Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Category: Temples

Interview with Joe Marek – godi, Gladsheim Hof

Joe Marek is godi of Gladsheim Kindred in Maryland, which also operates Gladsheim Hof in the town of Columbia, MD. Gladsheim is one of a few facilities in the United States dedicated to Asatru, and Joe was kind enough to do an interview with me concerning their hof, given the recent news out of Iceland and California regarding two other high-profile hof projects.

Q: Please describe Gladsheim Hof, both physically and spiritually.

A:  It’s a single family home on a main state road that I knew I could have rezoned  for a conditional use as a religious facility. It was a brick rancher with a cathedral ceiling in the main room and another really large room in the basement and on a half acre lot. I saw this as being perfect for our needs. Spiritually it is a place to worship the Norse Gods and help the community with being a regular place to hold rituals.

Q: What was the genesis of Gladsheim Hof? What made you want to make it a reality?

A: I have been Asatru my entire adult life. I realized early on that something other religions have in common is having a building to use for a place or worship. when I purchased a home in suburban Maryland I made sure there was space in the finished basement for rituals. But I wanted a separate building open to the public where this could happen knowing that it would help the community at large.

Q: Where did the financing come from for the Hof?

A:  My Mother passed away in 2003, I inherited the home I grew up in, I sold the house in 2005 and used the profit to purchase the Hof in Columbia. I used my own money to make this happen. The location was within a mile of I95 and easy to get to from several areas and centrally located in MD.

Q: Is Gladsheim Hof open to the public, and if so, what sort of rituals are held there? Do you have a regular schedule of events?

A: All the events at Gladsheim Hof are open to the public, we have the main Blot every second Saturday of the month. the forth Saturday is a movie/social night were we watch a movie or play games. We also hold rune classes and lore study on alternating Wednesdays, so there is something going on every week at the facility, our Website has details.

Q: Does having the Hof, which is presumably a permanently-hallowed sacred space, change the way you do rituals?

A: Not really. I conduct the ritual the same way as I would in any other space, but It has a different level of spirituality.

Q: What role does Gladsheim Hof plays in the larger Asatru community in your area?

A: We offer the  events I mentioned before and we also have special classes offered at various times on other Asatru related subjects such as siedr.

Q: Do other groups in your area (Asatru or not) also make use of the Hof, or is it strictly for Gladsheim Kindred?

A:We  rent the Mead Hall out to a couple of other groups for meetings and classes not rituals.

Q: What do you think having the Hof allows you to do that other groups might not be able to do in their private homes or public/rented spaces?

A: There was a time when Gladsheim rented a public space, it was very sterile and plain, no where as inviting or as vibrant as The Hof, it clearly did not have the same feeling.

Q: What’s the plan for the Hof? Anything happening in the future?

A:  The Faith is growing so we are always prepared to have more days of events to accommodate future growth, Plans for making some outdoor improvements like a deck built over our existing fire circle are in the works.

Q: What do you think of the plans for the hof in Iceland that has received so much attention lately?

A: I was over in Iceland in 2006 when they first received approval from the city council to have a larger facility than the one they currently have. It’s never easy to get a major project off the ground. I find it very exciting that there are other Hofs popping up in Michigan and California and other parts of the country to serve the Asatruar there.  Another reason for creating Gladsheim Hof was to encourage others to do the same, let them know it is possible and that dreams do come true.

Photos are courtesy Gladsheim Kindred, and are used with permission.

Interview with Will DeVito, Builder of Hofs

Will DeVito is known to a lot of folks in the Asatru community, especially here in the northeastern US, and is an outspoken proponent of the folkish point of view. Colorful though he can be, he is also responsible, either partially or entirely, for the construction of no fewer than six hofs, or Asatru temples, in the New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania area. He is a leading member of the Church of Balder Rising, and leader of Balder Rising’s Breidablikk Kindred.

Especially given the international attention that the construction of the first Icelandic hof has received, the question of the importance (or lack thereof) of physical buildings and lands has been a topic of conversation in both the neopagan and Heathen communities lately.

Being a friend of Will’s for many years, and knowing of his background in the hof-building arena, I asked if I could get his thoughts on the subject, and learn some details about his history as a builder of hofs.

The photos accompanying this post are all of hofs that he participated in building. Photos are copyrighted by their owners and are used with permission.

Q: Describe the hof building projects you’ve been involved with. Where are they, who uses them, and how do they differ from one another?

A: The first hof I built was in 2006, in Hampton NJ.

The second was in 2009 in Clifton NJ.

The third was in 2012 in Clifton NJ.

The fourth was in 2013 in Slate Hill NY.

The fifth and sixth, I have started in Hawley PA and Narrowsburg NY.

The first was a breakthrough. It was the first building I built by myself. It was an oath I made in the traditions of old heathen practice,in honor of Allfather Odin. It was in the style of a mead hall/beer garden.  It was sizeable and could fit roughly 40 people comfortably sitting.

The second was also part of an oath. This hof was more in the style of a Ve, which is typically a small indoor or outdoor ritual space, meant for individual offerings to be made to specific Gods or Goddesses.

The third, in Clifton NJ also, was a narrow but high building, with 2 lofts for sleeping.  It was the most modern by far, and is insulated the best. It was built as a congregating area for tribal elders,and our warrior class, to hold meetings, and do private rituals to certain Gods and Goddesses.

Interior of the Slate Hill hof, finished and decorated

The fourth, in Slate Hill NY, was built with a friend, on his property, for the use of his tribe. His use was that of a combination between an indoor Ve, and a place of minor congregating and libations, honoring the Gods and Goddesses.

The two current halls are the largest I am building to date.  Both are great halls that will rival the sizes of some ancestral great halls,when they are finished. Both are on land of two different organizations,and will be used for everything aforementioned, as well as All Thing, banquets, holidays, and hospitality.

Q: What made you want to get involved with this particular aspect of modern Heathenry?

A:  I come from 2 long lines of builders on both sides of my family.

As heathens,we are judged by our deeds,by whom we are individually. We cement our legacy by our actions and works. One of the things I wish to be known as when I leave this world, is Hof builder.

Q: Is this part of an organized hof-building project, or is each hof a stand-alone project?

A: All my hofs already built, and currently under construction,are part of a bigger picture, and a greater motivation.

In America, we heathens have been building the faith, Asatru, into a revival for the better part of the last 40 years. Men like Stephen McNallen and Robert Taylor, amongst others,built the faith, and now we, in the new generations, must evolve the faith toward new goals. Our goals include founding landsteads, and building legal structures for religious and community use.

Q: Where does the funding and/or supplies come from?

A: We are a poor man’s religion,for the most part. Many materials are salvaged. Others are donated,and few men spend hard earned money into building what we have.

In 18 years of being Asatru,and 10 years of organized Asatru,I have spent roughly $20,000 American dollars to further this cause.  My kindred Chieftain, Robert Blumetti, has donated upwards of $50,000 American dollars.
But it is important to remember,money isn’t everything,it just makes things a lot easier,and makes them go quicker. People who cannot afford money, give time, effort, hard work, etc. To help us complete our goals.

Q: What do you think of the plans for the hof in Iceland that has received so much attention lately?

A: I think it’s great. I think it’s a good step in the right direction for not only the revival of our faith on a world scale, but the acknowledgement of it by the leaders of the world.

I just wish more would be done to tell the truth of our movement,and the truth that it has been rising for 40+ years, and rose because of left over remnants that never stopped believing in the Gods and Goddesses of our ancestors, all through time into the modern day.

The world should know that the Old Gods of Europe, never went away. They have always been within their children. No force on earth was great enough to suppress them into non existence.

We are back, and here to stay.

Q: The hof currently under construction in Pennsylvania looks like the largest one yet. How has that one differed from the others? Any particular challenges that you didn’t have to face in the earlier projects?

A: Well it’s our first established hof on kindred land,so everything had to be as perfect as possible, plus it’s the first we needed a permit for because of it’s size.

We installed a heavy duty pressure treated floor,and it’s raised on dry block, so there won’t be warping or bowing in the future.

Biggest challenge we didn’t have to face in the other halls, definitely had to do with the size of the roof. We wanted a hall with a high ceiling, so when large numbers of people are inside, it feels even bigger than it is.

The building is 16 feet high at the peak,which means a common man is basically looking 10 feet up to the ceiling. Gives you a different perspective when you enter a room with a really high ceiling. The atmosphere is fuller.

Plus what we place inside aesthetically,will be pleasing and give people a sense of wonderment when they enter and look up.  Especially children.  Something that sticks in your mind. Wood grain walls, candle lighting, shields on the walls, high shelves with bronze statues of deities all around. A mural, things that inspire the imagination.

Some more about that Asatru temple in Iceland

Plan for the hof building – sleek and modern

Iceland Review has a nice story about the Asatru temple that is about to be built in Iceland. Ground-breaking is set to happen in March, and early 50% of people polled in Iceland support its construction (just imagine that poll in the U.S.!). There were a couple of very interesting items in this story that I hadn’t heard before, though:

The 350-square-meter building, which will house 250 people, is expected to be completed in the summer of 2016. The building will be constructed around the path of the sun and the sacred numbers of 9 and 432,000 are used in the design, reports.

The City of Reykjavík donated the site to the Ásatrú Association but the building’s costs, estimated at ISK 130 million (USD 975,000, EUR 860,000), will be raised by the society itself.

It’s nice to hear that they’re incorporating some of the sacred numbers of ancient Germanic belief, but what I, as an American, am simply astounded by is the fact that the city donated the land for the temple!

And here’s a short video about the project (in Icelandic, but you can get the gist from the images, I hope).

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