So... you've never been to a Vingolf blot before? Well, here's what you can expect:
Vingolf blots are almost always preceeded by an in depth discussion about the deity we are honoring. Generally, this will last about an hour, and will be organized by the gothi or gythia for the evening, although all Vingolf members and guests are strongly encouraged to participate, either by asking questions, or contributing personal experiences and/or ideas. The purpose of this discussion is to enrich the experience of the participants in the blot - we often find that even the most experienced of us learn something new during these conversations. If you have any books, articles, poems or artwork that relate to the deity we are honoring, please bring them!
As blot-time approaches, we generally gather in a circle, and briefly outline what we are going to do, especially if there are folks who are unfamiliar with Asatru rituals. To put ourselves into a "ritual space", we will sometimes perform a simple chant, which most often are runes that are closely associated with the deity of occasion (For example, chanting Ingwaz for a Freyr blot, Isa for a Skadhi blot, or Ansuz for an Odin blot). The physical chanting not only has a calming, focusing effect, but by mentally concentrating on the meanings of the runes, we bring ourselves spiritually closer to the deity we are honoring. Sometimes, we simply mark a moment of silence, or perform some a deity-specific way of focusing (such as blowing a horn for a Heimdall blot). Sometimes, we simply mark the beginning of the rite with silent meditation.
The blot proper usually begins with a hammer rite. A vingolf member will take the ritual hammer off of the altar, and ask Thor for protection, while making the sign of the hammer (an upside down "T") with the ritual tool. Sometimes, Vingolf will perform a Syn rite in lieu of a hammer rite, for Syn is the goddess who guards the entrance to the hall.
The general blessing comes next, when another Vingolf member will make a short prayer asking for the blessings of all the Aesir and Vanir, and the Disir, Alfar, and/or Landvaettir.
After the general blessing, the gothi or gythia (the organizer/leader of the ritual) will invite the deity of occasion to lend its presence to the group. This act is not an invocation where the deity is drawn down into an individual - we are simply asking the deity to join us in ritual to share our mead, and accept the gifts of our libations and words.
Following the invitation is a number of rounds of ritual toasting. This is the core of the blot. A drinking horn is filled with home-brewed mead and passed around the circle. Should we have a large group of folks assembled (20+), we generally have one round. With smaller groups, we generally have three. In either event, the first round is always dedicated to the deity of occasion. It is appropriate to either thank the deity for past blessings, ask for a boon, recite a short tale or poem related to the deity, or simply say "Hail!". The gathered folk will echo the hail of the one making the toast, and then the horn is passed to the next person (generally to the left, though this doesn't really matter). The second and third rounds are open rounds, in which any Norse deity could be toasted. One's ancestors, personal heroes, heroes from our lore, or spirits of the land may all be toasted as well. Boasts may be heard, or oaths may be taken as well. A good all-purpose toast, appropriate for any round, is "Hail the Gods". As we make our toasts over the horn, we "charge" the mead with our thoughts. Thus, when we later libate the remainder of the mead outside, we not only share our drink with the gods, but our thoughts as well. It is therefore important not to fully drain a horn of mead after a toast. Should the horn get close to empty, you can make mention of this to the individual leading the blot, or to the "Valkyrie", whose task it will be to refill the horn. If you are uncomfortable drinking from the horn (either because you do not imbibe alcohol, or you have a cold, etc) you may kiss the horn, or simply pass it after making your toast.
As I mentioned, after the rounds of toasting are over, we libate the mead outside. The entire group will proceed outside, and we'll offer our gift to the gods and the earth with a simple rite and our thanks. After the libation, we have a pot-luck feast and generally socialize until about 10:00 - 11:00 pm. Bringing a side dish or a six-pack is fine - please let us know what you are bringing so we don't wind up with 13 desserts and nothing to drink :-).
It is important to mention that the ritual structure is malleable, and the above outline is far from canon. Sometimes, we'll skip the hammer rite, sometimes we'll combine the general blessing and invitation, sometimes we'll add in an extra blessing of the mead. The real heart of the Asatru experience is the exchange of gifts with the gods/ancestors/land/kin, and every group will have a slightly different interpretation on how this is done. Our rituals tend to be tailored to the deity of occassion, so each blot will be a unique experience.
If you are ever interested in performing a function in a future blot, you are most welcome. Ask a Vingolf member, and we can ensure you have a role that suits your comfort level in an upcoming ritual.
That's about it! If you have any questions, please feel free to drop us a line!