How to use barley in pagan & heathen ritual & purification

In all the pagan branches, throughout Indo-European traditions, culture, literature and worship we see an extensive use of barley. Already in the ancient world animal sacrifice was quite often exchanged for the offerings of e.g. bread or cakes (often in the shape of an animal). Why is that? Because animals were too valuable, one might think. But there’s something more to it – the gods find grains to be an acceptable substitute to animal victims.

Let’s take a look at the etymology: The Proto-Indo-European word for barley (and in the extension also for grain and cereal) is yéwos. The Sanskrit word is yava, the Proto-Iranian is yáwas, the Avestan is yawa. Compare this to the PIE word yéwesa – the instructions and guidance of functioning and well-tested rituals and mantras they had, ‘ritual law’ one could say – and we see that they share the same etymological root. (See our article about yéwesa here.) There’s a straight line between the divine and barley/grains. This is also why they sprinkled ground barley in the sacred space and on the offerings (continued to be done for thousands of years by Zoroastrians, Hellenists, Romans and Germanics), and also why barley was included in the sacred drink (preferably such that had grown ergot fungi, so it became psychedelic).

Even if we look at today’s Persian word for ‘sacrifice’ or ‘offering it’s yad – so still the same root as barley.
Even the name of the Indonesian island Java shares this etymology. It was known in the ancient world as ‘the divine island of barley’. An Indo-European word way before what they say nowadays (and way before ‘a cup of Java’ or ‘a cup of Joe’ meant coffee …). There was a time when the world was dharmic from Ireland in the west to the Philippines in the east. An advice to new pagans is therefore to incorporate barley into your spiritual practice.

Should you want to add something to your altar we’d recommend Xádor – a millennia old grain/barley mix, whose name actually just means ‘dry stuff’, and used for purification before sacrifice and/or worship. All Indo-European peoples have claimed that grains, and more specifically barley, has a connection to the divine, that the gods love it and that it has a purifying effect. See recipe here:

1. Take barley and roast it in a frying pan (make sure it doesn’t burn). Let it cool.
2. Take a mortar and pestle. Hold the pestle in your right hand and facing east knock on the inside edge of the mortar four times – in the east, north, west and south direction. While you do, say ’With the wágros he killed the serpent’ (wágros was the weapon of the PIE god Perkwunos, what later became Indra’s vajra, Perkunos and Thor’s thundering hammer)
3. Pour some salt in the mortar and grind it to powder.
4. Pour in some of the barley, same amount as the salt, and grind it with the salt
5. Add on barley and repeat the grinding twice more and you have Xádor.
You can sprinkle xádor on anything as a purification – on yourself, in the sacred space, on the participants of the ritual, on the altar and on what you’re about to offer to the gods.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions! We’re here to help.

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