As I said last night, I am reading Travels Through Middle-Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan
, by Alaric Albertsson. Tonight, I tackled the Weofod chapter. A weofod is basically a Saxon pagan's altar.
The author wisely indicated when he was going off personal gnosis, which I appreciated. That said, the description of a Saxon altar was a little "this is how it should be done, or you're doing it wrong." Oh, that's not to say that I threw the chapter out as worthless, but I question when he suggests that setting up the altar just so
is necessary to show proper respect to the deities.
Even still, I did pick up some things that I could improve in my own practice.* First, I like his way of explaining a gift. Oh, I'm not saying that I had no clue or misunderstood how they worked, but I appreciated having the definition reinforced in my mind. I was mildly leery of his assertion that you shouldn't ask for something if you haven't been giving gifts, because that -- in my mind -- ties right into bribery or gifting with expectations of getting something in return, which he says is not the point
. I agree it's not the point, and I do
agree that it's bad form to go asking for more, more, more, without trying to maintain some kind of balance, but to say that your gods will not listen simply because you haven't given them a libation of mead or ale is harsh and misleading.
It made me think about what I do for my own practice, both now and before. Another point of his was that a weofod should be located in a central part of the home, unless it was strictly necessary for it to not be. He likened keeping a primary altar in a bedroom as sneaking a friend in and out of one's house. Speaking as someone who has his altar in his bedroom for the purpose of keeping his spirituality his own business, I take issue at the suggestion that I honor my gods less because they are in my room. Indeed, the knowledge that my altar is in the room in which I sleep actually makes me feel closer to my gods. I'm also far more honest in my bedroom, even when I live alone, than I am in a central location like a living room. All that said, I still may eventually move my altar back into the living room, but it will be because I feel that it's better out there, than because it's "the way it's supposed to be done if you respect your gods".
I questioned his suggestion that I should pick one -- and only one -- god to work with at first. He compared it to getting to know someone at a neighborhood barbecue versus visiting one neighbor at a time. I actually *do* like this comparison, and he made a point with me. However, as a polytheist (though "softer" than some of my friends), I find the idea of choosing one god to be odd. Of course, I have been very actively on this path, more or less, for three solid years now, so I'm hardly a wet-behind-the-ears baby pagan**.
Regardless, perhaps there is something with focusing on one god for a bit, to get to know them. This ties into his beliefs regarding how often to worship, and how to worship. He suggests that the altar should be somewhere that we are reminded frequently throughout the day about it. That is actually one thing I do
like about having it in my living room. As for altar tools and items to have on the weofod, I understand that this is something of a "101" book, and some guiding is necessary. Also, I appreciated having an "outline" of things to consider. Oddly, my altar fits his criteria already, with the exception of my hammer (which is ABSOLUTELY appropriate, even if he failed to mention it). My candle images are my "weoh", or god images. Things like the Thor's Hammer bookmark, the raven and wolf miniatures, and the piece of amber are all associated with the gods on my altar/weofod, and are appropriate as a result. I have an offering bowl, though I rarely use it as such. I am far more likely to set a glass specifically on my altar to hold a god's libation, than use the generic bowl. I have it "just in case", but I have no compulsion to find a use for it often. (I'd likely use it -- and have used it -- for a food offering, but I rarely choose to offer food because of its nature to draw pests, and because if I throw too much food on the ground outside when I gift it, I might just get in trouble with my apartments.)
Now, I absolutely liked his point that there's no reason I couldn't have a deity-specific weofod. Obviously, my mind drifted directly to Freyja as the one for whom I'd like to do this. I would prefer to maintain some representation on my main altar for her, but this could perhaps be a nice use for my Idunna/Freyja statue (centerpiece to a goddess-specific altar).
Before spending time at the altar meditating or otherwise attempting to contact your deity, he suggested that you lay claim to the immediate area. His way of doing so is tied into the Norse method of house-claiming, in that you carry fire around the perimeter (though only the area instead of the property), and ask Thor (Thunor) to "ward this sacred space." I do like my hammer rite, frankly. :) Swing a big hammer, call on Thor at each cardinal point, and knowing that I'm protected by the Thunder God while I do what needs doing.
I appreciated his suggested turns of phrase for something like offering a libation to a deity. While he did emphasize that from the heart trumps pretty turn of phrase, I like the examples, because -- dammit -- I can turn a phrase if I put my mind to it.
He closes the chapter with what to expect when at your weofod, as well as how frequently to worship there. (He gets a little snarky here with the "or is this just a hobby?" comments, but I understand he means well.)
Out of everything that I picked up from this chapter, this is the part that made me think the most. You see, often all I do is light my candles and bask in the glow of my gods. I occasionally will leave libations for them. Rarely do I sit and meditate or spend time directly at the altar. While there isn't anything inherently wrong
with what I've done, I had the distinct impression that my worship style was undisciplined, almost sloppy. I'm not saying that I should start spending an hour a day in front of it, offering libations and full ceremony, but I could definitely tighten up how I worship. I will think on specifics later, but what stands out immediately is spending time at my altar. Since Friday is associated with Frigga/Freyja, I could start spending time when I wake on Friday at my altar (since I'm usually off).
Interestingly, I was baptised Catholic back when I was about 5 years old. Scott Sumers suggested, half in jest and half seriously, that my affectation for candles as a means of worship stems from then. I think he may just have something of a point. It certainly may explain my desire for a set of prayer beads. :)
Well, it's ridiculously late, and I have work in the morning, so I better bring this to a close. As always, thoughts/comments are welcome, with the caveat that I prefer discourse to being told something. :)
* - Let's face it. I'm a Heathen (again). The doubts and fears that I mistook for atheism were just that: doubts and fears. I had to work past them, and either incorporate them or expunge them, in order to continue to grow spiritually. Now, whether I am a Saxon Heathen, a Germanic Heathen, or a Norse Heathen is still technically up for debate, though my British Isles heritage (from both sides of my family) indicates a distinct blood connection to Saxon Heathenry. Regardless, my choices are my choices.
** - That fact notwithstanding, I still absolutely have more to learn, and I am encouraged by this fact.
P.S. I was jotting down some thoughts elsewhere, when this part came to me. I am including it here, because it's relevant, but I am not asking for any interpretation. Thoughts on it are fine, as always, but I think this was one of those "shutting up and letting the gods speak" moments:
"I have made peace within myself regarding my spiritual path. My gods have welcomed me back, though I think it ranges from "relieved, with open arms" to "willing to listen, though not quite as close as before...yet". Freyja has accepted me back, and likely never went anywhere. Thor had my back no matter what, though I'm sure he's happier that I wear his hammer again. Odin will require some sweet-talking. He is not pleased, but neither is he angry, I feel. Freyr, as always, is aligned with his sister. Frigga feels like a mother, angry at what I did, understanding that I needed to do it, and grateful I have returned. Heimdall stands silently, watching as he always does, though I sense a hint of a smile turning up the corners of his mouth. Long has he watched me, and long will he yet continue to do so."