Twelve years ago today, my best friend (who is an amazing priest and vitki in his cultic tradition) Richie and I led a public Heathen devotional ritual known in some contemporary Norse Polytheist traditions as a faining (distinguished from the more-commonly-known ritual of a blòt; the former is distinguished by bloodless sacrificial offerings). It was a glorious day at a Lake County, Illinois-based forest preserve ritual location that I have always regarded as inherently sacred and immensely powerful: it is a place that shimmers with the energies of so many welcoming and helpful forest spirits, prairie spirits, and water spirits (lake and river). In attendance that Midsummer’s Day were good friends and notable Heathens in the community, such as my friend Atheleas, who served as the Illinois Steward for The Troth at the time, and several of her kindred members.
Of all of the myriad spots Richie and I could have chosen to set up our devotional space for the day, we decided to hold our gathering before a white oak tree sapling that was situated in a lovely meadow flanked by two large ponds (one west, one east) that were teeming with large-mouth bass, red-eared turtles, and silently stalking blue herons. The exuberant calls of red-winged blackbirds punctuated the calm, turquoise-hued skies. The site wasn’t (still isn’t) entirely private: a biking/horse riding/jogging trail winds its way close by where the lone tree stands, and on that sunny Saturday Midsummer Day, we certainly attracted a slew of joggers and other outdoor fitness enthusiasts who were curious about what Richie and I were doing as we set up our ritual space and why all of us were so unconventionally dressed—I remember overhearing a group of cyclists that had stopped to stare at us declare that we must have been rehearsing for the local Renaissance Faire!—but no one bothered us, thankfully.
Richie and I co-authored the ritual that appears below. (We memorized our lines in advance, if you’re curious.) The one event that might be unfamiliar to most readers is towards the very end, when I introduced a bit of Serbian folk magic/Slavic Rodnovery and “fed” a wooden “idol” that houses a spirit (named Lešik) who serves as a Guardian of the Wild Wood. I translate the Serbian that I spoke. I think it’s good to share this ritual with a wider audience, and feel free to adapt it to your solitary or group devotional needs!
Fortunately, this forest preserve is located near my workplace, and I went on a special pilgrimage of sorts earlier this evening to recall that joyous faining from so many years ago. Sadly, the weather today was chilly and overcast, much more autumnal-looking and feeling than the day of Summer Solstice, but I’m happy to see that white oak tree is still there and is growing strong, and the ponds are still teeming with fish, turtles, and herons, and the red-winged blackbirds still forcefully project their exuberant songs with all their little might whether you care for their shrill cries or not.
A Faining to Honor Sunna
(c) Ana Applegate & Richie Williams, June 21, 2007
List of Supplies:
- Potluck food contribution (finger food, berries)
- Biodegradable cutlery, plates, etc.
- Bug spray
- Bottled water
- Sunflower circlet
- Frame drum
- Portable altar (wooden)
- Altar cloth
- Offering bowl
- Goblet for altar and/or drinking horn with stand
- Wooden hammer (Richie)
- Bottle(s) of mead
- Lešik (log carving)
- Sprig of greenery (basil) for asperging / performing blessings
- Candles, cauldron, lighter
- Boombox with Corvus Corax Venus, Vida, Muzika CD
- Sowilu runes (wooden, engraved) to distribute to everyone
- Banner to be hung on portable stand or other image representing Sunna
- Demarcation of the Space with Spear (Ana)
- Hammer Rite of Hallowing of the Space (Richie)
Altar Consecration (Ana)
I consecrate and hallow this altar to the work of our sacred Lady, Sunna! Here at this time of Midsummer, may the might of our Gods be brought to our holy stead. May the warm light of Sunna heat our hearts and hold our spirits. Our holy Lady watches and waits for the faining in Her honor. Hail, Sunna!
Welcome and Explanation of Agenda (Ana)
Welcome, friends! We gather here to honor our sacred Sunna, Who, at this time of Midsummer, reaches Her height of power. The structure of this, our faining, or bloodless sacrifice, is as follows: We shall begin with our opening prayer, then invite our Lady Sunna, then bless our sacrificial mead and pass it ’round clockwise, from cup to cup, for a three-round symbel. The first round of toasting honors the Gods of the North (please do not invoke the Deities of other traditions). The second round honors our beloved dead, or departed heroes. The third round is an open round to toast what you will, but be mindful that each cup or horn that you drink from represents the holy Well of Urd, and whatever words you speak over the Well are binding in the web of Wyrd, not just between yourself and the Gods, but between all of us who are gathered here. So choose your words well. That being said, welcome, once again. Let us now invite the Powers.
Opening Prayer (“Lay of Sigrdrifa” sung by Ana)
Hail to Thee, Day, and Day’s Bright Boy,
Hail to the Night and Her Daughter’s joy.
With eyes that bless us, may You see,
And grant to those here, victory.
The Goddesses and Gods we call
And Holy Earth, Who gives to all—
Give us here wise words and weal,
And in this life, the hands that heal!
Prayer to Sunna (Richie)
[All assume ALGIZ/ELHAZ runic posture]
Holy Sunna, Lady of the Sun,
Light of the heavens,
Ever pursued and ever free,
We gather to greet and welcome You
And offer You gifts on this day.
We offer to You our prayers and love,
Our devotion and strength,
Our kinship and honor.
Consecrating the Mead (Richie)
Let us ready the sacrifice for our holy Lady.
[He fills goblet with mead, then draws the Hammer sign over the goblet.]
In the name of Thor, I consecrate this cup and the contents within. Hail, Thor!
[Richie hands goblet over to Ana, who hoists it overhead.]
Invocation to Sunna (Ana)
Hail to Thee, Sunna,
Light of Har shining gloriously,
She Whose light shone upon the bones of departed generations,
She Whose light will shine upon our children’s children’s children,
We give You hail and welcome!
Fill our hearts at this Midsummer with Your warm rays
So that Your fires will remain kindled in our hearts throughout the year!
[Ana takes a gulp and passes the goblet/horn clockwise from kin to kin.]
- Round One: Teutonic Gods
- Round Two: Ancestors and Heroes
- Round Three: Open Round (offerings to land spirits, boasts, prayers of thanks, etc.)
Blessing of the Altar, Folk, and Food (Ana)
[Ana pours portion of mead into offering bowl.]
Mighty Ones, here is our sacrifice,
the sweet honey of our love and spirit.
As You drink of it, may Your might and main fill this holy grove and feed our spirits.
[Ana takes basil spring and dips it into the blessed mead, asperging all present as well as the altar and the potluck food offerings.]
Dancing the Serbian Kolo to Corvus Corax’s Song, Tuska (Not for the Easily Exhausted! Hardcore Cardio Offering, Folks!)
(Ana:) Midsummer is a time to celebrate the warmth of love, the roaring heat of our passions. Let us honor the benevolent Powers with the sunwise movements of our feet. Everybody, join hands, and give your energy to the Old Ones as we dance the ancient Slavic Sun dance called the kolo, or the holy circle! Follow my lead!
[Song is played on boombox until folks nearly collapse from giddy exhaustion after dancing for 4 minutes.]
[All assume ALGIZ/ELHAZ runic posture.]
Prayer of Thanks (Richie)
Sacred Lady Sunna,
Summer Sun now strongest,
We thank Thee for Thy blessings of warmth and light.
May Thy reign be long and fruitful!
Pouring of the Libation/Feeding of Lešik (Ana)
Now is our rite ended and the sacrifice is made.
[Ana holds aloft offering bowl.]
The Sun burns; the Great Wheel turns!
To Sunna, to the Gods,
to the Goddesses,
to the Ancestors,
to the Land Spirits,
and to Earth, Mother of us all,
Accept this, our sacrifice;
We offer this holy mead,
From the Gods to the Earth to us.
From ourselves to the Earth to the Gods!
[The libation is poured onto the ground and into Lešik’s mouth.]
Popi, Lešik, popi! / Drink, Lešik, drink!
Napuni the se od naše crtce! / Fill yourself up with our love!
Živeli!* / To life!
This Concludes the Rite; Begin the Feast
*This is what we Serbs say when raising/clinking our glasses to toast. It’s a celebration of the life force and a blessing for all who participate to live a long, healthy life.
Have a blessed Midsummer, my Northern Hemisphere readers, and a blessed Midwinter to my Southern Hemisphere friends!