from The Voice 2012
by Steve McNallen
They came from one end of the continent to the other. Local folks, of course, and a trio from Alaska. A carload of young folks drove all the way from Florida. New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oklahoma, Maryland, Arkansas – plane tickets and gas receipts from a dozen states bore witness to their pilgrimage. Some had planned their journey months in advance, some not so. One came in response to a cast of the runes.
All, strangely enough, were coming home.
Midsummer 2012 was designed to be a meta-ritual, from the first gesture of the initial blessing to the last word of the closing. Everything – the presentations, the sumbel, the meals we ate together in the hall, was part of this great, all-encompassing meta-ritual. Specifically, the objectives included a noticeable degree of spiritual evolution for each and every individual present…the evolutionary advance of the Asatru Folk Assembly as a whole … and the application of that evolution to the objectives of the AFA.
Throughout the gathering, I felt like an arrow in flight: focused, committed, unstoppable, pure.
My main presentations followed a sequence. First, one on the “how” of individual evolution. I mentioned runes, the connection between Odin’s mead quest and kundalini yoga, the idea of pushing yourself! “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” My second one was titled “Awakening and Will: Ourselves, Our Folk, Our Mission.” The title says it all.
Other presenters supported this theme. Perhaps most relevant was Brad Taylor-Hicks’ talk on “Eddas, Vedas, and the Odinic Quest.” Pat Hall gave two sessions on “hexology” – the application of Pennsylvania Dutch traditions to modern Asatru symbolism, including the runes. Ann Taylor taught us about meditation techniques. Marlene Slichter led us in a session on runic divination.
our purposes not just for that moment, but for the entire gathering – it was not undone until the last day. In it, we asked for the blessings of the Gods and Goddesses, the ancestors, and the wights of the place. The Midsummer blot was next day, when we placed our spiritual offerings on the sunwheel and burned it in the roaring fire. Immediately afterward, we performed a healing rite for all those in need. The web of folk, surrounding the afflicted ones and sending might through each other to those requiring it, was a humming net of healing and love.
Perhaps the high point of the event, ritually, was the blot to Odin. Late at night, torch-lit, with Dylan Sheets of the band Lasher Keen pounding out our passion, we honored the All Father and asked for his blessings – again, in the forms of individual and collective evolution, and for the destiny of the AFA!
But next day’s Wayfarer Blot, performed by Clergy student Matt Flavel as his final requirement for ordination, was also spectacular and particularly moving. Immediately afterward, he took the oath of gothi in the AFA.
The final ceremony was the next day, in which the camp was returned to its original condition and the meta-ritual concluded. After the last of the folk had departed the area, I stepped outside the circle of standing torches … and the rite was done.
All the rituals and presentations made up the framework and the anchor points of AFA Midsumer in the Sierras, but other things made up the blood and flesh. Take our meals, for example: We followed AFA custom, in that (1) every meal was blessed before we ate, (2) we all ate together, (3) children ate first, leadership ate last – and most definitely (4) no one went away hungry! Kitchen-meister Diane has prepared and served us food for decades now, and her daughter Emily has born a big share of the burden for years. We saw her daughter Elle, generation three, in an apron for the first time this Midsummer. (Emily did all the wedding provisions as well as all our breakfasts!)
A host of informative talks, workshops, and activities filled out the themes described earlier in this report. Sheila on genealogy … Knut with his telescope .. .David James on Germanic naming … half a dozen different crafts … Jim on preparedness, me on building resilient shirts” prepared by Sean of Northlanders. Inc. were the perfect prizes for the winning tribe, the Franks). Marc, who along with Knute organized and led the games, later broke
his hip and had to be taken to the hospital. His health was toasted many times in the days that followed and we are sending healing folk-love to him still.
Lauren’s wedding to Jonas deserves mention all by itself. It was a storybook scenario – the bride was stunning, the groom handsome, the wedding party delightful. Their oaths were sworn on the ring, and sealed with a horn of mead. Afterwards, we shared a little more mead and champagne and, after lots of good conversation, headed over to the hall for dinner. It was very elevating for all of us.
The marriage of Lauren and Jonas capped a day of drama. Earlier, Bryan Wilton’s youngest son had managed to get trapped on a cliff, unable to move up or down. Bryan tied a rope to a tree, made a bowline in the other end, and went down to rescue his son. The young Ashmore boys, sons of Bobby and Roxie, pulled them up. That’s the kind of folks we have in the AFA.
Music tied it all together and fed our souls. Robert Taylor and Nicholas Tesluk of Changes regaled us with song and story as they described “A Fifty Year Odyssey.” The next evening – just prior to the late-night Odin-blot – they joined our friends with Lasher Keen for the musical peak of Midsummer. Mystical Dylan, vivacious BlueBird, and wise Sage led us in a journey into ecstatic spaces in an experience none will forget.
The days have passed since I stepped so deliberately outside the circle after that last ritual, of the last day, of AFA Midsummer in the Sierras, 2012. Already the sun rises a little later and sets a little sooner, and life goes on. Has anything changed? Speaking for myself, yes. Speaking for the AFA as a whole, I must also answer in the affirmative. The light of the fire and smell of the smoke, the folk feasting in the hall, the (surprisingly) chill nights, the laughter and friends and all the rest remain … waiting to be renewed when, again, the sun approaches her highest point next year.
It is good.