Disting, a Historical Heathen time two Full Moons after Yule

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

I am always amazed at the amount of mis-information on the internet, especially on "pagan" websites. Dr. Andreas Nordberg of Sweden, the world's foremost scholar on Norse Holidays, states the following in his book on the dating of Yule (and Disting): "The pre-Christian Yule feast occurs at the first full moon after the first new moon following the winter solstice, while the Disting took place at the third full moon according to the same method of calculation." Nordberg, Andreas. 2006. Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning: Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur: Uppsal A link to his (free) book which Dr. Nordberg himself put up on Academia.edu can be found here: https://www.academia.edu/1366945/Jul_disting_och_f%C3%B6rkyrklig_tider%C3%A4kning Therefore, since Yule occurs in January and sometimes in early February, how is it Wikipedia and many websites claim that Disting was done in February? Therefore, since in most years Yule is on a Full Moon in January (some years February), Disting would almost always occur on a Full Moon in March since it is precisely two full moons after Yule. How is it so many websites get it wrong thinking Disting was in February? The answer is that they did not do their homework on the Icelandic Calendar. PS- Thietmar of Merseburg recorded that Yule occurs in January, after Xmas and after the solstice: 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), 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 sacrifices…”

The Christian Icelandic Althing christianized and changed their historical calendar When Iceland became Christian, they decided not to adopt the Julian Calendar the rest of Europe was using. It was an unusual move. They were proud of their Ancestral past, but they were not proud of their Heathen past. So they made a combination of their Ancestral past and a fixed solar calendar, de-heathenizing their once Heathen calendar in the 10th century. The former Icelandic Heathen calendar had two Yule Moons, just like the Heathen Calendar the Venerable Bede recorded in De Temporum Ratione, written in 725 AD, which also lists two Yule Moons. This is why several Rune Staffs that have been found have two Yule Moons, yet the modern Icelandic Christianized Calendar doesn't have two Yule Moons. The Christian Icelandic Althing also decided (the now only one) Yule moon would start in the middle of November and end in the middle of December. They also moved the first moon of the year (called Einmánuður , meaning "one/first moon") to be the sixth moon of the year, and they moved Tvímánuður (meaning "Second Moon") from being the second moon of the year to being the eleventh moon of the year. Are you confused yet? It gets worse... The Icelandic Althing decided they would have twelve different thirty day moons that no longer tied to the moons themselves, which is odd. Why then use the word "month" meaning "cycle of the moon" for a fixed day period that ignores the moon? (The entire world does this today though). They also decided that their new calendar would be twelve different months of thirty fixed days. They then had a "week" of four days inserted in summer. Therefore, most years the Icelandic Calendar had 364 days, but in some years they would then add a leap week of seven more days to catch it back up to the solar calendar. Check out the post Christian Icelandic Calendar below: Winter Gormánuður (mid October – mid November, "slaughter month" or "Gór's moon") Ýlir (mid November – mid December, "Yule moon") Mörsugur (mid December – mid January, "fat sucking ") Þorri (mid January – mid February) Góa (mid February – mid March,) Einmánuður (mid March – mid April, "one" or "first moon") Summer Harpa (mid April – mid May) Skerpla (mid May – mid June) Sólmánuður (mid June – mid July, "sun moon") Heyannir (mid July – mid August, "hay-time") Tvímánuður (mid August – mid September, "two" or "second moon") Haustmánuður (mid September – mid October, "harvest moon")

Evidence of the Iceland Althing changing the Calendar Dr. Nordberg in his book states: "The study starts with a discussion of two ancient lunar months called Jultungel ‘Yule moon’ and Distingstungel ‘Dis-thing’s moon’." Nordberg, Andreas. 2006. Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning: Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur: Uppsal Notice that the Icelandic calendar above that there is no moon called "Distings-tungel" or "Distingsmanuthr." Therefore, according to Nordberg, Rune Staffs and other archaeological evidence shows that Disting occurred in a moon that was named "Disting Moon." The Icelandic Althing eliminated this moon totally from the calendar. Dr. Nordberg also states: "It is most likely that the Yule feast was held at the time of the second Yule moon month’s full moon. The exact date of this full moon shifted according to the solar year. It could occur on 5 January at the earliest, and 2 February at the latest." Please notice in the above calendar, the Iceland Christian Althing eliminated one of the two Yule Moons.

Excerpt from Bede “De Temporum Ratione” (725 AD)

Translation by Robert Sass from Latin

"The Ancient Angle (English) peoples, for it does not seem proper to me to explain the yearly practice of other nations, and to keep quiet concerning my own, reckoned their months by the moon, just as they were named from the moon in Hebrew and Greek. Therefore, they called the moon “mona”, the month was called “monath”. The first moon, which the Romans call “January”, is with them Giuli (Yule). Then follow February, Solmonath, March, Hredmonath, April, Eosturmonath, May Thrimilki, June, Litha, July, Litha August Weodmonath, September Halegmonath, October Winterfylleth, November, Blotmonath, December, Giuli, same as for January. "

Snorri is a LATE source I do not mean to dismiss Snorri, but Snorri, writing around 1220 in a Christian Iceland that had been Christian for 250 years, is a very late source. When Snorri wrote his Prose Edda and many Sagas, he used the dates on the Icelandic Calendar. But the question is, which one, the Heathen pre-christian calendar, or the Christianized calendar of his time, i.e. the one that the Christian Iceland Althing recorded above? Let's take a look at two of his passages and see what we can determine: The Ynglinga Saga (chapter 8), from the year 1225, lists the three great blots of the year for the SWEDES: “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 (the first day of summer), a Victory-blot. Please note, Victory-Blot in Swedish is "Sigrblot". Sigrblot means "Victory Blot." Snorri in Ynginga Saga chapter 8 is discussing the three major blots of the year and the one that starts summer he calls a Sigrblot, or a victory blot. Here is the passage Wikipedia messes up on, and many other websites: Heimskringla (circa 1225 AD) "In Sweden it was the old custom, as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief blot took place in Goa moon at Upsala. The blot was offered for peace, and victory to the king; and to there people came from all parts of Sweden. 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." *Please also note, I have seen some websites translate the word for "Things" in the above passage as singular, and not plural. When it is mistranslated, it makes a big difference in the meaning. If the two occurrences of the word "Things" above are translated as Thing instead of Things, now people equate the Victory-Blot with Disting, which is one full moon before Sigrblot. I think it is quite obvious Snorri in Heimskringla is discussing Sigrblot, not Disting, as he mentions a blot for Victory to the king. This is pretty obvious. Goa in pre-Christian Heathen times would be April-ish (pending the lunar cycles) and not February to March. As Yule would be on the first full moon after the first new moon after the winter solstice, Disting would be the third full moon in this sequence, and Sigurblot would be the fourth. This is pretty straight forward.

Wikipedia and all these websites mess up here. First they mess up that a blot for victory (Sigrblot) is Disting, because Things (plural) are discussed in the passage. It is pretty obvious this is a blot for victory. (Please note, Disting is a different word than Disablot!) Second, they forget that the Iceland Althing moved many of the months around. Therefore, they look to the modern Icelandic (post Chrsitian) calendar and state that Goa Moon starts in mid-February and ends in mid-March and they just pick February to be the date of their "Disting." Why February you ask? Most pagans use the 8 point solar wheel adopted by Wicca, ignoring the historical Heathen Lunisolar calendar. Feb 2nd is the time many do "Disting" as it is half way between the solstice and the equinox. Second, Disablot is really another name from Haustblot and Winter Nights. The Disablot of Winter Nights is typically in October. Disablot means "blot to the Disir" and "Dis-Thing" means "Disir Thing." A Thing and a Blot are two different things. Disablot and Disting are two different things. See this passage for example from ICELAND: Viga-Glum's Saga chapter 6: "At the start of winter a sumble was prepared, and a disablot in which observance all were expected to take part, but Glum sat in his place and did not attend it." In Iceland disablot accompanied Winter Nights. And I do not mean to imply that the Disir were also not honored around the time of Disting, as they certainly were. But Disablot in the Sagas is used in conjunction with Winter Nights (also called Disablot and Haustblot.) And by the way, since Winter Nights is also called "Haustblot" in several passages, this is the dead giveaway that Haustblot occurs in the moon of Haustmanuthr. Haustmanuthr means "Harvest Moon" and is clearly the end of summer and the start of winter. Gisla saga Surssonar chapter 9: "Thorgrim meant to have a haustblot on Winter Nights (veturnóttum), and to sacrifice to Frey. He bids to it his brother Bork, and Eyjolf the son of Thord, and many other great men. Gisli too made ready a feast, and bids to it his brothers-in-law from Arnafirth, and the two Thorkels; so that there were full sixty men at his house. There was to be a drinking-bout Sumble at each house, and the floor at Sæbol was covered with sedge won from Sedgetarn." --- This is another great passage, showing that close family and friends were invited for Winter Nights at the homestead . The Norse word "veturnóttum" (meaning "Winter Nights") is used in this passage, and also the word "haustblot." It appears to me, in Norway, the first night of Winter Nights, a harvest blot was made, as "haustblot" means "harvest blot." So, what is Disting? What does it celebrate? Did the Heathen Saxons do Disting? While I just stated Wikipedia is a poor source, it is not always wrong. Oddly, I am going to quote it now, just to show that Wikipedia is right that the origins of Disting have been lost to us: "In 1611, the first play in the Swedish language named Disa by Johannes Messenius was enacted at the Disting showing a late medieval legend explaining the origins of the Disting, as the pagan origins had been forgotten.[9] Instead of being held in honour of female powers, it was held in honour of a heroic girl who had prevailed on the king and the assembly to stop a great massacre of the weak and elderly to hinder overpopulation.[9]" [9] The article Disa, in the encyclopedia Nordisk familjebok

Can I make a GUESS as to what Disting was about? Sure, but my guess is just that, a guess. It is my own personal theory. First, I do believe that Sweden, Denmark, Saxony, Norway, etc had many Things a year. However, it appears that the Swedes, just like the Saxons, are attested as having one major Althing a year. Sweden is the only location that the term "Disting" is mentioned in literary sources. Maybe the title Disting was only used there, and it was done elsewhere like Saxony under a different title? Most of you know, I am a Saxon Heathen, not a Norse one. But I do study all the Germanic Tribes (which includes the Scandinavians) who venerated the Aesir. Let me begin my "theory" with another theory of mine. It appears to me, that those in Norway and Iceland, are very similar. Most who settled Iceland were Norwegian, so this makes sense. However, the Danes and Swedes seem to be more like each other just as the Icelandic people tend to be like the Norwegians. Yes, I know Snorri wrote about all the Scandinavians, but I just see these two groups being more alike in their minor regional differences. For one example, the nine-year sacrifice is attested in two places, Sweden and Denmark (Uppsala and Lejre.) There doesn't seem to be a Norwegian and Icelandic counterpart. Winter Nights is attested in the Norwegian Sagas being done in private homesteads, whereas Uppsala had Winter Nights as a public blot for the Swedes. My point about all this is that the Saxons seem like the Danes, as Saxony neighbored Denmark, and even Widukind the most famous Heathen Saxon Drohtin did marry into the Danish royal family. The Saxons were very similar to the Danes. The Danes were even allies to the Saxons in the Saxon Wars against the Franks. With all this in mind, look at the historical passages I quote below about the Saxons having a major Thing once a year. Are these passages the Old Saxon Disting? Did the Saxons call it "Disting"? (I do not think so, one passage below uses the word "Gods" and not "female Ancestral Spirits.") But these passages below, do state that the Saxons had a major Thing once a year. It also links the Thing to the time of year considering war, which could be just before "Sigrblot" the blot for Victory, since summer was the war season in these old times. The major once a year Saxon Althing determined who the Theoden of the entire Saxon tribe would be just for the duration of the upcoming summer wars. However, in fairness, any Saxon Heathen can make a counter argument that the Lebuini Antiqua claims "in the coming year", and since the new year began with Disablot *(not Disting) with the onset of Winter, one could argue that the Saxon Althing at Marklo was at the end of summer, just before the "coming year." Nonetheless, I am guessing that the Saxons held their annual Thing at the same time as the Swedes did their Disting, on the third full moon after the winter solstice. This is a guess. But it would make sense. So what do I think Disting was about? About giving honor to the Gods and Goddesses (and the Disir for the Swedes) at the major Althing of the year. The Gods would always be consulted when a tribe makes their plans. Again, I am guessing here, but it is about all we can do. However, the Old Saxon equivalent of the Norse word "Disir" is "Idis." The word "Idis" in Old Saxon just doesn't have the same "female Ancestral-spirit" connotation as it does in the Scandinavian languages. I do not believe that the Saxons called their annual Thing "Disting." I would love to hear your comments below, and please feel free to join us on the Facebook group "Saxon Heathenry." There we discuss historical Heathenry, and we call it "Aldsidu" which means "the Old Ways." This is the word that the Saxons used in their poetry to describe their faith.

Lebuini Antiqua 4, THE LIFE OF ST. LEBUIN, 9th Century AD “In olden times the Saxons had no king but appointed rulers over each village; and their custom was to hold a general meeting once a year in the center of Saxony near the river Weser at a place called Marklo. There all the leaders used to gather together, and they were joined by twelve noblemen from each village with as many freedmen and serfs. There they confirmed the laws, gave judgment on outstanding cases and by common consent drew up plans for the coming year on which they could act either in peace or war....When the day of the meeting came around, all the leaders were present, as were others whose duty it was to attend. Then, when they had gathered together, they first offered up prayers to their gods, as is their custom, asking them to protect their country and to guide them in making decrees both useful to themselves and pleasing to the gods. Then when a circle had been formed they began the discussions”

Bede - Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731 AD) “For these Old Saxons have no king, but several lords who are set over the nation. Whenever war is imminent, these cast lots impartially, and the one on whom the lot falls is followed and obeyed by all for the duration of the war; but as soon as the war ends, the lords revert to equality of status.”

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