Charming of the Plow Ritual - Witan Brandy Callahan
Charming of the Plow is one of my favorite holidays and blots. Being a farm kid raised on a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere North Dakota, February was always a hard month. I remember wearing 5 layers of clothing just to do chores and still being cold! Everything seemed so much more difficult in February. I was tired of winter by then. The snow was no longer welcome. The NoDak plains no longer looked pure and untouched, covered with sparkling snow and icy creeks. It just looked like a frozen tundra with a never-ending winter. At that age, I couldn’t see ahead, only behind me. I didn’t see the preparations we were making for the spring, I could only see the misery of being out in the cold. I could only think of how long we had had to shovel snow, break ice, unbury equipment, and trek around the farm in 32 below temps. I didn’t see the increasing in daylight, the beauty of the sunrise earlier every day, or the happiness the bellies of the heavily pregnant cows put on the faces of my family. I just saw work. I didn’t see the prosperity. I didn’t see the preparation to make sure our family would succeed another year.
Age brings appreciation, I suppose. I no longer just see a cold and barren, snow covered plain. Instead I see earth starting to awaken beneath it. February is no longer a miserable month of cold weather and endless chores. It is time to be industrious. It is time to prepare our tools with intention and care, to celebrate the end of winter rather than focusing on how hard it has been. It’s a time to look forward, to plan, to prepare. It’s a time of excitement rather than angst.
My family holds a blot to Gefjon at Charming of the Plow. We take the month of February to work hard for the big goals, to make our plans, and prepare ourselves for the work spring will bring us. We take our inspiration from her as her story from Gylfaginning I:
King Gylfi ruled the land that men now call Sweden. It is told of him that he gave to a wandering woman, in return for her merry-making, a plow-land in his realm, as much as four oxen might turn up in a day and a night. But this woman was of the kin of the Æsir; she was named Gefjun. She took from the north, out of Jötunheim, four oxen which were the soils of a certain giant and, herself, and set them before the plow. And the plow cut so wide and so deep that it loosened up the land; and the oxen drew the land out into the sea and to the westward, and stopped in a certain sound. There Gefjun set the land, and gave it a name, calling it Selund. And from that time on, the spot whence the land had been torn up is water: it is now called the Lögr in Sweden; and bays lie in that lake even as the headlands in Selund. Thus says Bragi, the ancient skald:
Gefjun drew from Gylfi | gladly the wave-trove's free-hold,
Till from the running beasts | sweat reeked, to Denmark's increase;
The oxen bore, moreover, | eight eyes, gleaming brow-lights,
O'er the field's wide: booty, | and four heads in their plowing.
And again told in the Ynglinga Saga, Chapter 5:
There goes a great mountain barrier from north-east to south-
west, which divides the Greater Swithiod from other kingdoms.
South of this mountain ridge it is not far to Turkland, where
Odin had great possessions. In those times the Roman chiefs went
wide around in the world, subduing to themselves all people; and
on this account many chiefs fled from their domains. But Odin
having foreknowledge, and magic-sight, knew that his posterity
would come to settle and dwell in the northern half of the world.
He therefore set his brothers Ve and Vilje over Asgaard; and he
himself, with all the gods and a great many other people,
wandered out, first westward to Gardarike, and then south to
Saxland. He had many sons; and after having subdued an extensive
kingdom in Saxland, he set his sons to rule the country. He
himself went northwards to the sea, and took up his abode in an
island which is called Odins in Fyen. Then he sent Gefion across
the sound to the north to discover new countries; and she came to
King Gylve, who gave her a ploughgate of land. Then she went to
Jotunheim, and bore four sons to a giant, and transformed them
into a yoke of oxen. She yoked them to a plough, and broke out
the land into the ocean right opposite to Odins. This land was
called Sealand, and there she afterwards settled and dwelt.
Skjold, a son of Odin, married her, and they dwelt at Leidre.
Where the ploughed land was is a lake or sea called Laage. In
the Swedish land the fjords of Laage correspond to the nesses in
Sealand. Brage the Old sings thus of it: --
"Gefion from Gylve drove away,
To add new land to Denmark's sway --
Blythe Gefion ploughing in the smoke
That steamed up from her oxen-yoke:
Four heads, eight forehead stars had they,
Bright gleaming, as she ploughed away;
Dragging new lands from the deep main
To join them to the sweet isle's plain.”
Below is a simple blot, similar to the one my family will celebrate to honor the Goddess Gefjon, one of our Ásynjur.
Tools of Industriousness (Items that you use to support your family & folk)
Pour the mead into the horn and have the women bless the mead if present. Gather your folk, entering the space in a clockwise motion.
“Holy Æsir, mighty Gods and Goddesses of our Folk! We invite you to join us and witness our devotion!
Honored Ancestors, mothers and fathers as far back as time remembers! We ask you to join your sons and daughters in celebration!
Friendly vættir, spirits of this land and this place! We invite you to witness what we do today and to see our deeds!”
Holding the horn high, call on the Goddess Gefjon:
Beguiler of Gylfi with merriment
Strong and industrious –
Hear the voices of your folk,
Receive our devotion!”
Gather the gifts of the Folk for Gefjon:
“Folk, place your hands over your hearts. Feel the heart beat beneath your fingers. Feel it’s strength, it’s steady-beat. From that strong and noble heart, gather your gifts for Gefjon. From your heart to your hand, and from your hand to the horn, give the best and brightest of yourself to her today.”
In a clockwise movement, gather the gifts of the folk into the horn of mead. Returning to the central altar, hold the horn above you head and offer them to Gefjon:
This horn is heavy with the gifts of your folk,
The best and brightest of themselves that they have to give.
If you find these gifts worthy, accept them from us.
Pour the contents of the horn into the bowl.
Fill the second bowl with the remaining mead and hold high above your head.
You have accepted our gifts, and we ask for your blessings in return.
Give us strength in the last holds of winter.
Inspire us to be industrious.
Remind of the victory ahead in times of struggle.”
At this time you will be blessing the tools, the Folk, and their hands.
Using the sprig and the blessed mead, sprinkle the tools with the blessings of Gefjon:
“Gefjon, we ask that you bless these tools.
Inspire us with your strength and devotion to task.
Remind us to be joyful in our work.
Let us see that victory our industriousness brings.”
Ask the folk to prepare themselves to receive the gifts of their goddess and if they choose, to hold their palms upward to have their hands blessed.
In a clockwise movement, bless the gathered folk with “The gifts of Gefjon”, asperging them with mead.
If the folk have palms upward to receive the hand blessing, bless each hand with mead using the Gebo rune, “May the hands of the folk be strong and industrious”.
Closing the Blot:
We have given you our gifts,
Our devotion, and our worship.
We thank you for your gifts.
We thank the Aesir for their blessings,
The honored ancestors for their presence,
And vættir for their watchfulness.
This blot has ended.
May we depart as a family,
And with victorious intent.
Hail the Gods!
Hail the Folk!
Hail the AFA!”
Witan Brandy Callahan