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Symbel: The Heathen Drinking Ritual?

By John Wills

If there is one thing that links all Heathen practice it is the early medieval drinking ritual “symbel” also known as “sumble”. This tradition is lifted straight from the pages of Beowulf, The Eddas and other Germanic poetry and is a ritual that equally unites and divides the various favours of Heathenry whilst at the core of all our social structures.

In this essay, I will examine where symbel comes from, what it is from a Reconstructionist view, what
it is not and what symbel means to the members of the Þunorrad Þeod in England. It should be considered that there is no one right way to symbel as this ritual is a tradition within each folk, family or group, but there are wrong ways to symbel or wrong perceptions of symbel which are due to misconceptions and influences from other religions which I will discuss as they arise.

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