THE OLD NORSE WORD " GOTHAR " is the plural form of Gothi or Gythia. The
Gothar are the collective priesthood of the Asatru Community. Proper pronunciation
in Old Norse is: Gothar (go-thar). It literally means: those who speak the
We know from many surviving ancient accounts that the Gothar played a pivotal
role in the founding of Iceland and the development there of a system of
government known as the Godic Republic. This ancient method of self government
was known as the AlThing. At the AlThing the Gothar of the 36 districts of
Iceland met annually to read the Law, settle disputes among the Folk, and mete
justice to law breakers.
This concept of self rule has been practiced since antiquity by the people
of the North. We will deal in greater detail in a future article titled
"The AlThing", but here we will discuss the role of the Gothar in the
contemporary Asatru Community.
In ancient times, as we know from the writings of Tacitus in The Agricola
and The Germania, the Teutons worshipped their Gods and Goddesses in holy
groves and by sacred springs and rivers. Tribal priests and priestesses
presided in these matters. We learn from Adam of Bremen of the great Temple
of Uppsala, where great public Blots were held, again presided over by the
Temple Priests. There are also numerous Saga accounts of the Hofs maintained
by the priests for public worship in Norway and Iceland.
From all of this we learn that there were people who specialized in conducting
public worship of the Gods and Goddesses. They were also responsible for
establishing Hofs and Temples, and maintained the equipment and furnishings
necessary to conduct Blots and other religious services. In the days of the
Godic Republic, the Gothar was also responsible for the civil administration
of the country as well.
In modern times, as the Asatru Community struggles to reassert itself as the
true religion of the Folk, the work of the Gothar is difficult indeed. Not
only is it his or her duty to conduct the Blots, maintain the Hofs and sacred
groves and provide the ritual equipment, but he or she must also seek out those
within our Folk worthy to practice the old ways, and to reawaken the Ancestral
Soul of our people, which is weak and near death after a thousand years of
The true Gothar of the modern era must be a fearless spiritual warrior, a
fervent Asatru missionary. They must be as wise as the AllFather, as strong
as Asa Thorr, and as loving as the Lady Freya, if they are to succeed in their
chosen profession. In short, only the bravest, wisest, and most loving of
our Folk can ever aspire to the position of Gothi or Gythia. Nothing less
than total dedication and personal sacrifice to our cause will do. Anything
less will result in failure. If you are a dabbler in the Northern mysteries,
a crystal poking Norse Wiccan, or someone who lives in a fantasy world,
please go far away and do everyone a favor. For the rest of you who have a
sincere desire, a burning will, and a constitution of iron, we will proceed.
In Vor Tru No. 52 not only did we discuss the significance of the Blot, we
examined the actual mechanics for performing public sacrifice, and we discussed
also the part that the Gothi and Gythia played in such religious services
of the Folk. I urged all who have the desire to perform Blots to do so
whether privately at home with the family, or publicly in the sacred places
with the Kindred. The person who performs the Blot, is at that place and
time a Gothi. However, it is what you do for the Folk after the Blot which
determines whether you are indeed a member of the Gothar, one who has earned
the respect of the Asatru Community as a tireless and fearless spiritual
leader of the Folk, and one who constantly strives to improve himself
through constant study and practice of the lore of our people. Indeed, are
you one who has earned the respect and admiration of the Folk because of
your tireless efforts in their behalf?
At this point, let's assume that you aspire to become one of the Gothar.
Where do you begin? I will start by saying that I have known more than a
few who wished to become a Gothi. My best advice at this time is to urge
them to find a recognized Gothi, and somehow convince the Priest of the
Folk to become his apprentice. You must realize at this point in time that
many may choose to walk this path, but by the process of natural selection,
few will attain their goal. If you find a Gothi to aid you in your studies,
you are fortunate to have that aid in your quest. If you personally don't
know anyone of the Gothar, don't despair. You can teach yourself. THEY DID!
I might add at this time that there is a course of study offered for the
Gothar offered by: The Asatru Folk Assembly
P.O. Box 445
Nevada City, CA. 95959
Please write to them for details. This course outlines a course of study
including the Eddas, Sagas, the Runes, and associated liturgical texts that
will aid you in your search for knowledge. I might caution you that the course
is tough, and will indeed separate the sincere from the insincere. It also
costs money to conduct such courses, so you must be able to handle the
financial sacrifice as well.
The Asatru Alliance does not have such a program
per se, but we do have a number of Gothis at this time who are helping others
learn the craft. As time goes by, we will have a program of our own.
However noble the concept of a Gothar course may sound, it is a waste of
time if you don't have instinctively what it takes. The world is full of
people with Masters Degrees who were the best of students, but can't apply
knowledge to the real world. So, although it is a must to learn all that
you can about our Gods, Folk, Heritage, and Lore, if you are incapable or
lack the people skills to form a Kindred, serve the Folk, and profess the
faith of our ancestors to the world, you're in the same boat as the guy
with the Masters Degree working at the convenience mart as a clerk. What
good will be your certificate of graduation from the Gothar course be if
no one respects you for such? The course is but one step in your personal
evolution as a priest of the Folk. You must earn the respect of your
Kindred and the Asatru Community. You must set an example for the Folk by
living your life with honor and dignity. Responsibility and personal
integrity are keys to earning that respect. As I said earlier in this
article, you must be totally devoted, and live your life accordingly.
Okay, let's assume that you have been blessed by the Gods with all the right
instincts. You've enrolled in the Gothi course, or have started independent
studies, and have found a recognized Gothi to aid you in your studies, or
you are going it alone. What do you do now?
If you already belong to a Kindred, you're off to a good start. If not,
you must found your own. Tough work, but again part of the job. You are
fortunate, though, that there is an Alliance of Independent Kindreds who aid
those like yourself in forming Kindreds. Contact us, let us know your
intentions and little bit about yourself. Perhaps we can help you in finding
others in your general area who are looking for Kindred contact, but don't
quite have what it takes to take the initiative to actually form a Kindred.
You must then use your Gods' given skills and talents to seek these people
out and START that Kindred. I am not going to discuss how to form a Kindred
in great detail at this time. It will be the subject of my next installment
in this series of articles. For now, let's return to the subject of becoming
It is important for every Gothi to have a library, for study and reference,
but also to share with others who seek knowledge of their precious heritage.
This, of course, like all of the other requirements of the job, is a life's
work. Begin with the Elder Edda, study The Havamal daily, but also learn the
ancient myths of our Gods and Goddesses. Learn the myths and unlock the keys
to the Nine Worlds. Study the Runes and obtain a set of them, or better yet,
make your own. Learn the Runes, and use them. Read the wealth of information
about our heroes in the Sagas, and obtain and read every possible book about
the history, culture, customs, and lore of our ancestors. Of course study
the Viking Age, but don't forget that the history of our people began with
Ask and Embla, and continues on today. Where are you going to find time to
do all of this reading? Why don't you start by selling your television and
using the proceeds to buy books? And please, list your library in your
Will so that when you die your precious book hoard doesn't wind up in the
Goodwill box! You must acquire all of the knowledge that you can, because
the Folk with come to you with their questions. Be prepared to answer them.
It is also important for the aspiring Gothi or Gythia to obtain the ritual
tools necessary for your work. I know that it will take many years to
obtain or build them, but you must do it all the same. Since the beginning
of our people's spiritual awareness, the most precious possession of our
holy men and women was the ritual bowl. Pronounced Bowli in Old Norse. It
is symbolized in the shape of the Perthro Rune. It contains the power of
our Gods, the luck and fortune of the tribe, the receptacle of our will
and aspirations, and the holy offerings that we make to our Gods. It is the
primal possession of the Shaman and the priest. It is sacred.
However, just as important to the Gothi, is the Oath Ring. The Book of
Settlements, written in Iceland to describe the Godic Republic, says; "A
Ring of a prescribed size should be placed on the altar in every Main Temple.
The Gothi of that temple should carry that Ring on his wrist to all regular
Things, where he should conduct the procedures. Before that he should wash
the Ring in the blood of a bull he had sacrificed himself." Here we learn the
importance of both the Ring and the Bowli. I might note here that a surviving
1,600 year old Ring of the Goths with runic inscription still survives,
crafted in solid gold. The Ring is brought to all Kindred functions, and is
worn by the Gothi at all Blots and Sumbels as a service to the Folk who may
wish to take a sacred oath. I know that it may be impossible for some to
procure a gold or silver Oath Ring, myself included, but some type of Ring
must be used. Mine is made of brass and has served our Kindred for over ten
We know from the Myths, that Thorr blessed the funeral pyre of Baldur
with his Hammer. We also know from the Sagas that Thorr's Hammer was used
to bless brides, babies, and the Folk. A ritual sized Hammer is also a must.
Mine was a gift from my foster father, and is hand carved from cherry wood.
It has served me and the Folk well for twenty years. The Hammer is also
used in some Blot is for the banishing ritual, and later to bless the Feast.
I have seen some Gothis use a sledgehammer purchased from the hardware
store, and I know of some prison Kindreds who use a rubber Hammer. Again,
what is important here is the symbolism, and the power in the blessing
projected by the Gothi. Improvise!
The last of the most important implements is the Stalli, Old Norse for
altar. We have a stalli made of stone at our Hof, and I know of many who
have constructed Stallis in their sacred groves. The Stalli, of course, is
the focal point of the Blot, and holds the necessary implements used during
the service. I have also used a simple folding camp table, which has served
me well, both during the Blot, and the ritual Feast to follow.
It is worthy to note here, that our Kindred banner is also designed to
be used as an altar cloth. Kindreds may keep this in mind when they are
designing their banner.
Of lesser importance is the making and procurement of various ritual
items used during various Blots, like a ritual drinking horn, a Gander,
sword, spear, a Brisingamen, etc. Of course in many cases you will have to
improvise. Also keep in mind that the procurement of ritual items can very
well be a Kindred project, and thus are Kindred property.
I think it very important to add here that a Gothi should have ritual
attire as well. It is an important part of the personal transformation
that you must make to prepare for the Blot, or other religious function.
By the donning of ritual attire, vestments if you like, you make a conscience
step to separate yourself from the mundane, and enter a spiritual state.
This leads to the next step. You must familiarize yourself with the basic
Blot and Sumbel formula, as well as the other important rituals and
ceremonies of the Folk. There will become a time when you will be called
upon to officiate at various activities of the Kindred, and the public as
well. Work hard and learn the priestcraft.
The last important point that I wish to make is that you, as a member
of the Gothar, are a highly visible member of the greater Asatru Community.
You must conduct your public, as well as private affairs in a way which is
beyond approach. In effect, you must set an example for others to follow.
Always conduct yourself with dignity and honor. For you are the last great
hope for our Folk. Never forget your responsibilities to your Kindred, and
work hard to develop your skills. You are an important link in the legacy
and history of our people. The martyrs of the Saxon's Gothar never flinched
when ordered to renounce Asatru or face beheading at the hands of
Charlamagne's Holy Roman Empire. Nor did the Gothar of Norway who bravely
defied "Saint" Olaf's edicts to submit to the throne and the Pope. We shall
never forget the deeds of these heroes, and always honor their memory in