As people come to Heathenry for the first time, or deepen further into their Heathen practices, if can be hard to know how to approach the Gods respectfully. People may worry about offending the Gods, or they may not know how to start building a relationship with Them. However, in my experience the Old Norse Gods are not as easily offended as you might fear.
While it is important to keep a reverence for Them in our hearts and minds, we do not need to bow down to Them or to make each offering extremely formal in order to show our respect for Them. The Heathen Gods are Gods of farming, war, travel, love, and home; they are not Gods of Formal Rituals–not necessarily, anyway. In fact, depending on which God one is interested in approaching, informality may be the preferred approach.
Altars, Shrines, Vés and Stallis
A good way to start approaching the Gods would be to make a shrine for the Gods, or for a specific God. A shrine is like an altar, but it’s a space to honor the Gods, rather than working magic. (An indoor shrine for a Heathen is called a stalli, and an outdoor one is called a vé.) The shrine can be large or small. It should have an image of that God or Gods (or an item that symbolizes that God) and a place to leave offerings.
Note: If you feel overwhelmed about where to start, chose one God that you are interested in or that you find yourself drawn to more than the others, and focus on that God only. You can always add in more Gods and more shrines as you become more comfortable with the process.
As you set up your shrine, keep the deity in mind. Always make sure to read the myths about that God and anything else about Him or Her that you can find, because just the act of learning about a God is an offering in itself. Then, ask yourself what things symbolize that God to you, and why? What kinds of food and drink do you think, based on the Lore or your own or others’ experiences, the God would like to be offered? Is the God a friendly and approachable one, or is the God more formal or reserved?
Once you’ve created a shrine, dedicate a few minutes each day to it. You stand or sit in front of it and say a few words of praise, such as “Fiery Thor, wielder of Mjölnir and protector of humanity, I honor you,” or “Beautiful Idunna, your life-giving apples keep the Gods young and healthy.” Or you can ask for Their help in some way: “Odin, please grant me courage and inspiration to get me through this day,” or “Freya, help me see the beauty in the world and in myself.” It’s best to try to include some information about Them from their Lore, as it shows that you are dedicated to learning about Them and their stories. Whether you say it hesitantly and quietly, or loud and brashly, as long as you say it with intent, the Gods will hear your words.
If you don’t know what to say yet, just stand or sit in front of it quietly for a few moments and think about the Gods. You can also borrow a poem or prayer that someone else has written, and read it out loud or leave a copy of it on your shrine. The words do not need to be in any kind of meter, and they do not need to be in Old Norse (though I’m sure the Gods would appreciate it if you took the time and effort to include those.) For me, though, I have found that just sharing a few words from the heart is most powerful.
If, for whatever reason, you are unable to create a shrine for the Gods (for example, you have no place to put it), you can still approach them in several other ways. One way would be to visit a place where that God is more likely to be present. For example, if you wanted to connect with Njord, try going to a beach or to a fishing dock. If you want to connect with Thor, go outside during a thunderstorm. If you wanted to connect with Frigga, you could visit some marshlands. That way, even if you don’t have a space for Them in your house, you can at least go visit Them in the type of venue that they each value. Another way would be to visit a place that feels sacred to you, and to try to connect with Them from that spot.
Whichever route you choose, make sure that when you are actually talking to the Gods, that you do it with reverence in your heart and an open mind.
You never know; the Gods might talk back.