Sunday, June 7, 2015

Trothmoot 2015

The High Rede of the Troth at dinner Saturday night
I spent Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday at this year's Trothmoot gathering, the annual get-together for members and friends of The Troth, held at Camp Netimus in Pennsylvania, which seems to be the hub for Asatru camping events in the northeast (there are at least four such events scheduled for this year, and the camp has proven itself to be quite accepting and friendly towards Asatruar of all types). Since I live less than an hour from the camp, I commuted most of the time, but was there Friday night so I would be sure to be there for some early-morning Saturday stuff I wanted to attend.

There were workshops and rituals, a concert (which I missed), a tafl tournament (I tied for second place in the first round, but didn't make the coin toss to go to the second round), vendors (including the Troth itself, which publishes a bunch of very well-regarded books), and the Annual Meeting of the Troth, where the status of the organization is presented to the members, oaths for officers and stewards are taken and witnessed, and other business conducted. And of course the chance to hang out and talk face-to-face with folks who you usually only know via email or Facebook, which is one of the main reasons to attend these sorts of things, from my perspective.

The Heathen Ritual Music workshop
I really enjoyed the workshops I attended, but three stood out as being particularly excellent. Elf-Mill, Elf-Shot, Hot Milk, and Cold Ale by Ristandi explored the historical use of juxtapositions of sensory experiences in ritual (sound, use of contrasting temperature, hills and wells, etc.), and gave me some good ideas for my own rituals. Germanic Love Magic and Erotic Sorcery, also by Ristandi, explored love spells from the Viking and later eras as seen in runic inscriptions and the later grimoire tradition, but it was near the end, when the discussion turned into a broader discussion of whether we, as modern Heathens, should embrace or distance ourselves from those sorts of coercive practices, that I found the most value. I might write another article on that topic specifically, in fact. Lastly, but certainly not least, was the Heathen Ritual Music workshop by Lynn and Will Rowan of the Chase Hill Community. The group was led through a number of ritual songs, accompanied by Will on the drum, that were nothing short of amazing. Some were based on existing folk-song music with new lyrics, most were original compositions (Lynn and Will are professional musicians). There were straight songs, rounds, call-and-response; they were all very powerful and I think everyone came out of the workshop enthused and energized to begin employing more music in our rituals.

Oath-taking by new Rede members
As for the rituals at Trothmoot, I attended four; the land-taking and Tyr blot, the Thor blot, an "oracular seiðr" session by some of the Hrafnar folks, and the Idunna blot. I have to say these were the biggest let-down of the weekend (which is not to single out Trothmoot in particular; I've been similarly disappointed by large group rituals done by a number of different groups). I think there should be more to a blot than simply passing a horn from one person to another and hailing a god (what I call a "bumbel"; half blot/half sumbel); on the other hand, when there are three separate things that have to go around a huge circle of people, one at a time, then I don't see the need for the horn-passing at all, especially when there's a sumbel later on in the day. Watching sixty people be sprinkled with water one at a time, then watching sixty people drinking from a horn one at a time, then watching sixty people being handed an apple slice, was... tedious.

I should point out that I did not attend any of the Urglaawe rituals, which I regret. The scheduling just didn't work out. From a distance, they did look a lot more intimate and interesting, though.

I've been present at Hrafnar "oracular seiðr" sessions before, and the one at Trothmoot was much the same as the others. While the ritual itself was powerful and engaging, my academic side was constantly distracted by making comparison with what the Hrafnar people were doing, compared to what we know about historical seiðr and spá. Again, that might warrant an article of its own.

On the whole, I had a really good time at Trothmoot. The workshops and conversation were the highlight, and when it comes around next time (probably three years hence) I'll probably skip most of the rituals.

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