Blot: What do the Eddas, Sagas, & Historical Sources State?
Updated: Dec 27, 2021
Have you noticed that the Sagas and more "pro-Heathen" sources, show that only the blood was given to the Gods, and the animal meat was eaten at the Sumble banquet? This is generally speaking, as there are some contradictions which I will share. The most descriptive source passages on a Heathen Blot show blood being splattered on a sacred tree at Uppsala, or on Hargr (altars made of stone), in sacred groves (Old Saxon "uuih", Old Icelandic/Norse "ve.") Adam of Bremen for example, recorded the nine-year Uppsala Blot in 1073, stating the Heathens hung whole animals on trees, and did not just give the blood. Adam of Bremen flat out states, he heard this from a seventy-two year old Christian, who somehow witnessed it. The archaeological evidence from Uppsala has not proven (and in fairness, not disproven) that animals and humans were hung in full on trees. The muslims and christians writing about what Heathens did, not only have bias, but misunderstanding due to their monotheistic mindset. Their understanding of Blot comes from their holy scriptures, and therefore, when they hear second hand (as Adam of Bremen did) what Heathens were doing in Uppsala, they heard this with their own pre-conceived Christian bias, thus probably contributing to this difference in the written record. This is seen in how we translate the word today, as blot is always translated as "sacrifice." (I will NOT translate it that way.) But was blot really a "sacrifice" in the Abrahamic sense? I believe that there was a completely different culture in Germanic/Scandinavian lands, with a completely different religion than Christianity or Islam or Judaism, that had a very different thought process. Our modern translations bend our thought process to this Abrahamic meaning of biblical words. This is why I prefer the term "blot" to "sacrifice" as I see this as a mis-translation. Today, our Germanic languages (English is a Germanic language) are filled with christian word meanings we must "decolonize" in order to fully understand, a very different Heathen culture than our world today. Here is an example of blot in Heimskringla: "It was an old custom (forn siðr), when they made a blot (blót), for all the bonders to come to the cult-house (hof) and bring their food which they would need as long as the feast lasted. At that feast, the men should all drink ale. There they also slaughtered all kinds of cattle and horses, and all the blood which flowed from them was called laut, the bowls in which the blood stood were called laut-bowls and laut-teinar, which were made which were made to sprinkle. With all this they should stain the stalls red and likewise the cult-house (hof) walls inside and out and likewise sprinkle it on all the men. The flesh was cooked as meat for the guest feast." (Heimskringla, Hakon the Good ch 14 or ch 16 in most translations, the chapters are not always the same from translation to translation.) Poetic Edda poem Hyndluljóð it states that “He made a high hörgr of heaped-up stones: the gathered rocks have grown all bloody, and he reddened them again with the fresh blood of cows.” Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks: "A horse was then brought into the assembly and hewn in pieces and cut up for eating, and the sacred tree was smeared with blood." First and foremost, while most blots I see in the sources occur outdoors, we do have some indoor evidence with words like blothus (meaning "blot-house.") This however, considering the passage above, could mean the "hofs" where the feasts were held (long halls) that were sprinkled with blood. Also, we see in Old Saxon, the word uuinseli (meaning "wine hall"). Seli is also in the Scandinavian languages. Our modern words "salon" and "saloon" come from this word, and so does the word "Uppsala" which means "Upper Hall". The Gutasaga, does give a counter example, where this source, possibly more pro-Heathen, implies wasted sacrifice: "Before this time, and a long while afterwards, they gathered in sacred groves, hofs, and sanctuaries, as well as other sacred cult houses. They believed in the Heathen Gods. This they did due to their superstition. The Althing (entire land) had the largest blót with sacrifice of people, otherwise every lesser community Thing had its blót and smaller groups had smaller blóts with cattle, food and drinks. They were food or boiling brothers because they prepared the feasts gathered together." Here are many other passages on Blots. This first one, implies there was "Heathen Orthodoxy" in Norway, as the Icelandic text literally states the "holy, true, and correct old ways." Really, a great many of these passages do. "The time came when blots and the blot priests were fore-planned, and in their place came the holy faith and the right worship." (En þat bar mest til er svá varð, at þá var sú tíð komin, at fyrir dœmask skyldi blótskaprinn ok blótmenninir, en í stað kom heilog trúa ok réttir siðir.) (Ólafs Saga Trygvasonnar, ch 50) But now that was most newsworthy, that a event came, that for the blót(sacrificing/worshipping) men got judged for their sacrifice behavior/actions, but holy belief and rightful customs became replaced. "In the town there was the chief who was known as Odin and it was a great place for blot. It was the custom for twelve chief priests of the temple to direct the blots and to judge between men; they were called diar or drottnar; and the people should follow and obey them." (Ynglinga Saga, ch 2) "In Haustmanuthr at Winter Nights there was a blot at Lade and thither the king went. Formerly, when he was present where there was a blot, he had always wanted to hold a meal with a few men in a small house." (Heimskringla, Hakon the Good) "In Sweden there was an old custom while they were heathens that there should be a blot in Upsala during Goa (moon, April-ish). Then they would blot for peace and victory for their king. And thither would they come from all over Sweden. There also were all the Swedish things." (Heimskringla, Olaf's Saga Helga chapter 77) PS- This is a victory blot, a sigrblot (Sigrblot means "victory-blot.") "In Haustmanuthr King Olav was told these tidings from Inner Trondheim that the bonders had a crowded feast on Winter Nights. There was great drinking and it was told the king that they blessed all the bowls to the gods, after the old custom; tales also followed while cows and horses were slaughtered for blot and the stalls were dyed with blood, and that a blood offering was made. And there followed also such talk that the offering was made for better seasons." (Saga of St. Olav, ch 107). "Later in the winter the king was told that the Inner Tronds were holding a gathering at Mæren and that there was a great blot at midwinter, when they were blotting for peace and good winter weather... The king brought a charge against the bonders that they had held a midwinter blot." (Saga of St. Olav, ch 108). "As long as heathendom lasted he was wont to hold three blood offerings: one on Winter Nights, a second at mid-Winter, and the third at the start of summer. But when he became a Christian he kept up in the same way with the feasts: In the autumn he had a great feast of friends, then in winter a Yule Feast, when he bade many men come to him again, and the third he had at Paska, when he had also a great crowd of guests." (Saga of St. Olav, ch 117). “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.” (Ynglinga Saga, ch 8) "When Hacon the Jarl went north along the coast in the summer and the people gave themselves up to him, he bade them keep up the temples and blots all over the land and so it was done. So is it said in Vellekla: The wise folk leader: 'Now let the once harried hof lands of Thor and the gods Be free for all men's use. The shield-bearer brought Home with honor his ship All across the sea. Him the gods lead! And friendly to men, the gods Turn their minds To the blot; the mighty Shield-bearer thereby wins fame. Now grows the earth as of yore; Again the generous prince Leads the glad men To build the gods' houses '" (Ólafs Saga Trygvasonnar, ch 16) "And when he came east along the Gautaskerries he came to land and made there a great blot. Then came flying thither two ravens and they screeched loudly. The jarl seemed to know that Odin had taken the blot well and that now he would have good luck in battle." (Ólafs Saga Trygvasonnar, ch 27) "But after Harald's death, his son Swein Forkbeard went soon on a raid both to Saxland and Friesland and at last to England. But in Norway those who had taken up Christianity fell back to performing blots just as they had also done before in the north of the land." (Ólafs Saga Trygvasonnar, ch 53) These saga passages are counter arguments, implying that humans can be part of a blot, and since I am thorough, and honest, I will include them: "Torar then put the matter before the people, but they were all agreed that they would pay the King of Norway no scot; some would have the messengers hanged, others would have them for a blot, but it was arranged that they should be kept there until the Swedish king's sheriffs came, and that with the assent of the men of the district the sheriffs should settle what they would about them." (Saga of St. Olav, ch 141). "It is a tale among men that Hacon the Jarl had in that battle sacrificed his son Erling to get victory, and that after the hailstorm came, the Jomsvikings lost many men." (Ólafs Saga Trygvasonnar, ch 43) "Domaldi took the inheritance his father and ruled over the land. In his days there was famine and need in Sweden. The Swedes then held a great blot near Upsala. For the first harvest they blotted oxen, but the crop was not bettered by it; for the next harvest they blotted men, but the crop was the same or even worse. And for the third harvest many Swedes came to Upsala at the time when the blot should be held. The chiefs then took counsel, and held to a man that Domaldi their king must be the cause of the bad seasons and also that they should have to blot him in order to have a good season, that they should bear their weapons against him and kill him and dye the altars with his blood. And so they did." (Ynglinga Saga, ch 8) Ynglinga Saga ch 25 tells the tale of King Aun who made a deal with Odin that he could live another ten years for each son he blotted. He began with his second son, then lived 10 more years, and every 10 years, he blotted another son, blotting his third, through ninth sons all 10 years apart. This tale is too long to paste in this article. My first thought is, if I were the fourth son, after seeing the second and third sons blotted and his father clearly doing a pattern (and Odin protecting the father), I would flee. King Aun got so old he had to be carried around and could no longer walk, which makes me wonder who in the hell he even caught his younger sons, not to mention, they all had to live pretty damn long themselves. This tale appears to be straight fiction by Snorri, but it is in the saga, so I just admit it. Please join us on the Facebook group Aldsidu: Saxon Heathenry "Olav did not give many blots and the Swedes thought that bad seasons came because of it. They gathered an army, went against King Olav, surrounded the house and burned him in it; they gave him to Odin and made blots in order to have a good season." (Ynglinga Saga, ch 43) Geez, I am starting to trust this saga (Ynglinga Saga) less, the more I read it, the more I tend to struggle with it. This is an amazing passage from the early seventh century. It implies that alcohol can be a historical offering. "At length they arrived at the place designated, which did not wholly please Columban ; but he decided to remain, in order to spread the faith among the people, who were Swabians. Once as he was going through this country, he discovered that the natives were going to make a heathen offering. They had a large cask that they called a cupa, and that held about twenty-six measures, filled with beer and set in their midst. On Columban's asking what they intended to do with it, they answered that they were making an offering to their God Wodan (whom others call Mercury). When he heard of this abomination, he breathed on the cask, and lo! it broke with a crash and fell in pieces so that all the beer ran out. Then it was clear that the devil had been concealed in the cask, and that through the earthly drink he had proposed to ensnare the souls of the participants. As the heathens saw that, they were amazed and said Columban had a strong breath, to split a wellbound cask in that manner. But he reproved them in the words of the Gospel, and commanded them to cease from such offerings and to go home. Many were converted then, by the preaching of the holy man, and turning to the learning and faith of Christ, were baptized by him. Others, who were already baptized but still lived in the heathenish unbelief, like a good shepherd, he again led by his words to the faith and into the bosom of the church." (THE LIFE OF ST. COLUMBAN BY THE MONK JONAS. Chapter 53; Mabillon: Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Benedicti, Vol. I, Venice, 1733, pp. 3-26. Latin.) Here is another passage, from Ibn Fadlan, writing about his travels with the Rus, circa 950 AD. This passage also shows food and other offerings: "When the ships come to this mooring place, everybody goes ashore with bread, meat, onions, milk and intoxicating drink and betakes himself to a long upright piece of wood that has a face like a man's and is surrounded by little figures, behind which are long stakes in the ground. The Rus prostrates himself before the big carving and says, "O my Lord, I have come from a far land and have with me such and such a number of girls and such and such a number of sables", and he proceeds to enumerate all his other wares. Then he says, "I have brought you these gifts," and lays down what he has brought with him, and continues, "I wish that you would send me a merchant with many dinars and dirhems, who will buy from me whatever I wish and will not dispute anything I say." Then he goes away."" Chapter 2 of Kjalnesinga saga contains an extended description of Thorgrim Helgason's Temple and blót process.
"He had a large temple built in his hayfield, a hundred feet long and sixty wide. Everybody had to pay a temple fee. Thor was the god most honoured there. It was rounded on the inside, like a vault, and there were windows and wall-hangings everywhere. The image of Thor stood in the center, with other gods on both sides. In front of them was an altar made with great skill and covered with iron on the top. On this there was to be a fire which would never go out, they called it sacred fire. On the altar was to lie a great armband, made of silver. The temple godi was to wear it on his arm at all gatherings, and everyone was to swear oaths on it whenever a suit was brought. A great copper bowl was to stand on the altar, and into it was to go all the blood which came from animals or men given to Thor. They called this sacrificial blood and the sacrificial blood bowl. This blood was to be sprinkled over men and animals, and the animals that were given in sacrifice were to be used for feasting when sacrificial banquets were held." There is a similar passage in Eyrbyggja saga about Thorolf Mostrarskegg's temple at Hofstaðir, which gives more information about the layout of the temple and blót process.
"There he had a temple built, and it was a sizeable building, with a door on the side-wall near the gable. The high-seat pillars were placed inside the door, and nails, that were called holy nails , were driven into them. Beyond that point, the temple was a sanctuary. At the inner end there was a structure similar to the choir in churches nowadays and there was a raised platform in the middle of the floor like an altar, where a ring weighing twenty ounces and fashioned without a join was placed, and all oaths had to be sworn on this ring. It also had to be worn by the temple priest at all public gatherings. A sacrificial bowl was placed on the platform and in it a sacrificial twig, like a priest's aspergillum, which was used to sprinkle blood from the bowl. This blood, which was called sacrificial blood , was the blood of live animals offered to the gods. The gods were placed around the platform in the choir-like structure within the temple. All farmers had to pay a toll to the temple . . . . The temple godi was responsible for the upkeep of the temple and ensuring it was maintained properly, as well as for holding sacrificial feasts in it."
Here are two famous passages on the 9 Year Blots: The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg Chapter 17 (circa 1000 AD): "As I have heard odd stories concerning their ancient mid-winter sacrifices, I will not allow this custom to be ignored. The middle of that kingdom is called Lederun (Lejre Denmark), in the region of Sjælland, all the people gathered every nine years in January, that is after we have celebrated the birth of the Lord [Christmas], and there they offered to their gods blots; Ninety-nine people and just as many horses, dogs and hens or hawks, for these should serve them in the kingdom of the dead and atone for their evil deeds." *--- This passage is "odd." This blot is for atonement from evil deeds", a statement clearly incorrect, as heathenry did not have "sin", though it did have wrong doing. Christianity and Judaism are about Sin Sacrifices (like the human sacrifice of Christ and animals in the Old Testament Temple of Jerusalem and Tabernacle in the desert.) Adam of Bremen, Deeds of the Bishops of Hamburg, 1073 AD.
“For the Saxons worshiped those who were not gods. Among them they venerated Woden, who they were to venerate on holy days, even with human sacrifice. They did not think it was appropriate to confine their Gods in Roman temples or mold them in any likeness of human form. They consecrated groves and they venerated ancestral spirits there with reverence. They valued with reverence leafy trees and springs. They worshiped also a stock of wood of no small size, set up in the open. In the native language, it was called “Irminsul” (strong pillar) which in Latin means “universal column,” as it sustains everything. The excerpts about the beginning, the customs, and the religious observances of the Saxons (the Slavs and Swedes still observe their Heathen rites) we have taken from the writings of Einhard.