What Are Your Rituals Like?

The first great ritual of Ásatrú is known as Blót (blessing). Historically heathen rituals were bloody affairs. Oftentimes an animal was sacrificed to the Gods or to a specific God in order to win favor for a good crop or perhaps victory in battle. At times other times, food was used as an offering; this would have been an offering of crops or even ale or mead. It is said that there were also human sacrifices; most prominently offered to Odin and that such offerings may have occurred at the temple at Uppsala in Sweden. Today, typically an offering of mead or food is made.

The second great ritual of Asatru is Sumbel, a Germanic term for “feast” or “banquet.” It is called sumbl in Old Norse and symbel in Old English. Some have called it “ritualized drinking,” but it is in fact much more than that. Performed properly, Sumbel is a powerful and magical ritual filled with transformative impact.

When we sit down to Sumbel, we reenact a spiritual ritual that our ancestors performed. Our words, spoken over the horn, reanimate those self-same ancestors and Gods. The past and the present merge in the swirling depths of the mead horn as it is passed and all are transformed by the combined might and main. When we participate in Sumbel, we celebrate with our friends in the hall, but also with our ancestors and our Gods whose deeds have been recorded deep in Urd’s well.

What Sort of Rituals does Ásatrú have?

There are two main rituals in Ásatrú; blót (pronounced bloat) and sumbel (pronounced soom-bull).

Blót is an offering to the Gods (or ancestors, or spirits). It can be anything, from an animal sacrifice (rarely practiced in modern times), something more symbolic (like a straw animal, or one made out of dough), items of value (like coins), things that took skill to create (artwork, weapons, tools, etc.), and the like. The thing being offered is destroyed or damaged, in order to make sure that it cannot be recovered and thereby taken away from the Gods. The central idea of the blót is that an offering is made either in thanks for something that happened, or in the expectation that something will happen.

Sumbel is ritual drinking. Toasts are made to either boast about what one has done, make an oath about something that will be done, or to honor a particular God or Goddess. In a very real sense words spoken over the sanctified drink during a sumbel have an impact on the real world. An oath made at sumbel must be followed through at all costs, or ill luck will result. Sumbel can also be used as an occasion to give gifts between individuals, helping to cement the communal bonds between the members of the group.

Sumbel during Sumarmal 2017