AI and Ritual

The news is full of stories of Artificial Intelligence (AI), in particular Large Language Models (LLMs). People are using them for many different kinds of tasks, with mixed results. Curiosity led to the question: what can an AI say about Asatru?

There are several LLMs available, but they all work in a similar way. The developers build a large neural network (a kind of simulation of the brains of animals) and train them by exposure to a large amount of written materials. Once trained, the LLM can respond to questions, called prompts, by using the patterns of text on which they were trained. Because of this limitation, the LLM can only respond with text to which it has been exposed.

For this experiment, I used Google Bard. This is less popular than ChatGPT, but has the resources of Google. I used the prompt, "Please write an Asatru blöt in honor of Vidar the Silent, the Leathershod, the Son of Odin". It is important to be as precise as you can with the prompts; the LLMs can be prone to misinterpretation.

The response came in two parts. The first was a section labeled, "Code snippet" and presented in a box with a shaded background. The text for that section was:

Code snippet

O Vidar, Silent One,

Leathershod Son of Odin,

We gather here to honor you.

You are the silent avenger,

The one who will not rest until

Your father's killer is brought to justice.

You are the one who will not be bound,

The one who will not be silenced,

The one who will not be defeated.

We ask for your strength,

Your courage, and your protection.

We ask for your help in fighting

The forces of evil.

We honor you, Vidar,

Silent One, Leathershod, Son of Odin.

We give you our thanks,

Our praise, and our devotion.

So Mote It Be.

The second section contained a couple of paragraphs providing guidance related to the ritual.

You can offer a blöt to Vidar in any way that feels right to you. You can light a candle, say a prayer, or simply meditate on his strength and courage. You can also offer him gifts, such as leather goods, wood carvings, or anything else that you think he might appreciate.

When you are finished with your blöt, take some time to reflect on what you have done. Think about how you can use Vidar's strength and courage to help you in your own life.


It seemed odd that the blöt text was labeled as "code" but not that it was isolated from the rest of the response. This may be a limit to Google Bard or just a consequence of it normally being used for assistance with writing software. We can forgive that part.

The text of the blöt is not too bad, but maybe a bit generic. It focuses on Vidar's task in the Final Battle where Vidar kills Fenris to avenge the death of Odin. Given that most sources contain little other information about Vidar, this is a good area to focus on. Some of the punctuation may be questionable, but is ok.

The ending is a bit odd. I have not encountered many Asatru people who end a blöt with "So mote it be". This phrase is more common among Wiccans for their ceremonies. If I had to guess, I would hypothesize that Google Bard had little Asatru ceremonial text in its training and relied more on Wiccan text that probably shows up more commonly on the Internet. This is one part of the generated text that I would be inclined to remove.

The "non-code" part of the response is definitely good. It is similar to advice I would give to someone new to Asatru. The first paragraph is a vague description of how to have a blöt, and is only missing a few things, but is good enough. In particular, the reference to leather goods as a potential offering is very Vidar-appropriate.

The second paragraph is a good wrap-up of what to do after a blöt. This is a common way to finish ceremonies in many religions, so it makes sense that it would be here. The reference to Vidar's strength and courage ties it nicely to the prompt.


For a single example, this is very promising. I would need to see far more examples to be completely comfortable with recommending general use of AI to create rituals or ceremonies. However, for a person with no other resources, this may be a helpful place to get started. Being trained from the Internet is potentially very dangerous; the Internet is full of people who aren't always good people.

In the future, the LLMs will probably get better. Hopefully, they will be able to provide good translations from the old manuscripts or, if someone is more comfortable with old languages, translate ceremonies into another language such as Old Norse or Old English. As with all tools, we must remember that they are all tools.