Sheldon Cooper: Wait! You bought me a present?
Sheldon Cooper: Why would you do such a thing?
Penny: I don’t know. ‘Cause its Christmas?
Sheldon Cooper: Oh, Penny. I know you think you are being generous, but the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation.
Howard Wolowitz: Don’t feel bad, Penny, it’s a classic rookie mistake. My first Hanukah with Sheldon, he yelled at me for eight nights.
Penny: Now, hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to get me anything in return.
Sheldon Cooper: Of course I do. The essence of the custom is that I now have to go out and purchase for you a gift of commensurate value and representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve given me. It’s no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of year.
This is a bit of very funny commedy.
But like all good commedy it gives pause for thought.
This part actually explains why wise Odin warns against over bloting (sacrificing / offering) in the Havamál.
Blot does not mean going without.
That, in a sense, defies logic. In this case the logic would be that nothing you have would be there in the first place without the Gods. Even if it is man made.
It also implies that you would have the Gods do most things FOR you (making them a “wishing machine” or “Santa list” of sorts).
For bigger things it was not uncommon in the pre Christian Europe (and even some contemporary Christians do this) to give something “ex voto”.
In a sense “a deal with God(s).
In short, a gift promised to be given AFTER the fact.
This gives the Gods the option of saying “No deal”.
However, on gift giving, there is a case of faulty “math”.
Seeing one gift of equal worth as cancelling another out disregards a third component, the act of giving itself.
The true value of gift giving and sacrifices lies in the act of giving and recieving and its extended effects, not in the objects given.
Establishing a kinship with the Gods, Spirits, mankind and Ancestors ( =creation, surroundings, humanity and history).
Over giving smacks of agenda, lazyness and egotism rather than generosity.
If someone drowned you in expensive gifts the enjoyment of the gifts would sooner or later be replaced by wondering just what the hell the giver was after anyway? Whats in it for him / her / them?
“There is no such thing as a free lunch”
Photo: Thorsvin http://thorsvin.wordpress.com/
Sa c r i f i c e and Sa c r i f i c i a l Ideology in Old Nor s e
The practice of sacrifice is often treated as ‘the dark side’ of Old Norse
heathenism, by both medieval Christian commentators and modern
scholars alike. However, within Norse religious practice, sacrificial
ritual (blot) was one of the most central acts of religious observance.
This paper will seek to examine aspects of the significance of blot
within Old Norse religion, the ideology of sacrifice as it operated
within this tradition and its relation to other Indo-European traditions,
and the reactions to the issue of sacrifice by medieval contemporaries
and modern scholarship
How does one perform blot solitarily? What are the actions one should take?
A blot can be done in many ways but a simple way is to
1: Ask the Gods to bless the place in wich the sacrifice / offering is done (if outdoors, asking the land vaettir / local spirits for permission and blessing is a good idea too, giving an offering to them too).
2: Ask them to bless the sacrifice / offering itself.
3: ask them to recieve the sacrifice / offering.
In all this, prayers can be inserted. If the blot is liquid (ale, milk, wine or so on) one can sprinkle oneself or other things one wants blessed with some of it (from your own portion).
This was usually done with blood but ale or whatever might be the case works fine.
Normally one takes part of it oneself too (though the Gods get their part first).
The normal thing is to pour liquids at the altar, on the ground or other suitable place (but i often leave a glass on the altar when indoors and take my part from a separate glass. I empty the glass of the God outdoors when practically suitable, though i wont let anything get spoiled).
To pass a horn or glass amongst those present (physical or not) is traditional and ofcourse the Gods are of higher rank and drinks first.
The blot is often communal so participants, whether one or many often partake and eat /drink with the Gods.
The traditional blot was a whole meal where the whole gathering was done to the honour of the God(s) and a sacrifice was part of it (in short, a dinner to wich the Gods where invited as honourary guests) and something like that can be done solitary too.
If you plan to eat spare ribs (for example) and sacrifice to Freyr, you can make clear in your prayer that this meal is too his honour, ask him to attend and bless what you eat and drink and the place where you do it and sacrifice a portion to him.
The Romans and Greeks generally burnt food that was sacrificed to Gods (exept if they where cthonic, in wich case the food was buried) but i have found no sources indicating that the Norse did so (though it wouldnt be wrong).
The easiest way is to think of having a friend who you respect a lot over for dinner or a drink (wich is exactly what you are) and do what comes naturally.
Blot was done with some differences (and still is) throughout the Norse and other Germanic world.
The whole idea with sacrificeses is bonding. Through gift giving we get closer to eachother and form a relationship.
The blot can be formed and shaped to accomodate to your circumstances and needs and it is not wrong to blot at places sacred to a particular might , like at the coast for Njord,a tree for Odin or a field for Freyr (for example) and “tweek” the act acordingly ( for instance pouring some ale into the ocean for Njord).
Neither to blot in a way connected to your needs (pouring some ale at your boat, your car before a travel, your tools and so on).
To me it feels natural to blot to Frigg in the kitchen and ask her to bless my home.
Prayers can be all from what you need, thanksgiving , forgiveness or whatever is important for you to talk about (even nothing at all but an invitation and a gift giving).
Like most pre Christian customs Heathenry is orthoprax and thus putting more emphasis on conduct, honour, tradition and so on than “faith” or personal beliefs.
The idea behind the blot is one of reciprocity.
A bit like if you invite me for dinner (a gift) i might bring a bottle of wine, or invite you to something else later. And we will definatly bond from it.
Thus, the blots will make you bond with the Gods, the Vaettir (nature/ landscape around you) and ancestors (history) since from a Heathen perspective, they are all “part of the tribe / society”.
Many Heathens end it (or insert somewhere) with “Til ars ok frithar”.
“Frith” is a word indicating both peace (as in not conflict), peace of mind, kinship and respect for society and hierarchy (the ones you DO respect that is).
“Ar” means year and means pretty much a balanced and fruitful / fertile year.
Most Heathens pray standing rather than kneeling but practicality comes in there too (i have often prayed squatting for practical reasons).
So the blot is quite flexible and a bit common sense in many ways.
Seasonal blots have themes connected to them too but you can form them too in ways that makes sense to you (they too differed according to place and time so it is traditional with local diversity).
Hope it helped some.
If not (or even if), feel free to ask more.
Til ars ok frithar!