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Blutwölfin
Wednesday, July 20th, 2005, 01:14 PM
Ásatrú is a community minded religion, and for that reason most of our rites are designed for a group of people. One rite however that has yet to catch on in the Modern Era is the housel or sacred feast. The housel is a time when folk gather together to eat a feast or banquet with their friend s and family, the gods, and their ancestors.

It is after all a time of bonding, of sharing food and drink and togethrness. The housel is very similar to the blot, and in fact, in ancient times were one and the same rite. The ancient Heathens did not perform libations for blot, but indeed had feasts, setting aside food for the Gods and feasting themselves. It was a time of cummunity togetherness with one's neighbors, ancestors, and Gods.

In the Elder Era: The word housel is the New English form of Old English húsel (Gothic hunsel), a word which was used after the Conversion not only for Christian communion, but also the feasts of saints, indicating it was most likely first applied to the Heathen sacred feast. Indeed, even in Christian texts it is sometimes used of Heathen sacrifices and feasts. The housel or sacred feast is well attested to in Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon materials. According to Bede in the Historia Ecclesiastica, Pope Gregory ordered that the Heathen sacrifices of oxen be made into thanksgiving feasts to the Christian god. Apparently, the housel was performed at all the High Holy Tides. The folk would come to the hof and build temporary shelters around it and stay there for the duration of the celebration. Pope Gregory implied such when he said huts may be built around churches during Christian celebrations. This is also indicated by archaeological evidence at Yeavering in England, where there are signs of temporary dwellings having been built, not much different in purpose than the tents at modern gatherings. Adam of Bremen when writing about the hof at Old Uppsala stated that there was no exemption from sending gifts to the hof for the festival held every nine years, so perhaps attend-ance at the festival would have been deemed worthy as well.

It could well be that the ancient Heathen, like Jews today, believed that the slaying of animals for food in general was something that should be done in a sacred manner. At Harrow Hill in Sussex, England, over a thousand oxen skulls have been found, and based on this, G. J. Copley believes that the fall slaughter of livestock may have taken place at the hof. This indicates there must have been a large turn out for such rites to slay so many beasts.

Certain customs must have accompanied the rites. As early as Tacitus, literature describes the frith that must be kept during the holy tides. Other more folkish customs may have accompanied the rites such as sword dances and mummer plays. The Æcer-Bót, a semi-Heathen rite that survived in the Anglo-Saxon manuscript, the Lacnunga , seems as though it should be accompanied by some sort of plow processional. In Heiðreks Saga , the sacred boar was lead before King Heiðrek prior to its sacrifice and oaths were sworn on it. It isn't a far leap of the imagination to think that the boar must have been garlanded and accompanied by a procession to and from the King.

The housel as presented by Snorri was a combination of blood sacrifice, libation, and communion feast. Snorri states that a full was drunk to Wóden, to the King's speed, and to Njord and Fréa. Following these came the bragafull and the minni. Those familiar with symbel will recognize that a similar procedure is followed at its opening, prior to the gielps and béots. Whether part of this alcohol is given to the gods is not stated in Snorri's work but it is safe to assume it was. Drawing on Anglo-Saxon archaeological evidence, it would appear that the skulls of sacrificed animals were reserved for the gods. Adam of Bremen mentioned carcasses of animals hanging in the grove at Uppsala, and presumably these were the heads and hides of slaughtered beasts, although some may have been sacrifices given whole to the gods. The housel described by Snorri in the Heimskringla is the same as any other blot and can be outlined as follows:

1) The Blót - The slaughter of the animals. It is not said how the animals were slain, but they may have been smothered as indicated by Old English swebban and Old Norse soa both meaning "to put to sleep" as well as "to sacrifice." Or they may have been drowned, Old English ons‘gedness "sacrifice, offering, sacrificial victim" derives from a word meaning "to cause to sink, settle, drown." Need less to say, the slaying must have been more humane than that used in a few modern slaughter houses (where they sometimes resort to lead pipes or baseball bats). Snorri does state the meat was boiled. At this time the blood of the beast was collected for the blessing.

2)The Hallowing - The alcohol and food for the feast was passed over a fire by the King and the hammer sign or some similar sign was sained over it.

3) The Blessing - The blood from the slaughtered beast was smeareded on the walls of the hof, and smeared on the altar.

4) The Fulls - One to Oðinn, one to the King's speed, and one to Njord and Frey. These fulls were probably more like wassailing, drinking to one's health, and not like the gielps and béots, the boasts of symbel. This tradition has survived as the opening toasts at formal dinners.

5) The Bragafull - The King's toast. This may have been a boast like those of symbel, as it often plays that role there.

6) The Minni - The fulls drunk in memory of dead kinsmen. This, no doubt was done like the minni of symbel and the minni at funerals.

7) The Housel - The feast itself. It is probable that the remaining food and drink were given to the gods immediately following the feast. These may have been burned or dumped down a sacred well.

In the New Era: This outline can be adapted to present day needs and gaps filled in by drawing on other parts of the lore. A procession could be added to the beginning and some sort of warding rite inserted prior to the drinking of the fulls. The food and drink could be given to the gods immediately following the feast. An outline for such a rite look as follows:

1) The Blót - Most of us today do not have to slay our own animals, yet we still have to prepare the meal. It is recommended that the preparation of the feast not be left to one person and that a variety of courses be offered. During the feast a plate should be set aside for the gods. This is their portion. After the feast it should be set outside, where the gods (most likely in the guise of a neighborhood cat or dog or other animal) will consume it.

2) The Sith (optional) - The food is then to be escorted with much revelry to the feasting tables. This can be done with much fanfare. Servers can be garlanded and the food dressed up with sprigs of parsley. The feast table too should be decorated in colors of the season.

3) The Wéonde - Wéonde is an Anglo-Saxon reconstruction based on the Old Norse word vigja "to make sacred, to separate from the ordinary and mundane and make a part of the gods' realm" This corresponds to Edred Thorsson's "Hallowing" in the Blessing outline in A Book Of Troth. Its purpose is to make the site of the feast sacred and to ward it against unwanted in-truders of the spiritual kind. It is here that the Hammer Rite of the Ring of Troth would be performed, or the Wéonde Song of the Miercinga Ríce. In the Elder Era, this may have been unneedful as they had their own permanent holy sites that had been used for thousands of years. The purpose of the wéonde is to call on gods like .unor and ask them to protect the site. A formula in Old Norse used to accomplish this was .órr uiki "Þunor make this sacred!" In Old English, this would be Þunor wéoh!

4) The Hallowing - The priest or the mæthel leader passes the drink and food over a flame, and sains the hammer over them. He or she may wish to say something like "wassail this food!" The flame and the words are intended to ensure that the food be food that brings health, by driving away any illness causing wights.

5) The Blessing - Mead is poored into the blessing bowl. And it is then sprinkled on the the gathered folk by one of the servers. Appropriate words like "May the gods blees you may be said" while sprinkling each person.

6) The Fulls - The fulls are the god calls or invocations of the feast. Ideally, one should be drank to each of the gods being honored and to the mægen of the kindred. A full might be worded "Be hale Wóden!" or list his accomplishments. They can be elaborate or simple, it's all up to personal taste. Bedes often work best here.

7) The Bragafull - This would be done by the kindred leader, and might list accomplishments of the kindred or speak of future plans.

8) The Minni - The dead of all present are drunk to, preferably one at a time, although if too many are present a collective toast might be made.

9) The Housel - The food and drink are consumed. Other than being in the middle of ritual, this should be no different than an ordinary meal. Some rules do apply however. The tone of conversation should be serious, there should be no slightings of those present, or their friends and family not present. The idea behind eating together is to create a sense of collective identity, not cause fights, and splinter the commnity. If a group wishes this might be a good time to discuss the lore, the Gods, or the group’s past and future. Overall, it should be an enjoyable eating experince with fine food and drink.

10) The Yielding - All the leftovers, as well as the parts already promised to the gods are taken outside and preferably disposed of somewhere on hof grounds (within in its garth "enclosure").

11) The Leaving - The rite is formally adjourned, although a symbel could be arranged to follow.

Conclusion: The housel was perhaps the highest form of sacrifice performed by the Elder Heathen. It was perhaps as Snorri states, a form of communion with the gods, its elements of sharing of meat and drink with the gods are obvious. Housels should be performed at ever holy tide, even if no other festivities are planned. The main dish should always be meat of some form, although a vegetarian housel could be subsituted in many cases (and for many reasons). Side dishes at a housel could be salads, breads, various deserts, or anything else you might find at a formal banquet. You may wish to look into seasonal foods traditional to Northern Europe or foods sacred to particular Gods (pork for Fréa, parsley for Wóden and so forth) when preparing a húsel. In addition, you should make sure that cleanup detail is taken care of and not left to the preparer of the feast. Everyone should be involved in the preparation of the food for a housel. It is a time of community togetherness and sharing, and not something to be left to one person. Potluck feasts can serve to supply food for housel, and this is an idea way to get community involvement.


Source (http://www.ealdriht.org/husel2.html)