Thursday, August 24, 2017

Folkish Summer Hallowing 2017

(Top to bottom: Irminfolk, Shield Wall
Kindred, Balder Rising, and
Skylands Asatru Fellowship)
Last weekend the Irminfolk hosted Folkish Summer Hallowing, as they have for several years running. It's a chance for the folkish Asatru community to get together in the beautiful mountains of the Poconos, exchange ideas, hold ritual, and generally recharge the batteries.

The range of groups in attendance was large, and many of them came equipped with their tribal flags and banners to fly from the camp flagpole. As I've written about before, it's sort of a thing here in the northeast for groups to have flags. I love it.

There was also a large number of children in attendance (and several dogs!), and activities were available to keep the younglings occupied throughout the weekend. The Irminfolk are always careful to take very good care that the kids are given stuff to do, and it reflects well on them. There were a number of classes and workshops, including a demonstration of blacksmithing.

I was there not only as a representative of my own tribe (we had a half dozen folks there, both members and family), but I also gave a talk on landwights (one of my hot-button issues) and was vending Viking-themed board games. There were a bunch of other vendors there as well (including two others from SAF), and the raffle on Saturday night was well-stocked with loot. I can report I didn't win diddly, which is par for the course.

On Friday night there was a concert by half of the band Changes (the other half being laid up by car problems), followed by karaoke and not a little drinking, and it's rumored I might have indulged in a song or two. It's also rumored that there is video of this happening, but I will point out the existence of my evil twin brother, who is wont to pretend to be me, for just such an occasion. Ahem.

If that is me, and I deny it's true, I'm the one on the right.
The one wearing pants.
Let's be very clear on that point. Pants.
On Saturday there was both blót and sumbel. Taking the latter first, the sumbel was very well done and heartfelt, and many fine words were spoken over the horn (although no oaths that I recall; the Irminfolk have a somewhat complex tribal thew about oaths, involving keeping some of the mead from the horn until the oath is fulfilled). Skylands officially recognized a new member, and the Irminfolk brought in two new folk this weekend.

But the blót that preceded it... the blót was something special.

It began with a torchlit procession to the ritual site, led by a military-style color guard bearing flags. The procession itself was great, but I have to say the flag thing got a little much for me, as there were various commands of "honor, ten-hut!" and so forth during the blót. I found it distracting, but that's just me.

But the Irminfolk had built a miniature Viking ship and laden it with pine boughs, mineral salts (to provide color as it burned), and invited the assembled folk to lay within it items to be sacrificed; mostly fruits of the harvest were included, but some other objects as well. The blót was dedicated to Thor, and most of the folks assembled toasted him as the horn went around the circle of people. I'm still not a fan of this particular style of blót, but I have to say it wasn't nearly as tedious as I've seen it done in the past. The ship was then carried onto the fire, and as the words were being spoken, I did what I normally do. I looked for omens.

And boy, howdy! Were there omens.

To start with, the blót began a little before dusk, and naturally the sky got dark as it went on. Just as the ritual was dedicated to Thor a single star appeared in the sky. I was certain it was Jupiter (because I tend to keep track of which planets are visible in the sky), but it was very literally the only star visible. At all. Until the blót was officially ended, and at that exact moment, one could begin to see all the other stars in the sky. I wasn't the only one who noticed, and it was later confirmed that the star in question was indeed Jupiter.

And Jupiter is associated with Thor. The god of thunder.

But it gets better. After the blót was formally concluded, as we were watching the fire consume the boat with the offerings, we could see things in the fire. Shapes, images, beings. Here are a few photos; I'll let you see what you see in the flames.

But the kicker came as the boat was burning. Off on the horizon, to the west and north, there was a dazzling display of lightning. There wasn't a cloud over our heads, but off in the distance was a continuous lightning storm. At first I thought it might have been fireworks, but it wasn't contained in a single location; it spanned the horizon for a full 90 degrees.

Let that sink in. The star of Thor the only one visible during a blót dedicated to Thor. Unmistakable images in the fire. And a lightning show afterwards that didn't do anything except inspire awe and wonder in the assembled folk. Not a drop of rain to scatter us under cover.

This was a powerful event. One marked with not a harsh word of hate that I heard, just words of love for our folk. A time when various local tribes came together to celebrate those things that we have in common, Asatru and Theodish alike, and set aside for a time those things that we might not have in common. A time when Thor looked down on those assembled and smiled, to give us strength in the times of trial that are surely ahead of us.

Damn, this was a terrific weekend.

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