Recently, our attention was drawn to a post from a “Reconstructionist Germanic Heathenry” page which made some claims about prayer that we feel deserve a bit of a closer look.
The post itself had been taking aim at “Christian Baggage” in Germanic revivalist adherents – and had singled out … well, we’ll quote for you:
“Biggest bag is everything is THE GODS. Pray to the gods CONSTANTLY. Daily devotion on “their days”. […] Monthly blóts (which don’t include animal sacrifce [sic.]) are god bothering.”
To this, our associate (and sometime translator), A.P. Lasbleiz (who’d drawn our attention to the post in the first place), had observed that given the current spiritual climate:
“Telling people not to pray daily is like telling people not to shower daily in a spiritual weather equal to living in a 35ºc 95% humidity place.”
So, who’s right? And about what?
Well, for that I think we need to address something rather more foundational to the whole discussion – namely what, exactly, ‘prayer’ entails … and why we do these things in the first instance.
Although before we get into that I should hasten to add that there’s … a few qualifiers in play here; and that includes various IE cultures having a ‘caution’ upon who’s allowed to carry out various forms of prayer, with some Gods (or Facings / Forms / Aspects of Gods) being significantly ‘unapproachable’ (at least, not without risk) by the general populace of ordinary worshippers; and further qualifiers on ‘what’ and ‘when’ for offerings , inauspicious dates or times, and so forth as well. So it’s not the proverbial ‘open slather’ and ‘open access’ simply via wishing to. Although come to think of it, it’s not that in Christianity (most of the time), either – their one major ritual operation, Communion, usually requires one to be ordained, after all, for a start. But we digress.
Generally speaking, we can probably identify four broad purposes to the act.
We pray – and by ‘prayer’ I do not simply mean ‘hold one side of a conversation in our head’ (although it can also definitely be that), but also ritual observances and undertaking (‘Puja’, indeed) – first and foremost because it is the Right Thing To Do.
There are particular occasions and observances which militate making an offering – or at the very least a ‘remembrance’ – in order to Do Things Properly.
Closely related to this is the other major reason why we pray – which is to serve, strengthen, and otherwise express fealty towards the Gods.
Now note that word “strengthen”. It’s a bit of a contentious one for a few reasons – but we have the religious material to support such a view. The tale I often cite at this point is the one of the demon Durgamasur, that managed to secure the effective erasure of the Vedas from the minds of mankind … therefore ending the flow of sacrifices to the Gods. Which enabled him and his demonic forces to beat the Gods in battle and fight his way almost through the Gates of Heaven Itself. The situation is only resolved when Devi (Who is ‘Uber Alles’ – and as the in-universe expression of the Absolute, Cosmic Order, that is a-priori to said Universe .. well, that’s why) is called down by the Gods to go and deal to the obstructor Personally. And, as part of this , re-establishing sacral piety in the process. So that it might never happen again. Whilst also endeavouring to restore the orderly flow of nature and its seasons, that had similarly been disrupted by man ceasing to live in the proper manner.
However, a more … ‘nuanced’ view, as some people do not like the idea of a lack of prayer and sacrifices weakening Divinities – would be that a lack of sacrifices and prayer causes what looks to us like a ‘weakening of Gods’ … because it’s a weakening of the saliency of Gods in our particular vicinity. Less ‘connection’, less ‘Hallowedness’, less drawing of Their attention much less being felt worthy for direct Intervention where necessary. We do not mention this because we think it necessarily superior – but because it is a helpful ‘alternative’ heuristic, that enables us to side-step any arguments about the above. Let’s move on.
The third purpose to prayer is the one that most people are probably most directly mentally familiar with – that which Ambrose Bierce somewhat caustically declared defined as : “To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy”. Or, more succinctly – praying and offering because we want something. Which is not necessarily a bad thing or impious to do , I hasten to add. Although most certainly can be done in rather gauche fashions, and with all the lack-of-respect one might tend to associate with a sort of ‘cosmic vending machine’ rather than the True Powers of the Universe, Whom one happens to be cautiously approaching, precisely as one is apprehensively aware of Their Divine Majesties and ability to have them ‘Laws of the Universe’ come down upon one’s head like the proverbial tonne of bricks if one is insulting and They are so inclined to deliver you ‘just desserts’ in fairly direct consequence.
I tend to think of it as something a bit like approaching your elected political representative (say, a Member of Parliament – or a Mayor) about something. Perhaps not always appropriate , particularly over minor matters; and when one does, one should probably take care to make sure that it’s the right politician with the right area of responsibility one approaches – yet for certain circumstances it is not just ‘appropriate’ but almost ‘expected’ that you might wish to do so. And yes, indeed, for certain challenges, particularly of a supernaturally caused manner – well Who Else can possibly assist so ably to you.
On the other hand, especially if one is of a perhaps more ‘fatalistic’ disposition … I suppose one might also find one’s self in the situation extolled by the late Terry Pratchett: “But too much reading had taken its toll. William found that he now thought of prayer as a sophisticated way of pleading with thunderstorms.”
The fourth reason that we carry out prayer … is that it’s good for you – and has tangible impacts upon you. As we say in the Hindusphere : “We become more like That which we meditate upon”. We become closer to Them in various senses. Whether this is metaphysically, in the sense of building up that kind of connexion internal to us – elevating the Shakti involved; or whether this is mentally … the significant contemplation and effort put toward a particular figure causing us to not merely have a greater ‘permission to approach’, so to speak, but also resculpting our consciousness and essence somewhat in the process.
This can also have effects outside of the perhaps anticipated spheres –
Certainly, I would credit my own rather remarkable overcoming of a … rather significant (indeed, allegedly “medically impossible”, per expert witness testimony to the court) drug addiction and other such maladies, as a younger man to my embarking upon a regular regimen of Temple attendance and devotional efforts. Something which we then had replicated with one of my devotees, as it happens, who also managed to significantly overcome a particular neurological injury affecting her power of speech thanks to such. The fact that this was Shaivite piety in particular may be a little ‘ironic’ from some points of view as applies my circumstnce – but the regularity of ritual, and the formation of a trenchant sense of purpose, well, it most definitely assisted. Again we digress.
All of this brings us to the crux of the matter.
We have said many times elsewhere that the insistent and incessant perspective regrettably common in various European pre-Christian revivalist spheres of “we don’t want to be like Christians” … is a weakness. Because it all too easily turn into eschewing entirely legitimate practices and perceptions precisely because they might happen to share something in common with Christianity.
On one level, there’s something understandable – particularly as applies the Germanic sphere – as to a certain ‘caution’ toward elements that look like they’re shared in common with Christianity. Most of the Germanic corpus that we have available to us was compiled post-Christianization (although composition is another and .. rather more complex matter); with open questions as to how much of certain elements had been ‘Christianized’ either inadvertently or on purpose. Although I have personally found that this can become rather overstated … and that even where there are clear cognates for the elements under discussion in Vedic etc. Indo-European texts, some people will die-in-a-ditch insist that nono, whatever it is HAS to be a Sturluson work of subversion and/or interpolation. More upon that some other time perhaps.
Yet on another – the difficulty we run into rather swiftly is that some of the people who are reacting negatively to perceived ‘Christian’ elements … their major experience of ‘religion’ prior to heading into Germanic revivalism (or some other such area) has, of course, been Christianity. This might mean that they’re reacting angrily toward the religion of their parents by seeking out the faith of their forefathers – and therefore, correspondingly wanting to ‘rebel’ against things rather than join a genuine religion with things that genuine religions have in the way of structure and ethos (i.e. things other than, and which abrogate the absolute freedom of “you can believe whatever you want, there’s no canon”). In other cases, they just presume that various elements are Christian – because yes, Christianity does have these – without realizing that these are … things that most every religion has.
Institutions like Priests, the notion that there are ‘sacred texts’ / ‘scripture’, that Gods actually exist and you can pray to Them – I’ve seen all of these be insisted to be Christian-invented “Abrahamic” subversions by some persons from certain wings of the Germanic revivalist dimension.
Which must surely come as quite some surprise to those of us here in the Vedic sphere … where we have had Priests, Scripture, Dogma, and Prayer for near four thousand years now (and, of course, much further back before that right the way to the Urheimat – but in terms of direct textual attestation). And likewise for the Hellenic sphere etc., too.
Yet let us bring things back to Prayer. Every Day or otherwise.
As noted above, I tend to consider the Hindu perspectives on things a pretty good ‘corrective’ or ‘checking’ when it comes to claims that this or that thing is some foreign, non-IE ‘Abrahamic’ introduction within the Western (European) IE religious spheres.
If we’ve got it too over here in the Hindu understanding … then there’s a fairly good chance that whatever it is that’s found in the Germanic textual corpus is probably legit. And, at the very least, it’ll be something that – well, we know ‘works’ here for us, so likely ‘works’ for the same Gods in Their Germanic guises and frames of referencing.
So, is “Pray[ing] to the gods CONSTANTLY [sic]” a Christian thing with no place in the Germanosphere? I do not know about that. I do know that for us, a Pandit [Priest] might be engaged in prayer-rites (usually for others) for much of his waking day on a fairly regular basis; and that persons seeking to cultivate great Siddhis – or who are simply very pious – shall likely be engaged in significant and pervasive attitudes toward devotion, likewise. Indeed, the idea of carrying out three fire-offerings per day is rather heavily attested. At least, for certain classes.
An associate of ours (who *is*, in fact of the Germanic revivalist sphere), Gottfried Yann Karlssohn, has also pointed out the following from Hesiod’s ‘Works And Days’; a text of near 2,700 years’ antiquity … which should therefore render it relatively immune from charges of Christian hangover-influence. Quoth Hesiod:
“But do you turn your foolish heart altogether away from these things, and, as far as you are able, sacrifice to the deathless Gods purely and cleanly, and burn rich meats also, and at other times propitiate them with libations and incense, both when you go to bed and when the holy light has come back”.
[336-340; Evelyn-White Translation]
He (Karlssohn, not Hesiod) then elaborated further, observing that one might find additional (and endogenously Germanic) guidance within “the Hávamál bits about going to see a friend often and offer small gifts often. The “friend” word (vinr) being used many times to refer to the relation between humans and gods in the sacrosanct sagas.”
Now it may very well be the case that there’s less overt prayer and ritual for an average Germanic adherent than for an exceptionally devout Hindu. But I don’t think that simply because one may carry out prayer and offerings frequently, that this axiomatically indicates “Christian baggage”.
The “Daily devotion on “their days”.” element is a bit more complex. Because yes, a seven day week with particular deifics associated with given days is … something that came into the Germanic sphere about the same time Christian contact started to be much of a thing.
However, it’s not exclusive to the Christians – the Romans themselves introduced (somewhat haphazardly) a seven-day week during the early phase of their Empire. With the seven days being correlated to the Seven (visible) Planets (counting the Sun and Moon, here under a rather broad definition of ‘Planet’).
This is not something that is Christian. Even if it was adopted and popularized further by them. It may not be something that is Germanic, either – but that is another conversation. One which might have regard for the fact that a Seven Day Week with accompanying Graha (‘Planets’ .. although ‘Influencers’ is more accurate) linkages and therefore Deific reckonings, is also quite prominent for us Hindus. And appears to date back well before any significant Christianization of the SubContinent. We, too, have a ‘Sun Day’ (Sunday) for Lord Surya (the Sun, and major God thereof); a ‘Moon Day’ (Monday) – dedicated to Lord Shiva (He, after all, is Chandrasekhara – ‘Moon-Crowned’) and Soma/Chandra; a ‘Mars Day’ (Tuesday) for Mangala (Mars), and also for Hanuman (as He wards off the baleful effects to that Planet); and so on and so forth. Interestingly, as a brief aside, Friday – despite Venus (the Planet) being male in our reckoning (Shukra), is also the Day of Devi, Durga in particular … directly resonating with Friday as Frigg’s Day in the Germanic sphere.
On the relevant days it is, indeed, our custom to make relevant offerings, sing relevant hymns, and remember Them. So, again – if it is held to be something ‘introduced’ into the Germanic sphere from outside the bounds of same … well, at the very least it is in ‘good company’; and does not necessarily constitute a Christian ‘subversion’ or something that just simply does not work in practice.
Where the gentleman whose post we’re commenting on does definitely have a point is that the specific associations of Days to Gods have some clear … issues, which do indeed appear to be traceable back to ‘misunderstandings’ within the ‘Interpretatio’ framework that have produced somewhat sketchy associations. So, to take the most obvious exemplar – Thursday, elsewhere within the Indo-European sphere, tends to be associated with the planet Jupiter. Which, while the relationships of Planets and Deifics is not exactly one-for-one, tends – unsurprisingly – to be a Sky Father association. Except, of course, within the Germanic sphere … wherein for some curious reason we’ve got Thursday being, well, ‘Thor’s Day’ – despite Thor being the Striker/Thunderer Son of the Sky Father (in the manner of Herakles or Indra or Hanuman), and Odin (Who’s explicitly identified with Jupiter in a prominent rendition of the Icelandic Rune Poem) is instead placed on Wednesday (i.e. the Day of the planet Mercury).
It’s a situation which isn’t necessarily fatal to the whole arrangement – after all, the ‘energies’ associated with the planet Mercury in astrological terms, around ‘communication’ etc., do have some evident coterminity when we come to discuss Odin. But as we say – it’s a situation that mixes up two not-entirely-coterminous paradigms (those of Planets and those of Gods) and can lead to further confusion in the theological sphere as a result. There’s a whole thing I have about the potential difficulties (as well as ‘opportunities’) inherent in a ‘Germanic Astrology’ which came up in a discussion some months ago … which might begin the cautious process of disentangling some of this – but not just yet.
Now, the proper way to do an Indo-European religious calendar is with a significant ‘Lunar’ saliency – and running on a fortnightly model of ‘waxing’ and ‘waning’ dimensions; with the addition, yes, of particular Solar salient observances as well. But more upon that some other time.
The final element which we ought address is, perhaps, the most interesting one. This notion that “Monthly blóts (which don’t include animal sacrifce [sic.]) are god bothering.”
Now, we see no reason that this ought be the case in principle. If Gods are OK with thrice-daily ritual offerings performed in the Sandhyavandanam by various Hindus – we see no reason why monthly offerings to the same Gods in Nordic ‘orientation’ ought bother Them.
My own Mandir, in happier times before the Pandemic struck, would put on a Sunderkand Path (and accompanying Mahaprasad) every Tuesday. What this meant, effectively, was dozens of people in the Mandir listening (and singing along, if you could – particularly at the ‘audience participation’ ‘chorus’ sections every few verses) as the Pandit (backed by a small band of traditional instruments) sang the relevant chapter of the Ramayana (We often forget that the Epics – the Iliad and the Odyssey, for instance; and certainly various Sagas … are and were always ‘Audiobooks’. Meant to be ‘Sung’ rather than merely ‘Read’ – particularly not just to ourselves alone).
He did this because it was the chapter particularly pertinent to the glory of Hanuman – and His Mighty Deeds therein. And afterward, following an additional phase of ritualistic observance with a proper Aarti (‘Fire Offering’ with further Song), we’d all head downstairs for a feast. The feast – that Mahaprasad aforementioned – being comprised of food prepared in the Mandir’s kitchen and, properly blessed, offered up to the God Himself to draw (spiritual / metaphysical) sustenance from, before being passed back down to us to eat and derive blessing from as well. ‘Do ut Des’, indeed.
I mention the above partially as a point of interest – and partially because I really do hope that one day, the Germanic sphere might entertain similar customs. All gathering together in a Hall , hearing epic tales of Myth, recited even in proper Metre and chanting along at the relevant parts to Praise the Gods as is due, carrying out an offering of consumables … and all having a feast, together, as a community afterward (in certain senses with the God or Gods present as well). Maybe that might be a bit much to have occur on a week-day … maybe we are to surprise ourselves with just what is possible – eventually, if we put our minds to it. But it therefore stands to reason that if we here in the Hindusphere can have dozens of people coming together every week for such an observance every Tuesday – well, once a month for some form of offering-rite doesn’t seem likely to be “God-Bothering” elsewhere.
Perhaps it is that things are carried out improperly? We cannot speak upon this, as we have not observed the (Germanic-sphere) rites that are being referred to. Although as applies the lack of animal sacrifice … it is something that we have occasionally pondered – noting that apart from not all European IE ritual offerings requiring animal sacrifice in the first instance … we have long had, in the Hindusphere, a ‘ritual substitution’ principle that can be made use of to offer, instead of a live animal, some other consumable. Contrary to popular opinion in certain quarters, this isn’t a post-Vedic development … but rather appears to find direct citation within the Shatapatha Brahmana attached to the Yajurveda.
In fact, in that text, it’s also presented as a mechanism to substitute for human sacrifice. Something which is rather useful, one would have to say, for this current epoch wherein … well, that particular form of ritual action, no matter how well attested in Nordic / Germanic textual evidence, few would go out of their way to seek to perform over there.
A perhaps more useful perspective upon the matter would be less the simple ‘quantitative’ approach – and instead a more overtly ‘qualitative’ one.
That is to say – instead of simply looking at how frequently prayer (whether of the monthly ‘offering’ variety, or the ‘all the time’ variety that’s presumably less overt and likely more ‘internal’ or merely ‘vocal’) is carried out … we ought look at how it is carried out, and to what ends, what purpose.
In the case of the ‘third’ form of prayer or offering that we had outlined toward the start of this piece, we might suggest that clearly ‘frivolous’ requests might indeed be something to avoid. Out of general respect and piety, for a start. Due to the prospect of ‘bothering’ the Gods – and this leading to some rather worrisome consequence … well, I’m not going to say that’s a ‘no’ right off the bat, as well.
Yet it also occurs to us that rites and prayer carried out for the second (and first) purpose that we had put forward – that of supporting the Gods … well, that – that should never be regarded as a ‘trivial’ aim. In that case, it is only on us to try and make sure we’re doing things properly. Which, yes, may mean some constraints on when and how frequently one is able to do something. There are decidedly inauspicious days to do things, in the Hindu reckoning, for example – just as there are much better ones (i.e. ‘auspicious’ occasions). And this becomes even more complex when one’s carrying out certain operations that are astrologically salient – particular Grahas (‘Planets’) or Constellations (Nakshatras) being ‘up’ at particular times of the day, as well as particular days of the month, for example.
Part of being properly pious means knowing how to do things properly piously. It is part of the ‘gift’ if you like.
Now since we are discussing – at least, in terms of our ‘jumping off point’ – a ‘Germanic’ theological comment, it seems only natural to quote what is probably the most logical verse of Germanic scripture upon the subject (which is, indeed, what another interlocutor of ours, going by the nom-de-tweet ‘🧙🏻♂️Hwfa🍀Bryddydd🌲’ raised almost immediately):
Per the Hávamál:
“Betra er óbeðit en sé ofblótit,
ey sér til gildis gjöf;
betra er ósent en sé ofsóit.
[This is verse 145 in the Bellows edition]
Bellows renders this as:
“Better no prayer | than too big an offering,
By thy getting measure thy gift;
Better is none | than too big a sacrifice”
The Bray translation makes the middle line clearer:
“Better ask for too little than offer too much,
like the gift should be the boon;
better not to send than to overspend.”
We shall not go word-by-word here, and instead simply ‘take it as read’ the conceptry found there within. The key point, of course, being the scale of offering … and that sense of not giving so much that it is disproportionate to what is asked for.
There are a few ways one could interpret this maxim. One of which, perhaps, may be that the sheer scale of resources put into an offering to ask for something … might be commensurate with those that could accomplish the aim via mortal means. Or, for that matter, rather greater than what one is likely to get back in return. It would also serve to discourage persons from, say, going into debt in order to be able to afford lavish offerings – “spend within your means!” we may implicitly say. Another interlocutor, ‘Justaþrowaway’, suggested in this spirit: “an angle of “if you give Odin all of your cows then you won’t have any for yourself”.”
As we can see – there are a few entirely logical reasons not to ‘overspend’ (or, if you prefer, ‘over-bid’) in terms of offerings per that Odinic maxim.
In this particular style of thinking, Odin was, of course, not alone.
Plutarch’s ‘Lycurgus’ in his Lives mentions the following remark attributed to the legendary (Wolfish) law-giver of the Spartans:
“Another asked him why he allowed of such mean and trivial sacrifices to the Gods. He replied, “That we may always have something to offer to Them.””
Given the relative resource-impoverished state of Sparta in various respects, this is perhaps a logical regulation.
Yet does it hold more broadly? Perhaps.
Another interlocutor and associate of ours, Antonius, (who runs the ‘Shrine of Hercules’ effort, etc.) had made mention of the Delphic Maxims – in particular, “Pray for what is possible”.
There is also the perhaps rather more well-known Delphic maxim of ‘Nothing in Excess’ that may, conceivably, apply here – yet it is perhaps important to note that this is a general commandment for life as a whole, rather than specifically applying to quotients of offering in pious endeavour to prayer.
A much more interesting – at least, to me … although then again, I’m arguably rather biased – suite of injunctions pertaining to ‘excessive’ offering come to us from the Hindusphere. There’s one in particular that I can vaguely remember yet not track down at this precise moment around ‘not offering too much’; however in its absence, we shall instead take a look at a few potents from the Shatapatha Brahmana – one of our ‘ritual manuals’, attached to the Shukla Yajurveda.
Now, the thing is – and this is partially why I love Vedic religion – the SBr is a highly technical document. It is NOT, unlike those various other sources we’ve just quoted from, comprised of ‘generalized’ maxims, much less ‘for public consumption’ by ordinary people.
Instead, it is as I have said – a ‘ritual manual’; and with particular directives that may only apply at particular steps of a rite … precisely because there are rather integral ‘energy flows’ that must be handled in a specifically cautious way.
So, for instance, in SBr VII 5 1 14 –
“They measure a span, for Vishnu, when an embryo, was a span long; and these (mortar and pestle) being food, he thus puts food into Him (Agni-Vishnu) proportionate to His Body. And indeed the food which is proportionate to the body satisfies, and does no harm; but that which is excessive does harm; and that which is too little does not satisfy.”
Which, to situate in context … is part of the Garhapatya phase of operations for a much more involved ritual. The idea is that the ‘Alive Fire’ so integral to the Vedic Sacrifice (indeed, it is the Conduit to the Gods) – Agni – is being prepared in the relevant altar space. Said ritual space is, itself, a ‘mesocosmic’ … well, ‘microcosmic-but-resonant-with-macrocosmic’ ‘resonancy’ for the universe and our cosmology. So we find, of course, a Triple Agni – One for each ‘World’ or ‘Plane’ – and likewise we find the pointed utilization of ‘Vishnu’ (as in ‘Universal’, ‘All-Pervading’) in relation to this as part of the metaphysical ‘binding’ for the Agni of the hearth that’s just being kindled to ‘be’ the ‘Wide-Fire’ that is, similarly, ‘Universal’, and ‘linked up’ thereto. Nothing escapable from. Because it’s part of that same ‘Universal’ and ‘Macrocosmic’ element. Long story to elaborate upon at another point in time, perhaps.
Now, instantly, you can see the inherent logic here. You’re making a fire. You don’t put too much fuel into such a process – because then you flood or smother things, and there’s just not a lot of burning happening. You don’t put too little fuel into such a process – because then it burns itself out too quickly and nothing is raised nor accomplished therethrough. Similarly, you don’t eat too much, lest you yourself wind up feeling sick – nor too little as the converse ensues. The ‘consumables’, in other words, must be ‘fit for purpose’ in their scope of quantity and sort.
There’s also SBr IV 6 9 17:
“They chant verses of the Queen of Serpents; for the Queen of Serpents is this Earth: through Her they thus obtain everything. The prelude is performed by (the Udgâtri) himself, and the chant is not joined in (by the choristers), lest some one else overhear it. For he would cause (the performance) to be in excess were another to chant; he would cause an excess, were another to join in it; he would cause an excess, were another to overhear it: therefore the prelude is performed by (the Udgâtri) himself, and the chant is not joined in.”
Which, as you can see – restricts the level of ‘vocal energy’ going into proceedings via restricting the number of participants … due to a ritual requirement that the liturgy in question be performed in a manner inaudible to those outside the relevant bounds.
Another exemplar to consider comes to us from SBr I 9 1 18:
“Let him not offer more than these; for if he offered more, he would do what is in excess; and what is in excess at the sacrifice, that remains over for the benefit of his spiteful enemy: hence he should not offer more (prayers) than these.”
Again, this is part of a rather specialized ritual phase of operation wherein … to put it loosely and idiomatically, ‘loose ends are tied up’ and things are tidied up on the whole. What remains of various offerings is apportioned up, given to various (indeed the Various) Gods, in ways that avoid things going ‘out of control’, and ending up places they aren’t supposed to have gone.
Which, in this context, we might partially presume upon good evidence to be Demons – as that is what is said in various sections to the text to be lurking about attempting to seize and steal offering-shares for themselves, and what might take hold of things if the ‘conduit’ of ritual, ritual acts, liturgy, etc. is not properly maintained as things are being sent ‘up’ therethrough. There is also the related understanding for various elements of Yajurvedic (etc.) ritual wherein the Priest is acting as a Warrior – battling against a ‘Priest of the Demons’ and other such forces in order to complete the requisite phase of the rite. So, you see how elements left unaccounted for and not properly (re-dedicatively) ‘disposed of’ in the course of the ritual’s conclusion … an ‘excess’ … can be said in narrative terms to potentially “benefit his [i.e. the Priest’s] spiteful enemy”, hence the necessity for not offering more than this particular phase of ritual ‘controls’ can feasibly accommodate and redirect as needed.
As we said – the SBr is a highly technical document, and contains elements that are not exactly likely to come up for persons not carrying out the specific ritual elements in question – at least, in those precise terms.
However, counterbalancing this is the injunction found in several other rites and ritual steps.
SBr IX 4 2 27-28, for instance:
“Now as to the insertion of (any other) oblations. If he should know any oblation supplied with a brâhmana (dogmatic explanation) let him offer it at this time; for it is for (the obtainment of his) wishes that he yokes this chariot, and whatsoever oblation he offers on this occasion he offers as one that is (to be) fulfilled.
As to this they say, ‘Let him not offer (any additional oblations), lest he should do what is excessive.’ Let him, nevertheless, offer them; for it is for (special) wishes that these oblations are offered, and in wishes there is nothing excessive.”
Or SBr IX 5 1 39-40:
“These are Goddesses, for They are the Regions, the Regions are the Metres, and the Metres are Deities; and that Ka is Pragâpati; and inasmuch as They are Goddesses (Devî) and Ka, They are ‘Devikâh.’ There are five of Them, for there are five Regions.
As to this they say, ‘He should not offer these oblations, lest he should do what is excessive.’ Let him nevertheless offer them; for these oblations are offered for (the fulfilment) of (special) wishes, and in wishes there is nothing excessive.”
In both cases, at these stages of the relevant ritual undertakings it is held to be OK (at least, in potentia, in the case of the former verse – in actuality in the case of the latter), to ‘throw in a little extra’ for the precise purpose of extra-empowering the Rite.
Now we could keep going on through various Hindu ritual texts upon these matters – but I think that our general point here is made.
Namely, that (at least within the sphere of ‘high religion’) for every offering there is a ‘purpose’ ; and that ‘purpose’ correlates to the ‘manner and form’ via which it is being made and our objective is being sought. With it being possible to do things the wrong way in both ‘physical’ as well as ‘metaphysical’ fashions, and this having … potentially rather worrisome consequences both immediate (i.e. within the bounds of the ritual itself – like your fire not starting) and possibly longer-sweeping in scope.
And that this is a much more ‘nuanced’ understanding than “don’t carry out too many sacrifices” or “don’t sacrifice too much”.
Now, in closing, it seems only fitting that as we have heard from Odin (via the Havamal verse aforementioned) – we ought likewise hear from (or, at least, of) Odin … as Rudra – that is to say, in His Vedic ‘Facing’. Another ‘Masque of the Sky Father’.
मा त्वा रुद्र चुक्रुधामा नमोभिर्मा दुष्टुती वृषभ मा सहूती
Mā Tvā Rudra Cukrudhāmā Namobhir Mā Duḥṣṭutī Vṛṣabha Mā Sahūtī
[RigVeda II 33 4]
To give you a sense as to its meaning:
The Griffith translation phrases it as:
“Let us not anger Thee with worship, Rudra, ill praise, Strong God! or mingled invocation.”
The Horace Hayman Wilson:
“Let us not provoke You, Rudra, to Wrath by our (imperfect) adorations; nor, Showerer (of benefits), by our unworthy praise, nor by our invocation (of other Deities)”
And, finally, the relatively recent Jamison/Brereton:
“Let us not anger You, Rudra, through our acts of reverence, nor through poor praise, nor through an invocation shared (with other Gods), o Bull.”
‘Sahuti’, in case you were wondering, is the ‘Shared Invocation (Huti)’ ; whilst it is ‘Duhstuti’ that is the ‘Wrong’, ‘Ill-Fitting’, even ‘Painful’ (Dukha) Hymns (Stuti) ; and Namobhir is Hailings (in that ever-useful Sanskrit linguistic feature … the ‘instrumental’ case).
To start with the last of these first (‘Namobhir’) – it may seem rather curious at first to be beseeching a God not to be offended by (ostensibly not improper) Hailings and Worship : but, as we had said toward the outset, not all Gods are ‘approachable’. Some Gods are downright (literally) terrifying – that is to say, ‘Terrific’, even for veteran Priests. And so it is best to exercise caution and ample respect if one is to make such an attempt to reach out and offer unto Them. At least, via those particular more ‘baleful’ ‘Facings’. ‘Shiva’ is, after all, rather more ‘approachable’ in various ways than ‘Rudra’, for a start.
‘Sahuti’ , meanwhile, as we have said – ‘Shared Invocation’. It is not always possible nor advisable to offer to more than a single God at a time; indeed there are particular ‘combination’ elements that can render things decidedly ‘difficult. Either because one Deific should not be propitiated alongside Another – or because one Deific should be propitiated with Another. Whether on general terms, or for specific and pointed ritually salient particular principle. In other cases – it’s not impermissible for the Deific to be included in ‘shared’ invocations – however it is still best to do so in a fashion that makes it abundantly clear one is being respectful, and highlighting the individual God even in the course of so doing.
Which One Is Which? Well, that is Why You Have Priest Caste. To Know these kinds of things.
‘Duhstuti’ ought be reasonably obvious from what we have advanced earlier. ‘Wrong’ invocation – something’s not been done quite right, things are ‘ill-fitting’ (the actual ‘root meaning’ to Dukha – the ‘ill-fitting’ chariot-axle causing the ‘bumpy ride’), you get the idea.
Don’t do that.
So, does any of this pertain to what the “Reconstructionist Germanic Heathenry” page posted that we’re responding to with all of this?
Yes, yes it does.
Because the key and core question is a simple one:
How do we avoid “God-Bothering” when seeking to express our piety, our faith through prayerful or otherwise ritualine conduct.
It isn’t so simple nor straightforward as the frankly rather reductionist maxim of “don’t pray every day / all the time etc., because that’s what Christians do”.
Indeed, without intending to disrespect anybody’s personal practice nor understanding – and aware that the Germanic revivalist sphere is not quite ‘mine’ in terms of the religious pathway that I adhere to (so I am, I suppose, ‘speaking on behalf of others’ … or, if you prefer, speaking somewhat ‘across the fence’ about somebody else’s more immediate ‘home turf’) –
It seems to me that instead of the rubric for proper prayer practices etc. being an effective inverse as to “how Christian does this look?” (and without intending to propose “how Hindu does this look?” as a perhaps more positive alternative) … one should instead be asking the question: “do these approaches i) work and are they ii) pleasing to the Gods”.
Which, of course, changes the game considerably. Because instead of a ‘negative’ focused definition – defined by what one is not – there is now a greater orientation toward defining by what one does indeed wish to be. Much better – literally more positive.
Although having said that – there is a bit of a difficulty here. Because we don’t always have very adequate ‘guidance’ upon those elements in a given specific Indo-European religious sphere’s textual canon. Which matters, because that’s precisely where one expects to find the recorded perspectives of those who knew the answers on such things.
In our case in the Hindusphere – this often pointedly includes rather literal ‘Word of Gods’, the ‘Shruti’ (‘That Which Is Heard’ – ‘Revealed Truth’). Which directly state the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ of these matters. And are augmented by other commentary efforts codified over the millennia, as well as the observable situation of particular practices working and being positively received, as well. Or otherwise.
The Germanic sphere, unfortunately, lacks much of that. This is not to say that it never had such materials – only that (in the main) we do not have these with us today.
It has some elements, however – you can probably class the Havamal as an equivalent in various ways, and there’s certainly an array of further evidence to be drawn from in the Sagas and other such source material. Even if it is quite … dispersed, and fragmentary – which makes actually compiling it into accessible format (let alone actually living by all of it) quite the endeavour in practice.
Yet unless I am much mistaken, that still leaves rather considerable ‘gaps’ left to be filled. Which is precisely why the gentleman whose work I’m responding to herein, has sought to put forward his own perspective as to how one might seek to be pious (within the Germanic context, at least) properly.
I would be interested to know what evidence he has relied upon in order to make the pronouncements in question. I’m not saying he won’t have any – only that it is not very helpful for it not to have been included in his post for us to take a look at. After all, in the absence of being able to provide direct citations, quotes, and other forms of attestation – we are left just having to take the word of one person as to their accuracy, and that it is based upon something other than their own personal preferences (however well intentioned they may so happen to be).
We’re all on the ‘same team’ here – we all worship the same Gods, after all. And I think that it is vitally important at all times to remember that.
Even if, as applies ‘Pleasing the Gods’, it’s something that strikes me as being rather unlikely to be requiring of ‘validation-via-difference’ from an effectively unrelated (i.e. non-IE) religious sphere in the first place.