When one looks at hearth practice, it is something that isn’t mentioned as much amongst the wider Polytheist, Pagan, or Heathen communities. This, of course, can be accredited to the stress placed on finding a group with whom to practice, and that is completely understandable. As I have touched upon in previous articles however, that is not always possible. Even when it is, there is also the idea of selling short your own knowledge and understanding to be a part of a group who may not share your values or understanding. Examples such as joining a group who may be Folkish, when you do not agree with that line of thought. Or Norse based when your understanding is Anglo-Saxon based, or any number of other variables that may ensue.
However, there is now emerging, in a larger sense, those who share this sentiment, and have been working on ways to convey the workings of hearth based practice to a wider audience. Sites like Lārhūs Fyrnsida for example, often teach important points of Anglo-Saxon Heathen knowledge with the hearth practitioner in mind. Of course this site serves to show the inner workings and thoughts of two people already involved in hearth practice. Showing how one such practice is built and maintained. What purpose I would wish this article to serve is a very basic outline of some of the things we at Þunresfolc Heorþ do, along with things I had learned from when I was practicing alone. This is, and emphatically so, not an exhaustive list. I share this in the hopes that others, perhaps even you, the reader, may share and help folks with their practices, as well.
I have decided to break this down into two parts. What I describe goes beyond what is done in the home. My reasoning for this is that custom does not come with an “on and off switch” (at least, it probably shouldn’t). Whatever your custom may be based in, or what have you: Fyrnsidu, to Heathenry, to Paganism, and so on, is grounded in a given worldview. That worldview shapes your perception of the world around you (hence the term worldview) in a way that affects basically every aspect of one’s life.
A Heathen isn’t just so in front of the weofod. Isn’t only so on the tides, or during ritual. They are so every moment of the day. It isn’t just what they do, or what they believe, but who they are. This is so, whether you are one with your hearth, or many in a group. I do not, for example, throughout the day, go about my life talking with everyone I meet about being a Fyrnsidere, or how they should do the same. However, the worldview it has instilled in me affects every facet of my life. From my interactions with others, to the priority I place upon them. This includes how I look at the world around me, a world of wights and gods. I do not reject science, and whatnot, but, of course, I believe in these things residing right along with the “rational”. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, one can have both.
This can be seen in one’s perception of myths. A quote that comes to mind is this:
“A myth is something that never happened, but is always true.” -Sallustius
It is a quote that I take very deeply to heart. It can apply to many things I believe. For example, I have had friends, most of my friends are Atheist or irreligious, they ask me if I believe that things like gods, wights, and spirits or real. What I always tell them is that that is not the point. I believe. So long as I am not affecting public policy, or forcing others to do the same, or trying to supplant things such as the Big Bang, or evolution with it (both of which I see as correct), what does it matter to anyone else? Just as it doesn’t need to concern outsiders of my hearth that I set aside things for offerings. Non Pagans need not understand it, but are welcome to if they so desire.
As I had stated in my last posting, belief does inform practice. Orthopraxy being the actions, belief being why they are done. Both matter, and now I would like to explain some of those beliefs and practices with you, the reader.
The most basic thing, is of course, the study of worldview, and the decision of whether or not it resonates with you. Do you understand key points? Such as:
Frith- The sense of belonging, security, and peace amongst those of your innangeard, from the people within it, to the ritual sense of the beings with whom you may interact.
Grith- Truce and easiness between two groups of people. Usually temporary, and for a set purpose.
Hospitality- Being a good host, as well as a good guest.
Reciprocity- Exchange in a fair manner. Along with an understanding of expectation on both the giver and recipient. Understanding both are necessary. In material goods, as well as deeds. Not that giving to charity is wrong, for example, but it would be important to understand that you may not see a return. So, as long as that is understood, all is well. I for one enjoy giving to charities when I have a little extra income. The rerturn needn’t be literal, but understand that a cycle occurs.
Reputation- Understanding that what you do matters, and can affect how you are treated by others, for good or ill. As well as that this is directly tied into honor. Are you a person who is seen as one having good character by those around you? Fame ties into this as well. This is what happens when one’s reputation is widespread, beyond the innangeard. For good or ill, as well. In stories like Beowulf, that fame brought glory. Which was likely often a goal of those in the warrior classes back then.
Luck- Understanding that luck is not random, but is based on many things. That with which you have inherited, and how your actions strengthen or weaken it. That because of this, you can affect your luck, and bring about good or ill for yourself, and your innangeard. Reputation and reciprocity tie into this, and because of that, your luck mixes with those around you. Do you keep good company?
Orlæg- That which encompasses what you have inherited from your ancestors. The luck with which you were born.
Wyrd- The ever flowing process of actions and events that determine one’s path in life. Not immutable, like fate, but changeable depending on actions, though limited by circumstance.
Along with these items is the understanding that they are all connected. There are more, to be sure, but these are the basics.
Once those concepts are understood, and you decide that they resonate with you, what is next? Understanding wholeness, and “unwholeness”. One who is whole, for example, is one that puts the aforementioned concepts together, and lives a life based on right actions and the understanding of those key worldview points, and executes them appropriately. Wholeness is completeness, and obviously, unwholeness is its opposite. I will not say that there is, in particular a goal associated with Heathenry. However, if there was one, I suspect wholeness would be it. Others may say glory, and that’s a nice thing, but not everyone needs it. Wholeness, Heathen, or otherwise, one who lives by their worldview, whatever it may be, and feels complete by it, is probably a good thing for anyone.
After that, there is the understanding of the sacred versus that of the profane. The sacred is that which is of the divine. Of the gods, or a god. Of one’s ancestors. Not of a mundane quality. This is why we have weofods, altars, and the like. As well as things like sacred groves, sacred wells, and so on. These are places where the communication with sacred beings occur. That which is sacred, is that which belongs to these beings, or where they are met.
The profane, of course, is everything else, that which exists outside of the sacred. This does not, by any means imply that that which lies outside of the sacred is unimportant. Nothing could be further from the truth. It simply means that their importance is of a different kind. Many things, of course that lie outside of the sacred are important. I’m not one to say everything is sacred, and so that may be a point of contention to some, but, just as any opposite goes, you cannot know what one is without the existence of the other.
So, when one has knowledge of these things. They may likely set aside a place in their own homes to commune with the sacred. Be this their ancestors, their house wight, or though controversial to some, even their gods. Whether one of, or any of these beings participates in your rituals, or accepts your offerings can only be guessed by yourself or your group. It isn’t as though I, or anyone outside of those with you can know, prove, or disprove. Though, if you choose to share that information with those outside of that setting, expect others to speculate. If you fear that judgement, and/or are unwilling to put your reputation on the line to face that judgement, that is fine. Then it is best kept to yourself. Just as has been explained, all of one’s actions have an effect. Always choose carefully and wisely.
A Bit About The Weofod And Offerings
In setting up a weofod, it is generally recommended to set it up at the corner of a given room. This may not always be possible, but it is best to do so if you can. Ours is currently against a wall for space reasons. There are different ideas on how to demarcate a space like that as sacred. I like to circle the area (though I must do so diagonally) with a candle and make a chant. Make no mistake, your weofod(s) are sacred space. This means they must be treated as such. All items on it belong to the sacred, and are to be treated with that respect. Mundane items should not be placed upon them. At least, that is how I perceive it. I cannot tell you how to practice, however, at least in my opinion, I could not recognize one who doesn’t respect sacred space as Fyrnsidere/Fyrnsidestre, Heathen, or even Pagan, as this is not only a Heathen thing. Others are free to disagree.
What the items on a weofod may be are going to vary from person to person. Generally there is going to be some kind of idol. Representing a being or beings with whom you wish to communicate. Some people have more than one weofod for this reason. Candles are almost always included. I don’t, and most Heathens don’t believe the color of them matters. They can be as simple or as fancy as you may like. We have white pillar candles on ours. For us, they are simply for light.
An offering bowl is almost, if not universal. Preferably a wooden or perhaps stone bowl. Plastic kind of cheapens the ambiance, does it not? We use an oak bowl, ourselves. Cups are often placed for liquid offerings, after ritual, dumped into the bowl, and left outside or such. It is best not to throw them in the garbage, but some may live in a place with stricter rules and have little choice. I see it as last resort only. Without these basic items, I wouldn’t think of it as a weofod, personally.
As far as what to offer: bread, mead, ale, wine, or cider are good all around bets. Juice if you are under the legal purchasing age in your area. If you are offering to a specific ancestor, for example, try to find something that they enjoyed in life, if you know of it.