with arms in hand I drew full, and called upon the Feeder of Ravens. Four arrows did I have, and I began
Lord of the Hunt, storm rider, master of madness, accept our offering this Alfarblot-draw
Loose….. through the mouth
All wise, Wise Counsellor accept our offering and guide us this season-draw
Loose…..between the eyes
Feeder of Ravens, Battle Glad accept our offering and favour our arms-draw
Loose…..in the living eye
High One, Victory Father a gift of praise, of joy at arms! Draw
Loose….Anzuz pierced, the Eye That Is Not
Fetch the Freyr’s Spear, the King-Spear of the Freehold. In the way of our ancestor, give voice to his name, and hurl the spear.
Strike! Again Ansuz is pierced, granted the thing now looks like Thor put a hammer through the eye, and the spear is about a foot deep in the berm beyond the pumpkin-skull, but as an Omen of the favour of the God of Spears, it is a strong one.
The rich flesh from inside the pumpkin, broken free by spear and arrow is pulled free by finger and left beneath the trees of the range: To the Alfar, to the great spirits of this place, the small wights of the land, the ancestors sleeping beneath the earth, accept this offering from my hand, and in the name of my family.
To the offering statue at my door, and the trees that ward it I bring a portion. To the wights of my home, of the land that sustains us, to the bright Alfar that ward us, the dark Alfar that respect our boundaries and trouble us not, accept these gifts of our hand, and from our hearth.
It is time to clean my weapons, to remember the ancestors who taught me knife, and bow, axe and spear, rifle, pistol, hand and sword. To the men who taught me honour, and thus to be Heathen. To my ancestors I offer praise and pour offerings at the hearth, speaking the names of my honoured dead, remembering their lessons and stories. Next I go to the kitchen to clean, and remember the Disir who taught me family and place, love and duty, loyalty and respect, and thus how to live Heathen.
Alfar blot is done. The sun sets, blood still stains my fingers from the string, stinging from the cleaning work that followed. It is a quiet thing, a private thing, a rite that has no meaning for most, but much for me. Born of the thew of my family, of my own practice, it is a family rite rather than a custom of the Freehold. It is perhaps not the way my ancestors would have celebrated, but I don’t think they would fail to understand what I have done, what I have tried to offer, what I have felt. Without their guidance, and in times strange to their eyes and ways, I have done as I can to keep the relationship between my family and the wights, the alfar, the ancestors, the living kindred, our community, and our gods. I am not a man apart from my community because of my faith, we are not a family apart from our community because of our practice. We are modern Heathens, Canadian Heathens, a new thing upon this earth, as our ancestors were ever a new and growing thing upon the lands they discovered and made their own.
John T Mainer.