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Disting, a Historical Heathen time two Full Moons after Yule

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

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 P4 A link to his (free) book which Dr. Nordberg himself put up on can be found here: 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? 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 blots, 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 blots…”

The Christian Icelandic Althing christianized and changed their historical calendar When Iceland became Christian, they decided to make changes to their pre-Christian Heathen calendar. The former 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. Check out the adapted 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." 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 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. "

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 seven days: and after Christianity was introduced into Sweden, 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. It is pretty straight forward that Sigrblot would be one full moon after Disting. Sigrblot would be three full moons after Mid-winter, and would be the Norse start of Summer. What do Dr. Andreas Zautner and Dr. Andreas Nordberg think? "For although Snorri identified gói with the time period as the Icelandic month had during his own lifetime, his informant may very well have intended something else. During pre-Christian times, gói, or with it Swedish name göje or göja, a lunar moon that moved back and forth in the solar year." Nordberg, Andreas. 2006. Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning: Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden Kungl. Gustav Adolfs Akademien för svensk folkkultur: Uppsal P108

I think it is clear that the Runic Calendar Primestaffs, the evidence Dr. Nordberg published in his Swedish book on the dating of Yule and Disting, show clearly that calendar changes make matters confusing. Snorri was confused, and Snorris "informant" possibly intended a different time period. I think even Dr. Nordberg has some confusion going on with Sigrblot, and Disting, as calendar changes in post-Christian Iceland did lead to great confusion. There are also passages stating that Swedes held Things at Uppsala at other times of the year, like this one where Things were held at Yule in Uppsala: Ynglinga Saga ch 38: "Onund's district-kings were at that time spread widely over Sweden, and Svipdag the Blind ruled over Tiundaland, in which Upsal is situated, and where all the Swedish Things are held. There also were held the mid-winter blots, at which many kings attended. One year at midwinter there was a great assembly of people at Upsal, and King Yngvar had also come there with his sons."

Please note, Disting is a different word than Disablot! 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.) 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

This 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. It would also make sense that the Saxons held their Althing around the time of Sigrblot.

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" nor "Idisthing." I would love to hear your comments below, and please feel free to join us on the Facebook group "Aldsidu: 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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