For Samhain/Winternights, I decorated my shrine with pumpkins, pine cones, and symbols of death, and celebrated with my first ritual from Nicholas Egelhoff’s Sunna’s Journey: Norse liturgy through the wheel of the year, which includes full ADF Core Order rituals for each of the eight High Days in a Norse hearth culture.
It was nice to not have to worry about writing the ritual myself this time, having a pre-prepared script took a lot of the leg work of planning and preparation out of things, and Egelhoff’s wording is beautiful throughout. The three kindreds are addressed as Forfedur (ancestors), Landvaettir (nature-kin) and Gudir (deities) respectively, and the offerings section to them was longer and more involved (though still simple enough for a small rite) than what I had done previously, which helped get me into the flow of things a lot more.
The gatekeeper for the rite was Hel, the Lady of the Underworld in Norse myth (and daughter of Loki).It took a lot of effort to overcome my residual Catholic programming and not wince when making offerings to Hel (“Hell”). I used a lovely Santa Muerte (Holy death) statue I got at a Dia de los Muertos event last year to represent Hel, as her skeletal face and flowing robes seemed fitting.
The main focus of the rite revolved around recounting a story of the first humans, Askr and Embla (Ash and Elm), who were carved out of driftwood by Odin and his brothers. The story told of the death of Askr and his afterlife in Hel’s hall. While I don’t believe in an afterlife, it was a beautiful tale and I interpreted it as saying how we all return to under the earth after death, and also live on in the memories of those still living.
Telling a story mid-rite was a new one for me, but it felt authentically Norse, with the tradition of the skalds and sagas, and made the central offering to Askr and Embla more meaningful for knowing something about them.
Offerings were also made to honour the ancestors, especially those close to us, which in my case was my mother who died last year, and my grandfather, who died some years before. As my family is Irish (albeit from the Viking-founded cities of Cork and Dublin), the offering was a bottle of Guinness…well, it had to be!
All in all, the rite was very moving and I look forward to doing more rituals with Sunna’s Journey in future.