Hail and Horn Gathering 2014 – Freyr

Hail and Horn is an annual gathering organized by Canadian Heathens to express in fullness our ancient religious custom. The gathering is anchored by three intertwined rituals – blót, húsel and symbel – and a deep reverence for the Gods. This is the third year of the gathering.  This year, in particular, we honour the Frith-Maker, the Lord Yngvi-Freyr.

Hail Lord Yngvi-Freyr! Raising a God-pole is the main ritual at Hail and Horn. Each year a log of red pine is carved in the likeness of a god/dess and ceremoniously ‘planted’ into the earth within the Vé. To date both Odin and Frigg have been set in the holy stead and Freyr will join them in 2014. The lore on such a custom is taken from the Risala of Ibn Fadlan, where the Rus would erect the likeness of their gods and ancestors to receive sacrifice. It is our aim to honour the Æsir and Vanir in a similar fashion, befitting our ancestral ways. Offerings of food and drink will be made to the Lord Freyr in a blót ritual which will link directly to the main feast. The Vé at Raven’s Knoll is unparalleled in Canada due to its stature, vision and plentiful community use. As a permanent publicly-accessible sacred enclosure, it is one of the best locations in the country to experience our Elder Kin.

As our ancient heathen ancestors did (as among the Anglo-Saxons) we will be partaking in a sacred feast known as húsel. Foodstuffs which we will offer at the Vé, will be collected and prepared in a way consistent with the cooking techniques of the Germanic peoples of old. Our communal efforts at the raising of the God-pole to Freyr, the blót, bind gods and folk together through this ritual meal in his honour.  It is in the hall at the feasting board that frith is shared with every bite, growing in joviality well into the throws of symbel.

High Symbel
Raise the horn! Symbel (pronounced sumble) is a communal ritual drinking within a hall. At Hail and Horn participants are invited to partake in a ‘High Symbel’, meaning to hail the gods of the historic Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. Loki may be honoured at symbel, as for what is stated in Lokasenna. Our symbel is based upon well-documented research by Stephen Pollington in his work, the ‘Meadhall’. The format is modelled on that of Anglo-Saxon sources as opposed to the popular American Sumbel.  This symbel features a non-circular setting devoid of a simple three round structure. Each participant may chose to speak over the horn by signalling the byrele (Cup/Horn Bearer) if/when they are so moved to do so. The thyle (Orator and Hall Challenger) will keep the pace flowing and enforce any rules of etiquette, if such a need arises.

This is a preliminary program based on the work of volunteers, so some times and arrangements of program elements may change. Once you are at the event there will be a board displaying the program for all to see.

Thursday, June 26, 2014
Early arrivals can secure their preferred camping spot, though there is no lack of space, and meet other early birds. Some activities may be organized if there are a fair number of folks on Thursday. Possibilities range from a movie night, board games or the age old art of storytelling. Heck, grab an ale and pull up a stump for a relaxing evening before the festivities begin.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Carving of the God-Pole: Noon – 5 pm
Throughout the day stop by the seasoned craftsman as he hews Lord Freyr’s complexion from a red pine log, which had once stood within the wight-blessed forests of Raven’s Knoll. Once the carving is complete and the appointed hour has arrived, the physical form of Beli’s Slayer will be solemnly processed towards the Vé. Within, it will be erected in the company of Odin and Frigg and be awakened to receive blót by his honoured folk.

Welcome Reception / Landwight Offering: 7 pm – 8 pm
Once most attendees have arrived and unpacked, the folk will gather for an offering to the landwights. This is a wonderful time for various banners to rekindle their relationships from last year and share great memories with newcomers. This is the time when we give offering to the many seen and unseen beings who have welcomed our stay in their midsts.

Welcome Fire: 8 pm – 1 am
Get toasty and draw a horn! At the Keyhole Fire Pit we will come together to share in company, rejoicing in old and newfound friends. As with last year’s event the welcome fire will be open to all those camping at Raven’s Knoll allowing folks curious about HHG a chance to meet many in our great community and share in ways. If they like what they hear and see, maybe they will voluntarily join our band of good heathen folk… (Note: This is the time to for Raven’s Knoll guests to converting their camping passes for a Hail and Horn experience.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Kubb: 10 am – 12 noon
Want to throw sticks at wood and kill a king? Thought so. What better way is there to unwind than a fun and exciting ancient Swedish game which seems like a strange marriage of horseshoes, lawn darts, bocce and… stacking firewood? If you’re still not sure… you can find more information (rules and much more) at Kubbcanada.com.

Freyr: Til Ars ok Friðr: 1 pm – 2 pm
Freyr is a god known to the general public as a “fertility god.”  However, like other gods honoured by Heathens, he is a unique personality that encompasses so much more than just one aspect.  In this discussion we will discuss his many qualities, his strengths and foibles, his symbols and signs; from a grounding in the lore to a sharing of personal experiences and impressions.

Alf Locks and Knots of Vengeance: The Wearing of Matted Hair in Heathen Tradition: 2 pm – 3 pm
There are a few examples of Heathen spiritual practices being tied to the wearing matted hair styles. There will be a brief presentation about similar hairstyles as a spiritual practice amongst Ras Tafari, First Nations people, and Hindus, as an ethnographic bridge to explore the Heathen examples of various matted hairstyles worn by ‘outsider’ warriors and in the treatment of mental illness. A discussion of possible modern Heathen applications of this manner of hair-styling to our spirituality will be suggested.

Freyr Blót (Raising Freyr’s God-Pole): 3 pm – 5 pm
At this holy rite we honour Freyr. We will plant his idol, his god-pole, deep into the ground to rise high into the air and permanently set his place by Odin and Frigg in the holy enclosure that is the Raven’s Knoll Vé. In a manner inspired by the account of Ibn Fadlan’s travels amongst the Swedish Rus, we will provide many appropriate offerings to the Frith-Giver, the Yngling’s Alf, that he may know of us and we may know him. We give a gift for a gift, for a gift deserves a gift.

Skirnir: The God and his Wand: 6 pm – 7 pm
Through a brief textual analysis of the Frey and Gerð myth we will discuss ways of viewing and relating to Skirnir; “The Bright One,” Freyr’s messenger and servant. There will also be a short introduction to the practice of using wands in the type of sorcery that follows the Old Norse tradition.

Folk Fire: 9 pm – 1 am
After the blót rite, we will retire to the communal hearth-fire at the Standing Stone to socialize, laughing loudly in the knowledge we still live on this beautiful green earth and speak in hushed tone to one another of the mysteries and trials of our lives. (This fire is also opened to all at Raven’s Knoll regardless of registration at HHG.)

Oracular Rite: 10 pm – 12 am
Spy across the hidden veil, peek beyond the unseen border. Do you seek answers? Secrets known only to Urðr, Verðandi and Skuld? Bring offerings to the Lord Yngvi-Freyr and perhaps he will grant a parley with Ylfedom… This will be an evening ritual, therefore bug repellent and warm clothes may be necessary. As with all HHG late-night esoteric rituals, things can get a bit ‘surreal,’ supernatural and/or emotional. If you are not a fan of theatrics, spirit work or anything remotely out of the ordinary… you may want to relax around the communal fire and share in good drink and conversation instead.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dark Ages BBQ 101 (Feast Prep): 10 am – 2:30 pm
Feasting is a big commitment, though not as big as the commitment to cook it. Throughout the day many dedicated volunteers will be helping to cook, prep and clean. We would say that the folk that feast together stay together… but the folk that cooks together makes damn sure the fare is worthy of the gods. Some past attendees have experience working with an open fire or furiously julienning veg, if you have never cooked outdoors, this is a time to learn from those who have.

King’s Table: 11 am – 12:30 pm
If all that food preparation has you looking to unwind or just need a little break from the fray (eh… pun), take turns winning the day at King’s Table (hnafetafl). This is a centuries old game much like a cross between Fox and Geese and Othello. It is said that after the gods finished building their assembly seats, they played at ‘tables’. So if it’s good enough for the gods, it’s darn well good enough for us.

Kinda like Dark Ages BBQ 101: 11 am – 12:30 pm
Prior to all this fun there will be fire pit cooking safety tips and camp hacks so bring your learning-helm.

Martial Entertainment: 1 pm – 2:30 pm
This entertainment feature will bring to you a deep historical presentation on the armaments of the time – the armour, weapons, and tactics of the Vikings. After the lecture, folk can get an up close look at the gear, before they are donned by the warriors and used in live steel combat; demonstrating the fight styles and techniques of the day. But combat alone was not where warriors sharpened their skills, they also liked to play soldier games. The finale will include one or two games of skill that test our combatants’ coordination and reflexes, one against the other. (This will be presented as a collaboration between Nadim and Matt, members of Torvik and Blackthorn.)

Approaches to Lore Study: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
There are many different ways to approach lore study, many of which are more or less suitable to particular types of spiritual practice and development.  For instance, there is a strictly symbolic, historically contextualized study of texts, there is a reasoned extrapolation of an imagined spiritual past into the present, and there is emotionally placing oneself in the text in the present day.  In this discussion we will compare and contrast different ways to approach and study the lore and discuss how effective these different approaches are in impacting on our spiritual and theological development.

Greeting the Guests: 3 pm – 3:30 pm
Húsel is a form of shared sacral feasting, much how Symbel is a Germanic form of sacral drinking. Just like the High Symbel, guests and friends under the roof-trees are the measure by which we define the folk. The Húsel is open to all those camping at Raven’s Knoll, whether heathen or heathen-curious. In bringing together so many folk at one table, we have a wonderful opportunity to make merry with our kith and kin. And if there are some sitting at the board who are not Heathen, they sure better be heathens after (or it is hoped at least).

Húsel: 3 pm – 5 pm
As it is said in the Hávamál: “With half a loaf and an empty cup, I found myself a friend.”  In that spirit, we will partake in the good bounty of Lord Freyr, gorging upon the grain he provides and meats of the swine. Large draughts of skillfully crafted ale will wash everything down and make room for more! Clanging of cups and the smiles of good company will be our reward. (Check out the planned menu at the end of this post.)

Farewell to Guests: 5 pm – 5:30 pm
Our guests that had joined us for Húsel will be hailed fairwell as they depart our company, so that those attending the gathering can prepare for High Symbel.

High Symbel: 5 pm – 8 pm
Let the banners come together, amassed in the Great Hall! High Symbel is a time for the folk to gather and pass the horn of Wyrd, binding fast the bonds of luck. By our words we will express our deeds and our future goals, boasting and toasting to the main of our fellowship. Honour will be given to our gods, the Æsir and Vanir, their allies, our ancestors and each other. The Valkyrie filling our mighty horn with holy ale will grant inspiration, bearing witness to the gifts and troth of the folk. Let us make merriment and drink fondly of our age.

Skalds’ Fire: 8 pm – 10 pm
After High Symbel, join the folk around the hearth-fire for an evening of entertainment circa 1,000 CE. Word-smiths and musical enchanters enthrall us with your magic and transport us into your myth. Skaldry is an age old craft which was promoted in the interest of binding the folk and their lord to the deeds of our ancestors and the gods. Share with others tales of our folk or tales from your heritage. This is a participatory activity, so bring your stories, poems, songs and performances!

Monday, June 30, 2014
Redemoot and Planning HHG 2014: 11 pm – 12 pm
Redemoot is a chance for everyone to share with the organizers and many volunteers what their experience was like at the third annual Hail and Horn Gathering. Discuss any improvements you would like to see in the upcoming year or promote what you feel should become a staple. Most importantly we will be selecting which god or goddess we will honour in 2015. (You have to attend to have a voice in the decision.)

Farewell Blessing: 12 pm – 1 pm
At the end of the morning, a formal farewell blessing will be offered to everyone who attended.