• Ryan Smith

Initiating Right Relationship with the Powers

Being in right relationship with the Powers and the world around you is one of the core, guiding principles of Fire & Ice Heathenry. While the concept itself is fairly intuitive, many new practitioners often wonder how you initiate these relationships and what is most important in sustaining them. What is most essential for understanding how this works, in Radical practice, is discussing the blot rite and what it implies for right relationship, how you can incorporate names and kennings into your workings with the Powers, being receptive to their responses, and ensuring equity in any such relationships. I will cover both how these concepts can help you initiate right relationship with Powers of all kinds and some ways to practically utilize them in your personal practice.

In Fire & Ice Heathenry, the core logic of how you build right relationships with the Nordic Powers is informed by the practice of the blot, a rite of sacrifice dedicated to a specific Power. In historic blots, as described in Hakon the Good's saga, early medieval Nordic peoples ritualistically slaughtered livestock and collected the blood in great bowls that were set aside as offerings for the Gods and sometimes sprinkled on participants as a form of blessing. The general patterns observed in Snorri's account also appear in Ibn Fadlan's Risalia and missionary Adam of Bremen's descriptions of the great Uppsala festival, both of which added human sacrifice, often by strangulation, into the mix. Less bloody examples of similar practices include hoards of broken swords found throughout Central Europe and Scandinavia, which researchers speculate was an offering by the victors to the Gods of war as thanks for their triumph. You could, arguably, even include folk customs of leaving out gifts of milk and honey for local spirits of home and land follows a similar pattern as these other cases. Regardless of the particulars, what is shared is something perceived as having great value was subjected to ritualistic destruction which dedicated the item as an offering to a specific Power.

This pattern of exchange by providing offerings is what forms the basis of both the Fire & Ice version of the blot rite. Blot, viewed from this perspective, always include act act of providing gifts as sacrifice to specific Powers. This gifting is part of what builds a relationship between the individual practitioner and the Power in question, whether that Power is a departed relative or one of the Aesir. The word gifting is especially important here, as gift-giving in pre-conversion Scandinavia was part of a broader system of exchange between people and Powers which is often described in some parts as a gifting economy. In this framework, offerings given to the Powers are not simply one-way acts of supplication but are part of a broader relationship of gifting between practitioner and Power making such acts during blot and dedication part of what builds lasting bonds. Value becomes much more subjective, being based on necessity or significance to the practitioner and Power instead of any monetary or commercially-dictated conceptions of value.

How you do this will, of course, vary. For modern practitioners, blot offerings tend much more towards the milk and honey end of the spectrum with prepared food, alcohol, and fresh fruit and flowers being popular offerings in the present day. Regardless of the specifics, what you use in your dedications should be guided by both what you consider as having value both for you and the Power you are sacrificing it to and by what you can practically do in your living situation. I've personally provided offerings through pouring material onto the earth or water, tossing onto open flame, ritualistic breaking, and leaving out to evaporate or decay over time. What matters is that the method you are using effectively destroys or consumes the offering in a way that makes it unusable by you.

Though providing offerings is an important element to right relationship, they are not the only things to consider. It can, if you prefer or are pressed for time and space, be as simple as providing the offering while saying a few words but this does not mean building relationship only consist of sacrifices. This is, in part, because the sheer multitude of Powers that exist in Nordic-inspired practice which means simply giving offerings with only minimal or even no clear direction will do little for affirming a clear relationship. It is here that names and kennings become a very useful element to incorporate into your rituals, offerings, and acts of right relationships.

In Nordic lore every being has both the names they are known by and a whole host of titles, bynames, and kennings they have acquired through their actions or that have been bestowed by modern practitioners. These additional names represent different facets of their personalities, actions in the world, and how modern practitioners understand these Powers. Some of these Powers, such as the more well-known Gods, have many names which each have their own significance and associations while others names, such as local vaettir, may be unknown and require significant work to learn. In some cases these names carry the implication that they themselves are not the true name of the Power in question but are a kenning themselves, as shown by how the names Freyr, Freya, and Tyr all translate as, "Lord", "Lady", and "God".

These names help establish a connection with a particular known Power by clearly signalling to them that you are reaching out very specifically to them. Using multiple names reinforces this by calling out to that Power on multiple different levels at the same time. Incorporating multiple names into a greeting, invocation, or ritual can also provide you with material for chants, poems, and songs all depending on what it is you are seeking to do. Song and poetry, particularly in the traditional saga forms like ljodhattar and fornyrdislag, can be especially empowering for you both because of the mystical significance attached to these art forms in the lore, are a helpful tool for reaching altered states, and give you space to personalize how you interact with the Powers while also providing some handy tools for developing the specifics. Even if you don't have the specific names, such as for those of a local vaettir, you can still use kennings such as descriptions of natural features or specific places they are associated with to achieve the same effect.

Once you have reached out to the Power through their names and provided your offerings it is time to wait and listen to what they have to say. How you do this can vary greatly depending both on what Power you are interacting with but generally speaking there are two methods I've found to be fairly reliable which are using the ecstatic state and sitting in silence. Entering an ecstatic trance state to directly commune with the Power and open your perceptions to different forms of information. You could, if you so choose, even incorporate some seidr techniques like Uti Seta to better reach them. The second, sitting in silence, instead urges you to remain in an alert, observant state so you can better take in the world around you. This method can be especially helpful when working with the vaettir thanks to their close associations with specific places.

Whatever you learn from listening to the Powers will help guide you in creating such right relationship though you are not required or obligated to act on anything you feel puts yourself or others in danger. Your autonomy is always paramount in any interactions with the Powers and if a Power is asking or demanding something that you do not feel comfortable or safe doing then it is always ok to assert your boundaries by refusing to do so. Ensuring such equity and safety during practice is just as essential to right relationship as all other aspects of this process. To put it simply, you cannot be in right relationship with a Power if that Power is making you feel unsafe. This also applies in reverse, particularly in places with histories of violence against indigenous inhabitants, local communities, or the environment which can inflict lasting harm on the Powers associated with such places. If a local Power expresses a desire to not work with you or demands weregild as a necessary precondition for initiating any relationship, you should honor that request and work with them as best as possible to fulfill such requests.

In summary, starting right relationship is a process that is rooted heavily in the deeper logic of Heathen lore which is consistently and deeply founded on reciprocity, equity, and consent. In a world where trauma, particularly of the spiritual sort, is all too common and institutional abuse of power runs rampant building your relationships on these principles puts you in a much better position to fully develop your spirituality in terms that are healthy and sustainable. It is also a process that you can initiate on your own, based on your best understanding of the Powers and your environment. Whatever works best for you is what matters most in all aspects of Fire & Ice practice and initiating right relationship is no different. Building your relationships with the Powers on these terms is healthy both for you, the Power you are working with, and your interactions with the broader world around you.

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