Ostara vs Historical pre-Christian Sigurblot

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

Today I “googled” the term “sigurblot”. Four of the first seven links were links to my own blogs or my own published books on Google Books. Three of the other seven are about Ásatrúarfélagið, which is Iceland’s Asatru organization. If I were to google the term “Ostara” the dis-information on the world wide web is remarkable, and outright embarrassing. There are only two historical references to Eostre or Ostar. Both of these references call Eostre or Ostar a moon, specifically the fourth moon of the year. One of these, is the Anglish Heathen calendar recorded by Bede in De Temporum Ratione, chapter 15, written in the precise year 725 AD. Eostre is a moon that corresponds roughly to the modern fixed day solar month April, but obviously never corresponds exactly. Ostar Manod is the fourth moon of the year on the Heathen Frankish Calendar recorded by Einhard in his Vita Karoli Magni Chapter 29 written circa 830 AD. These are the only two historical occurrences of the word “Eostre” or “Ostar.” The Iceland Althing recorded the Norwegian Heathen Calendar (a Christianized one) circa the year 930 AD. Of course, zero Norse (Norwegian) moons were called “Eostre” or “Ostar.” Yet this is one of modern Asatru’s two biggest holidays. Eostre or Ostar is not found in any of the 700 plus Norse Sagas and Poems, nor in the Prose and Poetic Eddas.

Two references to “Ostar.” Yet on Asatru websites you will see claims that “Ostara” is a historical Norse holiday, left and right, here and there, up and down, and all around. Ostara is a mis-spelling to boot, based off Jakob Grimm in the 19th century who was “reconstructing” the Old High German name for “Easter.” This is kinda humorous of course, as Einhard was a Frank, and the Franks lived in what is now modern Belgium and central Germany, i.e. Frankfurt. Ostar is the obvious Old High German name which Einhard a Frank left us in one of the two historical sources I mentioned above. So where does “Ostara” come from in modern Asatru?

Most people argue that Wikipedia is not the best internet web-source. But Wikipedia is 100% correct on where “Ostara” comes from, and how it came into Asatru. It documents this extremely well quoting published books by Asatru leaders, well footnoted. It comes from the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. Where does the Wiccan Wheel of the Year come from? In the 1960s, an American Witch and poet named Aidan Kelly went looking for Wiccan sabbat names more interesting than Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Winter Solstice, and Autumn Equinox. He ended up adopting Ostara for the Vernal Equinox, Yule for the Winter Solstice, and Mabon (as a reference to Mabon ap Modron, a character from Welsh mythology, not even a holiday in Celtic Paganism) for the Autumnal Equinox. "Wicca" is a modern word based on the Old English word for "Witch." Aidan A. Kelly (born October 22, 1940) is an American academic, poet and influential figure in the Neopagan religion of Wicca. Having developed his own branch of the faith, the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, during the 1960s. He has also published academic work studying the early development of Gardnerian Wiccan liturgy, primarily through his controversial 1991 book Crafting the Art of Magic.

Wikipedia is 100% correct in its article called “Heathen Holidays”, that the founders of American Asatru took the Wiccan Wheel of the Year Sabbats and has been passing it off as the historical calendar of Norse Heathen peoples.

I often compare Catholicism to Asatru. Hear me out. When a lie or dis-information is told long enough and often enough, it becomes the "truth." Prayer to Mary and Prayer to Saints is clearly the opposite of New Testament teaching, where Jesus taught the disciples to pray to the Father in his name. That is right, pray to the father. The “Our Father” prayer starts out with “Our Father.” But despite clear biblical teaching, a lie was told by monks, priests, bishops, and Popes for so long, it became a “fact”, prayer to Mary and saints became catholic orthodox teaching, and to question it was “heretical.” If I were to tell the average catholic who prays to Mary daily that it is not a teaching in the New Testament, I would get a harsh response. Asatru has taught the Wiccan Wheel of the Year for so long, that as soon as someone questions it, they receive a harsh response, as Ostara celebrated on the Vernal Equinox has become Asatru Orthodoxy. It literally has. If one were to argue against this on say a Facebook page, one would be accused of teaching “dogma” and orthodoxy. This of course is “odd” because Asatruar claim they do not follow any orthodoxy. By calling a person "monotheistic" or "preaching orthodoxy" who questions their ways, implies (and proves) that those who are complaining about the historical teaching presented feel that their own orthodoxy is being called into question. And by the way, 100% of Asatru pages and websites show the Wiccan Wheel as their calendar. (Only the Troth mentions Sigurblot anywhere). When uniformity in Asatru happens (and Asatru is pretty damn uniform) then orthodoxy happens. For those who want the Old Ways then, most often Asatruar ask us to leave due to our questioning their orthodoxy.

The Wheel of the Year is an 8-prong wheel that allows modern Asatruar to completely ignore the moon. Despite the fact historical Germanic and Norse Heathens followed a lunar first, solar second calendar. The word “month” in all Germanic/Norse languages means “cycle of the moon, a new moon that waxes, then wanes, until the next new moon.” The words “moon” and “month” are clearly related in modern Germanic languages like English and the Old Norse languages/dialects.

The world’s foremost scholar on Norse holidays is Dr. Andreas Nordberg of Uppsala, Sweden. Dr. Nordberg states: “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.” (Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden, Uppsala, 2006, P.4) "The pre-Christian Yule feast occurs at the first full moon after the first new moon following the winter solstice.” (Yule, Disthing and pre-Julian Time-Reckoning. Calenders and Calendric Rituals in pre-Christian Scandinavia. Acta Academiae Regiae Gustavi Adolphi 91. 169 pp. Uppsala. ISBN 91-85352-62-4)

Bede states in 725 AD in his De Temporum Ratione, on the dating of the start of winter: "Thus, the moon by which they began their winter season was called “Winterfylleth”, a name compounded of the terms for winter and full moon, because from the full moon of that moon winter was thought to begin."

Yep, Germanic and Norse tribes followed BOTH the moon and the sun. Their calendar was moon first, sun second, called specifically a lunisolar calendar. Historical Heathen Yule began on the first full moon after the first new moon after the solstice. Sigurblot, the start of summer was 3 full moons after Yule, and six full moons after Sigurblot, the start of summer, was Winter Nights, or Winter-Full Moon, the start of Winter, on the Full Moon of the pre-christian moon Haust-manuthr (or Harvest Moon.) (Please note Yule was on the full moon of a moon called "Yule Moon" with various names pending where one was in Scandinavia: Jol-manuthr, Jol-Tungal, Yulir-Manuthr, or Ylir-Manuthr, etc.) Has anyone heard these teachings on an Asatru Facebook page or in an Asatru Kindred, or in an Asatru Organization?

So why did the founders of Asatru in the USA, not follow the founders of Asatru in Iceland, who celebrate Sigurblot and not Ostara? Why did the founders of Asatru in the USA establish an 8-prong solar wheel, completely ignoring the moon? Why did they claim to be experts or well-studied on Norse holidays when they were not? Why have people followed them? Asatru leaders did not do their homework, and were dishonest to some degree, as anyone in this day and age realizes that info on the www is more inaccurate than accurate. Yet they chose the fast way, crap off the world wide web and ignoring historical sources, also free to read on the world wide web, but of course would take more time to read. They got a following, because like Catholics, Protestants, and most evangelicals who do not read their bibles, most American Asatruar will never make it through an Edda cover to cover in their lifetime. Even the bible says: “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” That is precisely what happened in the USA with Asatru, the uneducated founded and led, people followed assuming they were teaching the historical pre-christian faith. For more reading on historical pre-christian Heathen holidays and their dating, I have four blogs on this subject. Click "Blog" above and browse my blogs.

The founders of Ásatrúarfélagið in Iceland decided that they should read the lore and do just a little bit of research. *(Don’t get me wrong, Ásatrúarfélagið dates their four annual blots incorrectly according to the historical sources, the subject of other blogs of mine, but at least they get the holiday names correct.) This is a start. Why did Asatru in America not do any research? It is truly embarrassing that American Asatru wants to teach an Ostara Equinox date. Even the Christian Church is more Heathen than Asatru, as like the Anglish and Frankish Heathens who venerated Ostar or Eostre, having their holiday on the full moon of the fourth moon of the year, the church actually follows that practice! The Church today STILL dates Easter using the full moon, i.e. Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon AFTER the vernal equinox.

If one were to ask the average Asatruar on Facebook “What is Sigurblot?” I imagine the only response would be “I don’t know.” I have been on Facebook for a long time, and before that on Asatru Groups in Yahoo groups, before Facebook was invented. I have been kicked out of an Asatru Yahoo Group and a Facebook group just for posting that Ostara is a Wiccan Sabbat and is not a Norse Goddess attested anywhere in Norse literature or in the historical calendars, nor on the dozens of Runic Calendar Staffs found dated to the 9th through 13th centuries. I guess you can say that I am a “Heathen Heretic.” Yep, Asatru has “heretics” and “orthodoxy”, i.e. established dogma. Historical Heathenry did as well. All Germanic (Heathen) languages had words like sidu, thau, uuise, etc meaning “customs” “traditions” and “practices” etc. Sure, historical Heathenry has less dogma than monotheistic religions, but if you want to escape dogma completely, leave religion. Reconstructionists of historical Norse faith are not the "only" ones who have "orthodoxy" and "orthopraxy."

So, what then is Sigurblot? It is the historical pre-christian start of summer, which began on the fourth full moon after the first new moon after the winter solstice. The Saxons (northern Germany), Danes, Geats, Swedes, Norwegians, and Icelanders celebrated this blot called “victory blot” or “sigurblot.” The Anglish in England, the Frisians, the Jutes, and the Franks called this “Eostre” or “Ostar.” Dr. Philip Shaw, in his book: Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons (Studies in Early Medieval History) proves that Eostre or Ostar was only known in North Frankia, Frisia, and England with the Anglish. Dr. Shaw proves this archaeologically and linguistically. He is also not the first to do so. Alex G Garman published his book, The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland: An Historical Evaluation of the Archaeological Evidence. Garman wrote three years before Dr. Shaw.

Sigurblot is the Norse & Saxon start of summer, which was a three-night and three day feast that began at Sundown on the full moon of the fourth moon of the year, called “Goje” by the Swedes, (Goje-Manuthr) or “Goa-manuthr” in Iceland. The Christian Iceland Althing in 930 AD altered the historical Norse (Norwegian) calendar, moving all “moons” back one moon, and changing it from a lunisolar calendar, to a fixed calendar, having twelve different thirty-day months (having nothing to do with the moon) and one “leap week” every year which has five or six days pending the year. This calendar is still in use in Iceland today, though obviously different from how it was observed in pre-christian times.

Here are the two most famous Saga passages on Sigurblot. Enjoy! (Please remember, Sigurblot in Old Icelandic/Norse means “Victory-blot” or “Victory-sacrificial meal.”)

Ynglinga Saga (chapter 8), from the year 1225, lists the three great blots of the year: “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.”

Heimskringla Olaf’s Saga Helga 77 “In Sweden there was an age-old custom whilst they were still heathen that there should be a blot in Upsala during Goa moon. Then they would blot for peace and victory for their king. People from all over Sweden were to resort there.”

Please join us on the Facebook Group Saxon Heathenry, where we are bringing pre-christian historical Heathen ways back to our modern world. Also visit our page on Facebook: Germanic Heathenry.

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