Alfablot & Old English Blood Moon

Updated: Nov 11, 2019

Alfablot, and Old English Blood Moon. Two holy tides that happened at the same time. Two holy tides that could be completely different in meaning. All Germanic tribes: Angles, Jutes, Frisians, Saxons, Alamanni, Chatti, Geats, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, and many others, all venerated the Aesir and celebrated three major blots a year. Ynglinga Saga (chapter 8), from the year 1225: “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.” Therefore, we have three major Norse blots a year, that appear in the context of Ynglinga Saga (and other references) that were done publicly. But Norse sources, and other Germanic sources, imply there were two more holy days: Disting (not a blot) and Alfablot/Blood Moon. In this article, I will discuss Alfablot and Blood Moon, and what we know about them. Swedish Alfablot: Alfablot was clearly done by families in the homestead, with the exclusion of non-family members. We have only one mention of the historical Alfablot as a "Swedish" holiday, the Swedish poem Austrfararvisur. In early winter of the year 1018, Sigvatr Þórðarson (a Norwegian Christian) traveled to Sweden and claimed he was refused hospitality due to the Swedish blot called alfablót, which was being held in the homes of Sweden, to each home he traveled. Austrfararvisur makes very clear that Alfablot was done by individual Heathen families: Austrfararvísur (verses 1-6): “After an arduous journey, Sighvatr and his companions arrived at a homestead called Hof. They expected to be received as per the laws of hospitality, but the door remained shut. Sighvatr had to stick his nose down into a narrow opening in a front door to present himself, but the people of the household declined by saying that the place was holy. Sighvatr retorted that the trolls should take them and continued to the next homestead. At the following farm, he met a lady who told him to go away and said "Don't go further inside unlucky man! We are afraid of Odin's wrath; we are Heathens!" Then, she chased him away as if he were a wolf and said that they "are having the Alfablot at the homestead."” The book Steinsland, G. & Meulengracht Sørensen, P. (1998): Människor och makter i vikingarnas värld. ISBN 91-7324-591-7 is probably the most referenced on Alfablot. The authors (both) claim that Alfablot was a sacrifice to the Elves. The authors (Steinsland & Sorensen) show that the blot was done after Winter Nights. Therefore, most reconstructionists GUESS that it was done one full moon after Winter Nights, i.e. the full moon of GorManuðr meaning "blood moon." In my opinion, it is based on the "title" that Steinsland & Sorensen conclude it was a sacrifice to the Elves. Often, Ancestors are called "Alfar" and at times in Norse literature, it is hard to determine if the term is for the Elves or for Ancestors. Austrfararvisur makes clear Alfablot was for the homestead (family) only, and foreigners and strangers were not allowed. This gives us the possibility, that this was an Ancestral blot. Many will then argue that Kormak's Saga is also an Alfablot, but it is clearly different from Austrfararvísur. Old English Poetry portrays the Elves as dangerous to humans, giving them elf-shot. Kormak’s Saga does read like the blót was to heal a man of wounds. For Old English sources, please see: Charm for Water Elf disease, and Leechbook III (paragraph 41) and Leechbook III (paragraph 62); and Beowulf, which lists elves among the races springing from Cain’s murder of Abel, and Beowulf verses 111-114 which lists ogres, elves, and giants as those who fought against (the Christian) god. Kormak's Saga reads: "The spae-woman answered, there is a hill, not far away from here, where elves dwell. Now get the bull that Kormac killed, and redden the outer side of the hill with its blood, and make a feast for the elves with its flesh. Then you will be healed." Therefore, to claim that Kormak's Saga has anything to do with the Swedish holiday "Alfablot" would be incorrect. The Elven Blot in Kormak's Saga is no question a blot to heal a human stricken with a wound. However, "A hill there is," probably refers to an Ancestral grave mound. The context of Kormak's Saga is not clear if the hill is a grave mound. If it is, then there is an instance of Heathen faith where a blot is done near an Ancestral hill to cure one of his wounds. See Kormak's Saga, chapter 22. Note, the word for "spae-woman" is Spákonufelli

Old English (England) and Old Saxon (Saxony) Blood Moon: The Saxon and Anglish Blodmanoth could be similar to Alfablot because most likely they were done at the same time. If the scholars Steinsland & Sorensen are correct, that it was done after Winter Nights, this means it was done in the Swedish Moon "GorManuthr" meaning "blood moon." The Old English (Blotmonath) and the Old Saxon "Blodmanoth" share the same moon name, but they are is just in a different language. The Old English (in England) Blood Moon blot was done at the same time then as Swedish Alfablot. First, let me state that the Old English (England) and Old Saxon (Saxony) Calendars did not have all the same moon names. The Essen Necrology, an Old Saxon document (one of 21 different Old Saxon writings to survive) was a list of those who died at a church in Saxony in the ninth century. The Saxon moon "Blodmanoth" was mentioned in the Essen Necrology. Therefore, both the Old English and the Old Saxons (two peoples who spoke different languages and lived in different areas) did have a "Blood Moon." It is from the English Monk and Historical Bede, whom we learn about the Anglish (Old English) Blood Moon and its rite. Bede doesn't give us great detail, but he states in De Temporum Ratione chapter 15 (written in 725 AD) that the Old English "Blotmonath is the moon of sacrifices, because in that moon they consecrated to their gods the animals that they were about to kill." From this we can deduce that the Old English Blood Moon at least was about bloting animals (as a sacred rite) to acquire winter skins (for warmth) and winter meat to survive the cold winter. The blood of the animals was given to the Gods and portions of the animals to the Gods/Goddesses/Wights etc as was customary for blots. Please note, I state "we assume" for a reason, as all we have is Bede's one sentence from 725 AD that gives us a description of what Blood Moon was, a moon of blots to the Gods for the animals they were about to kill. Bede also makes clear that the Old English Blood Moon was the moon corresponding closest to the Roman month of November. The Questions we have at hand: 1. The Swedes had an Alfablot. However, we have zero Norwegian, Icelandic, Geatish, or Danish attestations of Alfablot. Does this mean Alfablot was a local tradition that the Swedes had that their other Scandinavian counter parts did not have? 2. Was Alfablot to the Elves or to the Ancestors? 3. Did the Old Saxons have the same "Blood Moon" sacrifices as the Old English? Remember, the Saxons in Saxony had a different language and some different Heathen beliefs from the Old English in England. My Guesses to the Questions we have at hand: 1. It appears to me, considering that we have over 700 Norwegian Sagas and Poems, that Alfablot was something only known to the Swedes. With the vast plethora of sources, it would be odd if it was known to the Danes and Norwegians but not mentioned in all those sources. 2. My GUESS is that since Alfablot was a family only ritual, with no strangers and no foreigners allowed, this to me strongly implies an Ancestral Blot. Also, with many Old English sources showing that Elves were not kind to mankind, this also makes me doubt that this was a sacrifice to the Elves.The presence of a hill could be a gravemound in Kormak's Saga. 3. My guess is that the Saxons in Saxony did not have an Alfablot, and they may have done sacrifices for food and winter clothing in their Blood Moon. The Saxons in Saxony seem to be more like the Danes, their well documented allies, as Widukind, the most famous Saxon Heathen Drohtin, married into the Danish Kingly family by marrying the daughter of the Danish king. Widukind married Geva of Westfold, daughter of the Danish king Goimo I and sister of the Danish kings Ragnar and Siegfried. Most likely the blots that Bede mentioned were for the Anglish (Old English) only, and did not apply to the Saxons in Saxony. Please join us in the Facebook Groups: Saxon Heathenry and The Association for Historical Heathenry. Here is a picture of an Old Saxon Farmhouse in Verden, Saxony, taken by myself this past August


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