So as I've mentioned previously, I recently started participating in the ADF through the local Grove here in Phoenix. I've just started their “Dedicant Program”, and I'm (give or take) about a third of the way through it. One of the major requirements of this program is a thorough understanding of, attendance to, and written analysis of the eight cardinal holy days of the wheel of the year. Of these eight occasions, four of the holiday observances must be held in the ADF ritual format. I've read the entire manual, and while their chosen format isn't my usual practice, I think it's a perfectly reasonable arrangement of events. Thus, when I found out that there was an open Autumnal Equinox celebration I jumped at my chance to get one of my ritual observances in, and to meet some new people!
(Cue dramatic foreshadowing music)
My first hint that something might be off was when I looked up the event details and saw that this years celebration of Mabon would be held in a traditional Norse Freyfaxi...
You have no idea how much fun I had creating this image
For those of you that are curious (or have no idea what the heck a Freyfaxi is), the holiday is held on August 1st and is essentially the Asatru equivalent to the more common “Lammas”. So a ritual hosted by a group which requires documented proof that you know your stuff about the Wheel of the Year (which I was attending in order to prove just that) was honoring the wrong holiday, nearly two months late.
Now this is a group which I've heard GREAT things about, which includes a number of my friends, and which generally promotes scholarship and research. So I did some digging, and discovered that there ARE groups of heathens which celebrate Freyfaxi on the equinox (as opposed to Winter Finding, which is more common). Thus informed, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and go anyway.
The gathering was held at the Irish Cultural Center (Which looks like Hogwarts, and is AWESOME) and about fifty people came to celebrate. The ritual began with a mood setting chant as we walked around the courtyard and gathered around the altar. The druids at the ADF don't cast a circle or otherwise denote the ritual area, instead they either give an offering to those forces they would placate, or call upon a protector/hero to watch over the ritual. So when they called upon The Thunderer to keep any ill forces at bay, it seemed perfectly reasonable. When you're envisioning the out-dwellers as the forces of Jötunheim, you could do a lot worse than Atli, Jötuns bane. They then proceeded to call the Aesir, and the Vanir, and honor Freyr in particular. It all seems pretty kosher so far.
Then, without even a blink, they invited Brigid to come and be honored for the occasion.
My mind boggled. I was completely at a loss for words (NOT a common occurrence, I assure you). First off, those are NOT two pantheons that had a friendly relationship. The Vikings raided Ireland for hundreds of years, and the two were regularly tied up in land wars. Needless to say, these two cultures were not exactly cordial. As if that wasn't enough to question the wisdom of bringing these forces together, you have invited two notoriously hot headed gods, both competing for the same role as god/ess of the forge.
Fundamental law of nature: any two organisms in the same ecosystem, which fill the same ecological niche, will end up in competition. Put a lion and a tiger in the same cage with a lump of meat and they will (most likely) kill each other.
Well... as below, so above.
The ritual continued, with offerings to the landvaetter, the ancestors, and the gods. As the procession wound down, in standard ADF fashion, an Omen was cast. Essentially, after everybody has made their offerings to the powers that be, the idea is to do a divination to see what gifts the powers offer in return. To that end, one rune is drawn for each “Kindred” (Gods-Ancestors-Landvaetter, in that order). The woman who had been leading the chanting and meditation that evening drew up a set of runes and drew for the Aesir.
A questionable enough “blessing” as it is, it's also known as Thor's rune.
Then the chanter drew again, this time for the Ancestors.
Again. Ok. I think we're getting the message here.
Then finally she drew for the Landvaetter.
The god rune, the Aesir, Odin's court.
Let me sum that up... We ask what we should expect in return for our ritual. The gods say “Expect Thor...”, the ancestors say “Yeah... You should REALLY expect Thor....”, and the spirits of the land say “You should listen to them.”
After the ritual, during the feast, I got a chance to speak with a few friends about the omen. One pointed out: “That isn't the only definition for Thurisaz. It could mean challenges ahead, or giants!”
So to recap, our alternate explanation was the rune representing the ritual protector, indicating that there would be troubles ahead (and maybe giants). Our alternate explanation is sounding strikingly similar to the first one... In the end I did the only thing I could. I had brought a flask of my favorite liquor (Ouzo, left over from my wedding night), which I had intended to share as an offering to the Aesir and enjoy the rest. After the feast I walked out to the fire where the offerings were made, and emptied the flask. All of it.
It's not uncommon for individual pagans at a ritual to encounter some particular detail which they don't agree with, or feel the need to correct later after the celebration has concluded. Sometimes we just silently correct the issue in our head, other times we pour some extra booze in the fire, and occasionally we write a blog about it! All issues aside, the feast was great and getting to hang out with friends (new and old) was a blast; however I'm a bit wary of going to another Norse ritual. They have an event coming up which is in conjunction with another local group “Hammerhearth”, which might be a bit less problematic. While I've decided not to let this deter me from completing the Dedicant program, I'll admit that it does make me appreciate my usually solitary practice.
P.S.- Thor, I'm really, really, REALLY sorry.
Please don't smite me