The Horn-Bearer in Today’s AFA

“Joyous then was the Jewel-giver, hoar-haired, war-brave; help awaited the Bright-Danes’ prince, from Beowulf hearing, folk’s good shepherd, such firm resolve. Then was laughter of liegemen loud resounding with winsome words. Came Wealhtheow forth, queen of Hrothgar, heedful of courtesy, gold-decked, greeting the guests in hall; and the high-born lady handed the cup first to the East-Danes’ heir and warden, bade him be blithe at the beer-carouse, the land’s beloved one. Lustily took he banquet and beaker, battle-famed king. Through the hall then went the Helmings’ Lady, to younger and older everywhere carried the cup, till come the moment when the ring-graced queen, the royal-hearted, to Beowulf bore the beaker of mead. She greeted the Geats’ lord, God she thanked, in wisdom’s words, that her will was granted, that at last on a hero her hope could lean for comfort in terrors. The cup he took, hardy-in-war, from Wealhtheow’s hand, and answer uttered the eager-for-combat. Beowulf spoke, bairn of Ecgtheow: “This was my thought, when my thanes and I bent to the ocean and entered our boat, that I would work the will of your people fully, or fighting fall in death, in fiend’s gripe fast. I am firm to do an earl’s brave deed, or end the days of this life of mine in the mead-hall here.” Well these words to the woman seemed, Beowulf’s battle-boast.—Bright with gold the stately dame by her spouse sat down.”

In this passage from Beowulf ( lines 607-641) we have one of many references to women as cup-bearers, particularly during sumbel. Evidence, in runic inscriptions as well as in literature, abound. What was once a jealously guarded privilege held by women of nobility has become a role that seems little understood by both the men and women of Asatru. Speaking specifically in terms of Sumbel, many Asatruar forgo the use of a horn-bearer altogether in favor of the simpler passing of the horn. Why overlook a simple formality that was so important to our ancestors?

First we must consider the real role of our ancient horn-bearers. The Lady of the Hall was the only women who was ever expected to attend sumbel with the men, and it was she who chose the women who would aid her in the task of keeping the men’s cups full. It was the Lady of the Hall who chose the seating arraignments, usually by rank or dignity. And it was the Lady of the Hall who was the first to handle the horn, offering it in greeting to men as they entered, and most especially, passing the horn during Sumbel — a task that was held in the utmost esteem.

It was considered imperative to our ancestors that the holy drink pass through the hands of a women in between each toast. Widely recognized was the “special provenance” of women — the healing touch, or nourishing main that was so innate in them. They are the frith-weavers, the peace-keepers, and even something as simple as their touch could balance the energy. So from toast to toast, the woman’s touch helped to balance the more contentious energies of the men.

There is also evidence to lend credence to the idea that the horn-bearers, while respectful, were often not just silent witnesses to the sumbel. Often they were sought after to give womanly advice, to help sooth jangled nerves, or to step in and settle tensions between men before the possibility of Frith being broken.

Why is this important? In a world of rampant anti-traditionalism sometimes it is important to take the time to find the small formalities, to bring back the traditional roles of our men and women. We should also consider how the inherent abilities of women can be useful today.

To begin, we consider that women are still frith-weavers and peace-keepers. And men are still contentious by nature. Couple that with the fast pace, generally angry world that we currently live in and the possibility of that chaotic energy mixing into the horn is high. What better way to combat that than by having a women pass the horn from one person to the next? It is not an easy task, however. It isn’t just a matter of handing the horn off. A woman who is chosen to carry the horn becomes the protector of the horn, of the frith of the horn. Thusly, it is her duty to calm an agitated toaster, or to help someone who might need help. Above all things, it is her job to maintain the frith of the hall.

We must also consider the formality, the tradition of the role. It is not uncommon for the horn-bearer to treat the task as a chore. How often has it been seen that the women carrying the horn is disinterested in what is being said? Or that she was fidgety and seemed to wish to be elsewhere? How often as a woman acted as though she would rather not be carrying the horn? While this behavior is generally not seen in the AFA, it can be seen outside of it. But why?

Maybe it is because the women don’t realize the importance of the task. Maybe it is because they don’t understand that they have been honored. There is no real answer to this. What we can do is to simply make sure that our women and our men know that to be chosen to carry the horn is, indeed an honor. It is a recognition of hard work. It is a recognition of dedication. It is the singling out of one woman above the others, not to embarrass, but to rise up. A gythia carrying the horn does so because she understands the enormity of the task, because it is her duty, and because it is her pleasure. For all others it is a recognition and celebration of excellence, and as such it needs to be earned.

By honoring the role of horn-bearer we are endeavoring to fill the horn with the frithful energy of women. We are bringing back traditional roles that we need to help fight back against the anti-traditional world we live in. We are honoring our ancestors by taking up their customs. And above all else, we are elevating our ladies!

Catie Erickson
Gythia in Training

Categories: News

Official AFA Tartan!

The Asatru Folk Assembly now has an official tartan for our church. The official certificate was presented at AFA Fallfest IV this past weekend. The official AFA tartan is the result of the dedication and perseverance of AFA member, Ryan Hanson. Thank you Ryan! We are excited to see this tartan displayed with pride by our AFA family around the world.

Matthew D. Flavel
Alsherjargothi,
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News

Gythia Anna Funk

The Asatru Folk Assembly is very proud to announce the ordination of Anna Funk of Minnesota as our newest Gythia. Anna has been caring for the spiritual needs of the AFA family near her for some time and has shown herself capable and well suited for the task. We have full confidence that Gythia Funk will bring glory to our Gods and bring honor to our church.

Hail Gythia Anna Funk!

Matthew D. Flavel
Alsherjargothi,
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News

Day of Remembrance for Prince Herman of the Cherusci

Many know the tale of Herman, or Arminius if you prefer, and how he defeated 3 legions of the Roman army in the Teutoberg forest in 9 AD. I mean it is recounted and talked about around fires from here to Asgard. The story of how the Germans came together as one and pushed back against the invading Roman soldiers.

There is a lot more to the story than just a battle in the woods though. Herman, son of the chieftain of the Cherusci, was, in his youth, a captive of the Romans. He started his military career proper as part of the Roman army and by 4 AD was in charge of his own detachment of Cheruscan auxiliaries. After helping put down a revolt in the Balkans he returned back to his homeland to aid the Roman governor Varus. For Herman revolt was on his mind and he quickly began working in secret to build a confederation of German tribesmen strong enough to beat the Romans. Once all of his preparations were in order he went to Varus and gave him false information that sent 3 Roman legions to their doom.

Historians have called the Battle of Teutoberg one of Rome’s worst defeats……for German tribes it was more than just a military victory. After 9 AD Rome suspended all plans of conquest for the German heartland. The German peoples were able to continue living after the fashion of their ancestors, able to keep living their own culture, believing in their own Gods, and developing in their own way for several more generations.

Herman united his people, gave them the gift of freedom for a few more generations, and became a legend still praised to this day. You may not emulate all he did, but you to can make a difference. You to can help your Folk grow, help the next generations to know their Ancestral Gods. How? Volunteer to lead a study group, write a kids book on Asatru, organize meet and greets to introduce new people to Asatru. Become a folkbuilder if there isn’t one in your area, pick up a book and begin learning more of your religion. Start a kindred, become an ordained Gothi, donate your time and your money to build our church. All of that and more are things you can do to push back the things threatening our ways today. Look to Herman as an example of what just one person can cause to happen if they persevere.

Hail Herman!!!

Blaine Qualls
Gothar Coordinator
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News

Winter Nights in the Poconos

Registration is open. Go to https://winternights2019.eventbrite.com/ to reserve your spot today!

The eighth annual Winter Nights in the Poconos will be held in Milford, Pennsylvania from October 18 – 20!  Since 2012, this long running AFA festival has been dedicated to our ancestral mothers, the Disir.  When the harvest is in, the summer plants have died off, and the winter is quickly approaching the veil between the living and dead is said to be at its thinnest.  Again, we will gather to worship our Gods, our Goddesses, and our Ancestral Mothers in the crisp air of mountains as winter sets in. We build upon the success of the Asatru Folk Assembly here in the Northeast by making new friends and renewing old friendships. We look forward to seeing members and friends!

Your registration fee includes all workshops, lectures, meals, cabin lodging, and of course our holy rituals. Only AFA members and vouched-for-guests will be admitted to this event. If you are not an AFA Member you should confirm with the member who is vouching for you that they will do so when asked about your registration.

Things to know:

  • Children 17 and under attend for free!
  • The cabins have bunks. You will need to bring your own bedding and it can get quite chilly at night, so plan accordingly.
  • Tenting is permitted in the main field.
  • Dogs are welcome for a small fee but must be leashed at all times and are not permitted in common indoor areas such as the dining hall.
  • Camp location will be provided upon registration.

If you have any questions or concerns please email [email protected]

Ves Heill,
Clifford Erickson
Asatru Folk Assembly
North America Northeast Folkbuilder & Witan

Categories: News

New Apprentice Folkbuilder

The AFA is proud to announce Lane Ashby of Florida as our newest Apprentice Folkbuilder for the Deep South region. Lane has been actively hosting rune studies and we are very excited to see the work he will do to grow and organize our AFA family in his area.

Categories: News

Day of Remembrance for King Radbod

Radbod was king of Frisia from 680 to 719 CE. Most of us in Asatru are well aware of his story. He is famous for saying that he would rather burn in hell for eternity with his ancestors than go to heaven with his enemies. This is a stance that many of us in the reawakening feel a connection with, and earns him our admiration. He drew a line in the sand and took a stand for his folk and his faith.While such displays of heroism are excellent examples of courage to guide us in our quest to reconnect to our ancestral heritage in the face of adversity. I would like to examine Radbod’s deeds from another angle, that of intellect.

In much of the academic and Christian world, our Asatru ancestors are often depicted as savage barbarians.They are painted as mindless primitives who love little more than plunder and violence. However, a more thorough examination of historical figures such as Radbod reveals the possession of sound faculties such as perception, logic and reason.

At this period in history Christianity was not so much concerned with the salvation of men’s souls as it was keeping the minds of the conquered in a state of submission. Early medieval Christianity was a secular political tool that masqueraded as a religion. With the uneducated, it dominated through their fear of the unknown. With the more enlightened, it seduced with greed and political ambition. Radbod was obviously the latter, and not the former.

Radbod was well aware that the attempts to convert him had nothing to do with his personal salvation, or the salvation of his people. The religion of his heritage had served his people quite well since time immemorial. The only motive to convert him had to be the acquisition of his loyalty to a power structure hiding behind a mask divine authority. Radbod saw Christianity for what it was, and proudly took a stand for his people.

Aside from courage in the face of adversity, I believe that Radbod can also teach us to recognize our adversaries for what they are. Most who would manipulate us present themselves as something other than what they are. They hide behind masks of righteousness, compassion, prosperity, and power. But in the end, it is the price they ask that reveals their true nature.

For Radbod, the price the Christianity asked was the soul of his people in exchange for a seat at the table of the new world power structure. Seeing Christianity for what it was, he refused to give up the soul of his people. In addition to being courageous and a man of intellect, this also makes him a man of honest integrity, unwilling to barter his people for personal ambitions. 

Hail King Radbod! 

James Dover
Apprentice FOlkbuilder,
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News

Greenland 1000 CE

Thorbjorg, “the little witch” or as I prefer to use the Norse word, Spakoa, as that does not carry the Christian baggage of witch.

This was a time of the Conversion and even in remote Greenland the Christian Church had made it’s presence known, so there were those that held to our Elder Way and those that had come to accept the White Kriest. This is an interesting story of one such encounter.

It was a time of famine, crops had failed In the Fall, the hunters were also not doing well and some hunters did not return home.

One of the more prosperous farmers, Thorkell thought it his duty to call for a Wise Woman to give counsel. So, he used his farmstead as a place to hold a gathering and dinner for guests from other farmsteads. He and others wanted to know if this famine would persist and how fare the next year.

As the custom of one respected. the High Seat in his hall. was set for the Seereeses arrival, men were sent to escort her to Thorkell’s home. On the High Seat was placed pillows filled with hens feathers and decorated. The Seeress was one sister of nine and she was but the last one alive. She was met and treated as an honored guest. She spoke little if any. She was dressed in a dark blue mantle, tied at the neck, it was decorated with stones from top to bottom, around her neck she wore glass pearls and on her head was a black hood made out of lams fur, dressed on the inside with white cat’s fur, in her hand she held a wand with a steel knob at the end and surrounded with stones. She wore a belt with a large pouch attached, in which held magical equipment, (if from what was found on the Oseborg Ship, a burial of two women of renown, that pouch of one woman held cannabis seed, and amulets), the ship burial shows the importance of women that were, Spakona,(wisdom of the wise woman, that speaks).

The meal that Torkell had prepared was of a porrage of goats milk, and the hearts from all kinds of animals of the farm. After the meal, Thorkell asked, “how she liked the house and customs of the farm. She said she could not say until she spent the night.

At dawn she was given her things she had brought with her and asked if the women present knew of the words of the old songs, so that the spell called (Vardlokur,vard=ward,guardian spirit, lokur= to invoke or call), there were no such women that remembered that were present. So, a call was sent for anyone that knew the old songs, and then Gudrid said, ‘I am not versed in magic, or a wise woman but my foster mother, Halldis taugh me on Iceland a song that call the spirits. However, I am a Christian and I care not to help.’ Then Thorbjorg said,’ maybe you can help the people, you will not be the worse for doing it.” So Gudrid consented to help. Then the women held hands around the platform upon which stood the High Seat as Gudrid sang the spell song, so beautify that none thought they had heard it done so well.

Now the Seeress said, “I see many things that before were hidden from me and others. To you Thorkell, this famine will end and not last past this present winter, plague, that has ridden us will pass swiftly, faster than though possible. Gudrid, ‘I shall reward you immediately for the hep you have offered. As for your destiny, you will have the best marriage here in Greenland but it will not last to long, for your path is destined for Iceland and from which will be born a clan that is great and good. Over your descendants brighter rays are shinning that I have the power to see clearly. Farewell and be whole daughter.

In the Norse concept the meaning of the word, whole relates to the concept of the body, mind and spirit being well, healthy, as the word holy or Helga Old Norse.

Conclusion; With just this one story about a far flung out post of a European colony at the time of the Conversion shows how Our Ancient Way influenced the worth and dignity of women and the respect shown to people of exceptional ability be it farmer, priest and warrior.

Thorgrun Odden
Gothi,
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News

Focusing Upward

I would challenge all of us to consider our focus. As Asatruar, we have done a great job of building our communities. I think we have done a great job of focusing on the good of our folk and our close group of friends. What I think is focused on too seldom is a focus on the Divine. We think very often of what makes sense for our practicality. We do well to think of what is best for our family and for our Kindreds. How often do we focus on what would be pleasing to our Gods? I know as a Gothi, I have spent a lot of focus and energy wondering about the effects a ritual I preform has on those in the circle. How does the first-timer feel after a Blot I lead? Did folks like it? Did I mess up a few words and look silly? All this is very important, but what is MOST important, is how the God or Gods received the ritual. Was Odin pleased with the Odin Blot? Did we effectively build our relationship with Thor? Did we secure the blessings of our Gods, and honor them? This is true in all our decisions, would the Gods and Ancestors be proud of us? What would best honor our Gods? I have found, in my own rituals and practices as a Gothi, as well as my life as a man, the more I focus on the opinion of and my standing before the divine, the better EVERYTHING works out. By focusing on the above, we ascend as individuals. By our AFA family all focusing on the above, we ascend as a church. In all we do, let us focus on making our Gods and our Ancestors proud.

Hail the Ancestors!
Hail the Gods!

Matthew D. Flavel
Alsherjargothi,
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News

Hallowing Hammer of Thor

As we talk about establishing sacred space and increasing our piety, I want to take a moment to point out Thor’s role as hallower of the sacred. When we use a location that is not permanently set aside for holy purposes, we preform the hammer rite to invoke the protection of Thor and by his power to sanctify the location. When we gather for a meal, we invoke the holy with “the sign of the hammer” in order to set aside the act of eating as a sacred act. We bless the womb of the bride with Thor’s hammer. Runestones often invoke Thor to bless an area or to curse those that would violate the sacredness of a space or move a stone. In a very obvious way, we wear the Mjolnir pendant around our necks to mark us as followers of the Aesir and to protect and sanctify us as people. As we think on the Thunderer, let us take note of his power to uplift, to sanctify, to transmute the mundane into something holy.

Hail Thor!

Matthew D. Flavel
Alsherjargothi,
Asatru Folk Assembly

Categories: News