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ÁLFABLÓT (The Sacrifice to the Elves)

November, 2018

Brief description

International teacher of sacred art and Northern European Tradition shamanism Imelda Almqvist describes the small Álfablót (Sacrifice to the Elves) Ceremony she performed on her land in Sweden on October 31st in 2018. This is the indigenous Scandinavian version of (or closest thing to) Samhain/Halloween.

 

ÁLFABLÓT (THE SACRIFICE TO THE ELVES)

One day even our children (and their children) will be ancestors…

Today Halloween is celebrated in many English-speaking countries. It originated with the Celtic festival of Samhain.

I was in a large supermarket, here in Sweden, yesterday and the first thing I saw upon entering the shop, was an abundance of shelves stacked with Halloween decorations and sweets. That is a relatively new development!  Halloween is not indigenous to Sweden and the phenomenon only arrived in the 1990s. For good for bad, we live in a global village…

In the car on the way home there was a story on Swedish radio titled “Bus eller frukt” (meaning “trick-or-fruit”) Apparently some children had gone trick-or-treating over the weekend (a bit early by British standards!) and received mandarins for their efforts – they were not at all pleased and they had responded with trickery!

As a mother of three I understand that children yearn for scary costumes and collecting candy but, actually, Scandinavia has a perfect valid tradition of its own, for this period. It is shame that this has (largely) dropped into collective oblivion – though Heathen people have always kept the tradition alive and many Pagan people have rediscovered it today).

My students of Norse Shamanism often ask: “Did the Old Norse people have a festival or ritual comparable to the Day of the Dead, at this time of year?” The answer is yes, the Álfablót, The name literally means “The Sacrifice (or offerings) to the Elves”. This requires a bit of explanation.

The Elves (or Alfar) in the Northern European Tradition are not “fairies” but the souls of male dead ancestors who live on as nature spirits. They often live in burial mounds, though we also find them under big rocks, in caves or in the mountains. We can still communicate with them and making offerings is a respectful way of doing so.

By making offerings we acknowledge that they too once walked the land and that they have now become part of the spiritual Weave of the land. They do not (necessarily or automatically) fit a term often heard in core shamanism: “helping spirits”, though they can choose to be helpful. By honouring them we ensure that they are “on our side” and that we have their cooperation and protection during the harsh winter months (remember that Scandinavian winters are harsh and severe).

In the Old Norse way of thinking every gift (gåva) required a return gift (gengåva). There is nothing cynical about this, it follows the spiritual law of keeping all exchanges balanced. (Today we often speak of the principle of fair energy exchange).

In the past on farms animals would have been sacrificed and their blood poured out as a sacred offering (the word blót is the old Old Norse word for blood) but today many practitioners feel that alternative offerings are acceptable (seasonal foods, drink, the favourite food or drink of ancestors we used to know in real life, or other – as guided by the gods and spirits).

Let me also explain that the Alfar are the male ancestors. The female ancestors (Disir) have their own special day in the Yule period (Modranatt or Ancestral Mothers’ Night) as well as a Disablott (Offering ritual to the female ancestors) in the Spring.

The fertility god Freyr (twin brother of the goddess Freyja) is known as the Lord of the Elves and his otherworld domain is called Alfheimr (the Realm of the Elves)

When we bought our house in Sweden I promised the landvaettir (spirits of the land) and the “tomte of our tomt ” (the spirit of our property, not to be confused with Father Christmas – who also goes by the name of Tomte in Sweden!) that I would observe the ancient festivals and traditions as faithfully as my own understanding allows.

Over the summer I was guided to build a small cairn on our property. I carved a Bone Woman from antler bone and dedicated the cairn to her. (This was inspired by the Icelandic phenomenon of the Beinakerling

https://guidetoiceland.is/connect-with-locals/regina/laufskalavarda-add-a-stone-for-good-luck-before-entering-the-skeidararsandur-glacial-outwash

Today I waited for nightfall (which came at 4 p.m.) and made a small pilgrimage to this cairn. I brought my Rune Drum, a candle and offerings of ale and meat (the traditional offerings for an Alfablót).

I drummed and called in the Deep Ancestors (whose names we do not remember), the Ancestors of Place, the Landvaettir, the animals ancestors of all local animal species and the ancestors that live on in local memory and stories.

As a teacher (and lifelong student) of Norse Cosmology I also called in the great skalds and the writers of the Eddic poetry (including Snorri Sturlason, who gave us the Prose Edda!)

I drummed and chanted. I poured ale over the cairn and offered the food.

Odinn’s name literally means “The Spirit” (Odr + the definite article “inn”) and he is associated with the wind, sacred breath and The Wild Hunt.

The most powerful thing about my small blót was that every time I called in a round of ancestors – the wind responded by making a howling noise and curling around me.

I felt that my Álfablót was well-received!

Imelda Almqvist, Kärrshagen, Sweden 31 October 2018

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016 and her second book Sacred art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where art Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019.  She was a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit in both 2016 and 2017 and is a presenter on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently in the editing stages of her third book “Medicine of the Imagination” and has started her fourth book “Evolving Gods: The Sacred Marriage of Tradition and Innovation”

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist (YouTube Channel with art videos and Rune Drum videos)

Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages on Amazon

 

 

She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

April, 2017

SIF

Goddess1

(Photo Credit – debsden.blogspot.com)

Sif is a Norse/Scandinavian Grain Goddess, associated with the Earth and its’ vegetation. One species of moss is named after Her, “haddr sifjar” or “Sif’s hair”, which is great praise, as her golden mane of hair was Her most striking feature. Her name possibly means “relation by marriage” which would be descriptive to Her role in Asgard.

Sif was a swan-maiden, similar to the Valkyries, in that she was able to take the form of a swan.

She is a Prophetess, as well as the Goddess of wheat, fertility and family. Some say She is also a Goddess of fidelity, but that title is debatable, as you will see later.

Her first husband was the Giant Orvandil, whom whom She had a son, Ullr the Magnificent, God of Winter.

Sif, then married Thor, the Great God of Thunder, which whom She had a daughter, Thrudr, Goddess of Storms and Clouds, and two sons, Magni (Might) and Modi (Brave).

Sif and Thor were happy for a time and loved to make love in the fields during the summer, the thunder from Thor and the lightning from Sif, could be seen for long distances on these occasions. With Thor being a Sky God and Sif being an Earth Goddess, this follows the path of many myths and legends whereupon their consummation symbolically gives life to the Earth.

Her symbols are the sun, gold, Her hair.

She is connected to the Rowan tree.

“The holy plant of Sif is the rowan,

The protective tree with its berries of sacred red.

The tree that is called Thors salvation.

It saved Thor from the anger of vengeful giantesses,

Let it save you too.

Pass beneath the rowan three times and receive Sifs blessing.“**

**By Thorskegga Thorn

Goddess2

Sif’s hair was long, golden and beautiful. Once Loki, the Trickster, came and stole her hair. Thor was incensed. He forced Loki into the realm of the Dwarves. Their best craftsmen made Her new hair of spun gold which, when attached to Sif’s head, would grow as if it were Her own. It is believed that Her golden hair is a metaphor for the golden grain, with which She is connected.

More than one of the gods told Thor that Sif had a lover, which angered him and lends some doubt to Her being a Goddess of fideltity. Some would say that Her lover was Loki himself. In Stanzas 53 and 54 (below) of the Lokasenna, one of the poems of in Poetic Edda, a collection of old Norse poems.

When Sif went forward and poured out mead for Loki into a crystal cup and said:

Welcome now, Loki, and take the crystal cup

full of ancient mead,

you should admit, that of the children of the Æsir,

that I alone am blameless.

He took the horn and drank it down:

That indeed you would be, if you were so,

if you were shy and fierce towards men;

I alone know, as I think I do now,

your lover beside Thor,

and that was the wicked Loki.”

Bringing Sif into modern times, a moon on Venus was named, “Sif Mons” after Her.

Probably most significant are the changes to Her within the Marvel Universe. She is sister to Heimdall, the Watchman of Asgard. In their telling, the Dwarves that spun her golden hair became Trolls. As Loki stole the hair without paying for it, the Trolls had not been able to bespell it, and so, over time, Her golden hair turned to ebony. As Sif was very vain about Her hair, Her parents sent her away to learn the ways of the Shield-Maiden. When Sif returned to Asgard, she was a highly skilled Warrior. She has a sword charmed by Odin that will forge pathways between dimensions, mostly between Asgard and Earth. Her fighting ability is only surpassed by the Valkyrie Brunnhilde.

Goddess3

(Photo Credit: Writeups.org)

Odin chooses Sif to be wife to his son, Thor, as he recalled that they were childhood friends with strong feelings toward each other. They were happy together until the time that Thor preferred the mortal realm, while Sif preferred the immortal realm. They are still together, but marriage has been delayed. What the future will hold for them is unknown.

Goddess4

(Photo Credit: Pinterest)