Naming Ceremony | Ausa Vatni

Naming Ceremony Ausa Vatni

This article contains a large portion of a section of Our Troth Vol. 3. It has been edited for optimized reading on the web. 

The gift of a name to a newborn also gives it status as a human being and as a member of the family. In the sagas, the naming was done in a ceremony in which the father took the child, sprinkled water on it, and named it. This was called ausa vatni, which simply means “sprinkling of water.”

While ausa vatni might resemble Christian baptism, a different word was always used for baptism (skírn, literally “purification”), suggesting that the Heathen ritual was seen as distinct from the Christian one.

Historical References to Ausa Vatni

References to the ausa vatni in the sagas don’t specify how soon after birth the name was given. To give one typical example out of many that could be cited, Egils saga Skallagrimssonar 35 simply reads

“Thora had a child in summer, and it was a girl; she was sprinkled with water and given a name, and called Asgerd.”

Passages in Icelandic law and in some sagas suggest that, if the father was present in the house, the child was named and accepted right after birth, with no waiting period (Jochens, Women 363 in Old Norse Society, p. 82). In what may be a reference to a rite similar to ausa vatni, the 2nd-century Roman physician Galen alleged that the Germans dipped their babies into flowing rivers as soon as they were born (De Sanitate Tuenda; quoted in Dowden, European Paganism, p. 259).

The ausa vatni conferred both legal “personhood” and spiritual rights. While unnamed and unsprinkled children could legally be set out to die, Harðar saga og Holmverja 8 mentions that

þat var morð kallat at drepa börn, frá því er þau váru vatni ausin, “it was called murder to kill children once they had been sprinkled with water” (ÍF 13, p. 22).

Sprinkling with water gave spiritual protection as well: as Odin says in Hávamál 159, “I know the thirteenth [spell]: if I should throw water on a young warrior, he will not fall even if he enters a battle; the hero will not sink before spears.”

Historical Pagan Naming Practices

Children in the sagas usually receive the names of recently deceased relatives, most frequently grandparents but often others. A dying person, such as Thorolf in Svarfdæla saga 5 or Jokull in Vatnsdæla saga 3, might ask that a child be named after him, thus passing his own luck on to that child and ensuring his name’s survival.

In Norway, it was customary to name the first son and first daughter after their paternal grandparents, the second son and daughter after their maternal grandparents, and additional children after other deceased relatives, who were honored by having their names oppkalt, “called up” this way.

Sometimes, dead people could appear in dreams and request that newborns be named for them; refusing such a request could harm the baby (Stokker, Remedies and Rituals, pp. 137-139).

Names could also be chosen to share initials with the names of ancestors, and this practice is very old indeed; examples include Gjúki/Gibicho—Gunnarr/Gunther—Guttorm—Guðrún (the Nibelungs from the Volsung legend), or Cerdic—Cynric—Ceawlin—Cuthwine—Ceolwold—Cenraed (the ruling dynasty of Wessex). Name elements might also be repeated through the generations, as in Sigmundr—Signý—Sigurð (from the Volsung legend) or Theodoric—Euric—Alaric—Amalaric (the Visigothic dynasty) (Ellis, Road to Hel, pp. 141-147).

The Name-Gift

In the sagas, the giving of a name was accompanied by a gift, called nafnfestr, “name-fastening.”

In Ragnars saga loðbrókar 9, Ragnar names his newborn son Sigurðr and gives him a gold ring as a nafnfestr. In Vǫlsunga saga 8, Sigmund gives his son a sword and land when he names him Helgi. Sigmund also gives his son a leek, which may seem like an odd gift, but leeks often symbolize growth, fertility, and masculinity in the sagas.

Even adults who were given a new name would be given a naming-gift to go with it. As is told in their sagas, Hallfred Óttarsson and Thorstein Thorkelsson received swords, and Thorstein Ivarsson received an arm-ring, from the kings who dubbed them “Troublesome Poet” (vandræðaskáld), “Shiver” (skelk), and “Bull’s-Leg” (uxafótr) respectively.

Indeed, in the well-known story of the naming of the Langobards, when Godan (Odin) has been duped into naming them “Longbeards,” his spouse Frea (Frigg) points out that he is obliged to grant them the gift of victory along with the name (Chisholm, Grove and Gallows, pp. 39, 58).

Can I have a Baby Shower? Can I have a Gender Reveal Party?

Today, many modern couples celebrate the impending arrival of a newborn by throwing a party and creatively revealing what they expect the child's sex to be. This is separate from the other ritual of the Baby Shower which is typically a gathering of women to "shower" the young mother (usually a first time mother) with gifts and advice on the birth process and how her life is going to be different.

There is nothing against Heathens participating in exactly these activities. At the end of the day, they're all just celebrations of the coming birth. People don't honestly care whether or not you're going to have a girl or a boy (or at least they shouldn't). They just want to share some encouragement and some good times.

Toward that end, instead of a Gender Reveal Party, you can reveal the name you intend to give the child. Some parents don't like to choose a name until they "see the baby" which is fine too. But revealing the name you intend to give to the child is a special moment that you can share with your family and friends. 

Norse Pagan Naming Ceremony

Here is a sample of an Ausa Vatni ceremony that was performed in 2019. We are going to do the order of events first, and then put what everyone said in the section below.

This particular Naming was conducted in the Unitarian Universalist Church in St Paul, Minnesota by two Priestesses. In addition to the Priestesses, it featured the child's parents, Godparents and Grandparents.

We can think of Godparents here as people who aren't of the "household" but who the parents hope will have a lifelong relationship with their child. They bear the name-fastening gift. 

The ritual begins with everyone in attendance seated in the room where the naming will happen, and everyone in the ceremony is standing outside waiting to process into the room.

The materials you will need:

  • a bowl (usually a special bowl like a family heirloom)
  • a nice pitcher full of water
  • a cloak for one parent (historically this was the father) to wrap the child
  • the naming gift


  1. Priest (with bowl and pitcher full of water)
  2. Godparents (with Naming Gift)
  3. Father's Parents/Elders
  4. Mother's Parents/Elders
  5. Parents with Newborn


Priest - Salutation and Invocation 

  1. Salutation to the guests.
  2. Invocation to Freyja Vanadis
  3. Invocation to the Alfar
  4. Invocation to the Disir
  5. Officiants pour water  into a bowl.


Godparents - The Presentation of the Naming Gift

Godparents present the child with her Name-Fastening Gift and put it next to the bowl of water. 


Grandmothers - The Blessing of the Disir

  1. Grandmothers approach the baby.
  2. Recite The Blessing of the Disir.
  3. Give her the first and middle name


Grandfathers - The Blessing of the Alfar

  1. Grandfathers approach the baby.
  2. Recite the Blessing of the Alfar. 
  3. Give her the family name.


Priest - The Blessing of Freyja

  1. Hold the Naming Gift over the child
  2. Recite the Blessing of Freyja Vanadis
  3. Give the newborn back to the father and he will fold the child in his cloak.
  4. Give the mother the bowl of water.


Parents - Ausa Vatni “The Sprinkling of Water”

  1. Parents recite the “Blessing of the Sprinkling of Water”
  2. Parents name the newborn with her full name.
  3. Sprinkle the newborn's head with water.


Naming Ceremony Prayers and Blessings


Welcome, everyone. Friends and Family. 

[Parents] invited you to witness the naming of their first child.

A name is an identity.  A name is a family history. A name gives a child her own life. It’s the beginning of her own story--her own adventure.

Like with any beginning to any adventure, a child needs to be prepared for her journey.

It’s going to sound very weird for a few minutes because we won’t be using the child’s name. Because as of this moment, this child has not officially been given a name. However, by the time we leave this room, she will not only have a name, but will have had her name blessed by her ancestors and the Gods.

We bless that name by calling on her ancestors and the Gods. We call out to those who have watched over us and guided us in our own lives to watch over her and guide her.

These will be three invocations.

We first will call the Vanadis, Freyja. 

We then will call the men in her family who have passed on, the Alfar.

We then will call the women in her family who have passed on, the Disir.

Her Godparents will present her with her Name Fasting Gift: a bracelet passed down from her

We will then begin the blessings and there will be three of those as well.

The first blessing will come from her grandmothers

 The second blessing will come from her grandfathers

 With each blessing, she will get her a part of her name.

We will then bless the child in the name of Freyja Vanadis for health, joy and prosperity.

She will then be wrapped in her father’s very nice cloak, and sprinkled with water by both her parents and officially given her name.

And then we’re all going to go and have some coffee and bars.




Hail, day!

Hail, sons of day!

Hail night and her daughter!

Look on us 

with kind eyes,

That we may

Bless a new life and name.


Hail Aesir,

Hail Asynjor,

Hail the holy giving Earth,

Bless us with goodly speech and wisdom

And healing hands in life.


Hail Freyja Vanadis.

Hail Gracious Lady. 

Hail Queen of the Disir. 

Look on us 

with kind eyes,

That we may

Bless a new life and name.


Hail the Joyful One.

Hail Frith Weaver. 

Hail Luck Bearer. 

Bless us with goodly speech and wisdom

And healing hands in life.



Hail the dead.

Hail the husbands, fathers and sons.

Hail our ever faithful friends!

Look on us 

with kind eyes,

That we may

Bless a new life and name.



Hail the dead.

Hail the wives, mothers and sisters.

Hail our ever faithful friends!

Look on us 

with kind eyes,

That we may

Bless a new life and name.



There ought to be three blessings during the ceremony.

  • The Blessing of the Disir
  • The Blessing of the Alfar
  • The Blessing of Freyja Vanadis


I. The Blessing of the Disir

[Both Grandmothers]

Hold the ring over the child and speak:

Both: The Mothers of your line see you as their own. 

We bless you in their names 

with protection, guidance and grace.

Both: We bless you as [First and Middle Name]


II. The Blessing of the Alfar


Hold the ring over the child and speak:

Both: The Fathers of your line see you as their own. 

We bless you in their names 

with protection, guidance, and wisdom. 

We bless you as a [Family Name]


III. The Blessing of Freyja Vanadis


Hold the ring over the child and speak:

Hail Freyja Vanadis. 

Hail Gracious Lady. 

Hail Queen of the Disir. 

We bless this child

 in your holy name.


Hail Bearer of bright Brisingamen. 

Hail the Joyful One

Hail the Lady of Folkvang!

Look on this child with kindness

And protect her, 

her honor and her luck.


IV. Sprinkling of Water Blessing


Wrap the child in the cloak and both speak


May beauty delight you and happiness uplift you,

May wonder fulfil you and love surround you.

May your step be steady and your arm be strong,

May your heart be peaceful and your word be true.

May you seek to learn, may you learn to live,

May you live to love, and may you love - always.


Sprinkle the child with water and both speak

We confer upon this child the blessings of her family,

and bestow upon her the name of [Child's Full Name]

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