One of my favorite things about Heathenry – and possibly what initially drew me to the path – is the emphasis on honoring ancestors and land wights as much, or more than, the deities. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Gods, but being able to go out and sit in the garden and connect with the land wight there is so much more concrete and immediate than reaching out for a deity that travels this world and the otherworlds.
As I talked about a few days ago, Álfar is an old Scandinavian term that is a subject of some controversy in Heathen circles – whether it refers to the spirit of a male ancestor, a land spirit, or some mix of the two is under some discussion. The old holiday Álfablót was a time of sacrifice to these beings, held individually in the autumn at each farmstead.
Since there aren’t actually any grave mounds on my property, I chose this time to do a special sacrifice to the land wights. They are the most immediate spirits I interact with; like friends, the squirrels greet me each morning as I walk to my car, sometimes seeming vaguely annoyed that I dare walk under their tree. The grasses in my yard sway, the rabbits grazing among them. The huge maple tree, larger than my house, sings to me with its leaves; loud or soft, it depends on the wind that day.
Something about that immediacy is special. Intimate, almost, in a spiritual practice that honors a lot of non-corporeal beings. They are part of my everyday life in a way that the Gods and even my ancestors are not; they were always there and will always be there. I never had to seek them out or become aware of them, or open my mind and heart to hear their voices. Those squirrels are loud.
And so the Alfablot is one of my favorite holidays. I love that many Heathens I know take the time to recognize these spirits, to interact with and offer them the honor they are due. These spirits which feed and nourish us are responsible for our very lives, in a much more immediate and direct way than the Gods; and they deserve the thanks.
But one day a year is not nearly enough, in my opinion; I use this prayer weekly in my own practice. I go out to the altar in my garden, bringing a bit of food or drink for the land wights. But this prayer can be used for Alfablot as well; it doesn’t have to be an elaborate blót – in fact, it rarely is – all that’s needed is to call the spirit’s attention to the offering.
Spirits of the earth and soil,
of things green and growing,
expanding and entwining,
rooted deep in the dark,
hear me now.
Spirits of the lithe and limber,
of wandering wings and fleet of foot,
sprinting and spry,
digging and devouring,
hear me now.
Hail to the land and the wights of the land.
A gift is given, and another is given in turn.
May we meet again on the dark earth.