I celebrate the Feast of Vali differently than most do. For those of you who read me on a regular basis, I am sure that does not surprise you at all. Conventional I am not ! I disagree with the notion that the Feast of Vali is a celebration of the avenging of Balder's death, and a celebration of the return of light, love, romance and marriage. I fail to see what one has to do with the other, and therefore have parted these seperate entities into two different celebrations. The first I celebrate on the 12th of February as the Feast of Vali, to honor the avenging of Balder's death at the hands of Hodr by Vali, Balder's half - brother. On February the 14th, I celebrate what I call the Courting of Gerd, which to me is a ritual of love, renewal and the return of light.
The witch said :
Vali, born to Rind, in the western halls,
will one night old avenge Odin's son.
He won't wash his hands or comb his hair,
until Balder's bane burns on the pyre.
You made me speak but you shall hear no more.
- Baldr's Draumar (Balder's Dreams)
The death of Hodr was a required act of revenge for the Gods, and one that was practiced by our ancestors as well. Many in ancient times swore blood oaths to avenge the deaths of their blood brothers, and several stories in the sagas reflect this blood - bond. Normally you would curse the soul of the one who had killed your blood brother, or in the death of Balder, the one who killed the Shining One, and brought so much grief and dismay to our Gods and Goddesses. In this case however, Hodr committed this horrific act unknowingly, and as we read at the end of Voluspa, Hodr is forgiven,( not actually written but implied), and comes back with his brother Balder to rule Asgard after the terrible carnage that is Ragnarok. We too should not judge Hodr too harshly for this act of violence, but blame the one who is truly responsible for this crime against the Gods and Goddesses.
23. And if mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life,
24. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
For the Feast of Vali Ritual I place on my main altar ( I have nine in all ) all forms of ancient weaponry. On the altar I place a dirk, seax, an axe, a bow, and two swords crossed in the back. The swords represent honor and revenge. I place a round viking shield up against the front of the altar to represent the shielding oath of honor that is given in blood oaths from warrior to warrior, and friend to friend. I do not toast anyone during this solemn ritual but instead leave three empty cups on the altar to represent the tragic losses of Balder, Hodr and Nanna to this senseless act of trickery. I thank both the All - Father and Rind for bringing their avenging son into the world, and Vali of course for taking " a life for a life". I never tell anyone what to say during these rituals. Let the words flow from your heart to honor the Gods and Goddesses. To recycle someone elses words is not a "Tru" way to express yourself during a ritual to the Gods and Goddesses.
La vengeance se mange tres - bien froide.
( Revenge is very good eaten cold )
- From "Mathilde", by Marie Joseph Eugene Sue
For the feast afterward, I use Marie Joseph Eugene Sue's words literally. I eat a cold meal consisting of vegetables, fruits, breads, herring and tuna fish. Three empty plates accompany me at the dining table in solemn respect of those who we lost through this sensless act of violence against one of our most beloved Gods. I try to use as much gold colored placemats, utensils, etc... for the feast. I do this to represent Balder's stay with Hel.
" Why are the benches bright with gold,
the great hall gleaming - who will be the guest ? "
- Balder's Dreams
If you hold hatred in your heart for someone this is a good time to re -think those feelings and possibly let them go. Hatred is so destructive to ones life, and to ones soul. You wind up sometimes hurting yourself, and those around you, as much as the person you hate. This is the lesson that we learn from Balder's tragic death.
All Hail Vali, son of Odin and Rind, and great avenging warrior of Balder !
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja's love, and Thor's protection !