My First Sumbel

Things have really opened up for me in just the last week. Not when it comes to employment, but rather in the path that I have chosen to walk as a Heathen. Ironically, it seems that the use of a cosmic hint brick on my wife was what opened the doors that I had been unable to even find, much less try to open myself.

You see, ever since I made the choice to walk the path of a Heathen, and to worship the gods of my ancestors, I have been trying to find other heathens to associate with. For years, while I might make contact with local heathens, those contacts never got anywhere after the initial introduction. I have gone so far as to consider moving back to the mid-west just to find a Heathen community to associate with, and have received offers of open arms from some that I know through online contact. But this has not been the preferred choice for me for several reasons, not least of which is that it would mean moving us and the kids away from all of our family.

Last week Sarah struck up a conversation with a heathen in a comment thread on Facebook, and things started to happen. One thing led to another, and suddenly she was communicating with a local heathen that I had tried to reach out to before without success, and we were invited over for coffee and socialization. This was Friday (9/3/10), and we spent several hours just talking about tons of topics, and finding out just how much we had in common. Talk led to meeting with other heathens, and later that night an informal get together for Monday (9/6/10) was put together where we could get a chance to meet other heathens in a less formal environment.

Monday rolled around faster than I had thought possible, but started as less than auspicious. Sarah woke up with a pinched nerve in her neck making it virtually impossible for her to use one of her arms or to turn her head. Even so, she managed to make hamburger buns and tortillas for the BBQ. The kids were obnoxious monsters all morning so we decided that it was best if we made sure they got a nap before we headed over, even if that meant showing up to the event later than we had wanted. The nap helped, but they were still…difficult, but we finally got on the road by late afternoon.

The entire drive over I was nervous and frustrated. I hate being late to something, especially if I am meeting somebody for the first time, and while we had not specified a time for everyone to get together I had hoped to be there by early afternoon, so in my own mind I was running late. The greeting we received made all of that vanish though, as from the dark depths of the house arms were waved in welcome as we came in the door. Once the children cleared the doorway, and the enthusiastic greetings from the other children led them away to play, we were able to make our way back to where the adults were gathered. There I was finally able to meet heathens that I had only encountered online, some only for a couple of days, others for several months. Greetings and introductions were made, and we were quickly drawn into the conversation of the others. Mike Burke and I gravitated to the coffee pot, and spent time just chatting about gatherings and such over coffee in the kitchen. Bert had noticed Sarah’s pain and had begun to work on her to try to relieve some of the pain. Before long progress Bert discovered the buns that Sarah had baked, and from there the cooking began.

The adults went out in the back yard to continue to socialize, eventually coming back with plates loaded with food. Throughout all of this we were drawn into conversation, and were made to feel welcome by all present. I can’t tell you all that was talked about as the details are not all that sharp this morning, but I can tell you that I felt like I was part of something, and was accepted by the folk who were present.

Eventually Bert broke out a bottle of mead, and a horn was filled. She asked if anyone was opposed to having an informal sumbel. Nobody was opposed to the idea, and I was very glad that I had sought out advice from Rod earlier in the morning on proper etiquette should this happen as I had hoped that it might. You see, while I have been walking this path for a few years now, I have not had the pleasure of participating in any religious rites with other heathens, so this was a first for me. Bert started out by giving us a little instruction as this was our first time being part of a sumbel, even going so far as to provide us with instruction on how to use the horn so that we didn’t get drowned by it as it was a monster. Apparently she only does this for people that she likes, otherwise letting people do what they want and enjoying the result when they get a face full of mead or ale. Here’s for making a good impression and getting a lesson in how to avoid being doused in mead!

Violet, Jeff’s daughter was the valkyrie for the event, something that I think is a new honor for her. I was nervous when the horn came to me, lessened in no part by the fact that I was the first to receive it after Bert. I followed Rod’s advice and played it safe by simply hailing the gods on that first round. The second round I was feeling more comfortable, and I hailed my ancestors who had passed along their values through the generations. The final round I hailed the hosts for welcoming us in so warmly.

What was special for me during all of this was that the kids were welcomed into the circle. At one point, when Caulla first came into the circle, Bert blessed her with a rune of mead stroked onto her forehead while Bert uttered a blessing over her. I don’t think Bert caught the look that I saw, but Caulla got something special from this. She looked over to me with a look of wonder, joy, and minor puzzlement. She wasn’t puzzled over what had happened, and I think that she really understood what was happening. I think that the puzzlement was something deeper, and I know that she felt touched by something very special in that moment. Something touched her on a spirit level. I can’t really explain how I know this, only that I felt it through the bond that the two of us share. I don’t know what the blessing was as I was unable to make it out when Bert was speaking, but it was a powerful moment for Caulla. Bert did the same for Tiernan when he finally joined us later, but he just kind of shrugged and went on with the business of being a boy.

Eventually we went inside for a group photo shoot, in part because it had gotten dark. Conversation went to photos, and galleries were pulled up on the computers, leading to more talk about this or that. The hours flew by, and before we knew it the kids were going into their tired windup, so we knew that it was time for us to hit the road and take them home to bed.

The day was a very special day, and I can’t begin to describe how welcomed I felt during the whole gathering. That missing element in my life was momentarily filled, and I hope that the bonds that started to grow yesterday continue to grow for years to come. This was a great group of folk that gathered, and I see some real potential in befriending them and hopefully being welcomed into their kinship. Perhaps we have found a spiritual home. Time alone will answer that hope, but things seem to be pointed toward our being part of this fine group of folk.

As to the results of that cosmic hint brick for Sarah that I mentioned early on…well, that is her tale to tell, not mine.



Filed under Ancestors, Events, Family, Heathenry, Holidays, Religion

7 responses to “My First Sumbel

  1. Sarah

    You would do that. Ok so here is my hint brick go see my blog:


  2. Congrats, Geoffrie…I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m guessing this is Bert…Bert from Missouri. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her, and even participating in a symbel at her home. She’s good people…



  3. Rod

    Jeff, this makes me just real happy! Bert really wants to build something, and I know you guys will be instrumental in doing it. I look forward to hearing good things out your area now!

    You know if there is anything I can help with, all you have to do is ask!

    • Rod, you and Mark have been a tremendous inspiration to me, and it was your constant encouragement that helped me feel comfortable with the choice that I made. Your ready welcome, when you only knew me online, made me feel part of a community. Now, through having finally met with Bert and the rest of the kin, I have hope that what I see you and Mark and the rest of JBK building may now be in my future out here.

      As to helping, I know that door is always open, and I will continue to ask you for advice, or just reach out and chat about life in general.

  4. It was fantastic meeting you, Sarah and the kids. I know how you feel about your first Sumble – the tension, then the release once you feel how natural and real it all is, and the acceptance of the Folk around you. It only gets better as you go along. The more time you spend among the Folk the more you will want to. It opens up a part of you that you just can’t share anywhere else. It is something that no amount of money can buy, and it is free. We were so happy to have you there, and you are welcome to anything we have going on. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    • The nerves and tension were incredible, especially when first going over to meet Bert. Ask Sarah, I told her it was like going to a job interview because I really wanted to make a good impression. Those nerves vanished within the first hour we were there, and while they came back somewhat on Monday, they weren’t as bad. What I was not prepared for was the ready welcome that I received from everyone. I had experienced that from Mark Stinson and Rod through online encounters, and had hoped to find it in a group out here, but I never imagined that the welcome and acceptance would be so rapid upon meeting all of you. To be so comfortable, to be able to let down my guard and just be me, to be able to wear my hammer without having to worry about how people might respond to it. That was what was so unexpected for me, and what I had been hungering for in the years since I started walking this path. Being a heathen is about being part of a community, and in helping the kid grow. I wanted that. I wanted to be part of something like what JBK is doing in the mid-west. Now, perhaps, I have that chance.

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