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SYMBEL

 

This will cover just a couple of ways to do Symbel/Sumbel (rhymes with stumble). The basic format is a shorter less involved form, while the high format is much more elaborate... 

The basic piece was written when a local pagan decided they wanted to do a symbel for their campsite at a gathering that was coming up. Knowing the gathering, I highly suggested that they find one of the several Heathens, that would be in attendance and whom had experience with Symbel, to host the event... Whether they took the advice or not I don't know, but I would rather they now how than totally botch it up... The serious nature of Symbel as well as some of the metaphysical properties were also pointed out to the person... 

The high Symbel piece was written a while ago and is still evolving as we learn more from the past... It is the way we try to hold Symbel when we can. Sometimes location or situations dictate necessary changes to the format. This format is much more likely to be seen in the Theodish & Irminist communities than that of mainstream Asatru...

 

Basic Symbel


Sumbel is/can be a very moving and powerful ritual, but it is just that, a ritual... It has very real effects and consequences that you really need to know about to properly protect all of those involved in the  event...  A knowledge of the concepts behind the what, why,  and how are important... With that said, here is a short outline and some of the what and  why's...


For Sumbel all you need is a Horn and some Mead or other drink and a blessing bowl... There are plenty of pages on the web that deal with sumbel (also spelled symbel and rhymes with stumble)...
There are several ways to do sumbel as well, this is just a fast and easy way that would probably work well for someone not very experienced in it...

The first thing you would do is fill the horn. Once filled, the contents will be offered to 3 gods, Odin (for victory), Njord (for peace), Freyja (for a good season). This can be found in the lore ( Heimskrigla to be exact). The contents are then poured into  the blessing bowl. 
**You can do one of two things here... One, pour all the contents into the bowl and then spoon a little back into the horn. Two, leave a little in the horn. What this does is charge the horn... There are also a couple of thoughts about the contents of the horn. Some people use a method where the horn is never empty once it is filled the first time until sumbel is at an end. The other (which is what we use), the horn is emptied at the end of each round into the blessing bowl. Another words, what ever is left at the end of the round goes into the bowl, the horn is then primed once again from the bowl... 


The first round is one to the Gods, ***this being a Norse/Germanic ritual only the Norse/Germanic gods should be hailed***... 
**Two thoughts on hailing certain gods... Some Heathens believe that if Odin is hailed then his blood brother is also due a drink. What this translates to is, if Odin is hailed then some of the contents of the horn is also poured out to L***. Others believe that it is very bad manners to even mention L*** in sumbel. So if there are Heathens/Asatruars present, do not be surprised if there is a negative reaction to his name being mentioned 
in sumbel...


The second round is to Ancestors & Heroes.... It can be anyone alive or dead who has made some mark on your life, a past relative, or just someone you admire...


The third round is Oaths and Boast... This is where things can get dangerous........
It is very important to watch what you say at sumbel. Once things are placed into the well, you can't take them back... If you make an outlandish boast or oath, then fail to do what you said you will do, it effects the orlag and wyrd of all who bore witness to those words not to mention what is does to your own... So it is important to watch what you say as well as watch what other people say... 


Any round after the 3rd is open to anything, stories, poems, songs, oaths, boast, hails, whatever... Just remember, the gods are watching, and they like to be entertained<G>.... It is up to the host of the event to know when to bring things to a close. Once the words start becoming forced or just don't have the same level to them, its usually time to bring it to an end... Sumbel is not a drinking competition!!! Nor is it a shouting contest... Sumbel is a very Wheo(Holy) ritual... But that doesn't mean there can't be levity<G>...


Once things are done, the contents of the horn is emptied into the bowl, the people and gods are thanked for their attendance. The contents of the bowl are then taken to some special place and poured out in honor of the gods...

Thats it....

Just a few last words here... 
The horn is seen as representation of the well of wyrd... So when you are talking over the horn, your words are being placed in the well... That is why it is so important to watch your words while at sumbel... Bad language, cursing, ect. is never to be tolerated while in sumbel... A sumbel is considered a frithstead... 
As I said earlier, the gods are watching you at sumbel, your words and deeds are being taken into account...

 

 

High Symbel 

Before anyone enters the hall it is cleaned both ritually and literally. BTW, we prefer to hold it indoors. The hall is step up with the implements laid out and seating is arraigned to best suit the hall. We also prefer to use candles or lanterns to the electric lights in the hall. 

When the hall is ready if we have a blowing horn it is sounded 3 times at the door. At that time the lady of the hall will greet each individual at the door where they will wash their hands after which she will offer them a greeting and a drink. 

Once everyone is seated (people do not have to file in like in wiccan circles, they are usually free to sit anywhere,  but some people might have assigned seating due to their station in the community) the Lady of the hall will come up front and fill the horn. The Lady of the hall or her helpers will ideally be the ones to handle the draught due to maegen/luck issues, but I get to do it all by myself on occasion<G>... (If there are people who have never been to a Sumbel before this is generally when I go through some of the basics
and do & don'ts.) Once the horn is filled I will start things after saying a small poem I came up with for the occasion. 

Here is something from Hakon the Goods Saga in the Heimskingla which will explain some of the next things we do.


"And first Odin's goblet was emptied for victory and power to his king; thereafter, Niord's and Freyja's goblets for peace and a good season. Then it was the custom of many to empty the brage-goblet (1); and then the guests emptied a goblet to the memory of departed friends, called the remembrance goblet."


Before we even start passing the horn around we offer 3 horns which the contents all go into the Blessing Bowl. As mentioned above and for the same reasons, 1st goes to Odin, next to Njord, 3rd to Freyja. Once those are offered we prime the horn by ladling some of the draught from the Blessing Bowl into the horn then filling it the rest of way with fresh draught.

The first round is to the Gods, the Lady of the Hall or her helpers will escort the horn around the folk refilling it as needed (in all rounds). When the horn makes it all the way around, whatever left in the horn goes into the Blessing Bowl. 

Between the 1st and 2nd rounds we have a special toast that is usually offered by the host of the event/group for the continued luck of said group... 

The second round is to the Ancestors and Hero's with the third round being the Boast & Oaths or Gielps and bťots... Everything after the 3rd is free form, tell a story, sing a song, recite a poem, ect...

When all is said and done the symbelgifa(aka host) will generally decide when Sumbel should end. When we finish we generally thank the Gods and the Folk for their attendance and contributions to the Well. The blessing Bowl will be taken care of by the Lady of Hall (in most cases). Then the joy of cleaning up comes<G>...

This has been an ongoing evolution for some time. It has been influenced by Asatru, Irminist, Theodish, and A-S Heathens.