So once again Freeholders all ganged to the Althing, as has been done for the last couple of decades, where we gathered from all corners of British Columbia, from the Island to the Interior, with members come from Washington and guests from as far as Oregon to join with us in the magic of moot.
It is magic. You really have to come back and let the filters and walls you surround yourself with at all times slam back down into place before you realize just how potent, how magical is a frithful moot.
On the first day, we have friends gathered from a half a dozen local hearths and kindreds, both within the British Columbia Heathen Freehold and allied to it. There is the expected politeness you get when groups that know each other as individuals across a web of connections and through online interaction or through the recommendation of mutual friends work to establish a brand new personal rapport.
That doesn’t take long. The Heathen Freehold has been around a long time, and our thew is somewhat of a freight train, steam-rollering all attempts at rigid formality and internal subdivisions with the power of its tradition of welcome. Spiritually it is the equivalent of that friend whose grandmother greets you at the door, whisks you inside babbling a mile a minute, relieves you of coat, pushes snack and drink into your hand, wonders if you are eating enough, peppers you with the ingredients list of what she just stuck in your hand and confirms what she got of your dietary restrictions to make sure nothing was lost in translation. As a welcome, many feel the urge to roll an immediate saving throw, but the difference between making and failing the saving throw (in gaming terms attempting to resist getting steam-rollered by the welcome) is just going with it, or laughing, shrugging, and just going with it.
Everyone brought too much food and booze, because each person is trying to give in proportion to what they receive, and each thinks they are getting back more than they are giving.
3. Fire he needs | who with frozen knees
Has come from the cold without;
Food and clothes | must the farer have,
The man from the mountains come.
4. Water and towels | and welcoming speech
Should he find who comes, to the feast;
If renown he would get, | and again be greeted,
Wisely and well must he act.
5. Wits must he have | who wanders wide,
But all is easy at home;
At the witless man | the wise shall wink
When among such men he sits.
This is why we have come, as it says in the Havamal, we have come to feast together, to mingle our thoughts, to make connections, share speech and wisdom, to learn of each other, and most importantly, to work.
We gather in large groups around the fire, or in the hall to share wisdom and lore, to discuss matters of lore, of ethics, of ritual meaning and practice. We gather in small groups to discuss matters of life, family, struggles and trials.
The Freyr announced at opening hallowing that Althing is one continuous ritual, that we begin it with the opening ritual, continue through the blot and feast, but continue the ritual right up until the last cigarette butt is policed up, the last recyclable is recycled, and the site is left far cleaner than when we found it. Then he closed the ritual, and extended the protection of the moot until our own hearths we reach; everything else that happens in the middle is sacred, is empowered with the intent of an offering to the community, to each other, the wights of the lands and waters that host us, our dead, and the holy gods.
We shared deeply. I mean this in all levels. One of our more esteemed members is a service man who comes to us a long way, with only the gear he can fit in his issue kitbag. His service is an offering already, which everyone but him already sees and acknowledges, yet he too is always striving to match visibly the contributions of those who brought their own transport and carrying capacity. His monster solar charger was always attached to at least two phones, recharging those of us who were looking at our camera/research tool with fear and alarm as its power levels dropped. He was first with his wallet and back when it was time to make a run for wood and propane for the fires of hearth and hall.
Books, tools, pots, pans, cloaks, blankets went all directions as each person who encountered a need had whoever was nearest without a thought offered what they had that would address that need. Not just old friends, not just members of the same hearth within the Freehold, not just even members of the Freehold. The sharing went with the sort of freely offered freely taken spirit that Odin and Freya would both have no problem recognizing as their own.
There was no division between those who had a “right” to be here and those who were “just guests”. All stood equal in fellowship, all stood to be judged on their words and their deeds, to be met with laughter and jest, with solemn respect and full attention, whose words were not only sought, but welcomed and weighed carefully. We care little for the labels of others and the ideas that others have over proper decorum; one strong lass casually tosses a sailor man over her shoulder and goes for a stroll because she had made the brag, and in this company their can be only one response. Wild applause followed, and full points for the sailor in question who kept his laughter from unseating him from the shoulder he was on, and who has a plausible defense for where his hand was to steady himself.
At night it was different. At night, when the firelight dimmed as the fire turned to sullen coals that gave heat, but only enough light to deepen the shadows, small groups formed to share the darkest parts. The old wounds, the new wounds, the deep wounds. The secrets you dare not speak in daylight, that you dare not admit to your own mirror for fear you will see your own reaction. We shared when the light was deep enough that we could no longer see ourselves, but we knew the forms silhouetted in the sullen ember light, knew and trusted them enough to bare not our bodies, which is honestly nothing, but our fears, our wounds, our struggles.
At this time, we drank less or not at all, for the work of the mead was to help us to reach this place of honesty, of trust, and now what fires the blood and mind is the depth of trust, the depth of pain, and honestly the depth of rage as you hear of the struggles and wounds of those you now both know and treasure as your dearest family.
When the dawn returns, and we strive to keep bacon so hot from the pan it still sizzles from burning our fingers while we chew it, while we move to the blessed group effort of caffination station that a half dozen guests field expedited to address a lack of central coffee supply, we caught each others eye. How big a thing is it, to have shared the thing you dare not even think about in daylight, lest your own coping ability be threatened; to have shared that, and have the first time you see those who shared it with you in the darkness meet your eye, give a sharp FIERCE nod. They listened, they heard, they took it in. Far from judging you, they share your burden with you, will take from you a part of what you carried, as you took a part of what they carried so the weight thus shared will no longer twist and crush you where your own strength was not enough.
The bunnies that were raised from birth to be our central feast provided the blot blood to hallow those who gathered, to mark our own before the gods and the land. Altar skin for our newest kindred is now drying from its skinning, as previous feasts had furnished altar skins for other hearths of the Freehold. The offal of the bunnies was given far from our camp site to the wights of the land, and of the sky. Wolf and raven, coyote, and from the sounds of it, bear have ample cause to be thankful for our guesting within the forest that is their own, all while our own food was kept safely stored where it would not draw those same animals into our moot, and into strife. Hospitality is about the details, making sure your guests are safe, your hosts are safe, that no unintended harm is given. Effort is required to learn the physical needs, dietary needs, medical needs and see these are addressed. Some members may be neuro-diverse, requiring those with the skills for such communication to facilitate their communication with others that they may be a part of the community, that they contribute to the community because to see your WORK valued and praised is to know you are not accepted conditionally in spite of what you bring, but welcomed honestly because of what you bring.
I don’t sleep. I have a laundry list of symptoms from nearly getting killed a time or three that makes it impossible for me to do more than rest, properly supported, and pass out once every three days or so to get some exhaustion driven sleep. At Althing I slept, not a lot, but every night. I slept because my body was lost in the magic of the moot, its limits were no longer my limits. I had none of the supports required to sleep, I should have awakened crippled, not cheerful and bacon hunting, yet the magic of moot works on all levels, physical, spiritual, mental.
Then we return. I learned enough to schedule a collapse after unloading and before work. The magic of moot was still with me and I slept again for a few hours. The whole of this last week I have been recovering. The magic of moot may fill you, may transform and uplift you, but you have only the ass you were issued, and it didn’t magically grow younger while you were dancing around.
I am changed. We all are changed. What we took in will take months to finish processing. The touch of the gods was immediate, viscerally palpable, undeniable. That which we shared will be unfolding within each of us for months afterwards, so spending a week letting my body recover from its spiritual journey seems fair.
My shields are up again, the walls between my awareness and others are back in place, but the connection to those I shared moot with passes through those walls without effort or notice. We protect ourselves from the world, not from our own.
Frigg, the Norns, the Disir are all depicted as weaving. Hospitality is our greatest ritual, our highest mystery because it is that sacred form of weaving, weaving individuals into a people, into a family. Weaving through those connections between us not only a folk that is whole, but individuals that grow into whole and healthy balance by learning to share with each others to grow strong in our broken places, to let the words of another fill the blanks in ourselves. We do not come together to form community because we cannot function as individuals; we are all almost scarily functional in our daily and professional lives. We come together to form community because together we make something that is far beyond any of our strength, compassion, wisdom, and joy; but whose touch leaves each of us stronger, more compassionate, wiser and happier than we were alone.
The Althing is over, to our own hearths we have returned, but we are not who we were when we came together, we are the better for it.