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Blótbað

Aug

5

Blótbað

The Blótbað (Blót-Bath) is a sacred cleansing before any rite is performed, or it can be a weekly rite in and of itself, since our ancestors called Saturday Laugardagr or "Bath-Day." The ablution could also be called Njardarlǫg, which means “Njǫrðr’s Bath,” and was originally the name of the small Norwegian island of Tysnǫ. The name could also mean “Njǫrðr’s Law,” or “Njǫrðr’s Shrine.” In any case, there is the possibility that this would have involved some form of ceremonial bathing as Njǫrðr is God of the sea and water. The Roman historian Tacitus mentions in his Germania (40) the goddess Nerthus, who has been viewed by linguists as the female equivalent of Njǫrðr. In his account a ritual bathing takes place, which again connects to the idea of Njarðarlǫg as an ablution.

We are going to base this ceremony upon the cleansing ritual found in the Risāla of Ibn Fadlan, while at the same time removing some of the more archaic elements involving cleanliness. It is interesting to note that this account bears a striking resemblance to the nábjargir of Sigrdrifumál 33-34, in that both sources describe a ceremonial cleansing that involves specifically washing the hands, the head, and combing the hair. If we consider the purposes of the rite in trying to reach through the land of the dead, the idea that one would prepare themselves in the same manner as the dead is not too far-fetched, and we can consider other dimensions of this rite as well, including the use of special clothing, which in one sense is called Blótklæði and in the other Helskóar (Hel-shoes). Here are the aforementioned passages:

 Þat ræð ek þér it níunda,

 at þú náum bjargir,

 hvars þú á foldu finnr,

 hvárts eru sóttdauðir eða eru sædauðir

eða eru vápndauðir verar.

Laug skal gera,

þeim er liðnir eru, þváa hendr ok hǫfuð,

kemba ok þerra, áðr í kistu fari,

ok biðja sælan sofa.

This I rede you ninth,

that you perform nábjargir,

kemba ok þerra, áðr í kistu fari,

ok biðja sælan sofa.

for those you find on the ground,

 whether they are sickness dead or they are sea-dead,

or they are weapon-dead.

A bath you shall give,

for those who are departed, wash hands and head

comb and dry,

before they fare to the coffin, 

and pray for their blissful rest.

Here is the Risāla account:

They cannot, of course, avoid washing their faces and their heads each day, which they do with the filthiest and most polluted water imaginable. I shall explain. Every day the slave-girl arrives in the morning with a large basin containing water, which she hands to her owner. He washes his hands and his face and his hair in the water, then he dips his comb in the water and brushes his hair, blows his nose and spits in the basin. There is no filthy impurity which he will not do in this water. When he no longer requires it, the slave-girl takes the basin to the man beside him and he goes through the same routine as his friend. She continues to carry it from one man to the next until she has gone round everyone in the house, with each of them blowing his nose and spitting, washing his face and hair in the basin.

We also see mention of such an ablution in the tale of the birth of Váli, in which the newborn child skips over his first cleansing in order to mete out his destiny:

Þó hann æva hendr né hǫfuð kembði,

 áðr á bál of bar Baldrs andskota; 

en Frigg of grét

í Fensǫlum vá Valhallar.

Though he did not wash his hands nor comb his hair

before he brought death

to Baldr’s slayer;

and Frigg wept

in Fensalir

at the woe of Valhǫll.– Vǫluspá 33

If more than one person is performing the rite you can even use a ladle or other device to make sure the water remains pure. In this rite a basin is passed around in which the participants wash their hands, then their face, then their hair, followed by dipping a comb in the basin and combing their hair. This act mimics what we find in other sources as well as archaeological finds with ceremonial combs. As in the Risāla account, you can have a girl or woman pass around the basin and help with the ceremony.

This ceremonial bathing is a very sacred and spiritual rite, from the very roots of our Indo- European ancestry. The bath can take place in a natural setting, or you can perform it within your home. You can take a fully submersive bath with the basin or simply wash your face, hands, and hair as in the Risāla account.

Excerpt from Æfinrúnar book1

https://norroena.org/product/aefinrunar-a-sedian-book-of-rites-and-prayers/

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