“Appalachian Pagan Ministry is a pan-pagan ministry devoted to building an engaged, passionate, and spiritually fulfilled community of people from all backgrounds and faiths. We are devoted to engaging and impacting one another and others, believing it is our responsibility to set an example of service.
It is with that goal in mind, to educate by example, that Appalachian Pagan Ministry is engaged in a pan-pagan prison ministry to address the needs of pagans currently incarcerated around the country as needed, continuing our support and work in the recovery community as well as working with re-entry programs for those coming out of incarceration.”
There has been quite a bit of fuss made in reference to the Blood Prayer, a part of the Heilvegr recovery program. The exact phrase “Behold, the blood runs true” seems to be misinterpreted by many as some sort of “code” for white supremacy. “Our people walk again in the troth of our ancestors” is referring to the blood covenant with our gods. The same as the blood covenant Abraham made with his God. (Genesis 15:9-21) Nearly every community has a set of traditional rituals from which people either speak out their wishes or pay respect to the High Power of their belief.
“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
The concept of sacrifice involves the death of a victim for the maintenance of a relationship between man and anything considered sacred. From the earliest times, the God of Abraham had insisted on blood sacrifice as the ground upon which He was to be approached. Blood-related sacrifice to the Jew, therefore, was an ultimate demand from God resulting in a unique relationship. Life with God was made possible by blood in the sacrifice. Thus, the Hebrew word, OLAH is that which ascends either to the altar or in smoke from the altar. Herein is the ancient belief that animal sacrifice actually nourishes the gods, and so it is borne in mind that an offering of sacrifice promoted a peaceful relationship with deity.
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
“Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.”
“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
1 John 1:7
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
“For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
1 Peter 1:19
“But with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”
“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
These are but a few examples of the Christian belief in the blood covenant with their God. Does this mean all Christians are white supremacists?
Blót (Old Norse) and blōt or geblōt (Old English) are terms for “blood sacrifice” in Norse paganism and Anglo-Saxon paganism respectively. A comparison can also be reconstructed for wider Germanic paganism. A blót could be dedicated to any of the Germanic gods, the spirits of the land, and to ancestors. The sacrifice involved aspects of a sacramental meal or feast. This is exactly why we refer to our rites as “Blóts”….the word literally means blood. Within Norse religious practice, sacrificial
ritual (blot) was one of the most central acts of religious observance.
The offering was meant to strengthen the gods, who would thus look more favorably on the people making the offering. Animals were sacrificed, and as part of the ritual, the participants ate the meat and drank the ale, both of which were blessed by the chieftain. The participants drank to the gods: to the Æsir for victory, and to the Vanir for fertility and peace. One of the more complete descriptions occurs in chapter 14 of Hákonar saga góða. All kinds of animals, including horses, were slaughtered. Their blood was sprinkled on the walls of the temple, as well as on the participants in the feast. The meat was boiled in cauldrons in the temple and eaten at the feast. Drinks were passed over the fire, “signed” by the chieftain giving the feast, and toasts were made to Óðin, Njörður, and Freyr.
At least one modern source rejects this interpretation of the blood-sprinkling ceremony from Hákonar saga góða, using verse 1 in Hymiskviða as an additional source. That verse suggests that sacrificial blood was sprinkled and used for prophesies, by reading the patterns of the stains where the blood fell.
Today, we normally use mead in place of actual blood in Blóts (except in prisons where we use apple juice and add honey) but the meaning is still the same. My view is that as a verb “to do blot” is to “ceremonially” create a relational thread to the Gods, Goddesses, spirits, ancestors, elves, land wights, and other local powers in the area where we live. This act can balance some of the debt we owe to the larger world around us: to the fish, the cattle, the great horses, the deer, the sun and the moon, the soils, lakes, seas, rivers, and mountain streams – all that which works for us in the background but in our daily lives we forget about and take for granted, yes even the rising sun. In the blot we can re-address an important balance – ultimately it can be seen as an attempt to be in balance with the great Tree of Life.
So when we say, “Behold, the blood runs true” we are speaking of our faith in our gods being true. Just as when Christians say they are “washed in the blood of Christ”….it is no different and means nothing more than a testament of our faith….not our skin color.
If you have any further questions regarding the Blood Prayer or the Heilvegr, I encourage you to reach out directly to the author, Berk Harbin of Woden’s Folk Kindred. Berk@wodensfolkkindred.org
If you have any questions regarding material sent into your facilities by Appalachian Pagan Ministry, I encourage you to speak with me directly before basing your opinion on the rantings of a disgruntled former co-worker.
Rev. Donna Donovan