THE HEATHEN HOF ))))))))))) by Ron McVan
Today's historians still tend to depict the Vikings as blood thirsty, violent, brawny, drunken, uncultured plundering savages, with wild demonic horned helmets, breathing fire and unholy havoc through their blazing eyes! Hollywood and the media eat up that kind of image! Real Vikings were a tough and hardy breed, that is for sure, but they were, aside from being master craftsmen, seamen, traders, warriors and engineers, they were also balanced with a deep spiritual side of their character. Their gods were always close at hand guiding them on, while leaving fate in life to the will of the Norn’s.
Weather providing, not unlike the Druids, our Heathen ancestors worshipped whenever possible in the open air of Nature, otherwise, Vikings would often gather in large farm buildings or specially constructed buildings that provided shelter for spiritual feasting, and communion with the gods. The long hard winters of the Northlands left little choice but to construct buildings for spiritual worship. These structures over the years became known as "Hofs", or "Hofstads". In olden times, Hof, meant "farmstead", "garden", "hall , "court" or “Temple”. Descriptions of the Viking Hofs can be found in the "Eyrbyggja", and "Heimskringla". These hofs of course, had altars,(also known as harrows or stallers) fire-pits and carved images of the high gods. Some hofs would be named after a favored god of worship such as Odinshof or Thorshof etc. A famous hof from Viking times and still renown in today’s times, is the hof at Gamla Uppsala. Viking hofs were often built facing west or east. Staller tools used in a heathen hof may vary, but generally one will find a blessing bowl, sejdr (shaman) drum, a sword, gandr (wand), rune staff, ceremonial Thor hallowing hammer, rune set, mead horn and candles.
“Wotanism represents a rebirth of our spirit from the centuries-long period of darkness and confusion, and our first and most fundamental task consists of the need to reevaluate and redefine the guiding principles of that spirit.”
The world has changed drastically since far distant Viking times, but hofs are still quite popular if not essential among modern day practitioners of Wotanism and Heathenism in general. The size of a hof can vary drastically from a hof quite large enough to hold an entire kindred group, down to smaller family hofs, or an even smaller singular meditation hofs. The smaller meditation hof is popular also with today’s practicing Druids. A small hof tends to be more convenient for those who have rather limited yard space around their homes. They may not be large enough for kindred gatherings but are ideal for meditation and singular worship to the gods. A "Nidhing Pole" is a useful feature to any hof. The nidhing pole is a carved wooden horses head on a pole, anchored into the ground. It is a custom inherited from the Viking age. Before going into the hof, you place your hands on the nidhing pole to release all of your negative energy before entering the holy hof space.
When entering a sacred hof, one first performs a sign of the hammer. This is done by making a clenched fist, holding it palm side before your face, (Wotan), pulling it downwards to your heart, (Baldur), then to the left shoulder (Frey), crossing over at last to your right shoulder (Thor). In performing a simple meditation in your hof, one should fist still themselves and the space they are in, which can be done with slow drumming, rattle or ringing a bell every nine seconds. Nine representing the nine worlds of Yggdrasil and Wotan’s nine days and nights of sacrifice upon the Ash tree. A meditation on Wotan for example, might sound like this:
“I listen to the voice of Wotan as he speaks to my spirit. His voice is the vibration of an ancient Iron Will, an Immortality resonating within the core of my mortal being. Through his arcane wisdom I am lead unerringly to the higher realms in the Now of my awakening consciousness. A Yggdrasil tree grows inside of me and winds its way upward from the base of my spine to the crown of my head, a complete universe where all things and all truths unfold and are revealed. I reach into its dominion of quiet peace and harken back to the voice of my ancestors who dwell there within me, and I dwelling within them. I close my eyes and sense this living, breathing unity. Here I am one with all of my people, past, present and future, with Nature and the extended universe without. I move in accordance with the divine law. From here all the limitless powers of creation are moving inward and outward, and I am a conscious part of it. I see about me the thoughts of all mankind and the correct answers to all questions. That which is good among these I accept; that which is not I ignore, for my concern is only with truth and the divine plan ordained through Nature and my Gods which is the perfect good and the expanding of all inner and outer consciousness. I know that I am fulfilling the fondest wish of the Absolute. It is my gods who prompt and guide me to understand their highest powers. As I believe in my heart, so shall it be done unto me; as this is the law of life and of living. Each day is another step on my journey to a greater union with my gods. I am at peace within myself here in Midgard. I do not seek --- I know. I do not strive --- I am guided... the divine Wotan spirit working above, around and through me! “
“Meditation is done in silence. By it, we renounce our narrow individuality and expatiate into that which is infinite. Only in the sacredness of inward silence does the soul truly meet the secret hiding God. The strength of resolve which afterwards shapes life, and mixes itself with action, is the fruit of those sacred, solitary moments. There is a divine depth in silence. We meet God alone.”
In larger hofs where whole kindred’s are involved most of the rights and rituals, blot’s and sumbel’s are conducted by an officiated “Godhi” (male priest) or “Gydja” (Female priestess). A “Godar” is also a priest of Wotan, with the same duties as a Godhi or Gydja, but has additional duties in conjunction with the administration of the geographical area, has an added responsibility for education. An “Allsherjargodi is a Godhi of eminent rank. A “Seidmadr” is a Wotanist Sejdr (shaman) or religious specialist, whose gift and whose duty it is to serve his people and folk by meditating between the physical and spiritual worlds through altered states of consciousness. Skilled in medicine, gnosticism, science, chemistry and herbalism. A “Seidkuna” is the female equivalent of a Sejdmadr. An “Erulian” is the title of a skilled runemaster. An “Armanen” is a teacher of the highest level of Wotanist Heathen training. A “Blot” is a Viking ceremony, a word that means “to worship”, “to honor”, or to make sacrifice to”. A “Sumbel” is a ritual collective form of toasting to the gods, heroes, ancestors, family or special friends.
“There is a disposition or spirit in every man which leads him to extend his sympathy, his goodwill, and his fellowship to the members of his group; he is also conscious of his membership and feels that his own life is part of his group.”
The sacred Heathen hof provides us with the ability to commune with our gods, to tap into a deeper essence of our inner selves and equally important, it is a place and means by which we can build lasting kinship with families, friends and folk. The hof also kindles a stronger sense of ethnic culture, heritage, ancestral tradition, and spirituality. Wotan and the gods of Asgard do not attempt to riddle their people with fears of sin, self guilt, nor become slaves to a dogmatic religion. Our indigenous gods ask only that their people be strong, valiant and honorable! Our gods are man writ large and we are as important to them as they are to us. They live within us… and we through them!
“I, for one, shall praise the Gods and heroes of our ancestors and honor them by remembering their courage and loyalty! I will not and cannot meekly submit any longer! As I stand up to claim my heritage, I can hear the voices of my ancestors growing stronger in my ears; I can feel their blood surge within my veins and feel their pride in the strength of my limbs! And I can tell you that the Gods do indeed live! They are waiting for us to become worthy of them – to become men! Wotan Lives!” ….............L.J.S.