Mimir’s Brunnr note.
Gary, from Folkish Odinism Dorset has kindly allowed us to republish an article where he shares some of his thoughts on the ancient practice of Votive offering.
You can find more of Gary’s work over at the Folkish Odinist Dorset’s Blog page here
At the start of every blot to the Gods Odinist’s make the ground sacred before invoking the Gods. This has always given me pause for thought as I feel all of our homeland should be sacred for the Gods and our ancestors. Our connections through blood and soil run deep, especially in our home counties where most of our family likely live. Indeed, when academics have studied DNA from modern folk and analysed their findings against the DNA found in ancient skeletons they have often found that people living today have a familial connection to someone who lived thousands of years ago in the same area. Think about that? Mother to daughter, father to son – passing their genes and fighting to survive for thousands of years. These connections through blood and soil make us so much more than we are. How can one not be in awe of our ancestor’s efforts that concluded in us?
When designing a ceremony to make the ground sacred across my whole county I was inspired by Odinist friends in Somerset who practice the old English folklore tradition of wassailing the apple trees each year along with their blots to the Gods. Immediately, I was reminded of an old English folklore tradition called ‘Beating the Bounds’. Some of us may have heard of this tradition as practised by Christians. The parish vicar would take a procession of children and adults around the border of the parish. At various points along the parish border, the vicar would stop and say a few prayers followed by everyone beating the ground with long thin sticks. At the end of the walk, the children would eat cake and the adults would drink wine. It is a fun day enjoyed by all. Recently, as we enter the information age vicars have realised how ancient this tradition is and have learned of its pagan roots. For this reason, most churches have sadly abandoned the practice.
There are accounts of beating the bounds being practised as far back as the 7th century in England. Over the centuries, knowing the borders of your parish was particularly important to our ancestors. If you hunted in the land over the wrong river or on an estate within your parish that was known to all you might get an arrow in your rear for poaching or even be given an appointment with the hangman’s noose. In more recent times you could be arrested for poaching, trespassing or even get a shot of rock salt from the gamekeeper’s shotgun!
This tradition, however, goes back much further in time. There are ancient accounts of pre-Christian Romans, Greeks, Celts and Germanic folk practising similar traditions. When the Romans invaded Britannia 2000 years ago they wrote of their surprise that the local Celts practised beating the bounds as it was similar to an old tradition that they had given up some time ago. The Romans used to raise a standing stone at pivotal points along their borders. They would say prayers to the God Terminus and beat the ground with clubs. Fast forward to the Viking age and we find an interesting account regarding the Great Heathen Army’s occupation of the city of York. A monk wrote to a bishop near London telling him of the pagans corrupting groups of children, leading them around the city. They would carve ‘demon’ signs into rocks and trees and hit the ground with long sticks. Looking at this with a historian’s eye we can surmise that ‘demon signs’ were Runes, probably for protection.
Some folk reading this might find an interest in borders to be old fashioned or even in opposition to modern politics. Politicians, pressure groups, celebrities and many others like to tell us that borders are just a man made social construct. It is fair to say that they would like us to tear down those borders…… As Odinists we tend to look to objective observations of nature to define the natural order. We use this ‘natural order to advise us as to how we might live our lives. Indeed, most of our blots to the Gods are designed to help us connect with the natural order and walk a path that the Gods would want us to walk.
With this in mind let us ask if borders are indeed a social construct or if they are based in nature. A great example of a natural border is the mountain ranges between Europe and Asia which are very difficult to cross. Ask yourself, would European or Asian people even exist now as separate beings if those mountains weren’t there? Let’s look at the UK. We are surrounded by water, another great example of a natural border. As a result we have been masters of our own destiny for a thousand years under the same rule. Go across the channel and the countries there have changed their borders countless times, often with a great loss of life. Let’s take it down to a different level. To all of you who have planted gardens, you will have seen that weeds and other plants can start growing where you have planted something, resulting in your plant dying. Yet, if you protect that area, with raised borders and some weed killing your plant will succeed. Tell a beetle that wonders into a bees nest and perishes at their hands that borders are a social construct….. There are so many more examples but I think most reasonable people can accept that borders are a core component of life and survival.
What we must all realise is that if we accept that the Gods and our ancestors are part of our sacred traditions and spirituality, then so must the land be included in this.
With all this in mind, our task is to meld the beating of the bounds traditions with our Odinist faith. Tonight on the eastern border of Dorset (my home county in England) we have made a votive offering to the God Thor and the Goddess Jord. Thor has always been a protector of Midgard and mankind, involving himself in the affairs of humans more so than perhaps any other God. We will always give thanks to him for this. Jord is the Goddess associated with the concept of mother earth and Thor’s mother. There is an ancient prayer that we will adapt. The Kvinneby amulet was dug up in Sweden and is dated to the 10th or 11th century. It is an amulet with 143 runic inscriptions that translate as a solemn prayer to the Earth Goddess, referred to as ‘Undirgoð’ (the god beneath) and her ‘single son’ Thor. Here is my adapted version which you can easily change to your own home town or county
I here to Jord, the undergod of the world,
for our land, Dorset, so it may be safe and prosper.
Jord, I am known to thee!
And may the lightning raiser help evil from Dorset.
May Thór protect Dorset with the hammer that smashes Ámr.
Go the sea, Ámr! Flee,
foul ill-wight! Get nothing from Dorset.
Gods are under Dorset and over Dorset.
The Votive offering itself will be a Thors Hammer that I have made. I also collected a pinprick sample of blood from 3 old Dorset families. I burned the blood along with the metal as I melted it and poured it into the hammer mould. Before burying the hammer we will make the ground sacred for the Gods with the following;-
Sprinkle earth from a sacred place that has been consecrated before (E.g. my own garden) and say the following:
Hail Aesir, Hail Vanir, Hail Holy Norns. Hail Life and Creation.
Hail to the Ancestors and the Kin Fetch.
I consecrate this ground to you – May you imbue it with your power.
Grant me your blessings and your aid.
I hail you.
Hail Faith, Folk and Family.
Over the coming months, I will make 9 Thor’s Hammers, some from metal and some from wood. There is a tree stump in my local woods that was cut in half by lightning. Wood from this tree will make an excellent hammer. I will stain these hammers one way or another with my blood or the blood of our hearth members and place them as votive offerings at 9 key points along Dorset’s borders including 3 rivers.
These practices that I have described are sacred on their own but we will also visit these sacred places each year with as many good folk as we can find where we will repeat the prayer to Jord and Thor, beat the ground with our sticks, carve protection runes into old tree stumps and rocks and make much merriment eating cake and drinking mead!
I give my oath that this tradition will carry on as long as I am alive and that we will endeavour to find others to make these sacred practices part of their lives too so that it might go on forever as long as our kith and kin live with frith in this land.
Hail the folk
Hail the Gods
Faith, Folk & family.
Original text can be found here