Offerings for Blot and Sacrifices in Heathenry
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Prayer and praise, whether uttered standing or bowed down, were only part of Heathen worship.
The gods and goddesses, landwights, and honored dead have always received physical offerings of various sorts. These ranged from simple pots of food left in bogs or graves, to golden vessels and great hoards of amber, to the spectacular sacrifices of an entire defeated army along with all its animals and gear, a practice confirmed by archeological discoveries at sites such as Hjortspring, Nydam, and Illerup (see Our Troth vol. 1, chapter 4). In the sagas, a devout worshipper of the gods is called blótmaðr mikill, “a great sacrifice-person.”
Even after the coming of Christianity, people continued to leave offerings at holy springs and trees and fields, and in some areas continued to do so into the modern age. People also continued leaving out offerings to the spirits who guarded their homes and farms.
As it says in the Havamal:
Vápnom oc váðom skolo vinir gleðiaz,
þat er á siálfom sýnst;
viðrgefendr oc endrgefendr erost lengst vinir,
ef þat bíðr at verða vel.
Vin sínom scal maðr vinr vera,
oc gialda giöf við giöf. . .
Friends should cheer each other with weapons and clothing;
that may be seen on themselves.
Those who repay gifts and give again stay friends the longest,
if the friendship continues to go well.
A man should be a friend to his own friend
and give a gift for a gift. . .
We talked about Blot in our last article on how to practice Norse Paganism, but we want to go more into depth on what makes something a good offering, or what is an unacceptable offering, or what just might be a bad idea to try to give to the Gods.
The three themes that we are going to keep coming back are that:
- A good offering is typically something of ordinary social value
- A good offering is something that is totally consumable
- The ritual of sacrifice is what transforms an ordinary offering into a proper gift for the Gods
What offering makes a good Sacrifice or Blot?
Predictably, there are a lot of schools of thought as what constitutes a proper offering.
In general, it is a good rule of thumb that what we sacrifice to the Gods has to be something that is of value to us both personally and socially.
"Social Value" means that I could give this item to someone else in a transaction and get some kind of equal value in exchange. It's easy to imagine I could sell someone a bag of grain for some money in exchange and we can both feel like that's fair. But if it's a piece of very special string that has been in my family for generations, it's harder to imagine I might get a fair value for it in trade with something else.
For Heathens in the pre-Christian times, things of social value were usually livestock or other products of agriculture (dairy, grain, fruits, etc) and we see those things being used as offerings. We also find offerings of jewelry, coins and other precious objects cast into lakes or bogs and other holy places.
Today, any number of items could be used for Blot, and we follow the same principle as did our pre-christian predecessors.
Typically, these items are food offerings. That is because these items can be easily consumed whole by burning or libation (preferably) or by later disposal after having been set out for a given period.
Common Heathen Sacrificial Offerings
- Whole grains (barley, wheat, oats, rye...) either raw or cooked in porridge
- Baked goods (Breads)
- Meat (preferably very fatty)
- Cheese and butter
- Animal Effigies
These need not all be made at home. While Heathens like to participate in hobbies that produce these kinds of crafts, it's not necessary that they all be home-made. It is perfectly acceptable to buy them from somewhere else and offer them.
Some of these sacrifices as well are appropriate for ancestor worship or as offerings to the land-spirits.
The important thing isn't necessarily how valuable the ordinary thing is, because the important part comes when you perform the ritual. To explain why, let's talk about the nature of Blot and the nature of Sacrifice.
Can I use my own blood for Blot?
There are a few reasons why your own blood might not be a good gift for the Gods. Some Heathens choose to safely use small amounts of their own blood in rituals. But we aren't going to endorse that as a practice for those safety reasons.
If you're looking to donate blood, you might want to seek out the Red Cross. Other people will probably get more use out of it than the Gods will.
Does Asatru practice human sacrifice?
Absolutely not. Human sacrifice was an inhumane and inhuman practice like slavery and concubinage. All of these practices, while part of the history of our religion, have no place in its present. Human beings are not an appropriate gift because people are not a resource to be given away.
What if I'm a vegan or against animal sacrifice?
Animal sacrifice is still practiced by some groups of Heathens. Since animals are considered by most to be still a valid resource or commodity that we trade and eat, this is still regarded as valid practice. However, there are some who object to it. In our opinion, this is also valid. If someone considers other animals in a similar ethical category as human beings, then they are under no obligation to offer an animal in sacrifice.
You are under no obligation to offer any animal in Blot.
Non-Animal offerings are valid, worthy and acceptable to the Gods.
Are there specific offerings that we must give to specific Gods?
According to the sources we have, there doesn't appear to have been a widespread belief in pre-Christian times that certain Gods required or preferred certain kinds of offerings over others. This seems to be a new belief that made its way into Heathenry from observation of religions like Voodoo where specific deities have offerings that are associated with them.
Some Heathens today insist that certain deities have certain needs or desires when it comes to offerings, like a picky toddler who can become angry if not given the proper shape of dinosaur chicken nuggets. Some insist that Loki loves Monster energy drinks and donuts. Some insist Odin likes single malt scotch. Some even insist that Freyja loves strawberries and chocolate.
All of this is very much based in how individuals feel about their Gods and how they choose to express those feelings. For our purposes though, we are going to say that if the Gods have shown that they hate certain offerings and will only respond to other offerings; we haven't seen enough evidence to convince us that this is strictly the case.
For more on our Gods, please see our resource on the Gods of Asatru.
OK, I have an offering. Now what?
Now you need to perform the sacrifice ritual which makes the offering a gift to the Gods. Which is another whole topic in and of itself, which we will talk about in our next blog on how to perform a sacrifice in Norse Paganism.
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