The Largest Heathen Gathering in North America meets in Kansas City

On September 24-26, the largest heathen gathering in North America took place during the 2nd annual Lightening Across the Plains.  170 adults and 70 children came together as part of the greater Midwestern heathen community from throughout the Midwest to include Michigan, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.  

The event was hosted by Jotun’s Bane Kindred at the Gaea Retreat Center near Kansas City, MO.  Twice as big as the year before, it was organized to enable heathen from all over the Midwest to gather as a people and meet face-to-face.  As stated in their brochure “It’s about mingling Wyrd…and taking the measure of another person, and finding them of worth.”

The event had no shortage of activities which included religious activities, Viking games, a Midwest Thing, workshops, crafts, vendors, community dinners, and a Heathen auction.

Religious Activities

Several religious activities occurred during the event in honor of the Heathen faith.

An opening and a closing ritual took place to declare grith and frith over the gathering.  During the opening ceremony Tyr was honored, and the perimeter of the gathering area was walked with gifts presented to the Vaettir of the land.  The ceremony enlisted the help of the children who distributed gifts to the land wights.

On Friday night after dark, an Odin blot was held followed by a Folk Symbel.   A horn was passed during each and the crowd toasted the Gods and Goddesses, their ancestors & heroes, and then an open round where each could boast of their deeds or accomplishments.  A few even took this opportunity to share a song. 

On Saturday night, a High Symbel took place.  This was a grand formal event.  Chairs and tables were arranged in the pavilion with table cloths with seasonal decorations.  The hosts table was setup in the front where the ceremonial horns were displayed.  Kindred shields, national flags, and Kindred banners were proudly displayed around the perimeter.  Some participants took this opportunity to wear traditional garb.  Before the event, the children gathered for a slumber party that included movies and activities during the Symbel.  Just before the Symbel, Kari Tauring, a staff carrier and singer, gave us a wonderful concert consisting of Nordic-root songs.  During the Symbel, a horn was carried by a Valkrie to each person who was given the opportunity to toast a God and Goddess. During the second round, Chieftain’s Folley, an overly large drinking horn owned by JBK, was presented to each person who was given an opportunity to toast and boast a deed, an accomplishment, an ancestor, a hero, the hosts, or anything else that needed mentioning .  Heathens love to gift each other and many took this opportunity to present each other with amazing items.  Throughout the Symbel it was evident that those gathered were immensely proud of their community, their large gathering and JBK for their hard work.

During the festival, a Hof, or heathen temple, was established that included various religious images and statues honoring the heathen gods.  Participants were encouraged to take advantage of the Hof and add their own religious objects or conduct sacrifices.

Viking Games

There is nothing more fun than some friendly, but hard-fought, competition. On Saturday afternoon, everyone was invited to participate Viking Games which consisted of a Hammer Toss, a Kindred Tug-of-War, Steal the Wench and the crowd favorite, the children’s Viking Battles . 

The Viking Battles started off the Games when JBK presented the 70 children present a padded boffer sword as a gift.   Besides battling each other, various adults volunteered to act as trolls which the children attacked with enthusiasm.  The brave fallen warriors were taken of the field of battle by a Valkyrie who got to choose between Freyja’s Hall or Odin’s Hall where they were served punch and cookies.

The Hammer toss featured a heavy throwing hammer made by Craig Winkler from the Jotun’s Bane Kindred that was appropriately named Skullsplitter.  Both men and women participated in this events with each participant given two throws.  The winning throw was 47 feet 3 inches which was over 7 feet farther than the previous year.

A Kindred tug-of-war pitted kindreds against each other.  Each team consisted of three members battling for a coveted hammer trophy.  This travelling trophy is engraved with the winning Kindred’s name and held by the winning Kindred until the next LATP.  

The ever popular Steal the Wench was easily the crowd favorite.  A “house” with two rooms is outlined by a rope and a woman takes a position in the one of the rooms. A man must “steal the wench” by removing her from the house and take her to a finish line in the shortest time possible.  The woman on the other hand attempts to drag the man into the adjoining room or “thrall room” of the house. The winner is able to make the other their thrall (slave) for the rest of the weekend.

Midwest Thing

On Saturday morning, the Chieftains of each tribe gathered to formalize an agreement on how they should work together to establish strong tribes in the Midwest.  This was the first time that so many Midwestern tribes had met face to face and everyone participating was ecstatic with the results.  The result was several general laws were agreed upon to ensure the autonomy of each group but established procedures that would enable mutual support. 

Other activities

Several informational and crafts workshops were offered that allowed the participants to share knowledge of their folk ways.  Several vendors displayed crafts at the center of the camp which included jewelry, books, CDs, incense, gemstones, leatherwork, horns and various other items of heathen interest.  Community dinners were held by JBK and consisted of chili with fixings on Friday night and a hearty stew on Saturday night.  These dinners helped get the Heathens out of their individual camps and join together in community.  On Sunday, a heathen auction was held from items that were donated by participants.  The proceeds will be used to help pay expenses for the gathering as well as to add to a savings account that will be used to acquire tribal lands, build a Hof and Hall, and establish an area for heathen burials.

The event definitely achieved its primary purpose of gathering Midwest heathens together to meet face-to-face so that they could talk, swap stories, laugh and play together.  Pride was very evident as heathens continually chose this moment to boast their faith and the virtues of their community.   Declarations that next year’s events will be twice as big were heard often and from my perspective, a very real possibility.

2 Responses

  1. […] on the Plain: PNC-Heartland covers Lightning Across the Plain, the largest heathen gathering in North America, which took place September 24-26. “On Saturday morning, the Chieftains of each tribe […]

  2. The children’s Viking war sounds like a lot of fun! What a great idea to teach children the mythology by including Odin’s and Freya’s separate halls.

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