Role of the Gothi - (Norse Tradition)

A Goði or Gothi (plural Goðar/Gothar) is the Old Norse term for a priest and chieftain. Gyðja being the feminine term for priestess. During the Viking age the Gothar were heathen priests and in many ways the spiritual authority. Additionally, there were also Hofgoði which were specifically temple priests. Throughout the Viking age the Gothar’s responsibility was to maintain the communal halls also known as hofs in which spiritual ceremonies and feasts were conducted. After the Christian conversion, the term Gothi lost its sacred context and came to mean chieftain.

With Asatru and old pagan ways being resurrected and reborn in our new age the role of the Gothar in modern communities has been resurrected and the spiritual sacredness has begun to grow back. Being a Vitki my role is both a sorcery and a shaman. The priest role even by name can put many off as the harsh reality is many heathens still resent much of Christianity instead of moving on and focusing on moving past old grudges and programming’s. I have even been guilty of this and this is simply a part of our sub-conscious programming.

With the resurrection of the Gothi it presents a very good opportunity for spiritually involved heathens to take the mantle upon themselves. However, with anything like this it is important to understand the responsibilities and duties of the role. What exactly is the Gothi responsible for? The first and most important is often seen as being the spiritual adviser of the Kindred. In modern heathenry, the kindred aspect has been heavily focused upon and with all groups there are leading positions. Now the Gothi is not so much a position of power or leadership but rather a position of service to other heathens. I do not see this as the main purpose as in many cases the shamans Kindred is mankind as a whole. The main responsibility in my own view is to be in touch with our Gods and help their ways, traditions, knowledge, wisdom, and stories to be passed on. Be this to one person or to thousands.

The Gothi in many cases is a conduit between Asgard and Midgard. This means the Gothi must be in constant communication with the gods. It is a path that requires the Gothi to strive to be closer to the Gods and that is a big sacrifice for some to make. A lot of time and effort. The great thing about the path is having the Gods impart knowledge upon you and that knowledge should be shared with others.

However, there is another aspect to the Gothi that I would say is also a very important role. Typically, the Gothi is the one who performs the communal rites. Blóts, Sumbels and other relative rituals are a few examples of this. It is a role of spiritual authority (not to be confused with superiority), a practitioner who can channel the energies of the Gods in ritual work. The role is a very spiritual role and as such does require that magickal aspect. The Völva’s and Vitkar walk between all the worlds but the Gothar are working more specifically with Asgard and Midguard.

This does not mean you cannot be a Vitki if you want to be a Gothi. The important thing to remember is that the Gothi does have its own responsibilities and presenting a service to other as a Gothi is an important aspect, the path is open to the individual like always. Wedding Ceremonies and funeral rites are one aspect I would like to see included, as with the growing community services like this will be much more desired, who better to fill this role than the Gothar.