Memorial Day 2016

It will soon be Memorial Day in the United States (29th of May this year). This is a day or remembrance of those who have fallen in battle defending the freedoms so many enjoy. Many people will also take time to remember other loved ones who have passed from the Middle World. What does this mean for the Asatruar?

Our religion has always included an aspect of ancestor worship. We always know that Those Who Have Gone Before have left us the world we live in and the Wyrd that propels us forward. Whether our ancestors were great warriors or someone about whom tales were less likely, we always owe them a debt for giving us the strengths we have now.

It may seem odd to some Asatruar to think of venerating even the Christians among our ancestors. The military cemeteries are filled with the bones of soldiers who followed that path. It is important to remember that most of them converted to Asatru as soon as they separated from their lich (body) and saw what lay beyond. It is difficult to deny a religion when you are walking through it. Also keep in mind that many of them were Christian because they didn't know any better; it was the only option presented to them.

This is also a time to reflect on the future. Our ancestors made sacrifices and worked hard to get us to where we are today. What are we willing to sacrifice? How hard are we willing to work. Someday, we will be the ancestors looked back upon by Those Yet To Come. Will we have earned their respect?

As Asatru grows back in this World, there will be struggles. The Jotun-Friends will be violent and fierce. We will need to be prepared for this time. We do this not just on a personal level, but by building up resources such as land, wealth, and political power that we can pass on to our descendants. Strengthening the Wyrd of the next generations is how we earn the respect they may show us. This is why we struggle now; not just for us, but for them.

A Ritual Suggestion

Go to your altar. If you have a memento of a particular ancestor or hero, take it with you and place it respectfully on your altar.

Many people like to perform a cleansing at the start of a ceremony. A simple one if to make the Sign of the Hammer (Extend your arm in front of you and draw Thor's Hammer in the air) in each of the four cardinal directions (North, South, East, and West). You may say, "This place is defended, but all friendly wights are welcome." The word "wights" is an old way to say "entities".

Stand before your altar. Raise your arms to the sides like forming a capital letter "Y". Call out, "Great Gods, I welcome you! Please join me as I give praise and thanks to Those Who Have Gone Before!" Take a deep breath and slowly let it out as you lower your arms.

If there are other people with you, you should turn to face them, otherwise you can continue facing your altar. Say, "We take extra time this day to remember and honor Those Who Have Gone Before. For you who have lived your lives so that we may exist and continue serving the Gods, we are thankful. We will learn from your examples and we will live to be worthy of your sacrifices. We will work hard and sacrifice as you did so that Those Yet To Come will benefit from our accumulated work. Know that we are grateful and that you are always welcome in frith and peace."

Take up the drinking horn (or other vessel) from the altar and hold it up before you. Say, "We offer this drink in honor of our ancestors." Sip from the horn. Pour some from the horn (if outdoors, pour onto the ground or the base of a tree. If indoors, pour into the offering bowl.) If there are others in the group, pass the horn around the group sunwise (clockwise) and let each person express their gratitude and take a sip. Return the horn to the altar.

Say, "We will now feast to honor the Gods and our ancestors. Those friendly wights who have gathered here are welcome to join us. Those who cannot are asked to go in peace and with our respect."

Go to the place where you will eat and have what feast you can muster. While feasting, tell tales of ancestors, either recent or ancient. Be respectful as you do so. Also, add some of the food to the offering bowl, or leave it outside where the horn was poured.

That completes the ritual. It doesn't matter if you did this on your own in a small room or with a hundred people in a sacred clearing. The important thing is that you take the time to remember and respect Those Who Came Before so you can maintain the continuity of your line and build the momentum for Those Yet to Come.