Heathen holidays

In the modern Pagan new religious movement of Heathenry, various publications identify a number of holidays, to some extent based on medieval references to sacrifices observed in historical Norse paganism or reconstructions of an early Germanic calendar, but frequently also inspired by the "Wheel of the Year" popular in Wicca, and sometimes also based on ad hoc innovation, e.g. the various "Days of Remembrance" introduced by The Troth.

As a minimal consensus, the three great seasonal blots mentioned in Ynglingasaga are recognized by practically all adherents. These are: Winter Nights (in October, in some Icelandic sagas identified with Dísablót), Midwinter (some time in December or January, often identified with Yule) and Sigrblot (some time in summer). Beyond this, the modern Icelandic festival of Þorrablót is sometimes considered a "pagan holiday".

Suggestions for rituals suited for these various holidays were published by e.g. Edred Thorsson, A Book of Troth (1989) and by Kveldulf Gundarsson, Teutonic Religion (1993). James Chisholm (1989) published a suggestion for Ostara[1]


Norroena Society

In 2019 Mark Puryear Director of the Norroena Society.

"I want to introduce to everyone our Sedian Calendar, which we devised looking through the Sagas and addressing every passage that referred to one type of blot or another. The first thing we must do is look at how the calendar works and what the mechanics of the system is. This helps us to avoid pitfalls and breaks us away from previous calendar systems that were obsessed with dates rather than authentic blots from our sources. We found that there are seven blots mentioned specifically in our texts, and then we looked at reconstructing the eighth one from information found in Grimm.

We know from Snorri and Adam of Bremen that our ancestors did recognize the equinoxes and solstices and thus we base our system off of this. Moreover, we have to separate out idea of blot from that of veizla. Blot is the ceremony that is part of the veizla, or festival. The other parts are the leik (games/dances) and the reid (procession). Several sources mention blots as part of the veizla, including those describing Disablot, Alfablot, and Yule (which is a veizla). So, in wanting to build the calendar we want our folk to celebrate the actual blots for the material, rather than ones that were simply made up or adopted from popular festivals.

The purpose of the eight blots is to convey eight blessings upon the folk, which we see in Ynglingasaga where Odin commands us to have a blot for a good year, one for a good crop, and one for vistory. The Haustblot is for peace and prosperity, and so on. So we developed this calendar with this in mind. You are building themes around these eight blessings, so that by the end of the year the folk has gone through an entire blessing cycle. We had to reconstruct some of these, since the sources do not tell us what their blessings are, but we did so only using source material and knowledge of the festival or blot.

Each blot is either a solstice, an equinox, or a point in between. Therefore, EVERY veizla is moveable based upon the times of the equinox/solstice.

Thorrablot: Midpoint, in the Veizla of Thorri. It is the midwinter sacrifice. It is the blessing for good crops.

Disablot: Vernal Equinox, in the festival of Austra (Eostre). For good health.

Falsblot: Midpoint, in the veizla of Falsdag. For peace.

Sigurblot: Summer Solstice, in the veizla of Midsummer. For victory.

Alfablot: Midpoint, in the Alfaveizla. For a blessed home.

Haustblot/Freysblot: Autumnal Equinox, in the Festival of Harvest (Haust). For peace and prosperity.

Vetrablot: Midpoint, in the Festival of Winter Nights (Vetrnottum). For a good year.

Sonarblot: Winter Solstice, in the veizla of Yule (Julveizla). For atonement."

Asatru Free Assembly

The seminal organization of American Heathenry was Asatru Free Assembly, founded in 1974 by Stephen McNallen. The first attempt to provide a "Germanic" version of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year was made by McNallen in desktop-published documents between 1975-1976.

Date Wiccan sabbath Asatru equivalent (McNallen)
21 December
(winter solstice)
YuleYule
2 FebruaryImbolcCharming of the Plow
21 / 25 March
(vernal equinox / Ostara)
OstaraSummer Finding
1 May
(May Day)
BeltaneMay Day
21 June
(summer solstice)
MidsummerMidsummer
1 August
(Lammas)
LugnasadFreyfaxi
21 / 29 Sept
(autumnal equinox / St. Michael's)
MabonWinter Finding
31 October
(All Souls' Day)
SamhainWinter Nights

The name "Yule" coincides with the Wiccan Wheel as the name has been taken by Wicca from the Germanic tradition in the first place. McNallen's "Summer Finding" later came to be popularly called Ostara both in Wicca and in Asatru. For the remaining items (other than "Midsummer"), McNallen sought to replace the Gaelic name used by Wiccans with a Germanic-inspired alternative.

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The Troth

The handbook Our Troth in its second edition, published by The Troth in 2006,[2] likewise lists eight festivals: Yule, Þorrablót, Idis-Þing, Ostara (Sigrblót), Waluburg's Night, Midsummer, Loaf-Fest (Freyfaxi) and Winter-Nights (Alf-Blessing, Idis-Blessing, Frey-Blessing). These eight festivals are not, however, evenly distributed throughout the year as the Wiccan "Wheel of the Year". The handbook takes as its starting-point the statement in the Heimskringla on the three major holidays, Winter Nights, Yule, and Sigrblót (identified with Ostara), set in October, December and April, respectively. Midsummer is added as a fourth festival in the absence of Eddaic evidence because its popularity in modern Scandinavian folklore. The remaining four holidays are listead as the "lesser blessings". In addition, Our Troth cites a number of "Days of Remembrance" dedicated to various Eddaic heroes introduced by modern Ásatrú in the United States.

dateholidaysignificance
late December (winter solstice)Yule (Midwinter)one of the "three greatest blessings of the year" mentioned in the Ynglinga saga
late January / early FebruaryÞorrablótone of the "lesser blessings"; mentioned in Hversu Noregr byggðist, in modern Icelandic folklore associated with Thor
late February / early MarchDistingone of the "lesser blessings"; the Heimskringla mentions this as a Swedish tradition originally lasting for a week during the month of Góa, but later moved to Candlemas and reduced to three days' duration.
9 FebruaryRemembrance for Eyvindr kinnrifione of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance", dedicated to a martyr of the Christianization of Scandinavia
14 FebruaryFeast of VáliThe US Valentine's Day celebrated as an Ásatrú-specific "Day of Remembrance"; by folk etymological connection of Váli with Saint Valentine
28 MarchRagnar Lodbrok's Dayone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
9 AprilRemembrance for Haakon Sigurdssonone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
AprilOstara (Sigrblót)Sigrblót is one of the "three greatest blessings of the year" mentioned in the Ynglinga saga, celebrated "for victory". Ostara in Wiccan tradition is set at vernal equinox; the historical Sigrblót marks the beginning of summer and the campaign season. The historical lunar month of Eostre may coincide with the Paschal Full Moon.
9 MayRemembrance for Guðröðr of Guðbrandsdálone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance", dedicated to a "martyr" of the Christianization of Scandinavia
late MayEinherjar Daythe US Memorial Day celebrated as an Ásatrú "Day of Remembrance"
9 JuneRemembrance for Sigurdone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
late June (summer solstice)Midsummerincluded as part of Scandinavian folklore
9 JulyRemembrance for Unnr the Deep-Mindedone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
1 AugustLammas (Freyfaxi)one of the "lesser blessings"; The name Lammas or "Loaf-fest" refers to an Anglo-Saxon festival of the wheat harvest; the name Freyfaxi refers to a tradition of horse sacrifice to Freyr.
9 AugustRemembrance for Radbod, King of the Frisiansone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
9 SeptemberRemembrance for Herman the Cheruscanone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
mid OctoberRemembrance for Leif Ericson and his sisterThe US Columbus Day celebrated as an Ásatrú "Day of Remembrance"
mid OctoberWinter Nights (Vetrnætr)one of the "three greatest blessings of the year" mentioned in the Ynglinga saga. The historical festival marked the beginning of winter, and involved sacrifices to the elves and the dísir. In Neopaganism also observed as a Festival of the Dead and as such associated with Wiccan Samhain on 31 October.[3]
28 OctoberRemembrance for Erik the Redone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
9 NovemberRemembrance for Sigrid the Haughtyone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"
late NovemberWayland the Smith's DayThe US Thanksgiving celebrated as an Ásatrú "Day of Remembrance"
9 DecemberRemembrance for Egill Skallagrímssonone of the Ásatrú-specific "Days of Remembrance"

See also

References

  1. James Chisholm, "The Rites of Ostara: Possibilities for Today", Idunna 1, no. 4 (February 1989), 7-10. Chisholm argued for the reconstruction of the "sacred dramas" which he saw reflected in some Eddaic poems, although shorn of their sexual content by the Christian redactors. The revived neopagan ritual was again to be modified to suit "contemporary American sensibilities". Jeffrey Kaplan, Radical religion in America: millenarian movements from the far right to the children of Noah, Syracuse University Press, 1997, ISBN 978-0-8156-0396-2, p. 76.
  2. BookSurge, ISBN 978-1-4196-3598-4.
  3. Graham Harvey, Listening people, speaking earth: contemporary paganism, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 1997, ISBN 978-1-85065-272-4, p. 58.
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