Worshipping the Gods
To understand the true nature of the worship of our Gods and Goddesses, we must first understand the anatomy of the human brain. Neuroscience has determined that our brain has two sides—a left side that deals with logic and reasoning, and a right side that deals with creativity and imagination.
The left side is very literal, whereas the right side is very abstract. When a person is being hypnotized, the goal is to shut down the left side of the brain so that only the right side is active. This is why hypnotists must speak to their patients with symbolic expressions that might not make sense to the literal left brain, but are perfectly digested by the right.
Herein lies the conflict between what was labeled 'internal' spirituality versus 'external,' which philosophers and theologians have debated since ancient times. The Greek Neoplatonists had different schools of thought built upon this differentiation, where some (the Alexandrian School) thought that spirituality can only be expressed internally, through contemplation, meditation, and morality. Others (the Athenian and Pergamene Schools, both of which were vehemently pagan) focused more on external expressions of faith; namely ritual, prayer, and theurgy as a way to connect to the Gods and Goddesses.
What we now know is that both sides of this argument are valid and both internal and external spirituality are necessary to gain a more holistic approach to our personal development and relationship with the divine.
The left side of the brain needs contemplation, study, and reasoning, and the right side of the brain needs symbolism, ritual, and abstraction. Stimulation of both sides is crucial to our enlightenment and our personal spiritual advancement.
In our society today we are trying to kill the imagination. I believe that this is in part due to people growing tired of religions that stifle free thought and try to homogenize humans into a single idealism. Because they feel that these religions are trying to destroy logic and reason and replace it with theocratic tyranny (which is often an exaggeration) the only way to fight back is to deny the imaginative mind altogether and hence all modes of religious expression. I have personally met people who hate anything creative and only want things to be 'real' to them, meaning they reject anything fantastic or out of the ordinary. The advent of 'reality TV' and the deification of celebrities are prime examples of this.
One of the ways our Odinist ancestors stimulated the right brain (read, stirred their Odr, as in Odroerir), was through ritual, which is called the blót—'offering.' This was an active interplay of symbolism that connected them to the Gods through sacred recitations and actions that reflected events in the lore as well as in nature. The same is considered in the performance of our blóts today.
This rite is part of the greater veizla— 'festival,' which also includes the leik—'game time' and the reid—'procession.' In all three events the activities are steeped in symbolism, which must always be kept in mind for those of us reconstructing this ancient path. It is a massive puzzle that that practitioners can contemplate and discern the true meaning from, which becomes a part of their spirituality.
Dancing around the May Pole may represent the slaying of Baldur, sprinkling with the Hlautteinn represents the fall of the morning dew and the rains, fires hail the wending of the sun and the birth of Heimdall, sacred stews recall the coming of order from Ginnungagap, and so on. These symbols, as they are played out, seek to bring epiphanies to the gathered: to induce the folk with divine inspiration, which we consider central to our entire spiritual system.
The first mistake anyone can make is in developing a left-brain event, where everything is explained, logical, and reasonable Tell the people that gather the importance of symbolism and what the nature of the ritual is, but then let them work as much of it as they can for themselves. If they need help, they can come to you to gain a greater understanding, as long as this is done beyond the ceremonial area after the blót is completed. This can be a spiritual occurrence in itself. You have to make sure that the symbolic actions have some sort of continuity that is connected to our lore and our traditions, and that the one performing the rite (i.e. a godi 'priest,' or a gydja 'priestess') understands fully what is happening so they can be the guide in our communion with the Gods and Goddesses.
The purpose of ritual is to immerse yourself within the structure of symbols to stimulate the right brain, not to simply engage in a social gathering. The symbols are there for us to meditate upon, to contemplate their multilayered significance, which enlivens our spirits and connects us to the Gods and to our lore in a way that simply reading it or hearing it cannot. We need to be able to tap into this today as we restore our rites to their former glory.
In the lore, we know that the Gods themselves prefer metaphor and poetry to express themselves, which means that our interaction with them will primarily be through the right brain. The lore itself is a manifestation of this concept and comes to us not as a literal narrative, but as an allegorical epic that allows us to look for the spiritual truths that lie within. This is what is meant when we are told that Odin "speaks everything in verse, such as that composed , which we call the skaldic art. He and the Gods are called Ljodasmiths [Smiths of the Sacred, Poetic Song], for from them that art of song came into the Northern lands" (V.31). The verse forms they taught are called Ljodahattr (Sacred-Song Verse) and Galdralag (Galdur-verse) and thus they are also called Galdrasmiths (Galdur-Smiths).
These verse forms are the most sacred in all our faith and should be used in recreating our blóts, especially when we consider that the only prayer passed down to us that we know is heathen in origin was written in the Ljodahattr meter.
This is the "Hail to Dag" as told to Hodur by Hild:
Heilir dags synir!
Heil nótt ok nipt!
óreiðum augum lítið okkr þinig ok gefið sitjöndum sigr!
Heil sjá in fjölnýta fold!
Mál ok mannvit gefið okkr mærum tveim ok læknishendr, meðan lifum.
Hail Dag's Sons!
Hail Natt and Nipt!
Look upon us with loving eyes And give victory to the sitting!
Hail the Aesir!
Hail the Asynjur!
Hail to the fruitful Fold! Words and wisdom give to us And healer's hands in life!
We can see that ritual lies within the realm of the imagination, and as such must be geared towards stimulation of the right-brain. In understanding this we can begin to make our Veizlas, with their Leiks, Reids, and Blóts, truly significant spiritual events. In our communion with the Gods and Goddesses we must connect the folk to one another and then to our divinities so that the spirits of all will be uplifted and strengthened. This is when religion and spirituality overlap, which was the intent all along. Let us return the roles of these rituals to their rightful place.
Odisbook: The Book of Odr