Our ancestors knew the value of meeting people face to face. Across the ancient world, people met in large gatherings, to trade or to talk, or to seal marriage agreements. They understood that you don’t know a person by their reputation alone. You have to talk to them, face to face. In our day, the day of Facebook and instant messaging it’s all too easy to forget these lessons. The irony is that travel in our time is much easier, and a journey that could weeks now takes only a few hours.
When the invitation to attend Superior Heathen Gathering in the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula arrived, it was eagerly accepted. A trip like this isn’t always the easiest undertaking. Time has to be taken from work, meals planned , and gas isn’t cheap. Still the rewards, however intangible, are well worth the effort.
So who went? It was Chris and Val, Gunnar and little Otto, Sarah, Brody and Eric along with Kari Tauring. That sound like a lot of people to cram into one vehicle, but we had more than enough space. Given the conveniences of modern travel, the trip was as easy as could be expected.
We arrived at the site early in the afternoon. The sky was clear and light blue, with only a few powder- puff clouds, and even though Sunna was in her full glory, the temperature was mild. It didn’t take long to get tents and cooking spaces set up and ready for the weekend.
So when all this was completed the time came to pile into the van once more and make our way to the farm of one of the members of Winterhof Kindred. It was a short trip, and conversation turned to esoteric matters. I sometimes wonder if this is how our ancient Heathen ancestors discussed these things, or were their conversations more mundane? Did they discuss the nature of the Gods amongst themselves, or did they simply discuss rumors or marriages or the weather. Probably a little of each, people don’t really ever change.
We arrived at the farm and things began to move quickly. There was a reserved silence by now. Not the fake enforced kind of silence that you would see in a church or library, but a silence of expectation. For must of us, this would be our first live Blot.
They were two lambs, a ewe and a ram, farm born and hand raised. They were both smaller than I had expected, but that has more to do with the imagination of a city boy. Too many movies I think.
At any rate, we were called to stand in a circle, around a table that would serve as an alter. Our host said a few words about these sacred animals, and about the purpose they would serve. They were to be not only an offering to the Gods, but also our messengers. We were asked to place our hands on the sheep, to give them our thanks or ask any favors we wished from the Gods. After this the sheep were named, Gebo-ram, and Gebo-ewe, respectively. Gebo, is the rune that signifies gifting.
Each lamb was placed on the alter and dispatched with skill. The point is to cause as little pain for the animals as possible. Causing unnecessary pain would be both cruel, and cause the Gods to reject the gift. However that was not the case, and the end came quickly. The blood was collected in the blessing bowl and we eavh received a dab on our foreheads, as sign of blessing.
It was time to head back to the campsite for evening meal, and Symbel. The cool evening air had a slight breeze, making it quite comfortable. Yet the fire also lent it’s warmth, helping establish the mood as the horn was passed. As the evening wore on more and more people bid their goodnights and made the trek to their tents in the woods.
The gorgeous weather continued on into the next day. Breakfast was cooked, and most of talked. In many ways this is the point of these gatherings, Just folk talking, shooting the breeze, and getting to know one another. It wasn’t what you would call heavy philosophical conversation, but the easy going, chit-chat that allows you to get to know someone.
In the early afternoon there was a small spae session conducted by Rod of Jotun’s Bane Kindred and Volva Stav conducted by Kari. There was also a Blot in honor of the Vanir, where the horn was passed and raised in honor of each of the Vanir Gods in turn.
The evening feast featured the two lambs, as well as potluck. It was delicious. Each kindred contributed something, and everyone ate their fill. Feast was of course followed by another folk Symble. This became a last man standing marathon lasting until 3:30 in the morning. IT only ended because the rain came.
Sunday came and it was time to go home. Usually this would be a somewhat sad time, but it was tempered with the knowledge that we would all see each other again at Midwest thing. The journey home was just as smooth as the trip up. It was late in the evening when we arrived back in Minneapolis. All good thing s come to an end as they say, but when they do there’s always something new to begin. So now work on Midwest thing begins in earnest.