Updated: Sep 7, 2021
The Sagas show that some geographical areas were more "local" than others. Let me explain: Iceland and Norway show family blots on the three major blots a year. (And I can give DOZENS of examples). Only Denmark and Sweden show 9-year sacrifices (at Uppsala, Sweden, and Lejre, Denmark), as well as public holiday blots: and we have testimony from Ynginga Saga chapter 8 that all Swedes did blot three times a year at Uppsala (Witner Nights, Yule, and Sigrblot.). We have testimony of Adam of Bremen, who claims that at Uppsala even the christians were expected to pay a "skild" to get out of attendance for these blots. We have similar attestations of the Danes in their cult-center of Lejre: The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg Chapter 17 (circa 1000 AD): "As I have heard odd stories concerning their ancient mid-winter sacrifices, I will not allow this custom to be ignored. The middle of that kingdom is called Lederun (Lejre), in the region of Sjælland, all the people gathered every nine years in January, that is after we have celebrated the birth of the Lord [Christmas], and there they offered to their Gods blots..." So, if we are to take the sources literally and at face value (remembering christian sources could have bias), the Danes and Swedes had large cult centers, while the Icelanders and Norwegians prefered family centered blots. (See specifically my blog article on Winter Nights, showing the Icelanders and Norse (Norwegians) doing family blots on the major three blots.) For those of us Old Saxon Heathens, the Saxons had cult centers as well, like Hohensyburg and the Irminsul. Modern Asatru (various branches/orgs) has a kindred model. The purpose of this article is to examine if the "kindred model" is influenced by the "church/synagogue/mosque" model, or if modern Kindreds are following something unique, or is this model derived from research on historical Heathenry as found in the historical sources? Some argue "kindred" is a made up word. It has a Germanic word (or two) "kin" and "kind" as the root of the word. The root "kin" means "family" and the word "kind" means "child of the family" (or "offspring of the family.") A church is a group of people who are not blood related, but they claim to be children of Abraham by adoption in the "church." (The Greek word for "church" is "ekklesia", a word that means "chosen people" specifically stating that the "ekklesia" is largely Gentiles who are not blood related to Abraham but Abraham's children by adoption.). This is pretty much what a kindred is doing just not in the name of Yahweh or Christ. Using phrases like "hey brother" and "hey sister" and calling themselves a "family." Heathen Organizations and Heathen Kindreds, are really Heathen denominations and Heathen churches, which are modern institutions foreign to historical Heathenry. So what is the "institution" of historical Heathenry? The family and Clan. The Clan can attend a "tribal" cult center ritual, like in Sweden and Denmark. Kuni is the Old Saxon word for "kin" or "family." This is your blood family, i.e. related by offspring/blood, i.e. the word "kind" meaning "offspring." Old Saxon has another important word: "Sibbia." (Old English is "Sibbe" and Old Norse is "Sibjon" in the singular and "Sifjar" in the plural.) Thor's wife's name "Sif" is related to this word. Sibbia is a bigger unit, comprising non-blood related people, like a spouse or a spouse of a family member. When Thunar (Thor) married Sib (Sif), she became part of Thunar's Sibbia. In addition, Sibbia includes your "siblings'" offspring. In Old Saxon, the name of Thunar's (Thor's) wife is "Sib." The Old Saxon word "Sibbia" is related to Sib's name. Our modern English word "Sibling" comes from the word "Sibbia" for "greater family." This includes those who married in, those who have died, and children of siblings. Old Saxon scholar Dr. Prisca Augustyn of Berkeley states in her book The Semiotics of Fate, Death, and the Soul in Germanic Culture: The Christianization of Old Saxon p.27 "The human being exists and acts only as a member of the sib, not as an independent individual. The importance of the sib is reflected in manifold acts of vengeance in the old sagas and epics, where it is not the specific individual that is sought out for revenge, but any member of that sib. The individual gains identity by belonging to the sib, everything on the outside is considered hostile. Not only is membership in the sib the fundamental requirement for legitimate existence in Germanic society, but to be excluded is equivalent to death. The significance of the sib as a source of protection, peace, and rightful existence transcends the visible world, and by a unifying principle the sib includes the dead and the unborn." In Old Saxon society, it was taboo to fail to name a new-born child after a deceased family member. In the Old Saxon Poem known as the Heliand, fitt 2, written circa 830 AD, Elizabeth wants to name her child John, but the family members protested saying that: "No one before was named so in our noble family’s clan. We should choose for him another need-gathering name." In Old Saxon culture, it was not a proper custom to give a child any name the parents wanted. A child would be named after a past Ancestor within the clan, one who was no longer living.
I am not saying that we should not form a local community or local communities. I am encouraging us to think more like our pre-christian roots. The local community I founded we all do two rituals, one as individuals or individual families, on the exact historical holiday date itself. We train our members to do home and group ritual. We schedule home ritual events on the historical holidays. But in addition, we do a group ritual, which we teach is less important than our home ritual. Our group rituals are scheduled for the Saturday closest to the historical holiday date, unless the holiday occurs on a Saturday. If it occurs on a Saturday, our group blot & sumble is scheduled on an adjacent Saturday to prioritize our members' Sibbias and home rituals first and foremost.
Heathenry was family first, clan (Sibbia) second, tribe third in historical Heathen times. A careful reading of Ynglinga Saga implies that there were three major holy days a year held at Uppsala. This means that Saga references to Alfablot, and other "blots" not mentioned as the main three in Ynglinga Saga 8, were probably family affairs, done in sacred groves and in family homes. Alfablot is certainly a family ritual done in the home, where non family members are excluded. Not being Swedes at Uppsala, Norwegians celebrated the first major blot of Ynglinga Saga 8 (Winter Nights) as a family blot, see Gisla saga Surssonar chapter 7, and chapter 9 for one good example.
As a "community leader" I teach that family ritual comes first, and I teach my members how to do ritual in their homes, and that community ritual is a nice addition to family ritual, but does not trump or supersede family ritual. For my family rituals, my wife, and our three children come, as well as my adult son with his girlfriend of going on five years. One day our children will marry Heathens, and have Heathen children. This will create a Heathen Sibbia. Please visit us at "Aldsidu: Saxon Heathenry" group on Facebook, and please check out the Association for Historical Heathenry,