Blót on the Go
Blót is one of the most central religious rites in Heathen spirituality. It is incorporated into most rituals, enacted for every holiday, and is easily the most indisputably Heathen rite there is. For many, the image of blót is one that involves horns, expensive bottles of various kinds filled with offerings, and many other accoutrements that all suggest a lot of time, preparation, and the luxury to have a sizable collection of Heathen ritual items and artifacts. This then begs the question for many new Heathens: what if I don’t have any of those things and want to do a blót? Do I need all these things for doing blót properly and for the Powers to accept it? Thankfully, as I will explain in this article, this is not the case and blót can be done quite simply, on the go, and with a very limited set of materials, tools, and choice of offerings.
Before I go into how you do blót on the go, I want to discuss the why. Why you might be adapting, stripping down, or reformatting your usual blót ritual is important for understanding how you would do it. One of the most likely reasons why a practitioner may find themselves needing to adapt their blót form is personal precarity. It should go without saying that people who, for whatever reason, lack the necessary housing and resources to safely maintain dedicated sacred space face significant challenges that practitioners who have such means do not.
You may also find yourself far from home, whether traveling on the road or journeying through the wilderness. Carrying all or even most of your usual tools and shrine materials would be impractical under such circumstances, requiring you to develop other means of conducting a blót rite. You may also find yourself at an event like a conference or a demonstration where an on the spot blót is needed and you find yourself less than well equipped to do so. Regardless of the specific reason, there are many circumstances where you may find yourself away from your tools and sacred space yet needing to conduct a blót without them.
So what, then, do you need to do a very minimal, to the point blót where you only have what you can easily acquire and carry as tools and offerings? The answer, thankfully, is not very much. A blót rite, at its heart, can be done very simply and with very little in terms of trimmings and trappings. Its core function is creating and sustaining relationships between the practitioner and the specific Powers being honored by the blót. This means that what matters most for whether or not a blót is effective is if it reflects your relationships with the Powers in question and satisfies your shared expectations.
In practice, this means all you really need to perform a blót is an acceptable offering, a space where you can safely sacrifice it, and yourself. Of these, what counts as an acceptable offering and having space to sacrifice it are the factors that will most likely need to be adapted to your particular circumstances. As I’ve written about in The Way of Fire & Ice and discussed in other places, what matters most when you are determining offerings or gifts is that what you are giving is something that is genuinely yours and has value to you. This could be things like precious food or drink, with mead being a popular choice, but it does not need to be. Havamal 52, Bellows translation, provides some guidance on this question where it says:
No great thing needs | a man to give,
Oft little will purchase praise;
With half a loaf | and a half-filled cup
A friend full fast I made.
This is why understanding offerings and sacrifice in terms of subjective value is so critical. Our modern, capitalist society assigns value to all things in monetary terms and through this system implies everything has some kind of abstract, objective value. This runs in stark contrast to what is shown in surviving source material, as most poignantly illustrated by Havamal 52, where pre-conversion, pre-modern peoples living in Nordic Scandinavia had what is known as a gift-based economy. In gifting economies, all value is determined based on an item, commodity, or good’s perceived use value to the person who is trading for it and what they offer in exchange is determined by the recipient’s own subjective needs. For example, one might exchange three head of cattle for a fine, iron sword because the person offering the cattle for the sword believes the sword in question has equivalent use value to three head of cattle.
Such logic holds true when working with the Powers. A small offering of water, for example, may not be something you see as having much in terms of monetary value but as a substance that is necessary for sustaining life it would have great value to local landvættir. Similarly, you may find yourself in a position where you have few things you feel you can part with or offer to the Powers which would mean whatever you are able to sacrifice gains great value through your lack of means. To put it bluntly, ten dollars means a lot more to someone living paycheck to paycheck than it does to a person with a comfortable, lucrative career and personal savings and the same holds true for other things you could offer.
One concern you will have to consider is how to properly sacrifice the offering in question. Liquid offerings are the easiest to manage in this sense as they can be ritually destroyed by pouring into the ground. Other, physical offerings may pose other challenges. Traditionally more physical offerings may be disposed of through burning but you may find yourself in a position where doing so would be unsafe, incredibly noticeable, or otherwise is not permitted. This may require that you instead conduct the sacrifice by burying or tearing apart the offering in question. You could, potentially, also dispose of an offering by placing it in a body of water and this was historically done but in our modern world is not recommended due to the risk of ecological harm. Similarly, you should be careful that anything you are offering is something that will not damage the local environment as this is both not desirable and shows disrespect to the Powers.
The question of finding space may also prove challenging though, again, it is not necessary for the space where you perform blót to be a proper shrine bedecked in symbols of the Powers, tools, and other items used in spiritual practice. Just as all you genuinely need for an offering is an object that has value to you and the Power you are giving it to, the same is true of spaces where you conduct the blót. What matters when finding a space for performing blót is that it has a clear association with the Powers you are honoring. For vaettir this is often pretty straightforward as the land they are on is intimately connected to them. For Gods or Dead, by contrast, you should seek out places that have some kind of association with them or even make one by inscribing their symbols on the space where you conduct the blót. Something as simple as pouring tea over a Hammer of Thor drawn in dirt can more than suffice for providing a blót to Thor.
In conclusion, conducting a blót while on the go or otherwise in less than optimal conditions is much easier than it sounds. The blót rite is highly flexible and easily adapted to many different circumstances, means, and conditions facing individual practitioners. Modern practitioners who find themselves away from their usual sacred spaces or those who lack the means to cultivate such a space will find that blót and building relationship with the Powers can be easily done with half a loaf and a half-filled cup.