Historical Pre-Christian Heathen Disting

Updated: Mar 8

Dr. Andreas Nordberg: “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) While I am an huge believer in listening to the Swedish scholars, Dr. Andreas Nordberg and Dr. Andreas Zautner. I absolutely agree with the archaeological and literary evidence (that they document extremely well) proving Yule to be on a full moon in January, and Disting to be on a full moon in March. However, I am questioning one of their conclusions. Outside of this one conclusion, I completely and totally agree with them, and I have spent hours upon hours reading their books and reviewing the archaeological and literary evidence of their findings. This being said, there is a single contradiction in their conclusions, that has been bothering me for a while. What conclusion am I questioning and what is the contradiction? If you read Dr. Nordberg's article, and even American Asatru webpages, all of them claim that Disting was accompanied with a major disablot that no one from Sweden was allowed to be exempt from (though Christians were allowed to "buy" their way out.) Therefore, with this logic, there would then be four major blots a year, that no one could blow off, and even Odin in one of the Sagas commands three major blots a 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.” [Ynglinga Saga, ch 8] "Now it is their old ways to hold a blot in haust (haustmanuthr, a moon) to welcome in the winter, a second in the middle of winter, and a third to welcome the summer." [Heimskringla Olaf's Saga Helga, The Slaying of Olvir of Egge]


"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]. So, how can Disting be a fourth blot, if we have solid evidence that there were only three major blots? Many in Asatru, who disagree with my writings (and the Eddas and Sagas for that matter), argue that Heathenry did not have common practices. (Yet, these Asatruar all have common holidays and practices, the 8-spoke Wiccan Wheel of the Year that is accepted on all Asatru websites.) Clearly since Asatru has common holidays and traditions today, their claim that historical Heathens did not is "odd." The Heathen word for "Heathenry" was "forn sed" (various spellings) which means "old customs", which implies that there were common customs. Yule was a commonly held custom, so was Winter Nights, so were three blots a year to start the Winter, to start the summer, and the mid-point of Winter. If you do not want common customs and holidays, religion is not a place for you. Was Disting a fourth blot, in addition to the three that Odin commanded in Ynglinaga Saga ch.8, Winter Nights, Yule, and Sigrblot?

In short, the word "Disting" is a completely different word than "Disablot." The sagas state that Winter Nights was a Disablot, but the Sagas never state that Disting or Sigrblot had a Disablot. Winter Nights is called a "Disablot", but I never see Disablot applied to Disting (Disting was a Swedish tradition), nor have I seen Sigrblot called a "Disablot." Here is an example of Winter Nights being called a Disablot: 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." We have three passages that discuss the 9-year sacrifice (which was really an 8 year sacrifice. Remember, the Roman/Christian way of counting included counting "zero." For example, Sunday occurs every seven days, but Christians constantly called it the "eighth day." Every 8 years, the lunar and solar cycles line up, and the reason for 72 sacrifices during the "9-year blot" is 9 are sacrificed each day of the eight day blot. Two of the three sources on the 9-year sacrifice, Snorri and Thietmar of Merseburg claim this blot was on Yule. Adam of Bremen says it was around the equinox (but not on the equinox) at Uppsala. Dr. Nordberg and Dr. Zautner argue that Adam of Bremen is refering to Disting. But Adam is talking about Blots (a 9-year blot), and not about Things. No where does Adam of Bremen mention Thing as part of the 8-year blot (9-year sacrifice). The question at hand: Did Disting have a blot? Or was it a Thing? It is pretty clear Adam of Bremen was not talking about Disting. Below is the passage most often cited as being Disting. However, this passage has a "victory blot" (sigrblot means "victory blot") in it, and I certainly believe this is Sigrblot and not Disting. Heimskringla Saga of Olaf Haraldson ch.76 “In Sweden (Svithjod) it was the forn sed (Heathen Religion), as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief blot took place in Goe (moon) at Upsala. The blot was offered for peace and victory to the king." Here, Snorri is clearly discussing Sigrblot, this is a blot for victory (sigrblot means victory-blot). However, as this passage continues, Snorri then discusses Things that also happened at the same location, Uppsala: "People came from all parts of Sweden. All the Things of the Swedes were also 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. After Christianity had taken root in Sweden, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the market-time was moved to Candlemass, and it has since continued so, and it lasts only three days. Then there is the Swedish Thing, and people from all quarters come there.” Please note, the passage in bold dark blue is one continuous passage. But I do believe in this passage, Snorri is discussing two different things: Sigrblot, and the Things of the Swedes. And please note, while almost everyone (not myself) equates this entire passage with Disting, the phrase "Disting" is not found in the passage. The word "Thing" is certainly found in this passage, but mostly in the plural. In my opinion, it is a "leap" to assume this entire passage is referring to the "Disting" clearly shown on Swedish calendar rods and PrimeStaffs, that occurs two full moons after Yule's full moon. Candlemass, is on February 2nd, a clear solar date. What I think, is that the 'Dis-Thing' became "THE" Swedish Thing during this post Christian time period, as the Swedish Sagas have Things all throughout the year. The Saga of Olaf Haraldson implies that it was a NEW custom, that at Candlemass, there would be the "Swedish Thing, and people from all quarters come there." To be blunt, Christianity moved Yule to be on the Julian Calendar solstice of December 25th, to stamp out Heathen Yule and bring Heathens into Xmas, they made Disting to be at the time of Candlemass (Feb 2), and Sigrblot was swallowed by christian easter, called "pask" in Sweden (and all of Scandinavia.) Sigrblot seems to be forgotten today. Wikipedia doesn't even have an article about it, and Asatru celebrates Ostara not even knowing what Sigrblot is. An Asatru org, once threw me off their Facebook page because I said in Scandinavian countries, people celebrated Sigrblot historically. Before I was bounced the moderators asked me why I would "make up sigrblot"?! As per people claiming that passages discussing Sigrblot and Things prove that Disting had a blot, I can show my readers many passages, that mention mid-winter blot and Things in Uppsala. Just because a Victory Blot (Sigrblot) is mentioned in a passage at Uppsala with Things, doesn't mean it was "Disting." Same is true with the passage below, Yule blot in Uppsala is mentioned alongside of Things. 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."


Conclusion

I feel strongly that there are only three MAJOR blots in historical Heathenry. While I do have a blog article saying anyone can blot at any time, and this was certainly the case by individual families and clans in Heathen times, the major holiday blots were three. I believe Disting was a Thing, not a Blot. The meaning of the word itself means "Thing of/for the Disir." I now, along with Dr. Andreas Zautner, believe that Alfablot was a part of Winter Nights. The fact that there were three major blots, did not preclude individuals or families from doing any other rituals during the year. But the three major holy tides in Heathenry, were the major ritual times for what scholars call "The Odin Cult." In Saxony, at Marklo, it makes more sense that the Saxons did their Marklo at the same time as Swedish Disting, as it is the time of year where they would decide if they were going to war (that summer) and they would do blots for victory the following moon. It is also possible the Saxons did their Althing at Sigrblot. I suspect that the Saxons were very similar to their Danish neighbors, and therefore, would venture to GUESS that the Saxons also would have done a 9-year blot during Yule at holy sites like the Irminsul (and probably other places), as the Danes did their 9-year blot during Yule. I just struggle to accept that Disting had a major blot with it, that all Sweden was obliged to attend, unless that blot was at Mid-Winter or during Sigrblot. Dr. Nordberg mentions in his book on the dating of Yule, that some of his colleagues believe that Disting of the Swedes are originally part of Yule.

“Midsummer festivities had no connection with the Odin Cult." [Dr. Andreas E Zautner, “The Lunisolar Calendar of the Germanic Peoples”, P.90]


The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg Chapter 17 (circa 925 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, and there they offered to their gods blots…”


We have two Rune-Stones proving the 9-year sacrifice was every eight years: Rune Stone of Blekinge and the Rune stone of Stentoften. [See Dr. Andreas E. Zautner, The Lunisolar Calendar of the Germanic Peoples, p.154] How does Dr. Nordberg interpret Thietmar of Merseburg's testimony? "Was the blot in Lejre then part of the pre-Christian Yule celebration? Let us make a new calculation example. Because the last blot in Lejre took place in 934 and because Thietmar's time data are given in the Julian calendar, it may be appropriate to start from this calendar during the 10th century (Fig. 8). According to previously adopted conclusions, the second moon of Yule began with the first new moon after the winter solstice, while the most extensive festivities during the pre-Christian Yule were celebrated at the full moon of this lunar month. In the 10th century, the astronomical winter solstice occurred around 16-17 December in the Julian calendar. We also start here from the first of these dates, the second moon of Yule could be on December 17 at the earliest and no later than 15 January. The full moon in the same moon entered as before on 31 December and no later than 29 January. In other words, the full moon of the second moon of Yule fell almost entirely in the month of January of the Julian calendar in the ninth century - that is, during it period when Thietmar said that the blot in Lejre took place. This speaks volumes for this that the festivities mentioned by Thietmar were included as a prominent part of the pre-Christian Yule celebration that would have been held in Lejre." Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden Uppsala 2006, P.106-107. Screen shot below from P. 107 of Dr. Nordberg's book


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