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Heathen Holidays

Good day from your King!

I was asked to write this article on Heathen Holidays both in their Historic and Modern contexts partially due to the confusion that appears in the Heathen Community between what is historic and what constitutes a modernism. This is partially due to the fact that we follow the historic blóta (plural of  blót, meaning “sacrifices or offerings”) in Hrafnarfjall, mixed with the Celtic festivals.

In this article, I will talk about the historic Norse calendar and blóta, and the common Celtic calendar. I will also discuss the modernisms we encounter in opposition to the historic Norse calendar. I will make it clear now that I am not saying the modernisms are bad, but that in many occurences, people claim that the modern calendar is historic, or that it is accurate to include Celtic or Wiccan celebrations without indicating their origin. This article will provide clarification between the modern and historic calendars, and seek to educate readers on the differences between the two. 

Firstly, I will talk about the historic Norse calendar. This calendar was a Soli-Lunar (Uses both the Sun and the Moon) calendar primarily relied on the lunar aspect. It was primarily split into a light part of the year and a dark part of the year, with the light part beginning at Sigurblót and the dark half starting at Winter Nights. Below I have included a table of the Old Norse months, which began on the New Moon, and ended on the next New Moon. Furthermore I have included a table below that of the upcoming Blóta with their dates and durations. 

The sources for many of these are disparate, but numerous, and I have included the saga sources for the Blóta below the table for the Blóta. 

 

Historic Norse Calendar 

Norse Name Translation New Moon Full Moon
2019
HaustManuðr Harvest Moon September 28 October 13 
GorManuðr Blood Moon October 28 November 12 
Yulir Tungl Yule Constellation November 26 December 12 
2020
JolManuðr Yule Moon December 28, 2019 January 10, 2020 
SunManuðr Sun Moon January 24 February 9
Mörsugur Fat Sucking Moon February 23 March 9 
GoaManuðr  Goa’s Moon March 24 April 7
EinMánuður First Moon April 22 May 7
HarpaMánuður Harpa’s Moon May 22 June 5
HarpaMánuður Second Harpa’s Moon June 21 July 5 
SkerplaMánuður Third Litha Moon July 20 August 3
Heyannir Hay Moon Aug 18 Sept 2
Tvímánuður Second Moon September 17 October 1 
HaustManuðr Harvest Moon October 16 October 31
GorManuðr Blood Moon November 15 November 30
Yulir Tungl Yule Constellation December 14 December 29
JolManuðr Yule Moon 2021 January 12, 2021 January 28, 2021

 

The Norse Blóta [1]

Key: IS = Icelandic EN = English ON = Old Norse OS = Old Swedish

Blót Duration When
2019
IS: Vetrarnætur EN:Winter Nights [1] Three Nights October Full Moon

(October 13th, 2019)

ON: Álfablót EN: Elven Sacrifice [5] One Night November Full Moon

(November 12th, 2019)

2020
ON: Jól EN: Yule [2] Three Nights January Full Moon

(January 10th, 2020)

OS: Disæþing EN: Disting [4]

ON: Dísablót EN: Disir Sacrifice[4]

One Night March Full Moon

(March 9th, 2020)

ON: Sigurblót EN: Victory Sacrifice [3] One Night April Full Moon

(April 7th, 2020)

IS: Vetrarnætur EN:Winter Nights [1] Three Nights October Full Moon

(October 31st, 2020)

ON: Álfablót EN: Elven Sacrifice [5] One Night November Full Moon

(November 30th, 2020)

2021
ON: Jól EN: Yule[2] Three Nights January Full Moon

(January 28th, 2021)

 

Sources for the Historic Norse Blóta:

 

  1. The Ynglinga Saga (chapter 8), from the year 1225, lists the three great blots of the year: “Odin established the same law in his land that had been in force in Asaland… On winter day (first day of winter) there should be blot for a good year, and in the middle of winter for a good crop; and the third blot should be on summer day, a Victory-blot.” In Old Norse, “Sigurblot” means “Victory-Blot.”
  2. In Heimskringla, the saga of Hakon the Good, section 15 (circa 1230 AD) it says the following: “Before him, the beginning of Yule, or the blot night, was the night of mid-winter, and Yule was kept for three days thereafter.”
  3. In Heimskringla Olaf’s Saga Helga 77 it says: “In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief blot took place in Goa moon at Upsala.”
  4. “In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief sacrifice took place in Goe month at Upsala. Then sacrifice was offered for peace, and victory to the king; and thither came people from all parts of Svithjod. All the Things of the Swedes, also, were held there, and markets, and meetings for buying, which continued for a week: and after Christianity was introduced into Svithjod, the Things and fairs were held there as before. After Christianity had taken root in Svithjod, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the market-time was moved to Candlemas, and it has since continued so, and it lasts only three days” Heimskringla (1225), Snorri Sturluson
  5. “Do not come any farther in, wretched fellow’, said the woman; ‘I fear the wrath of Óðinn; we are heathen.’ The disagreeable female, who drove me away like a wolf without hesitation, said they were holding a sacrifice to the elves inside her farmhouse.” Austrfararvísur, Verse 5

 

Celtic Calendar- Solar Calendar

Festival Date
Samhain 31st October
Yule (Winter Solstice) 21st December OR 20th-23rd December
Imbolc 2nd February
Ostara (Spring/Vernal Equinox) 21st March OR 20th-23rd March
Beltane (May Day) 1st May
Litha (Summer Solstice) 21st June OR 20th-23rd June
Lughnasadh 1st August
Mabon (Autumn/Autumnal Equinox) 21st September OR 21st-24th September

 

Some people, under the guise of Asatru, have decided to co-opt the Celtic (sometimes named Wiccan) calendar and tried to paste Norse names over the festivals and claim they are historic. This is highly incorrect and has been a long-standing piece of misinformation disseminated among the Heathen community. 

As you can see from the above presented information, there are many sources that describe and lay out the historic Heathen calendar.  These are available in the sagas and associated texts, and in some cases, the historic records which are easily accessible. 

It is my belief that we should try our best to use accurate and historic festivals, and be truthful about the sources of our practices, not use modernisms and claim they are historic. Norse Heathenry and its sister faiths within heathenry have strong and colorful traditions all of their own and they should be practiced, celebrated and kept alive for the generations to come.


By High King Thomas Bainbridge I of Hrafnarfjall

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