Hail and Horn Gathering – “Threads of Frigg”
Austin Lawrence, June 2013
Hail and Horn is an annual gathering organized by Canadian Heathens to express in fullness our ancient religious custom. The gathering is anchored by three intertwined rituals – blót, húsel and symbel – and a deep reverence for the Gods. This year, in particular we honour The Weaver, The Dreamer, Holy Mother Frigg.
Hail the Gods! The primary ritual will be that of the Raising of the God-Pole. This is the ‘planting’ of a carved pole, an idol, to represent the Goddess being specifically honoured this year at the gathering. The account in the Risala of Ibn Fadlan will inspire the ritual so that we can approach the Æsir in a manner relevant to ancient Heathens, here specifically the Rus. Offerings of food and drink will be made to the Goddess Frigg in a blót ritual which will link directly to the main feast. To our knowledge the holy vé we use is the first permanent and publicly accessible sacred enclosure with idols established for communal Heathen worship in Canada.
The blót feast will consist of those foods offered to the God-Pole to be prepared and shared among the gathered. This preparation will be consistent with the ancient cooking techniques of the Germanic tribes to best reflect the Heathen experience of elder days. This is in accordance with the concept of the blót as a sacred meal shared between humanity and the Gods. The first portion of the meal will be ritually exchanged with the God at their God-Pole. The rest will be shared in community in a state of joviality and abundant frith before the symbel.
We raise the horn! The symbel or sumbel will be a ‘High Symbel,’ meaning that only those Gods known to have been honoured by historical Heathen peoples will be honoured. (Loki may be honoured at symbel, due to the lore set down in Lokasenna). The symbel will be built upon the foundation of Stephen Pollington’s work, the ‘Meadhall’. Hence it will closely echo ancient Anglo-Saxon symbel in our modern world. Some notable features of the symbel will be the absence of a three-round structured ‘American Sumbel’ format. The symbel space will be laid out in the seating pattern of a meadhall … so no circle. Various ceremonial attendants will facilitate the ritual such as the byrele (Cup/Horn Bearer), thyle (Orator and Hall Challenger) as well as the door-thane (Door Keeper).
This is a preliminary program based on the work of volunteers, so some times and arrangements of program elements may change. Once you are at the event there will be a board displaying the program for all to see.
Almighty Johnsons Extravaganza: 5 pm – Midnight
It is always good to arrive early for a gathering. If you are able to arrive early a marathon of episodes of the wonderful Heathenry-themed TV series “The Almighty Johnsons” will be played in the Rookery. Gods and folk, speculative fiction and and hilarity, Kiwis and adult situations … plus it’s from the land of Hobbits!
Carving of the God-Pole: Noon – 5 pm
During the day, as you set up camp, come by and view a skilled Heathen craftsperson, Herne, carving the god-pole to Frigg. This will be the second god-pole in the Vé, setting her beside the All Father. See the idol of Frigg come to life by expert craftsmanship from a log of red pine harvested from the local land.
Welcome Reception / Landwight Offering: 7 pm – 8 pm
In the evening, after dinner, join together shoulder-to-shoulder around the hearth to meet one another and make offerings to the landwights whose land we will be meeting upon over the weekend.
Welcome Fire: 8 pm – 1 am
As people from farther afield arrive into the evening, we will sit in conversation around the fire re-acquainting ourselves with those who we have not seen for a while and making new connections with our friends. This social experience will be opened to all staying at Raven’s Knoll to offer those curious about Hail and Horn a chance to get a taste of the action. (Conversion of camp day passes and Pagans Unplugged passes to HHG are possible at any time.)
Viking and Sheep and Textiles: 11 am – 1 pm
Vikings and sheep and textiles, oh my! Have you ever wondered how a sail for a Viking ship was made? Join us and find out! Juniper Jeni will lead us through a discussion on the role that textiles played in Iron Age society in culture, economics and spirituality. Learn how spinning and weaving, both in practice and in the lore, can be utilized by modern Heathens. If you own a drop spindle and wish to bring it along, please do.
Loom of Frigg: 1 pm – 3 pm
This workshop will be a featured panel of seasoned Heathens sharing knowledge concerning Frigg. As Mother of Gods, she faced difficulty with Baldr’s Dream. She knows more than she lets on about the workings between the worlds than the All Father. She dwells in the marshy halls of Fensalir and spins wheel of wyrd.
Frigg Blót (Raising Frigg’s God-Pole): 3 pm – 5pm
At this holy rite we honour Frigg. We will plant her idol, her god-pole, deep into the ground to rise high into the air and permanently set her place by Odin in the holy enclosure that is the Raven’s Knoll Vé. In a manner inspired by the account of Ibn Fadlan’s travels amongst the Swedish Rus, we will provide many appropriate offerings to the All Mother, the Knower of Fates, that she may know of us and we may know her. We give a gift for a gift, for a gift deserves a gift.
Kubb: 5 pm – 7 pm
Relax the afternoon away with a game of Kubb. Better than lawn darts, horseshoes, bocce ball, and stacking firewood, this ancient Swedish game of heaving chunks of wood is sure to entertain.
Folk Fire: 9 pm – 1 pm
After the blót rite, we will retire to the communal hearth-fire at the Standing Stone to socialize, laughing loudly in the knowledge we still live on this beautiful green earth and speak in hushed tone to one another of the mysteries and trials of our lives. This fire is also opened to all at Raven’s Knoll.
Oracular Rite: 10 pm – 12 am
Follow the haegtessa into the Vé for the esoteric ritual, a blend of modern witchcraft and ancient seiðr magic. Sitting upon a high seat and tethered to the god-pole, Frigg called within her, the oracle, Juniper Jeni, will answer your burning questions. If there is knowledge or wisdom you seek from Frigg, this will be the time to ask. (One question per person, no long winded queries please). Bring an offering for Frigg, a gift for a gift, food and drink that the goddess can taste using Juniper’s body is a good choice (but anything that is of special meaning is fine). The haegtessa has taken an oath to never eat the flesh of any creature that lives in the water, so no sea food please! This is an evening ritual, so be prepared for bugs … though every effort will be made to ward them off with Citronella.
Preparation of the Feast and Gathering: 10 am – 2:30 pm
During the day, those who wish will devote themselves to their community by creating the recipes of the Húsel feast. From the same ingredients offered to Frigg, will be fashioned into an historically authentic menu of seethed meat, stewed grains and wort-strong dishes that will fortify the folks’ connection to our gods and our ancestors. Discussion regarding the archaeology of Heathen food and religion, as well as the symbolic associations of the ingredients, will take place amongst the cooks
Naalbinding: 11 am – 12:30 pm
Before there was crocheting or any of that new-fangled knitting stuff, there was naalbinding. This is how the Old Norse kept their feet warm with socks and their heads warm with yarn caps. Learn how it was done and, maybe, give it a try. If you have yarn or a naalbinding needle, please bring them along.
King’s Table: 1 pm – 2:30 pm
Hnefatafl, or King’s Table, was mentioned in several of the medieval sagas, including Orkneyinga saga, Friðþjófs saga, Hervarar saga, amongst others. This board game is easy to learn for young and old, but with depths nine times deeper than chess. Start your afternoon off like the milkmaids and warriors of days gone by matching wits against one another.
Greeting the Guests: 3 pm – 3:30 pm
Húsel is not just another meal. It is a time to share in feast with the gods themselves. This sacred meal will be opened to all Heathens and Heathen-curious from Raven’s Knoll. As one third of the tripartite ritual structure of Hail and Horn Gathering, it will offer a chance for seasoned Heathens to showcase the wonderful pillar of Heathenry that is feasting. What better way to win over new folk than through their stomachs?
Húsel: 3 pm – 5 pm
Let us share in an honoured feast to All-Weaving Frigg. Let us gorge upon meats and broth, grain and fruit… washing it down with big draughts of specially crafted traditional drink. Cups will be lifted and plates sopped clean with much vigour. As it is said in the Hávamál: “With half a loaf and an empty cup, I found myself a friend”.
Farewell to Guests: 5 pm – 5:30 pm
Our guests that had joined us for Húsel will be hailed fairwell as they depart our company, so that those attending the gathering can prepare for High Symbel.
High Symbel: 5 pm – 8 pm
At this formal, High Symbel ceremony, the banners that flutter behind groups and individuals that have come from far and wide to meet one another in the Hall will sit and hear the sacred words of one another. It is honour and fortune we strive for in our lives, our virtue that brings gifts from gods and ancestors, good thoughts and words that bind us in frith. At symbel we will honour the Æsir, Vanir and their allies, our ancestors, and the good deeds of our folk. Over the mighty horn, filled with the holy ale, it will be through our actions, words and gift-giving through which the images of the mind’s-eye become reality in the weave and weft of wyrd.
Skalds’ Fire: 8 pm – 10 pm
The formal symbel will continue into an evening of skaldic display about the hearth-fire. Oh, word-smiths! Oh, music-weavers! Bring your ear-mead that the folk can revel in the finery of our traditions. Stories and songs of our myths, of the gods, of the folk-lore of your place and people, will be particularly appreciated.
Redemoot and Planning HHG 2014: 11 pm – 12 pm
At this workshop the folk will review how the second annual Hail and Horn Gathering went and discus and arrive at words of counsel for how to improve next year. An important order of business will be selecting which god or goddess is honoured in 2014.
Farewell Blessing: 12 pm – 1 pm
At the end of the morning, a formal farewell blessing will be offered to everyone who attended.
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We have volunteers to lead kubb and hnefatafl, but other possibilities for games include axe throwing and archery and caber tossing, depending on who shows up and is interested. … and you never know what other workshops expand from discussions or ideas result in impromptu rituals.