The basic elements of an Asatru funeral service include; the hallowing, introduction, a reading, a time of memorial, final hail and the closing.
The space where the funeral is being held is hallowed with a hammer before the service can take place, performed by the Ghothi/Gytha. This is to dedicate the ceremony to the Heathen Gods, pull the attention of the deceased ancestors, and bring about an official start to the proceedings.
The Ghothi/Gytha will intern a short introduction after the hallowing, intended for people outside the Heathen faiths, and to bring everyone's attention. This also serves to help develop a context for the rest of the funeral.
Readings at Heathen funerals generally come from the Poetic Edda. In most cases Havamal 76 is read;
"Cattle die, Kinsmen Die, the self must die also. I know one thing which never dies, the reputations of each dead man."
This takes up the main bulk of the ceremony. Lead and encouraged by the Ghothi/Gytha, people who knew the deceased speak about the individuals deeds and life. During this time horn, or horns will be raised to toast the deceased memory. This can be done either by everyone having their own horn, poured from the same pitcher, or in smaller ceremonies one horn may be passed around and shared.
This telling of stories serves to create a whole memory of the person, and to send them with their deeds into the afterlife as they cross over.
The Norse prayer that was recorded in Ibn Fadhlan's memoirs is most often recited by everyone in attendance. This is to symbolise the joining together of those at the service. Following the prayers a few words will be said to close the ceremony.
'Lo, There do I see my father
Lo, there do I see my mother and
my brothers and my sisters
Lo, there do I see the line of my people
back to the beginning.
Lo, do they call to me,
The bid me take my place amongst the halls of Valhalla
Where thine enemies have been vanquished
Where the brave shall live forever
Nor shall we mourn but rejoice for those who have died a glorious death."
This is. of course, aimed at those going to Valhalla. In modern times this would be perfect for soldiers, etc, but possibly not relevant for those who have died of old age; as Valhalla will not be their place of destination. A few changes can therefore be made to this prayer to suit the situation of the deceased; Valhalla could be replaced with Asgard, 'for those who have died a glorious death,' could be replaced with 'for those who have lived a full life.' The possibilities are there.
Closing the ceremony will be conducted again by the Ghothi/Gytha, and the hammer used again to end proceedings, and it did to hallow the start. A feast in the persons honour would now be appropriate, similar to the modern wake.
Created by Pippah Hall.
Asatru UK KIN
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